I've been prevailed upon not to hide such beautiful poetry in a comment thread. Can my excitement on encountering what seems to be a real-life Nice Pete be contained within a little numbered "comment"? Doesn't it require a full-on post? (Actually the description of the formatting of his opus Exact Morality for Today seems more like something Pat would gin up—fortunately we know from Onstad's Theorem that all people can be described as the sum of at most three Achewood characters.) It's not just the moral treatises and great poetry; we've also got sportswriting of the first water and solid policy proposals, all backed by a rigorous understanding of intraejaculate sperm selection and its ramifications in all areas of life.
Here's a nice prefatory note to one of his posts from December: Comment: by daughter, I mean mostly to exclude adult daughters; I am mainly speaking of adolescent and teenage daughters in a society with reasonable age of consent laws, the idealistic case, being more relevant one may hope to future generations.
So, I checked out of the hospital two days ago. Showing up at AA meetings without the hospital wristband on does wonders for the self-esteem. AA is the type of thing that I always would have thought would be very annoying, with the higher power and whatnot, but it's suprisingly not annoying. It's very interesting to feel you have so much in common with people from such different walks of life. The experience of having a Singaporean Chinese cab driver zing me with some home truth about myself is a strange but good one. Part of my prejudice against it has been that my dad is a huge al-Anon'er, and my step-mom a longtime in AA recovery person, but both of them smoke pot about 10 times per day. Having to listen to earnest talks about the 12 steps from stoned people is not the sort of thing to predispose you towards a philosophy. And it is a kind of strange, American, home-spun philosophy; a lot of the non-not-drinking part of it would, if faithfully and sucessfully practised, mean that you were some sort of buddhist saint or something. Which is to say, it's a bit aspirational. But, what the hell, it works for a lot of people if they just keep going to AA meetings and listening to what people have to say. Certainly worth a shot when your whole life is at stake. It's startling how much better I look, by the way. Skin: better, already losing weight. I'm hoping that the higher power of vanity will help keep me in line.
Since I've been more or less gone, the bloggers here have done an amazing job, but there's been an unconscionable dearth of "So-and-so is so hott!!" posts. Therefore, I say to you that French news anchor Melissa Theuriau is absurdly pretty.
Interesting post from Megan, whose dating woes we linked to awhile back. She's apparently got some serious taekwondo experience, and as a result tends to, in a background kind of way, evaluate men in terms of whether she'd win a fight against them, and while the answer is generally yes, she is less likely to want to be friends if the answer is no.
I'm not sure what I think about that. Myself, if I tried to apply a rule like that, I'd be able to associate only with other women (and by no means all of those); prepubescent boys, and men fairly well along with the process of dying of some wasting disease -- while I'm an unpleasant and hostile person, violence has never been anything I've had noticeable potential for. Still, while I can't empathize directly, something about it sounds rather pleasant: being able to arrange your life so that your safety isn't so much a matter of assuming that everyone around you is going to obey the rules of society, than knowing that if someone else loses it, they aren't likely to have the capacity to cause you any serious problems. Anyway, interesting.
There's a cabin on the side of a mountain. Inside is a dead man sitting in a chair. There are no weapons or deadly instruments anywhere around. How did he die?
A nice post up on Altercation from some guest-blogger called Rauchway, pointing out that what we're doing in Iraq doesn't qualify as meeting Kipling's moral standards for imperialism. Kipling, at least explicitly, thought the British were spreading civilization and law. We, on the other hand, find law to be too much trouble.
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard—
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
And as an aside, I see some blog-commenters are speculating that Kos is gay. Why that should matter, I don't know, but I remember -- back when the blogosphere was younger and people were nicer -- commiserating with Kos over his wife's miscarriage (my wife and I had several) and assuring him that it didn't preclude successful pregnancies later on, which I believe his wife has since had. So try to keep things at something better than a seventh-grade level.
Or, in other words: "I'm not saying Kos is gay. I'm just using one of the biggest soapboxes in the blogosphere to point out that other people are saying Kos is gay. Not that there would be anything wrong with it if it were true that Kos is gay. Because after all, he's married, which means that it can't be true that Kos is gay. So repeating claims that Kos is gay would just be wrong." What a creep he is.
(Via Digby. Tom Hilton, in Digby's comments, makes the following very sharp observation:
Here's the thing about the 'X is gay' claim: it works with the homophobes, while putting progressives in the complicated and semi-untenable position of attacking the genuinely scurrilous nature of the attempt while making clear that there isn't actually anything wrong with being gay. It's a deliberate attempt to incite the appearance of hypocrisy among progressives.
Which I think is dead on.)
Thomas Schaller has an article in the American Prospect about a forum he participated in at Yearly Kos with Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, a political consultant specializing in how Democrats can appeal to voters in the South. Schaller makes the point that if we talk about problems the Democrats are having we're talking about white southerners in the rural Deep South; Democrats do better than fine among black voters in the south, and can be competitive in urban and suburban areas. The 'South' that Democrats can't win is the overwhelmingly Republican white Southern vote.
So how do we change this? Schaller says maybe we don't. Maybe we put together coalitions of the more urban voters and the minority voters that we can win -- voters in the Southern states, even if they aren't the cultural picture one has of the 'South', and maybe the conservative white voters will come along based on our performance in office. Paycheck issues help everyone out, after all. But trying to shape the Democratic party in the cultural mode of conservative Southern whites doesn't seem terribly likely to get us anyplace.
The Democrats are going to roll over on the estate tax for timber companies?? You've got to be kidding me. It would be one thing if they tried to balance the "screw the middle class and the poor" estate tax cut by making a compromise to, say, raise the minimum wage but selling this important issue out to help their corporate donors? Have they no shame? Is there something I'm missing here?
I'm late with this, as usual -- everyone's probably already seen Yglesias's pointer to the Washington Post's review of Ron Suskind's new book: The One Percent Doctrine. I'm just going to quote a big chunk of the review, describing Suskind's reporting of how we tortured a crazy man because admitting he didn't know anything useful would have embarrassed the President, and then acted as if the stories he made up under torture were useful information:
Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."...
Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."
It would be nice if this story were untrue. I wish I had some reason not to believe it.
Pdf23ds writes in to ask:
Is it moral to lie in order to preserve a secret, in a situation where refusing to answer cannot preserve the secret?
a question familiar to us all from Robert Ludlum's 1990s bestseller, The Clinton Conundrum.
The problem is that we live in a society where "I refuse to dignify that question with an answer," is not a real response to an inappropriate question. If someone asks you, for example, if you've ever cheated on your spouse, someone who hasn't is expected to say, "No, of course not," rather than being insulted by the question. So an answer that objects to or evades the question is equivalent to an admission -- there's no way to respond to the question without either lying, or implicitly revealing the truth.
My personal answer is that lying like a rug is just fine, so long as the secret is one that you are entitled to protect. An ethic where it was conventional to treat questions inquiring into matters that most people would want to keep secret (past drug use, infidelity, pseudonymous blogging...) as offensive and not to be answered generally, regardless of whether there was dirt to be uncovered or not, would be compatible with expecting people not to lie about such matters. In the absence of such a convention, though, there has to be some way to keep secrets.
But I'm notorious for having no morals whatsoever, so this may not be the most ethically defensible position. Any philosophers out there want to take a whack at it?
Sneha Anne Philip haunts my dreams.
When I moved back to Battery Park City after September 11, every free surface seemed covered with "Missing" posters. You wanted to give each one your attention, to pay your respects, but there were so many that they inevitably blurred together. Except one. The one with the eyes that looked right through you. The one that said "Missing. Last seen @ 5:15 pm, Monday, Sept. 10th"
The flyers faded and eventually came down, except for hers. They were up for years and they were everywhere. To this day, nobody knows what happened to her. There is video footage of her shopping at Century 21 on the 10th...and then nothing. Did she die in the attack? Was she kidnapped? Did she see an opportunity to disappear? People in the neighborhood sometimes talk about it but not with the usual "everybody has a theory" excitement or smugness of neighborhood gossip. Maybe the new ones do, the people who moved in after everything was cleaned up and back to normal, but not the people who remember being pierced by those eyes at every turn. We can't begin to guess.
New York magazine has a profile of the mystery surrounding her disappearance in this week's issue and, of course, they focus on the salacious details of her partying past and seem to engage in victim-blaming. Without proof, I don't think we can say she became some kind of 9/11 hero, rushing to the scene to help the victims, as her husband and family want to believe, but she deserves better than New York's innuendo. I just hope the story stirs up some fresh leads. I can't look at those pictures without thinking she wants people to know what happened to her.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of the summer, I'll be without regular or lengthy internet access, or such is my anticipation. Even as ogged before me, though, I as his true heir am taking this opportunity to solicit advice for places to see and things to do in Berlin, Helsinki, and environs. I know some people here have at least been to one of the two cities and I don't doubt that you cosmopolitans at least know of feasible weekend trips or some shit like that. So stop arguing about whether blowjobs are pleasurable for the giver (no, unless I'm the recipient) or tools of the patriarchy (mine is the only), and make with the advice.
Can someone come up with some non-depressing news? I've got absolutely nothing of any interest to say. Iraq: still going badly (in a moment of insanity, I was reassured to read this morning that a couple of missing soldiers were found dead. I had been dreading coverage of them being held and tortured. But you know, dead? Still not good.) And I'm just not coming up with any reason to think anything's going to get better, domestically or internationally. And we're all going to drown when the water levels rise, anyway.
There's an old Sylvia comic strip from the 80's that's been stuck in my head lately. It's a poll:
Ten years from now, what do you think will be voters' primary concern?
- Health Care
- How To Keep Radioactive Mutant Insects Out Of Their Caves.
Cheerful comments, please?
You'll all be happy to know that my liver and pancreas and whatnot are doing just fine. So fine that when the blood work came back my doc feigned doubt that I really could have been downing all that booze and pills. "You must have an iron constitution," she concluded. (Happily, Yes!) I think this study helps explain why. Drinking lots of coffee reduces your risks for cirrhosis dramatically, even if you're a heavy drinker! Just balance that Jack Daniels out with some double espresso and your liver will be thriving, I tell you, thriving! Thus the unfogged health plan moves on. Just be sure not to get your cock slammed in a taxi door like what happened to Labs, because ain't no amount of coffee can fix that.
In Spirit Warriors, the first graphic novel from actor/producer Ste/phen Bald/win, six radical young kids enter the spiritual war zone every day for classic battles of good against evil. Each spirit warrior has his or her own unique ability, moving between the natural and supernatural to fight for their faith and the expansion of God's kingdom.
Just to name a few, among them are "Skate" (an amazing athlete unconfined by his wheelchair), "Pray" (an older girl known as an intercessory prayer warrior), and "David" (a blind boy who sees what others do not).
The Spirit Warriors have given their hearts over to the Lord and will battle for his glory no matter the cost.
You know how I love me some Ste/phen Bald/win.
The Pet Shop Boys encapsulate modern gay history.
For arguably PSB are the sirens of developed world pop culture gayness, more meaningful than Will and Grace and deeper than Dan Savage (although admitedly that wouldn't take much), their songs over the years have traced a cartography of gayness that is a rich vein of allusion and metaphor, covering the multifaceted nature of contemporary gay identity: relationships, love, sex, tricking, HIV, homophobia, fame, shame, and illusion. In honour of their latest release, which Skanque Huore generously got me on her recent trip to the UK, I thought I would share some thoughts on why I think PSB are one of the brightest stars in the gay cultural firmament, not only in my annoyance at the delay in a US release (which I would typify as American cultural narcissism), but also as a recognition of their importance in my own development as a gay man, and the manner in which I imagine my world, through the effect of their music.
Via Notional Slurry.
So, after I finish translating the Meno section in which Socrates leads the slave boy to recollect all the stuff he used to know about square roots in a previous life (and what did he do to deserve getting reborn as a slave in Meno's household, anyway, fail to prove the Pythagorean theorum or something?), I'm off to my first AA meeting! w00t! As I told my sister, I'm getting ready to cross-stitch a big version of the serenity prayer to hang over the sofa, just as soon as they let me use scissors again. Maybe with butterflies, too. No, no, praying child angels a la Precious Thots. That would be way better.
Bravo, Sommer. Bravo.
First, I'm not even remotely sober. We spent the evening at a small party at the house of some friends: the husband's goal throughout the evening was apparently to get everyone drunk enough to fall asleep under his furniture -- a prospect that gets less attractive when you have a six-year-old peeling your eyelids back and asking "Mommy, why are you sleeping on the floor?" But I made a kickass pie for the party: a pastry shell, filled with a layer of chocolate whipped with cream cheese, topped with a layer of strawberries cooked with cornstarch and sugar, topped with a layer of fresh strawberries set in the layer below. People refused to believe I'd made it, rather than having bought it. I am Rose Levy Berenbaum's bitch.
Anyway, funny Fathers' Day story: last night, we're out at dinner, and Newt asks Buck to guess what Newt has gotten him for Fathers' Day. Buck says, "Oh, a bag of rocks?" And Newt's face clouds over and he frowns. "No, it's just very similar." Newt's pre-K had, in fact, had them paint rocks with glitter as Fathers' Day presents.
Anyway, here's hoping all of you out there got your proper adultation for the day.
For once, the relationship described in the Modern Love column doesn't sound intrinsically nightmarish -- there's nothing wrong with a liberal woman falling in love with a guy in the military. You can have a wonderful relationship with someone you disagree wilth about all kinds of things. Admittedly, the fact that the guy involved appears to be a cartoon rather than anything recognizably human could be a problem, but given that the writer also appears to be a cartoon, they're well matched.
No, this one is bizarre on grounds of gun safety. Look at the first two sentences:
MY husband is like the Lone Ranger: he leaves a trail of bullets in his wake. Not silver bullets, but gold 9 millimeters, orange "simunitions" and menacing hollow-points with bronze tips.
I find them at the bottom of the washing machine, next to the pile of mail in our front hall or mixed in a heap of change.
Now, I'm just an urban non-gun-owning liberal, but surely that can't be a sensible way to treat ammunition. After all, do bullets even work after they've been through the wash?
From the Corner:
The al Qaeda attack that almost was, according to an excerpt in Time. In case any Americans have forgotten we're their enemy.
Don't worry. The patriotic Americans at unfogged keep it in mind at all times that the Cornerites are our enemy.
On a more personal note, I learned today that the reason my doctor is pussy-footing around with the phased valium withdrawal is because the other anti-depressants I'm on carry the risk of giving you seizures, and very much more so when your, I dunno, serotonin levels or whatever drop as you go into withdrawal. So, I haven't had any seizures yet, but I have experienced the "aura" twice: this is what epileptic sufferers experience before the seizures. It's kind of cool, actually. Everything looks hyperreal and intensely, crisply, tangible, but also a bit swimmy and glowy. Time slows and you become conscious of your heartbeats, that kind of thing. It does seem to produce the odd sensation that some meaningful information is about to be imparted to you in some obscure fashion. Unfortunately, or rather, fortunately, this is the point at which the nice ladies rush in with the 30mg valium in the little teeny plastic cup. But hey, maybe I'll convert to Gnosticism while I'm here! Hopefully I won't get any actual seizures, though, since having an electrical storm in your brain sounds...well, to be perfectly honest, it sounds kind of cool too, but I might fall and hit my head on something.
Yesterday as I was waiting up at the desk to ask the nurse for some paper for the girls to draw on I got to hear the resident psych explaining to a concerned Chinese family about all the advances they've made in electro-shock therapy in recent years. Nooooooo, thanks. [Rosy-tosied Alameida reflects briefly on the fact that she just expressed mild interest in the experience of having a seizure, and wonders how that comports with what follows.] Nah, still don't want it.
My mom told my dad that I'm in rehab, and he gave his usual bizarrely self-centered response. "Did I tell you that I've been doing some killer baking recently? I should really send our lovely daughter Alameida some yeast." Yeah, I'm basically laying here in the lockdown ward thinking, "if only I had some wild strains of yeast dad had painstakingly cultivated, then I wouldn't be trimming my cuticles a little too agressively with the cuticle trimmer (so as not to bite them, you understand) and totally bleeding all over the place, then having to ball up the tissues and hide them at the bottom of the trash so they don't think I'm suicidal when I'm actually just really bored and giving myself a shitty manicure!" Bleeding stopped, though, I started all over with the moisturizer and the cotton socks, and my manicure and pedicure now look great. A few seizures, some yeast, and I'll be on my way! Um, to mental health!
The funny thing was that my dad asked my mom if I was blogging it, and she was like "can you believe he asked that? What a ridiculous question! Like you would do that!"