Thursday, March 22, 2007


I’m just reacting to part of a novel I’m reading, so nobody schedule an intervention, but I’m thinking about suicide.

I think that a large part of identifying who I am is the fact that as miserable as I have been, full days spent sobbing and finding corners to crawl into, ending spent, passed out, crashed, or in the rage that burns red and long into the evening of guilty despair and repairs, suicide has never been an option.

It has been considered. There has been yearning for eternal escape. There has been indignation at the lack of caring sure to be felt in the wake of my tragic death. But, I’ve never really fooled myself. Implicit in my nature is righteous suffering, too proactively guilty to choose death.

And I wish that were noble, instead of seeming indicative of an essential lack of passion. Of a sort.

I mean, I would kill, even in revenge (as opposed to self-defense). I’m not really afraid of dying for a good reason, though I’m terrified and almost sure I’ll die for a foolish one. It is simply the case that suicide is the bluff I can't call. In the pits of despair, even I don’t believe my own suicide threats.

Am I crazy to believe that is a problem? Well, no, not problem, but a troubling sign for someone that so wants to wear that mantle of “artist” (as long as nobody knows I want it).

Here’s the analogy that I think explains it. There is absolutely no possibility of my wife cheating on me. Just won’t happen. Such a thing is not in her nature. Of which I should be glad. And yet, it would be sexier if there were a chance, some danger. Ya dig?

I’m no danger to myself. And, somehow, that makes me feel just a little detached from life.

Inhofe = douchebag

I'm not a fan of Republicans. Not by a looooooooooong shot. But, I am always willing to respect the position if not the opinions. For the most part, I believe I could conduct polite, if potentially heated, debate with a political foe.

But, I'm pretty sure I'd call Sen. James Inhofe a dick right to his face.

Take a look at the transcript of his exchanges with former VP Al Gore over the issue of global warming (about which Inhofe is a leading skeptic). He sounds like a petulant child as he attempts to control the discourse (which is really the only response a non-scientist skeptic can score any points, given the consensus they face).

My favorite part? When he uses the "where is global warming when you need it?" argument, pointing out that, among other things, Oklahoma had three of their coldest days ever this winter, betraying a complete lack of understanding of climatology.

"How can you say water carves through rock, when I just watched the rain run right off a rock for three minutes? Can you tell me that?"

Whatta douchebag.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Potentially Creeping Nature of Hate

I must confess to not really understanding why people so hate Hillary Clinton.

Some measure of the hatred directed her way is clearly political gamesmanship. In our increasingly divisive political climate, loyalists of each party hate members of the opposing party on pure principle. But, there are plenty of Democrats that don’t attract the vitriol of the former First Lady.

I mean, just look at Joe Leiberman. Republicans seem to genuinely like him. Or at least enough to invite him to their birthday parties and stuff, for, like, y’know, a goof.

But, Hillary is really and truly despised. Just take a look at this email (partially debunked by the awesome urban legend researchers at, and what people are willing to believe about the woman dubbed “the HildaBeast” by her many detractors.

It has caught my attention because this level of hatred seems irrational. I’ve asked Hillary-haters like my in-laws exactly what their problem with her is, and they can never articulate it. She is merely the enemy. One member of my in-family responded to my observation that the military should have at least informed Congress when the Abu Ghraib abuses were uncovered with, “Well, you know, you’ve got that Teddy and Hillary in there.” In other words, her presence in the chamber is reason enough not to talk to Congress, regardless of how serious the situation.

This has been bothering me for a combination of two reasons. The first is that I kind of hate Hillary, too, and I have no idea why. I didn’t believe any of the accusations in the email referenced above, but I hate to hear the woman speak, and can’t really imagine myself voting for her. This despite the fact that I agree with almost all of her positions (except when she goes all weak-willed like she did on the Iraq War vote). My feelings about her are as irrational as those who dub her HildaBeast.

Which is enough reason to be interested in this idea, to ponder on it in the light and meaningless way that blog-writers do, but not enough to give the idea much weight, and that brings me to the second reason this has been bothering me. A South Korean publisher is pulling a best-selling kid’s book from the shelves because it contains claims that the Jews created the hatred that caused 9/11, control all US media, and ensure that Korean-Americans can’t succeed.

Do you have any idea how many people have hated the Jews and for how long? And have you noticed how none of their rationale make any sense? It all seems to fall into a handful of nonsensical categories: Jews keep me from succeeding, Jews are a powerful secret cabal, Jews are monsters (the catch-all for claims that Jews drink the blood of the goyim and such).

Okay, maybe race-based and religion-based (the case of the Jews is a bit of both) hatred is always irrational, but what I have been struck with in both the case of Hillary and the Jews (and I’m sure some far-right whackjob will have a field day with that connection) is how widespread and utterly without basis the two hatreds seem. Maybe you can try to posit the actions of Israel as a reason for Jew-hatred, but the fact is they have been bullied and battered for no good reason for centuries.

It is chilling to me because, as I said, I really don’t like Hillary, and I can’t even figure out why. And I wonder just how much of the hate that exists in the world does so for no reason.

Don’t give me the hippy flower-child angle of “all hate is irrational,” either. I can give you rational, sane reasons for hating the woman in our co-op preschool that tries to batter people into submitting to her beliefs and for hating the Dallas Cowboys and for hating anyone who tailgates, ever.

But, irrational hate is slippery and scary, and all the more so when you step back and take a look at just how widespread it is.

I worry about things like that. About how short the distance might be between hating a politician I actually agree with to hating a class of people I have no beef with.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


They said we were a lock, riding a positive wave at season's end, quality wins. But, today the selection committee decided to overlook the conference record, the late-season wins over top 10 opponents, and my beloved Orange were denied an invitation to the Big Dance.

I'm a bit crushed. The last two years, Syracuse won the conference tournament, so selection Sunday was anticlimatic, they were already in. And this year, I knew there was no such thing as a lock until the brackets come out, but I really wasn't sweating it. EVERYbody said they were getting in. I never prepared myself.

So, I need to find a team to back, and I say why not the Washington State Cougars. They make the tourney once per decade or two, and my wife's family are HUGE supporters. Wazoo is a place where football is king, a state school in the middle of fucking nowhere that turns into Siberia every winter - not the easiest place to recruit. They were good enough this year to grab a #3 seed, and yet they still feel like a cinderella.

Oh, and the best part? Washington State University is the goofiest bunch of hayseed-looking motherfuckers to lace up Chuck Taylor's since Dennis Hopper called the picket fence play.

Seriously, Robbie Cowgill appears to be mildly retarded, a fact not helped by the wispy, pubescent mistake of a beard he's been sporting lately. Derrick Low is a nice player, but this little girl called and she wants her 'do back. And, don't even get me started on Taylor Rochestie (pictured here with mom), whose bedhead and unfocused eyes on the court make him look like a stoner playing NBA Live on his X-Box.

And I'm pretty sure one of their few players of color, and by extension one of the few people of color in Pullman and its immediate environs, is a woman.

Together, they exude a comic presence on the floor. Look at their faces and you expect any one or all of them to break into tongue-lolling guffaws any moment.

But, when they play, they are a damn disciplined team, crisp, well-coached and determined. So, for the next week at least, they're my team.

Besides, maybe I'll score some points with the in-laws. And, anyway, how could anyone root against them when their first-round opponent is named after this dickhead?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Caution - Ad Rant Ahead

Have you seen the most recent ad for Cisco Systems? Oh, you might probably have without realizing it, because it doesn’t so much stand out as blend into all of the other ads hawking similar messages.

The ad is part of Cisco’s “the human network” campaign. It starts with a boy in an average suburban kitchen, and a camera phone held, presumably (all you can see is the hand) by his father. “Do something,” the father implores his son, and the son starts getting down, busting some moves, doing a sort of fluid robot. The commercial then zooms around the world, showing all types of people watching that very same kid dance on a variety of devices, from a child turning on a TV to a group of Tibetan monks gathering around a laptop.

On a side note, why have Tibetan monks become the visual shorthand for “we go anywhere, and I mean ANYwhere.” Reminds me of the scene from Living in Oblivion when the midget actor freaks out about his role. “Of course it must be a dream sequence, there’s a fucking midget!”

Anyway, the Cisco ad ends with the kid’s video playing on a Times Square billboard and the not unfamiliar advertising sentiment, “Now everyone can be a celebrity.”

On its face, this ad and others like it (this isn’t exactly a fresh perspective from the advertising world) are merely pandering to the celebrity-fetish of American consumers, but the message is indicative of something far more insidious. It is an example of how capitalism co-ops the mediasphere.

It hinges on the tagline, on this idea that everyone can be a celebrity. Which, of course, isn’t true. “Celebrity” is by definition a privileged status, demands an audience from which the celebrity can be separated, over which the celebrity can be elevated. It isn’t as innocuous as “everybody gets 15 minutes of fame,” though that is the viral shell that the message is packed in. It is really about setting celebrity up as a positive value within the discourse of networks and interactivity.

Injecting the notion of “celebrity” as a value into the greatest tool for open-source collaboration in human history serves to preserve capitalism a place by introducing a false scarcity. Celebrity presents an achievable thing for individuals, something to aspire to, to desire, the access to which can also be controlled. Celebrity as a positive value is commodifiable, giving it the power to create controllable consumers. Further, it opens up roles of passivity – in creating audience it enables audience membership, a surrender of active participation.

Perhaps it would be less worthy of comment if it was an isolated message, but “everyone can be a celebrity” resonates across media, various iterations hawking all manner of product and service. These tiny bits of narrative become the pieces we use to construct our world. They are the seeds. Corporate media is Monsanto. I think that makes us dead monarch butterflies.