Fasten, fit closely, bind together.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Stephen A. 

The NY Times Sunday Edition contained this article about ESPN's Stephen (Screamin') A. Smith. It was seemingly misplaced in the Arts section.

Richard Sandomir writes:

Six years later, when [Stephen A. Smith] started his television career at the now-defunct cable network CNN/SI, he seemed to intuitively grasp what all panelists on sports and political shows know: that the loudest, the most argumentative, even the rudest voice will get the most attention.

I documented the phenomenon that is Stephen A. nearly a near ago in August 2004:

Stephen A. Smith and Michael Irvin simply yell at one another.

No jokes. No give and take. No clue. Only yelling. Now I think I have some idea what it sounded like at the Giant Cricket Gambling Ring in Hong Kong. Lots of screeching. They are essentially the same person. They get worked up to a rabid level (although I suspect Irvin gets his energy from some supplemental sources, I'm not sure how Smith gets so worked up) and begin screaming incredulously at one another.

Richard Sandomir writes:

Indeed, perhaps the most riveting part of almost any studio session with Mr. Smith is watching him not speak. He clearly suffers from the pain of anticipation. He sits in his custom-made suit, trying not to fidget as Mr. Saunders hands the verbal ball to Mr. Legler or Mr. Anthony. Mr. Smith stares through each speaker, a ticked-off, silent, impatient predator seeking his moment. Rage - or is it fervent hope? - seems to paint his stern face. When his time comes, his expression alters. He is relieved but energized, spitting out his words at high decibels.

"I'm struggling," Mr. Smith agreed. "I'm struggling with the reality that I feel differently, that I have a minimal amount of time to express what I want to say. Somebody is saying something I don't agree with and I have 45 seconds. I'm like, 'Damn it, can I fit it all in?' "

But will the same approach work once Mr. Smith is the star of his own show, and not simply punctuating others? As he prepared for the launch of "Quite Frankly," Mr. Shapiro was coaxing Mr. Smith to show his lighter side.

"It won't work if he goes for 60 minutes the way he goes for four minutes on 'SportsCenter,' " Mr. Shapiro said. "He has to switch gears, which he hasn't learned to do."

He might explode if he went at that speed for an entire hour.

Some Local Flavor 

From The Times of India [the world's largest english language daily newspaper]:

MUMBAI - No electricity, no food, no water and the stench of rotting garbage everywhere. In the four days following Torrential Tuesday, Mumbaikars have been to hell and back, and anger against the appalling apathy of officialdom is exploding all over the city.

Rasta rokos were staged at 16 places in Mumbai in 24 hours, as nearly one lakh citizens came out into the streets to condemn the "failure of the civic and state administration" and shouted slogans against Reliance offices at Vakola, Dahisar, Oshivara, Goregaon and other areas.

On Saturday, over a thousand people blocked traffic on LBS Marg near the Kurla bus depot to protest the absence of water and power supply in the area.

At Goregaon, a mob of 150 went berserk when they found that the garbage in their area had not been lifted, as did hundreds of residents of Mumbra near Thane, who pelted stones at vehicles and blocked traffic on the Thane-Mumbra road to protest the administration's ignoring their repeated requests to clear the filth that had entered their streets and houses. A policeman in plain clothes also allegedly pushed a woman protestor, prompting stone-pelting by the protestors.

With mounds of garbage everywhere, citizens are petrified about the outbreak of a health epidemic.

Said a police officer posted at Kurla, "There is so much filth in the area. Not a single civic official has sprayed DDT or any other pesticide till Saturday afternoon to prevent the possible outbreak of disease."


In the Shock and Awe sense of the word. The Chinese Government reports that 0.07% of its population is infected with HIV. In a country with well over a billion people this translates into 840,000 individuals with the virus.

How you ask did nearly 1 million people contract the virus? Through unprotected sex? Illict drugs?

This except from an article in the Economist describing the threat of AIDS in China:

By that time, however, the disease was well established among two large groups. One was chiefly made up of peasants in central China, people so poor that in the late 1980s and early 1990s they readily and regularly sold their blood to dealers known as Bloodheads. The trade was vastly profitable in a country with a huge need for blood and no tradition of giving it.

In some places, almost everyone was bringing blood to the market; collection points were often set up in fields. But the onset of anaemia soon put a limit on the amount that sellers could provide. Not for long: by 1993 the Bloodheads realised that they could both keep anaemia at bay and harvest an almost perpetual crop if they took only plasma. To cut costs, they mixed together the blood of all the peasants of the same group before extracting the plasma. They then separated the plasma and transfused the remaining blood corpuscles back to the peasants. No surer way of spreading hepatitis-B, hepatitis-C, malaria and HIV could be imagined, especially as many blood-sellers went from one collection point to the next.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Repositioning the Rhetoric 

On Monday I wrote about some issues I had with the Bush Administration's sales pitch for the ongoing War in Iraq:

The rhetoric of "fighting THEM (Arabs/Muslims/Terrorists) over THERE (in Iraq/Afghanistan/The Middle Eat) so we don't have to fight them HERE (on American soil) is simply unreasonable, and dangerous.

You CAN fight a war on terrorism.

You WILL have to fight a war on terrorism, indefinitely.

But you cannot WIN a War on Terrorism.

At least I don't see how.

Because a terrorist is an individual.

And there are an awful lot of individuals among the 6 billion people on this planet.

It appears that the Bush Administration was listening. Apparently we are no longer fighting A War on Terror. Instead we are now in the midst of a Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism:

It was President Bush himself who insisted on calling it a global war on terror. He wanted to indicate that this was not just another piddling law enforcement action, but an all-out, full-scale military response to Sept. 11 that would involve U.S. troops around the globe.

"A war between good and evil," he called it. A war "to save the world."

But now, apparently, a decision has been made that the language of war isn't working for him anymore. So in recent days, the "global war on terror" — which had been conveniently shortened to GWOT in bureaucrat-speak — has been shelved in favor of the "global struggle against violent extremism."

This actually makes more sense to me, although it is hardly as catchy. A Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism is certainly more accurate.

-It is global in the sense the HERE that the US Government wants to prevent terrorists from striking has become just about anywhere. There are US citizens around the world. There are American interests, influence and culture throughout the global village.

-It is a struggle in that it has no end in sight.

-And well, flying a jet into a building or blowing oneself up on a train is certainly both violent and extreme.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I'm flying here on Friday... 

BOMBAY - Authorities said Wednesday they had recovered at least 200 bodies in western India after the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the country shut down the financial hub of Bombay, snapped communication lines and marooned thousands of people in the past two days.

Troops were deployed after sudden rains — measuring up to 37.1 inches in one day — stranded tens of thousands in Bombay.

Electricity and phone links were cut in the city, home to the Bollywood movie industry, schools were shut and commuters were stranded for a second day as trains and buses were cancelled.

“We have already evacuated around 10,000 people,” a government spokesman said.

Trading on Bombay’s bond and currency markets was abandoned.

India’s previous heaviest rainfall, recorded at Cherrapunji in the northeastern Meghalaya state — one of the rainiest places on Earth — was 33 inches on July 12, 1910.

The chaos highlighted Bombay’s desperately overloaded and inadequate infrastructure. Authorities have recently begun demolishing slums as part of a hugely ambitious $6 billion plan to turn the city into a new Shanghai.

"Most places in India don't receive this kind of rainfall in a year. This is the highest ever recorded in India's history," R.V. Sharma, director of the meteorological department in Bombay, told the AP. "We have to compare it with world records to find out if this was the highest in the world."

Writing Against the Words 'We,' and 'Us' and 'Them' 

I took a fiction writing workshop with the Reader of Depressing Books in the Fall of 2004 at New York University. He was working on a novel which I enjoyed. He also served as somewhat of an ally in what was often a torturous 3 and a 1/2 hour class.

When not reading depressing books he goes by the name Tao Lin. He has published a number of fiction pieces in online publications.

Two weeks ago I posted an excerpt from a piece Tao wrote about the London Terrorist Attacks. I had a feeling it would not go over well. It eschewed the popular sentimentalism that sets in anytime the Western World is attacked. But I didn't think he would get threatened with bodily harm by the likes of N. Dot, who challenged:

"Really, if you are the sporting type, we should fight. I will give you something tangible to be Depressed about."

But as they say all press is good press, so I thought I would build off the strong response that Tao got and do an interview via email with him about writing and politics and Elijah Woods.

Doing an interview, even an informal one, is a strange process. I feel as if I'm always just on the verge of turning into James Lipton

and asking something along the lines of "if there is a Heaven what would you like to hear God say to you when you arrive?"

Anyway here we go...

ME: Binky Tabby. Strange email address. I guess no stranger than billikenbluff. For the most part I'd rather talk about writing than the politics of terrorism (but if it moves in that direction so be it) I guess we can start with this....

1. Irvine Welsh, who wrote Trainspotting, said something to the effect of, "the best writing, the best prose aspires to be music." When I read or write I gravitate towards this musical quality in prose.

I really enjoy this Thomas Wolfe short story called The Names of the Nation. Wolfe, who wrote the story in the 1930s starts running off names of places, people, things uniquely American, kind of at random, mixed and messed together (Maybe a little like R.E.M.'s End of the World as We Know It). The names, the sounds, the actual words (Like Fort Ticonderoga, Narragansett) become the content and theme of the story.

I've always been more interested in the way a passage sounds, rather than the actual content (I think). Take The Billiken's Bluff. I could tell you that Billiken was an inside joke with some friends. But why did I choose Bluff? Well only for the alliteration, because it flowed nicely.

What is your take on this Tao? Form or content?

Thanks for posting that excerpt on your blog. I never expected anyone to 'agree' with me, or anything, so the response didn't surprise me. You'll probably have follow-up questions to some of my answers. Okay, I'll answer your questions now.

I think Irvine Welsh is being very vague, and hasn't given much thought to what he actually means. What he says, a lot of writers say. And I know that they're not saying that prose should literally aspire to be music. But still. I don't see how in any way prose can be "musical." Music is made up of harmony, melody, and rhythm, I think. Words on a page don't have any of these. When I read, I don't give words pitch. I don't hear in my head that whatever word is a C SHARP or B FLAT or whatever. Harmony would be impossible because of there being no pitch, and also because I can only read one word at a time, and I don't let previous words 'resonate' or 'suspend' or whatever, to create chords. For rhythm, it doesn't make a difference what the words are. The ugliest words in existence, lined up in the most awkward position could still be read with a good rhythm. Though it would be a very simple, unlayered rhythm, like a single stick beating something. Also, there's music that is 'smooth,' that has no set tempo, kind of slides around, or whatever. Then there's music that's rigid in tempo and jarring. Then there's music that is dissonant. Music is one of those things, I think, where you sort of 'learn,' or 'grow' to enjoy it. There is no 'best.'

So, I have no idea what Irvine Welsh is talking about. He shouldn't be saying 'best.' I used to think that I was too stupid to understand what most people were talking about. Now...I don't think that anymore.

To answer your question, I think I prefer content. I just read a book Sayonara, Gangsters, where it's prose, but it has two pages of comics all of a sudden. The content of the comics was really good, so I liked it. If the content was bad, I wouldn't have liked it. I can find form in nature, or whatever. On my computer screen, the screensaver has an interesting form. But nature cannot provide me with content, I don't think. So, I need content. I can enjoy content without form, but can't really enjoy form by itself, with no content. I can enjoy it, but not that much. If the writer is trying to convey something through form, then I feel like the writer needs to stop screwing around and just say what he wants to say with
words instead of using some language that no one actually speaks.

2. I'm beginning to find fiction very awkward, unnatural and at times unnecessary. I can't concentrate hard enough or sit down long enough to get through a novel. I find today's reality so surreal that it surpasses most fiction. Reality can be linked to or copied and pasted and it ends up being more magical, more shocking and awing than any fiction.

I liked when you wrote about Lorrie Moore and said that:

when i read her, i feel the opposite of escape, i feel maybe more
alive than i normally do in my normal life (which is not saying much) but
in a way that makes me want to make my normal life as alive as when i read
lorrie moore

while lorrie moore, i feel, blocks nothing out when writing, but
just sort of merges from real life into fiction, and stays open to the
actual experience of life

This seems to me the only type of fiction I would want to read or write. But why bother writing fiction at all and just document life. Non-fiction. Photography. Documentaries. If you are hoping to read or write fiction that makes you feel more alive, writing that merges real life into art, then it seems unnatural to choose the medium of the novel or short story to express real life in NYC in 2005. I experience my day-to-day life in photos, in emails, in commercials, in stops and starts and snippets, but not ever in paragraph form.

I do aspire to create some type of fiction or at least art. But it seems the only way I can do this honestly is to merge emails, and photos, and blog comments and come out with a piece of reality that is stranger than fiction.

I suppose that is the appeal of blogs for me. I can incorporate these elements much more easily into a blog, than a book.

I've already seen some of this in fiction. I picked up but did not finish "Extremely Loud, and Incredibly Close" by your boy Jonathon Safran Foer. In this novel about the aftermath of September 11th, Foer includes pictures from google image search, drawings, etc.

The words from emails that I am CCed on are not mine, the images that I've googled are similarly not mine. But the coordination of this information becomes a sort of authorship, I think, I hope.

I guess this really isn't a question. But what are you thoughts on all of this?

One of the reasons that I read is to feel connected to some other person. And I think I have felt more connected to some other person while reading fiction rather than non-fiction. I think this is because in fiction, the writer works harder, and is less distracted and censored. In fiction, the writer doesn't have to worry about what consequences they might suffer if they spend twenty pages writing about how depressed they feel (a non-fiction piece like that would be attacked badly as self-indulgent, etc.).

In real life, I always lie when I tell stories. I'm like, "Then I punched him in the face." And I prefer when people lie to me when they tell stories in real life. It's more interesting and funnier, and, when the other person is making things up, I feel more that I'm connecting with that person than if they just told me facts and what they thought about those facts (instead of making up things and telling me what they think about what they just made up). I don't care if something wild happens in real life. If someone tells me that they went fishing and caught a crab and the crab was made of gold, then I would prefer that that be fiction, because then I would be like, "You're funny," and I'd feel connected and good. If the crab really was made of gold, then what does that connect me to? Anyone could've told me that information, even a robot. Would I feel connected to God? For making the crab gold? But God isn't a real person that can talk to me. So, I much prefer fiction to non-fiction, I think.

3. Why do you write? To make people laugh? For fame? To make people think? To express yourself? To share you're a part of yourself? [Now I'm starting to sound like James Lipton.]

This is too hard a question to answer, I think. It would take me forever to answer it. When someone says they write to express themselves, then I want to ask them: "Why do you want to express yourself?" And then when they answer that, I want to say "Why" to whatever they say, and so on. Finally, the reason will probably be to "Feel Good," or something like that. To "Be Happy," or something. And then I want to ask "Why" to that. And I don't think there's an answer for that.

4. When will you be releasing your first novel? Will they turn it into a movie? And if so will Elijah Wood play you in the film?

That novel you read in class won't ever be published. But I finished a short story collection recently and my agent sent it out to ten editors on June 10. So far, two editors have turned it down and one, my agent says, expressed "serious interest." Right now it's July 12. So it's taking a while. I'm not too optimistic, maybe.

I'm working on a novel right now that'll be about terrorism and also other things. A teenager in high school will be a terrorist. She'll be a terrorist by eating at McDonald's and consuming too much food and by being apathetic. But she won't really do any of those. She'll just be in class arguing with teachers, calling everyone a hypocrite. That's about a third of the novel (the other thirds are about a lonely person and a depressed person). It will also have the president lecturing the American people. The president will also write a screen play and be more into arts than politics. The president will take a vacation to oversee the filming of his movie. I don't think there will be a movie version.

If there is, Elijah Wood will play "everyman," literally. His face will be superimposed over every character who doesn't have a name. He will have his normal look of confusion, and that'll be good. Elijah Wood is so confused. He should be used in children's books, to show what the word "Confused" means.

5. Did you ever consider that once you become a famous, world-renowned author that there will be an article written about you in the New York Times Book Review or some such publication with a title like To Reach the Tao, Follow the Tao? Would you embrace such a title?

I won't ever be famous unless I "sell out." Look at the people who are famous. Yeah. What if, though. I don't think I'd embrace that title. If I did, I'd be selling out.

My understanding of Taoism is that you make it so that you are desired by no one. Therefore, your actions can be true and unselfconscious, because what you do will affect no relationship, because you will have no relationships. Actually, I just made that last sentence up. I think Taoism is where you get it so you are desired by no one so that you then have no worries. Taoism is practiced by a lot of teenagers, I think, and maybe can be interpreted as apathy. The Buddha said that "Life is suffering," and that sounds like a teenager talking too. Yet, the Buddha is not immature. I read somewhere that Buddhism is to desire nothing and Taoism is to be desired by no one.

Also, this person Chuang Tzu, two thousand years ago or whatever, who I think was sort of a Taoist, he wrote this thing about how after his wife died, he sat in a bath tub laughing and splashing water, because he could either mourn and be sad or not mourn and be happy. And he chose to be happy. And I think that that kind of thinking will never be accepted by mainstream America or other nations too, I guess. "Insensitive," people will say. Or, "Heartless," whatever.

I thought about these questions all day at work today, and wrote my answers at work too, and I think I left a lot of things out. There are a lot of holes in what I've said, I know.

ME: I like your answers better than my questions. I have no desire to follow-up so
I'll just ask some more questions.

1. There is always talk of an author's voice in a novel, in a story. Is it possible to write in a voice other than your own? Can Anyone? Your persona on your website is that of a depressed reader. How can that not be you? I know you only casually. Maybe you are not depressed/cynical(although today I just read that you don't believe in the word cynical)/critical/sarcastic. I think you are probably clever enough to write in a voice other than your own. But why would you or anyone want to do that?

Maybe I am not sophisticated enough to write in a voice other than my own. Everything I write is in my voice. I like my voice (in print, not in public) and I want other people to hear my voice and think I am clever/smart/funny/amazing.

Your thoughts?

In fiction, people write in other people's voice all the time. It is supposedly noble for rich people to write from the perspective of poor people. The rich person then 'understands' the poor person and becomes 'sympathetic.' Which can be true, I guess, but then why publish something like that? Publishing things like that may hurt the feelings of those poor people, or make them feel misunderstood and alienated. That kind of fiction should just be for the rich person to 'learn,' not for the rich person to show off that he/she is 'sympathetic' and 'understanding.' Publishing it has no use. Substitute 'rich person' with...whatever, anything else, for this paragraph.

But when you write in your own voice, in fiction, some people will call you 'self indulgent,' 'solipsistic.' For me, publishing work that is in someone else's voice is 'self-indulgent'. No, that's wrong. Publishing work in another person's voice is potentially harmful. Publishing work in your own voice is less potentially harmful.

People always get confused. On my blog, I'm not depressed. It's called reader of depressing books, which is true. I read depressing books. Doesn't mean I'm permanently depressed.

Having made such wild generalizations about voice, I'm now going to say that I have never understood when writing teachers tell people to "Find their voice." I don't believe in 'voice' in fiction. When I write fiction, I am going for a sort of heightened sense of...everything, in each sentence. Something more intensely funny, insightful, poignant, etc. than regular life, regular conversation. When I work on a sentence and finally get it good enough, that sentence is not my 'voice,' if by voice you mean how I talk in real life. It just depends on the definition of 'voice,' I guess. But teachers telling students to "Find their voice" is bad. I'd prefer it if a teacher told me to "Work really hard." Anyway, people change over time, and shouldn't have one 'voice.' This answer is incomprehensible. Sorry. 'Voice' is just too vague a word for a teacher to use. Be specific, teacher.

2. Let's talk about cynics, or the lack thereof. I read this comment by you today and thought about it for a while.

[I] and never understood what people meant when they said 'cynical,' because the cynics believed that people do things for themselves, which is obviously and stupidly true to me

that the word 'cynical' exists...well it shouldn't exist, because it's just a thing that is true

Can you expand on this? I do believe that in the end people are out for their own self-interest. But, well I guess I don't always think this way, because does that leave any room for altruism, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, or even for Love? Surely everyone is out for their own self-interest in so far as everyone wants/needs/must eat food, drink water, and breathe air. But... I don't even know where I am going with this or why I am beleaguering this point. I will stop.

All I know is that it depends on how hard you are willing to think. You can say that Gandhi is willing to live in destitute or whatever (I know nothing about Gandhi) and devote his life to helping people because he is a good person and 'better' than everyone else. Or you can think harder and say that Gandhi is doing what he does because he will feel bad and guilty if he buys sneakers or bullies someone; therefore he's just trying to avoid guilt and feeling bad, like everyone else. In that case, if one wanted to improve the world, one would make rich, selfish people feel bad and guilty for being rich and selfish, or something. If everyone acknowledges that everyone is the same, that everyone just wants to avoid feeling bad and not avoid feeling good, then we can all work together to make this happen. It doesn't mean that there isn't Love, or whatever. Everyone can just work together and use everyone else but use everyone else without hurting them. Love is just when two people use each other and are conscious that they are using each other, maybe. Which is OK. Using people is OK as long as the person being used knows that he or she is being used and can get out of it.

3. I wrote this in our last exchange and I don't think you really addressed it.

I do aspire to create some type of fiction or at least art. But it seems the only way I can do this honestly is to merge emails, and photos, and blog comments and come out with a piece of reality that is stranger than fiction. I suppose that is the appeal of blogs for me. I can incorporate these elements much more easily into a blog, than into a book.

What are your thoughts on blogs? I notice you never include photos on your site.

I keep coming back to the photos from Abu Ghraib of the hooded prisoner standing a box.

I can't imagine how a newspaper article or a work of fiction could better convey meaning than this picture. As they say it speaks a thousand words.

Your thoughts on images, words, and the combination of the two in blogs, and in fiction?

I don't use pictures because I don't know how with blogger. Pictures are 100% open to interpretation, I guess. Whereas words are always at least a tiny bit rhetorical. If you are writing something, you have some kind of agenda, no matter what, and in writing, that agenda will come through, even if you write in the clearest prose possible. If you show someone a picture, you still have an agenda, but it isn't communicated. Unless you show a series of photos, I guess. So, I guess I don't know what I think about images in fiction. I like kid's drawings.

4. The discussion of politics always seems to liven things up on my blog. The excerpt I posted from you 10 days ago certainly got some of my readers riled up. So, in the interest of promoting a healthy debate...

Who or what is a terrorist?

I don't know. I am against the word, 'terrorist.' It is too vague.

How are people trying to "get at happiness"?

If anyone thinks that there are 'evil' people out there who are fundamentally different from other, normal people, then they are delusional. Life isn't a video game. All human beings are the same. We want to avoid pain, and pain is different for everyone (for some people, the absence of pain can be painful), and get pleasure and happiness. If everyone would just understand this stupidly obvious truth, then the world would be a less painful, i think, place. Even Hitler. Yes, Hitler. Hitler was not born 'evil.' If you (a general 'you') were born in place of Hitler and experienced everything that happened to Hitler, you might be Hitler. I read in this interview where someone called Hitler 'evil.' What is the point of that? Hitler is just a brain. Things happened to that brain that made it want to kill Jewish people. I have no idea what I am talking about anymore right now.

How is a terrorist trying to get at happiness? And for this question lets define a terrorist as someone "who would harm or kill civilians by direct means (a bomb, a gun) not by indirect means (like a cigarette or a quarter pounder with cheese) in an effort to terrorize a group of people and promote an ideology.

I guess someone who wants to kill Americans sees that Americans have
caused some kind of pain to them or 'their people' (I am against the words 'we,' and 'us' and 'them'), and so feels some kind of pleasure when they get 'revenge,' or else feels that the less Americans there are, the less 'their people' (and it is a universal delusion when someone feels that they are somehow 'connected' to a certain group of people) will suffer in the long run. It's the same as when people, including me, think things like, "The world would be a better place if that person disappeared," which is bad. If there was a button I had that I could push to make people disappear, I probably would, in my lifetime, have pushed it, a lot of times. I would know that I shouldn't have pushed it, but that would come later on. I shouldn't push the button. But what if the button was to make Hitler disappear.
99% of all people would probably push it. Who knows. And look at all the people who say that Bush is a Nazi. Everyone is calling everyone else a fascist these days. Let me stress that I do not support 'terrorists.'

What type of gesture is a suicide bomber making?

I have no idea. They'll be dead after it, so they must believe in an afterlife. I guess they hope that in the afterlife, someone will pat them on the back and be like, "Hey, after you suicide-bombed, so-and-so country changed their foreign policy," good job. Suicide bombers need to sit down and think about things, like, if I am dead, what difference does it make? Maybe to stop suicide bombers, they should teach in school that there probably isn't an afterlife.

Where were you and what were you doing on 9/11?

I was in a dorm at NYU, by Washington Square Park. I was sleeping.

What are your thoughts/feelings about our current president and his administration?

I don't know. I don't know enough facts. I don't like politics. To me, politics is a distraction. Politics is all about taking sides and naming things and creating categories and simplifying and watering-down things and convincing people of things and dividing things up and trying to change people. It's a distraction because in real life there are no categories. From outer space, there are no borders. And we're all made of atoms. Patriotism is idiotic, no matter what. Each human life is truthfully worth the same. It's stupid to have pride in your country. Because 'your country' is meaningless, an abstraction, something that doesn't even exist. You can't touch 'your country.' And 'your country' doesn't have feelings.

If you were in a room with five people, would it be a better room if there was just one country, and therefore no country, or would it be a better world if there were two countries; two people in one country, three in the other? Patriotism is stupid. For oppressed nations, patriotism may be needed temporarily. I don't know. I'm not a genius. Everything I talk about here is about the people with more power, I think. All I know is that for powerful nations, patriotism is especially and incredibly harmful.

Monday, July 25, 2005

An Army of ONE 

RoDB writes:

"because no matter how many cameras you put up, how many cops you have in subway stations or at airports, if a terrorist wants to kill people, then he or she will make it happen"


"it's idiotic to hunt down terrorists, it's just stupid, it's an extremely short-term solution"

I know this is absolutely true, yet somehow I lose sight of this while watching the news and listening to a government's latest plan to fight terrorism at home and abroad.

Witness this justification for why US troops are still fighting insurgents in Iraq...

George W. Bush (and about 2/3 of Congress [including John McCain who I like]) says:

"We want to fight THEM (Arabs/Muslims/Terrorists) over THERE (in Iraq/Afghanistan) so we don't have to fight them HERE (on American soil)."

As RoDB would say, "that is an extremely vague and pretty much meaningless and inaccurate statement."

There is a commercial that everyone is probably familiar with where the US Army tries to attract recruits by featuring a cadet scaling a rocky summit with his bare hands. He then brandishes a sword, slices up a larger than life lava monster, and escapes an avalanche. The slogan flashes on the TV screen:


Yay. America. Self-Reliance. It actually inspires me to go out to the gym and do some chin-ups.

But, unfortunately sovereign nation's armies are not armies of ONE.

Terrorists however, can be Armies of ONE.

A Una-Bomber.

The Lone Gunman (not men).

A single suicide bomber.

It's not possible to win the war on terrorism. It's not possible, or reasonable to think that you can fight terrorists in Iraq or on the Moon or wherever and that they will then somehow be...


Worn out?



...and therefore unable to strike in New York, London, Madrid, Cairo, Jakarta, or pretty much anywhere in the world. It gets confusing when fighting them THERE becomes just about ANYWHERE, to prevent them from coming HERE which has also become just about EVERYWHERE.

AHHHHH!!#!@#$!@#$!@$ (that is how all of this makes me feel)

But all is not hopeless. You can try to thwart every would be terrorist by doing the following:

You can search one in every five bags entering the Tri-State transit system.


You can shoot suspicious-looking electricians wearing overcoats 5 times in the head.

And still issue the decree that your law enforcement will be instructed to shoot to kill.

You can give it a shot.

Love of the Republic 

(It was charged in the previous post below that patriotism is "idiotic," and further that it is especially harmful in countries that are powerful. I pointed out that this suggestion would be vigorously refuted by historical figures from Pericles through Daniel Webster. But for a defense of patriotism in more modern times, below are the words of Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson when he spoke at the Democratic convention in 1952, presented in a blogging style pioneered by the Billiken's own Got.)

"What do we mean by 'patriotism' in the context of our times?

I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power

- to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self respect and the respect of all mankind;

a patriotism that puts country ahead of self;

a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outburts of emotion,

but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.

When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea.

He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw a the breath of self-respect.

Men who have offered their lives for their country know that patriotism is not the fear of something, it is the love of something. Patriotism with us is not the hatred of Russia; it is the love of the Republic and of the ideal of liberty of man and mind in which it was born, and to which this Republic is dedicated.

With this patriotism, patriotism in its large and wholesome meaning - America can master its power

and turn it to the noble cause of peace.

-Adlai Stevenson, 1952

Thursday, July 21, 2005

In the (DJ) Shadow of No Towers 

At the starting of the

At summit talks you'll
hear them speak

It's only Monday

Negotiations breaking

See those leaders start
to frown

It's sword and gun day

Tomorrow never comes
until it's too late

You could be sitting
taking lunch

The news will hit you
like a punch

It's only Tuesday

You never thought we'd
go to war

After all the things we

It's April Fools' day

Tomorrow never comes
until it's too late
Tomorrow never comes
until it's too late

You hear a whistling

Are you alive or are you

It's only Thursday

You feel a shaking on
the ground

A billion candles burn

Is it your birthday?

Tomorrow never comes
until it's too late
Tomorrow never comes
until it's too late
Make tomorrow come I
think it's too late

Listen to DJ Shadow's "Six Days".

In the Shadow of No Towers

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