Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Not the West’s War

(Don't take me too seriously here; I'm only half joking)


"Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (For the right): They rehearse the Signs of God all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration.

They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: They are in the ranks of the righteous.

Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for God knoweth well those that do right.

Those who reject Faith,- neither their possessions nor their (numerous) progeny will avail them aught against God: They will be companions of the Fire,- dwelling therein (for ever)."

Al 'Imran 113 – 117

The Glorious Qur'an


This term – "People of the Book", is a recurrent theme, it would seem, throughout the Qur'an. I'd remembered it from my experience in speaking with Mohammad and T.Q. all those years ago at a local mosque in Garden Grove and had myself encountered it, if only in passing, as I had begun reading the book some years back before I'd reasoned that I'd be best off reading the Old and New Testaments first (the third book of the Qur'an being as far as I'd made it). A foundation in societal development, if you will; to understand written history in how it impacted the world, that is to say—chronologically, seemed the only viable course of study. However, the experience and the conversations stuck with me and there were many things I had remembered about my brief wade in Islam, among them: the Shahada (Lā ilaha illal-Lāh, Muhammadun rasūlula-Lāh ("There is no God, but God. Mohammad is the prophet of God"), the justification for a woman's "modesty", the proclamation of Mohammad's saying, "Seek knowledge from cradle to grave" (which I still follow devoutly) on a gigantic banner hanging over the Commons; and most notably, the earnest assertion (from three sources including Dr. Siddiqi) that Christians and Jews are "People of the Book". Not heathens, but rather Islamic brethren who had yet found the true path. They are to be respected and protected certain rights under the Sharia (Islamic Law). All others are enemies of Allah.

The common ancestry of the Abrahamic religions has often baffled me for fleeting, pensive moments; however, the congruency between their fervent assertions and constant bickering to that of the same between my brother and I, has often justified in my mind as just being the conflict that kinship fosters. Blood has been spilled, I recant: much blood has been spilled in the name of either brother (like Kane and Able, if you will; though perhaps cousin is a more fitting correlation) and angry words have been shouted, threatened and echoed throughout the world, throughout time; however, I have seen these as merely the tense episodes of siblings or cousins, and am personally more apt to seeing the similarities: ancestral, moral and religious, that bind the three cultures together all the way back (as they would have it) to the creation of all things. After all, each succeeding religion devoutly follows the core tenants of the one preceding it and, at their core structure, splinter merely from the word 'prophet' (upon which you'll find further divisions within each family, i.e. Catholic/Protestant…, Shi'a/Sunni…, Hasidim/Messianic/Jews for Jesus…).

To reiterate: tensions have merely been blown out of proportion when we talk about the Christian denominational, or Muslim denominational conflicts; or the greater disparities of the cousin conflict of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. After all, they're all "People of the Book", which is why I am always so piqued by their warring over their disparities, as opposed to focusing on their similarities in moral integrity and family structure (not to mention common lineage)… besides, ultimately aren't heathens the true opposition to all three of these groups? The godless, the polytheistic (assuming Christianity is monotheistic, as it professes itself to be) and the materialistic…? The Hindu, Buddhist, Laoist, Taoist, Maoist, Tribal and Atheist…? The ones who core is not centered on the acceptance of there be only one true God: the Alpha and the Omega, or Allah--the Supreme? From what I am to understand, this is the true enemy of all three of these religions and these are the dissenting beliefs that El/Jehovah/Allah demonize and claim to be the tenants of Satan and of wicked men. These are the ones with no common ancestry, no linear belief and often practicing of ritual deemed perverse or evil by all three of the Abrahamic scriptures. This is where my curiosity piques.

Russia dispelled state religion, did well to snuff out the Orthodox Church and greatly marginalize all forms of religious practice in each of its Republics. It stopped short of eradicating every evident existence of religious practice within its borders; persecuted it harshly, but did not utterly destroy it to nothingness. China has a core basis of Hans, practicing spirituality pertaining to the three Asian –ist religions (Buddhist, Lao- and Tao-) all succumbing to the ever-dictating Maoist principles of fascist socialism (which they care to call Communism), or what I like to call: ruling by iron-clad, air-tight government repression and distortion of facts, histories and media. Machiavells!

37*125'N x 74*926'E – China: approximately 10 miles from the borders of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan; and within 200 miles of the Kyrgyzstani and Indian borders. Desolate as it may be, this direction is within 100 miles of multiple Chinese villages and towns and my only question is: if there is no CIA presence in the Western Chinese border region… why, is there no presence here? Am I giving away some well-guarded, State secret… I should surely hope not; however, it would seem, as an American, that many of our rifts and conflicts that we're currently engaged in seem to bog us down, strengthen China's protectionist policies and embolden our Islamic Jihadist foe in the region. In short: we get weaker and our enemies get stronger.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The is an axiom to warfare that I do not feel we're explicitly exploiting enough, I would say, and one that imposes the sort of advantages that were unattainable in our past meddling with regional revolutionary arms, because frankly, we chose a side. The Iranians over the Iraqis and then Saddam over the Ayatollah, the Afghanis over the Russians and our explicit support of the Israelis over Pan-Arabia have all fallen by the wayside and we have been weakened, threatened and exposed as a result of our unilateral support for one side of each of these conflicts, even if it was unilateral support for either side at different times. So what of the axial-application to a powderkeg, so long overdue that it has increased, in folds, its explosive capabilities; though executed by ghosting our pressures and disguising them behind very plausible uprisings? Tibet, anyone? How about Kashmir…? Or how about the fact that Iran is thinly removed from this border region and wholly saturated in the ideology that a conflict between Pan-Islam and "heathen" China would pose?? Or how about the fact that China, as we know them to react, would never allow such dissent to rise in their nation!? How about using our enemies' (if that's indeed what they are) weaknesses against them:

Fundamentalist Islam – passionate, unwaveringly missionary ideologues hell-bent on the conversion or death of all non-Muslims

The Republic of China – a cold, calculated government who has a history of repressing uprisings by even their own native Hans with brute force and with little regard for human life, little lone minorities such as religious zealots who would pose a serious threat to the State's non-religious, pan-Chinese principles and goals

Pakistan – the world's most prevalent jihadist state

India – there has been conflict in Kashmir and Tibet for centuries, given India's very liberal religious acceptance, yet deeply-rooted polytheistic roots, which can't seem to find acceptance in either of its two major neighbors

China/Pakistan/India – standing armies, readied militias and "the bomb"

"Light a match!"

And now enter the Uighur, a Turkic-Muslim nation historically residing in Western China. The match?

It's still far too early to know what kind of spark, if any, the current Uighur rebellion will have inside China and moreover, the world as we know it; however, it is difficult to deny that with over 150 reportedly dead and another 800-plus injured, that the Uighur have made an impact on the region. The Chinese government, citing damage to over 400 combined vehicles and shops, has expectedly taken to their totalitarian tactics to muffle the murmurs of a wider rebellion; not only physically with shields and batons, but also technologically, again utilizing the Chinese damage control playbook to its unchanging execution of jamming mobile phone service and practically eliminating web usage throughout the region.

This is not uncommon, as any knowledgeable world citizen knows, as these are the very attacks on free press and peaceful assembly rights that the Chinese have repeatedly enacted from the Tiananmen Square Massacre to the long-standing, intermittent peaks of Tibetan protest, as they've encountered over the past twenty-some-odd years and surely well before. Yet I have not yet heard the outcry of the world just the same as has always been the case in the overbearing, shutdown of Buddhist resistance and infact, have heard very little at all, whether it be in the news or on social networking sites, whom always seem to have the first word and many loquacious ones to follow about any attack on peaceful assembly. Perhaps, I admit, it may be because the reports are fairly preliminary and the just amount of information has yet to surface for people to be keenly aware of the situation; however, I'm more inclined to think that it's because this is not a situation, nor a people we are familiar with and unlike the historically placid nature of Buddhist monks, the certain labels Muslims have garnered for themselves in society (Western media, particularly) have eroded at public sympathy even when it's a peaceful sect of an ultimately peaceful religion.

Iran has been an anomaly, in part due to the fact that Iran is, in itself an anomaly. A strong-willed, highly-intelligent and well-educated populace as a whole, with foundational strength in information gathering and a historic bent toward Western culture that neither emulates, nor role models any other nation in the world. It is wholly its own and has a history that is uniquely tied to Western culture, despite its progress-disadvantaged geographic location in the world. Children have listened to the rhetoric for a generation now and about the great uprising and overthrow of "The Great Satan", and now hear from their cousins in the American Diaspora and wonder just what exactly was gained. Furthermore, they have the revolutionary spirit in them and seem adamant to establish an identity of their own, separate from not only the rest of the world (however, in line with democratic principles), but from their societal elders as well. It should be no surprise that young Iranians have taken to the streets as they have, much because pockets of the nation lives in secret as Christians; but more so because Iranian history, or Persian lore, is loaded with epic, mythical heroes fighting for the glory of Iran, yet remain a culture so suffused with Zoroastrianism and Sikhism that Islam has difficulty monopolizing the identity of the Iranian people. In truth, anything short of Persian or Iranian does.

But Western China and the frontier of Asia is not Iran, is not as ingrained into the minds of the Western world and is not nearly as acculturated by broader societies of progressive thought. It's a marginally poor region of the world, ill-educated and so long under the territorial control of so many different sects of society: the Rus, Mongols, Persians, Ottomans, Soviets and Chinese; that it has become the depressed, forgotten land where their most significant connection to the outside world has come thru the heavily monitored channels of socialist, state media. We don't know much about them, if anything at all, and what they know of us is undeniably skewed in practically every way. That's why it's called, "The Frontier".

Though if time and globalization has taught us anything, it's that if there is knowledge to be gained, somebody will seek it out. That if there is information dissemination within the population at all, whispers of another way will indelibly be spoken; the establishment will be questioned, people will become anxious and the urge for freedom and justice will eventually seep in. Repression can only last as long as the people know only lies and in the case of the Uighur, glimmers of truth have crept in.

They say their revolution is for justice: to bring forth the guilty Hans who killed their Uighur brethren in a factory, though were let off easily. They say that it is because they are a repressed people, a minority that is looked upon unfavorably in contrast to "native" Chinese; which, again, is an issue of justice. Fundamental human rights—"truths", have taken root in the minds of the Uighur.

So much of this world so constantly stands on the brink and I don't think this sentiment is reserved only for doomsayers, nor Western China. It's difficult to deny the pockets of combustible hot air, as exacerbated by the Authoritative (our own nation included, often… sadly) and increased in magnitude by the fanaticism of ideologues of all classes and isms. The maxim of mankind is that we're both a destructive and resilient race; both passionate and calculated, and both bitter and pragmatic… for me, this makes the future always uncertain and I'm brave enough to believe that Aristotelian optimism and Eastern complementarity are not only complementary, but will generally prevail over Platoan, pessimistic duality. Again, I say "generally", which is plausible save our arrival at the ultimate conclusion of our existence as a race, which seems inevitable in that there can only be one true ending, because anything other is just a continuance.

With that being said, military and imperial strategy are Platoan at their core (or, perhaps more specifically, Machiavellian) and always seek to exploit any exposed weakness in their enemy. If the CIA is being run with any pragmatic direction what-so-ever, then the ability to control Eastern adversaries to Western dominance (or, continuation of our way of life, to justify it) should be so glaringly obvious that new born monkeys could devise a plan to secure our hegemony for decades, if not centuries to come.

Or to justify Plato, if we are to ultimately arrive at the only logical conclusion of our continued way of life and deconstruct our one human race into various "races" of phenotype or ideology for the pompous and wholly ignorant fight to Machiavellian survival: then we, as the Free Peoples, need to recognize that our enemies are crusading with an undaunted fortitude, and need to seize this opportunity to pit our rising adversaries against each other when core ideologies come into direct conflict in the form of ideological riots in repressive spheres.

(Or to justify Nihilist… what the hell does any of it matter anyway?)

However, I still believe in Aristotle, John Locke, the Framers and the voice of the Iranian People; I still feel that inevitability exists only for those who choose to lose faith in humanity and in the resilient, calculated and pragmatic aspects of our hearts, minds and souls. And should the world do battle for control of those hearts, minds and souls; well then I shall forever choose the side who allows me to be free, even if it ultimately means death, because that is cause worth dying for in my opinion.

Though if we are just moving along an inevitable path and Machiavells do wield the agendas and relations of this nation, in particular, then I have to wonder… what the hell are you guys doing? If this is, as you see it, the War for our way of life and, indeed, for our lives in total; then the Uighur have just laid at your feet a golden opportunity to retain our Western hegemony and if it too should fall by the wayside, then I call for the removal of Director Leon Panetta from his post, because agree with your tactics, philosophies and viewpoints, or not… you're failing miserably in your job.

"The People of the Book" are uprising against "heathens" and we shouldn't even have to be visible in the region to send this catawampus spinning top into complete disarray. To find the region we've found ourselves bogged down in now, and the foreseeable battleground of the future drowning in armed conflict, rebellion and repression. If the Chinese quiet their own native peoples with a heavy hand, then we can only imagine the intensity of their repression against Islamic mobs. If the Muslims hate us, who tend to be a God-fearing, Christian region of the world (at least in perception); then we can only imagine their fervent distaste for a godless, communist regime, in theory.

And you call yourselves an "Intelligence Agency".

Here's where history and the Qur'an can work for us. After all, "we've merely lost our way"; they are sinners to the core and by choice… where are all the Machiavells?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

“Pollen in the Spring, like Snow in the Fall”

Have you ever seen the pollen fall like cotton flakes, like a late spring snow blanketing Chicago? How it flitters and floats from crestfallen skies that rise in whites of high exposure, deepening shades, turn gray and then blue and where the sun hides behind it, shines with golden hues? Down in the nitty-gritty of the city that once was a scrap yard of disrepair and destruction, snuggled between the bending banks of the summer-aqua river, the road and century-old tracks; from where the sun shines, two lovers stand hand-in-hand in the lighted windows of shadows of great rusted ruins. If God is alive and the sun is his eye, then the snowy pollen flowed straight from his bright eye like tickling tears, from behind the steel girders, silhouettes as they were against the copper sky… a thousand feet of welded webbing casting longer shadows toward the East while the sun descends westerly. If God is alive then this is seemingly why, but in the weather coming out so perfectly and the sun somehow shining, still shaded by colossal cotton clouds; there rests heavy the feeling that there are still other eyes smiling down from that Angel's Heaven today. Mothers gone away still forever live in their children's hearts each day.

The best philosophers to our lives are those who know us best, I say… and while two lovers stand hand-in-hand, dear friends lament that what is passed is merely foundation, and that as such beauty can be found in the groundwork alone that the edifice of love to be constructed henceforth will tower over this city of century-long ambitions like a crystal cathedral of stratospheric heights. In the minds of those whose knowledge is less known: restoration, faith, enlightenment and confidence is emboldened by each word of the preacher, the teacher, the songbirds and the poet; that these lovers joined and bound in perfect ceremony, with love and adoration of those who love them most, shall rise above the plagues of our times and continue on forever, beyond this life's endeavor and remain unbroken like the rings avowed and shared promise spoken.

There's much to be made of modesty. Pure matrimony is the only true, bright filler for empty hearts and as so seems the consecration of these two lovers, the kaleidoscope of late spring blossoms comes so easily and resplendently; radiance that on any other day would be the showcase of the grounds, but today, like the sun, dims in the effervescent luminescence of pure hearts purely aglow beneath a blossom-crowned alter. The essence of life—warm blood, bubbling so fervently that the skin of the bride chills into excited goosebumps, as evident as mountains rising over prairies. Lovers know the feeling of a warm tide rising high, swelling into blushing cheeks and phosphorescent eyes, joyfully wide so that the warmth may escape thru a streak of blazing tears and so intent on not missing a moment of the sharing of souls. The groom's face is a reprise, clearly pure and surely a mirror in that his eyes are both reflective and sheer. He blushes and smiles, though all the while maintains a confident repose.

Have you ever seen two bodies become light and pure energy and collide in a thundering, whirling wonderment of oneness? Like two hurricanes (their souls) of wild passion and exciting lightning, fusing, aligning, amidst the complicity and composure of the world surrounding? Just as the elements came together on this day to create a perfect arena of warmth, water and white; so too came together two lovers today, in perfect harmony for the matrimony of life.

Blesséd are the eyes, which have seen such majesty;

Blesséd are the souls, which have known such revelry.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

‘Wet Dreams’

*[indicates dreaming]


[There was something constant in the air; however, I couldn't feel whether it was cool, warm, dry or moist, only that it was there and so evident that it was almost tangible. I lie on the bed of my beautiful lover, alone and all around me there are lights and shadows rising and relinquishing in rolling patterns across every photo and trinket used as decoration from the ceiling to the floor. It was a comfortable day in San Francisco and the room was exactly as I remember it, every picture awkwardly cocked as it was in real life; the printed red-patterns on the white tasseled scarf hanging from above the bed like a small canopy that was the unofficial centerpiece to the room. Outside the doors it was the daytime and the sky was blue, spotted with random white, fluffy clouds sprawling across the bay from Oakland to the shore and I could see the neighboring apartments as the drawn white curtains opened up to Golden Gate Street and its colorful array of continually changing (however, still continuous) edifices as they approached six stories, yet still fell in the shadows of the green leaves of the tall trees of Golden Gate Park rising above them. It was a perfect San Francisco day and I hadn't much understood the meaning of the dream yet.]

I had only been asleep for just over two hours.

[As my head hang watching the street sloping away from me down to the T at Arguello a sudden shock showered down upon me. The sprinklers (or something) in the room had exploded and the water rained down in sheets, seeming as if it came from the ceiling itself in waves as it raced across from window to far wall, wide as was the room. I could begin to feel the wetness on my face.]

I suddenly came to the realization that the rain was not a dream and, what the hell!? I'm actually wet!!!

The room was dark because it was early (4:21am, I'd discover shortly); however, when my eyes opened, having been asleep they adjusted quickly enough and I was facing the closet doors (mirrored from floor to ceiling) and could see the silhouettes of two familiar figures standing tall in the darkness at the doorway behind me. I awoke quickly and muttered something to myself and quickly pulled my golden comforter high to cover myself and Ali, who was sleeping beside me. Giggling from the shadowed marauders ensued as they continued to rain reign upon us from the doorway. For a full fifteen seconds or more, the aquatic ambush continued as the comforter had become a golden shield (much like Batman's cape, Ali would later remark) and did well to block practically the entire duration of the attack and divert the soaking to the closet doors. This monstrous attack was of my own creation.

Electronics were nearby and I drew attention to their presence, at which point I began to rise and the two gunman withdrew, disappearing into the darkness from the doorway. We sat up as we heard the giggling dissipate in the clatter of klutzy footsteps clumsily maneuvering corners; doors opening, closing; blinds shuffling, gates clinging and they faded into car doors and screeching tires as they fled.

Ali and I sat there dumbfounded by the massacre of the closet door as we quickly gathered what'd just happened and let out smiles, smirks and laughter; both at the happening, itself and at the epic failure of the attack in its intended soaking purposes.

They'd tried. Diligently and commendably, they tried to assassinate us as we lie sleeping, mid-morning. However, all it did was create mirth for the attempt and failure and bring us closer together, for one side of the bed remained unsleepable for the rest of the night.

This is the account of the first nighttime assassination attempt of Super Soaker Summerfest Oh-NINE!!! I'd like you all to read it carefully and understand it's all in good fun. So when it happens to you, albeit from me or another… don't you get mad… you've entered into this game knowing the consequences. This is your last chance to withdraw for beyond here… Alls Fair in Water War.

SuperSoakerSummerFest Oh-NINE! Rules:

  1. You may not fire upon a competitor who is actively using, or in close proximity to exposed electronics (i.e. computers, cell phones, iPods, etc…). It is the responsibility of the electronic's owner to properly conceal, protect, or be without unexposed electronics, such as those kept in pockets. If you are fired upon and your phone or iPod is in your pocket and is ruined, that is your own damn fault and the cost of replacing it falls upon you, and you alone. Don't get mad. You've been forewarned.

    I.2    If you fire upon someone with exposed electronics (or within proximity to) and ruin the device(s), that is the attacker's responsibility and they must replace the electronics immediately. This is for the sake of understanding, peace of mind, rules enforcement and avoiding friends kicking each other's asses out of spite, hate, or retaliation. So be careful and aware when attacking.

  2. You may not fire upon a competitor who is dressed and on their way to work.

    II.2    You may not fire upon a competitor who is at work, nor inside the work place. Apparently this is not inherent in the primary rule, itself and requires a Supreme Court-like ruling. Breaks from work and making an appointment with appropriate competitors; however, are fair game. So you'd do well to have a change of clothes with you at all times.

  3. You may not fire upon a person when you cannot be retaliated against. Period.
  4. Stun Guns are not a part of SuperSoakerSummerFest Oh-NINE! (Nick) And therefore cannot be used on wet peoples.
  5. Water guns may be filled with water and water only. Water-based dyes (ones that will not stain, this does not include food coloring) are acceptable. But liquids such as alcohol, soda and vinegar (Nick)… are NOT acceptable and will likely create a fisticuffs situation. Let's try to avoid these at all costs. That's why the rules are in place.
  6. If you are attacked indoors, you'd be best ready to retaliate. If someone escapes an indoor attack situation dry, they are not responsible for cleaning up any of the mess (but are still responsible for damaged electronics). Anyone who is hit during the indoors attack is the party (parties) responsible for cleaning up the mess (this includes if the attacker is hit). In short, all parties hit are responsible for cleaning up the mess. Rewards in omissions go to those who escape unscathed. After all, this is a competition of sorts. This rule does not negate either part of rule II. Work (unless an appropriate appointment is made) is still off-limits.
  7. If you choose to continue on with SuperSoakerSummerFest Oh-NINE! You must adhere to all rules, especially the most important rule… DO NOT GET PISSED! I have a feeling this may be a test in some people's senses of humor and patience (as have been many of our friendships over the years, yet still we all love to hang with each other). If you're upset, find a way to retaliate via the game itself and slake your anger with redemption and vendetta. This is supposed to be fun. (I was attacked in bed and frankly, I thought it was hilarious). So lighten-up Kimosabe… we're all friends here. Don't be such a tight wad.

Beyond that. Dress appropriately (boardshorts and t-shirts would be a wise decision for the majority of summer when possible, methinks). Be certain to carry a change of clothes with you at all times. Jahspeed and for the sake of everyone's enjoyment, employment and easy-going summer attitudes, adhere to the rules like gentleman and ladies and do not get angry. For christsakes… it's water!!! It will dry. I promise you.

I shall let you know who all is fair game by the end of the week. In the meantime… check out this video for this awesome event we're participating in whenever it makes it back to this area.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Big Brother…? Big Mother, Big Father.

Many of you may know the story by now of the couple in Holland Township, New Jersey, who had opted to transgress monotony in their childrens' names by giving them controversial, albeit unique aliases. The article was first run nationally back in December 2008 and I had initially found it posted under the 'Weird News' section on MSNBC.com; however, it was only a matter of hours before "weird news" became headline news as public outcry catapulted the story into the limelight. Adolph Hitler was alive and well (in name that is) in the body of a three year old son of New Jersey. Adolph Hitler Campbell, who was turning three, was denied his name on a birthday cake by a local grocer because they'd found the material offensive and reserved their right to refuse service on such grounds. What was more shocking (surprisingly in retrospect) is that the Campbell parents had two other children—daughters with equally ire-invoking connotations: JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell. Within days the Campbells' had received excessive hate mail, including death threats and had been publicly rebuked by the grocer and public alike, labeled "racists" (I wonder why) and dragged thru the press for their parental judgment.

Case in point, after all, who in a sane frame of mind names their child any of the aforementioned names and then derides people as intolerant in the press for not seeing passed the name to find (fair argument) healthy children who apparently do have friends that are of mixed races (no confirmation on the Jewish heritage of said friends, though).

"A name's a name," said Heath Campbell (Adolph's father) in the media, which was later followed by his explanation that he wanted his son to have that name, because "no one else in the world would have that name."

True. Then again, it's unlikely that anyone in the world would have the name New Jersey Heathson Campbell, as well… so the name does call to wonder.

Fast-forward one month, nearly coinciding with Barack Obama's inauguration into office, the Campbell's found themselves robbed of their three children, taken into state custody without an immediate explanation as to why. The 'why', apparently, was due to an allegation of abuse brought forward by a neighbor… one neighbor, with no witness, evidence nor support for her claim; however, after one baseless abuse allegation, the kids were taken into "protective" custody and tossed into the system. Pragmatism can't stand to see it was for any other reason short of the names themselves. We dream of so much more; but can only expect less.

The reason I bring this up and the reason I mention this now is because the Internet headlines are again being swamped in the dereliction of common sense, causing an impetuous and questionable decision made at the government level that appears to exacerbate the ballooning view that we have truly arrived at a new level of Socialism (Did you know that in Sweden it is required that all child names be registered with the tax bureau, who then retains the authority to deny parents' rights to name their children whatever they decide?).

A Minnesota family has recently found themselves under the microscope of public scrutiny for their decision to bypass chemotherapy for their 13-year old boy, Daniel (Hauser), who suffers from Hodgkins Lymphoma. Citing their religious values as standing contradictory to the treatment of chemotherapy and like medicines, they have ingrained these philosophies deep into their 13-year old's mind, so that he himself has denied the treatment. Both parents and son have denied the treatment that could potentially save Daniel's life (which medical professionals deem is very limited should he not receive proper treatment) and decided to seek alternative forms of medicine for him that are congruent with their religious practices. However, Brown District Judge John Rodenberg ruled last Friday that the Hausers were being "medically negligent" toward their child in not seeking chemotherapy treatment and issued a court-ordered X-ray of Daniel's chest and to seek an oncologist to continue treatment by a Tuesday deadline (today).

Today in court, Anthony Hauser was present in court; however, his wife and son were absent. When asked where they were, he'd mentioned that she'd said she was leaving and that he did not know where they had gone. A warrant has successively been issued for Colleen Hauser's arrest.

This is yet another example of government encroachment into the lives of private citizens, and whether or not sometimes a firmer parental hand is needed in dealing with the public, and whether our freedoms are too "free" for people to make the "right" decisions.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Herein lay my fear of the Obama Administration. I still shall not pass judgment on him, his policies, or his Administration itself before the eighteen month benchmark I'd allotted him to find some firm hold and stalwart signs of pushback; however, it is the social restrictions posed by the very ideas of 'Big Government' itself that leer ominously and dangerously beneath the intensive, eye-grabbing issues of the economy, automotive crisis, dwindling social security funds, depleted state budgets and persistent wars. That with liberals, social consciousness becomes so embedded in their philosophies that it mutates into an overt form of societal parenting and righteousness that contends, if not surpasses the likes of the "moral right" that we've seen for the past fifteen years. The "Newton's Cradle" is in full swing, as I'd so terrifyingly mentioned in my letter to the President on my myspace blog, and each of these cases seem as forbearers to an approaching State control that could culminate partially, if not fully in something not too distant from the Swedish "Naming Law".

Just where exactly are our rights retained, I ask? Are we empowered to our liberty and freedom by the government itself, or by the Supreme Law of the Land—The Constitution? For its words, which are, granted, "interpreted" differently by different people; do remain firm in their lexicon that when speech or religion are at play, the government has no say. We have understandably deviated from these absolutes in numerous amendments and Supreme Court cases in the past: 1919 Schenk gave us a clause restricting free speech that posed a 'clear and present danger', such as 'shouting fire in a crowded theater', or the 1878 Reynolds case, which purported that human sacrifice as a religious ritual was not defensible against charges of murder, because to grant such exemptions would be "to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself." These are extraordinary circumstances, which people often will undertake just to test the limits of the First Amendment and are not the norms we are faced with, per say, in everyday society.

Medicine and religion have long had a torrid love affair and I believe is the true wonder of the 'Chicken or the Egg' question. Everyday people are faced with stifling, uncomfortable decisions that force them to measure their faith and lay it bare before their consciences. Terry Schiavo, in more recent memory, is one of these cases and in it the courts ultimately ruled with the husband, because he was sole proprietor of Terry's guardianship by law, which is all our courts can ever truly rule on. Yet, somehow in the course of five years we have forgotten the application of judicial review as a fundamental form of deciding an issue and "morally conscious" judges persist to assert their own personal beliefs into their decisions, sometimes without regard for the rule of law, itself, which they've chosen to uphold in its highest form.

I do not say this lightly, nor without the understanding that I may myself one day be thrust into a situation that'll force me to lay bare my own convictions, to examine them and perhaps even second guess myself on a very personal issue… the rule of law is more important than any one life, because it protects the rights and freedoms of all lives.

In 'The Blues Brothers', there is an infamous scene where Jake and Elwood Blues encounter an army of Nazis gathering on a bridge in a small Illinois town; which, for you history buffs, elicits an awesome depiction of the National Socialist Party of America v. The Village of Skokie, whose 1977 Supreme Court ruling upheld an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that even "unpopular views" were still protected by the First Amendment when the political party aligned with the Third Reich and dressed to the nines in Nazi uniform decided to hold their peaceful rally in the small Illinois town of Skokie.

So… swastika-laden, goose-stepping American Nazi Party is permitted to hold a rally in a rural and peaceful town in Illinois; however, a New Jersey family is chastised and robbed of their children because their names have Nazi connotations…?

Terry Schiavo's husband had the right to remove her feeding tube, ultimately ending her life; however, Anthony and Colleen Hauser are not afforded the same rights to deny treatment for their child because it's sacrilege to their beliefs…?

I'm sensing double standards here.

Or how about this, the government exerts its energies on solving this financial crisis and the judges and officials who are meant to uphold the rule of law quit acting like Society's parents and working their jobs based upon either moral, or scientific grounds…?

In the articles revolving around the Daniel Hauser case, the people interviewed throughout them cite ethics as their defense for pursuing this case deep into the court systems and America's psyche. However, the ethics of a judge are neither religious, nor scientific, but should in fact be transcendent above the mind and heart and ruled based upon the finite, tangible, and known. And ethics!?!? These are just a few snippets from an article about the Daniel Hauser case (article here) :

"If chemotherapy is ordered and the family refuses, the judge said, Daniel will be placed in temporary custody. It was unclear how the medicine would be administered if the boy fights it."

"Caplan said the medical community recognized a person's right to refuse treatments — but those rights didn't extend to incompetent people or children. Still, he said: "It is hard to treat someone who won't cooperate." Restraints could be used."

"Officials at some Minnesota hospitals that treat cancer in children described several methods they would try to break through the boy's resistance.

Dr. Steven Miles, a professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics, said a hospital may assign a companion to a child, or administer a sedative to relieve anxiety."

Forced administration of chemotherapy, state custody, restraints, breaking resistance, sedatives… a 13-year old boy (all there upstairs, educated, or not); nobody could spin these terms as "ethical" to me using every word in the language. Forced anything is, by definition, unethical; yet the hospitals "Board of Ethics" deemed dragging the parents and kid into court was the right thing to do.

I just can't agree with this and never will agree with the state assuming parental control or management for any situation short of excessive physical abuse or any sliver of sexual encroachment. The parents are the parents and their children are their children and therefore their right (within appropriate means, I don't need any ridiculous backlash likening this argument to support for murdering your child, or leaving them in a dumpster; these are obviously entirely separate issues and such arguments are affinitive to what I'd mentioned earlier about people testing the boundaries solely for the reason of testing them). How long will we sit back and allow the State to dictate our lives, rights and freedoms? This is an issue for all people, because all this is one more sign of how restrictive even our "free" government, "of, for and by the people" can be. And even when the majority has spoken, such as Newsvine's poll: "Should parents be allowed to refuse cancer treatments for their sick children?" In which 61% of over 13,000 voters agree with the Minnesota court's decision; I remind you that our laws are established "to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority" and that there is nothing that can trump the Constitution itself, short of amending it. (Newsvine poll: Should parents be allowed to refuse cancer treatments for their sick children?)

So please, read up on this because these cases have been steamrolling the last few months and I believe we're only at the beginning of this struggle between religion, science and the courts, and should you disagree with me... that's fine; I'm expecting a healthy bit of opposition to my views on this one and welcome the counter argument, because you never know, perhaps you'll allow me to see something I've yet to see and then I'll be humbled, red-faced and smiling. Alls I know is that should things continue along this path, to my good friend Eric Mendoza: you may have to rethink your son's name, because the way things are shaping up right now SARG Mendoza, or Super Awesome Rad Guy… will probably be denied by the taxman.


*A crucial turn has taken to the story of Daniel Hauser in that it has now been reported that his father has publicly switched sides and now supports continuing chemotherapy for his son in an attempt to save his son's life. That being the case, Colleen Hauser will now undoubtedly be pursued as a kidnapper and I can no longer support her in her beliefs since this is a decision for two parents to make together. It is my belief that if there is a difference in opinion between parents, the court has the responsibility to error on the side of life (abortion debate excluded) and therefore I wish Anthony Hauser the best of luck in retrieving and saving his son.

None of this weakens my resolve in the above arguments, as I had made them under the pretenses that both parents still supported alternative medicines. I will continue to support them in situations where 100% of guardianship agrees one way or another.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Absinthe “Authority” is Not My King, Pomp!

"Note: Under no circumstances should fire have any part in the absinthe ritual. This is a pointless innovation created in the 1990's and promoted by the purveyors of imitation absinth to make their products seem more interesting and to reinforce the illicit drug image."

        -Notation from 'The Wormwood Society' website



Antisocial (ān'tē-sō'shəl, ān'tī-) adj.

2. Hostile to or disruptive of the established social order; marked by or engaging in behavior that violates accepted mores


I suppose, much to the dismay of my parents, that the fat, antagonizing psychologist who first diagnosed me as antisocial in the tenth grade may've been right. After all, I do have quite a notorious history of being confrontational with authority figures (the police in particular) and of rebelling against a 'socially-accepted' idea, if only for the purpose of playing Devil's advocate… however, behind the litany of vulgar outbursts and standoffish situations, which many in my younger years had simply shed off as some form of juvenile vexation, or adolescent despondency; there has always existed glimmers of truth and rationality (regardless of how deeply they were hidden) within each argument put forth. Even if for many people it was a pragmatism that might as well have been outer-worldly; it was a pragmatism that was still there, albeit muddled in the ambiance of boisterous proclamations and incomprehensible red-faced ramblings. In fact, it wasn't until 'Atlas Shrugged' and Professor Lee Haggerty validated my angry disposition and taught me the futility of a hastened argument and the power of patience, coupled with clear, intelligible talking points in the pursuit to achieve a desired outcome; that I truly understood the difference between perception, opinion and fact. It is because of these two influences in my life (along with my father, of course, whose lack of success with me during my formidable years was solely resultant of proximity and antisocialism) that I can now rage, in a mature manner and with formidable argument, against the agitations that coarse thru my veins like fire fiercely flaring inside a hydrogen-rich steel pipe. Above them all… my abhorrence of pomp and pretention.

"The Wormwood Society." Pretentious pomps! What, pray tell, or who, rather… adorned you "Kings" of the "proper" manner in which to prepare the beloved 'Absinthe Drip'…? Proper…? What the hell is proper, anyway? If by proper, you mean traditional, then you should say, 'traditional'… because what's proper is passé in a world of progression and modernism, flooded with new strands of philosophy and sociological understanding that were not only unknown at the time of the inception of your "proper" Absinthe Drip method, but are as fluid today, each day, as the rain cascading down into the tumultuous waves of a mid-ocean monsoon. The title of the piece on preparing absinthe on the website is, 'The Proper Way to Prepare Absinthe in Society'. Well, lo-and-behold; here you face an opposition who is clinically antisocial; therefore, I have no intention of, nor necessitation for succumbing to your definition of propriety. Just as "Proper English" is as useless to me as a training bra, and political correctness adheres to the theory that I am not a Native American; I say that you're an adversary to freedom and truth. And freedom and truth, my dearest wormwood enthusiasts… is what I live for.

To begin, your cautionary notation is confusing, devoid of argument and overtly contradictory to itself (perhaps a matter of perception). It is stated as truth; however, fails to illicit any fact that would dispel professorial counterarguments. May I criticize on a line-item basis…? I shall whether you permit me to or not, because, well… that is my freedom. Sentence one: "Under no circumstances should fire have any part in the absinthe ritual." Untrue. While fire may not have anything to do with your absinthe ritual, due to the pyromaniacal (why is this not a word) dispositions of my oft antisocial, and long miscreant friends; conjointly with an innate human existence-long fascination with fire and the eye-entrancing effect of a "le feu de bleu royal"; fire does have a part in our absinthe ritual. And why not!? Why shall we cheat ourselves of the bedazzling art upon which we gaze; possessed by the aura of raw energy in a deep royal, consuming ivory shades of purity and delectable sweetness upon shimmering, slotted silver, hanging high above a bay of emerald, chartreuse or feuille mort? That when the sugar caramelizes and drips, so does it fall in a sweetened blue tear and ignite the emerald bay in a momentary flare of luscious luminescence louching deep into the depths of the marvelous libation as the flame dances in silent whisps like a silk scarf lofted in a steady breeze? I rather enjoy the effect, "pointless" as it is… and even advocate that one witness its wonder in the thin-rimmed chamber of a snifter glass. Though, naturally the Purists in the Wormwood Society would be so righteous in their propriety that they'll never experience the sheer visual splendor that this method offers so effortlessly. And to further augment an argument contrasting your "pointless" proclamation, I submit to you that this method, if done properly, does dissolve the sugar, as intended, and creates a crumbling ruin of sugar that quickly dissipates and cascades down into the louching emerald bay with but a few drops of ice cold water. And as you later mention that one "will determine the best absinthe-to-water ratio for your taste;" I say that I am a fan of anise and stiff drinks, and therefore prefer my absinthe strong, with maybe a one-to-one, or two-to-one water dilution.

Secondly, "This is a pointless innovation created in the 1990's and promoted by the purveyors of imitation absinth to make their products seem more interesting and to reinforce the illicit drug image." Had there not been a global ban on absinthe to begin with, then the innovation of "imitation absinth" (you should check your website for spelling congruency) would not have been necessary to begin with. Furthermore, seeing how it was in 1998 that France first repealed the ban, had you considered that perhaps those "purveyors" (as you put it so disgustedly) had helped to create an environment that popularized the drink to a level that there became substantial public support to repeal the ban, so that the drink can now be enjoyed in its intended distillation…? That perhaps the "more interest" created and the popularizing of the drink by such prominently "cool" actors, such as Johnny Depp, may have indeed translated into a new push for repeal? Or had you become so righteous in your Purist ways that you were blind to see a savior in humble clothes? You fail to address this, while all the while deriding those who may've seemingly been responsible for the Absinthe Renaissance (La Fee…?) and in doing so cheapen the long, hard fought road to repeal and those who tried to sustain the industry while it was prohibited. You purist, pretentious pomps, you! And furthermore, I'm confused by this quotation in that you seem to both suggest that the illicit drug image of absinthe is antisocial and deconstructive, while all the while purporting that it was successful in creating a consumer market. Clarity in argument, please… so that your readers are not left twisting in a sea of uncertainty. Were these purveyors evil or good men?

As it were, I do offer you many thanks… I have followed your website and user reviews and used them as a tool for purchasing absinthe, which has led me to some good selections in Obsello, Kubler and King George. The deeper I sink into this luscious libation, the more I understand the culture that has formed around it; after all it is, quite frankly, a delectable treat for the tongue and a cool high for the head. My only fear is that the surrounding culture is less likened to connoisseurs of fine beers, who are indeed still fun-loving beer enthusiasts, and more closely related to that of winos… pretentious pomps. And in a world with so much variety where what matters is freedom and truth; in regards to an industry that is entirely subjected to opinion and marketing, I would say to cast off your pomp, because perception is key, whether its truth or opinion that confronts you.

That being said, if your method is the only, or the "true" "Proper Way to Prepare Absinthe in Society", then I am either improper or not part of society. And seeing how I, despite my diagnosis, am a part of this society (for better or for worse), then I must be improper (in your opinion); which is perfectly acceptable to me, because I'd rather be improper and free than proper and close-minded.

Eitherway… enjoy! 'Tis a fantastic libation… pretentious pomp or not.


"Louche the Emerald Bay! …and allow your tongue to ride the waves of the ambrosial anise libation as it cures your head of pain."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

“America’s Pure Sport”

A rebuttal to Stephen H. Webb's 'Soccer is Ruining America'

By Michael Patrick Rooney


"Soccer is a European sport because it is all about death and despair. Americans would never invent a sport where the better you get the less you score."

Oh, cheese and crackers! I do jest: beyond the recognition that many opinions are best left unspoken, certain opinions are best left deliberately unpublished in certain mediums. So here I rebuttal to an article that was sent to me, having been published on the web by the Wall Street Journal, by a man of the name Stephen H. Webb, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Wabash College in Indiana (the above quotation is from his opinion piece on March 11, 2009):

The article was titled, "Soccer is Ruining America". Yes, my friends, "soccer" is ruining America… soccer. Not unrealistic state budgets equating to bankruptcy, not exorbitant executive bonuses for bailout recipients, not towering spending packages, not eight-years of regressive scientific innovation stymied by siphoned government funds and religious prudence; not market drops, unprecedented foreclosure rates, soaring unemployment, nor even excessive exploitation of steroid use in our most beloved past time; no… it is soccer that is ruining our nation. Do I jest?

Let's for the sake of argument say any of the points in Mr. Webb's article were legitimate. Let us make-believe that "soccer mimics the paradigmatic feminine experience of childbirth [speaking on account of stamina] more than the masculine business of destroying your opponent(…)". Or rather, that "feet are in need of redemption [because hands are divine]." Wait, I digress; I cannot even pretend, little lone fathom the validity of these arguments in a case against soccer. They're unintelligent, ignorant and unintelligible and I wonder more as to why the Wall Street Journal published such trite hogwash than why it was written. I know why it was written; everybody has an opinion.

And I'm left here wondering if indeed the author has ever himself played soccer? Moreover, I'm left flustered by the glaringly obvious truth that the author has, in all likelihood, never removed his nose once from those books he reads at his daughter's games (great supportive parenting, by the way) to take a moment to understand the sport, and his lack of research supporting his "opinion" is appalling, unprofessional and a mockery to journalism.

I will not spend this entire article augmenting Mr. Webb's opinion by merely reveling (thru mockery) in his unfounded "four points", nor by focusing on his argument alone; I have my own opinion of soccer that will undoubtedly unfold throughout this frustrated counter-argument, which, despite my having given myself a three day cool-down period, still adamantly persists.

Throughout the article, Mr. Webb refers to soccer as "easy to play", insinuates that it is skill-less, soft and results in "little advantage". Ah yes, a sport that requires the veritable stamina of a gazelle; where a premier player (at any level) will average nearly a marathon's worth of running throughout the course of a 90-minute match, while battling players with limited use of the body, all the while attempting to control a light-weight ball with precision footwork and pinpoint accuracy to find seams in stringent defenses to create an opportunity to score is obviously soft, easy and devoid of skill. I mean, it even sounds easy when you read it, doesn't it?

Mr. Webb, I implore you to keep your nose in the books and your fingers off of the keyboard if this is the type of ignorance you're going to display publicly. I have played soccer; in fact, I had spent nearly my entire youth competing in organized sports, including: football (4 years), basketball (10 years), baseball (10 years), swimming (2 years) and soccer (8 years) and the only sport I ever felt humbled by was, indeed, soccer. Why? Because it requires the most talent. Yes, football requires a physical aptitude that borders barbarian and an ability to execute perfectly each down and see circumnavigably thru a vision-restrictive helmet. Indeed, baseball requires refined vision and attentive and composed focus, as well as uncanny reflexes and a certain bravery to stand before an unpredictable hardball. Swimming is a rigorous exercise that not all people are built for and basketball is potentially the roughest, most-overall demanding sport that I've ever played… with my hands. However, soccer is the most difficult sport I have ever played, period. Beyond the physical stress of running and the mental levelheadedness required to refrain from shoving a smothering opponent's face into the grass; the inability to use the hands (which you tout so spiritually in your article) is the factor which makes soccer the most skillful of all the sports.

Anyone with hands can use them to throw a ball, Mr. Webb. Anyone with enough size and strength can be taught to shuffle sideways and use their hands to block a charging defender. Anyone with the physical aptitude can swing a bat, lay-up a basketball or glide thru the water; but it is the inability to use that which we use precisely each day that makes soccer so demanding. Because feet are slumbering and the majority of people never develop the grace required to dribble a ball and accurately slice defenses thru mental awareness and up-field vision simultaneously. The human body is not innately programmed to repetitively bounce a ball off of the foot, nor foot fake and then explode aggressively around a defender by playing the ball behind his plant foot in a sporting, Houdini-esque display of physical ability and uncanny skill. Oh, all the while keep their eyes up-field for the lay-up to a b-lining striker. It is a skill most people never develop and your article leads me to believe that you are among that majority.

Beyond the skill-factor of soccer; it remains the "World's Game". How arrogant are you to assume that because it is an imported sport, that it must automatically be inferior to "homegrown" athletics, which are hardly homegrown at all because they're each derivatives of earlier, Eastern sports. Baseball is a revised version of cricket, football is a deliberate form of rugby, and basketball, well… regardless of earlier forms of the sport, basketball remains the most original of American-developed sports. You refer to soccer in your article as a European export, which only exudes your ignorance more; for while current rule associations are European in nature, the sport itself has origins in Asian empires, such as China and Japan as much as it does in ancient Greek and Roman athletics. You say America would never invent a sport where the better you get the less you score? Baseball scores deflate drastically at higher levels of competition and often remain down around a 3 run average, per team, per game in "The Show". Your argument is invalid.

You further perpetuate your argument against soccer by referring to penalty shootouts as "anti-climatic". This doesn't stand to reason, especially with the rest of this point, because you apply an argument by generalization to say that "most games end, in sudden death"; when in association rules football (modern-day soccer), unless the game is a knock-out game for a tournament then it is custom for it to end in a draw. So the truer statement would be: "rarely do games end in sudden death" and those which did would be the exception; merely a fraction of a the small percentage of games which are allowed to enter a sudden death period and if you followed soccer you would know that this is because standings are allotted based on points, not wins. And anti-climatic…? Really? Is football anti-climatic? Because in effect, the NFL utilizes sudden death itself (in way more frequency than soccer) and college football uses a formula not too dissimilar from a penalty shootout. And how is equitable opportunity rife with incredible goal tending talents, matched with the ever-lingering heartbreak of hitting the post or pushing the ball wide either anti-climatic, or incapable of breaking a kid down (as you attest is the point of sports)? Eyes up, Mr. Webb; I'd say you're missing the game entirely.

We are at a crossroads in this nation as far as soccer is concerned. The debilitating blow of losing David Beckham to AC Milan will unduly draw down soccer audiences nationwide, at least for the majority of the Major League Soccer season. The sport, which had been met with some praise and excitement upon inception of the MLS, has begun to fade into the recesses of peoples' minds and is on a collision course with all the former leagues this nation attempted to support. I have been a Chicago Power and a Chicago Fire fan and it would appear that if the MLS continues down its current revenue stream (which more resembles a dry creek bed); then in the future I'll be a fan of the Chicago Who Knows!?. It is truly a tragedy too, as so many kids in this nation play in youth soccer leagues and in the heart of the nation, Chicago and Columbus (not to discount my home, Orange County and San Diego, who also widely support soccer among their populations), soccer is well supported from youth levels, to the MLS and all the way up to the U.S. National Team. And that is the only true catalyst, or albeit nowadays--saving grace, that the American populace has for soccer and its future here—the National Team. We lose all of our best players to the rich, powerful and established European leagues and clubs (not surprising considering we take all their best baseball and basketball players) because the level of competition is higher there and this hurts the MLS and soccer in America as a whole. Saddled with poor World Cup appearances, despite a growing pool of world-class talent; soccer in America now faces bankruptcy and we need the U.S. National Team to perform in South Africa in 2010 more than ever. If only to destabilize ignorant arguments like Mr. Webb's, which only threaten our push toward a greater competitiveness with the world in "the World's Game". How long shall people sit idly by with no stimulation to assist soccer in its potential strength as a popularized American sport? We are a fickle, attention-deficit society and we need a strong 2010, because America loves soccer in their hearts; but with so many other options for sports and so few international accomplishments for soccer, the question remains, 'where is the incentive to follow the sport?'

I comprehend this and I also understand that if Mr. Webb were to make a true argument against soccer in America, this would be the pragmatic starting point; for arguments made on the basis of it being a "girl's sport", "anti-climatic", skill-less, uncompetitive and foreign are just the mentality that delineates America from positive world opinion, because the argument itself is drivel. I move to not debunk America from international competition because of personal beliefs that the sport is a foreign invasion and the counter-intuitive point that it is soft and undemanding. Put down the book and watch your daughter. If not for the sake of understanding what you're talking about; then at least so your daughter actually thinks you're interested in what she's interested in and maybe even along the way, you'll learn to appreciate some of the talent the games requires.

And as far as soccer ruining America goes? Well, at least the game remains pure… free of the litany of bad press, steroids, astronomical salaries, inflated egos and perfidious city allegiances that have utterly hallowed much of the soul of our 'Big Three' (football, baseball, basketball). More closely related to collegiate sports, where not only are fans true fans, but players are actual players; soccer is, in my opinion, the little-known salvation of the soul of American sports and should we win a World Cup next year or five from now, I believe then the nation will understand just what a beautiful game it is to watch.

It is the World's Game because it requires only a ball to play. A ball and feet (I once played against a kid who was armless and very good). From the dusty fields of Africa, to the alleyways of Paris, to the beautiful, green fields along the Orange County coastline; all you need is a ball, the heart and the skill and even the poorest kid from Togo can ascend to stand arm in arm with the richest kid from London to form a defensive wall. With such an ability to be a diplomat in itself, why would we want to dispel such an amazing sport? For arrogance? For ignorance? Should it fail I attest that it is both… because once you've played the game you appreciate just what skill it takes to excel and you love soccer, because it is a game all its own. "The World's Game", and we are part of this world.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some Music Is Just Soul-Heroin

We are hurdling as it were. Merely microcosms, like atoms freely circulating aimlessly within Great Bastian as he seeks Moonchild in the nothingness that we cannot see. For how could we see the everything beyond when we're lost in our own wandering? And what balances us... but some sense of purpose, or some understanding of the divine; however, for me personally, such an existence of supremacy voids my mental capacities and what grounds me in this global cosmic careen is that music which seems to creep thru my ears, my eyes and seep in thru the pores of my skin and ignite in me some solacing sense of solidarity, peace and place in the world; as though it were the counterbalance to the aimless hurdling, itself.

We seem lost in ourselves, I'd say; our aderall-craved, hormone-crazed, hyper-actively detached, ever-searching, never-slaked, hypochondriacal minds that move from relationship to relationship, city to city, job to job, friend to friend, and song to song; never themselves seeming able to pin-down, as the Buddhists would say, 'nirvana'. We create our own playlists, encompassing what illicits the emotion within us, when I say... what about what stimulates the emotion within the very artists we swear by?

Ahhhh... music, the outer-expression of inner-beauty... poetry... prose... lyric... melody... and in some cases (Tom Waits, as one example) complete and utter chaos. But we are merely the receivers, and we'd do well in our revelry if only we could slow our fractured attention to focus our energies on the one truth behind all music: it is meant to be heard. To hear, not listen (Billy Hoyle) what the artist and the producer intended us to hear; to illicit an emotion swelling sonically within our ears and from there, seeding deep within our minds and further blossoming into every dark recess of our souls, regardless of void or perfection, exploding like an atom bomb of direct sunlight moving thru a cavern of crystal speleothem.

And what of it to me...? Four albums, received as intended and consecrating themselves in my head in a most peculiar way (remember, music is the portrayal of another's emotion; most cherished by those who may harbor the capacity to comprehend the same way):

Alice In Chains, MTV Unplugged

Yes... quite simply, yes. You'll notice a trend that three of these albums have coinciding DVD's and perhaps Layne Staley appearing as death's shadow, as if he were a crow in human form; his heroin-drained face more closely resembling the wilted, withered, withdrawn features that more properly inhabit the sunken features of a 70 year old man, has a play into the invocation of this album particularly. However, hearing it devoid of his sickening decomposition still makes me feel the same way and yes, that may be because his voice sounds just as he appears--long since cured of purpose, laughter and life.

The album plays like a moratorium on life and death, transcending realms by stripping an iron man to bare bones. A skeletal heavy metal, if you will... with all the proper darkness deepened by a raw acoustic melody. That Jerry Cantrell, songwriter, guitarist and the "other" singer... should look like a quintessential hippie (complete with on stage joint smoking in the DVD) is awkwardly fitting. That he should sound as if he were a seraphim himself, shining radiance in vocal harmonizing with the shell of soul-deprivation, the only Layne Staley; is contradiction exhibited in the form of musical genius and to acoustacize such heavy songs as 'Sludge Factory' and 'Down In A Hole' was sheer brilliance once realized. However, for true Seattle music fans, this should come as no surprise as the band had, for years prior, saturated their sound with the deepened disparity between light and dark, good and evil, clean and distorted, and life and death; in a harmony of tone that is a musical yin-yang.

Nine Inch Nails, "And All That Could Have Been"

Good. God. Here, my friends, is a symphonic, industrial score of epic collaboration. No complementarity here; this is pure duality. Trent Reznor really hammered the nail hard with this live album(/DVD), which plays more like an operatic score than an industrial-metal effort. It starts with a BANG! And then deepens into a well-developed, highly pensive conglomeration of some of Nine Inch Nails best, little-known songs; which flow, with definitive purpose, from start to "Thank you, Goodnight!"

The real meat of this album is where real meat exists--the middle. Mainly drawing from 'The Fragile' (which, in itself is a great album); Reznor and the Nails string together a collection of highly-harmonic songs that seamlessly and effortlessly flow to create an entire act of brilliant composition. It is this portion of the album (and indeed the entire effort itself) that has led me to surmise that should I ever create my epic, "America will fall" movie; that Trent Reznor will be the composer of my score. Indeed it comes as no surprise to me that NIN's 'Year Zero' album is a veritable re-creation of my own prophecy; because "And All That Could Have Been", as far as I'm concerned, is the album that should've been collaborated with the San Francisco Orchestra, not Metallica's S&M... er go, in my opinion... the best metal album ever. But then that makes me think... would it still be as good? Would it still well-up inside of me the same swelling tide of darkness, despair, destructive-tendency, mayhem and sheer rage that it does when it's just Reznor and his band...? I don't even know that I'd care to risk it. Some times the best things are those on which you stop short.

Gorillaz, Demon Days

We're going in chronological order here, because this is the order in which I'd heard all these albums and this is by no stretch of the imagination number three on my list... in fact, this is most likely number one.

Oh Damon Albarn, and personally I think 'Blur' sucks sooooo much. Perhaps it's because I'm not British that I don't fully appreciate your earlier efforts, but I'm glad you suffered thru those growing pains because you have given this world perhaps the most globally marketable album of all time, while still remaining purely artistic and true to form. You have a stage-show now named 'Monkey', deriving from the stories cast by 'Demon Days' and I've never thought anyone was more deserving of writing a score. Mainly, because you already had.

Demon Days, too... has a live DVD, it's titled, "Demon Days: Live" and it is a must see, why? Oh, I'm about to tell you...

Damon Albarn (lead-singer, pianist) has this uncanny knack for combining genres and then further transcending them all to create his own fusion of rock, classical, funk, hip-hop, dance and electronic into some Heavenly creation that I refer to as 'God, in music form'. Why? Because it's perfect...

From start to finish this album is perfect, showing a heightened social awareness in touching on every political issue from war, to our killing the Earth, to child soldiers; and as each song is different, and encompasses different aspects of each of the aforementioned genres thru an electronic medium, eclectic story telling and his dazzling piano talents... the album literally breathes as one collective breath. And a fresh breath of air it is in an otherwise polluted market of posers, pussies and grillz.

It is truly seamless; relate-able to white suburban teens and innercity youth alike, as well as anyone of any age who has any appreciation for good musical composition. It's like cosmic soul-surfing without the drugs and the videos which play on the live DVD are visually equitable. BUY THIS ALBUM! WATCH THIS DVD! You will not be disappointed, because whether you like dance, hip-hop or rock... this album is all-encompassing and all-bad ass.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones

This album was released on my birthday. I just discovered this. Awesome.

Oh, Karen O. you sassy lil' NYC diva of the gritty, distorted wave of purely re-invented old school rock 'n' roll... hearing you makes me want to know you well, because chick, you can fucking wail! To hell with these posers in the Killers, pussies in the Strokes and that bad ass mother fucker that is Jack White (a beacon of musical brilliance). Kings of Leon are great, the White Stripes are astounding, but you, my girl... you are something special and you hold it down for the Queens of rock 'n' roll. You are my vote for third generation awesomeness... and just as Janis Joplin did in our parents generation and Shirley Manson did in my older brother's generation... you do for ours and I love you for it. I'm sure I will get so much shit from friends for saying this, and surely my girlfriend will attest some disapproval in my being crass, but I don't care... what you do to me when I hear you sing is what I imagine is the male equivalent of someone getting your lil' pussy wet. You rock that much.

This album is a hardcore, stripped-down pure rock 'n' roll effort that only a girl from New York (or, Jersey) could make. While the album may not be as outstanding a collective effort as the three aforementioned albums, it is nonetheless an extraordinary collaboration of songs that just gets better and better and better as it plays on. Nick Zimmer and Brian Chase are phenomenal musicians who hold the tone of deep, driving rock better than damn near anyone in music and then your voice, from the melodic singing on 'Cheated Hearts' to your punk-fused vocals on 'Phenomena', is very acculturated and diverse, able to soothe and/or disturb at will. You sound like a girl from New York/Jersey should and I thank you for it.

Keep on rockin', sister... do not deprive the world of your talents.

Again, these are the albums that I find myself listening to (or, hearing) quite frequently because these are the counterbalance to my freely careening soul... these are my groundations when I start to float away. I listen to a lot of music and this is not to take away from Dylan, Zeppelin, the Stones or Mad Season's 'Above' (which would be number five, if not only for Mike McCready's guitar work)... but these are the albums I find myself coming back to time-and-time again.

The point is, don't get yourselves bogged down in the superficial trend of cutting, mixing, picking-and-choosing and collaborating playlists for your own personal pleasure... understand that albums are made with purpose, are intentionally arranged and are meant to be heard in their true forms--from front to end. I'm not saying don't hit random on your iPod, variety IS the spice of life and I'd dare not tell you how to listen to your own music (mainly because it'd be hypocritical, because of course I create playlists and hit random, myself); this is merely an imploration, or perhaps, a suggestion that every now and then you lay down on your floor (Weed, or no weed. Friend, or on your own) and take the time to appreciate the world thru the intentions of others, because truly we are never free until we've learned to let others take control.

From time-to-time.

Good listening!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"It's the economy, stupid."

I cannot rightly say that I had not anticipated the reaction I’ve observed from many close confidants, because the marrow of their existence radiates red ideology; whatever the hell that means anymore. While I have not seen much of a shift in individual ideals throughout the course of the past eight years, the radically-altered paradigm of Republicanism has left those who for long were encompassed within its fiscally-responsible core (what I see as the historical core of the party, that is) flittering on their own, accepting the brand on a platform-selective basis and ignoring the monster that has become the GOP. The sad truth of this reality is that due to their selective memories, most of the people who have been a victim of this, don’t much realize that they’ve been abandoned at all and cling to a fleeting memory of a platform-mortius where the emphasis on fiscal conservatism is merely a shadow in the night when compared to the moral-majority that has become synonymous with Conservatism. So again, I say… I had very much anticipated harsh tongues in regards to the Obama Presidency.

What, pray tell, is the end-game for Republicans here? And what is the expectation of those who have so quickly discarded the stimulus package, among the many other Obama policies implemented in what hasn’t even yet been sixty days in office…? What had you expected, may I ask? Instantaneous revelation and economic healing…? I heard someone say the other day, “you know, they keep saying it’s not his fault, it’s not his fault… but when he released news about the stimulus package, the market dropped and has continued to fall ever since. At some point, it’s his fault. And I think he’s had enough time now that you can say any drop in the market is his fault."

WHAT!? Really, guy… really?

People, I understand your bends toward conservatism; Harry Caray, may he rest in peace, could vouch for me that despite all of my disavowing, disenchantments and disgusted feelings of betrayal over the last eight years… I still lean Republican. Despite my general election vote and intensely liberal social politicking… I still lean Republican. My ‘Decline-to-State’ voter status, is as it is for good reason; because despite how much hot-air and bullshit the Republicans have been shoveling the past eight years, so much that I felt it necessary to de-Republicanize myself on my legal registrations… I still can’t, in good sense, subscribe to a party ideology that favors programs which can be closely identified with communism (and for all you Democrats out there, you too are blind if you don’t see the correlation). But, my friends… desperate times call for desperate measures and we’ve been here before.

I will not use the word “depression” to signify our current economic crisis; that would be blatantly false and irrevocably dangerous. According to Labor Bureau statistics, our current unemployment rate is 8.1%. Do not get me wrong, the increase of nearly two-percentage points in the course of five months is rightfully alarming; however, when you’re comparing 8.1% of 300million+ people to 1933’s National High of 24.9% among a population of 125million… the situation today seems far less dire. Accounting for inflation in the 1930’s, today’s current crisis is hardly a blip on the radar of historic economic crises. Regardless, we are at a crossroads and 8.1% is a figure that needs to be checked before it itself inflates and we’re deeper in the muck than we can function with.

Fine, Republicans… the current economic situation is not the fault of George W. Bush: I never said it was. Yes, it is much adieu to President Clinton’s lending acts, especially housing and lending policy imparted in 1996 and I’ll even ignore the fact that they were the acts and ideas of a Republican congress. However, W. only exacerbated the situation by not clamping the predatory lending policies of the Clinton administration and actually increasing the federal deficit by renewing the Clinton-era policies and then further cutting taxes for “the exploration of small business opportunity”, which somehow managed to stifle small business enterprise in this nation and give a larger slice of the pie to the big boys who were already established fat cats and moving jobs overseas. I recant, 2003’s Market-drop was not W’s fault… 2008’s was; because all he did was pick up the stick and keep the wheel rolling and now we’re in this mess. Where China owns more of our money than we do, foreclosures are approaching an all-time high and we are seeing serious swings in unemployment. As catawampus as the market is, not even God-himself could instantaneously balance it with a steady hand. THIS, my friends, this is what we get for abandoning long-term investment strategies in the 1980’s and expanding upon the “Quick-Buck” ideology during the 90’s internet boom. This (faulting Democrats AND Republicans), is the big I told you so that people like Brooskley Born and Paul Krugman had warned you was coming years ago.

And now you mock the stimulus package, well you know what… Fuck You. What the hell do you know? What school of economics did you attend and even if you are a doctor of economics, where the hell were you last summer? Five years ago? Twenty years ago? Your authority has been undercut and for good reason… because your science is flawed and obviously even the best of you (or at least those thought to be the best) didn’t fully understand our economic infrastructure, because look at us now! So what is Obama doing? He’s applying a proven method of recovery that FDR used during the Great Depression to slowly and soundly replace the foundation of our economy, because frankly… it hasn’t been tried since then. So how the hell do you know that it’s not going to work? Please, your crystal ball, if you will. And it makes perfect sense…? Private sector unemployment rising? Raise government employment levels by creating new infrastructure projects. Medical insurance approaching astronomical levels? Implement socialized medicine AND create jobs in the process. Technological stagnation? Open up stem-cell research and emphasize incentives for alternative fuels, hybrid technology and information technology. The data-entry requirement alone to move us paperless employs half of our unemployed (that’s an exaggerated comment). Economy drowning? DO SOMETHING! And that’s what he’s doing… something, anything; just so long as it’s not a continuation of the short-term gain policies that have dug this whole for the past 30 years. Build the goddamn train! I don’t care where the money comes from, the long-term revenue stream is invaluable to America 15 years from now. It’s money in the pocket of our children and isn’t that the point?

So what Republicans…? What now? Tow the opposing line so that if this thing blows up in Obama’s face, two years from now your “I told you so’s” cement your return to congressional power? You’re as transparent as glass over water and I really don’t much appreciate your political play here, because it is not what we need right now. Furthermore, I abhor your attempts to pass yourselves off as the reborn fiscally-responsible party… where the hell have you been for the last eight years? You’re in the doghouse, my red friends, and you’re not going to get off that easily this time. You have some debts to pay in the minority sector and some trust to rebuild with former allies and the people before me, and people like me even give heed to a word you speak. Consider this political prison time. You deserve it.

Two years. I refrain from passing judgment on Barack Obama for two years, because this chaos he’s sworn into is not a quick fix and will take at least that long to prove the validity of his program. If after two years our situation is worse, if we are not even near the halved-budget deficit he’s said is possible… well then, I’ll begin to criticize and my politics will then be reviewed for propriety; but that’s the least I can afford the man, because he deserves two years at least. And I implore all of you to do the same, because this is not his fault and he has been forthcoming in saying that this will take years to alleviate and I appreciate his pragmatism. If after two years his milestones are miserably short… you have your referendum on him in the form of 2010 congressional elections, but until then… you are not an economist and even if you are, that means not a damn thing right now; so please, shut your mouths and let the man work. Should he fail, your pride will be uncontrollably bright; should he succeed, your end-game is the veritable destruction of Republican power for the next decade, if you’re lucky. Shut your mouths and pray. Pray this all gets worse, because secretly, that’s all I see you really wanting right now. Failure for the right to say ‘I told you so’.