Last summer was a very family-oriented affair for me. My sister gave birth to fraternal twins. I attended three weddings and a bachelor party. Needless to say, my wallet is still on fire with all the travel and gift costs. But I couldn’t be happier for my sister expanding her quixotic little family and for my friends who got hitched.
Life is such a temporal construct, a walking shadow that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more. It only makes sense that people meet, get married, have children. In pumping up his troops at the beginning of Gladiator, Russell Crowe’s character utters the line – “What we do here echoes in eternity.” If ever anything were to echo in eternity, it is this circle of life – raising little children things, contributing to the teeming masses. Yet, procreation is also just a primal instinct, one we share with the basest of life forms. It’s not exactly… sentient.
Eternity remembers armies, events and only the most singular of individuals. And so I wonder about the nature of passion and ambition, as it relates to work. In most of our endeavors, the individual gets lost in the mists of time. So if you have the choice, why choose one vocation over another. Why give a sh*t over one endeavor or another.
I work hard at my job and I find it challenging enough. I want to become a better Project Manager and so I know I need to develop better PM skills. But I have no illusions as to the whether future generations will remember me personally. Certainly not my work. I’ll get lost in the mists of time and be consigned to the back pages of history (if that).
In the absence of a life filled with great and terrible things, sure as anything, I won’t look back on my life and tell stories of studying for the PMP or working my way into middle or upper management. But working hard enough that I can take fun vacations and talk to interesting people outside the office, yeah I can get behind that.
I’ll allow that it is certainly #firstworldproblems to ponder the worth of work from an atomistic viewpoint. Most people on this planet work at anything they can do simply to survive. The garment worker or rickshawalla in Bangladesh probably aren’t considering their place in history; they just want to eat, have a roof over their heads and maybe watch some cricket and raise their children. Then again, they probably aren’t all that passionate about their job either. It’s a means to a very practical end.
or… Amurrica, FUCK YEAH!
The Middle East is passé. The USA is getting the hillel outta Iraq and Afghanistan and all the better says I. Neocons, interventionists, humanists and all manner of idiots are demanding that the USA become more involved in the Syrian Civil War. Ummm… fuck no.
But people need something to do. Commanders-in-Chief command, armies fight, Americans americanize. The military-industrial complex must be fed. We need a (new( part of the world to fuck up. Enter… South America (again). It’s time to look into our neighbors’ backyards and recommit to messing up their lives.
Our re-entry point is the recent death of Hugo Chavez. I propose that the USA attempt to install the most supine Pro-Amrikan politician possible on the throne of Caracas. It may not work; Venezuelan democracy may rebound and strengthen after the Chavez years. But that’s hardly the point. Our meddling alone will be enough to destabilize the region. Anything to mess with worldwide oil prices. (But we’ll still blame that on the A-rabs).
Next, of course, Argentina. Their crimes include devaluing their currency or something, electing a (relatively attractive) woman as leader, trying to call the Falkland Islands the Malvinas. Burn them!
Brazil. They have the temerity to demand that Amrikan citizens obtain visas before journeying there to hit on their women and look ugly on their beaches. Plus, they’re a nation of Catholics. Everyone loves raggin’ on Catholics, right?
The list can go on and on. The point is that we’re the world’s lone Superpower and we must continue act like it. Imperialism (covert or overt), exceptionalism, eradicating local cultures and replacing them with McDonald’s, extraordinary rendition, environmental degradation, hipsters. Let’s get to it.
Rod Dreher linked to a bit in a profile of Fox News chief, Roger Ailes:
Ailes admits that he sometimes flies off the handle. This can happen pretty much anywhere. Not long ago, on a ball field near his place in Garrison, NY, his nephew accidentally hit a baseball through the window of a 2012 Prius parked in a church lot. The owners were Koreans who didn’t speak much English, and they were extremely agitated. “It’s just a damn window,” Ailes told them. “I’ll pay for the damn thing.”
The owner was indignant. “We pray, you curse,” he said.
“Fine,” said Ailes. “Then let’s pray over the fu**ing window. Maybe that’ll fix it.”
“It was a 10-minute incident that I turned into an hour,” Ailes said when he told me the story. “Hell, it’s lucky they didn’t recognize me. It could have turned into a go*damn international scandal. But I told them I was sorry ” He laughed. “Damn it, though, I was kind of glad that it was a Prius.”
Rod thought this made Ailes a lovable SOB. Now I think Dreher is one of the best minds out there (conservative or not) but here, your humble narrator respectfully disagrees. His commentariat generally took him to task for it as well.
In another circumstance, I might have been amused. Perhaps if the offended party were effete country club status queens.
But they were immigrants. They didn’t speak English well. They probably didn’t realize it was just a “fucking window”. Maybe in Korea, it isn’t just a “fucking window”.
They also probably didn’t realize their Prius was an object of ridicule (and liberals making the Prius into a status object is generally worthy of mockitude).
I’m glad that Ailes apologized and offered to fix the fucking window. I think I’d find him an amusing SOB regardless of his politics but this particular incident toads the wet sprocket.
On this most noxious of days, I only ask that the couples of the world (esp the ladies) NOT fucking complain about their so-called dislike or antipathy towards this most noxious of days.
It is the providence of the terminally single to note with sardonic countenance the vapidity, shallowness and mindless consumerism of this day. We are better suited to such endeavor than you and we don’t look like God-damned hypocrites while doing so.
Simply enjoy the day, couples, and don’t look askance or condescend to those who do not share your condition.
One of Rod Dreher’s commenters, Cecilia, on the subject of forgiveness and revenge:
As to why wronged people do not seek vengeance – another good question. Maybe it is because forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves – not the person we are forgiving. Why poison yourself with embitterness and hatred towards someone who can no longer do you harm? Live – perhaps for all those who did not live or suffered so much.
I love that point about forgiveness being a gift we give ourselves lest we become poisoned. When applied to the subject of relationships, it’s part of closure. A
bitch person may wrong you but in the end, you have to move on.
or The World that Exists in Darkening Hours of the Night…
Rod Dreher linked to a post about a man who had to confront the difficulty of telling his daughter the truth about Santa Claus. The post concerns itself mostly with how we value and recount truths and myths. The connection to Santa is tenuous at best but I really liked this passage:
When we read The Hobbit, she instantly recognised dire wolves and Haast’s Eagles, even though Tolkien didn’t call them that. She understands that elves and dwarves and orcs were not exactly real, but there were many different kinds of humans once; Neanderthals were not as small as Tolkien’s dwarves but shorter and tougher than we are. There were humans who seem to have been faster than we are, or had bigger brains, or tiny bodies. I want her to know enough about the World Gone By to see its traces in folk memories around the world.
I suspect this is the reason such stories resonate with us, because they tap into a folk memory, or a sense that something is missing, in the same way that we recognise the missing pieces of a jigsaw. Fantasies about office jobs and high-rise buildings are called dystopias; the stories we fall in love with – old myths and the modern fantasy they inspired– begin with “Once upon a time” or “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” or about a time “before the coming of men.”
The missing pieces of the jigsaw. What he calls folk memory, one could also call institutional or species memory. Something in our DNA that reminds us of a world that once was.
The popular conception of the Neandertal is that of a big, lumbering, unintelligent brute. This is fueled by initial scientific interpretations of the Neandertals. But some part of me thinks we havespecies memory of this now-extinct humanoid. Neandertals were something of a rival to homo sapiens. We might have also cross-pollinated them into oblivion. But perhaps something remains trapped in our collective memory that remembers the Other, the struggle to survive, to dominate and subdue and it colors our perception of these ‘beasts’. I have no scientific basis for this hypothesis… just some nagging memory, I guess, searching for that missing piece of jigsaw puzzle.
Many cultures on the planet have independent stories about dragons. In one form or another. Huge lumbering beasts with large wing that rent the air with every beat. Sleeker animals that slid through the skies. Evil, benevolent, kind, threatening. How is it that we have these conceptions if not for some nagging memory buried in our collective subconscious.
Related Post: Why Do Westerners Lie to their Children So?
Pittsburgh will survive the apocalypse (zombie or non). Chances are your town or city won’t. You see, most cataclysmic events happen in big cities or rural towns. Hollywood has illuminated the template for the demise of humankind.
Alien invasions (Independence Day) and huge natural disasters (Day After Tomorrow) strike coastal cities where reside our largest metropolises – New York City, LA, Washington DC, etc. Serial killers like those in Scream, Halloween or Friday the 13th attack small, rural towns.
What you never see is medium-sized cities like Pittsburgh (or Milwaukee or Charlotte) attacked and destroyed. Even George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead was set in a rural Pennsylvania town not Pittsburgh. Romero drew upon Robert Matheson’s “I am Legend”, which was set in Los Angeles, for inspiration.
(And for the record, if the zombie apocalypse ever reached Pittsburgh, we’ve studied our Romero quite enough, thank you, to be able to forestall the judgment).
The National Rifle Association is failing its membership and so, it is also failing this nation. I’ve been a member of the NRA over a year now. I even renewed my membership. I get the emails, the solicitations. I get a complimentary subscription to American Rifleman.
The NRA has failed to advocate for its membership beyond cries of freedom and threatening to squash any political debate. In the wake of the Newtown school shootings, it shouldn’t have to be said that the vast, vast majority of America’s gun owners are responsible, law-abiding folks. They shouldn’t have to be tarred and feathered for the actions of a crazy. But by brooking no debate over any type of gun control, the NRA allows the polar opposite view to take root when horrific events happen.
I want a national debate. Not an hysterical debate. I want to know why semi-automatic guns should be legal. I want to know why people can stockpile enough weapons to build a small army. I want to know why people should be allowed more than a handgun for self-defense and a rifle for hunting. I want to know how we stem the tide of gun violence in the inner cities.
I want to know how to make our schools safer while still preserving the very real right of self-defense that has always been cherished here. I want the public to see more evidence of what responsible gun ownership looks like. I want to see studies showing how knife killings will magically fill in the gap of gun killings were guns to be outlawed.
Behold the Rope-A-Dope:
The rope-a-dope is performed by a boxer assuming a protected stance (in Ali’s classic pose, lying against the ropes; by leaning against the ropes, much of the punch’s energy is absorbed by the ropes’ elasticity rather than the boxer’s body) while allowing his opponent to hit him, providing only enough counter-attack to avoid the referee thinking the boxer is no longer able to continue and thus ending the match via technical knockout. The plan is to cause the opponent to “punch himself out” and make mistakes which the boxer can then exploit in a counter-attack.
Used to high effect by President Obama in the recently concluded US Presdiential Election.
President Obama lost the first debate.
The polls narrowed. Republicans were energized, arrogant even, about their chances for victory. Their internal numbers and pundits foresaw a win. Governor Romney expanded his efforts into Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, among other pipe dreams, in a vainglorious attempt to score an even more decisive win.
President Obama ‘righted’ the ship in the next two debates and focused his ground game where it mattered most – Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, etc.
Result: 332 to 206. Ding ding ding.
Or… I hope Richard Nixon is Rotting in Hell
The Arab Spring. A series of demonstrations, protests and wars that has rocked the autocratic governments of the Middle East since December 2010. It has forced from control, the rulers of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
In Egypt, the revolution, though violent at times, never digressed into a full-on war. Most nations around the world expressed support for the protests and called for political reforms. In Libya, the USA, as part of a NATO-led force, assisted in securing victory for the Libyan rebels. Elections have been held in both nations and though the results have brought Islamist parties to power which raise eyebrows in the West, these parties now face the far more difficult challenge of ruling and providing for their citizens rather than just standing on the outside shouting slogans.
In Syria, a bloody civil war is being waged between rebel forces and President Bashar Al-Assad and his Baath Party. The Assad regime has received widespread international condemnation, including from the USA, for its bloody response to the protests of its own citizens. Neoconservatives in the USA have called for a more active role in the Syrian uprising but with costly wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan, there seems to be little public sentiment for further military adventurism.
In 1971, the area known as East Pakistan proclaimed itself independent from West Pakistan and established the country of Bangladesh. A bloody nine-month civil war ensued, resulting in the deaths of 3,000,000 people and rapes of 200,000 women. Eventually, my homeland won its independence (with assistance from our neighbor India).
Most of the international response to the Bangladesh Liberation War favored the Bangladeshi cause, especially as news reports began to make clear the bloody and indiscriminate slaughter of Bangalis at the hands of their former countrymen.
The notable exception was the United States under the leadership of President Richard Milhous Nixon. President Nixon supported Pakistan both militarily and diplomatically. He refused to support the Bangladeshis, calling the war an internal conflict but still saw fit to send arms and ammunition to the Pakistanis, funneled through Jordan and Iran. He ignored reports of genocide from his own diplomatic corps. Pakistan, at the time, was an ally of China and President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger only cared about using this Pakistan to open up diplomatic relations with China. The USA wouldn’t even lend our moral support! It was a stunning display of realpolitik‘s moral bankruptcy, as evidenced by the protests of the Blood Telegram, written by US Foreign Service Officers stationed in Dhaka.
Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak-dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy,(…) But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, [emphasis mine: MH] on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter of a sovereign state. Private Americans have expressed disgust. We, as professional civil servants, express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected.
The parallel here is not drawn to advocate US military intervention in Syria. However our hearts may ache for ordinary Syrians, they should be the ones to overthrow their dictator. They should be the ones to establish a new power structure. ‘nije nije’, my oldest sister’s first words. “by myself, by myself.”
I’m largely satisfied with the response of the USA and its allies, which has been to publicly condemn the atrocities committed by the Assad regime. It’s not exactly realpolitik nor is it the naïveté of necon interventionism. It’s hard to know whether Archer Blood would have advocated direct military intervention or even arming of the Syrian rebels but, at least on this issue, our government has a better moral compass than Richard Nixon did (even if we fail in other areas).