Friday, June 11, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

Special Big Apple Edition
1) I stand with the Empire State Building ownership: religion is too controversial a topic to start honoring individuals with ceremonial lighting. Could you imagine the screaming if Mother Teresa was Muslim?
2) Actually, you don't have to imagine. Bigotry abounds even in liberal New York City.
3) If you're arrested and charged with adultery, it's probably a bad idea to admit to it by saying "yes, it happened but we weren't naked!"
4) If ur been eetin by a goat, ur doin it rong!
5) Turns out, the sexytary who was fired by Citibank for her distracting appearance may have made it all up.
6) While I support the Empire State Building, I have no problems honoring a centennial birthday. Here's a gallery of the finest of Jacques Cousteau, a man who inspired me and millions in his life to follow his example and explore the oceans. Why World Oceans Day was Tuesday and not today is beyond me. By the way, the Empire state Building was lit up for World Oceans Day.
7) The New York Times makes it official: Tweeting is for twits.
8) It's tempting to go with a "why buy the cow when the milk is, oops!" joke here.
9) The other week, I posted about how you have to dehumanize when you commit violence against another person. Exhibit A.
10) From your keyboard to God's ear, one can only hope.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Introductions All Around

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! And you there, on the railings!
I wanted to introduce a valuable acquisition to the SLB team: my commenting buddy from "Sadly, No!": TruculentandUnreliable.
I didn't really need another team member, but she writes such cogent and extensive comments and hell, she puts up with my incessant badgering and pestering her for a quick peek at her boobs that I thought I ought to give her a safe place to vent her thoughts and feelings.
Please extend a laurel...and hearty handshake to her!

Do Not Want

I've been struggling with a sense of disharmony and unease for a while now.
Usually, this time of year finds me full of myself: the weather's nice, flowers are blooming, I get to ride my bike, cute girls are showing more know the drill.
And that's there this year, but for some strange reason, I am unable to shed this ennui and the recessive feelings of winter. Naturally, I attribute it to some underlying physical state. Some kind of infection, perhaps a reaction to some medication, I'm not sure.
Or maybe it's an emotional state. Maybe I'm depressed and can't find my usual groove that rides me back to my manic state, that wildly creative impulse that's seen me write a book in 48 hours, or invent some of the funniest comedy in my life. I mean, I've seen bits and pieces of that spark here and there, but I look at what I've written lately, the photos I've taken, and I notice there's a sense of mean-spiritedness, of boredom, of sadness.
I can't put my finger on it, of course, but I notice it's not as shiny and happy as it can be, as filled with love as it has been.
I do a self-check. I don't seem to be depressed. I don't exhibit my standard flags for depression. I'm losing weight, I'm riding my bike as frequently as I can (with allowances for rest), I'm not drinking heavily, I'm even socializing and watching less TV and getting more done around the house.
I feel fine, apart from the stress of daily living.
Except...something was off.
I woke up this morning feeling my oats, except for that haunting little buzz that nagged me like the tinnitis I suffer from years of standing too close to the speakers at too many concerts as a kid. Ceaseless, yet I'm able to work around it. Incessant, but it is ignorable.
I got up, had coffee, checked my messages and email, and sat down for my morning contemplation/meditation, which usually involves petting ThumbPer, sipping coffee and laughing at the news if I can. Not hard today, I found, despite the realization that in 52 days, BP has done more damage to the environment than I've done in 52 years.
But hell, that probably happened back on day 7, so what do I know?
The mornings are quiet time for me. There's little noise coming through my window, save for the buzzing of the traffic helicopters coming into the city and the chirping birds. The crows haven't arrived yet. I dread that part of the summer. ThumbPer is awake and calm, as I've just fed him and he's thankful. The coffee is fresh and strong. My mind is quiet and unstressed.
I flipped the news off when they ran this ridiculous fluff piece around 7:30 and turned to Free Speech TV. And my eyes opened.  
I mean, they really opened. Not in an alarmist, "OMG! END OF THE WORLD!" kind of way. More of "AHA! I get it now!" kind of way.
I do not want any more.
I have enough. As I sat there, drying off from my shower, my suit laid out on the bed, I realized I'm tired of being marketed to. I'm tired of being told what I must have, and how badly I want it. Good thing, too, but looking around, I want everything I have and have nearly everything I want.
In America, we live in the freest society in the history of the planet, and yet we are enslaved. How ironic that the very tools that gave us nominal freedom from tyranny allow us to be tyrannized. We have choice, yes. We can choose to go bankrupt buying this, or that. Take your pick! Don't want to buy either this or that? No problem! We have the other!
As I sit on my pile of stuff, I realize it's exciting. It's thrilling. I own an iPad! Look at me! But what does it mean? It means I'm chained to a life that demands I work a set number of hours five days a week at precisely the same time each day, get up precisely the same time each day. It means I have to get on the same subways, walk the same blocks, see the same sights, eat at precisely the same time.
I'm a monkey in a cage, a shark in a tank. Sure, I can alter this routine a little, but that's like the shark swimming right instead of left. He's still in the fucking tank! Or I could switch jobs, but ultimately I have to be in a tank.
Why? Because I want. And now, I'm full. The damnable thing about it is, I've known this for a while and yet, I've kept running my credit card at meltdown speed. It's an addiction, and it's an addiction we all suffer from. And like all addictions, even tho we've reached a point where it's just not healthy anymore, we keep stuffing our houses with just one more thing.
Notice, this isn't about spirituality. It's not about suddenly deciding to become a full-throated Buddhist and shedding all my possessions, slicing the tops off my shoes and living in a tree, learning to play the flute. I feel fine spiritually. I'm in a good place.
It's about slavery. It's about the people of the United States freely trading governmental tyranny for the tyranny of the marketers and marketplace and their co-horts, employers. It's about finally rising up and saying "STOP!" I've become my own worst fear, a human "doing". I don't live, I do.
Socrates was right about so many things in his life, and back in ancient Greece "to do is to be" made a lot more sense when the most you could hope to acquire in your lifetime was some property to grow your own food or a ship to sail the ocean. If Socrates saw what his mantra hath wrought, it strikes me he'd be livid at Americans, and regret that statement.
We surrendered this land, this great and bountiful land, to a corporatocracy that will do the bare minimum to keep us quiet as it picks our pockets, the pockets of our children and grandchildren and the pockets of anyone else it can reach. And. We. Did. It. Freely.
And for what? A new car every few years, a new toy, a faster commute, an easier way to do the dishes, a more stylish look? Ben Franklin famously said "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
We've done worse. We gave up essential liberty for a pair of designer shoes. And we put it on the credit card. We'll be paying for those shoes long after they've worn down and been thrown out.
I thoroughly understand the thrill of acquisition. Later this month, in fact, I'm due to claim my share of a shipwreck's treasure, paid for with money I do not have any longer, but at least there's an intrinsic value to it. At least it will be as valuable as what I paid for it. At least I will never throw it out, and I will be more thrilled because it's a part of history.
I segregate the thrill of having from the thrill of being a part of history. And it's the former thrill that one feels when one gets a new computer, or a new ring.
But what's the history to be had with that? What does it mean?
Is that really all it's about? How boring! How yawning a chasm of despair are we trying to climb out of when we buy a bauble and enjoy it?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Can Futbol Matter?

International sports has a place in international relations. There's something about meaningless competitions in games on a global scale that forces international tensions to the fore, and highlights conflicts.
Just ask the Soviet men's water polo team in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Or the 1972 US men's basketball team at Munich. Or the Israeli wrestling team at the same games.
Soccer is no different. Sometimes it can even result in tragedy, as in the death of a Colombian defender in the 1994 World Cup who scored an "own goal" (a goal knocked inadvertently into the goal you are defending), who was gunned down upon his return home.
And sometimes, it can unite a nation that is torn by bloody civil strife. We saw this in the last World Cup, in 2006, when factions battling for control of the Ivory Coast declared a truce that lasted the length of the games. While it wasn't perfect, is it a coincidence that just nine months later, a peace accord was signed? I think not. And cetainly it gives Didier Drogba and his side incentive this time out.
Which brings me to the point of this article: The World Cup 2010 comes to a continent torn asunder with growing pains, corruption, exploitation, and yet, hope. Somalia is overrun with terrorists and pirates. Zimbabwe seems to be hanging together by a thread and this unrest is destablizing northern South Africa itself (some of the games will be played in the north in Johannesburg and its environs). And that's all before we look at the war in the Congo and the situation in Darfur.
And all this happens against a larger backdrop: the lurking threat of global Islamic terror and the inclusion of nations such as the US and the UK in the 32 teams heading to the tournament.
It would be easy to focus on the negative politics of potential matches like Ghana versus Nigeria or Algeria (to make up a crisis out of thin air), or South Korea v. North Korea.
Instead, a thought experiment: what would it mean to Africa if Cameroon, or Nigeria, or Cote d'Ivoire, or South Africa itself, were to win the Copa Mondial?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Karma Is A Bitch

So many forms of karma are running around the news today.
Let's take a few looks:
1) Blanche Lincoln - It's not nice to throw your weight around on a President's most significant piece of legislation, Senator.
2) Joran van der Sloot - OJ had it right: when you get away with murder, keep your head down. It's nothing to be proud of, certainly nothing to keep records of on your laptop. This sleazebag will be lucky to see the light of day ever again.
3) Steve Jobs - The beauty of Apple products for those of us who have used them for, like, ever, was that they were our little secret. We could smugly brag about them, and no one would listen because Apple was always on the verge of bankruptcy or deportation or whatever bizarre fate the world had in store. And then Setve Jobs returned, and made Apple the hottest tech company on the planet. And now he has to deal with the millions of people who hang on his every word.
4) Tony Hayward - I think Obama dropped a big hint to your bosses back in Britain. I guess you'll be "getting your life back" sooner than you anticipated. Speaking of BP...
5) BP - $3,000 a barrel spilled is peanuts when you consider they announced a $10.5 billion dividend for this quarter. BP ought to pull that dividend back and start investing it in paper towels and dish detergent. It has a monumental task ahead of it.
6) Finally, Helen Thomas - The saddest karmic come uppance of them all. Eighty nine years old and still able to whip out a bit of journalism. She spoke hyperbolically, precisely the same kind of hyperbole she has skewered for longer than most people can remember. The irony here is pretty full, too. She demanded that Jews leave Israel and move back to Poland and Germany, the lands they fled for precisely the kind of treatments that Israel is being blamed for now. Her underlying sentiment, that we can have peace only when the rights of all people are respected, is genuine and thoughtful, but her words were not. Again, ironic and karmic for a woman who spent her life crafting words.
Every once in a while, the Barkeeper in the Sky settles accounts. Today seems to be one of those days.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A La Recherche Du Temps Perot

The Teabaggers are a blip on the radar. Poorly conceived, ill-timed and ultimately as all movements born of anger, doomed to fizzle out.
You may recall from the 1990s a similar "movement" gathered force when Ross Perot managed to climb into Presidential politics spending billions of his own money to create what ultimately became the Reform Party. That party scored exactly one coup: electing Jesse Ventura governor of Minnesota. Apart from that, any impact it had on American politics was to exacerbate already existing memes, like stealing more votes from George H W Bush than from Bill Clinton, all but guaranteeing Clinton's election, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion by the time Perot slipped into the polls.
That "movement" managed to slide quickly to the fringes despite the fact that it had been well-financed by Perot, and had gathered an impressive percentage of the popular vote in 1992. So abrupt was its decline into irrelevance that, even tho it is still an active party in America, the Teabaggers have refused to even discuss an alliance.
This, despite as has been pointed out, the Teabaggers are woefully short of money and woefully short of organization outside of a handful of states where they have managed to cull a few insigificant victories in a few small but strategic elections: convention votes, an underattended primary, and of course, the special election in Massachussetts less won by Scott Brown than lost by Martha Coakley...who promptly turned his back on the Baggers!
Tomorrow, Baggers will have opportunities in Nevada and California to gain some momentum. Don't bet on it. While they stand a good chance of stealing a Senate nomination in Nevada, it's no lock and this is Nevada where establishment politicians are despised, right or left. California will likely see the repudiation of the Baggers, an intriguing development from the state that delivered us unto the evil that is Ronald Reagan and is shackled in its bankruptcy by Prop 13.
The Baggers represent America at its worst, and while there are parts of the country where the worst is accepted and even applauded, it's to America's credit that this movement remains mired in the bottom of the toilet.