Monday, August 30, 2004


Political Reflections

keeping in mind that all posts here are reflections of my opinion only, I offer this re-post from the PO forum:

Q: Is the Vietnam War a Legitimate Issue in the 2004 Presidential Election?

A: You know what? This was such a good question that, although I saw it bare minutes after it was posted, upon reading it, I got up, took a walk, went to the grocery store, bought groceries, brought them back, did the dishes and put on some water to prepare myself some lunch before I touched it...and even though my initial, gut-level response remains the same, I still have some trepidation in actually putting it into words and posting it. That's because I really feel that my thoughts on the matter are only about half-formed, and will probably undergo revision during the course of any discussion that ensues on this thread. I'm going to take this at face value, assume you want an honest response, and answer, first, straightforwardly, and second, in a more comprehensive fashion.

So, let's get the easier task out of the way now: No.

When I say that, both campaigns are at fault, because both have sunk to their lowest levels regarding precisely this issue. Not that dirty politics surprises me. In fact, I have a hard time saying the word politics without the modifier dirty in the first place. However, at face value, the Vietnam war, whatever it was about and whatever abuses occurred there, was firmly set in the context of the cold war...a situation in which the world was divided into two great superpowers that thought the best way forward was to amass incredible amounts of intensely destructive machinery to make certain they weren't bombed out of existence by the other. Unfortunately for the people of Vietnam, they were the most public (but not the most decimated) small and relatively impoverished nation to be used as a battle line in regards to the aggression that lie behind the policy of maintaining levels of 'mutually assured destruction.' One could even arguably say that the real war was fought in South America...only less people know about that. And, if you were to trace our current situation, as I tend to do, back to, say, policies surrounding the Iran-Contra affair of the mid 80's, you might even manage the case that today's difficulties do indeed trace back to the ideologies informing Vietnam. You could also cite a 'cultural war,' which is, in essence, more a matter of two Americas duking out some essential ideological differences that can most easily be traced back to the Vietnam war...though they in truth far predate that. Think Woodie Guthrie, Eugene V. Debs, hell even people like Henry Miller--and the list does go on. But, here's the sticker: although today's difficulties may find some of their primary causes in the Cold War, we are no longer in a Cold War environment. There's no 'other' to counter the massive machine in place in America--just a rag-tag bunch of ideologues that no nation wants to claim who have to resort to relatively small-scale tactics to fight what many of them regard as a legitimate menace to their way of life. That characterization of terrorist activity is meant in a value neutral sense, saying nothing of how I would judge their ideas (in fact, I judge pretty much anyone who asks people to kill for an idea fairly harshly. Dying for an idea is something else entirely, and I think most of us, if we genuinely believed our being killed would bring peace to the earth and freedom to those living in it, truly genuinely believed that, would do it...) --just commenting on the political, martial reality involved here, which is very different from confronting a massively armed super-power with enough missiles pointed at us to bomb us into the dust and then bomb the dust.

As regards the current campaign, what is being fought out with the whole Vietnam thing is, in fact, questions of character writ large. Trouble is, the whole issue is so irrelevant, and at the same time such an emotional hot-button in America, that it just makes both candidates look like shit. I will admit to a certain visceral glee in hearing Bush's spotty records being released, and a concomitant visceral anger at hearing the Swift Boat ads (yes, I've seen them, yes I know there are some troubling areas to Kerry's service, and yes, I think the SBVT ads are extremely misleading...this after having looked at multiple sources on the matter...)--but in all honesty, I do have to see those two reactions and understand the double-standard being used with them. That's okay, emotionally. Emotions are all about double standards. But when it comes to what we call the 'Issues,' which are sometimes accompanied by the words 'of substance,' I would characterize my emotional response to these ads as bollocks. Let's cut the shit and say that neither man served in a completely honorable way, but that neither was to be found, as I would probably have been had I been of age at that time, hunkered down somewhere in northern California, acting as a guinea pig for early tests on a prototype of prozac and claiming to have found the key to instant enlightenment (and how American is that concept?) and staging street theatre aimed at bringing others into my flock. What that means is that on a fundamental level, the whole debate is just foreign to me--as is the whole 'military man' mystique that predominates in American public life. As much as so characterizing myself might bespeak a 'lack of character' on my part, I would be thrilled pink to think that these two were actually discussing things like the viability or desirability of an international policy of pre-emptive war, the importance of balancing issues of security with issues of civil liberties, models for workable international co-operation to address the real and present challenges we face in 2004 (and not 1968), or even arcana like why taxing this or that part of the base will help the overall economy. That is, unfortunately, not going to happen, and for much the same reasons as drive the desire for something you can swallow that will lead to enlightenment without effort, or some machine that will magically dispose of only evil men. We're willingly enough led, if those who would lead us can only keep us from thinking that what lies ahead of us requires genuine effort on our part, as citizens. And the whole bloody debate over Vietnam is an attempt to do precisely that. I mean, from my perspective, if I base my decision on the Vietnam issue, the choice boils down to who I trust more, a rich kid whose grandfather was not entirely unfriendly to the Nationalist Socialist regime and whose father who was on his way to becoming head of the CIA, who used those connections to get a cushy stateside assignment, or the rich kid who went to Vietnam for a total of 4 months, may or may not have enjoyed a career entirely distinguished by valor in those circumstances, then came back and protested against it (taking some decidedly half-hearted steps in the process of so doing), then brokered the whole thing into a lifelong career as a politician? I know my answer, but I also know it is very much a matter of choosing the less bad alternative.

To me, this dredging up of the old Vietnam stuff actually speaks directly to why humans get so involved in these larger fights, and in that sense, it is illustrative of what's going on in both wars: it is a question of history's interpretability, and it is an extension of the United States' attempt to conduct a self-evaluation in the absence of any clearly identifiable 'other' upon which to project the worst characteristics of our nation. With that interpretability comes the question of when history stops: does it end at Vietnam? Why not then trace it back to the origins of the Cold War, to the endgame being played during WWII, and bring Bush's grandfather and his support for a regime that could have been stopped much earlier if it had not enjoyed at least tacit support on the part of many American politicians and corporations? What was Kerry's grandfather doing at that time? For that matter, that's what caused Israel to ever become an issue, is it not? So it is back to WWII. And of course, it really isn't that much of a stretch to say the whole thing is based on matters of belief--if we take the Soviet's officially athiest line, combined with the question of Israel and Middle East unrest with Muslims, it really isn't that much of a stretch to go careening into the 12th century and finding that the real source of the problems lie there...need I go on? It only sounds absurd. Don't forget that many citizens in the Yugoslavian conflict justified those policies and those wars on precisely these sorts of arguments--resentments that go back well over 8 centuries--and in the Middle East, they are often fueled by even older resentments--straight back to Abraham, I believe.

For me, this is all immaterial. Abraham would be one of those guys you see on the street corner with a cardboard box set out for change if he showed up today...he wouldn't know what to do with the world in the 21st century. And we need to stop seeing through those eyes. The entire sytem is working under some assumptions that are simply not viable given the conditions we face, and the fact that not only do those running for president think pointing to one's actions in a hotly debated war that was waged over 30 years ago, but also that those voters to whom they are appealing find anything of real substance in such posturing, is a pretty clear signal that we aren't thinking like we should be. Not just the leaders--the people as well. WE need to lead. Not them. Because as long as such tactics work, they'll use them.

It's a non-issue, on both sides. It only looks like an issue because it riles up every damned one of the people they're talking to. And I'd fault them for that, but the fact is, all the evidence seems to suggest that this actually sways the voters.

I'll stop there, before I go on to tell you why we're all doomed anyway. Heh.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Pulp Fiction

Love it.

Note the cover of 'Junkie', in the second row of the smaller covers near the bottom of the page. For 200 points, can you name one novel for which the author 'William Lee' is better known, and what is the title of the second book advertised in the red banner at the top of the cover?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Hard at work

Big interview in process, and my girls just went to the US last night for 2 weeks. This entailed catching a 3:30 am train from Munich to Frankfurt, so I'm pretty woozy right now, and will be working online for the next few hours anyway--I have a chat session w/ Triplopia's new editor to attend, then I'm gonna crash.

However, want to throw some stuff on the sidebar, so I thought I'd take the same opportunity to post two things here. First, in the course of my online work, stumbled across Bob Holman's spoken word album,In With the Out Crowd in its entirety, online, in Mp3 format. Holman put this up himself, so it is entirely on the up and up. For anyone who doesn't know, Holman is one of the godfathers of Spoken Word, best known for his work at the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe in the late 80's-early 90's, though he has a wide body of work. Anyone interested in more info, leave me a comment and I'll shoot you some links...or, just wait until October 15th, and I'll send you somewhere where you can get lotsa good links on the man. Particularly recommended is Track 4, 'The Death of Poetry'.

Second, a bit off the beaten track, this one, and born of silliness, but it's growing on is key to this one, and to get it right, I think, will take lots of discipline...

[mode=10 year old Steven Wright attempting to bluff his way through a science report]


Most people have heads.
Generally, they find these heads quite useful.
A lot of heads contain teeth,
generally in the mouth,
and, unless you happen to be in a painting
by Pablo Picasso,
the mouth is generally found just below the nose
and considerably above the toes.
Proportionally speaking, of course.
Things don't have to be arranged like this.
For example, if you were a snail,
your anus would be above your head.
This would probably mean that toilets would have to be re-designed
and hats would be a lot like underwear.
Some people would wear fancier underwear than others.
There would be hats like jockey shorts,
or like cotton panties,
and then there would be hats like lace panties, or speedos.
There would probably even be fetish hats,
and all of them would probably come down lower on our foreheads.
Come to think of it, except for their being lower on the forehead,
hats are already a lot like underwear.
As it stands, the mouth and the nose
are part of the face,
and all of the heads I've seen have faces,
and a lot of them have hair.
Some of them have more hair than others.
They all have the same amount of face, though.
A lot of the senses are located in the head,
and specifically in the face,
which is why people usually don't like it
when you stick something in their face.
They're usually not so bothered about it
if you stick something in their hair,
unless it's bubble gum.
Still, it's better if someone sticks gum in your hair
than if they stick it up your nose.
When people sleep, a lot of them
put their head on a pillow.
I dangle mine over the edge of the bed,
which sometimes causes me to have a bad pain in the neck
when I wake up in the morning.
Heads are actually quite heavy.
When you eat, you use your head.
In fact, you use your head
when you do anything,
because that's where your brain is,
and you can't do anything without a brain,
not even really easy things,
like complaining, or peeing.
If you were a snail,
you probably wouldn't want to do both of those things
at the same time.
I like my head.
People usually think about the things on a head
as belonging to the head,
and not the other way around.
For example, a head has ears,
but ears don't have a head.
The same is true of mouths, and hair.
But my head belongs to me,
not the other way around.
There are heads almost everywhere in the world.
Even on animals. Like snails.
So, if you don't like heads,
you're probably in for a rough life.
Heads come in many shapes.
Some are oval. Others are round.
Some look more like squares,
and there are even heads
that are the shape of a pear
after it's been run through a dishwasher
and then pinched really hard in a vice.
Some people like certain shapes of heads
better than they do others,
but most people find that whatever the shape,
their own head comes in handy
a lot of the time.
That's why they wear helmets.
Some people even wear helmets
when they don't really need to.
I guess they're worried about birds,
or maybe they just don't like
the shape of their own head.
Maybe that's why they wear hats, too.
Whatever the reason,
it's obvious that heads are a lot like rock and roll,
they're here to stay!


Sunday, August 08, 2004


Link dump, and a question

Question first, something I've been trying to get my head around in the last few days:
the term 'information economy'--never mind the tiredness of it--looking at straight up economic concerns, and how they apply to a 'commodity' like information: a commodity that generally does not decrease, but increases, in the sharing. So for example, if you have one apple, and you give half that apple to someone else, then you're left with half an apple--any 'giving' leaves you with less, any 'selling' demands something of equal or greater worth be given to you. But information doesn't decrease, substantially speaking, when it is shared--instead, what you're working with is risk--the information may go down in value if you share it, or it may increase in value when you share it.

I'm sure there's whole libraries written on this sort of thing already, but it's something I'd like to get a good hold on, in prep for a bigger project I have in mind...thoughts? Suggestions for things to read?

And, along those same lines, a few inneresting web-sites (mostly poetry related) that I've come across. I'm gonna park them here and see if they accrue enough value to merit a spot on the sidebar.

All right, me do that, then rest. --g

Internet Resources in English
Humbul Humanities Hub
Bibliography of Materials on New Media Poetics
The Internet Aesthetic and On-Line Publications of Poetry

and a final one, non-poetry related, and not really a resource at all, but something I find oddly compelling:

Found magazine

Friday, August 06, 2004


Follow up on Language Mavens

Apparently, the CIA is considering shutting down President Bush's Blog.


More Unpacking: Cocksuckers for Peace

--Some of you have already seen this at the DA journal, but I want it over here, and as I'm apparently in a political state of mind anyway, there's no time like the present. This is just a little routine I put together, and performed, at a local venue here in town in preparation for the latest Barbaric Yawp over at Triplopia. For those of you who haven't, if you've made it past the title, I assume you're not too easily offended--it's all light-hearted, make fun of myself then make fun of the president stuff.

Shouldn't have to disclaim it that way, so I'll stop.

Oh--and mucho thanks to namaste for the title, BTW.

Props: chair, at least one bottle of beer, a pack of smokes.

(Intro, wanders onto stage looking like the proverbial deer in the headlights...)

'Is this thing on?'

(Taps on it. Low hum. Begins singing)

'Ah, the moon’s too bright,
the chain’s too tight,
the beast won’t go to sleep—
I been runnin’ through
These promises to you
That I made but I could not keep.
Ah, but a man never got a woman back,
Not by beggin’ on his knees,
Or I’d crawl to ya baby
And I’d fall at your feet
And I’d howl at your beauty
Like a dog in heat,
And I’d claw at your heart
And I’d tear at your sheet
I’d say please—

I’m your man.’

(Mumbling) 'Sing-songey.' (acknowledges the audience...) 'You can always tell when there’s an amateur at the microphone, can’t you?

My name's Gene, and I'm an American. Been an American for about 35 years now, recovering American for 5. And I gotta give you guys fair warning—this isn’t what I usually do when I’m presented with a stage and a microphone. I usually read poetry. But, a friend of mine asked me if I’d like to give this a try and I thought, why not? (Shakes head) Now I’m wondering what the fuck I’ve gotten myself into this time. Anyway, I figured if everything just goes to utter shit I could always fall back on the poetry. (Long beat) Unfortunately, the only poem I’ve brought with me tonight is a 14 page psycho-sexual examination featuring the queen of the elves, a hermit, and an army of 1400 mutant dwarves. (beat) All of which is written in heroic couplets. So I hope you guys find something to laugh at..

So, yeah, this is all new to me, and I was thinking about what to say, and, as usually happens when I start thinking like that, my mind started coming up with everything I probably shouldn’t say. It’s not the most efficient writing process, but I usually manage it eventually. Yeah, so, I was thinking, at first, that I might talk about misogyny, but then, I said to myself, ‘Gene, you’re an American, and you’re planning on getting up in front of a bunch of people whose native language is German and trying to make them laugh about people who hate women? Don’t you think maybe you should start juggling with three balls, instead of seven?’ Cause there’s a lot of things that could go wrong, isn’t there? I mean, there’s the language thing, first of all, because I’ve been here in Munich for a year and a half now and I still can't sprachen Deutsche for scheisse. I’m not proud of that fact. I know I should crack down and learn the language. (pause) I’ve got a daughter, at home. She’s 6—going on 42, and she’s got the language nailed. She’s going to grundschule, and if the truth be told, that’s probably how I ought to learn the language myself—straight from the ABC’s. Thing is, every time I try to go to class with her, the teacher calls the police. So that’s not gonna happen. And when she first started going to school, I thought maybe I could just keep up with her homework, you know, and learn that way, but there’s always something else I need to be doing while she’s doing her homework. That, and she’s about the roughest teacher I know. Much worse than any German, man. She came home this winter with that ‘schnee flockchen weiss rockchen’ song—you know the one? So I tried to learn that, right, and I’m over there, singing, and I’m saying ‘Du bleibst in die wolke…’ and my daughter is all ‘NEIN! DEN! DEN WOLKEN!’ So that didn’t go too well…

Here’s what I think: I think every American citizen should be forced to live for at least two years in some place where English is not spoken. I think that might make them a little more humble, a little more sensitive to some of the problems a person in that situation encounters, you know? Because when I think of my daughter, and the thought that by the time she’s 14 she’s going to be bringing all her German friends home, and she won’t just have age and gender differences on her side when she claims I don’t understand her—we’ll be speaking different languages. I mean, I can just see myself, the stereotype of an immigrant dad—like those old Greek guys in America whose entire grasp of the English language is drawn from game shows. I’ll be walking down the street and see one of my friends, who says ‘Gruess Gott, Gene. Wie Geht’s?’ and I’m all ‘Hier kommt die frage...’

So yeah, I know, I should drag out the old worterbuch and learn the bloody language, but the fact is, it isn’t about the words, is it? Because there’s a lot of German words that connect pretty easily to English ones. No, it’s about how those words are put together—shit’s a whole different logic, man. And encountering that logic in everything you do every day…that’s when it gets rough. Going to the grocery store for baking powder, for Christ’s sake, not even knowing what it’s called, where the hell they keep it, and when you do find it, it isn’t in the same kind of container, and it isn’t even the same stuff, you know? (pause) But there’s not much I can do about the language now, can I? I mean, it’s not likely that I’m going to learn German in the next 20 minutes. (long pause)

It could be worse. I could read you my poetry.

So yeah, that makes it tough, but the fact is, it’s tough living anywhere abroad as an American right now, and it’d be tough right now even if everyone spoke the same language—especially after the news we’ve been getting this last couple of weeks. But that shit isn’t language, it’s politics, and in politics, I think we can get a couple of things cleared up real quick, and the first thing I’ve got to say about THAT, which should clear a whole lotta crap out of the way quick smart, is, I’m not from Texas. In fact, I'm from the state that Bush spent the Vietnam war defending Texas from--Oklahoma.

(Plant sings)

'O-O-O-O-OK! lahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain...'

(rolls eyes)

'Yeah. It's EXACTLY like that back home. You know, everywhere I go, there’s always someone who sings that song when I tell them where I’m from. Bloody haunted by a movie I hate…for the rest of my life.'


'Anyway, just to clear all that up, I hate what's happening to my country. I hate it, I hate it. I left there--shit--5 years ago--Columbine hadn't even happened yet, and even then I was making noise about social toxicity to anyone who would listen—which was mostly friends I’d bought beer for—and it hasn't gotten any better since, has it? Because these days most Americans are taking themselves very seriously, aren’t they? And it’s hard to joke about. I mean, Americans are used to joking about our presidents...we do it all the time, but it’s kind of hard to joke about Bush, you know? And it isn’t for lack of material, because you don’t really have to write material around this guy, because he writes it for you. All you gotta do is listen to one of his speeches, cause he says the most ridiculous things. For example—and I shit you not—back in 2000, when W. was running for president, he came through Oklahoma doing what everyone has to do to run for president, which is to convince all the voters that he’s just like them (roll eyes)—and he doesn’t really have to try too hard in Oklahoma because it always votes republican anyway…anyway, the way you do this in Oklahoma is to make your appeal to the farmers, because that’s mostly what folks back home do, is farm. So he’s trying to do this, right, and I am not kidding, he says “We want to assure farmers that they are at the forethought of our thought thinking.” I mean, that’s barely even an English sentence. So, that’s funny. But every time you try to think of him that way, every time you open up your mouth to laugh, you get reminded of the fact that this guy has nuclear weapons at his disposal, and then the whole joke kind of goes sour, doesn’t it?


'What I think we really need—what I think would fix things up in a big hurry in America—is a good old fashioned sex scandal up there in Washington D.C.' (Drink/light cigarette) 'Cause it kind of seems like the good ole days, don’t it, when we think back to a time when our biggest worry was where the president’s penis might have been at a given time and day. And we never got any pictures of THAT. Which is a pity, because they’d be a whole lot more fun than the pictures we’re getting now, wouldn’t they? Because Clinton--well, Clinton wasn't exactly a good president, was he? He missed a lot of opportunities—a lot of BIG opportunities—but he didn't exactly strike terror into your heart every time he opened his mouth, did he? You didn’t get the sense that he was actively seeking out apocalypse. Clinton, Clinton was like a big old neutered tomcat, you know? Content. Sometimes too content.' (Drape yourself over something while you're saying this...) 'And then...then we found out why. Because he was getting blown by his secretary. And you know, I know a lot of Americans have a big problem with this, but I'm not so sure that was a bad thing. I know a lot of Americans get really freaked out when they have to deal with anything that looks like sex—I mean, show us a breast and we get pretty intense—but I’m not really with most Americans on this. I like what George Carlin had to say about it—does anyone here know George Carlin? (pause, respond to answer—if not many, say: “Good, then I can rip him off and you’ll never know it.”) George Carlin is an American comedian who came into prominence during the Vietnam war—yeah, another very divisive war for Americans—and he had a few things to say about the fact that Americans seem to be okay with violence, but not sex. Carlin once said that if he was given the choice between letting his kids watch two people making love or two people killing each other, he’d pick making love every time. And I’ve got a daughter and I’m all over that. Totally in agreement. Anyway, Carlin’s idea, for fixing what needed to be fixed, was to go back through all those old movies and every time we hear the word “kill,” we replace it with the word “fuck.” So you know, you’re watching one of those old westerns, right, and it’s “Okay, sheriff…we gonna fuck ya now”

(beat beat beat)

“…but we gonna fuck ya slooow.”

So yeah. I’m not sure the president getting a blow job from time to time is a bad thing—and now that I’ve been abroad for a few years, I know that there are nations where the scandal would be if the president WASN’T having an affair, right? But the way I’m thinking, maybe Clinton getting a blow job every once in a while actually kept him from being in a bombing sort of mood, you know? And to be perfectly honest, if I thought for one minute that a blow job would keep Bush from bombing things, I'd volunteer for the job myself if I had to...'


'Mind you, I’m not sure how that would go over with my wife. "Hi honey, I'm...WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?"' (Lean over, insert two fingers in mouth, look up with an 'Oh-oh' expression, mumble over fingers...) "WHAT?" (Exasperated look, remove fingers from mouth) "I'm blowin' the president." "I KNOW THAT! WHY ARE YOU DOING IT?" "Aw hon—don’t take it like that, he don't mean anything to me--I'm doing this for America..."'

’Yeah. I’d be a whore for peace. And you know, this’d be a hu-uge sacrifice for me because I’m not into this shit—I mean, anyone who is, more power to ya, make yourself happy, but it ain’t my thing? And even if it was, W. isn’t exactly my idea of a good looker, in mind OR body—especially in mind, and the mind is very important to me on this front. And then there's the fallout to deal with. You girls know what I'm talking about, don't you? I’m talking about, what if he likes it? Cause if it’s a one time thing, one blow job, that's one thing--pop, and it's over--but what if he likes it? I know, I know, he’s got that whole gay marriage issue, but that's not about homosexual sex, is it? It’s about preserving the sanctity of the institute of marriage. (eye roll during this) At least, that's what he's telling us. But if we’re to judge from the pictures we've been getting from Iraq recently, some of these guys who are into war kind of get off on this shit, don't they? And the last thing I need, in regards to my sense of domestic bliss, is George W. hanging around my house all the time saying, "Come to daddy!" I mean, what happens if I don’t want to? You know, "Ah, W., my mouth still hurts from last time, and it ain’t exactly like that’s where my pleasure centers are…" Because guys, they can get pretty aggressive when they don't get what they want on that front, can't they? Can't they, girls?

You boys know what I'm talking about, too—you just might not want to admit it. But you know what I'm talking about. One of those nights, it’s a little past midnight, and you’re at a pub and you’ve been there a while, had about 4 beers already and you’ve had your eyes on this one girl all night and you’ve been making a play for her all that time…and about this time she stands up and says "Kids, it’s been fun, but I got work in the morning, and I need to get on home…” And of course, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for, and you’re all, “Ah…I’ll walk you home.” And then this girl smiles, and this smile is subject to interpretation, because what she means, when she smiles, is “Oh, I thought you were just being nice, but now I see what you were after,” but what you’re hearing, through all the beer and testosterone, is “Come on in, bubba!” So she says, “Nah, you don’t need to walk me home, I’ll be all right,” and you’re all "No, really, it isn’t a problem. In fact, it'd be a pleasure." (leering) Yeah, you stud you. So now she understands that she’d better do something quick or she’s going to be stuck with you, so she makes one last try by turning to the other people at the table, and she says “Oh, okay, if it’s really not a problem…but—Steve! You should come along, because I’ve got these…religious pamphlets…I’ve been meaning to give you.” Trouble is, Steve’s as daft as you, he’s had as much beer as you have, and he’s got his own girl he’s been working on, so he doesn’t pick up on her HINT, you know, and he just says, “Yeah, yeah—only why don’t you just bring them along to work tomorrow and I can look at them then.”

So she’s stuck with you, and you start toward her house, and you’re already imagining—not winning her over or any of that romantic shit, but just a quick shag and goodbye in the morning, right? Only if you’re honest you haven’t given just a whole lot of thought to how you’re gonna make the movement from where you are now to where you wanna be, and now you’re improvising, relying on your verbal charms—such as they are—to get you there. So you spend the whole time trying to be subtle--and failing...and she spends all of her time trying to deflect the conversation away from the ONLY bloody topic you have the ability to focus on at this point. And that’s pretty much how things stand when you get to her doorstep, so you’ve got one play left—the kiss. And this kiss, well, it’s going to be really good, isn’t it? Because everything else you’ve been doing has gotten you nowhere, but this kiss, it’s gonna melt ALL of her defenses, isn’t it? Because you’re such a good kisser when you’re drunk. But while you’ve been thinking about it, she’s quietly unlocked her front door. And when you close in for the kill, she gives you the cheek, opens the door, slips inside, closes and locks the door and there you are out in the cold—and MAN, is it cold. And boys, you’ve got about three options at this point. Option number one: you go back to the pub you were just at. This is appealing because all of your friends are there, but then, it’s not so appealing because, well, all of your friends are there, and even though you can play it all off like you were just being a nice guy, they’ve been watching you make your play all evening and they all know that you’re coming back is an admission that you were NOT successful. Okay. So, option number two: you go to a different pub. This one’s a bit more of a problem, because at this point, you’re a single male who’s drunk and on the prowl, and a lot of pubs aren’t going to let you in, and if one does let you in, you’re going to find out that everyone inside is already paired off, and so you’ll end up in some dark corner somewhere drinking more beer and getting more pissed off because your needs are being neglected. Which leaves option number three: you take your tail, which you were so keen to stick between someone else’s legs, and you stick it between your own and slink on home and jerk off. Now, a reasonable man goes for option number three, but let’s face it, most men aren’t reasonable when they’re in this position, are they?

You boys know what I'm talking about. You've all had to deal with a friend who was like this. Hell, if you're honest, you've all BEEN like this--and heaven help the girl who approaches you now. Because you are useless for anything but aggression. You know what I mean? I mean, a guy who is in this state is all attack, there's nothing nice about him, and he can't bloody well think, can he?"

(Stand up, chip-on-shoulder stance, start pacing and throwing glares. Eyes land on chair, wobble, point...)

"That fucking chair. I hate that fucking chair."

(Assault chair)

Ballistic. Real attractive, isn’t it? Now, give that guy a nuclear warhead, and maybe you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I say I’m worried about the fallout when it comes to blowing Bush.

(Pause. Drink.)

Thing is, a lot of women might suggest that this is all a good argument for not letting men be the president at all. That’s the way my wife argues. She’s always on me about voting for women. My wife would vote for ANY woman before she’d vote for a man—she’d vote for one of Charlie Manson’s girls before she’d vote for a man. And in a way, I can understand where she’s coming from, because girls, in the same situation, they don’t act like this. But I don’t think that’s because they’re not feeling the same shit a boy feels in that same situation. But they don’t act the same way, do they? They don’t. I mean, okay, girls aren’t as likely to find themselves in this situation, and even if they do, they’re likely to be MORE fun when they’re feeling aggressive. They’d still be approachable. But even if they strike out, they’re going to do the reasonable thing and go the hell home. And you won’t hear a thing about it (beat) tonight. You might hear about it 4 years from now, but you won’t hear about it tonight. No. You’ll be walking down the street, YEARS later, haven’t given this girl a thought in all that time, and suddenly there she is, in front of you, wearing the same smile she left you with:

"Umm...yes? Do I know you?"
"Don't you remember me?"
"No, should I?"
"March 17th, 1993, St. Patricks day in Chicago."
(Fuck) "Oh...yeaahhh..."
"At the Blarney Stone?"
"Yeah! Yeah, now I remember...Julie, isn't it?"
"Actually, it's Divinia, but it's been a while."
"Yeah--yeah now I remember you! You were the one who shinnied up the drainpipe to the roof of the pub and stripped to the waist shouting 'Erin go Bra!'--then later we went to my house and had hot monkey sex for three days straight. Always wondered where you'd gotten to."
"Actually, that was my roommate, Julie."
"Ah, sorry about's been a long time, and I was pretty drunk."
"I know. Julie told me."
"Well, anyway, what have you been up to?"
"Oh, not much. I went home, ate, oh, about 2 gallons of ice cream for the next three days, then Julie got home and passed out, so I snuck into her purse and got your address and phone number. Then I followed you for about 3 weeks, found out that you were working for Microsoft. So I moved to Seattle, right, where they have their headquarters? And I applied for a job as a secretary. Got it, then spent the next 4 years working my way up through the ranks. Now I'm on the board of chairpersons."
"Not bad--not bad at all."
"And you? What have you been up to?"
"Not a lot, pretty much still doing the same stuff I was back then. I'm still working in the mailroom..."
"Not any more, you're not. You're fired."

You know? Because women, when they feel like that, they understand that those feelings are ENERGY, and they use it. They don’t waste it. They re-channel it. Men, though, they can’t think when they’re like that. All they can think is "Fuck, get it out of me!" right? But women are still aggressive, they’re just aggressive in a different way. So I’m not sure the solution is to make a woman the president, because I think, I think it’s the political process that makes people aggressive, and it doesn’t matter how many X chromosomes you’re carrying around. I mean, Margaret Thatcher sure brought a more humanitarian vision to the British system, didn’t she? And that Condoleeza Rice—there’s a sweet girl. And she’s a woman, an African-American, and Hispanic, so she’s got all kinds of things going for her. You’d think she’d be all about smashing the patriarchy, wouldn’t you? But she isn’t. So I think, you know, if our presidents were women, they wouldn’t end war and shit, they’d just be a fuck of a lot better at it than us men are.

Anyway, I’ve got a theory about why all this is, why we go about it so differently, and if you don’t like my theory, you can shoot me later, right? That’d be thinking like an American. I think—what I think, is it’s all about the way we’re shaped, right? Because a woman saves that energy up. But for a man, it’s all about getting it out NOW, right? Because, look at us…(look down at crotch, frame with hands)…it’s all out there, isn’t it? And when we’re coming, it’s all OUT. So when we want to come, and we can’t, we have to find some other way to get it out. We’ve gotta change something in the world, even if it’s just reducing a chair to splinters. There’s no higher purpose than to just change something. But girls…girls…it’s not about sticking a part of yourself into something, is it? You take something in, and so success, on that front, is about bringing something into you, you know? So when the energy has to be re-channeled, it’s much more likely to take the form of internalising that change—of changing something inside yourself so that next time…next time, you’ll be in a better position to get what you want.

(Big pause. Drink.)

Anyway, I’m all about solutions, I’d like to find a way around all this stuff, but I know that a lot of times I feel pretty powerless to make any real change in the world, but yeah, I’ve got an idea. I think maybe what Americans need to do, to make the fixes they need to make, is they need to tackle some of the myths that ground who they think they are. You know, myths like Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy, and the belief that ANYONE can become president. Because we’re raised with that idea, and in theory, that idea is right. It’s not that hard to be a candidate for president. It’s a little harder to get your name on the ballot, and if you wanna win, a few million dollars sure come in handy, but in principle, yeah, okay, anyone can become president. So what I think is, everyone—everyone who is elegible to run for president SHOULD run for president. That’d shake things up, and I think we just might get a good president then, because the only way to win is to get someone to not vote for themselves. And that means all the votes that counted would be coming from people with some integrity, you know? And someone could get in with like, 50 votes.

So yeah, with that in mind, I’m running for president. I don’t agree with the democrats or the republicans, so I’m forming my own party. The Cocksuckers For Peace Party. And yes, we have a platform. And yeah, I know you guys can’t vote for me, but I think you SHOULD be able to vote for me, because I think if everyone in the world were able to vote for the office of president of the United States, we would never have been stuck with Bush. And I mean, it’s not like what the president decides to do has no effect on the rest of the world. So, on the off chance I do get elected, I’ll see what I can’t do to change that.

Anyway, the Cocksuckers For Peace platform is ten points long, but I’m only going to tell you five of them tonight, because you’ve all been real patient with me so far, and I don’t want to ruin that. So,

Number 1: The first thing I’m going to do, if elected, is to commission a new unit of currency—the 3 dollar bill—and the person whose picture is to appear on this unit of currency is the poet most associated with the United States of America, Walt Whitman. If the Australians are civilized enough to have a poet on their ten dollar bill, then Americans should be able to figure out why this is important.

Number 2: Upon assuming office, I will institute measures for the immediate and universal implementation of the metric system. Americans, it just makes more sense. Get over it.

Number 3: Upon assuming office, I will create a “speechwriter free zone,” to extend for a 200 KILOMETER radius around Washington D.C. It is the belief of the members of the Cocksuckers for Peace party that the American citizens are no longer interested in listening to lies that have been written for the president by other people. We’d rather hear the president’s own lies.

Number 4: I will take all measures necessary to divert 100% of the current military budget to the areas of Human Services, Education, and the Arts. These departments will in turn no longer be conceived of as extending only to the political boundaries of the United States, but will be restructured to take global concerns into account. Part of the overall mission of these departments will be to establish workable infrastructure in nations like Afghanistan, a measure that we believe will help to address problems with terrorism. The reason we say this is because we’re having a really hard time FINDING those terrorists, and we think that finding them will be made much easier if there are good roads leading to their homes.

Number 5: My inauguration party. (evil laugh, if you can muster it…) In an effort to extend our national borders to include the wider community of all humans, all Heads of State and Government will be invited to a big ole potluck party on the evening after I have been sworn into office. Each head of state is to bring something to eat—and no, you can’t stop by the Tenglemann and pick up a frozen pizza. Each person in attendance is to bring one dish of food that they loved as a child, and that they have cooked themselves. We think that if politicians got into the kitchen and fixed their own damn food on occasion, they might have a better sense of those issues faced by the common citizen.

Finally, number 6—a promise that I just now made up: Upon assuming office, I will create a new department of government, the Department of Cocksuckers. This department will be peopled by a wide variety of cocksuckers to appeal to the widest range possible of sexual taste. As president, I promise that if ever I get the urge to bomb someone, I will first make use of this department, because it is my belief that any politician who thinks bombing a real solution to the problems we face as humans should GO GET BLOWN.

Thank you—you’ve been a wonderful audience.


Taking on the role of Language Maven

Oh, this is just lovely.

Thursday, August 05, 2004


More heat

...or, instead of getting wrapped up in all of that, you could just grab your pistol and shoot somebody

Why this? Because, people, this is the place where I grew up...yippie-kie-yie-yay!

--couple of old friends here, I think, who can probably visualize this news story in all its glorious, shimmering details.


If you can't stand the heat...

Okay, I've still got lots to bring over from DA, but I'm guessing most anyone reading this has probably already seen a lot of that material, and of course thoughts continue, before doing another text dump, I thought I'd swing back by the expat question, and what better way to jump into that then by saying that on Tuesday I went out to see Fahrenheit 911...heh. My take, honestly? I was less than shocked, and if anything, felt like Moore was pulling a LOT of punches. Yes, I know some of the exaggerations--and downright lies--contained in the movie, so before there's any rants on the subject, let me just say that I have never viewed Michael Moore as a documentarian--and that's coming from someone who watched Roger & Me back in the early 90's and used to catch TV Nation any time he could during stays in AK and Australia. Moore at his best is Moore hiring a semi-truck, painting the whole thing commie red with hammer and sickle, loading it up with posters of Che and Castro and copies of the Little Red Book and driving it across Louisiana, where it is illegal to transport any form of Communist propaganda, and stopping in at police stations and asking the police to arrest him. Moore at his best is a Moore that has to deal with the merely absurd, rather than the frightening. The difficulty he faces in his current work is that the political sitch in the US has veered far past the merely absurd to the downright frightening.

We'll have to come back to that point before I'm done, I'm sure. Meanwhile, I do not approach Moore uncritically, and in fact spent an hour or two before trolling my favorite right-wing website just to get nice and pumped up for the movie. (And in accessing this site, came across this, which looks interesting but would look more interesting if the author had managed to get Riefenstahl's first name right in the opening paragraph...nevertheless, I'm all for this sort of crit work on Moore) So I went in...only to find out that the theatre we'd picked was showing it 'dubbed' in German--which means that although all the sound on the film's footage is in original English, the voiceovers (and there are more voiceovers in this film than in Bowling for Columbine) are in German. So my assessment of the movie is somewhat incomplete, because although my German is better than it was when I first moved here, it's still not at the point that I can make much sense of anything that gets too complex. Funny thing is, this is exactly what happened to me when I first saw Bowling, and yet, I remember leaving that movie much more outraged, much more ready to fire some heavy artillery at the whole of the American dream than I did this time. I also went with the same people to both movies...though, the first time, I had met one of these people (Christoph) only 10 minutes before we started off to the theatre, and the other I'd only been out with on a very few now, we've played what we like to call music together, and have spent many, many nights drinking excellent beer from Munich and talking about these same issues. What struck all of us was the sense that, in Fahrenheit, we'd encountered nothing particularly new, prompting Hugh, one of the folks accompanying me, to say, "Maybe it's because the information war has already been won over here." The fuss over this movie in the states is most striking in the fact that, where I live, the reaction to this movie seems to be, "...and?" (Or, to be precise, "...und?")

So, for the movie--back, maybe, to that idea that America has veered past absurd into genuinely frightening, and that being one of the limitations Moore faces. The strength of B4C, for me, is that it expressed, though in extremely simplified terms, some of the central theses I'd been working with for quite some time, and my positive reaction to that movie was, no doubt, in large part due to the pleasure I felt in hearing those theses being expressed in a semi-mainstream document. Primary among these is what I think is Moore's underlying theses in that work--that the greater proportion of the human race is unduly influenced by the media's (and there's a loaded word...) use of fear to sell its products. This is the source of my discomfort--and my source of comfort since moving--in America: I feel unduly afraid. I don't here. I didn't in Australia. I can't say for certain that this isn't a matter of having matured, but the coincidence strikes me as being an important one.

All of this is of course made much more complicated by the fact that Moore himself is making use of the very fear he seems to be criticizing to sell his product...and I suppose, if I felt the effort worthwhile, any deep criticism I might level at Moore's oeuvre would take this as its target--he goes only so far, then pulls back. This is evident also in the current offering, in his montage of the Bush administration's preening before the announcement of the war in Iraq. There is a flash of brillance here, one that ultimately goes unrealized as it does not extend to the work at hand: somehow, the audience is meant to apply criticism to this preening in regards to the Bush administration, but not to Moore himself. And yet, any truly critical member of the audience knows that the same preening is at work in Moore's presentation of events. Moore levels some very effective criticism at just about everything he disagrees with, but he is decidedly lacking in his ability to self-criticize. Were he to do so, with honesty and rigor, his movies might be truly brilliant. As it is, they rarely get much past the merely spectacular.'s the thing: I'm not dismissive of Moore's connections. I can recognize the gaps in logic, and I very much find fault with the way the whole is presented, but I do maintain a certain belief in those connections. I do recognize that this belief is largely a product of staying outside the whole of many assumptions made by mainstream politicians (Kerry very much included)--because I think it necessary only to step just a little outside of those assumptions to start to recognize patterns. Some assumptions: that free markets lead necessarily to free societies, that those who head large corporations, by pursuing their own limited self-interests are ultimately pursuing the interests of all the human race, that U.S. foreign policy may be excused on the basis of being grounded in 'higher principles' of liberty, that any effort to rid the world of 'terrorism' (a flawed undertaking, in my opinion) is necessarily good, that nation states are justified in pursuing what is good for the citizens within their borders--even at the expense of the citizens in other nation states--and even, at my more radical, that the political unit of a 'nation state' is in any way a viable political unit in a world that is increasingly called upon to address issues of global importance such as the rise of MNC's, the continuing (and by now irrefutable) damage to the environment, and epidemics, to name but 3 of the more pressing issues. In fact, any effort to eradicate terrorism should probably jettison the very idea of nation states, because, even assuming the viability of the project, terrorists are not defined by nation states--at least, not unless you're willing to accept that war itself is an act of terrorism. Answers? I don't have them. I'm a common, more than averagely aware citizen, but I'm no expert, and I don't pretend to be. What I am saying is that there are a lot of dangerously out-of-date assumptions being employed in current U.S. foreign policy, and any real solution would require a radical re-thinking of those assumptions to account for contemporary developments. I don't expect this to happen in my lifetime, though I can always hope. Point is, when those basic political assumptions do come into question, business connections between a political dynasty in the U.S., and key players in Saudi Arabia do start to look dicey...especially in light of, say, no-bid contracts being awarded by the U.S. government to a corporation that just happens to have had the vice-president on its board of CEOs. To be told, time and again, that such connections are 'unproven,' that they are not indicative of any conspiracy because these corporations truly do serve the best interests of all the world's citizens, and the like, becomes, to say the least, a bit difficult to swallow at a certain point.

I was recently in conversation with a friend about this, and about my own youthful forays into Marxist theory (incompletely grasped, to be certain), which I often cite in my own consideration of the paradoxes behind the left's participation in 'anti-globalization' movements. I can yammer, but to boil it all down, I have some sympathy for such movements, because it strikes me that it isn't necessarily capitalism that should be re-thought here--more capitalism's big brother, corporatism. I get the sense, in those discussions I have on these ideas, that the issue isn't so much free markets (though of course, that comes into play), but free markets that are dominated by a very few, very powerful corporate entities. If anything, I think limitations on the movements of both capital and labor should be lessened, but I also see many current limitations on both as being drafted largely in response to the interests of larger corporate structures. Thing is, many within the anti-globalization forces seem to be quite accepting of some 'globalizing' forces, primarily, the sense that there needs to be some international body of law with some teeth to it--to which all nations, even those with an extreme level of military might, should be held accountable. There is also this paradox in regards to the more Marxist-leaning among these forces: some of the key thinkers within Marxism have made the suggestion that the natural evolution of human economic activity is such that capitalism starts locally, but then moves toward global control--and that, once that global control is established, the need for the structure falls rise to a more natural form of communism than occurred in, say, Russia in 1917. Don't know that I agree with that assessment, just that, if that were so, the Marxists among the anti-globalization crowd would seem to be working against the very forces that feed a global communism. A telling political paradox, I think.

Historical determinism aside, I do believe there is real need to re-assess a lot of assumptions in terms of both politics and economics. Going back to the discussion I had with this friend, we were questioning how the current trends might be made more the economics of our world might be re-cast to better reflect the current situations we all face as humans, and to better make use of the real potential we all hold...and my friend made an interesting statement, to the effect that laissez-faire economics, and all the principles held dear within that economic world-view, is often presented as being the best model we can possibly present. In light of some clear failures on the part of Marxism, there's probably a case to be made for that...but...if we really think about our species' history, and the true length of it, we come to understand that these principles are still pretty young--just a little over 200 years old, in fact--and that it might be time to re-think some of the more problematic areas within that framework to more accurately reflect the reality we do face in the early 21st century.

Long rant, and actually just skims the surface of my thoughts on this truth, I do not want at all to come across as being someone who thinks I have any real handle on the matter. But I do think about it, and that's why I go to see Moore's movie, and it's also why I swing by the anti-Moore sites before I do. In truth, I don't even know how well such grand economic and political concepts actually reflect or drive our day-to-day lives. Sometimes, I think not at all...because on the individual level, it's about getting food on your family's table, and a truly viable economic model would be one that simply understands that having too much food on one's table means that someone else doesn't have enough, and acting on that knowledge on an individual level. Unfortunately, there seem to be people from every society--myself included, given that I'm on the internet, which is as much a luxury as anything--who don't see those basics as being enough to fully realize their own human potential, and want more. How we deal with that, I don't know. But I do like thinking about it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


And a short passage from Pinker

Okay, I need to spend some time on here someday to fix up what needs fixin' on this page...but that might be a few months, and in the meantime, you're welcome to the journal...I'm hoping to keep it daily, or as close as a father/husband/tutor/childcare worker/editor/performance poet/journalist can manage...multiple projects coming up over the next 4 months, and I'm hoping to document some of them here. Next week: two face-to-face interviews, one with a jazz musician, one with a head of business with a group that 'culturally integrates' expats here in Munich...and the usual stuff, English with Sophia (5) and Moritz (10) and 6 hours with the pre-school bunch just watching and playing. Plus work on Trip.

Anyway, time's pressing, I need to get off the computer so my daughter can play on National Geographic Kids...but, the promised passage from Pinker. The book again is 'The Language Instinct,' and it's worth it for the linguistic gems peppered throughout alone...among which is Pinker's debunking of the '14-400 words for snow' among Eskimos. It's also pretty accessible for what it is...there's not too much grammar to wade through, but there's enough to stretch most people's grasp. As a sample of the content AND the writing style, I offer the below:

'Sometimes an alleged grammatical "error" is logical not only in the sense of "rational" but in the sense of respecting distinctions made by the formal logician. Consider this alleged barbarism, brought up by nearly every language maven:

Everyone returned to their seats.
Anyone who thinks a Yonex raquet has improved their game, raise your hand.
If anyone calls, tell them I can't come to the phone.
Someone dropped by but they didn't say what they wanted.
No one should have to sell their home to pay for medical care.
He's one of those guys who's always patting themself on the back. (an actual quote from Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye")

They explain: "everyone" means "every one," a singular subject, which may not serve as the antecedent of a plural pronoun like "them" later in the sentence. "Everyone returned to his seat," they insist. "If anyone calls, tell him I can't come to the phone."

If you were the target of these lessons, at this point you might be getting a bit uncomfortable. "Everyone returned to his seat" makes it sound like Bruce Springsteen was discovered during intermission to be in the audience, and everone rushed back and converged on his seat to await an autograph. If there is a good chance that a caller may be female, it is odd to ask one's roommate to tell him anything (even if you are not among the people who are concerned about "sexist language"). Such feelings of disquiet--a red flag to any serious linguist--are well founded in this case. The next time you get corrected for this sin, ask Mr. Smartypants how you should fix the following:

Mary saw everyone before John noticed them.

Now watch him squirm as he mulls over the downright unintelligible "improvement," Mary saw everyone before John noticed him.

The logical point that you, Holden Caulfield, and everyone but the language mavens intuitively graps is that "everyone" and "they" are not an "antecedent" and a "pronoun" referring to the same person in the world, which would force them to agree in number. They are a "quantifier" and a "bound variable," a different logical relationship. Everyone returned to their seats means "For all X, X returned to X's seat." The "X" does not refer to any particular person or group of people; it is simply a placeholder that keeps track of the roles that players play across defferent relationships. In this case, the X that comes back to a seat is the same X that owns the seat that X comes back to. The "their" there does not, in fact, have plural number, because it refers neither to one thing nor to many things; it does not refer at all. The same goes for the hypothetical caller: there may be one, there may be none, or the phone might ring off the hook with would-be suitors; all that matters is that every time there is a caller, if there is a caller, that caller, and not someone else, should be put off.

On logical grounds, then, variables are not the same thing as the more familiar "referential" pronouns that trigger number agreement ("he" meaning some particular guy, "they" meaning some particular bunch of guys). Some languages are considerate and offer their speakers different words for referential pronouns and for variables. But English is stingy; a referential pronoun must be drafted into service to lend its name when a speaker needs to use a variable. Since these are not real referential pronouns but only homonyms of them, there is no reason that the vernacular decision to borrow "they," "their," "them" for the task is any worse than the prescriptivists' recommendation of "he," "him," "his." Indeed, "they" has the advantage of embracing both sexes and feeling right in a wider variety of sentences.'

----A bit arcane, unless you like language issues, I know. But if you do, the book is a very valuable resource--about 430 pages in paperback incarnation, and much more amusing than any linguistic thesis probably has any right to be.

Next up on the reading list: "The Terrorism Reader," edited by David J. Whittaker. &...this weekend is mum's day, so, might be Monday before I come back...or, might not.


More unpacking

Just moving a couple of old posts over from DA


About 1/2 hour before I have to run off, but as I cannot access the mailbox at my website (I'm in a scientific institution at present, and it doesn't like the certificate) and as my fave forum is currently home to a discussion about the current sitch in Iraq that I would rather not be party to any longer, and which is making me somewhat ill (thus I am not working on the forum rules, which would be the other way I might kill this half-hour off), I'm here instead. I had thought to share a passage out of the book I just finished reading, but I don't have the book with me, so that'll have to wait until next entry. However, in prep, the book is entitled 'The Language Instinct,' and is written by one Steven Pinker--he recently made the Time magazine top 100 of scientists and thinkers, and there's a brief write-up on him at CNN --yes, I read CNN, though it is but one of many news sources I check out...perhaps I'll share a few others later, though I'm sure many community members already have their faves in that regard. Anyway, the CNN article is a gross oversimplification of what Pinker has posited regarding the structure of the human mind, and there are several passages in 'The Language Instinct' in which Pinker expresses his disdain for the whole Nature/Nurture debate--his own website provides a better rundown of some of his central ideas, and is more fun to boot. There's a passage from this book that basically gives me all the ammo I need for flouting the old rule, in writing, in which the pronoun 'they' must be written 'he' (masculine generic)--and if nothing else, I'm glad I read the book simply because it gave me this ammo. The masculine generic is a pet peeve of mine, and having the go-ahead for using 'they' instead from a Harvard linguist makes me pretty happy.

Other news: last night, I checked the old hotmail account for my website (it's supposed to be being phased out, but people still write to it, so I have to check it from time to time) to learn that our latest Spotlight poet (Terese Coe ) has passed the address to our website to none other than Bob Holman--Holman is a bit of a personal hero of mine, host of the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe (the link to the Nuyorican page is on the sidebar, along with link to Homan's venue in NYC, Bowery Poetry) and the mind behind the PBS series The United States of Poetry--and to be honest, the thought that he might be reading what I've written is a bit intimidating, if exciting. He's also one of the minds behind the poetry page--which 'can be' a good resource for online poets, but is a bit heavy with adverts. I have to say, though, that I appreciate their including our website in recent times, so...

Anyway, that's about the extent of my allotted time, off to watch children play. More on Pinker, and some of the issues he raises, soon.


Monday, August 02, 2004


Okay, last tweak for the day. Bounced over to (I can waste time there) and came across these, at As I know there is at least one librarian that may swing by here, and as we're on the subject of why I'm not super keen on returning to the States, and, as the folks at have strongly encouraged others to spread these around (attempts to circumvent the legal language of the Patriot act), thought I'd post 'em here to see how the whole photo-hosting/blog thing is working out. We'll see in a minute. Meantime, enjoy. Posted by Hello


Starting it up...leaving it behind.

All right...the plan was to shift all the DA stuff here, and I'll probably do that, but I still have to work out some of the specifics on the site...meantime, comments on a previous post have me thinking about the ex-pat question, and of course, mulling it over a whole helluva lot as I pedal furiously down the very well maintained--and well observed--bike paths of Munich Germany. I think I'm an ex-pat by accident, grew up in mid-America (very) and in a social strata that was likely to make fun of--if not vilify--anyone who was pretentious enough to think that there was more to life than was offered by, say, a Friday night run to OKC to catch Rocky Horror, and I carried a little of that with me for much longer than I wanted was not until after I had established residence in a THIRD state after having left my home town that I finally shook a nasty habit of telling myself, 'Well, if this doesn't work out, we can always move back to Oklahoma.' After the third move, that switched to improvement in itself...but the whole thing being definitive of a severe lack of confidence at that age. Well. Not to get too uncomfortably personal about all that (I've thought too much on that subject, written bloody reams of paper on it, and in fact started going back through a lot of it and suddenly realizing I might be closer to a novel (or at least novella) than I'd previously thought...) suffice it to say that there is that element of the bohunk-homebody about me, the weirdo who actually gets worked up at the Rock 'n' Bowl, especially when he's had a Bud or two...

More to the point...anyone remember that old Sesame Street song, 'I Don't Want To Live On The Moon?' I'm with Ernie. I think there's an element of superstition to my own embracing of that sentiment because I know my own sense of immortality is almost exclusively based on the idea of decomposition and a return to the cycle of being as I understand it through my rather Earth-bound experience. I mean, the same process goes on in space as well, presumably, so there's something maddeningly provincial about insisting that my bodily remains must return to the specific ashes and dust that I happen to be familiar with. Still. I Don't Want To Decompose On The Moon.

Believe it or not, this is relevant.

Point being, when, at the ripe old age of 29, I finally found myself on a plane and lifted off the soil of the North American continent, I regarded it as one of the most frightening moments of my I really had broken a particular bond to that location. All ridiculous, of course--I've been back since, and life'd probably be that tiny smidgen easier if I were to give up moving about and just settle back where I come from, but I don't want it, in the very worst way. And part of the reason I don't want it is because of that sense of fear--how afraid I remember being when leaving, all my life being under the impression (and these were impressions that I actively criticized, that I doubted at every turn, that I challenged frequently and sometimes at the expense of losing friends who saw such challenges as, for lack of a better word, 'unpatriotic'...) that this was the best nation in the world, and that things only got worse outside of its borders. That this truth wasn't borne out by the reality probably did more for my desire to stay out (that and the 2000 elections...shudder...) than any rational weighing of facts, ideals, policy, or so was a gut-level emotional response...which has since come to express itself through much more specific considerations.

And it's late, so talking about those has to wait for another time.'s the thing: since leaving, I have not felt nearly the fear that I consistently felt within America's borders. Maybe that's me. Maybe that's simply one person's growing up...or maybe there's a little more to that fact. Maybe it's partially, at least, having slipped a certain narrowly prescribed media lens. I'm in no position to objectively judge such a thing...but I do know, all politics aside, I'm just more personally comfortable NOT there.

Especially right now.

I'll think more on this, because I probably have more to write about on this subject. We'll call the above the emotional basis for these feelings. I'm sure I'll get ambitious in the near future and talk a little more about how my head factors into this question...and it does indeed.

bis bald


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