Une victoire républicaine est un attentat contre la liberté du citoyen.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
I'm dealing with career goal meetings, parent meetings, observations of classes, math assessments that need to be done before parent conferences, literacy assessments same, class buddy arrangements, literacy center management... and that's just at work. There's also rent, parents, friends, Dog, and more. And my library books are overdue.
And while I've heretofore gotten a bit energized by the catharsis of blogging various quotidian worries, national politics make everything seem so futile and meaningless. I mean, people are going to vote for McCain and Palin! There are working people making less than $45,000 who will vote for that corrupt asshole and his idiot running mate! The stupid, it burns. Our president has destroyed literally everything he has put his hand to, and the people want more of it. And all the banks might explode and polar bears are eating each other and journalists are censoring themselves because McCain might throw them off his plane and the votes will be counted by George W. Bush's good buddies Bob and Todd Urosevich.
And Bush seems to be setting up for a speedy declaration of martial law and suspension of elections, just in case the uppity colored elitist son of a sheep herder wins. No, really. This might happen. It could. Easily.
I was fine through 9/11. I was calm during the Anthrax attacks and the Beltway sniper. I was even okay when the panic got to Ashcroft and when Tom Ridge shared his fear of fear with all of and gave us our color-coded Fear Notice. But now... Now I'm truly wondering if the U.S. government has begun to end.
I've got it at last. I've got The Fear.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
You may talk o' gin an' beer
When you're quartered safe out 'ere,
An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it;
But if it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.
--- Rudyard Kipling, "Gunga Din"
I have loved the Flashman series --- a collection of baudy, outrageous, but historically accurate novels of Victorian military history, featuring the eponymous anti-hero Harry Flashman --- for over 15 years. Here, the author of that much-lauded series gives his personal and true account, from the ground level, of the WWII campaign in Burma with his beloved Nine Section.
This war memoir is fascinating for two reasons. First, reading this, it became clear to me that Fraser is, for all intents and purposes, Flashman himself: the broad racial delineations, the bald admiration for famous generals, the unabashed Imperialist fervor mixed with rational analysis of battle, even the fear of waiting before battle and the mad adrenaline rush afterwards. It strikes me that Flashy isn't so much a fictional construction as Fraser himself, made a bit more cowardly, and set in the Victorian era. For Fraser is, for better or worse, one of the last of the old unreconstructed crotchety men of the empire: the book is vehemently non-PC.
Fraser admits that he still feels hatred for the Japs (as he calls the enemy), even preferring not to sit by them in public places today. The ‘40s propaganda image of the Jap as “an evil, misshapen, buck-toothed barbarian who looked and behaved like something sub-Stone Age” is Fraser’s image of them to a T. (Which might say something about his abilities to assess things rationally, since by his own admission civilized lights mustn’t shine much in war, or you’ll lose; and his section committed what would be called war crimes today; obviously, both sides harbored the same kind of racist illusions, but Fraser can’t see that).
He bemoans many other facets of modern mores as well (condemning, for example, "counseling" and "war guilt," indicating those weaknesses, as he sees them, are creations of a non-military public and media). But the main thrust of the book, and why it will be fascinating to readers who are not familiar with Flashman, is the sometimes funny, sometimes appalling, obviously soul- changing experience that was war. It’s a superb war memoir, peppered with odd characters and vivid battle scenes, and a very important record of what the average foot-soldier must have felt at the time. It begins with him "smelling Jap" in the jungles of Burma and ends with one of the most honest yet brutal proclamations on the ethics of dropping the atomic bomb that I have ever read. Fraser writes with the flair of the seasoned novelist, even if his use of North British dialect in dialogue probably scares off American readers. It shouldn't.
Sunday Warbooks casualty count:
Greco-Persian wars: 1
Iraq wars: 2
Saturday, September 27, 2008
I'm not big fan of the Green Margarita --- in fact, its only attraction to me is the highly potent, nuclear-green frozen drinks they serve, which are necessary to wash down the appallingly greasy, cheesy food. For the last few weeks, as I noted a while ago, I've been eating pretty healthily, and a big honking plateful of Friar's favorite glop came as a shock to my poor, trail-mix-nibbling system.
And of course afterwards Friar and I went to the Hangout, where I had a couple of rum pineapples. I didn't feel all that well when I got home. I'm not sure I'm old enough anymore to be keeping up with the kind of systematic destruction to the internal organs that Friar seems to have been bent on his whole life.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I wish Obama had been more forceful. I don't mean he should totally embrace attack politics, but I think he let pass too many opportunities to point out what his opponent was and was not in comparison to him. He should have referred more often to McCain's inane predictions that it would be easy in Iraq and so on, while repeating his own early and correct warnings about the war. He could have made more casual references to McCain's extreme wealth and connections, to drive home the point exactly whose bottom line President McCain would be fighting the hardest for, while referring to his own civil service.
I know it's a fine line between attack politics and forcefulness, but in the words of Chris Rock, I fear Obama's forgetting he's black --- he's acting like he can win this thing fairly.
I noticed that McCain, like a lot of republicans, pointed with his forefinger a lot, while Obama used a Clintonian fingertip-thumb pinching gesture, as if picking up a tiny piece of paper. I think this election calls for less Democratic conciliatory fine-motor delicacy, and more accusatory pointing.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
For DEAR time, I'm reading a chapter book to the class. In it, the character is granted a wish and flies. After the reading, we have discussion, and I casually noted that people couldn't fly. G said, "But Superman flies." Without really thinking, I said, "Superman's not real." He looked shocked and crestfallen, and he said bleakly, "What about Batman? Batman came to my birthday party."
Anyway, he's continually coming up to me and asking if I know this or that character. Because I am a huge nerd, I always do: Braniac, Ant-Man, Hawkgirl, etc. But he knows them in slightly altered versions, so he takes issues with my descriptions. He didn't like the way I drew Braniac's head electrodes, and refused to recognize that Ant-Man rides an ant. He said he rode a jet ski. What, is that how it is in the cartoons or something? The network suits think kids don't want to see him riding an ant? He rides a goddam winged ant, kid. I been reading comics since 25 years before you were born.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
In all seriousness, the Vice-Head said it was a good tool for students to see and chat with other schools and experts in various fields across the country and internationally, but you know hardly anyone is going to use it for that. They're gonna gossip and use the amusing background features. It is rumored that we had this training solely so that one of the administrators can iChat her friends at work.
Priced a bit more, but well worth it:
* Organic farm-raised milk
Despite huge dairy companies denying that there is pus in factory milk, it's a fact that factory cows have enormously high instances of bladder infections. That means infections, and that means pus in milk. Boil it all you want, I'm not drinking that stuff. Also, it makes me personally feel better knowing my milk came from a cow that is treated halfway decently and has a chance to graze once in a while. It may be my imagination, but it tastes better, and creamier, to me.
* Crest Glide Comfort Plus floss
For a while, I was scrupulous in rationing out my floss so it would last a long time, then I realized I was being stupid. It's floss. There's like a mile of it in there, and I use a few inches a day. (Little by little, I shed the obsessive compulsions of my youth. I should be a carefree, mellow spirit by age 57.) Anyhoo, this stuff is great. It's so smooth, unlike regular floss which cuts like wire. Also, it tastes minty.
* Dried cranberries
If you want to eat fruit and nut mix like me, do yourself a big favor and drop the raisins. Trail mix with raisins? More like fail mix, amirite?? Who's got me up top? Seriously, drop the Studententfutter peanuts and raisins. That's nasty. Spring for the almonds (or any other tasty nut), sprinkle in some dried pumpkin seeds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, dried peas, pretzel bits, even a few carob chunks if you want. But the cranberries are the key. That tangy-sour sweetness, complementing the salty seeds and nuts, is just the flavor that keeps you shovelling that fiber- and protein-rich crap into your non-trail-hiking maw.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Sarah Palin wants more drilling, more places --- and she's very likely to become the fucking president
Bailout plan is opposed by some senators who actually take their responsibilities seriously --- we'll see if they have any say in the matter
"Tent cities" of new homeless on the rise --- and this is America in 2008! Hooray!
McCain is very close to becoming our second-most ignorant president ever --- so there'll be more of the economic policies that got us to this point!
For anyone, including conservatives, with a shred of rationality or knowledge of the world, Obama is the clear choice --- and that's why he won't win; the ruck of Americans vote for the party that waves the flag and repeats unfounded insults the most times
Feelin' defeatist again
Monday, September 22, 2008
So I refrain, and get home, and just record my nice, healthy lunch with veggies, organic pizza bites, yogurt, and dried fruit and nuts. I've convinced garrulous neighbor Dale to walk with me a few times now, and his wife said it looked like I had lost a lot of weight. I have, too --- about ten pounds; but I really wish I had that weight back in muscle I've lost since the cardiologist told me not to pump iron any more.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Gates of Fire is a novel of Thermopylae, the storied suicidal defense of 480 BC by Spartans against a vastly superior Persian army. The novel is, I am informed, widely admired at West Point and other officer schools.
After the battle of Thermopylae, a foreign-born Spartan squire named Xeones is found by the Persians, gravely wounded but alive. The Persian king Xerxes, wishing to know what kind of people the Spartans might be, who at hundreds strong could slay thousands of enemies in a valiant suicide mission, has the squire revived and asks him so that he might explain his people. Xeones tells this tale, but a more personal one as well: the sacking of his town, his unrequited love for his cousin, his rise up the Sparatan ranks, the cruelty of the Spartan school for warriors, the thoughts and fears of his master and the Spartan women that he somehow became privy to.
This is certainly an entertaining book: the various plots are interesting enough, and of course the drama of Thermopylae itself is inherently fascinating. There are a couple of potential problems with Pressfield’s handling of the Spartans, however.
One, Pressfield gives no doubt that he finds much to admire in the Spartan way of life. That the Spartans were eugenically-minded, infanticide-practicing, child-abusing, secret-death-squad-using, insulated, jingoistic, land-grabbing, hierarchical imperialists with proto-fascistic tendencies doesn’t seem to affect his judgment any. His affection for the culture leads him, on the contrary --- much like Frank Miller would later in the aesthetically pleasing but historically reprehensible 300 --- to present Spartan culture as a sort of freedom-loving patriotism when the truth was likely closer to a fear-based subsumption of the self to the greater good.
Two, Pressfield has the Spartan women interfere in political ritual, which --- and here I confess I don't know anything definitively --- I assume would be simply unthinkable; most ancient Greek women were little more than property.
Aside from those points, which the historian in me can't overlook, the gritty historical detail is handled well enough. Every detail --- from the armor’s accouterments, to the effects a thousand men’s feet, blood, and piss have on dust, to the experience of a thousand arrows whistling through the air, to the psychology of fear --- is explored. As a military historical fiction, as a battle piece, as epic drama, the book works. There's no wonder that it's popular amongst the men of the armed forces; it celebrates virility, valor, and violence, while being careful to paint a civilized, philosophical face on the machismo. But a book like this really only boils down to its entertainment value: is it an enthralling adventure? And this is superior by that standard.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Does the fact that Karl Rove and Fox News (which has admitted it gets its commentators' talking points directly from the White House) have attacked McCain indicate that they're trying to pressure him into doing something he doesn't want? Is his one tenth of a maverick status somehow bungling Cheney and the oil companies' long-range plans so they're trying to show how they can blow the election for him if he doesn't play ball? Because attacks from these quarters certainly don't indicate anything like journalistic integrity.
Is McCain's preposterous choice of Palin actually a feint to get people talking about her inexperience, Alaskan bridges to nowhere, and unwed teen pregnancy in little rich white girls vs. same in poor black girls... so they won't talk about the war, the ever-deepening housing crisis, the destruction of the middle class, the rising homeless population, and other issues that matter? I'm beginning to think it is.
My New House
So, to recap, I was living in a tiny, very ramshackle house in a very wealthy neighborhood. Now I'm living in a three-bedroom house in a less wealthy neighborhood. A few blocks to the west and south is a poor Mexican area in which gunshots can be heard at night. The north side of the block I live on is decidedly lower-working class, with rusty cars, furniture on the lawns, rough dogs roaming free, and rather hard-looking people sitting out of porches (a good indicator of a neighborhood's socioeconomic status: wealthy white people do not sit out on porches these days). The street I'm on, in contrast, is mostly serene and very well kept. The very next blocks, north and east, and noticeably nicer, with big houses, and nicer cars the further east you go.
And in every neighborhood no matter what the SES... Lots of houses for sale, many with reduced price notices, and no takers.
"Jack And Diane"
Wait a minute.... Suckin' on a chili dog? How does that work, exactly?
Friday, September 19, 2008
Oh, and the Head roped me into the school book club --- we're reading a book on how demand for a new kind of thinking is changing the economic landscape, and he wants me to lead a discussion on humor when we get to the appropriate chapter.
Oslo, getting along well with the K team, personality-wise. We were using cookies for a project, and when Miss Busty distributed them, she brought mine in her pants.
Tonight I went to see Auric play a solo show at a Big Self-Important Corporate Venue. One of Friar's acts opened, a girl with an incredible voice who surely, if the music business has a shred of justice in it, will come to good things. I went with Friar, of course, and Courtney, T-Bone's wife. We met up with Friar's boss C and his wife. I really enjoyed the show; I've been rather jaded about Auric's music, having known him and listened to him for twenty years now, but this solo set with acoustic guitar crackled with energy. (Literally --- he got a shock at the microphone that knocked him off his feet and kept him down a few seconds. When I asked him if it hurt after the show, he didn't remember it at all.)
Auric mentioned me in the warmest terms from the stage after he sang the song I helped with, and everyone around clapped and hooted and held my arms up. Corny, I know, but it's those little shallow things that help chip away the slabs of depression and defeatism.
Also, C's wife asked me twice if I had a girlfriend, and when I asked what her goddamn problem was (just kidding), she said, "I just think you're a very good-looking guy, and I don't understand why you're not always out with various girls."
Well, she's plain wrong, because I ain't, but aside from that, the reason why is that I got low self esteem and am riddled with contempt for myself and the world and enjoy living in silence and emptiness for the most part. But I didn't say all that, either.
It was nice after the show to walk past the small knot of autograph seekers to lounge around backstage with friends, joking and drinking. I enjoy those rare moments. Also, I ate Auric's sandwich and veggie platter.
Later, the inevitable wind-down at Hangout. Courtney and Friar and I ate very unhealthy sodium-stuffed bar food. I made to push off around midnight, and Friar (at that point quite extraordinarily drunk) mumbled something about my dog and the single chair I have in my living room. Courtney asked him what the hell he was talking about, and he said, "Chance has nothing to go home to."
So I said, "Well, how nice," and left without further ado.
Now, I might say that all the praise I'd gotten all day was outweighed by that one comment because I didn't believe the praise but the dispraise struck home, but there's more to it than that. I do believe that I am great at teaching, I am a good friend, and I'll grudgingly admit I've got some nice features. But it's a sore point with me, as I've alluded to on this blog, that all my friends are married ten years now, with two kids, owning their houses, and here's me childless, divorced, and renting at 37.
So I'll admit it hurt a bit hearing it from my best friend, even taking into account his drunken stupor, as well as the fact that I probably enjoy the stillness of the nothing I come home to more than he enjoys the company of the wife and child he spends so many nights avoiding by getting wasted in dive bars.
Okay, that was bitter.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
This piece, while saying nothing original, very neatly encapsulates my frustration and the current state of political dialectic.
...These aren't just lies. They're lies about lies. That's a really different thing. In life, a typical person lies. If they get caught – hopefully, they tender an apology; at the very least they stop telling the lie. But here we have a case where the liars not only don't do either of those things. They just keep on lying.
But wait, there's more! Because it isn't only that they lie and then lie about the lies. They follow that by playing the victim, claiming that the allegation from the other people that they're lying is nonsense, or a sign that they're part of the Washington establishment, or "despicable."
How can a lone voice argue with this kind of hurricane force of prevarication, this tsunami of lies and misinformation, denial and outright invention? How to deal with something so horrifyingly absurd as the "Yes We Can!" iconic feminist posters at rallies supporting the GOP ticket? Seriously, where to begin? How to even begin to get your head around a group who denigrate feminism in all its forms, urge "thin-skinned" women to toughen up or stay out of the world of "the big boys who don't play nice," then turn around and embrace the image of feminism (but not the ideals) when Palin is criticized? And dismiss genuine constructive criticism of a public official's record as "sexism"?
How, indeed, to argue with someone who claims that "family values" is the cornerstone of their personal philosophy, then lauds a teenage unwed mother as a brave hero? How to argue when facts are never refuted with other facts, but by accusations of "playing dirty" or "making personal attacks," or, worst of all, the reduction of facts as "opinion"?
But it's not just Them, the politicians who are lying about their lies. I'm in despair because there are millions of people who believe Them when they say that A = B, and then believe them again the next day when they say that A = A, and always has been. What's the future of this country, this civilization, when the wealthy, educated voters of the United States in 2008 are no more rational, informed, or intuitive than the average 15th-century Frankish peasant?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
In my previous, rather more affluent, neighborhood, aside from a couple of disagreeable curs, almost every dog was a family-friendly lab or setter. Here, the reverse is true: every dog is an angry-sounding watchdog, with more than a couple of pit bulls on the block. So here's hoping Dog doesn't get jumped by a roaming canine spoiling for a fight. In the past, she's thrown herself at much bigger dogs who were menacing her; she'd fight a pit bull without hesitation. She'd lose, but she'd try.
Hot Waitress T texted me to ask if I wanted to go with a couple of friends to a show tonight. I'm so tired these days, and I live quite a lot furhter from the Music Area now. And anyway, she ended her text with the assurance that "it will be off tha chain," and I realized I was probably too old to go out with Hot Waitress T.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Anyway, new house. Open. Clean. Huge yard. About three times bigger than the previous place. Less permeated with bees, certainly. The neighborhood is a bit sketchier, however. Sort of a buffer 'hood between a barrio and a rather fancy area to the northeast. There are fewer police cruising the suburban streets. More break-ins.
New house facts:
The toilet, the shower, the back yard: places I have peed.
The bathroom, the back yard, and everywhere else: places I have gone holding my loaded revolver. No, the literal one. It's a slightly sketchy area, and I'm armed and paranoid.
25: Approximate percentage of house that is totally empty.
25: Very liberally estimated resale value of all my furniture, in dollars, excepting the bed. Seriously, I have a six-year-old papasan draped in a quilt; an old stuffed chair I bought from the Friar five years ago for $10 and which the Dog since chewed large sections off of; a rickety old TV stand I got at a yard sale; a leather office chair about six years old which I bought at a going out of business sale for $50, well-worn with my own special brand of careless use; and two folding dorm-room-style desks, one of which is festooned with scorch marks from the previous owner's cigarettes (the previous owner was my father). Oh, and yeah --- the house has a kitchen bar, so I was gonna hafta buy barstools, but then I scored these cracked old rusted orange vinyl-covered stools that had been left behind by the previous renters in the garden shed! Free crap! Oh, it's okay about the cracked vinyl --- I covered it up with classy duct tape.
Twelve: length in inches of the very deep scratch the bed delivery guys put in the new hardwood floor. I discovered it after I'd tipped them $10, the rats. I think it says a huge amount about my personality that I didn't call the bed store to complain, but am lazily going to ignore it until the end of my lease, when I shall have to pay for it upon its inevitable discovery. Gee, when I type it out like that, it really makes me seem stupid.
Four: number of closets, two of which I use.
The rent is a lot more expensive, but then I'm netting about $600 more a month this year than I was last fiscal year at Prestigious. So I can afford it. Indeed, after I pay for food, petrol, all bills, and rent, I should have... about $600 discretionary money per month! What a coincidence! Maybe I'll buy a recliner.
In another strange coincidence, my garrulous neighbor Dale from the previous neighborhood happens to have moved into the place on the corner, eight houses down from me. He lives next to what is easily the rattiest, most broken-down house on the block. It's falling down and in disrepair. The sidewalk is cracked and broken by tree roots, which isn't the owners' fault, but the beer bottles and broken chairs in the lawn are. The owners are two or possibly three brothers who inherited the place and can't afford to keep it up. And, apparently, can't be assed to pick up their beer bottles. Once they drove into their driveway just as I walked the Dog past, and I was instantly enveloped by a powerful cloud of the doobie in their wake. Dale says he looked them up on public records and that they've done time (for assault and providing liquor to a minor).
Well, more later. I find I sleep earlier here than at the old place.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
- Death by chimp attack is the number one killer in America, more common than car accidents and cancer combined. However, chimp attacks often go unreported, often because of the family's shame. Also, in many cases the bodies are never found.
- Sociologists estimate that up to 38% of the people you pass during the average working day, including commute, are actually chimps in disguise.
- Although chimps are technically classified as mammals, they have many reptilian characteristics, such as infra-red vision, autotomising regenerative limbs, some gliding ability, and skin pigment change.
- All chimps are able to pick most pin tumbler locks, combination locks, and cylinder locks. The more advanced individuals can disable an electronic alarm system in thirty seconds.
- Human kidneys are the chimp's favorite food.
- Law-enforcement experts recommend at least a .357 loaded with 125 grain hollow-point ammo as the minimum required to stop a rampaging chimp. However, they also agree that it's pretty much impossible to unload the required 15 dead-center shots before a chimp can cover 100 yards, disarm you, and eat your kidneys.
- Consequently, over 75% of stolen .357 Magnums are used in crimes committed by chimpanzees.
- Studies have shown that the only semi-reliable chimp preventative is the music of Avril Lavigne, with "Sk8ter Boi" the most effective, repelling angry chimps 93% of the time. ("Curiously, "Girlfriend" increases the likelihood of an attack by 673%.)
- The occupation most frequently attacked by chimp is dentist.
- Chimps have senses of smell, hearing, sight, and taste far superior to humans'. However, they are severely deficient in the sense of propriety.
- Wearing a chimp mask during your daily routine will dramatically reduce your chances of chimp attack, but law-enforcement experts warn this may cause anti-chimp vigilantes to shoot first and ask questions later.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
ALL shows begin at 8:00 p.m. All ages.
Closed For Mold Cleaning
with special guests
The Ugliest Bartenders In Town
Four fabulous bands! One night!
Cops Checking IDs
Sweaty B.O. And the Broken AC
We Don't Take Credit Cards
The Six O'Clock Rockers
with special guests
Doors Close At Five
Monday, September 01, 2008
The terrible thing is, this will change no one's mind about abstinence education, about Sarah Palin's ability to lead, about her commitment to "family values," or anything else.
I saw a soccer mom-turned-Representative on TV today and she was extolling Palin's praises, saying, in so many words, that if she could handle the PTA, then she could handle Congress. Hey presto and ipso facto! This line now comes from the same neo-conservative creeps who shredded Obama as too inexperienced. Suddenly the guy who co-sponsored 570 bills is a novice, but driving your kid to hockey practice in a tiny town makes you worthy of the nuclear controls? While Putin's on the other side? Terrific.
Say! How about firing your enemies and saddling the public with massive debt! Wait a minute --- she's perfect to succeed the Bush administration!
All this devil-may-care indifference on McCain's part --- the gaffes, the choice of an clearly unvetted airhead VP with at least two scandals hanging over her, etc. --- makes me believe ever more strongly that the Republicans don't need to approach the campaign with care or delicacy. Diebold and ES&S will hand them the victory all wrapped up!