Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Jukebox: 멋있다, Baby, Edition

Like? These folks are Ra-on from Seoul. May be just me, but I think they kinda kick ass, in an acoustic sort of hipster way, no?
Oh, and speaking of Korean hipsters, here's a lovely little post from the adorable-as-a-fluffy-kitten blog The Hidden Thimble about...yes, Korean hipsters.

Well, that's all for the week. Have a lovely weekend and I'll try and stop back around sometime Sunday for a chat.

(oh, and h/t to Fred Clarke of Slacktivist for the awesome Ra-on video)

That's a Bozo No-no

In his comments on this post, my pal Leon directed my attention to the latest in our Portland mayorality sweepstakes; Ms. Amy Beth Frey.

That's Amy. The platform for her 2016 run for mayor is "Puppies. Beer. Happiness. Sex. Rainbows."

Shit. I'd vote for that.

But as I noted in my reply, Portland has a tradition of this sort of thing. We actually elected a guy, Bud Clark, who was known to burst out with "Whoop! Whoop!" on occasion and is perhaps most famous for exposing himself to art.

And I continued to say,
"One year we had a clown. Not a "clown" like Willard Romney but an ACTUAL clown, some juggalo who went by "Mister Jiggles" or something like that. It says something for the state of our democracy that the bozo got something like 400 votes... At least Amy seems funny and cute."
And then, being me, I had to actually go and find this mook. God Save the Internet; here's his website. It's still there, in all its carnival...ummm...glory.

Turns out the guy went by "Extremo the Clown". Ran a joke candidacy.
Got over 1,000 votes. In a race decided by less than 10,000.

I'm not really sure what the hell to think about that.

On the one hand, it's one thing I love about Portland; man, we are fuckin' whack. We love to poke fun at everything, including ourselves.

But on the other hand, here are more than 1,000 people who thought so little of the actual value of electing one person or another - who felt that the difference between the frontrunners made so LITTLE difference - that they effectively pissed their votes away on a ridiculous jape.

And 600+ votes for Jim Spagg?
Let's not even go there.

So. Are we a great city, or what?

Frankly, the whole Extremo business has me wondering.

Phone Sex

Sweet Baby Jesus fuckolally fuck I want this job.
"Hundreds of women in South Florida were among the survey recipients, their names pulled from the white pages by a private company, state officials said. They were asked to voluntarily tell the state how many men they'd had sex with in the past year, whether a man had ever poked holes in a condom to get them pregnant, and how they felt emotionally when they last had unprotected sex."
ME: "Hi, is this Tammi?"
WOMAN: Uh, yeah. Who is this?"
ME: "I'm Joe Dirt from the Florida Department of Health. I'd like to ask you a few questions, if you have a moment."
WOMAN: Umm. OK, shoot."
ME: "OK. First; are you wearing panties right now?"
Government service was never like this in the Army.

God, I love Florida. This stuff makes me wish we had a Republican governor here, too.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Henri encore

If you hate cats or hate French existentialism I apologize. But I love these little Henri videos; they make me laugh so hard the coffee goes up my nose.

Songs in Red and Gray

I had an odd and revealing moment this afternoon.

I had just finished up doing some text edits and stopped off to see if my friend little X in Tucson was doing better after his surgery (amazing, isn't it, that our epistolary friendships now take place in realtime? I think we often take for granted the miracle of digital electronic communication...) when I came across a post from another friend, a young woman who has adopted not just one but two little girls from China.

Her younger daughter is dealing with attachment issues and this woman had simply had a trying morning and couple of weeks and wanted to tell us about it.

I went to her blog and read her post and, well, just felt badly for her and her daughters and her husband. Attachment disorders are hell, and there's no disguising or ameliorating that. When the normal human connection between childish needing and parental giving is broken, well...

But the sharp stick that it prodded into my back was the thought of my own little person that came with us to rainy, cold Portland these five years gone by.
That tiny burr-headed voiceless toddler is buried so deeply within the busy little wriggling girl who loves ponies and kitties and sparkly jewelry that I can barely remember her.

I know she's still in there; when my daughter collapses under my scolding that's the little girl running to cry on her wubbie. When Missy responds to gentle teasing with angry tears, that's the little girl weeping.

She had her own hardships with learning to love us and be loved. Somewhere inside that little girl still mourns the mother she never knew.
But that little girl has gone far away now. Bright-eyed Missy, with her bottomless craving for sweet sesame seaweed and Chef Boy-ar-dee ravioli, with her silly giggle, with her artless questions, has pushed that little girl far inside the rooms of the shiny playhouse life she's built since the day she met us in that chilly room in the big hotel on Shamian Dao. And I realized that her present and her future; her life as a Chinese-American girl in the United States, as a first-grader in Portland, as a daughter and sister, as...well, as herself has become the Missy that we know. We have almost lost that other, frightened, little girl that cried herself to sleep in the makeshift crib.
And I paused for a moment and flicked back over to this blog and sat chin in hand looking at the link to the China Center for Adoption Affairs; the website that almost ran our lives, Mojo and mine, back in those terrible and nervous days as we waited for news of our daughter. And realized that I hadn't looked at, or cared about, that connection for years.

And I opened the dashboard and deleted the link.
Those of you that have followed me and my daughter through the past five years know that our past is our present and our future; we carry the scars and the gifts of the past through our days as the seeds of our future.

But those scars - and the gifts that sometimes gentle and heal them - are not changeless. Just as our faces and bodies change those marks of our pasts change as well. Where we are going takes us around the corner from where we have been, and the sightlines to those places are lost.

The road my little girl travels will always lead from China and her lost mother and the life that she lost such a short time ago.
But her face is set firmly forward, and her hurrying steps are taking her on that road the leads - I hope, I dearly hope - to a busy, bright tomorrow.


The funny thing is that this is a typical morning for me when my little girl gets into the bed.

Like the pup, she is a compulsive wriggler and loves to play as soon as she gets up.

And, like the kitten, I just want to sleep. So she flips around and kicks and pushes and rolls, and I growl "Damn it, either go the hell to sleep or go back in your bed!"

But at least I don't bite. Not hard, anyway.

The turnabout is that with a lover I'm the puppy; I enjoy a kiss and cuddle - or more, if there's the chance - in the first hour of the morning. And almost without exception my beloveds have been lovers of sleep, not lovemaking, in the small hours. Mojo, especially, loves her morning slumber; her reaction is along the lines of what you'd expect from a grizzly disturbed in mid-January.

Anyway, I just enjoyed inventing the dialogue for this filmclip:

SPARKY: Ooh! Ooh! C'mon, Puff, let's play!

PUFF: Wha...the fuck? Are you nuts? G'wan. Knock it off.

SPARKY: Awww...c'mon, l'il buddy! Play! Play!

PUFF: Faaaa...leave me alone, you idiot.

SPARKY: C'mon, let's play! I'll let you chase me! Oooooh, let's wiggle!

PUFF: I'll wiggle your ass. Go the fuck back to sleep.

Ooooh! Gotcha!

Okay, biting you now. Sleep! Why can't you fucking sleep!?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

LIFE, No. 2: Women in Chains

More than any other bit of social commentary the 1906 editors of LIFE magazine keep returning to the issue of divorce and remarriage.
Now I have no idea whether this truly was a heated debate in the summer, autumn, and winter of that year. Certainly if the editors are to be believed the American wife was little more than a chattel slave six years into the new century. The theme of the woman chained to a wastrel husband, or a lecher, or a brute turns up again and again, whether in graphic form:
On the editorial page, or, here, both terribly and delightfully, in verse:
I really can't tease you with just a single page from this beauty. So here is "In re Remarriage" from the LIFE poetry series Ditties on Divorce;

Bill Baker bought a thoroughbred
And hitched her to a cart;
He overworked, and underfed,
And broke the poor beast's heart.

The Rev. Dr. Boner1 ran
To the S.P.C.A.
And made them send around a man
To take the horse away.

Bill Baker next was roundly fined;
They sold his trembling mare
To Mr. Brown, the good, the kind,
Who promised gentle care.

Now this Bill Baker had a wife
Who saw, with much remorse,
The she'd endured a harder life
Than had Bill Baker's horse.

She'd been his serf for years and years -
He sought elsewhere his pleasure;
He made her weep, then cursed her tears,
And beat her for good measure.

So now she called on Dr. Boner2
And told him of her plan:
"You found our mare another owner,
Get me another man."
The preacher grew aghast, aghaster;
He cried, "Are you insane?
How dare you thus address your pastor?
Oh, have I praught3 in vain?"

"I've thundered till my throat was hoarse
At justice's miscarriage.
The world's worst evil is DIVORCE,
Except one worse - REMARRIAGE."

"God chastens whom He loveth well,
You husband does the same.
If he's unfaithful - who can tell?
Perhaps you are to blame."

"Go home and pray, and if Bill smites,
Just turn the other cheek.
Preserve the best of Woman's Rights -
The right of being weak."

"And then if Bill does not repent
After a year's probation,
Perhaps we'll graciously consent
To legal separation."

"But howsoever you're estranged,
Think twice before you travel;
Our wedding goods are not exchanged,
However they unravel."

"At least, unless the Lord at last
Should summon Bill above;
Then, if you also have not passed,
You're allowed another love."

"In fact, as fast as husbands die,
As long as you've endurance;
But while one lives, it won't apply;
It's something like insurance."

"Body-and-soul, you are Bill Baker's
On this side of the tomb.
It's not my job, but an undertaker's
To mitigate your doom."
These words the woman did astound.
She gasped, "Is this religion?
To trap the rabbit for the hound?
To snare and cage the pigeon?"

"I ask for food, you offer a stone.
If I leave his hateful bed,
You send me out in the dark alone,
Childless, unloved, unfed."

"In barren travail's discontent,
Not widow, maid, nor wife,
Such liberty were banishment;
The Wandering Jew's free life."

"What crime have I done, thus bereft?
Does Heaven so abhor it.
That first I must endure the theft,
And then do penance for it?"

"Forbid the divorcee remarry?
Why not take just one more step,
And force the wretch to hari-kari
Upon her husband's doorstep?"

"Why did you rescue our poor mare
Before poor Bill was dead?
Must I go homeless, just because
I'm not a quadruped?"

The parson stammered, "Can truth be hammered
Into a woman's brains? -
However spouses grow unenamored,
The sacrament remains!"

"As for the horse - well, it's a horse,
A woman's but a woman;
The devil's self-devised divorce,
Remarriage is inhuman."

"Good-day, madame!" - accenting "dame"
The visit to determine -
He gave the door a dulcet slam,
And went back to his sermon.

~ John Lomax
1Based on the lack of actual humor visible either elsewhere in the verse or the illustrations accompanying it I have to assume that Mr. Lomax was either unaware of the childish jape implied by his fictional clergyman's name or was some sort of Ragtime Era zen master of deadpan humor.

2OK, I think have to concede it; Lomax just didn't get the joke here.

3Praught caught me cackhanded; WTF? But apparently the word was used sparingly as the past-tense form of the verb "preach" instead of "preached" (as "taught" is for "teach") but was never accepted; its use here smacks to me of a rather pathetic attempt at erudition from the inventor of the Rev. Dr. Boner.
A heartrending little vignette, isn't it? I think that was the idea.

The odd thing about all of this hoo-raw is that I simply can't find any source of controversy or discussion of the issue of divorce and remarriage for this period outside of LIFE magazine. Try it yourself; Google any of these subjects and you'll find all sort of recent tracts on the subject from the usual suspects - it seems comical and sad that after all these years there are still bible-beaters and Christopaths (and orthodox Jews and docrinaire Muslims...) fighting this rearguard action.

But as a remarried divorcee myself, I may be a trifle biased on the subject, yeah?

Monday, November 26, 2012


(N.B. - I apologize in advance for my bad Mandarin, but I had to guess at the Chinese word for "wolverine"...)
When I read that the MGM producers of the new Red Dawn remake had decided to bail on China as the replacement for the original concept of Soviet, Cuban, and (don't giggle, now...) Nicaraguan invaders in the wilds of West Buttfuck, Idaho I didn't so much as blink.

You can see why; the old Commies just ain't what they were, sure, and China...well, China is the Holy Grail of marketing. You can't make bank on selling Western movies to Chinese audiences when they are the baddies.

I tried to see them using some sort of Arab terrists but couldn't get past the whole "Successfully crossing an entire ocean full of U.S. carrier battle groups with civilian freighters loaded with a gajillion Al Qaeda tanks n' shit" concept.

I gotta admit, though; NORKs?

I didn't see that one coming.

But what I could, and did, see coming was this shit:
What makes this even more ridiculous is that in 1984 there really was a big, scary enemy out there that might have done a "red dawn" (OK, without the Nicaraguans, who would have maxed out the Texaco card halfway through Sinaloa). There really was a possibility that U.S. civilians might have had to choose between red and dead.

But...North Korea?
It's enough to make a fucking cat laugh.

Add to that the bone-stupid racism of the 2012 version AND a critical mass of the dummies who want to see it?

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.

We don't have enough race problems with the mouth-breathing goobers and Republicans (but I repeat myself...) in the U.S. we need this?
All this and a remake of Sabrina, too?

Maybe the Bible-beaters are right; maybe we are living in the End of Times.


Solitudinem faciunt

I have been pondering a "decisive battles" post on the final months of what is known as Eelam War IV, the conclusion of the long conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tiger rebels.
While the conflict itself is horrific, the engagements between the rebels and the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) are potentially of interest to citizens of the nations currently engaged in suppressing rebellions in the Middle East, which as of this writing includes the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and Israel in the occupied territories.

I thought that a look at the tactics and techniques that made the government forces successful and defeated the rebels might be useful for U.S. citizens pondering their own government's course in its wars and its support for the wars of its allies.

What I found was very revealing, but not about military tactics or techniques, but about nightmare and horror.

First, in researching Eelam War IV I discovered that the conflict may well be the most poorly documented recent major war outside the Russian campaigns against the Chechen rebels. The government of Sri Lanka did an exceptionally good job of preventing outside observers from getting any but the most haphazard notion of what went on in northern Sri Lanka in late 2008 and 2009.

For example, some sort of engagement at the village of Aanandapuram was fought in late March and early April, 2009. I had hoped to write up this engagement as the "decisive battle" for March 2013, given that it seems to have been the final act of the Tamil rebel forces as a conventional military outfit. But I quickly ran into the realization that providing any sort of militarily sensible account of the events of Aanandapuram was damn near impossible.

For one thing, I couldn't even come up with anything approaching an order of battle for either side.

Based on SLA sources we know that this combat included elements of the SLA 58 Division, 53 Division and something called "Task Force 8" (probably composed of SLA Special Operations units). But which of these units were engaged, and where? A Tiger website claims that "(t)he 4th, 6th,8th, 12th, 14th and 20th Gajabahu battalions, 5th Vijayabahu, 9th Gemunu Watch, 11th and 20th SL Light Infantry along with 1 special forces and 2 commando got into action" but offers no explanation of how these units were committed, or where, and what they did there.

SLA sources also tell us that the "Charles Anthony" Infantry Brigade of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or just "Tamil Tigers") was present, although in what condition or strength is unknown. The same sources mention that a number of senior LTTE leaders were killed there, including the commanders of the Jayanthan Infantry brigade, the Imran-Pandian, Maalathi, Sothia infantry regiments, the Kittu artillery unit, the Kutty Sri mortar unit. Whether these leaders were with their units, and whether these LTTE units still existed effectively as bodies of troops?

We have no idea.
The other side of the hill includes Tiger websites and press releases quoting Tiger-source material. But much of this is as oblique and opaque as the SLA press releases.

In an attempt to find some documentary evidence of the engagement I read The Cage by Gordon Weiss and was not helped. The 2011 work details Weiss' account of the slaughter of Tamil civilians during the last stages of Eelam War IV but has little about the military hows and whys.

And that, in turn, led me back to thinking about the recent fighting in Gaza, and the reality of suppressing rebellions that we here in the West don't like to think about.
Since 1945 we many of us - civilians and soldiers alike - believe or try to believe that there is a "humane" way of crushing rebellion. That civil wars and rebellion-suppression can be successfully fought along Geneva Convention lines.

We like to believe that there's a "plan" or a "strategy" that can end these rebellions with less bloodshed. Conditioned on our belief in technical means to political, economic, and even military ends, we like to think that if we just hit on the right "strategy" we can bring the rebels in out of the cold, make them sit down with their rivals, "work things out".

This has meant that U.S. policy, as well as the reputations of the U.S. military and its general officers in the recent wars in southwest Asia, largely rests or has rested on the ability to successfully implement "counterinsurgency" plans along these Western lines, which typically feature relative military restraint along with civil "nation building" or "hearts-and-minds" campaigns; call then what you will, the idea is to bring the rebels back into the "government" camp and to "pacify" the rebellious regions without exterminating the inhabitants.

The original example cited for this sort of CI success is typically the 1948-1960 Malayan Emergency. Now and then you get mentions of the British CI efforts in south Yemen, Oman, and Dhofar.

But...when you look hard at those successes you start to realize their "one-off" characteristics.

Malaya was the really special case; a rebel group composed nearly entirely of a racial minority group that then made a series of critical strategic mistakes. In my opinion the attempt to re-create Malaya led to a whole bunch of screw-ups in places like Vietnam; the success of Malaya was due less to the British Hannibals than the MRLA's Varros.

What you do see, looking around, is that the mechanics of suppressing rebellions hasn't changed all that much since Roman times. You kill everything moving and keep killing until they stop moving.

It has worked in Sri Lanka largely because, not in spite, of the fact that the Sri Lankan pledge of "Zero Civilian Casualties" was a sick joke.

The grievances of the Tamil minority that the Weiss book documents thoroughly were not slight or trivial. The decisions that led to the Tamil rebellion were not facile, and despite their atrocities the LTTE were not dilettantes or wannabes. The Tamil rebellion was desperate, and desperation was required to crush it.

There is a reason that Eelam War IV is so poorly documented; because it was an old-fashioned Roman-sort of civil war. In my opinion the Sri Lankan government and the SLA recognized the legitimacy of the Tamil rebels.

But they had no interest in accommodating those people; they were interested in keeping power for themselves. That meant not "pacifying" the rebel areas; it meant destroying them, destroying the rebels and all their people, in such a way that they would never again think that the chance of victory outweighed the costs of defeat.

"Shared" power tends to become separate powers over time; ask the Czechs and the Slovaks, the Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. The Sinhalese-majority Sri Lankan government had no interest in sharing power with the Tamil minority. It wanted to crush them, and crushing them meant - as it has always meant since Crassus' day - killing them in job lots.

And to kill to that degree meant keeping the press out. Without the cameras and reporters and the other busybodies of the lily-fingered West the SLA could get on with the business of crushing the rebellion with fire and steel.

Don't get me wrong; I don't like that.

Is it horrible? Yes.
Is it a war crime? Yes.
But it works.

And I know that. And I know that the record of the alternative - the Western hope that good roads and plasma TV will make the angry people happy again - has been iffy at best and disastrous at worst, if you can't change the fundamental problems they are angry about.


I guess that the only "lesson learned" I can come up with from the Battle of Aanandapuram is Tacitus' old lesson written over again in the letters of blood; Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
I wish I had a different story to tell. I wish I thought that there was a solution to the problems of Afghanistan or Israel short of endless war or brutal genocide.

But I don't.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Take me, Mandingo!

Back in the day my ex-wife and I belonged to the local rec center gym.

It wasn't such of a muchness, but it had a decent weight room, some stationary bikes, rowing machines and that, a sauna and steam room, and was close enough to our then-apartment to be a pleasant walk on a nice day.
Anyway, one Saturday afternoon we'd walked over to the gym for our workout. I remember it was a pleasant autumn day and the paths through the riverside park were crisp with harvest-colored leaves and a faint smell of distant smoke. We enjoyed a chaste kiss in the foyer and went to our respective lockers to change.

After my workout I showered and stopped off at the sauna to bake out the chill. I spread my towel on a corner spot and leaned back to melt in the heat.

A couple of other guys came and went, each time carefully ignoring each other or exchanging greetings with a studiedly heterosexual grunt or nod.

Until The Black Guy entered.

Now let me be clear; this was Wilmington, Delaware, not Portland, so this guy wasn't the only black guy there that day.

But he was...well, let's just say that in one respect he was THE Black Guy. He was, well, kind like THIS Black Guy.
We all grunted heterosexually. He spread out his towel, sat down, and casually flicked his penis over his thigh like Hercules tossing a stray boulder out of his path.

We all studiously looked at the cedar ceiling. Or pretended to close our eyes and absorb the heat.

But not one of us said a word.

We all sat there for fifteen minutes or so, casually sweating in an ostentatiously heterosexual way and carefully not staring at anyone's inhumanly enormous junk.

Then The Black Guy stood up, picked up his towel, casually swung his enormous tool out of his way, and walked out.

We all just looked at each other for a stunned moment and left the sauna in awed, and somewhat shamed, silence.

On the way home my ex and I chatted about the day, and the weather, and plans for the weekend. And I told her about The Black Guy's penis.

And we went on home to dinner.

Later that evening we were lounging about on the sofa. Lounging became kissing, and kissing became fondling, and pretty soon we were in the middle of some pretty serious conjugal business. And just when the temperature was about as high as it could be short of breaking out the top of the thermometer like in one of those Warner Brothers cartoons, my paramour placed her soft, wet lips against my ear and murmured in the frenzied breathlessness of lust;

"Tell me about The Black Man's penis again..."

And I can now tell you from hard experience it's damned deadly difficult to perform the Capital Act when you're both rolling around on the floor giggling helplessly.

One Last Reluctant Post on the Recent Clusterfuck in Gaza.

The discussion on the whole question of who did and is doing what to whom in the portion of the Middle East where Jews and Arabs butt heads has gotten rather huffy, which is frankly what I expect whenever this issue comes up. As I've said here, and there, repeatedly, there IS no solution outside genocide of one faction or the other OR a massive concatenation of impossible actions on the part of a dozen different parties in the dispute.

For example, here's my friend Lisa, a brilliant and lovely person whose opinion I respect in every sense, commenting on this post;

"The very tiny nation that is Israel could not be defended without the Golan Heights."

Which just makes me tired and sad. Here we are, sixty years after watching two insane World Wars that were ginned up to a great extent because of Germany and France repeating this about Alsace-Lorraine, and look at where it got them.

The sad thing about the argument that we've been having here and at MilPub is how it just convinces me how insoluble this problem is.

Lisa - for all her wisdom and humanity - refuses to see the Arab residents of the former Palestine as anything but "the problem", and meanwhile here are bb and Ael - for all their intelligence and decency - saying exactly the same thing in reverse about the Israelis.

Here Lisa is equating "liberal sympathy" with the Pals with anti-Semitism, while here are the guys - who I have to assume from mere politeness if nothing else are not arguing from a base of "Jews suck" - arguing for sympathy for the Pals because of the actions of the Israeli Right.

I don't think either one of them is "wrong"...and yet, in terms of solving this clusterfuck, they're BOTH appallingly and terribly "wrong".

The simple reality is that Israel is and always will be a Middle Eastern colonial solution to a European social problem.

Israel may very well be "warred upon" - certainly the Arab residents of the Levant chose to fight rather than accept its existence - but what the fuck else could the Zionist founders expect? They were Normans in England, colonists in New England, Portuguese in Brazil. They tried and succeeded in doing what hadn't been done since the late 19th Century; founding a colony. And this was just as the rest of the world had turned it's face decidedly AGAINST colonialism.

Now I'm more than willing to own my own country's atrocities and vileness in genociding the pre-1492 residents of the place I live. If a native American "terrorist" organization started rocketing North Portland and blowing up Tri-MET buses I'd shake my head in grim sympathy - before arming up to exterminate them like vermin. In that fight I'd completely understand WHY my enemies were fighting, and at the same time understand that there was no middle ground there; we both wanted exactly the same thing, and for them to win I and mine would HAVE to lose. And I'd choose for their women and kids to die rather than mine.

But at the same time, I'd also understand that that would make me a monster. I wouldn't make excuses for myself. I would be doing wrong, and willingly, because that's the nature of colonialism.

The very nature of Israel and its situation in the Middle East makes for monstrous choices. Lisa has made hers, Ael and basil have made theirs. And so it goes.

But here's the thing; as a citizen of the U.S. I don't HAVE to make a choice. I can blithely wish a curse on both the houses in this colonial mess. I can wish that everyone involved in the business had made better choices. I can wish that Truman had offered Utah to the Zionists. I can wish that David Balfour had choked on a kipper at the age of 16. I can wish a lot of things, and none of them will made a half-damn's worth of difference.

But one thing I cannot do is change the utterly-fucked condition of the eastern Levant, and the only thing I mourn is that it sets my friends at each other's throats.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Street Football

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in the late Sixties my pop, the Master Chief, used to toss the football around in the quiet suburban street - Hillside Avenue in Glen Ellyn, Illinois - out side our big old house.
Those times; the crisp acrid smell of the fallen leaves, the cool snap of the autumn air, the perfect heft and flight of the prolate sphere...they are still lovely memories of my father.

Now he and I are far apart, and at 86 he is no longer able to toss the ball with the same authority as he once did.

So it has fallen to me and my son to maintain the family tradition. So we took advantage of the break in the rain we're enjoying Thanksgiving Day and tossed the little football about for a while. He's a good tosser, the Peep. Catching? We're working on that.
Mind you, my father is famous in our household for his observation (during a late summer baseball-toss in which a hard throw coming out of the falling darkness popped me right in the face) that "You should have gotten your glove up."

The Master Chief knew even then that life is harder than a baseball and just as likely to hit you in the face when you least expect it.

Unless you get your glove up.

The Revolution Will Have Cool Mittens

My pal Lee - who is an all-around awesome person and a walking example of how smart Italian-American girls grow up to be smart and beautiful Italian-American women - loves to knit.

And she is also a huge Linkin Park fan and just a kick-ass gal, so she doesn't knit little lace doilys, she knits fingerless combat mittens in black and red anarchist colors perfect for getting a good grip on that tear-gas canister to hurl back at the riot squad during the next Occupy Portland protest.
Because revolution isn't about just smashing the State.
There must also be cool mittens.

Happy Thanksgiving!

From the Fire Direction Center, where we respect all Internet Traditions...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Achtung - Häschen!

There are things about my mispent youth in the U.S. Army that sometimes lead me badly, badly astray.

My sense of humor is one of them.
For surely, no gently-reared human being should find "Peter Rabbit - Tank Killer" amusing.
For surely, combining the gentle anthromorphic bunny-and-kitten tropes of Beatrix Potter with the savage military nihilism of Sven Hassel would be the act of a brutally psychotic maniac.
And yet, there I was...
...laughing my maniac ass off at this stuff.
(and here you thought I was going to say "...pinned down by a deadly hail of Jap fire.")
But if I am a maniac I am also nothing if not a contrary maniac, and that's an entirely different war-story.

Swallowed Whole

The Petraeus-Broadwell Affair has reached the "second-time-as-farce" stage already and the sheets aren't even cool yet.
Matt Taibbi has the definitive comment on the entire nonsensical deal;
"Then it hit me – it was an interesting book, after all! Because if you read All In carefully, the book's narrative tone will remind you of pretty much any other authorized bio of any major figure in business or politics (particularly in business), and it will most particularly remind you of almost any Time or Newsweek famous-statesperson profile.

Which means: it's impossible to tell the difference between the tone of a reporter who we now know was literally sucking the dick of her subject and the tone of just about any other modern American reporter who is given access to a powerful person for a biography or feature-length profile."
And that's pretty much all you need to ever, ever know about this nonsense.

It's not nearly as much about sex. Or corruption. Or bending and breaking what are supposed to be common-sense rules preventing fallable people from using power for their own selfish benefit.

As it is about that we've chosen to treat the Wealthy and Powerful - in our media, in our laws, in our government, in our daily lives - as if they were speshul snowflakes deserving of fellatio-level fawning.

And nothing good - nothing for those of us on the lips-side of this little arrangement - is going to...come of that, shall we say?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

But there is no peace

The usual suspects are exercised as usual, and even the gang over at MilPub is getting into the discussion about the latest round of bitchslapping between Israel and Gaza.
I just can't work up the effort to care. It's just another day at the office, and it won't be the last. More dead Arabs and Jews. Yawn. What's on ESPN?

Working out a way for Israel to exist peaceably in the Levant simply requires too many variables to work out right.

It requires Israel to muzzle its right-wing whackaloons and ultrareligious Greater Israel dominionists, retreat to its 1967 borders and pay a whopping reparation for the ethnic cleansing required to found itself in 1948.

It requires the Arab residents of the former Palestine and the present West Bank and Gaza to abandon their deliciously cherished hatreds and angers of things that happened sixty-some years ago, to forget the place their great-great-grandparents lived in that is now a shopping mall in Tel Aviv, find steady jobs in Jordan or Egypt and move on.

It requires the nations of Jordan and Eqypt, Lebanon, and Syria to absorb these Arabs as full citizens, to find them work and a future, to take in the rump of the old Palestine and provide a secure border for the Jewish State.

It requires the "leaders" of all these nations as well as the Arab nonstate combatant groups to stop using their old enemies for the acquisition of new powers.

It requires the foreign great powers to quit selling these "leaders" arms and backing their use of them. And to provide a whopping infusion of cash and trade to stabilize the economies of the impoverished Arab states and give them a future to provide their young men outside a martyr's death.

More to the point, it requires people, all sorts of people, Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Americans, Turks, Russians, and Iranians, to decide to let the dead bury their dead and find a way to live with a Jewish state on the Levant.

And to succeed in making a lasting peace ALL of this would need to happen. One person, one leader, one group, one nation reneging on the deal, and it's game on, back to the old cycle of fighting and death and pointless hatred.

Truman's State Department people, the old Middle East hands, told him back in 1948 that this wasn't possible and that it wouldn't happen, and that if he moved the U.S. to recognition of Israel that he would poison that well forever.

He did, and it has.
There is no way out of this death-spiral short of genocide of one side or the other, and I have no favorite group of people that must suffer or die to solve the problem. The wrath of the angry and the ignorant shall consume the innocent, and there is not a goddamn fucking thing I can do about that.

11 Therefore I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days.

12 And their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord.

13 For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

14 They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

15 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.


We've been gettin' a little weather around here.
Nothing more than the usual winter storm. But, still; just another reminder that Winter is Coming.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Better off Solo

File this under "things I don't understand".
Here's Hope Solo, a young woman who - at least by appearances - is ambitious, competent, and relatively bright (given that goalkeepers, as a rule, need to have at least enough intelligence to maintain tactical control over their backline...).

While she seems to like to party and goof off as much as any young jock, she has a great gig with the USWNT and bright prospects for earnings from that gig, providing that she is and remains popular with the ponytailed legions of women's soccer fans.

Her new husband?
Not so much.

In fact, if I had to sum up Jerramy Stevens the term I'd use would be "dirtbag". And the other term I'd use is "trouble."

NOT because of any one particular thing - although he sounds like he's a real pain in the ass human being - but because of a long history of stupidity and bad decisions and flat-out fucktardry that goes back to high school.

And at least in this case breathing-while-black doesn't seem to enter into it. This isn't some kid from the hood; this is a guy who was making NFL cash, fuck-you money, who could have kept all this partying, fighting, and doping and general please-come-arrest-me-becuse-I'm-a-too-big-a-stupid-douchenozzle-to-keep-this-on-the-downlow out of the public eye in the same way that other wealthy African-Americans (and wealthy Americans of all hues) who like a bit of outlaw fun have done since the flying wedge era.

Black, white, or brown, he's just an unemployed dirtbag with a talent for fucking up.

Why in little green apples would a woman who appears to be this driven, this smart, and this put-together want a walking "kick-me" sign like this for more than an evening's diversion?

Sigh. I don't expect people to make smart decisions about their crotches. We all have - I suspect most of us have, at any rate - made some dumb choices about people whose groinical bits we rub our own wedding tackle against. For all that Solo seems to be a bright gal who can keep goal more than a bit there's no reason she should be any smarter than the rest of us about putting Tab A into Slot B.

But...for God's sake, Hope - this guy is nothing more than a life support system for a penis. Consider him the go-to guy when you need a bit of lovin'. Fine. He may be a bit of a laugh, he may be good as a sort of meat-based sex toy, let him become anything more than that?

To become legally incorporated with him? Formally associated with him in governmentally-sanctioned domestic partnership?

Are you fucking nuts? C'mon, Hope; show me that there's some sapiens there...
I don't get it. Anyone have any insight into this? Anyone? Because for me this falls under the "things that make me wonder why we climbed down out of the trees" despair for hope of human intelligence.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

LIFE, No. 1: Up from the bins

It's been a dreary, rainy sort of weekend, and we've been forced to some pretty dire expedients to entertain ourselves.

That included a revisit to "The Bins".

And y'know, the odd thing is that the Bins just didn't seem quite as nasty and filthy as it had when we were there in 2009. I'm not sure if that says something more about the Bins, or about our falling standards of hygiene over the past three years.

Mojo picked up some fairly clean clothing, the kiddos got some sort of toy car apparatus, and I picked up some books, including this thing:

I picked it up because it was an oddity, some sort of collected magazine or journal articles from the first decade of the last century. I enjoy the late Victorian and Edwardian periodicals as art as much as anything, but this looked to be something a little bit more and so it was.

Now if you're old enough - and, frankly, if you're younger than about forty you probably might not remember it - you might remember the glossy picture magazine published with the big red rectangle in the upper left corner with the word LIFE inside it. Before Cosmo, before Vanity Fair, Atlantic, before all the other glossy picture mags, there was LIFE.

In other words, if you're my age or older you might remember a magazine on the checkout stand - and LIFE was still on the supermarket stands when I was a kid, although in the mid-Sixties the picture on the cover was often in color - looking something like this:

LIFE magazine might well have been the iconic periodical in the nation between the Thirties and the Sixties, that is, until the decline of periodical literature in general.

It was the pioneer of "photojournalism" that has become the standard of the 21st Century; pictures supported, and often barely, by words rather than the pictures as the accessory to text as had been the norm up to that point.

But what I had fished out of the blue bin was something else again.

It was a collection - Volume XLVIII, containing July to December 1906 - of the "old" LIFE magazine, the pre-Luce, pre-Thirties version that owed its style and content more to the humor and literary magazines of the 19th Century like Puck or the even older illustrated newspapers like Frank Leslie's than the glossy picture magazine that Henry Luce made of it.

It described itself with the following:
"We wish to have some fun in this paper... We shall try to domesticate as much as possible of the casual cheerfulness that is drifting about in an unfriendly world... We shall have something to say about religion, about politics, fashion, society, literature, the stage, the stock exchange, and the police station, and we will speak out what is in our mind as fairly, as truthfully, and as decently as we know how."

The editors of LIFE had...well, let's just say they had an interesting idea of fun. The pages of the collection are full of all sorts of notions, some of them curiously modern again after 106 years, some of them as archaic as Linear B and almost as incomprehensible.

One of the most fascinating things about this volume is to read about the events of 1906 not as history but as current events. Here's the editorial page for the August 9, 1906 edition of LIFE:
"It is to hold one's breath over Russia, except that her disease is going to run so long a course that it is more convenient for us to watch it to keep on breathing. Old times at this writing are resumed, the Duma being discharged and the familiar apparatus of repression in full operation. The condition of all Russia, so far as heard from, is now such that any prudent person if offered the choice of Russia or Chicago as a place of residence for his family, would be constrained for the time being to choose Chicago."
The editorialist goes on to opine
"Accordingly, the discharge of the Duma has seemed...certain to pospone the organization of Russia's governmental forces and likely to bring on revolution."
How 'bout that? I wonder if the writer lived to know how right he was...

But some of the articles are...well, to a 21st Century reader just bizarre, and shine a rather revealing light into the interior of the heads of the sorts of men who published, and the sorts who read, this sort of magazine in 1906.

Here's a short piece from the same issue entitled One At A Time:
"Women do not mass as well as men do. They lose by aggregation. A street-car full of women makes walking seem attractive. A regiment of men is pleasing. A regiment of women would be disturbing. So there are some flowers that, although individually charming, do no bunch well. Taken in large groups, women are objectionable. It is as individuals or in small squads that they are so incomparably interesting."
I'm not sure that the editor shouldn't have titled the thing A Monstrous Regimen of Women; certainly both seem animated by the same spirit.
At any rate, this volume so tickled me that over the next several months you will encounter here more of the collected insight and wisdom of 1906. There's no escaping it; this odd little volume of forgotten magazines has become one of my enthusiasms and this blog is the uncollated repository for my enthusiasms. You might as well hope for a Republican to stop talking about tax cuts.

Well, one could hope.

For, as the editors of LIFE themselves proclaimed back in the day, "Where there's LIFE, there's hope."