5.02.2004

Fashion has finally gotten to the point where women are not attractive. I am talking about flip flops with angled wrap-arounds and UgZ with capris. I am talking about every gaggle of pre-, mid-, post-, and retro-teen you see at a sidewalk encounter, touching and commenting as if the purpose were to determine a best of breed.

"Wow, that skirt is so cute!"
"That shirt is wonderful. Annie had one like that and I used to borrow it, but then we went to..."

That's when most males and higher animals zone out and start looking for an oncoming bus. The story always ends up that someone lost the top, they are no longer friends because of it, and she still has this skirt of mine that I can't get back. Everyone nods knowingly.

Not once in this conversation does anyone say, "You look great." Usually, there is no mention of demeanor, expression, or even complexion - save to comment on how this product or that could improve an isolated piece. Therein lies the problem. There is no whole woman.

4.28.2004

Michael Milken, the former billionaire felon debunked by the later-mayor of the City which he once ruled has now published a cook-book. Take that Martha Stewart!

At least we know the wonderous thing we can do in our very own kitchens are not the cause of malfeasance.

4.16.2004

2 thoughts on time.

* Sure, smart takes time, but I can be stupid blisteringly fast.

* Late asymptotically approaches never, such that the former is always better than the latter, but only to an infinitely diminishing degree.

3.31.2004

Perhaps the violence is good for us.

There is an ebb and flow to war. We fight, we die, and we are disgusted. Then we return home to our sanguine traditions, become self important and self righteous. By now, a generation has passed, taking with it the scarred reality of war. The new generation, seeing only heroes, marches off once more to start the cycle.

Maybe, then, the violence on TV isn’t all that bad. Sure, kids are kicking the bejesus out of each other in back yard imitating Jet Li’s latest computer assisted take off maneuver, but is that so different from the generation before? We threw grenades, stormed bunkers, and compared the relative strengths and witnesses of Christmas and birthday gifts cum armaments. “Look! This one actually recoils!” “Hey, this one’s painted camo!” “Why do they have to put these stupid orange things on the end?” Realism was the name of the game. We were all set too, considering that most warfare today does in fact require a small team of young men to invade a living room or backyard. Little did we know.

That’s the old historiography. The new historiography might take as its model not the cyclical market model, but that of the bursting techno-bubble seen recently and still felt. Perhaps WWI and II were not the next wave since the 100 years war, the various revolutions, armadas, d├ętentes, and armistices. “Armistices”— perhaps one of the most awkward plurals in the English language. Perhaps WWI and WWII were the bubble of the industrial revolution. Even we did not understand the level of devastation we could wield through mass production, and as a result, we spent the better part of 4 decades cleaning up the mess. In that case, the Cold War stayed cold, not from the offsetting interests of conflicting ideologies, but from the collective fear of our own technology. Traders today see it in the inching and retreating market indexes, inching hesitatingly upwards so as to show none of the prior hedonistic exuberance. The message passed to generations future is simple: don’t chase any innovation too far too fast. We’ve done it twice in rapid succession and the fallout isn’t pretty.

In either case, we set up for a new millennium. If history is regressively predictive, we will see a major conflict in the first two decades. (WWI, 1914-1919; War of 1812, War of Spanish and Succession, 1702-1713; and Thirty Years War 1618.). Of course, one can say that of any part of any year, but even so, we may have broken at least part of the cycle. Now that every 12 year old in America as seen a violate clash on screen, seen a man’s head ripped off, seen the news reports on bombings and battles. Perhaps with an information economy, there are enough images to let people relive these instances in more visceral detail. Maybe now, when we need not go out to the battlefield to see the horror it wreaks, we can spend more time remembering before we rush to justify shiny memorials. And, yes, we are less sensitive to violence in some ways. No, I don’t think that visuals can make up for reality. But I do have faith that people can readily distinguish reality from unreality – perhaps more so now as we’ve grown discerning in our taste for special effects. I have faith that people can use these images to better relate to others what war really means.

On the other hand, there are the governments that send the troops to war. The images are there now, but will they be shown as the hue and cry to battle sounds. Perhaps it will; perhaps a few with the will to disseminate these images will remind the rest of us that pride and honor and power are no match for dirty, hungry, alone and afraid. Then, maybe this violence has not been so bad for us.

3.28.2004

All quiet on the frontage road.

We'’ve sent a few of our young out on the frontage road once more. We do this every so often, as an executive might do a cat stretch behind his big mahogany desk. The executive survives, but the circulation is a little different. There, the similarity ends.

In WWI, we sent young boys to kill one another for great causes they soon forgot, along with the feel of warm sheets and wet lips. They came back to a dejected nation, a lackluster economy. WWII saw the next set of side road walkers out like flare signaling the coming of the Great White Fleet. Rosie now had a job when John came home. Besides, he'’d seen too much in the sands and forests to care much for lawns and beaches.

The VA became a trap-house for these men. Now poor, disheveled and detached. We'd recharacterized their reality out there, and did nothing to resolve it on the way home.

Korea and Vietnam. This time, the roads are trails, muddy and pock-marked; the fights closer; the cause not valiant. And again, glazed eyed old men came back, sat through their early twenties and half-lived their half lives. Again, we ignored them. Instead, we etched their friends into dead stone so that they could have companionship.

They are a nation within us. For those who doubt it, they rally to a black flag. Now, they look at undoubtedly at our next detachment to the frontage road. Through the sandy plumes, they see more worn eye-lids and sad jaws. They see it happening now. These young men go off to war. Behind them, others find new jobs, build equity, and get married. They joined to find their own riding lawnmower and an acre or two. Instead, they ride on an unpaved road next to our own. They will overtake us to wisdom, but we when we meet them, we will have taken their livelihood but we will call them heroes.

[ The US military is well known as a disproportionately minority force. (for some numbers, see: this link). It is disproportionately less educated. It is disproportionately poor. Now, with thousands of reservists in Iraq and elsewhere, the same military which promises education, experience and dignity, fails to provide the bare minimum - it does not pay on time. Soldiers stealing moments in a tent to pore over mementos of familiarity are instead met with tales of missed payments, bad credit, resulting stress, or worse - lack of funds to buy essentials. ]

3.25.2004

The difference between mincing metaphors and great collage depends on the delicate overlap and separation of the many jagged pieces.

There is an old joke that puts the Pope in a limo as he gets off the plane. The pontificus maximus, having never driven himself, asks the friendly driver if he can have a go. Unfortunately, being not amongst the more athletic of vicars, the Holy See proves a holy terror on the road and is soon pulled over. The policeman is then heard to call in a reckless driving offense for a limo. Asked about the identity of the passengers, he knocks on the tinted driver’s side window, catches severe shock, and replies, “I have no idea, but the Pope is driving!”

Toss the coin once and we find a yellow cab in Columbus circle traffic. Foreward, a medallion lies bolted on the hood bearing a ribbon designed by the passenger – your writer, now a law student returning from one of many summer associate interviews in Midtown. The weather is blustery, the upholstery more than decidedly plastic, and the noise – well it is as advertised. The friendly conversation, broken by the driver’s Middle Eastern origin but patched by his enthusiasm, turns to the almost to intimate topic of life station. Meet a stranger, provide an intimate snapshot with editorial commentary about your current developmental coordinates. Those are the rules. I say I am a law student, trying to find a single desk in a big city. He says his seat is more temporary. Four months out of the year, he drives a faceless cab. This father sends the proceeds to a family he misses at home, in Egypt. He stops for prayers 5 times a day, eats well, meets friends, and finally returns from his tour to his first love. That is, theoretical mathematics. Y’see, I got in a cab with perhaps the most overqualified driver imaginable. What’s a traffic circle to a master of Diff EQ, and what would might that call to dispatch sound like?

3.24.2004

Sometimes, you just need a happy tune stuck in your head on incessant replay. Our current selection: "The kids song" by Moxy Fruvous. A snippet:

"The markers that I just got are non-toxic
And my sister says the lake is quite dioxic
I don't know what these words mean,
I just want to play where it's clean
But something in the backyard make my dog sick.
Is there something you like? (squirt-gunning my dog!)
Is there something you hate? (when my turtle ate my gerbil)
Is it fun to take a bath (no...sometimes...yes) balbum-(yes, no,
sometimes, yeah)
Should Quebec separate?
Well, we'll try and handle that for you
And make a better world, so you can have kids too."

Cheesy? Yes, but we should never underestimate the power of non-chalant happiness. It is, after all, what we often deem "worth fighting for".

3.23.2004

One should perhaps find it ironic that the "freedom" of the information superhighway has a multi-million dollar corporate bottleneck. It's name is VeriSign and it currently controls all .com and .net registrations. While others fight against cyber- and typo-squatting, Verisign is redirected misspelled URLs to a banner-ad studded page on its own servers.

There is a point at which the free market needs regulation: when a private entity controls limited public goods. .com is the transmission band of the new epoch. It should be in the hands of national, and perhaps international, regulators.

www.recallverisign.com
Tangential reactions to "In the beginning there was the Command Line" by Neal Stephenson:

Post modernism does not work because of the negative implications of Cartesian principles. First, post-modernism is the belief in relative values and norms. Thus, nobody can "get it" because the basic belief is that there is no "it". That, however, in itself belies a belief in a value system. Descartes desconstructed understanding and realized that the perception of self-awareness, the mere ability to question, was itself a form of knowledge. More importantly, it was not one which a person could avoid. If you try to not question, that's thinking too. The key here is that this perception is a positive value, not a negative one. It exists separately from the rest of the knowledge that has been eschewed to reveal it - it is more than the mere absence of it. Same goes for post-modernism. Originally set up as a counter-cultural movement, post-modernism is itself a culture. It has values independent of the previous culture which it rejected.

Taking a few examples: Post modernism is biased against religion. Ideally, post-modernism argues that everyone can practice religion, but nobody is right. However, this manifests itself as a devaluation of the religion and religious belief. There is a similar de-emphasis on the stratification of the knowledge, so that it is not merely that different accounts of, say, an historical event can be valid, but that the whole business of determining what actually happened seems somewhat futile.

And this is why post modernism does not work. By existing as a value system in and of itself, it is definitionally a modernist institution, with its own rules and beliefs. Hence, there is no post-modernism. On a similar note, as a modernist institution, post-modernism is destined to fail. It lacks a positive goal. Human institutions with negative goal - "Anti-anything" societies cannot exist independently and are too narrowly focused to succeed in the long term. Religion, while oppressive, offers salvation. Democracy offers freedom. Capitalism offers opportunity, while socialism offers equality. Post modernism just offers lassitude. It devalues ideals, and does not offer any sort of success toward which to reach. Such institutions have never lasted because they lack popular appeal. Perhaps that is why the notion is largely the purview of wild-haired individuals in old stone buildings.

3.22.2004

See, in the 60's and 70's, the US ended up mired down in the Vietnam conflict. That prompted the hippie movement in the US to adopt the now-famous slogan, "make love, not war." That inevitably caused the more simple minded grunts to undue their bible belts and go looking or a little Cong man-meat. Well after more than a few boys came home in bags requiring very closed coffins and a few others had bizarre if somewhat disturbingly sensual experiences, they came home to find that their literalism was misplaced.

Feeling deeply embarrassed and insecure, they went through the four stages of shock.

Shock - the 80's AIDS epidemic
Denial - Don't ask, don't tell
Anger - the "Defense of Marriage Act"
and we're still waiting for acceptance.

And you always wondered what those curmudgeons had gotten up their butts.

ShareThis