Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Selective Application

"The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia's reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law."
                                                                          — Committed Deep, Hillary Clinton

"And obviously we're going to look at past practices. And I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. "
                                                                          — Prez Barry Two Hands

Take a few minutes, consider just how stupid this image is
To pretend — or blindly assume — that our American legal system somehow is not selective (and I'm not even just talking about the universal "free pass" that is anything 9/11 related... no, I'm talking about our day-to-day police to prosecution to judgment activities).

Even if one argued that THE SYSTEM isn't systematically selective (which, of fucking course, it is), how could you get around the unavoidable truth that each individual within THE SYSTEM operates very differently. Take Barry Two Hands as example # 1, I mean... if you spoke with more than one police, prosecutor, or judge* this would be self-evident... and this isn't a "bad" thing, goddamn it. As Andrew Bird reminds: Just don't let the human factor fail to be a factor at all.

*Admittedly, I've never conversed with a judge

Monday, December 27, 2010

For my next trick, I'll make pornography wildly popular and readily available!

It could be a Zen koan: if everybody in the class gets an A, what does an A mean?
The answer: Not what it should, says Andrew Perrin, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “An A should mean outstanding work; it should not be the default grade,” Mr. Perrin said. “If everyone gets an A for adequate completion of tasks, it cripples our ability to recognize exemplary scholarship.”
Cripple our ability to recognize exemplary scholarship? Uh-huh. Allow me to indulge in a well-known maxim: One cannot do what is already done. 

The grade is — by design, mind you — bullshit. Keep in mind, the following conversation took place before the advent of the so-called Digital Age:

Tell me professor, how well did my boy grasp dem' Eco-nomic theories? 
Well, I'm thrilled whenever a parent takes an interest in their child's education. Have you read the syllabus and assignments?
Of course not.
Oh, uh, okay... well, let's start by reviewing his first assignment — to get some idea where he started. Next, we'll read his mid-term and final, tracing the evolution of his understanding...
Right, um... I'm not interested in the class, I just want to know how well my boy is doing.
Yes, but you'll need to understand the coursework in order to get some sense of the assessment.
(quietly mutters, "shit") Yeah, ahem...it's just that I, uh... I've a lunch, uh, meeting I need to get to — totally forgot, but I can't miss it — can you summarize it for me?
No, not really...
How about you just give it to me on a scale of 1-10, eh? Where does Junior rank?
Compared to what, how would this scale work?
Aw Hell, I don't know, whatever... you tell me
Um, I don't think a numerical scale will work? That would just simplify the matter, it wouldn't mean anything.
How about letters? "A" is first, so that would be the best, and —
Yeah, that's still, essentially, the same as your 1-10 idea...
Dammit, this is taking forever. Just say good or bad... how should I feel about my son's Progress?

It is never too late to not really give a shit

Headline asks:
How Cheap Is an Iraqi Life?
The thorny debate over compensation payments and why it matters to the U.S. war effort
You will, I'm sure, understand my confusion... hadn't these questions long since been asked (yes) and answered (very cheap)? Curious, I read Will Oremus' article (Don't follow that link, lazily, I'll be reprinting most of the content — which the good folks at SLATE index under the heading: Foreigners: Opinions about events beyond our borders) knowing fully that SLATE is a silly entertainment rag akin to every popular online periodical.

When the sub-headline contains "debate" we've been tipped: the writer is going to attempt to "report"... his opinion, ostensibly, will be withheld. Let's see what happens:
In 2007, an Iraqi civilian from Baghdad filed a claim for damages against the U.S. Army. In the paperwork he completed, he explained that his son Wa'ad had been driving a taxi one February morning and was on his way home to refuel when a passenger flagged him down. Moments later, a U.S. tank stationed half a mile away opened fire, hitting the taxi with two missiles. Wa'ad was found burned to death inside.
The Iraqi asked the United States for $10,000 in compensation: $5,000 for his son's death, and $5,000 for the ruined taxi. The claim was more or less typical of the thousands filed by Iraqis against the United States under the Foreign Claims Act since the war there began in 2003. Many were denied, often based on technicalities. But this man was among the luckier ones: The United States paid him $2,800 for son and taxi combined.
So far, the good stuff is jammed into a bag of vague (e.g. the claim was more or less typical; Many were denied, often based on technicalities), but that's okay, our headlines didn't prepare us to expect an analysis of the claims Iraqis filed or the process for which those claims were approved or denied — it can be taken for granted that "technicalities" are grounds for dismissal (which reminds me of the play I'm writing, America: King of the Pedants).
Military officials acknowledge that such "condolence payments" don't capture the full value of a lost civilian life. They are intended, according to a 2007 report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office, as "expressions of sympathy." They are by no means to be taken as an admission of legal liability or fault, the report notes.
The GAO report tells me that exactly what I expect the payments to be (an admission of liability or fault) is precisely what they are not... because there is another word wedged in there, isn't there? Legal. Not to be taken as a legal admission of liability of fault.
But in an era of counterinsurgency, in which civilian "hearts and minds" have become high-value targets, fair compensation has begun to matter more. That has raised an awkward question for U.S. military leaders: Just how much is an Iraqi or Afghan life worth?
Attaching a monetary value to human life might seem offensive to some. But it's routine in many nonmilitary contexts. Economists and actuaries have developed sophisticated metrics for assessing the price of a life. Some are based on an individual's projected lifetime earnings. Others extrapolate a figure based on a person's own financial valuation of the risk of death. For instance, if an employee requires $700 in hazard pay to assume a 1-in-10,000 risk of death on the job, she is valuing her own life at $7 million.
The move to explain-away concerns that "attaching a monetary value to human life might seem offensive" is a classic. Take something that seems undesirable, and lend it familiarity... this will help us see just how perfectly normal and natural it is... nothing to see here
In fact, $7 million is roughly the "statistical value of life" used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in formulating regulatory policy. Other U.S. agencies use similar numbers. Yet compensation payments for those who die tend to be much lower in the United States and elsewhere. Especially elsewhere. U.S. soldiers killed in battle merit a "death benefit" of $500,000. In contrast, most condolence payments to Iraqi and Afghan families are capped at $2,500. Still, if that seems like a stingy response to the combustion of one's son, it's actually pretty generous compared with pre-2003 practices by the United States and other countries. The fact that Washington is offering such payments at all represents a break with hundreds of years of military history.
How Oremus goes is beginning to get interesting. We've been told that the EPA (a good progressive institution), and other U.S. Agencies, count noses to a tune of 7 mil per (hilarious). Then, we are told a K.I.A. American soldier is compensated/rewarded 200 times more than the dead Afghan/Iraqi's maximum value. Clearly, our boy with the keyboard is going to continue his Cash-For-Corpses analysis without bothering to ask any (how did he phrase it?) awkward questions... nothing to see here.
Under international law, the killing of civilians is not a war crime, as long as they are not the object of the attack—and as long as the expected civilian death toll is not "excessive" compared with the value of the legitimate military target. So for decades, the families of civilian war victims got nothing at all. As novelist Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Slaughterhouse-Five, (Tee Vee's note: the link is to Amazon, don't bother finding a free to read copy) a reflection on the Allied fire-bombings of Dresden in World War II, "So it goes."
Not only was such "collateral damage" considered permissible, it may have even been used for strategic purposes in some cases. In 1943, two years before the deadly Dresden bombings, Allied military leaders issued the Casablanca Directive, establishing as a major priority, "the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened."
More recently, the United States has treated civilian casualties as something ideally to be avoided, though not at the cost of major military objectives.
Goddamn I love me some international law! I mean, as long as the dead citoyen wasn't the object of the attack, we're all good. How THE LAW makes sense of intent and effect is a source of endless entertainment. For those of you who have been either indicted or convicted of Attempted Murder, you're well aware of the prison sentence that follows. But... actual murder (when good wholesome war murder is the determined intent), no problem, y'alls good.

As for our man Oremus... what is he up to? He references Vonnegut and SH-5 and the book's refrain, "So it goes." I paused, and reread. "So for decades," Oremus estimates, "the families of civilian war victims got nothing at all." And then he drops the Vonnegut quote. Huh.
Marc Garlasco was chief of "high-value targeting" in the Pentagon in the run-up to the Iraq War. He says his superiors would tolerate collateral damage up to a point: 30 deaths, to be exact. In analyzing which targets the United States could strike in its opening "shock and awe" campaign, Garlasco says he was instructed to authorize anything that could reasonably be expected to kill fewer than 30 civilians. Any more than that, and the attack would require a personal sign-off from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or President George W. Bush. "I don't know why 30 was considered the high," Garlasco says. "I don't know why they picked 30 and not 20, or 40, or 100."
Garlasco's Wikipedia page is enjoyably lurid. A Der Spiegel story recounts:
Garlasco watched as the bombs landed, precisely on target, and exploded. He threw his arms up into the air and yelled: "I just blew up Chemical Ali!" Two weeks later, he stood corrected. Ali Hassan al-Majid has not been in the house, after all. Instead of killing Chemical Ali, the bombs took the lives of 17 innocent people.
Needless to say, since the 17 dead bodies were not the target (they were just standing on the bull's-eye), Garlasco wasn't bothered with prison, instead he took a job at Human Rights Watch (perfect... isn't it? Not perfect, you say? Did I mention he "left" Human Rights Watch because collecting Nazi memorabilia remains uncool?). As for the previous question: Why 30? Instead of another number? Because, when everything is quantitative, you gotta pick a number. You gotta have a standard. Something. Anything. To make it appear like you give a fuck and know what's up — WE HAVE A PLAN. Thirty didn't receive enough objections... that's why thirty.

A few more to peek at, then I'll wrap up:
Many experts believe that focus returned with the publication of a new Counterinsurgency Field Manual in 2006. One of its precepts was "first, do no harm"—a maxim more commonly associated with medical ethics than military operations. The goal of a counterinsurgency campaign, it noted, was not only to subdue the enemy but to secure the environment for local civilians. Garlasco was part of the team that reviewed the manual before its publication. And he wasn't the only one from outside the military establishment. "Guys like Petraeus hooked up with Sarah Sewell from the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard," he says. "The Red Cross was there, Human Rights Watch was there."
Alright, Oremus, now you're really pissing me off, you under-handed fuck. Garlasco is, quite obviously, not from "outside the military establishment." Must I replay the "I just blew up Chemical Ali!" Quote?
The new approach has increased pressure on militaries to attach a higher value to civilian lives. Exactly what that value should be remains in dispute.
There is a growing sentiment, however, that a $2,500 condolence payment is too low. A June report by CIVIC, the nonprofit Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, argued that the current system may insult more people than it mollifies. That's not just a money issue; it's also the result of opaque procedures and inconsistent implementation, the report found. Many people file under the Foreign Claims Act only to find that it doesn't cover combat-related damages. Those are handled under the more informal condolence payment system, in which unit commanders have broad discretion to grant or withhold compensation.
Will we bother to ask why the Foreign Claims Act doesn't cover combat-related damages? No? Why would the military "informally" (read: minimal acknowledgment/paper trail) render judgment and payment? Not going to ask that question... volumes spoken.

It likely doesn't help when Iraqis hear about things like the recent settlement between their government and American citizens who were abused by Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. According to reports, Iraq agreed to pay $400 million to the several hundred Americans who had filed claims alleging torture and psychological trauma.
Huh? He doesn't exactly comment on this, ahem, discrepancy... but he does include it... which is notable. Oremus is getting warmer...
At first blush, any substantial increase in the payments to families of civilian casualties in Iraq and elsewhere might seem prohibitively expensive. The Defense Department reported spending more than $30 million on condolence payments in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2006. Raise the cap to $10,000, and it's conceivable the United States could have been on the hook for upward of $100 million. That's a large amount by most measures—though it pales next to the $1.12 trillion the United States has spent on the war effort as a whole.
COLDER! Fucking Oremus. His style is truly charming. If we drop 10k on each dead body, we'll be "on the hook for upward of $100 million"... and that doesn't even include future murders!
Yet even CIVIC isn't advocating spending that much. In a recent phone interview, Executive Director Sarah Holewinski said just standardizing and simplifying the claims process could make a big difference. She bases that on her experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan talking to residents who have lost loved ones to stray coalition fire. "Obviously they're incredibly upset, and if they don't receive any sort of apology as to why their family has been harmed, then they get angry, too," Holewinski says. "The best thing you can do is apologize, investigate what happened, give some sort of explanation"—and then offer compensation. It doesn't have to capture the person's full economic value, she adds. Often it's the thought that counts.
Even CIVIC? Well then. A few beautiful euphemisms. Stray coalition fire. Bullets fly pretty fucking straight, no? No mention of bad aim or gross negligence... just stray.
Not everyone in the military establishment is ready to concede that hearts and minds have become more important than blood and guts. In a Washington Post op-ed last month, retired Air Force Gen. Charles Dunlap wrote that reducing airstrikes in Afghanistan to spare civilians was counterproductive.
"[D]on't believe the claim that civilian deaths automatically generate more enemies," he wrote. "The Taliban itself has disproved that theory. Although insurgents caused almost 76 percent of civilian deaths, according to a U.N. report published in August, Taliban strength is reportedly nevertheless increasing."
Read that shit again for me. The Taliban theory of violence for power has an advocate, his name is Chucky Dunlap. Kills = Increased Strength
If he's right, then perhaps the United States wasted the $2,800 it awarded to Wa'ad's father. After all, this was a man who saw his son reduced to rubble by U.S. forces and responded by dutifully filling out some forms. Asked to list in detail what property damage he had suffered, he wrote: "I lost my son without any reason. He was my helper in these hard circumstances." It's possible he wouldn't have held a grudge even if the United States had paid him nothing. Then again, if Wa'ad's life isn't worth anything, some might question why American troops are still in Iraq at all.
This, is journalism, I suppose. At the end, remember to repeat two different points of view — without displaying clear preference for either — and voila: unbiased, respectable journalism.

But, Oremus' article doesn't do much to proliferate possibility. Rather, he leaves us with only one glaring question — and don't you fucking dare reshape the question. Does giving money to the families of the murdered help America's military machine? Fuck that question.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where is this relationship going?

The deadliest group of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan has not conducted a complex large-scale attack in the capital city of Kabul for seven months, its momentum stymied as elite American-led commandos have escalated raids against the militants’ bomb makers and logisticians. But in a testament to the resiliency of the fighters, the so-called Haqqani network, and a nod to the fragility of the allied gains, the White House is not trumpeting this assessment.
Jeebies... seven months? Without attacking? Looks like dem' dare boys are fucking with The Program. If they stop fighting back, things might get... you know... weird.
To help offset the withdrawal of some troops from isolated outposts in the east, NATO has increased surveillance drone flights and positioned 68 tethered balloons with cameras and other sensors along the border with Pakistan, a senior allied official said.
68 Balloons with cameras and other sensors... hmmm.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fun Game

There are holiday traditions in my life. One of them is to make up a stupid game (designed for the holiday minimalist). If you're like me, your mail is hilarious. This year's game —Mystery Mail, a simple game — offers a range of pleasures and surprises. Here's how it goes:

You Need:
a) Friends (3-5 ish in number)
b) Spirits (more on that in a moment)
c) Your mail (Your good stuff... whatever that might be. You must (I insist on this detail) black out all exterior info: addresses, logos, post mark)
d) Music (Four Tet is your best bet, but anything in the post-something electronic genre will suffice)

How Does it Work:
a) Throw mail in a bag (not plastic, you degenerate)
b) Reach into bag, extract one item, open it, read it (this is where much of your fun ensues, mailspeak is hilarious... preferably, your friends aren't stiff aloud readers, we're looking for some spunk here.).
c) Do not read who it is addressed to. After reading, everyone — except for the reader — guesses who the recipient is (you write this down, secretly, of course). Points are awarded. Keeping score is optional, go with it or without...

When to Play:
In the morning. Which allows us to return to an earlier component: cocktails. Simple champagne cocktails play well, coffee and bourbon for a well-oiled crew.

Where to Play: 
Like always, a well-lit room (wink and nudge to this guy... the dedication to his subscribers I'd like to second). Daytime darkness is unhealthy, evidently.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The NCAA keeps indentured servitude alive and well regulated

Understated elegance
Perfectly timed for the Giftmas season, I have this amusing headline sports story:

Gene Smith, Athletic director of Ohio State, says, "we did not explicitly tell them they couldn't sell what we gave them"

That's a fun sentence. A few Ohio State University football players sold a few trinkets — trinkets that their school "gave" them. Suspensions ensued. The football players in question thought their BIG 10 championships rings were kinda cool, but — like most "may I buy you a drink?" women bar-goers — if given the choice, they'd rather have the cash.

Remember fellas, they ain't giving you shit... the strings are tightly fastened.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the name; Philip K. Dick helps; ceasing to be an asshole

A friend of mine told me, very mat-toe-uh-fackly, that I write this blog because (quote) I want people to think like me... (end). I disagree, that's what I tell myself. My most dependable explanation for the writings I collect in this digital place: I want to work with my thoughts, (you know, test them out, see how they roll — rather than blindly accepting them) and, when I find something that might by enjoyed by another Youman Being, I offer it — from there, I'm not really involved (it's not like I get a lot of follow up questions, most of the discussions about the posts happen before they're written).

The name, what the Tee Vee taught, might be worth an explanation. Philip K. Dick, years before I was birthed, said this:
TV viewing is a kind of sleeplearning. An EEG of a person watching TV shows that after about half an hour the brain decides that nothing is happening, and it goes into a hypnoidal twilight state, emitting alpha waves. This is because there is such little eye motion. In addition, much of the information is graphic and therefore passes into the right hemisphere of the brain, rather than being processed by the left, where the conscious personality is located. Recent experiments indicate that much of what we see on the TV screen is received on a subliminal basis. We only imagine that we consciously see what is there. The bulk of the messages elude our attention; literally, after a few hours of TV watching, we do not know what we have seen. Our memories are spurious, like our memories of dreams; the blank spaces are filled in retrospectively. And falsified. We have participated unknowingly in the creation of of a spurious reality, and then we have obligingly fed it to ourselves. We have colluded in our own doom.
I freely admit that much of this — to me — is unknown or nonsense. An EEG? Huh? What the fuck is an alpha wave? Colluded in our own doom... What now? Yet, I'm totally with him, and I don't really know why... it just works for me (I suspect it's the part about spurious memories, filled in retrospectively, and falsified... I like that, that feels right, somehow). Read a little more, if you would:
It was always my hope, in writing novels and stories that asked the question "What is reality?" to someday get an answer. This was the hope of of most of my readers, too. Years passed... But the problem is a real one, not a mere intellectual game. Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups — and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudoworlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener. Sometimes when I watch my eleven-year-old daughter watch TV, I wonder what she is being taught. The problem of miscuing; consider that. A TV program produced for adults is viewed by a small child. Half of what is said and done in the TV drama is probably misunderstood by the child. Maybe it's all misunderstood. And the thing is, Just how authentic is the information anyhow, even if the child correctly understood it? What is the relationship between the average TV situation comedy and reality? What about the cop shows? Cars are continually swerving out of control, crashing, and catching fire. The police are always good and they always win. Do not ignore that one point: The police always win. What a lesson that is. You should not fight authority, and even if you do, you will lose. The message here is, Be passive. And — cooperate. If Officer Baretta asks you for information, give it to him, because Officer Baretta is a good man and to be trusted. He loves you and you should love him.
Bringing capital T Truth or "reality" into living rooms and offices is not my objective. No-no-no. Rather, I want to — eventually, no hurry — create my own reality. Nothing to be preached or promised. There will be no fanfare. I'm not creating a product. I'm creating a lens. For me. A way of seeing. And listening. Speaking, moving, and so forth. In many ways, I'm still consumed by my tee vee teachings, my sleeplearning. Here's an example (and the raison d'ĂȘtre of this post — so please, if you made it this far, perk yourself):

When I hear somebody reject a scientific explanation for the creation of the universe (specifically, rejecting it in favor of a religious/mythical explanation) my first reaction is to mock and laugh ("dumbass," my head voice scoffs). Now, this is a usable example of what the Tee Vee taught me*, because I have no fucking good reason for doing this. In fact, I too do not accept a scientific explanation for the creation of the universe (note: I don't reject it, I just don't accept it, because I don't understand). Look at that thing: the hilarity to your right is a visual helper, designed to help eager scientific minds comprehend a theory. I've spent some time (we're going all the way back to pre-dropped balls here) considering the creation of the universe. I love it. Great fun. Very challenging. I fail every fucking time. I simply don't understand. I can slowly wade into the info, build each idea, ask my college Physics professor lots of annoying questions... yet, I can't get there. If I have ever said, "I understand the basics of Big Bang cosmology," I was fucking lying. In the past, this is something I'm sure I have lied about, because I so badly wanted to understand, yet I fell short.

Despite this, to this day, if I hear someone take a crap on scientific explanations for "the big question", a snarky moan spurts through my head. I don't like this. Its facelessness is ugly (actually, it has a face... mine). So I have to hope that, somehow, I'll remember that I have no grounds for being so dismissive — such an asshole. That's what this blog is about, reducing the asshole who works the long, thoughtless hours of the auto-pilot shift.

* I don't literally mean "television taught me to think this way". Rather, I'm thinking of the things we learn less than consciously, behind our own backs.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fairness: A fucked idea

I careen. This is me. My plans are pliable, my scripts faint — I ad lib, I wing it. And I do so because preparation walks us towards despair (how is that for a claim, eh? Preparation leads to despair. We're having fun today), if you will:

To prepare is to envision. And to envision is to make an ostensibly irresistible move: believing we are in control. Believing that, if done correctly, directed action can produce a desired effect. Of course, I don't dispute that "directed action can produce a desired effect"... of course it can, it does. Listen to a comedian; watch someone train their pet/child; bluff a poker hand — actions produce effects, and sometimes the effect you planned for. And this, I think, is where despair invites us in. If we believe in our ability to make — literally create — the circumstances in which we live... that is some seriously fucking ill-assorted thinking. If we look at the each moment as an equation waiting to be manipulated, we're fucked. I firmly believe in my own incompetence. Now, I know our human brains are renowned — and in many instances, I am genuinely impressed — but let's face it, our abilities are grossly overestimated. I suppose this is a result of being the hegemon: the dominant species struggles to see a difference between dominance and control. And isn't this where everything goes wrong? When we seek to control outcomes?

I'll take away my silly philosopher persona now (you're welcome), and give you an example.

Not a day passes when I am not subjected to a variant of this complaint/statement: This or that isn't fair. When the school kids unleash this howler, it is most often (so far as I can guess) a response to this perceived injustice: somebody else — a non-me — just received something good... and I did not. Or, conversely, I received something bad, and someone else didn't.

In response, I like this (in the most genuine tone I can muster): I do not understand fair and unfair. What would be fair, and how do you know? The answer usually doesn't address the question. Instead, the complaint gets repeated. And this is when I ascend my soapbox and (ex)pound away:

The official company policy, the rules you're asked to follow, lovely children, are constantly changing. The influence of customs wangle and wane — we notice much later. To determine what is "fair" is to determine the indeterminable — what is happening compared to what should be happening? I can't figure either. Who knows. Stop trying (at this point, the children have clear body language: that's enough, slightly-older-than-us Authority figure... I continue anyway). As a wise man once said, accept the mystery. Yet, please consider this:

Mind your own business. Reject the authority you don't choose. When you deal with people, be good to them. I cannot define good... even if I could, by the time I finish, something will have changed.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Would you like an important role? Of course you would

“I make no apologies for the how the F.B.I. agents handled their work in executing the operation that led to Mr. Mohamud’s arrest,” Mr. Holder said. “Their efforts helped to identify a person who repeatedly expressed his desire and intention to kill innocent Americans.” He added: “But you also have my word that the Justice Department will — just as vigorously — continue to pursue anyone who would target Muslims, or their houses of worship.”
Guffaw Guffaw.

Innocent? Wait, Holder is saying that Mr. Mohamud (teenage young men get called "Mr." once they're imprisoned) wanted to kill innocent people? It seems that Director Holder took the kid's alleged intent and then added his own adjective: innocent.

I mean, I have no doubt that Holder thinks the hypothetical victims of the FBI's faux terrorist plot would be innocent victims — but surely the kid that they coerced into faux action wouldn't define them as innocent... right? Could he have misspoke? That would make sense, I'm sure Holder meant to say infidel Americans, not innocent Americans. There we go, mystery solved.

As McLuhan said, the kids "these days" are looking for roles. Obviously, the wonderful folks at the F.B.I. are aware of this. To take a disaffected teenager, create a role that reeks of something momentous, support him at every turn, and then claim, "we caught the bad guy" sums up the hilarity pretty well. The FBI is approximate to a far less likable version of James Caan's character in Bottle Rocket: seduce the dumb kids on the front end, fuck em' on the back end. They're dumb kids, they were all but asking for it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Give" him 100 million dollars... thoughts on Albert Haynesworth

Albert Haynesworth is a football player for the Washington Redskins (if you're terribly unaware of American football, I didn't make up that name, they are called the Red. Skins.) He grew in a small South Carolina town — population, 4 digits. He is twenty-nine years old, he is black, he went to the University of Tennessee for three years (the National Football League requires players be three years removed from high school to be eligible).

Albert once stepped on an opponent's un-helmeted head. He once signed a "7 year contract" for $100 million dollars (I put that in quotes because there is no such thing as a long-term contract in the NFL, every year is, essentially, a one year option for the team to exercise... almost every player who signs a long-term deal does not see all of the money, often substantially less, as is the case with Albert). He once failed a team administered conditioning test... it was a big deal. When the team makes practice "not mandatory", Albert is not coming. Just the other day, the Washington professional football team (aforementioned Redksins) suspended Haynesworth, without pay, for the remainder of the season.
Please, if you have 3 minutes, watch this. If you don't, I hear you (I've written two pretty fucking bland paragraphs thus far)

Every question is wonderfully loaded, let's go for a walk:
"When you signed that one hundred million dollar contract... what were your expectations?"
 Albert, I think rather obviously, gives a stock answer. Athletes always have the same goal. If they're exceptionally talented, they want to be "the best". If they're good — but not great — they want to be "the best they can be". So, he goes ahead and says what he is supposed to say: I want to be the best. The follow up question functions in this way, "Well, you're not performing like the BEST!" And, what does Albert do? He doesn't take the bait. Rather, he speaks, very calmly, about some of us his struggles and frustrations... a beautiful answer. Realizing she hasn't skewered her prey, she goes for the "let the athlete hang himself by saying something bad about the hometown fans" question:
What do you think the perception of you, in this town, is?
Now, let me say this clearly... the perception of Haynesworth is lazy. ungrateful. black. man. The national sports media have fallen over themselves making this clear. This is like asking Michael Vick what PETA thinks of him. And, yet again, Albert gives a beautiful, uncertain, answer, "I don't really know," he says. And then he lays out several potential opinions.

Foolishly, I'm saving the best for last. The ESPN hack asks Albert is he was considering not taking the twenty-one million dollar ($21,000,000) bonus that his contract provided for him... "Albert, did you consider not taking the money? You know, because management is disappointed?" His response — what else? — was to laugh. Boy, it was tough, on one hand... I could take the money that my contract provided for me... or, I could... wait, why wouldn't I take the money? Because I haven't "earned" it? Fucking. Hilarious.

I enjoy Albert Haynesworth for two reasons:

1) He is a worker. In America, the worker is the enemy. America loves management. Hates their (fellow) workers. I've heard this refrain many times, "Haynesworth needs to earn that contract." WRONG! He earned it when he wrote his name on the bottom. If the assholes who run the Washington Redskins (and trust me, although I don't have the time or interest to outline all that is loathsome about Mike Shanahan and Daniel Snyder — these guys are top notch dickheads), aren't happy with Albert, that's fine. They can suspend him (check), try to renege their contract (check), and generally fuck with their worker (check...it is the American way, after all), nobody will be surprised. Haynesworth goes as he goes, he is — so far as I can tell — neither compliant or despondent... he is quickly becoming a hero.

2) He knows how to take flight from aggressive questioning. Watch the video again, if you'd like. He eludes the bullshit. Doesn't engage on the interviewer's terms. Takes lateral steps... not forward or backward, he moves around.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Scribbler

Earlier today — and for only a few moments — a stranger shaped my persona (what a vigorous word, persona). I am a versatile bus rider, like to mix-it-up. But lately, I've enjoyed the physical act of writing. Now, I'm talking about old school writing (not chisel and tablet old, pen and paper), what I write might be called "stream of consciousness" — but that's not a terribly accurate label, of course. Stream of consciousness suggests, to me, "unfiltered" thinking, and also somewhat aimless. Writing can drift without a specific topic or focus, but it is not aimless — the aim is to write. So, I'm writing, very quickly, sloppy. And, I'm turning the paper as I write... to and fro. For someone who isn't me, I'd imagine it would be nearly impossible (and certainly not worth the effort) to decipher the lines and shapes as letters and words.

If you're a public transportee, you might have noticed the following observation: most people sit quietly, all movement tends to cease — other than the natural jostling that occurs when many tons of people and machine are propelled forward at impressive speeds, of course. Therefore, anybody who is moving draws some attention. My attention came in the form of a question: what are you writing? I don't remember what I said, but it wasn't the clean answer he was expecting, I suspect. His response to whatever it is I happened to say was curious, indeed. He said, "it looks like you're just scribbling. I'm going to call you the scribbler." To which (my memory is back!) I asked, "when?"

"Huh?" the now quizzical man responded.

"When are you going to call me the scribbler?"

At this point, the guy gets pissed. Based on what I heard, my tone was straight silly, not confrontational: I was just fucking with him, but I wasn't fucking with him... if you follow me. He saw it differently, calls me a wise-ass (he was a bit of an old-timer), and then — and this is clearly the best part — he loudly proclaims: "This is what you get for trying to be friendly."

Communication is fun because its success is guaranteed, if you look at it from a certain angle. Something will happen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chris Hitchens compares himself to Julian Assange... guess who wins?

We're pretty sure that every single thing that Christopher Hitchens does or says amounts to an exercise in hilarity (Oh, Hitchens is having a God debate with Tony Blair tonight? Damn, I can't. I have tickets to watch a mermaid and a hippo play tennis... let me know who wins though). I know this. However, this is just too fucking funny. 

They should be teaching this in our nation's fine institutions of institution. I mean, the headline is enough to get excited, but the second headline (what do you call that?).... oh, that second headline:

The Wikileaks founder is an unscrupulous megalomaniac with a political agenda.

Not since the American government called another country's government a "quasi-official racket", has anything more amusing been uttered.


Sunday, December 5, 2010


Ben Roethlisberger (quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers), with only two minutes and thirty-nine seconds off the clock in Sunday night's football game, had his beak smashed. There he was, an unlikeable champion, exhaling spurts of blood from his nose.

A staggeringly beautiful 350 pound Tongan, called Haloti Ngata, was the assailant/tackler. He rammed his immense arm into Ben's head, collapsing the helmet's facemask across the bridge of his nose... it just wouldn't stop. High definition is merciless. This is what high definition television promises: humanity in the raw.

Friday, December 3, 2010

World Cup Committee's Foresight Impresses

An American person said to me, "Qatar and Russia, I'm not going there!"

Uh... I know. Because, um, they got zee oil — and it won't be long before holding onto the stuff will be far wiser than selling it; the World Cup Committee is smart enough to realize this — good thinkin' fellas. Remember, it's 2008 folks. Time hasn't figured everything out yet, we're just not sure who is going to have what come 2018 and 2022. Yet, we can be pretty goddamned sure that some oil will be sloshing around in Russia and Qatar.

I read some unimaginative claims at the Telegraph, discussing how "dangerous" the Cup Committee's decision is. Uh, yeah, allow me to offer a thorough, calculated breakdown:

2018 Cup finalists:
Pay me for my OIL!... Ha, it is not for sale.
Belgium/Netherlands (No OIL!)
Portugal and Spain (No OIL!)
Russia (Lots of OIL!! Winners!)
England (Measly amount of OIL!)

2022 Cup finalists:
Australia (No OIL!)
Japan (No OIL!)
Qatar (Lots of OIL!! Winners!)
Untied States (Some OIL! Fond of hating soccer)
South Korea (No OIL!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shhhhhh... Considering Secrets

As entertaining as the show is, I am not terribly interested in the Wikileaks diplomatic libretto. It seems to be little more than unneeded details in an obvious story line (a rough equivalent would be watching the "deleted scenes" from a cinematic tale of romance, starring Matthew McConaughey : No thanks, I'm pretty sure I have it all figured out).

But I am interested in secrets (considering the difference between keeping a secret and telling a lie is great fun). As for the functions of the secret: to hide and exclude. So, I'll ask: Why hide? Why exclude?

The hiding of information seems to stem from a simple motivation: avoidance of ostensibly unsavory consequences. Why else would you hide? I can't think of anything.

Excluding others from information, keeping certain things secret from certain people, is just a specific form of hiding. Primarily, we exclude when we fear the consequences of inclusion. So, I stumble into a sensuous bar, I enjoy it — I don't want it to be any different. The next day, when someone at work, or wherever, asks me what I did last night, do I say, "went to this fantastic bar, it was great, just what I wanted, you should check it out"?

I might. But I almost might not. I might choose to exclude. Because to include something new would be to invite change. And I fear the change — the potential for loss — far more than I welcome the unknown.

Now, this secrecy is all slightly hegemonic, dominant. To keep a secret is to make an assumption — you have to expect a consequence in order to believe secrecy is the way to go (and our expectations are, to make another obvious observation, varied). So remember, a secret is quite calculated — even when it stems from an impulse (what is an impulse other than an extremely fast calculation?) — and the formula is simple. It's like what Lenin said... you look for the person who will benefit, and, uh, uh... You know what I'm trying to say.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

To Vulgarize and Falsify until the Bare Lies Shine Through, I say Thanks

"Well sure, I'm so thankful, especially in this economy."

"Oh, of course. I'm lucky to be picking superfluous fly shit out of pepper, it's a good job... especially in this economy."

"I love you all very much... I mean, have you seen this economy lately?"

Concerning these sentiments — which will, over the next few days, be harped on without relent across this important land of ours — be sure to remind the speaker that Thee Conomy is absolutely fine — just doin' what it do.

As I am ill-adjusted for this life (you'd never know it by my living room decor), I don't understand why you wouldn't recite the Old Man's Turkey prayer for the fam on Thursday. History is important, and we should all take time to recall from whence Thee Conomy of ours has come. It's a classic, don't butcher it, start rehearsing.

Thanks for reading,

One of the Finks

Monday, November 22, 2010

Silly Seattleites

I'm going to do a local puff piece, ready? It was between this and a grizzly Monday morning pick-axe murder — we needn't entertain morbidity, no matter how pressing or, local.

They never cease to amuse. Here's the play-by-play in handy bullet point, public school style simplicity:

I did not draw this. I found it on the internet.
  • Native American 10th grader reads Huxley's Brave New World, doesn't like it.
  • Mother complains to school, "Wasn't Huxley into Ahimsa... I don't like the Hindu-hippie bullshit!". Actually, she said this:
    • the book has a "high volume of racially offensive derogatory language and misinformation on Native Americans. In addition to the inaccurate imagery, and stereotype views, the text lacks literary value which is relevant to today's contemporary multicultural society." 
  • School officials send a letter to Huxley, asking him to, quote, leave this place. After Huxley failed to pick up the books, they banned it. (I will note: this school is named after Nathan Hale — the American revolutionary/spy that the Commie Red Coats hugged hung in 1776)
  • Mother — now on a roll and feeling the awesome power of forcing appeasers to appease — requests (demand might be a better word) that the book be removed from the entire Seattle school district curriculum. Her "resettlement" plan for the books — based on the following quote — remains unclear:
    • "We're not trying to in any way censor that book, we're just saying it does not belong in high school." 
  • Mom (real name: Sarah Sense-Wilson) cites a study she recently completed:
    • "Most of the kids I've talked to don't even like the book so I doubt it would even get an audience in the library."
  • Ostensibly, one Seattle School District meeting did not allow enough time for deliberation, the decision on whether to remove the book is pending. 
Based on the "comments" I've read, it seems like Seattle's snarkiest are actually against exiling the book — they either like the book, hate Native Americans, or both.

Now, I'm with Sarah Sense, getting this book out of the classroom is the right move. I mean don't you know that Ridley Scott is taking the book directly to the people via the Big Screen? Ridley Scott + Leonardo DiCaprio = A better sci-fi boner than I got from Blade Runner. If the kids read the book, that will ruin the movie!

Hot Sauce!

Friday, November 19, 2010

By all means, don't bother "focusing"

Focus — as a verb, an action — only happens naturally, that's what I'm going to argue, at least.

When focus is used as part of a command ("pay attention"), what you are hearing is an essentially unworkable demand. When I focus — no matter the subject or setting — my own "will" is not at work, even if it appears that way. Focus comes and goes, sometimes it's expected, other times surprising, but always... it goes as it will, seemingly uninterested in what we "think".

Fight the impulse to enjoy yourself. Thanks, Management
Surely, you have experienced this, eh? The sun has called it a day, you've slipped into something that is only socially acceptable in private, and you're thinking about some bullshit (let's go with the banal: a co-worker rides your coattails, a memorable woman on the train... whatever) that you wish (or maybe you don't) would be kind enough to exit your mind. But... no. It lingers. It does not release. Focus has you. Perhaps you can wait it out, maybe that will work... didn't work. Talk about it... still nothing. And then, without warning or fanfare, the object of your focus departs. This, necessarily, happens behind our backs (you won't find yourself commenting: "whew, glad I'm not thinking about that any longer").

And yet, I experience and perpetrate this absurd demand.

"Pay attention, student! Focus! Hear me!"

"Sorry boss, I am focused, but not on you. If the mood to think about work strikes me, I'll let you know."

Just another reminder: thirsting for control is untenable — your throat remains scratchy, so please relax.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Upgrade

Let's start with the name we give it. Upgrade. Up. Grade. I love that "grade" encompasses both quality and judgment.

Perhaps this is all obvious, but I will argue that the Upgrade drives our lives with a most fundamental promise — the nervous system of consumption. The Upgrade is the constant, an eternal promise. It comes in several forms. I considered one of them just yesterday, while enjoying a no-work-today 3 o'clock shower: the upgrade as a "good deal".

One of the local Moms backed her auto into my scooter a few days ago; I discovered the damage (and confession note) immediately after receiving a filling from my jolly dentist. Since then, I've been pondering what to do next. So, I'm in the shower, and the following thoughts entered my mind:
1. My scooter is 3 years old.
2. The Beast (pet name) has relatively few miles.
3. If I traded it in or sold it, I get a significant percentage of the purchase price.
4. And then... I could get a new — unquestionably better — scooter for not too much additional cash.
Now, the Upgrade as a "good deal" works very simply: You are driven to get rid of your current thing while it's still considered "valuable" in the marketplace. Surely, you don't want to own something that the marketplace does not value highly, so ya betta act now.

For the Upgrade to be eternal, it absolutely must make everything seem temporal. Every trend or fashion must be temporary. The quality of every product must be seen as good... for now — not good forever. As a result, every beginning has its own end in sight. There is no question of whether a new product or idea or system will last, whether it will endure... we're assured it will not, and the quest for the next thing has already begun.

Perhaps this is all a way to help us cope with the other eternal — death — and the separation anxiety that it so generously heaps upon us... I don't know.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Your E is hindering my enjoyment of S

As a wee lad, I developed a taste for sport. It is one of the very few things that has endured. My fandom is not ceaseless. Before and after the game, sport receives little attention. But during the game... I am enthralled. Which brings me to a problem.

I do not like ESPN, the hegemone of sports broadcasting. The reasons are many, but the commanding grievance is this: ESPN spends far too much time scrutinizing off-field nonsense. If it's not a story about Brett Farve sending picture messages of his cock and balls to sultry sideline eye candy (which isn't a good example, because I do enjoy watching Disney-owned ESPN broadcasters dance around the details by using a bunch of vague euphemisms), it's a story about contract disputes, unsanctioned drug use, or what some guy allegedly did or said at a strip club. If I wanted that, I'd go to your TMZs or whatever. 

For the sake of accuracy, the "E" (which stands for entertainment) might as well be changed to "G" for gossip — the name doesn't suffer, GSPN rolls off the tongue as well, if not better, than ESPN. I'll give you an example of ESPN's gossipy ways:

ESPN Reports: Man Hates Boss; Refuses to Quit

That's the whole quote. "I hate the boss, not gonna quit."

The recently bankrupt-but-still-kickin' Chicago Sun-Times printed a "story" claiming ANONYMOUS Minnesota Viking football players hate their coach —or, boss — Brad Childress. There were a bunch of whiny, stupid, anonymous quotes... that was the story. ESPN picked it up and blasted it into my living room every 5 minutes for the length of an otherwise pretty damn enjoyable college football game.

Now, if six Minnesota Vikings came to my house, cooked me dinner, and talked a bunch of shit about how uncool Brad Childress is, I don't think that would be worth posting on this blog

Oh, a bunch of workers don't like the boss?!... stop. the. fucking. presses. This can't wait. Everyone must know.

When I have to read this shit, it distracts me from what I'm doing: enjoying a game.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What is this One Gamy you speak of?

Monogamy — for us, always-ready-for-sum'-bumpin', human kinds — fits very well, nice and tidy, with a society that "owns" every single thing.

We put da flag on da Moon... of course we want to own access to sex. This is all obvious, right?

I read the Sex at Dawn book today. Yes, it's pop-sci. Smart folk will hate it (assuming, since it's a book, that they — and only they — are the intended audience, adorable smart folk will write squawking reviews: "I already knew all of this!! Not groundbreaking!")

Anyway, the book is a light read. For someone who feels terrible about craving a cock or puss that isn't attached to their loved one, this book might make them feel a little better — which is good, but not terribly helpful for the rest of us.

As many angry science lovers will point out, we don't know anything too good about pre-history peeps, we have to look elsewhere to get the educated part of our guesses. So, naturally, we look to hunter gather types and fellow apes.

Here's the lesson:

People who share — who don't own — are generally pretty cool. The vast majority of uncool behavior stems from laying claim to things. Bonobos seem awesome. They're not individual property owners (I'm basing this on the 4 years I spent in Congo living amongst them).

Our western societies are frightfully big, diverse, whatever. Our happiness is not exactly tied to other people, just our people — and that ain't many. I watch cops wake up homeless people and force them to move.

Let's — all together now — use sex as a tool to comfort, form bonds, and enjoy. Just be generous and take care of each other. So, when your longtime co-worker is having a bad day, do the right thing: take a knee, ascertain approval, get your face situated between their legs, and Go. To. Town. Wouldn't that be nice? We all start Monday. Don't leave me hanging on this one, I'll have a lot of explainin' to do.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

We know what we like

To continue quoting Mysteries of Pittsburgh:

Nostalgia destroys everything... (I think that's the quote)

AA Destroying The Social Lives Of Thousands Of Once-Fun Americans

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rainy days

Like a barmaid in Pittsburgh... death, quite simply, does. not. care. (about how gnarly a surfer you are and how — instead of you — somebody who isn't a dazzling surfer "should" have been able to die in your place so you can continue being an awesome, strikingly attractive, star of surf videos.)

I spent many a rainy afternoon pulling college-sized tubes and watching this guy be awesome.

Note to self: pursue pleasure

Why do Americans feel entitled to the highest "standard of living" on Earth?

Who cares... fuck em'. There must be 100 million Randy Moss types running around this town:

‘You know, I used to have to eat that crap – but now I’ve got money.’

                                                — American Ambassador to You're-Not-As-Good-As-Me, Randy Moss

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Dear Diary,

Who else is looking forward to awkward exchanges with their child-making neighbors this holiday weekend?

Now, I recognize that for many youngsters, Halloween is their raison d'ĂȘtre — that and keeping their parents satiated with a belly full of regret. I had this phase. Euphoric candy binges shall not be denied.

What is often overlooked, I think, is the essential and thrilling act of approaching strange houses. That ability to roam free (while dressed as a gaucho, patrolling the pampas of your subdivision) is rather titillating, I propose:
 (Pound, bang, knock... Halloween pleasantries are exchanged, and all of the sudden you're looking past the house wench and checking out their IKEA stuff... exhilarating).
While walking around the hood, I can't not look into windows — from a respectable distance. (I have a rule, if I'm closer to their house than the sidewalk... over the line! And I don't allow myself to wear all black... too tempting) This passion, quite possibly, would not be all mine to enjoy, if not for Halloween.

Now, with my thartieff burffday looming, the fun is a little different... not quite as delectable. Like you, I'm not even on a pleasant nod regimen with many of my neighbors — no contact, no recognition. Yet, I recognize them. I see them. And they bring their kids to my door:

"Hello person I habitually avoid talking to, your child's trite costume is unimaginative and adorable. Kids, be careful not to upset your bowel movements — eating a pound and a half of processed sugar is an art form... take it seriously. Parent neighbor, we'll do this again next year? Great."

Big social weekend for the Tee Vee: Dr. Dog, Symphony, dress-up drinking... expect a partial report.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cowbird v. Warbler v. God's Children

When alone in the house, I do things which accompaniment prevent — or at least discourage. After that, I'll usually clean the dishes. The dishes lead to Radiolab. If you're not familiar, the program's formula-for-success goes like this: two likable patricians (both Oberlin queers), who are slight ideological opposites — man of science and man of faith — consider pop science findings and their moral implications... sounds pretty good, doesn't it. 

While scrubbing the remnants of a frittata, our hosts start talking about birds. Here's my report:

Part I: The Horror Defined

Warbler is a bird. Cowbird — the name, potentially confusing — is also a bird. The Cowbird, our villain, does not construct a nest. It has other plans.

Cowbird takes its eggs and sticks them in the Warbler's nest — sort of like prenatal daycare. Now, the clever Cowbird has a trick: mix its mature eggs with less mature Warbler eggs. The little Cowbirds are first to smash their shells, meaning they get fed first, get fed more, and are more likely to survive (for my imaginatively challenged readers, see the horror below). This behavior has earned the Cowbird a flattering title: brood parasite.

Giant Cowbird mouth, tiny Warbler mouths

 Now, if the Warbler decides to reject the recent arrival, booting the Cowbird egg from its nest, SCIENCE tells us Cowbird Momma will unleash its fury and beat the Warbler senseless. To avoid this, Warblers feed the Cowbirds... reasonable enough, eh?

The transaction is simple: care for my young, and I won't come back angry. The sleuths at Radiolab tracked down a group of people — bird lovers (relation to the chicken fucker?) — who are displeased with the Warbler/Cowbird relationship.

Part II: Grab Your Pitchfork

One day, a disaster was uncovered. SCIENCE discovered that not enough Warblers filled out their census form; they officially became endangered. The cause of this injustice: the fucking Cowbird. What to do? (obvious, isn't it) Kill the Cowbird. So that's what they did. They, so the legend goes, trapped Cowbirds and smashed their throats — they have a euphemism for throat smashing, it escapes me at the moment. Sadly, this brilliant and well-meaning plan didn't work. Despite the Cowbird massacre, and the beyond reproach "kill to save" logic, the Warbler population did not recover. It must be something else...

Part III: A New Hope

SCIENCE, never to be deterred, went back to the ole' drawing board. They found — those ingenious busybodies — that there were not enough young trees in the ecosystem. You see, Warblers only build nests in young trees... where are the young trees?

As you probably know, forest fires (responsible for the decimation of the round-assed deer, right)  are unnatural and destructive and horrible and must. be. prevented. But, it seems there is an exception. Without fires, forests become old.

Like you, I hate old things, so let's save the Warbler by breathing a little young blood into the forest... BURN IT DOWN!

So, the forest service burned down a forest. "Nobody could have guessed" this might go badly. In spite of nobody's guess, it went badly. The controlled blaze refused to follow the plan, a human being died trying to restore the plan.

Thankfully, the scheme worked! New trees! The warblers did it! The census forms are back to their God-given quota!

Part IV: Reflection

As we enjoy my blog, a Cowbird is having its throat smashed, a forest is ablaze — it is the only way to save the Warbler. And save the Warbler we must... because... uh... help me out here.
 Stewards of the earth? Who? Oh... right-right-right. 
1) Humans are the stewards of the earth. We are all Noah. No species or bank shall ever go quietly into the night... not on our watch.
 Anything else? That "stewards of the earth" thing was pretty convincing... Oh, right-right-right.
2) It's the law. Endangered species must be protected. THE LAW. 

When a lustrous hauteur propels "solutions" which in turn forge new — and usually improved — problems, which in turn... what do you call that?

While you're at work all day...

Who will care for the children?

Wheew! Close call... what's worse than a baby-in-a-well? If you answered, "smearing downmarket bleu cheese over a tawdry piece of chicken and calling it dinner", you win.

I hope you enjoyed the tune — it will, almost certainly, overstay its welcome...

Monday, October 25, 2010

It changed its mind... can't trust that!

Who are these ceaseless creatures, these trusty non-thinkers, these candidates. I'm surveying my prospective representatives and — while there is much to squirm about — I can't get past how utterly predictable their bios are.

A popular feature amongst these campaign "websites" is to tout the candidates unyielding rigidity:

"I am rock-like. I have never changed my mind. I will never change my mind. Look at my record. Just FUCKING LOOK AT IT! I'm enduring! unswerving! Nothing will change me — no matter what!"  they proudly seem to boast.  

As a short breather from consistency, I like the Delaware Senate candidate — a target of such obvious self-justifying derision. I saw a video clip (I think it's popular, you might have bumped into it) where she talks about dabbling in witchcraft (or something, it was mildly incoherent). I found my pants tightening, a joyous overload: "She was a witch?!" (or something) I exclaimed. That is change I will willingly believe in — just give me a chance. 

If you're like me, you enjoy changes of mind — you might even, on occasion, make use of the word "capricious" when describing yourself to telemarketers. Therefore, when deciding who you'd vote for (if you had the time to vote), you find yourself drawn to fluctuation. "Oh, she voted this way but later voted that way... yes, I see: this candidate is inconsistent  — a puller of U-ies... that is the behavior of a contemplative mind. That feels good. I like that. That's who I would vote for.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I feel like a less adorable version

This is really good. It comes from Mr. Boyd's ladypoverty:
If we look at the world long enough, we may find that everything is not the way we want it to be. As a result, many of us don't look.

If we look in a comprehensive way, what can be seen is deeply troubling. Many of us arrive at the point of seeing particular problems with clarity, only to be left with the task of communicating their relevance to others.

At this point most of us experience real frustration. This can play itself out as anger, at the world and at each other; but because anger is a difficult emotion to sustain, it often leads to apathy: it becomes too painful to try, and we withdraw from our attempts to do so.
Boyd — a man who sorts things out — closes with sound guidance (please read it). I, on the other hand, will visit with my despair:

Anger is difficult to sustain. Apathy hangs around, and never buys toilet paper. I work with the angered... they have a few squares left.

They steal impulsively to gain status symbols and tradeable goods ("I was trying to steal this Asian girl's ipod touch all morning" The unlucky thief was sitting next to me — I'm touched that they can be themselves in our classroom) "Cheat and steal your way to the top"... this is understood.

They fight for any and all reasons. I get it.

They are painfully cruel. Of course they are.

They have learned where they belong: right where they are. They have learned what they are: low class, low quality.

So — as anyone who doesn't like the view is apt to do — they dream. I watch as they gawk and gaze at celebrity images — what else would they privilege? Where else would they aspire?

One of my classes is reading A Raisin in the Sun — they think it's stupid... my "I understand and don't blame you" mentality strains.

This all makes me weep.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rome, if you'll pardon the expression, wasn't made gay in a day

Obama was very clear, on several occasions, about having a plan — here we go from about 10 months ago:
"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."
Quick Question. Where does Obama say: "Somebody other than me (a group of gay Republicans and a woman, in fact) will swoop in, waving around their stupid constitution, crying foul, telling me how to run my team. At that point, I'll get super pissed — that's NOT THE WAY WE PLANNED IT! — and we'll then change sides — sorta, did we ever really choose a side? — and fight the ruling that ends DADT."

If you answered: Uh, Obama never said that, then you are correct.

Gotta follow the plan people. Don't fuck with the plan.

Think of it this way, we'll use history as an example. Imagine if: Instead of segregating America's public schools based on skin tone, we simply forced all the darker skinned kids to wear white makeup to school — everyone looks WHITE (or, for our current situation, NOT GAY). Once the policy proved "problematic", would it make sense to have everyone take off their white-person-makeup the next day? Hell no, it would not. This kind of thing takes time, so keep your white makeup on a while longer, we have some paper work to process — we'll be with you shortly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I feel "eased" already

How many times will  I ram my head into the genteelism "quantitative easing" between now and when the Fed has their post-Halloween Wingding?

As the What-Will-Ben-Do tittle-tattle pushes into high-gear, my dearest joy will come from the lack of Change. Make no mistake, any steps that the US Fed takes will be derived from a singular and unadjustable goal: Get shit back to the way it should be.

What that should is, of course, is too obvious to even discuss, so why bother. Here, in the coming weeks, are my topics to avoid:

a) Explanations as to how necessary currency devaluation will bring wonderful plastic-trinket-making jobs back to the Yanks — we need to make our own stuff again, like the old days (see picture of happiness on your right. The windows aren't even blacked out! Quite the perquisite).

b) Solemn appeals for international cooperation. "We must work together. The heist requires a group effort — have you seen Ocean's 11?"

c) Hilarious musings regarding America's obligation to "level the playing field" (the suggestion will be that "we" are on the less desirable side of the bend — or slope, if like a xenophobic pun as much as I do).

Remember, this is all about keeping the ship's hull above water for just a little longer — the rats haven't finished packing, and the Captain swears he saw land.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On a Personal Note

What say you?...Too much? Maybe redesign the chariot?

A few minutes ago, if you had asked me, "would you like to be buried in a cemetery when your body calls-it-quits," my answer would have been some variation of: No. Throw my bones in the Puget Sound — it's already glum, nobody will notice.

A few minutes have changed me. Now, without any equivocation, let it be known:

When I die, I need (I'm choosing my words carefully: need) these words — from the always hilarious "Slatest" — to be inscribed prominently on my mausoleum:

Apple submitted with their patent request expressed concern that there is currently "no way to monitor and control text communications to make them user appropriate. For example, users such as children may send or receive messages (intentionally or not) with parentally objectionable language."
Intentionally OR not.

I want the people who visit my dead body to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh for eternity...

Work forever, or get used to getting the grandkid's names wrong.

This man doesn't know his S.S. #. He's also retired. Nuff said.

If you stop working... your brain dies. Thanks Scientists. Courtesy of the NYT:

“It’s incredibly interesting and exciting,” said Laura L. Carstensen, director of the Center on Longevity at Stanford University. “It suggests that work actually provides an important component of the environment that keeps people functioning optimally.” 
On career day, my high school guidance counselor didn't say shit about this Center on Longevity. He can expect an angry phone call.

If "use it or lose it" are our options, and using "it" is appropriating roughly 60% of our waking lives towards the end of.... what is the end game here? I thought it was retirement (that's all I ever hear the older members of my work force talk about)... is it not retirement? 

Normally, I'd never encourage you to actually read the NYT articles I mock, but this one is pretty damn enjoyable. Every. Single. Quote. is funny.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sorry I'm late. I was enjoying a good scolding.

Kids, as a group, know a few things. Here is one:

If an adult wants to talk to us about something, we're not interested. However, what an adult doesn't want to talk about... well, isn't that interesting. What are they hiding? What are we not allowed to know about? We. will. find. it.

Here's a good way to get in some trouble (works for me): give the kids an officially "bad" idea.

Dim the lights, don't say anything, just role tape...

Dive! Trailer from Compeller on Vimeo.

Afterward, say, "didn't that look like a lot of fun?" And then just move on, quickly. Don't invite discussion, just move on. A buzz will generate (but that was the point, wasn't it).

Before you know it (truly, a disquieting speed), authority figures are asking if you have been encouraging impressionable teenagers to jump into dumpsters looking for food... like a bum. "This is certainly not the behavior of our future leaders," authority might say.

"Encourage them?" I'll ask. Certainly not. I was trying to scare them. "If you don't do your homework... look forward to eating dumpster food!"

By way of Matthew Newton

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why the kids unconscionably root for winners

A big part of my day is getting 15-17 year old urban black males to shut up about whether Kobe Bryant is a "better" basketball player than LeBron James, or whether (insert any athlethe/sports franchise of your choosing) is better than (do it again) — ad nauseum.

Usually, I'll opt for the, "you are arguing a vague, ultimately unanswerable question, and neither of you are actually trying to convince the other to adopt your point-of-view... so just stop, you're bothering me" approach. The kids appease my request due to my "cool teacher" status (which was attained by not enforcing many, if not most, school rules). However, I took a different route yesterday and the results were markedly different.

Two students were arguing the same ole' nonsense:

"The Lakers are the besss!"

"No, they ain't! The My-Am-E Heat is the best!"

When I interjected, "Why would you be a fan of the best team — especially when they aren't home team? They can only disappoint. Actually, they're incapable of achieving anything. Their strength is their failure."

(Blank "what-the-hell-is-he-going-on-about-now" faces)

"You see, if they're expected to win — because they are actually superior to their opponents — all they can do is meet, not exceed, what is expected of them. They can only disappoint. Does that make sense?

(Crickets. And then, from a kid who wasn't involved in the initial "debate") "So, you sayin' we should root for a team that ain't shit?"

"Yes, that's what I'm saying. The only sports win that feels good is a win that wasn't supposed to happen."( Note: most of the kids loathe the Seattle teams because they "suck". Which is true. Bad at football. Bad at baseball. Basketball team moved to the heartland and are now quite good... The Sounders aren't bad, but my kids don't do soccer.)

Then I relayed, in full detail, my best sports story: The Night the Baltimore Ravens Won the SuperBowl (I also made nice with a girl who had been tightening my pants for years — most of the details were from this portion of the evening).

Short version: I'm attending a Baltimore high school. Watched the BIG GAME with my clique. The Ravens win in a landslide. Due to the lack of "will they pull it out!?" tension, I had plenty of time to consider the unavoidable victory. It occurred to me (probably the most profound thought of my life) that winning a game meant the winner was either the best or the most fortunate... which isn't much for a spectator to celebrate. My posture towards sports fandom changed.

My argument got panned. Their laughter was spirited. Clearly, it was I that spoke of nonsense. This got me thinking: the kids — as amazing as this is — still think they're on the way to the top. Therefore, associating themselves with the powerful, successful, dominant members of the most important sphere of their social lives (sports and games) is quite rational. Rooting for the underdog, I suppose, is to associate yourself with the unfavored, which in their eyes is unfavorable. While I'm resigned to rooting against the powerful, the kids think they're on their way ("think" probably isn't the right word — more a combination of blind hope and slightly irrational self-confidence... what's the word for that? Delusional?). I suppose this is the same impulse that causes people to say things like: "I'm happy with my bank." or for ambitious young employees to crow: "Sure, I'll work on Saturday."

This is demonstrated — I'm not making this up — by "CEO and Secretary Day" which took its beautiful shape a few days ago. Here's how it worked: The participating males dress-up (wear a suit) like a CEO. Everyone is the boss! Everyone can make and break the little guy! Yip-pee! The participating girls had an excuse to pull their clevage out and skirts up a little farther than normal decorum demands — "I'm a secretary!" The kids had a lot of fun. Favorite thing I overheard that day: "Suck my dick or you're fired!" The kids are so worldly.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shockingly Sensible

I'm reading about Fred Phelps, the esteemed gentleman from Westboro Baptist Church — he's so highly regarded that the U.S. Supreme Court had him over for lunch. You do know who we're talking about? Phelps is the guy who gets the kids all ginned up to exercise their 1st amendment rights (teaching the kids citizenship. Virtuous, indeed)

Cute kids. I wonder what their birthday parties look like. (I apologize for that unnecessary aside) I'm purusing Freddy's website (I was watching the Yankees game, causing my mashocistic juices to get antsy, here is one of many scrumptious nuggets):
Sodom’s sin wasn’t that the entire population of that thriving 5 city metropolis were practicing fags, their sin was that they all condoned it, to the point of trying to force everyone else, even angels, to love it (Gen. 19). When you’ve done that, you can only expect the same punishment Sodom received – destruction by fire. 

I had a moment — it occurred to me: Fred Phelps is not only a good writer, he is. one. reasonable. fellow.

Check it:

God is omnipotent... okay

So he can do anything he wants... okay

And despite being able to create universes or watch any movie he wants, whenever he wants (just like Kim Jong), he simply can not get over the butt fucking. Try as he will (hey, he's huma — uhh...), God just can't get past that shit.

So, what to do? Erase Sodom and Gomorrah — done and done. End of story. No more B-F'ing. Now, just imagine (please, relax, close your eyes, and imagine) how God felt when he heard that men were still B-F'ing. I know, terribly uncool, he must have been crushed. After all God has done for us...

Now, you might think a cruel God would simply give up: destroy the planet, the solar system, the universe and start all over (it's only 6 days of work, no biggie). You, of course, would be wrong. Our Benevolent God wouldn't do such a thing — why punish good people like the Phelps family because of a few bad seeds? So, he only kills the bad people. I found myself reminded of a close childhood friend. This friend was totally like, "there's no reason to hate gay people, they're just living their lives, just like the rest of us." What happened to him? If you guessed, "his 16 year old body was destroyed in a gruesome freak accident, in front of his mother and friends — sending his soul straight to the fire chamber", you're spot on. See, God punishes those — like my friend — who deserve it. Praise Him.

To review:

God is omnipotent — his stage notes are precise, it's all scripted (except for the B-F'ing, he DID NOT script that, the B-Fers are ruining his whole production! At this rate, the show will be lucky to get through its first run, you can forget about hitting the road for a national tour). Thanks to the omnipotence factor: how else could you explain the world's death and suffering? Clearly, it's an expression of God's anger — no other possible explanations.

See how I did that... I got you. Just a little thing called logic. Fred Phelps taught me that. Preach on, Brother Fred.

What is wrong with me? I need to promise myself to stop doing this kind of shit. Everybody loses.