A fool walks into a bar. Though it's in a college town there are no saucy coeds waiting around to get picked up as one might a bowling ball. It's a working class joint catering to textile workers. Peering through the cloud of smoke and clots of people he determines that there is only one available stool. And it's his lucky night, it's right next to a cute factory worker, sitting alone nursing her boilermaker. Still the dolt doesn't put 2 and 2 together.
He chats with her and buys her a drink. She seems receptive, but still he doesn't think anything is amiss. As conversation progresses, the telltale hand goes to the arm and he's thinking it's a done deal. He wakes up from this dream on the filthy floor, seeing stars. His cheek is so swollen he can only see out of one eye. The factory girl is administering to his wounds and cursing about her soon-to-be-ex-husband.
He didn't even know what hit him, that's how clean a sucker-punch it was.
Her name was Caroline, pronounced the southern way i.e. rhymes with narrow line, not Marilyn. Caroline suggests she could take better care of this bruise and cut at her shack. The fool agrees. That very night he discovers that her toddler is a light sleeper and an inquisitive little bugger too. Her shanty has but one bed, you see.
As time goes on he gets to know her better. She calls him college boy. She says she likes her sugars in the morning. He has no idea what she means. She throws parties and goes around afterwards collecting the beer cans and cigarette butts. Then she drinks what's leftover in the cans and smokes the little butts, one after the other. He learns that she's deaf in one ear from having her head smashed against the kitchen floor repeatedly.
She shows him the loaded pistol she keeps in the nightstand in case the soon-to-be-ex shows up and violates what she calls his "restraint order." She says if that happens it's best to shoot first and ask questions later, very matter of factly.
He calls her up one evening and she informs him that she and the STBEH have decided to get back to get back together for the good of the kid. He's been promoted to foreman and promises not to get drunk and beat her so often. She's hedged her bets by keeping the loaded gun around just in case. The college boy slumming with factory girl romance was kaput.
I often wonder which one killed the other first.
Maybe they both shot each other simultaneously, as no doubt happens sometimes in duels. Duels are cool, what a clean, tidy way to settle petty disputes! The most famous one occured in 1804, when US vice president Aaron Burr and former treasury secretary Al Hamilton squared off. Hamilton died, Burr got convicted of two counts of murder. Curiously he wasn't hanged; he was even allowed to serve out his term as VP! Hamilton wound up on the ten dollar bill.
I don't know who else Burr capped.
This weekend, I headed to the Twin Cities to spend some time with my brother and take him up on his offer of a free U2 ticket, so long as I went to the concert with him. My brother and I have slowly started to bond a bit more over the last few years, and who can pass up U2? I took off from work a bit early on Friday so my bro and I could head downtown before the show to catch a bite to eat. While nurturing a couple of beers and food, my brother asked me that fateful question: "So, are you dating anyone?"
In my head, I had a debate that lasted for all of about 2 seconds ("Should I tell him? Yes! No! Are you crazy? Psst... tell him!"), before I blurted out that yes, I am seeing someone. And her name is Meg*. (*Name has been changed.)
I came out to my brother. And with that short discussion with my brother, my perspective has changed completely. I was nearly 100% sure that my bro would be cool with the fact that I date women, but the actual step of telling him has become a catalyst for all sorts of thoughts. Practically within the span of a couple of days, my brain has abandoned the thoughts of bisexuality that have been gripping it for the past year.
Maybe I'm just giddy about Meg and the wonderful butterflies you get when you start seeing someone new are taking over. Maybe I'm just in another phase of my life where I'm leaning towards the gay end of things as opposed to the straight end. Maybe I'm afraid of social connotations of the term "bisexuality", but right now, my brain, my hormones, and my body are telling me that I don't want to date men. I've stopped noticing them or thinking about any of them in a sexual way, and I'm floating on a little cloud. So thanks for asking, bro.
Mr. Language Person must maintain a constant vigil against the vile encroachment of strange, Orwellian terminology into the public discourse. This is difficult because Mr. Language Person doesn't care about the government or policies or their wonks or pundits. And yet today, while working the Sunday puzzle, I decided to turn on the TV for my dose of hurricane news. Big blunder on my part.
Today the wonk-pundit's gabfest theme was something called "Gold Star Moms." These aren't to be confused with soccer moms, million mom marchers or mothers against drivers on crack. No, the Stars are moms whose sons have been cut down in the senseless Iraq quagmire.
The most famous of these, of course, is this Cindy Sheehan character. She's the one who camped out in style outside Bush's ranch, courtesy o' ANSWER, MoveOn and that too-much-time-on-its-hands crowd. Her full time job appears to be carping about the war to anyone willing to lend a microphone. Her speech has taken on a robotic quality; like someone is feeding her lines through a hidden earpiece. She made a point of slipping in how she and her ilk/handlers "support the troops" even though they vehemently oppose the war they are fighting and would like nothing better than to see their commander-in-chief have a heart attack while mountain-biking. This is oxymoronic and just plain moronic. You cannot pick and choose that way. As Bush himself once said, you're either with us or you're against us. There's no middle ground.
Next they trotted out an older looking Star Mom who really does "support the troops" and favors the goal-diverting war. Parroting such right-wing blowhards as Bill O-Reilly and Rush "80 mg will set you right" Limbo, she slips in the obligatory reference to "the war on terror" and its alleged link to the Iraq conflict. As Jaded Ju once put it, this is so wrong on so many levels that I don't know where to begin. First of all, there is no "war on terror." Terror is just an emotion like any others, a chemical reaction to stimuli. You can't wage war against that; you can wage against Wahibbi Muslim mass-murderers and all their sympathizers; or you could if you weren''t so busy with your petty vendetta against Sad Am.
Say what you will about him but Mr. Am ran a tighter ship than Mussolini. The oil pipelines flowed unobstructed. Had anyone tried to blow them up or otherwise mess with his cash cow and he would hunt them down and torture/kill them. If they died in the attack he'd kill their familes, burn down their homes and rape their wives and daughters. The only terrorism Sad Am tolerated was his own. And as a mostly secular Arab state, there wasn't much virulent Muslim extremism to contend with anyway. But with him and his regime long gone and only a childish, bickering void in its place, Iraq has acted like a Muslim exremist vacuum. They swarm across the Syrian border sporting their suicide belts and brandishing rocket-propelled grenades available on the streets of Baghdad for a song. Every day dozens of acts of terror are commited. The place has plunged into New Orleansean chaos, never to return to any semblance of normalcy. Thank to whom? Thanks to the terrorists the US invasion and occupation invited in. Will it ever end? No.
Some "war on terror" we're fighting over there, huh?
This lengthy excerpt from my book appears strictly for the edification of Chris. I hope he is still out there, and that he can answer some of my head-scratcher questions.
1) While I realize that those mutations that lead to species differentiation occur at the molecular level, they must manifest themselves in some outward trait. For instance, one monkey must have been born with a propensity to walk upright rather than swing from vines. Another might have been born without a tail or with one that was markedly shortened. As the theory goes, these two hooked up in adulthood, produced more humanoid offspring and somehow got isolated from the regular monkeys. And the rest is history.
Okay so far so good. But let’s take a closer peek at these traits, along with our highly-vaunted opposable thumbs and immense craniums. These humanoids weren’t born into a human environment; rather, they were born in the wild and wooly jungles of Africa. In the jungle, being terrestrial can get you killed in a hurry by a variety of voracious predators---particularly if you’re of a tender age. And both the stubby tail and a penchant for walking upright would land you smack dab in the middle of the danger zone---hardly an evolutionary edge. (See the sorry fate of ground-based monkeys, the nearly extinct great Apes.)
The opposable thumb and big brain would be evolutionarily neutral at best in that hostile environment. The thumb might help you manipulate objects better, but it would also make you stand out like a sore thumb. Parents and peers alike are liable to taunt, torture or kill you for being a freak of nature. As for the largish brain, we all know that high-pressure situations like being chased by a pack of hyenas call for snap decisions, not agonized reasoning. He who hesitates is lost.
Lastly, people are noticeably less hirsute that other species. Before folks figured out how to fashion pelts into garments, how did they survive those frigid Ice Age winters? How could they shake off the cold long enough to fuck?
2) Once the monkey-people had been isolated and inbred long enough to become a distinct species from their hairier forebears, what would be their first instinct? Figure out a way to breach the divide to wipe out the lowly monkeys. Why? The same reason a dog licks its balls---because it can. Also, monkey meat can be quite tasty when prepared properly. There are restaurants in Nepal where the tables have a hole cut in the middle. This is where the waiter straps a feisty live monkey. He then slices off the top of its head as Hannibal Lechter did to one of his hapless victims in Silence of the Lambs. Dig in, everybody!
So why do garden-variety monkeys abound to this day? Why haven’t they evolved at all since that time so many millennia ago?
3) I’ve been camping in the winter. We had all the top-flight backpacking gear and still survival was difficult for even a few days. And there aren’t nearly as many threatening species roaming about as there were 50,000 years ago---plus it was a lot chillier then. It just seems exceedingly unlikely that a population of people could have possibly sustained itself at the necessary birth-replacement level of 2 per female, under such harsh and forbidding conditions. Mankind almost certainly needed some form of divine intervention to have eked out an existence, and you don’t need to buy into creationist hokum to believe that either.
He’d have stood the same chances of survival as frail, guileless Michael Jackson would have had he been convicted of child molestation and sent to prison. (Then again, stranger things have happened. Consider that O.J. Simpson walked despite 5 billion-to-one odds that blood spilt all over the crime scene belonged to anybody but him.)
4) You’d think that killing your own offspring would be an unfavorable behavior from an evolutionary standpoint, for obvious reasons---and that goes on all the time in the animal kingdom. And yet Man takes it one step further by aborting fetuses by the millions every year---and He’s been doing it for untold generations, especially if the fetus was female---no harm, no foul.
You also might think that as the most highly evolved species, we’d have a keen, communistic sense of what is good in furtherance of said species. How then to explain genocide, from 1994’s bloodbath in Rwanda to Pol Pot’s massacre as depicted in that downer of a movie The Killing Field? In little over a year 400,000 Rwandan tribesmen were slaughtered as the West sat by twiddling its thumbs. Likewise when Mr. Pot butchered 1,000,000 of his countrymen: “You’re a bad man, Mr. Pot. Please stop wiping out all the Cambodians.” Sure, there is the occasional interspecies killing but nothing on such a grand scale. No other animal kills with such sweaty, unbridled abandon. And yet we remain the most populous higher animal around.
5) The existence of such preposterous creatures as hedgehogs, goats, anteaters and sloth. Mother Nature is a notoriously humorless bitch. Without a sense of humor, there is simply no way She’d have created these beasts. (The same might be said of 80s “hair bands.”)
6) The AIDS. It is well-accepted that this killer disease originated from men having wild banshee sex with the green monkeys indigenous to eastern Africa. If we really share so much DNA (99% by some eggheads’ estimates) with monkeys, don’t you think some hard-up villagers would have cavorted with their forebears long before the late 70s, when AIDS arrived in force? After all, as the saying goes, it’s all pink on the inside.
7) The fact that the industrialized world has all but eliminated threats to its populace, from dreaded diseases to wildlife to indoor smoking. Meanwhile the Third World continues to be ravaged by all those perils and more. Where is population burgeoning? The Third World. Where are human numbers dwindling overall? The industrialized world. This apparent paradox runs diametrically counter to Darwin’s cockamamie theories. As does the aforementioned fact that one population just one rung below us on the evolutionary ladder teeters on the brink of extinction. If they are so smart, why haven’t they been able to adopt to changing circumstances and duck predation? As the great Sam Kinnison once asked, why don’t they GO WHERE THE FOOD IS?
8) Mankind is devolving. Behold how all the great masters of art died centuries ago, never to be reincarnated. Who alive today can paint with the depth and nuance of a Monet or Renoir? Would you compare Jackson Pollack splashing gallons of house paint on an outlandishly large canvass to Monet’s Water Lilies? How about Andrew Wyatt’s ubiquitous painting of a dog lying on a bed? Does it measure up to Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel? Who composed catchier tunes, Bach or 50 Cent? In literature, is the drivel churned out by Stephen King or John Grisham on a par with the revered works of Tolstoy, Sartre or Hemingway? For that matter, is it even on a par with Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg? I don’t think so! And I’m sorry but Two and a Half Men might be the least tiresome comedy TV has to offer, but it doesn’t compare with even Shakespeare’s most middling of plays. And with the proliferation of “reality TV” shows, they’ve gone so far as to remove all elements of creativity from our most pervasive medium.
Hence the decline in movie-going, book-buying, TV viewership and CD sales. When the product is consistently mediocre, people learn to stay away in droves. Yes, you might say we’ve evolved to the point where we all realize it is necessary to entertain ourselves.
For all our breathtaking advances in technology, we are devolving with each passing generation. Tom Brokaw’s jaunty proclamation that persons born in the 20s and 30s (like him) comprised The Greatest Generation notwithstanding, our evolutionary tree died when it was a nascent sapling. We build 110 story skyscrapers and massive 747 airplanes. What do we do with them? Why, fly the planes into the buildings so as to destroy then planes, skyscrapers and everyone therein, that’s what. Very clever indeed.
Before long we’ll be back up in the trees, swinging with the monkeys and avidly eating our own shit.
9) It is axiomatic to Darwinian dogma that genetic diversity is good for a given species. Yet, in practice on the ground, it doesn’t seem to work out very well. See how Americans have bristled at the mass stampede of Mexicans and South Americans bringing their sexist behavior, lax cultural mores and annoying mariachi music with them. Witness the difficulty a Spanish-speaking person has ordering a pastrami on rye from a Korean deli owner in America. Behold the maddening fast-food word “fo-hee-to-gaw.” More homogenous populations like Swedes and Japanese seem happier and prove just as productive.
10) You’re reading this.
I'm starting to believe that our society is simply too stupid to live. Once upon a time, the big bugbear of American government was good old-fashioned corruption. But a corrupt government, while horribly inefficient, is still capable of making at least some constructive decisions. When government is dominated by institutional and personal stupidity, however, we have a problem. How can the bureaucrats and politicians make good decisions when they no longer know what a good decision looks like?
I would like to see every government agency simply dismissed and rebuilt from the ground up, but I lack the faith that there are enough people of what was once called normal intelligence in this country to effectively re-staff them. It's not that I believe that governments in general are this dumb - it's our government, from the President at the top all the way down to your local sanitation inspector, that couldn't find its collective arse with two hands.
What brought this rant on was recalling one definition of stupidity: doing something which actively harms or angers others while bringing no benefit, or even harm, to oneself.
Last nite was the network premiere of Pearl Harbor. I'd never seen it for it met several of my no-watch criteria: 1 It's a big-budget blockbuster, usually long on contrived action and short on character development and plot. 2) It is about something historical so you know how it turns out. (The DVD version of Titanic promised an alternate ending. Like what?) 3 It's about war stuff.
So since it was opposite the self-congragulatory gabfest that is the Emmies and some other crap I grudgingly watched. It was pretty good. Kate Beckinsale was enchanting as a young nurse caught in a love triangle with two best friends. Like most 40s and 50s young women she strove to look older and more sophisticated. They'd use red lipstick and fancy hairdos to achieve this. Nowadays older women strive to look like teenagers with lip gloss, wrinkle creams and limp straight hair. This isn't progress.
But what struck me most about the flick was the sudden and poignant loss of innocence. All of a sudden everything changed. They went from micro-living to macro-living one sunny morn. Earlier in the day I heard Canned Heat's Going Up to the Country, a wistful ditty about the end of the idealistic 60s. "Gotta leave today. Cuz it's a brand new game and I don't want to play... We might even leave the USA." The singer clearly sensed that the peace/love gig was up. It was released in 1969 just before the Woodstock love-in. And not long before the Hell's Angels stabbed a boy at Altamont. The deaths of icons Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and the Who's madman drummer Keith Moon soon followed, in a seemingly inevitable fashion.
My brother, who distributed free and legal acid on the streets of Haight-Ashbury in 1965, sensed the end sooner. By the so-called summer of love in 1967, the scene had already started to desinegrate. Once everyone gets wind of something, it's over.
I suppose for our generations the defining end-of-an-era moment had to be 9/11. Everything had changed one sunny morn, once again. And now Hollywood is poised to churn out some shlocky drivel about heroism or something. I'd much rather see a story of the subhuman hijackers and the events leading up to the attack, as seen on 24 last season.
Now that would be compelling.
I saw a survey today on CNN.com (not linkable - check out today's QuickVote on the main page), and I wish I could say I was surprised. Let's be clear about this: our country is out of money. We are borrowing money from lots of foreign countries (China, for instance) just to keep our government and military running. Despite the promises of politicians, there is not enough money to rebuild New Orleans. The incredibly wasteful practices of FEMA and the likely no-bid contracts to friends of friends of the administration probably won't help keep the costs down, either.
So if the government is going to participate in the rebuilding process, and it looks like there's not really a choice there, then it will need more money. And since the government is not a for-profit entity, that money must come from taxes. If you don't think that the government should raise taxes to pay for this stuff, then you either think that the money should come from cancelling other government programs (I'm curious about suggestions) or that New Orleans should not be rebuilt. We can't have it both ways.
This title comes from Robbie Robertson's self-titled album, five years in the making. I highly recommend it. Buy it sound-unheard. Guarantee it won't disappoint.
Anyway, I logged on to jaw about something or other. Ah yes, phases of life. When you're young there is such a sense of immediacy. Life is vivid, visceral and in the now. Many of the things you see, places you visit are for the first time in your life. Who doesn't remember the details of their first sexual experience, (assuming no roofies were involved?)
You know the concept of micro vs. macro-management? Well, I think that when you're younger, you are micro-living. Each experience looms large. A high school breakup seems like the end of the world. A pop quiz devastates your psyche. You worry yourself sick about the SATs and what school might accept you. A song on the radio enchants you. In the long run it all amounts to nothing, but you don't know that at the time.
I am now 46, middle-aged I guess. I'm at that stage where you're macro-living. I take my pleasure in different, longer-term things. For instance, early fall is my favorite time of year. My beloved Redskins get trounced every week. I watch every minute as bile erodes my esophagus. Soccer season is on. I watch my son's team and play on my own. But most of all I love the opportunity to turn off the AC for a few precious weeks before it turns deathly cold and we must go to the heat. The windows are all open, fresh air abounds. And we get a brief reprieve from the oppressive utility costs of heating or cooling this monster.
I enjoy getting statements from my investments. I can't grasp a word of it and it leaves me baffled every time. But I am proud that I ever even got organized enough to have a portfolio of sorts. And while I hope it is doing well, I don't think all those numbers in parenthesis bode too well.
I love obtaining gadgets. Yestderday I won a corkscrew in a drawing, the first time I've ever won anything. It's not just any corkscrew, it is a Wine System. The corkscrew is newfangled looking and I think it will survive a nuclear war. There is a stopper (as if I'd ever need that,) a "foil cutter" and some kind of pouring thingee. It's all packed in felt like a fancy gun.
Too bad the wine we buy comes in boxes.
One phase isn't necessarily better than the other. Each has its up and downside. But what I really fear is old age. I can't imagine boring people to tears with the vagaries of my myriad medical problems. I can't fathom the idea of being dependant on someone else. Most of all I don't even want to think about ever reminiscing. Nostalgia sucks. The past is for those with no viable present. So is the future.
I kind of feel like it is a prudent move to smoke and drink to excess your entire life. It might be good to shoot up, smoke crack and have unprotected sex with homosexuals too. Sure you shave several years off your life. But it is end-time years and those are years I'd just as soon dispense with. Optimally you kick the bucket the day before your exasperated kids plan to send you to a nursing home. And you definitely want your last check to bounce.
Crazy people freak me out.
Maybe it is because I try to look at life so logically that when someone is detached from that world of logic, science, and objectivity that the rest of us cling to (even tenuously) it makes me uncomfortable to be anywhere near them.
Maybe it is because hard core mental illnesses run in my family, and being around people like that reminds me how close I am to slipping over that edge. I’ve seen members of my family, who are otherwise intelligent and well-spoken, turn into literal raving lunatics when off their meds. And it is only through some luck of brain chemistry that I ended up relatively normal 100% of the time, instead of taking those all-to-frequent mental holidays.
Not too long ago my department moved from one building to another. There is this woman who works in the employee cafeteria that constantly mutters to herself under her breath. Because crazy people freak me out, I tried to avoid her as much as possible. If she was cleaning the salad bar, I’d go nowhere near it. If she were brining out new pies, I’d stay away, even though I love pies.
Since I never got close to her, I never really got a chance to hear what she was muttering about. And quite honestly, I didn’t think it would hold much interest for me.
While I tried to stay away from this woman, unfortunately that wasn’t much of an option. See, she would also be the one to deliver food to the meeting rooms for lunch meetings, and clean the refrigerators and kitchenettes on our floor. Every other day or so she’d walk by my desk looking directly at me but really through me, and saying things that were seemingly directed at me, but obviously not directed at me.
One day it seemed like the fog lifted and she looked directly at me and not through me, and clearly and pointedly asked me “When is your birthday?”
I was so shocked I had to ask her to repeat herself because I couldn’t believe she was actually coherent – like the question was directed at a voice in her head and I just happened to be standing right in front of the delusion.
“When is your birthday?”
I told her it was April 18.
The next day down in the employee cafeteria she sees me and immediately says “Four eighteen, making the scene.” She remembered my birthday, and had a little rhyme for me! Apparently this was her continual muttering. She remembered the birthdays of every single employee (thousands) and would repeat it back to them in a couplet every time she saw them. That may still be crazy, but it is kind of cool crazy.
She has different rhymes for everyone, some examples: “5/3, the place to be,” “9/21, so much fun.” She doesn’t even use the same one every time. For example, sometimes she’ll say to me “4/18, back again.” While the English major in me protests, I’ll forgive the forced rhyme in this case since she has to come up with thousands of these.
Well, I only bring this up because she recently cornered another of my coworkers. The next time she saw him she said “8/17, time to change your life.”
Mr. Language Person is peeved about the misnomers masquerading as euphemisms encroaching on our lexicon. Here are some terms he finds particularly vexing.
Premature ejaculation: For the person allegedly suffering from it, no ejaculation is premature. It always feels great, even after just one stroke. Not that I'd know.
Emo, psychobilly, alt-country, post-grunge punk and so on: This hair-splitting insistence on specific genres of pop music is infuriating. As Bill Joel put it, it's all rock n roll to me.
Religion: Here the opposite is the problem. The term is bandied about too loosely, to include such shams as scientology and kabbalah. The only religions are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
Pro-life: Besides suicide bombers, who isn't in favor of life? This is just a rhetorical spin designed to cast abortion opponents in a most favorable light.
Reproductive rights: This is akin to pro-life. When liberals speak of reproductive rights they really mean the right not to reproduce even when you're pregnant.
Terrorists: Believe it or not Reuters actually has a policy not to call anyone a terrorist. It is too judgmental a term. A terrorist is a person, usually a radical Muslim, who seeks to instill fear in his fellow man with senseless, random violence. And it's not a "war on terror," because you can't wage war with an emotion.
Pre-owned: Cars are not baseball mitts that are better when they're broken in. There is no advantage to having some stranger previously smoke, fart and masturbate in your car.
Sleeping with: If I came home and told my wife that I went out to my car and took a nap with a female coworker, she'd just think I was being strange. It's not the extramarital sleeping spouses are concerned with, it's the fucking and sucking.
Relationship experts/"sexperts": What qualifies anyone for this?
Eating disorders, mentally challenged amd attention deficit disorder: The problem with people who have eating disorders is that they don't eat. They subsist on a steady diet of nothing. It has nothing to do with eating. What was wrong with the adjective "retarded" or the noun "retard?" All it means is slow, and retards' development is indeed slow. Boys with ADD are just that, boys. They have short attention spans. Their minds tend to wander. There's a cure for this, it's called growing up.
And that's what we all need to do when it comes to our lingo.
I was going to post something about Katrina, but I've changed my mind and now want to say only this about it: if you have the time and inclination, actually volunteering and lending a hand would be a good thing to do.
What I really want to talk about is Iraq. The Prez has gone on and on about preserving Iraq as a single country, and the Sunni are frothing at the mouth over the prospect that even a bit of power in Iraq might devolve from the center. They're afraid of Iraq breaking up, and they should be: the Sunni areas have no oil, nothing of interest at all, really, and wouldn't be self-supporting if the country fell apart. It wouldn't serve their interests to let go of Iraq, but it would serve ours - we should make it happen in an orderly way before it happens on its own.
Iraq is not a "real" country - it was carved out of the remains of the Ottoman Empire by the British, who drew borders the same way they did in Africa - by grabbing as much land as they could and saying, "MINE!". The problem, of course, is that no one asked the inhabitants if they actually wanted to live together in the same country, and we see the results now just as we did in Yugoslavia. Only a tyrant can keep the mess together, and as soon as things start to loosen up a little the people who don't want to live together are going to start doing something about it, either by trying to secede or simply by walking next door and murdering their neighbors.
There are probably two workable states in what is now Iraq. One is Kurdistan, which has oil, stability, a unique ethnic and linguistic identity, and is also the home of the lowest men on the Middle East's totem pole, the Kurds. They've been kicked around by the Turks, the Syrians, and the Persians. They've been betrayed by the British and the Americans. They deserve their own country, and considering that the only people who really object to this are the same people who spent so much time oppressing them, they should get it. If we're lucky, they'll get powerful enough to invade eastern Turkey and teach them a lesson about revisionist history (but that's a different issue).
The other possible state is the as-yet unnamed territory in the south that's home to most of Iraq's Shiite population. It also has oil, and its people have also been victims of predation at the hands of Saddam's regime. There is a good chance that given the choice the Shiites would set up an Iran-style government in their country, but I think that stability in any form would be preferable to what they have now. Let their children start going to school, their farmers start harvesting their crops regularly, and they'll sort out the details one way or the other eventually.
That leaves us with the middle, the so-called Sunni Triangle. We might have to set up a government of some sort there, but only because we can't have the place just turn into Somalia II. The Sunnis have gotten used to running Iraq even though they were in the minority - sort of like the Afrikaaners in South Africa. Unlike the Afrikaaners, however, it doesn't sound like the Sunni have come to terms with the truth - that their days of control are over, and that they're only going to have a voice in politics commensurate with their numbers. They reject federalism outright, and fail to recognize that the alternative is not a return to their own dominance, but their outright exclusion from whatever comes of this process. They didn't vote in the elections and now have the nerve to commit violence because they don't have a voice. It is for their benefit that Iraq has existed for as long as it has, and we have no reason to continue coddling them. Let them play by themselves if they don't want to play nice.
We have a choice. We can break Iraq into reasonable pieces, and make 2/3 of the population happy. We can make allies out of the Kurds and (maybe) the Shiites, and we'll just have to deal with pissing off the Sunnis, who it seems we can only piss off anyway. Or, we can insist that this farce called Iraq remain a single country, make enemies out of everyone, and have the entire thing fall apart *anyway* as soon as we leave. I don't know why Bush cares so much about keeping Iraq whole, but I can't see why it helps us to do so.
So often I feel as if I'm Alice in Wonderland fallen down a hole into some wondrous yet nightmarish land that reminds me of bad acid trips. Such was my first exposure to the nightly news in days. I've grown tired of hearing about the hurricane, evacuees' misery, floating corpses etc. I just made a huge contribution to relief efforts, as everyone in their right mind should, and tuned out.
You stranded by Katrina? Well then just pull out the laptop you've thoughtfully brought along on your little unplanned vacation and log on here. Navigate your way through seven different screens to get to the application for relief page. Your navigation through the deluged, looter-riddled streets of New Orleans will seem easy by comparison.
Then you will need to list your address and phone number so that a FEMA official might meet with you at your imaginary location and assess the damage: "Well, let's see. There is absolutely nothing left of the entire neighborhood. I think your hovel is a total loss. Do you know your PIN? If not we can have a new one mailed to you within 6 business days."
People who might make use of this site, by definition, don't have A) internet access B) cell phones C) addresses D) phone numbers E) time to deal with with the stupid fucking government and its feeble attempts to help. Far better to loot a gun store and take matters into your own hands.
Chuck Woolery asked why my parents kicked me out of my own house. The short answer is: because I was leaving.
I had mentioned that they basically gave the rest of the family 72 hours' notice on the final move date. Everyone stayed up all night the last two days. The keys were to be turned over on Thursday, September 1. I was working every day that week, but apparently my mom and dad saw no problem with it because my dad is retired and my mom took the week off. Tuesday night I went to work on 90 minutes of sleep. After work I crashed for a few hours at my friend's apartment. Wednesday morning about 1 a.m. I entered my parents' house, mad as hell but hiding it, and began to move things into my car. My dad approached me with a check for $5,000.
I turned down the check. A few weeks before, he had been yelling at me and said that he and my mother had "discovered" what I was up to, and that they were aware that I was going to leave soon for a school far away. He told me that I had a bad attitude, that I was ruining my life, and that I needed to get married fast before I did any more stupid things. He also said that he thought that I would not go, because I would not be able to get any loans. I said that I disagreed with him and that what I did with my life was not his business. I did not mention that my loan requests had already been approved.
I knew when my father offered me the check that it was meaningless gesture. He and my mother are very manipulative. When you disagree, they'll fight you tooth and nail in any kind of underhanded way they can think of. Then, when they don't win, they will act like they are resigned to your actions. Finally, after a period of superficial tranquility lasting a few or several months, they will burst into a rage and bring up disagreements which they had previously pretended were resolved.
I didn't say that, though. I just said that I couldn't accept the money. My father said that he was offering it because he was concerned for my well-being. I declined it again. Then he started yelling... he thought I was disobedient, ungrateful, and so on. I said that if he truly cared for me he would accept that I could not take his check. He yelled for me to get out and slammed the front door in my face, locking it. I pulled my key out of my pocket and unlocked it. I continued removing my possessions.
A little later my mother cornered me in the front hallway and screamed that I was a horrible person because I had caused my father to accuse her of being a bad parent. That conversation (such as it was) was maddening also. You guys probably don't want to hear the details. My mom repeated almost verbatim rants she'd given me five or ten years ago. I know because I have a good memory. She started a little power struggle because I asked her to repeat something she'd said, and she said she wouldn't say anything until I repeated it first. Like... what? What was that? Then she said that if I hated my family so much, then I should leave. She got into the master bedroom with my father and after a few more exchanges, including ones where my mother begged me to stop disagreeing lest my father have a heart attack and one where my father told my two sisters that they should not attempt to contact me because I was a bad person, they shut the door on me.
I am not convinced either of them is completely sane.
But tonight, I am going to my favorite coffeeshop and playing Scrabble with my friend. I'll say goodbye for the fifth or so time to my Los Angeles friends, and maybe, just maybe, after losing that Scrabble game (because he is better at it than I am), taking the north fork on the 10 East instead of the south fork which for fifteen years lead to my house, and shutting the door on this second-floor apartment in Pasadena, I might get some action.
I think I mentioned once a person I've lost my head over. There have been some developments. Well I have moved in with him for about ten days. This is what happened.
First, my parents sold our house. We'd lived in it for 15 years. Then, with about three days notice, they told me and my siblings that we were supposed to be out and relocated to another property we own in the same city. This property had no working plumbing. So I called this person up and asked if I could stay with him, just so I could have plumbing and also Internet access. Oh, and on my way out of the house, my parents kicked me out. It was messed up. I got no sleep and had to take the next day off work.
The stay was alright. We were friendly and I pined for him some but not too much. Then last night happened.
Last night he was in the mood for talking about deep, dark things. I listened to it all because he is mostly decent to me, except for the fact that he likes me but for his reasons is scared to act on it. Meanwhile he's valiantly trying to be friends. I came across a quote once: "Be gentle to your friends." I have vowed to be gentle with him.
There is a point at which you're not talking to another person as a friend anymore. There's platonic intimacy and then there's what's more than that. Finally he said, "What are you thinking?" and I called his bluff. I said, "I think I want to hug you," and gave him a very non-platonic embrace. I told him I liked him, and that the next move was his. I'm helpless. We talked and held each other some more, and went to our rooms when his other house guest got home. This morning we were friendly but both a little confused about the state of things.
I don't think we're going to get together. And I think he knows that he's wronging me by it. Isn't that strange? Meanwhile, I'm typing this on his computer (note to self: clear his browser history and cache), sitting in the middle of his things, waiting for him to get home from work. I'm hanging out with his friend and talking about their school. He has offered me his life and yet not given it to me. It hurts, but I've got to remember that I'm bigger than it.
It beats living with my parents.
Ah yes, everbody's favorite topic: themselves. Myself I've never been that big on those types of blogs where the writer relates the mundane details of where they went shopping or the delicious BLT they ate for lunch. But once in a while something unusual actually happens in my life. In this case it was interacting on a personal level with a person besides my wife. You see, I've become a hermit in recent years.
It hasn't always been this way. I used to move among a large circle of friends and acquaintances. For the most part we were all involved in some way with Whore Hey and Cum Meal's enterprise.
So I traipse up to the grocery store to buy kale and bananas for this 4 foot iguana that's taken up residence in my family room. I purchase the items, absorbed in my usual fog of pet peeves and delusions. I become aware that someone is calling my name. Well, not my name but a childhood nickname. It's my friend Matt. Growing up he was my closest friend. I was the best man at his wedding. I bought him 2 whores for his bachelor party, but he was so in love with his fiancee he wouldn't even accept a complimentary blowjob from them.
We haven't spoken in years. He's moved twice, gotten engaged after 20 years of single life and switched careers. For the last couple months he's been living just blocks from my home. All unbeknownst to me!
We chatted for a while and the cameraderie was unmistakably still there. We just get along, we think along the same lines. We commiserated about the disaster in the Big Easy. He told me about some major backpacking trips he's been on. We promised to get together soon for tennis and beers afterwards. I'm hopeful that ensues, but I am not confident it will.
Truth is that such situations are awkward as hell---you're grasping. After all that time apart it just isn't possible to totally rekindle any friendship. I remember thinking that I was glad I'd shaved even though I didn't work that day. I was also glad I'd gotten a haircut/scalp massage earlier. I'd have never given that a moment's thought in years past. We were just buds and that was it.
Girl-friends seldom let this happen. They keep up with one another. They're masters of the art of "just checking in." Guys rarely "check in," any more than we shop. We lumber into stores, knowing precisely what we're there for. We're in and out in five minutes flat, like sex.
Turns out there are reasons for this difference. Men relate to me far differently than women relate to other women. The main difference is that guys can never get totally past the fact that any dude is your potential rival, someone who might steal your girl or worse. Nor can we display weakness or vulnerability, the cornerstones of weepy chick friednship. Gals can chat about a variety of things. Guys can chat about ravaging chicks, whether the curtains matched the carpet and football. After we're married or engaged tht list is winnowed down to football.
A rivalry situation is what led to the rift between Matt and I. We lived in a group house, him, me, my GF and his wife. His wife dug me and often came on to me. I never succumbed. But somehow he got the idea that I did---probably planted by her. We didn't speak for years after that. He didn't even attend my wedding in 1988 and I never forgave him for the no-show. That is one the biggest regrets of my life. You should never let a woman get between you and your best buds.
It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Katrina hit, and the people of the Gulf Coast are finally starting to pick themselves up and get ready for what comes next. After a week of chaos, violence, looting, and death, we can finally get down to what Americans know how to do best – no, not build automobiles or any other manufactured goods – now is the time to point fingers and cast guilt.
Whether you want to blame Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, for not asking for help before she needed it, or FEMA and Homeland Security for not being equipped to handle the worst natural disaster in the country’s 300 year history, or President Bush for believing his advisors when they told him things were under control and not ignoring them and sending in the National Guard anyway, someone is clearly at fault.
But, I think in all this finger pointing the most obvious suspect has been missed – Saddam Hussein.
Think about it – we all knew the guy was up to no good, but several years after taking over in Iraq we’ve yet to find any evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Why?
Because we were looking for the wrong thing.
We were looking for evidence of chemical or nuclear weapons and, of course, couldn’t find any. Those are the tools of your average villain. Saddam Hussein is a super-villain, and what is the ultimate goal of a super-villain? That’s right – a weather controlling machine.
The United Nations weapons inspectors and Coalition forces have been looking for biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons to no avail, but missed what was right in front of them the entire time – meteorological weapons. And now it is too late.
Hurricane Katrina was the direct result of the Butcher of Baghdad’s attempts to control the weather, and therefore the world. So before you reproach Blanco, Bush, or FEMA Director Mike Brown, think about who is really to blame – Saddam Hussein.
ZX11XOH brands me as bigoted (actually I think he said "bigotted" but what's a typo or too among friends.) So now I know how Bob Dylan must have felt when he took the stage at 1966's Newport Folk Festival with organist Al Kooper and an electric band later known as The Band. The folkie purists in the crowd booed them off the stage.
And maybe it's true. But I'm not half as bad as KKK spokesman and frequent Howard Stern guest Daniel Carver.
I keep a radio on at work. The volume is set at a murmur level, more for background noise than anything else. I listen to Howard, then the Junkies, turn it off for blowhard Bill O'Reilly and then back on for Don & Mike. One fine morn, an African-American woman plopped herself down at my desk, seeking advice about a case. She always reminds me of Chris Rock's rant about how silly it is that people call Colin Powell "well-spoken." "Did he have a stroke or something..." She is quite articulate with a great sense of humor. She never says "axe" unless referring to a hatchet. So she's asking her question and who would come on the murmuring radio but Mr. Carver. My heart sunk as he drawled something along the lines of, "Filthy n____s ain't nothin' but monkeys dressed up in clothes. Worse'n dogs, even Koreans won't eat 'em."
Like a fart in a crowded elevator, the slur was audible but we both tried to ignore the ignorance fillling the air. At that point I had two choices: 1) Keep it on and leave the impression that maybe I feel that way too; and thus sit around listening to racists spewing their awful hatred. 2) Turn the damn thing off and call more attention to it. What would you do?
Later the same morning my boss plopped himself down at my desk to discuss the next business initiative. He wanted my input. Howard was interviewing some porn skank and as is his custom was playing the soundtrack of a porn movie in the background. It was replete with heavy breathing, moaning and some very demeaning talk directed at the moaning woman. I am surprised the FCC lets him get away with that. I thought there was a prohibition against explicit depiction of sexual relations over the airways.
I sure wished there were at the time. It is very difficult to be taken seriously in a business environment under those trying circumstances. I felt much the same way as I did several years ago when I stepped on the elevator with that boss's boss. We were the only ones in the elevator at first. Us and a lewd picture torn out of Hustler or something. The girl was slathered... There was this unmistakable feeling that somehow I had something to do with the offending presence of that picture, even though I had no inkling how it got there. As the elevator filled up, the collective discomfort was palpable. Eventually a guy picked it up as if picking up dogshit and tossed it in the trash.
So how's that, ZX? Normal enough? Can you relate? Or would you rather I write about wreaking my frecking cars?
Yesterday, after 1 1/2 months of no word, I got some exciting news. It's not something I can jump up and down about just yet, but it could definitely change my life as I know it. I have a phone interview. With some folks who might hire me to do my dream job: be a tour guide in Central and South America.
How awesome is that? I'd get paid to go places I've both already been to and love or where I've always wanted to explore and never had the opportunity. Granted, I'd have to deal with some asshole tourists every now and again, and I'm sure that annoying things would happen on the road like flat tires and puking passengers, but I think I could deal. The positives woudl outweight the negatives for me. I can hardly wait for the interview, and I hope they like what they hear. If so, I could be off for training in Peru as soon as October! Adios title insurance job!