Friday, June 09, 2006

Warm up the virgins

My Muslim fundamentalist friend, The Urchin, misunderstood my intent in linking to a post of his below. I can understand how this could happen, since I am typically very critical of Judeo/Christian/Muslim religions and the con men and violent psychopaths they enable. And also, let’s face it, fundamentalists often do not get irony, so it is not at all surprising that one would misunderstand the things I write. I don’t try to make the space between every word ooze with irony, it just comes natural.

So I will try to explain, really, really try, with neither hyperbole nor irony so that we can better understand each other.

I’ve learned from my blogging experience that in addition to making fun of right wing idiots, I enjoy showcasing the writings of people that are presented as little more than caricatures by our dominant media, at least if they write well. I enjoy wallowing, so to speak, in the humanity of those who have been dehumanized by the noise-making organs of our culture.

I highlighted Mr. Urchin’s writing because I thought it was very good and because it gives us insight into a type that is relentlessly caricatured in our culture, a type that very many of us want to kill, who some of us are concocting elaborate plans to kill, and who some of us are actually killing right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. The self-described Muslim fundamentalist is not considered a human being worthy of life by large and very powerful segments of our culture.

In short, I felt that Mr. Urchin’s writing demonstrated the Muslim fundamentalists can be people too. I know that seems obvious, but such is the state of our world that for all too many it is not.

i just want to live a peaceful innocent life.
i wish those who represent Islam in my country were actually knowledgeable scholars and not some opportunists and/or religious fanatics.
i miss the time I spent during my 2nd Grade to 5th Grade .
i fear Allah may decide not to guide me due to my overweening arrogance.
i wonder when Bangladesh will become something better than a developing country.
i regret often for talking too much.
i am not an extremist but a fundamentalist.
i cry when I can't solve the exercises from the "The Art of Computer Programming" by Donald Knuth even though I try like a thousand times.
i made little or no contributions to the society I live in(yet).
i write cos I can't speak very well.
i need to develop some abs and muscles.
i should learn not to take myself seriously.
i finish everything abruptly.

I find all that to be beautifully human in, let us say, a very fundamental way.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Pile of little arms

Philip Weiss, who writes the MondoWeiss blog at The New York Observer questions the morality of an NBC story about a group of orphaned girls in Iraq whose parents died because of what he describes as the "war we started."

Last night Brian Williams said that the network had been overwhelmed by emails and calls about the story. The network then did something great: it reaired the story.

You will see that it has top billing on the NBC website. Here the headline is "How to Help Iraq's Orphans." NBC then suggests that viewers give money to Unicef, No More Victims, and two other nonprofit groups.

He then goes on to point out that NBC is reaping great exposure and profits from the plight of those poor girls by putting them in grave danger of being executed by the insurgents.

And you have to ask, what planet do these journalists live on? Anyone who reads Juan Cole, which is anyone who wants to know what's going on in Iraq, knows that to publish information about American good deeds is to sign a death warrant for those we help. And this knowledge is not limited to Cole's readers, the mainstream media report it regularly as well.

And what a coup it would be for the Iraqi insurgency, or Al-Qaeda to murder these poor orphans who have come to the attention of so many good, decent Americans because of NBC's irresponsible pursuit of ratings.

Colonel Kurtz described the situation so well:
I remember when I was with Special Forces...Seems a thousand centuries ago...We went into a camp to innoculate the children. We left the camp after we had innoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every innoculated arm. There they were in a pile...A pile of little arms. And I remember...I...I...I cried...I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I I was shot...Like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead...And I thought: My God...the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters...These were men...trained cadres...these men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love...but they had the strength...the do that.

Well, the Kurtz character wasn't written as sane, and those who kill children are not filled with love, but they do have the will to win, unless we have the will to exterminate them, taking out the innocent along with the guilty.

But as Willard points out, that strategy is insane. NBC, however, is not insane. They are merely incompetent. And if those little children die for their incompetence, may those suits on the upper west side and in D.C. suffer the tortures of the damned.

Easy Money, way too easy

I just saw a headline in the Washington Post that Hillary Clinton is criticizing Ann Coulter. I’ll neither read it or link to it because, seriously, who cares what Hillary Clinton says.

If Hil’s criticizing Coulter, polls must have shown that poor Ann bombed big time on The Today Show, but I’m sure that if her Q ratings pick up, she could have a shot to be Hillary’s running mate for Vice President, just to balance the ticket you know.

But right now I’m more interested in the odds Hillary will apologize for being so strident? In London they’re holding at 3:2 and I’m taking those odds. You, hold your breath, that’s okay, you won’t have to wait long for Hilary to beg forgiveness for her transgressions, especially if Ann’s book sells.

Where does the Train Go? A shallow movie review

I watched Deserted Station last night, an Iranian Film directed by Alireza Raisian and starring Leila hatami, Nezam Manouchehri, Mehran Rajabi, and Mahmoud Pak Neeyat, fine actors all.

I watch a lot of movies like that (like that meaning foreign, slow and heavy with either pointlessness or profound meaning, who can tell?). I watch them primarily because I am too cheap to rent a movie, much less pay real money at the box office, so I typically pick up whatever DVD looks remotely interesting at the library -- and also because I am a glutton for punishment, at least for artsy punishment. To be fair though, I am interested in the photographic and literary aspects of a movie. Often the obscure foreign films have interesting sensibilities.

But with Deserted Station, since it was a recent movie from Iran, my immediate interest was to find out if these people were human or simply two-dimensional caricatures of evil as they are portrayed by our government and its news organizations. Since we will soon be killing so many of them and destroying their country, I thought the question worth examining.

The movie opens with titles in a weird, squiggly script of some sort. It was more like art than any kind of alphabet and I cannot be sure if it had any meaning as would a human language, but it was beautiful nevertheless. Then we see a man in a Chevy Blazer driving through a beautiful desert. The man certainly looks human (more than that, he looks a lot like a colleague of mine who I always thought was a nice, regular guy, but now I’m thinking maybe I should report to Homeland Security). And the desert looked like a desert you would find on planet earth. Not just any desert, but a desert nonetheless. And when the man gets out to take a photograph, which is certainly a human activity, the camera reveals his wife who is sleeping in the passenger seat. Some might say that her beauty is inhuman, but that’s just a rhetorical flourish that is not uncommon when describing an actresses. And the fact that the man is a photographer by trade doesn’t say much about his humanity one way or the other. At this point we don’t know what kind of photographer he is, he could be a paparazzi, which would not qualify as human.

All that and much of the rest of the movie (lots of children, etc.) did make it appear that these people were human like the rest of us. But on the other hand, they were unquestionably two-dimensional. It is, however, possible they were two-dimensional due to the nature of the medium (flat screen), so perhaps we should hold off on the mass murder and destruction until we study the question some more.

Anyway, I quickly lost interest in the question of whether Iranians are humans or not and just watched the movie. But in these types of movies you have a lot of time to think as people drive slowly across the desert looking at the gorgeous landscape while bickering in a foreign language, so I thought a little about politics before I could really settle in to the story.

Of course with the whole nuclear thing all over the news, you have to question whether the Iranians are planning to make a bomb or just want to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The fact that the couple drove an old Chevy Blazer indicates that Iran is heading for a serious fuel crisis no matter how gargantuan their oil reserves. But that, of course, could just be propaganda. Maybe they all ride bikes. How would I know?

But other than the Chevy Blazer, the film’s politics, if any, are not obvious. This is often the case with films made under repressive regimes. If they want to get the film by the censors and stay out of jail, the filmmakers must hide their criticisms deep under a pile of metaphorical layers.

To consider the politics, however, I must get back to the plot. The couple’s Blazer breaks down. Perhaps this was a swipe at the American auto industry meant to appease the authorities, but as anyone who has ever owned an American automobile knows, it is a believable plot device. The man walks to a village for help, then he and the man he finds there go off to get a part and fix the truck. Meanwhile, the woman spends the day as a substitute teacher in the village.

The village is, of course, a strange village. In films cars never break down near normal villages. Anyway, in this strange little village, all the men have gone to the city to work and all of the young women have left to get married. They send their children back to the village to be raised by the old women, who return when their husbands die. There is only one man, and he goes off with the photographer to fix the piece of shit American SUV. One of the old women suggests that a saint is responsible for the car trouble.

Does any of that have political meaning? I don’t know.

There is another scene in which the photographer and the man from the village are riding on a motorcycle and see military trucks transporting young women. The photographer asks the man what’s going on, but the man repeatedly says he doesn’t see any military trucks or young women, even though they are right in front of him. I suspect there is some political meaning there, but can’t say exactly what it might be.

But enough about politics, and story can wait, imagery is what matters here. The early scenes are standard wide shots of the beautiful desert. We get the first hint of things to come when the men leave the Blazer to go find the spare part. The camera is under the truck and catches weird shadows and the bottom half of the motorcycle as it drives off. Then the woman gets to the village and the movie really gets scenic. It is one of those old, walled desert villages made out of mud with a lot of deep, arched doorways and plenty of shadows. Some of the imagery is a bit hokey, as you would expect, e.g. the woman framed in the arch with a strategically placed tree in the distance, but there are many extraordinary images and scenes as well. The children, for example, are grouped and framed in many different patterns and shapes, usually in a circle, sometimes in a snaking line, and individual members may cut off and stand in isolation or the whole group disperse randomly in many directions. Many of the shots of them running are fantastic and even when they are trying to stand still, they bounce up and down, left and right, looking like they are about to jump out of their skin. The children are always in motion.

Motion is, I believe, handled very well in this movie. The children’s movement is important because otherwise the camera doesn’t move that much. It stays steady for long stretches and when it moves, the movement is used to give emotional weight to that particular part of the story. And there is one long pan of the village that is simply great cinema, up there with Orson Wells.

Sound is not pervasive in the movie, but when it appears it is used effectively. One stretch in which the woman is hunting the children among the abandoned train cars is reminiscent of the freeway scene in Solaris.

As for the story, it is a foreign Film and like any English major’s wet dream, you can find meanings all over the place. So if you want to speculate on the plot and its meaning, I’d certainly consider the idea that everything centers around the woman and her relationship with the children. She and her husband are unable to conceive. The children in the village are lacking parents. There is a scene where a stillborn lamb is delivered. The movie ends with a genuinely eerie scene of hide-and-seek among abandoned rail cars and then a long, creepy sequence in which the children chase the couple as they drive away from the village. Is there any meaning there? No doubt. What is it? I don’t know. Are there other ways to read it? Yep, quite a few.

So that’s it. Humanity? -- Yes. Are they human? – Jury’s still out. Story? -- I think. Depth? – make of it what you will. Politics, meaning? -- Don’t know, don’t care. Camerawork, sound? -- Excellent in places.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A note on the relationship between ideas and eyesight

I don’t have the mental energy to write anything tonight, plan to recharge a bit by reading. But I hate to do nothing, so I’ll share this quotation I came across, for what it’s worth:

We cannot see anything until we are possessed with the idea of it, and then we can see hardly anything else.“


Monday, June 05, 2006

Bin Laden can only dream

This fall, just in time for X-mas season, Left Behind Games will release “Left Behind: Eternal Forces“, a video game based on the wacko right wing Christian Left Behind series of novels which have sold more than 63 million books to more than 63 million idiots.

This game immerses children in present-day New York City -- 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian.

Jonathan Hudson of Talk to Action describes it further:
Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice.

Yea, knocking down the twin towers and killing 3000 people was small time. Christians can do better.

Some killjoys, however, have noted that:
The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

One of these perceptive Gentlemen, a Confessional Lutheran fire-and-brimstone guy named Frank who believes in predestination, isn’t thrilled with the idea of kids guiding the Anti-Christ’s forces on a wingnut killing spree through the streets of New York. Why a mere game upsets him is a bit of a mystery, since this is pretty much what we here in Gotham do on a daily basis, or at least whenever we find one, but I guess he doesn’t want our sport to spread out to the heartland, which is probably wise when you think about it (heart...yum).
Anyway, he’s not one of those negative sorts that just bitches about what’s wrong with the world. He has an idea for an even better game:
But ya know, if this sells even a couple copies, wouldn't it be a good idea to release Koran: Eternal Jihad. Now that's a game I would consider playing on the ole Gamesphere 2000! Wouldn't it be cool to play one of the archangles and start wiping out the Mohammadians.

Yep, to paraphrase a great one, ”give me Osama or St.Paul, give me Christ or give me Hiroshima, I’ve seen the future, man, and it is murder.“

More than just the Beautiful Desert

There’s a lot to like about the people in Arizona as well:

I got home about 5:30 and decided that I was going to do some step aerobics. So I change into some shorts and a tank top, grab a beer and pop the Cardio Step DVD into the player. I'm trying to look professional in front of my 8 year old, but I think she saw right through me. Especially when she said, "Shouldn't you have a bottle of water or something?" to which I replied, "Baby...this beer is 90% water....Recognize." and then she left me alone.

I think we went to the same child-rearing class.

Why I Hate the Baby Jesus and all that is Holy

Seriously though, since a thoughtful commenter engaged me in conversation about the historicity of Judeo-Christian religions, I thought I’d take a few paragraphs to explain where I’m coming from on the subject. I don’t pretend to be an expert and neither am I some kind of obsessive nut case, it’s just that I was a victim of a series of accidents (as are we all) and became interested in New Testament Studies.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of events. It was during a blessed time of unemployment back in the good old days when I lived in the beautiful Sonoran desert. I went to the library a lot and for some reason or other started reading about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I love the Dead Sea Scrolls for the same reason I love some of the writing I showcase here on this blog. Long stretches are very well-written and poignant. They are, in short, Literature. In the case of the scrolls, the authors’ pain and longing for a just universe resonates with a strength, no more than that, with a deep, rending pain that you can still feel across the centuries.

Then one day I was browsing the shelves and picked up two books about Jesus. The first was “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ” by Jose Saramago. I don’t know why I picked it up. I wasn’t interested in Jesus and had never heard of Saramago, but I must have been taken in by the back cover blurb. The second was a book by “The Jesus Legend” by George Albert Wells. I guess I figured I was in for a dime, might as well be in for a dollar.

I think most of us, at least those who went to Sunday school, figure out that religion is bunk sometime between sixth and eighth grade. Children at that age are very keen at spotting contradictions in the things they are told by adults and religion is certainly the stuff of contradictions. And even though I, unlike most, did not forget or forswear those childhood revelations, it had never occurred to me that the historical foundations of Christianity might be mere legends, nothing more than myths. There was an advertisement that ran in the Harper’s classifieds for years claiming Jesus never existed, but I just figured the guy was a crackpot.

Wells, on the other hand, is not a crackpot. He is a high-end scholar with a scientific mind whose work is meticulously documented and he lays out a very compelling case that the Jesus we know -- the miracle worker who lived and died during the times of Herod and Pontius Pilate in Palestine -- never existed. And even if a Rabbi named Jesus did exist in that period, next to nothing is known about him and none of the stories in the Bible have any historical validity whatsoever.

I won’t go into detail, but the gist of his argument consists of reading the books of the Bible in chronological order. Although there is quite a bit of scholarly debate on just exactly what that order is, you can easily see that the story grows. The earliest references to Jesus are to an every-man who lived and died, albeit by crucifixion, in anonymity. The early writers apparently had no knowledge whatsoever about the stories that are told in the Gospels. Detail is added as time goes by, which Wells meticulously demonstrates is a common feature of all legends.

Anyway, once you start wading into Well’s, you have to read the source materials and some other writers if you want to know for sure what the hell he is talking about. This brought me back to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the work of Robert Eiseman. Eiseman specializes in connecting the dots between the community that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls and the early Christians.

It genuinely surprised me to learn that there is no incontrovertible evidence that Jesus existed. No references to him, not a single one that does not appear to have been added later, exist. James, the brother of Jesus is, however, a well-known historical character and there is a lot of documentation regarding his existence. Eiseman documents, in excruciating detail, all that is known about James. And although he explicitly says that he believes in the historical Jesus, I came away from his book thinking it odd that there was a strong Christian community before there was a Christ.

But I’ve gone on too long. These were books I read years ago and although I find it all fascinating, I have exhausted my interest in the subject and moved on to other things. I also meandered a short ways down the path of Old Testament studies and found that incredibly interesting as well, and the legendary aspects far more obvious. I strongly recommend “The Bible Unearthed” to anyone the least bit interested in the history of the early books of the Old Testament. It’s a fascinating tale.

And fascinated by all this is what I am, for the most part. I truly don’t need any of that to debunk religion, but I wallow in the depth of it all as a human tale. So much of our history, so many of our beliefs, so much of the crap afflicting us in this world, springs from a source that has been thoroughly debunked. But on another level, it’s a great story, a fantastic piece of literature, and I can appreciate it as such. And it’s a great detective story as well. The struggles of those who delved into it and exposed the truth are compelling and the shit they put up with was, and still is, extraordinary, yet they were able to overcome. No serious person in academia believes in the historicity of either the Pentateuch or the Gospels. Why this knowledge is not more widespread is another story.

But as is not uncommon, a few paragraphs in a great work of fiction can convey more truth than a library full of scholarly articles. So I’ll end this with a long quotation from the aforementioned Nobel laureate Jose Saramago. The following scene is an account of when the Jesus character first met God. The Pastor character, you can safely consider to be the devil.

"To hear you Lord is to Obey, but I have one more question. Stop asking Me questions. Please, Lord, I must. Very well then, speak. Can I save my sheep. So that's what's bothering you. Yes, that's all, may I. No. Why not. Because you must offer it in sacrifice to Me to seal our covenant. You mean this sheep. Yes. Let me choose another from the flock, I'll be right back. You heard Me, I want this one. But Lord, can't you see, its ear has been clipped. You are mistaken, take a good look, the ear is perfect. It isn't possible. I am the Lord, and with the Lord all things are possible. But this is my sheep. Again you are mistaken, the lamb was Mine and you took it from Me, now you will recompense Me with the sheep. Your will be done, for You rule the universe, and I am Your servant. Then offer this sheep in sacrifice, or there will be no covenant. Take pity on me, Lord, I stand here naked and have neither cleaver nor knife, said Jesus, hoping he might still be able to save the sheep's life, but God said, I would not be God if I were unable to solve this problem, here. No sooner had he finished speaking than a brand-new cleaver lay at Jesus' feet. Now quickly, said God, for I have work to do and cannot stay here chatting all day long. Grasping the cleaver by the handle, Jesus went to the sheep. It raised its head and hardly recognized him, never having seen him naked before, and as everyone knows, these animals do not have a strong sense of smell. Do you weep, God asked. The cleaver went up, took aim, and came down as swiftly as an executioner's ax or the guillotine, which has not yet been invented. The sheep did not even whimper. All one could hear was, Ah, as God gave a deep sigh of satisfaction. Jesus asked Him, May I go now. You may, and don't forget, from now on you are tied to Me in flesh and blood. How should I take my leave of You. It doesn't matter, for Me there is no front or back, but it's customary to back away from me, bowing as you go. Tell me, Lord. What a tiresome fellow you are, what's bothering you now. The shepherd who owns the flock, What shepherd, My master, What about him, Is he an angel or a demon, He's someone I know. But tell me, is he an angel or a demon. I've already told you, for God there is no front or back, good-bye for now. The column of smoke was gone, and the sheep too, all that remained were drops of blood, and they were trying to hide in the soil.
        When Jesus returned, Pastor stared at him and asked, Where's the sheep, and he explained, I met God. I didn't ask you if you met God, I asked you if you found the sheep. I offered it in sacrifice. Whatever for. Because God was there and I had no choice. With the tip of his crook, Pastor drew a line on the ground, a furrow deep as a pit, insurmountable as a wall of fire, then told him, You've learned nothing, begone with you."

That, my friends, is every bit as historically accurate as the Gospels you find in the Bible, and at least we know who wrote it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Gravity of Torture, the Torture of Expectations

Another horror story from the back roads of capitalism and free trade:

Anup Kapoor, a 19-year-old first year engineering student has committed suicide on Thursday by hanging himself from a ceiling fan at his house here. He had returned home from his institute in Lucknow following sexual harassment and mental torture by his seniors.
An outstanding student, Anup had joined the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) on September 2. Though, according to the rules, first-year students don't get entry into the hostel, he was allotted a room in the Anand Villa hostel. In his suicide note, Anup said that he was going through mental agony due to the sexual harassment by second-year students of the institute in the name of ragging.
The note said that on some occasions, the seniors dragged the first-year students out from their rooms, took them to a room, asked them to strip down and play ''kabaddi''. It said the physical and mental torture of the first-year students did not end just there.
The maternal aunt of the victim, Dr Gita Seth, said that Anup had complained several times about the harassment to the warden of the Anand Villa hostel and IET officials. She said that Anup had also said he did not want to continue his education in the institute.
Paras Nath Kapoor, Anup's father and a teacher, cursed the institute's administration with tears in his eyes, ''It was my fault that I couldn't guess the gravity of torture Anup was experiencing in the name of ragging in his institute.''
Anup's mother, Manju Kapoor, a school teacher, was not in a condition to say anything except for chanting Anup's name.

Sorry to be maudlin, but I’m a parent, and it hurts me when other people’s children commit suicide over that kind of crap, whoever the fuck is to blame.

Yet Another Hectic Week

Limleen from Singapore illustrates the way work dominates so much of our lives and feelings.

Im always in deep thoughts, always pondering ' what if'.. & setting standards to things i do, eg. how i put myself totally into work and many aspects of striving further and stretching myself to the edge.

Ive been going thru a very hectic week....

im fighting hard to gain more business.... ive been demanding, much worse, im sooo impatient with the ppl i work with in operations... and ive not been nice to ppl around me.

i had been working rather hectically, till to the point that i caused many unhappiness to people working with me.... jus bcos i feel that they are not as agile as me, & being slow....

I sat down and do some reflections alone tonight at nearby coffeeshop, with many sticks of cig... and a glass of tea ice, & i sort out my wrong doings -

i should slow down my pace abit. Ive been too quick witted, being eager and getting more & more impatient when things are not done to my expectations.

ive expect too much from the team, & just can't stand a little shortcoming from how ppl work.... i should had been more understanding, accept and improve whats happening instead of being so mad and impatient.

ive been so occupied that i totally ignore whats on the other side of life, other than work. Perhaps i show no emotions or just did not want to think abt it.

There's this anxiety in me... perhaps i really think too much.

I jus recieved a hand written letter from a good friend. It gives me such sweet warm feeling to know that she care for me although i had almost forgotten to say hi to her in a way for awhile.

another hectic day tomorrow... my anxiety comes again when i think of work !

ending here to stop my brain from thinking what's gonna happen tomorrow.

I know it’s stereotypical to associate those kinds of worries with striving Asians, but I see it across all cultures in my workaday world. Welcome to the 21st century. See you on the O.T.

Punk Rock in Las Vegas, who knew?


Area 51 Just Sat Fuck one of the best fucking tapes of all fucking time, you say you're from Las Vegas & you haven't heard this, you add "what the fuck is a tape any way?" I tell you, Fuck You! Until your I-pod can play tapes or I can afford an I-pod it is not cool to listen to an I-pod. Tapes are where it's at, baby! You are just a fucking poser, get the fuck out of my blog & don't even tell me about the Christian Hard Core shows you go to at the Jumpin' Rockin' Java, because when I used to see Area 51 play at the Elks lodge, they would be sitting in their van drinking beer listening to the Misfits really loud, not reading the bible. Discuss the bible punk? Hell no! Throwing a chair at a nazi skinhead at the Elks Lodge, with Area 51 playing is punk as "hell" & hard core as fuck. I'd also like to add when ever in doubt beating up racist skinheads is always the right thing to do, don't even question if it will fuck up the venue, because if nazis are at the venue it will get ruined sooner or later...Here is a brief list of things I've enjoyed hitting nazi skinheads with. If you wonder if it's only OK to hit nazi skinheads your wrong it's also just fine to push, shove, kick, run the over, & piss on & if you know martial arts why not put it to good use. My fist, golf club, baseball bat, brick, beer bottle have all felt the side of a nzis head. Also through history nazi skinheads have proven again & again that they are bullies, cowards & will jump you, attack you from behind, & use weapons, don't even question if you doing an unprovoked attack to them is wrong. Don't do a peace walk or do an anti-racist march, that will make the right winger laugh & call you liberals, communist, pussies. Sure there is nothing wrong with being liberal, being a commie, or pussy, but it's better for them to mumble it from a bed while a doctor from Sri Lanka is treating them. To add to this it's not cool to be racist, but if you are that is one thing, but when you act out on it & hurt someone & try to ruin their day, well fuck you then. This also goes for homophobic, sexists, & anyone who doesn't listen to Screaching Weesel. You are the ones that put it out there, your flight jacket with the Skrewdriver patch is all I need to know you would rather me leave, fuck you if it's between you & me, it's going to be you. This was punk lesson #666...

Kinda reminds me of Woody Allen talking to Mr. Mike in Manhattam, or was it Annie Hall?

Be Like Mike

I almost clicked by Mike’s blog without appreciating it. He leads a happy life with a wonderful wife, great kids, good friends and cute dogs. His posts have titles like “What she means to me,” “The three greatest kids in the world,” and “Did I mention that I’m a grandpa?”

But I paused and read further because this guy seemed so genuinely happy with his life. Out here in the wilds of Blogostan, we spend so much time focusing on problems, idiots, and other unhappy things, whether they be the latest outrages from the evildoers in Washington or the dumb-ass bloggers who support their every crime. Whereas people like Mike with his marriage, kids, and dogs are either invisible or caricatured.

So, I thought, this is great. We need to recognize the good with the bad. And then I came to this:

I have two auto-immune diseases: Ankylosing Spondylitis and Pulmanory Sarcoidosis. AS attacks your joint and specifically your spine, and PS attacks your joints and lungs. So, my bones are under constant attack, and my lungs have been compromised by little nodules called "granulomas" so I don't have as much real-estate for transfer of air to my body. I am on morphine every day, and take other pain killers for when that isn't enough. Needless to say, I'm not terribly thrilled to have this - given that I'm only in my 40's.

Just because it seems trite to note how uplifting it is when those who suffer the most appreciate life the most, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful.

And even without the travails, I think my original impression stands. Nowhere in his writings do I get the impression that Mike needed debilitating diseases to find happiness. Nor should the rest of us.

Invisible Men

The Washington Post is doing a series on the lives of black men in America. This first article reports poll results of how black men who were surveyed see themselves, or at least what they tell strangers who call them and ask them how they see themselves. I found the following two graphs very interesting:

Among blacks with college degrees and household incomes of $75,000 a year or more, six in 10 said someone close to them had been murdered and six in 10 said a family member or close friend had been in jail or prison -- similar to the reports of working-class, less-educated black men. Three in 10 have been physically threatened or attacked in their lives because of their race, again no different from less-advantaged black men.

If anything, the survey suggests that better-educated black men experience more direct racism than those with fewer resources. For example, 63 percent of educated, upper-middle-class black men said they have been unfairly stopped by police, compared with 47 percent of less-advantaged black men.

I always read articles like this because I am a member of a poor, mostly dark skinned family with African bloodlines in Brooklyn (well, poor by NY standards anyway, we’d be pretty wealthy out yonder) and my son will undoubtedly share many experiences with the survey respondents.
We are not in any way stereotypical. No one close to us has been murdered or gone to prison. Most of the African men in the family are very successful in both their professions and their family lives. My son, who is only seven, has no conception of racism and his friends with African bloodlines come from families just as successful as his white, Jewish, Chinese, Persian, and friends from other ethnic backgrounds. But still, the cops, gang members, conservatives, and others who are itching to use violence on people they perceive as different or threatening will not know anything about him, and I worry.

But what bothers me about the Post article is the use of the word “race” which, I argue, makes the article racist per se. Presumably, the editors at the Post know that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that there is no such thing as race, that we are all simply humans and our differences mostly limited to superficialities such as the way we look. For the most part people use “race” when they are talking about culture.

As a writer, I know it’s difficult to get around using the word “race.” It’s clunky to say something like people with African or European or Asian bloodlines instead of the black, white, or yellow race, but it would be much better for us all if news organizations would prize accuracy over ease of sentence construction. Perception is not everything, but it does count for a lot.