I hereby form a cult which you are invited to join.This is the oldest existing cult, formed when the first hominid lifted an eyebrow at another hominid, but now it has a name.
Members of this cult shall be known in French as "Fin De Siecle, Pas" (End-of- cycle-believers, not!), or in English as a "Fantasy Hecklers, Pfah!" It is redundant, self-similar, self-evident, and pronounced about the same way in either language.
Members are recognized by their response to claims that the world is or will be ending real-soon-now. Such response may consist of hooting, laughing, snickering, stating the name of this cult, or simply by walking away and shaking your head while looking very sad or disgusted. Such response is the only official sign of membership and the only qualification for it.
Anyone may or join merely by adopting, on purpose or accidently, the official response when so provoked. This is not a secret or exclusive society, and not all members know (or need to know) they are members, though they may enjoy being told. It is not necessary to pass this on, but you may if you wish.
Having been a Paul Goodman-style social anarchist all my political life, even when I worked for the Socialist, Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican parties, I understand that perfect government, or perfect non-government, requires perfect people. So the problem can never be government.
Having been a worker-bee, an administrative leader-cog, an entrepreneur, a labor organizer, and a welfare slug, I understand that kindness is more meaningful and lasting than cruelty.
Having been a father, a warrior, a husband, a lover, and a citizen, I understand that we are a mightily fucked-up people, capable of both great and terrible things. I'd rather work for the former, against the later, and otherwise just suck it up.
Having been a believer, an agnostic, and mostly an atheist, my favorite song is Phil Ochs's "When I'm Gone." One of the reasons I married Judy and stayed with her through the end of her life was that that was her talk-show's theme song.
"Nine years later, one truth remains: America is an idea, a dream, a hope that has yet to be realized. Take away our people, our cities, our roads, our crops, our armies and navies and bombs and guns, take all of that away and there is still the idea, as vibrant and vital as it was when the Founders first put ink to parchment and changed the world. Everyone you know owns a heritage that began somewhere else; we are all different in so many ways, and all that binds us is the ink on that parchment and the ideas therein contained. We are all our brother’s and sister’s keeper, beholden to one another, all of us children of that idea.
"Nine years ago, we were forced into an accounting of how dear that idea is to us, and were found wanting. Nine years later, we still are. The idea deserves better than what we have given to it. We can continue in this fashion, or we can summon within ourselves the will and wisdom to locate those better angels of our nature that are surely there, waiting for us."
-- W.R. Pitt, Truthout.
A friend asked me to critique a paper on Christian fundamentalism, and while doing so I wrote this to disclose my biases.
I am a complete and solidly comfortable atheist who was raised in mainstream Protestant churches and baptised whenever it was convenient for my mother to have me do so. For me it was never of more significance than a picnic: sometimes fun and mildly social, often accompanied by good food, and of no spiritual meaning whatsoever. I don't believe in souls, an afterlife, or reincarnation. I recognize and accept that most people have a need to believe in a god or higher power or spiritual essence, and that there is more to life than earthly existence. I don't believe this, never have, and can't imagine that I ever will without a severe conk on the head. I have participated in rituals occasionally - with Pagan friends on Samhain after my mother's death, and at the temple burn at Burning Man after my wife's death - but these were for the purpose of psychologically letting go rather than for any spiritual engagement. I've also had several satori-like experiences, but they left me with the same feeling as a good acid trip: that just as Carl Sagan says, the universe is a really neat thing and I'm so glad to be here. For the philosophically inclined, I'm a bundle theorist (we are a process of memory and anticipation with only a moving 'now' and no continuing state of being ) and see a charming relationship between this position and the Buddhist philosophy, though I'm not a Buddhist either. So, apart from being able to act upon the world and therefore obligated to do so with care, I am indeed, among other things, a butterfly dreaming that I am a man.
The "Bad Teacher" is a convenient meme and lever for the shouters and union busters. But bad teachers are just as common in charter and religious schools as in public schools because they are a reflection of elements of the greater society -- and yet kids survive! The strange truth is that most schools really work -- and we don't know why.
We haven't any consensus on what school is for (careers, citizenship, moral character, obedience, free thinking, problem solving, athletes, philosophers, scientists, worker drones) and therefor what kids should learn. And aside from popularity contests and the results of flawed skills and achievement tests, we don't know what a good teacher is or does or how to train someone to be one. It's all guesses, none of them supported by anything more than circular definitions and personal and cultural bias. So what can we control with any rationality?
A) Physical Setting: schools should not look or act like prisons, orphanages, military academies, or homeless shelters -- but then neither should our prisons, orphanages, military academies, or homeless shelters;
B) Social Setting: neither teachers nor students should be allowed to bully, persecute, or abuse other students or teachers, and three decent meals a day should be available to anyone who wants them, as well as a place to escape from parents or to be alone overnight if needed;
C) Funding: unequal schools tend to produce advantaged and disadvantaged kids, so move the faculty and funding from school to school every other year - not the students, establish state-wide curricula and abolish "local control" (always a code for segregation by race and class), and equalize funding for each entire state by replacing property tax with a truly progressive income tax.
It won't work much better than what we have now (see the first paragraph again) but it will at least be a more equitable and humane system of public schooling -- something we don't have now. The most powerful teaching tool is parental and authority modeling, because we're genetically built to respond to it. So let's use it, humanely.
And with that last in mind, why not have great-grandparents installed in every school, even if they need walkers and IV drips and bed pans and eventually die there? And pregnant women who come to term and give birth in class and raise their kids there for the first year? It is supposed to be a school isn't it?
Irrelevant that the tiger has leapt, is even now
at midpoint in an arc that will certainly end in your destruction.
So it is for all the ten thousand created things.
Of relevance only is the curious fact that
at this present instant you are alive.
Attributed to the master, Lao-tsu, by John Burdett
No nation adequately cares for its veterans. America is no different, and there's no reason it should be. If we gladly send our children to kill their children, and proudly see them dead or maimed, why should we care what happens to them when they come home and as many then die from suicide as from combat?
This was probably true in every war we've fought. It's certainly true now.
War apparently costs us nothing that we value. Why not have two?
There is a difference between making empty noise, and making a righteous noise. We have been hearing empty noises: lies, distortions, half-truths, and the like, from the far right, and we are bewildered by the sheer volume. We run from it. We don't even try to respond because, well, where do you begin to refute something so completely wrong-headed? so ready to change the subject before you've begun to refute even one lie?
"Goodness," we say in our inside voices, "we might have to shout back, and that would make us as noisy as them." So we say nothing.
So we follow the lead of our national comedians and gather for a reasonable discussion of nothing much at all. We notice that Stephen Colbert's parody of Bill O'Reilly and friends is accurate and painful. We don't notice that Jon Stewart's parody of us is, well, too painful to notice. We need a Lewis Black to bitch-slap both of them and shout with quivering anger that they're "being fucking idiots!" But they are comedians, and they can't do that. We will have to do it to ourselves.
What do you call someone too timid to say that there is a child molester in our midst? Someone afraid that crying "rape" would make their neighbors think ill of them? Someone who turns away because they just can't face all that noise? I think you call these people "us."
There is a way of dealing with the noise besides sticking your fingers in your ears and turning away. You simply point at the noisemaker and firmly say "shame!" over, and over, and over again, because they are indeed behaving shamefully, and because their lies and distortions are so divorced from reality that there is nothing else to say while they are shouting. When they stop shouting, we can perhaps pick a single lie and call it for what it is. If they interrupt us or start shouting again, we just go back to pointing and saying "shame!" again.
To untangle a pile of yarn or string, you start by separating out the pieces so that the knots are loosened. You open everything up so that the details and relationships are made apparent. Then you begin to unravel the mess, untying the tangles and knots, one strand at a time, being careful not to pull new knots and tangles into being, and coiling one of the ends into a neat and usable hank, until all the tangles, knots, and kinks are gone. Same with the noisemakers.
Don't just yank on (or shout at) a piece of the tangle that you happen to recognize and understand. That just makes more knots. We don't have the time or patience, or the comprehensive knowledge, to do this for each noisemaker that shouts at us. So we should insist that our leaders and journalists address each and every point the noisemakers make, show all of the lies and half-truths for what they are, and do it in simple and plain language, and put the answers in one easily accessible place. Then, when we cry "shame" at the noisemakers, we can also tell them (and any bystanders watching) where to go to find out what the truth is. And when they make up new lies, answer those lies too, in the same way.
We need only do this once for each lie. But it must be done thoroughly, continuously, with complete honesty, and be accessible to all. It must be written and revised as needed, published in books and on the Internet. It shouldn't take more than a hundred or so people to do this. It may even take several thousand people to do it right. So what? It won't require all the rest of us to spend all our time answering every liar and shouter: all we need to is cry "shame," and point. Then we will be armed.
We are indeed in a battle, in a war against the forces of chaos and deception. We must be armed against their determined ignorance and brute stupidity. Few of us can respond to every lie and every half-truth, so we must join our forces, and cry "Shame! Shame! Shame!" There probably is already the beginning of such a list somewhere on the Internet. Something like Snopes or Wikipedia, but focused solely on political lies and half-truths. It doesn't have to be perfect or comprehensive right from the beginning. We can build it as we go.
I suggest we use for our banner and image the familiar recruiting-poster with Uncle Sam and his pointing finger, and replace the old slogan with our simple battle cry: "Shame!"
This is not a complete answer, and it won't win the war. But it's a start, and we have to start somewhere, sometime.
I suggest we start here. I suggest we start now.
"Meet women eager
to start a relationship,"
it says, in the ad.
If that picture crawled
through the screen . . . but it doesn't.
Just as well (shudder!)
right after porn in 'net clicks,
and number one here.
Changing status might
stop these ads. But I'd miss them,
I guess . . . Yes. I would.
What else is FaceBook
for but self-abuse, I ask.
Really. I'm asking.
"We are all - for historical reasons, women especially - desperately eager to be saved from the excruciating daily effort of emotional independence." says Scialabba, and he's right. We are. FaceBook proves it every day.
How to make a Dry Martini
"Remove a bottle of London Dry from freezer. Pour a sufficiency into an appropriate glass. Briefly contemplate Vermouth. Drink the Gin," he said, doing it.
We have elected leaders who gave us ten years of wars that were unnecessary and avoidable; who have allowed banks to steal our jobs, our houses, and our retirement savings; who have allowed private agencies to take control of our prisons and our schools--sometimes the same agencies; and who have installed courts that permit large corporations, domestic and foreign, to control our elections.
But it's not their fault! We elected people just like ourselves: incompetent, greedy, self-serving, able to fool themselves sufficiently to lose all moral and ethical compass.
We have cut our own throats, and we are almost bled out, dry. Now we will see what happens. We may have the brains and courage to save ourselves. Then again, we may not.
Follow the money.
The world will not end because of this, or because that, or even because of what pissed you off yesterday.
Really Eric, it won't. And tomorrow something new will piss you off.
So many things.
So much to piss about. You must drink more water.
Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen fictional characters (television, films, plays, books) who've influenced you and/or that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag other friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what characters my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note).
Fred Astaire, always, in everything.
Paul Scofield as Moore in A Man For All Seasons.
Christopher Walken in Pennies from Heaven and most anything else.
Rene Oberjonois as Odo, in the later Start Treks.
Humphrey Bogart, in Beat the Devil and Casablanca.
Cary Grant, in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Charade.
Alec Guinness in his earlier rolls, especially The Horse's Mouth.
Toshiro Mifune, especially in Yojimbo, Sanjuro and Seven Samuri.
Joel Grey as Chiun in Remo Williams: the Adventure Begins.
Tony Randall as Lao in the Circus of Dr Lao.
Havel, in Dies The Fire (by SM Stirling)
Raoul of Ger, in Gerfalcon (by Leslie Barringer)
George C.Scott, in The Last Run
Sean Connery, in Robin & Marion, The Man Who Would be King, and Highlander
Michael Caine, in Iprcress File and The Man Who Would be King.
Staying up through the night, being with one for whom you have an unexplainable and overpowering desire, who is not there but more real to you than you are to yourself.
Feeling drained in the morning, having flown a thousand miles, zigzagging like a bat through a thousand conversations and a thousand emotional states of being. Being totally helpless, wholly powerful, having no power at all.
Knowing you'll do it again, tonight, and that she will fly to you in the moonlight to join you in that place that is not quite anywhere, and you will embrace, and share what was once unutterable for you both, and that you suspect you cannot now live without.
Holding, tasting her very life.