Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Live Blogging the Apocalypse (for real this time).

16:02
Only just now realized the date: Aug 22. It's on. A full-scale assault from waves of Iranian suicide bombers could come at any minute.
16:12
Dug up some old body armor, pre-Iraq invasion but it'll have to do; thank God I invested in that pallet of surplus MREs last May. Who's laughing now?
16:40
Does anyone out there know anything about ham radios?
17:05
Forced out of the house to replenish beer stocks; suspicious character behind the counter, his "thank you come again" sounded insincere. I didn't have time to subdue and take him into custody so I set fire to the dumpster behind his AMPM; hopefully when the authorities get there they'll spot him--if they're properly trained. God, I hope some of that Dept. of Homeland Security largesse landed in our humble Seattle suburb.
17:55
Can't find The Glenn Beck Show. Oh no, no, don't tell me they got Beck! You bastards! Has anyone checked to see if Bernard Lewis is alright?
18:24
"What on earth do you need a geiger counter for?" She said, mockingly. Yeah, she said that. I bet Joshua doesn't have a geiger counter; oh, he's got a Lexus, sure; lot of good it'll do you now, man. What kind of post-apocalypse vehicle is a two-door luxury coupe, huh? Ahh, sweet retribution. Fortune favors the prepared.
1955
excuswe typoss haz matt gloves make typiong difficult hot in thgis damn fifities era hazmat suit
20:15
I don't understand. Why haven't we attacked? What's wrong with you lilly-livered pukes? Do you want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud? The liberal media's refusal to give this story its proper coverage has left us weak and demoralized; that's it. C'mon George, pull the flight suit out of mothballs and get in there. As Sgt. Hartman says:
Why is Private Pyle holding that weapon? Why aren't you stomping Private Pyle's guts out?
21:30
I see their plan now. It's asymmetric, that's it. They're not going to attack, thus making us out to be the crazies, and making us complacent for when they do attack. We must therefore attack. Before they attack. Or, before they decline to attack, which might even be worse. But attack we must.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Not a Cloud (in the sky).

Here's an interesting tale of free love. Via Arts & Letters Daily.

Steve Sailer's Sunday VDare column reminds me why it's Steve's World, and I'm just living in it.

I don't really know why this little throw-away rant from the master of articulating righteous indignation at affrontery, aesthetic and otherwise, Udolpho, made me laugh out loud, but it did. Like a young, sane version of Howard Beale in the film Network, he's mad as hell, etc. As Faye Dunaway's character says of Peter Finch's Beale (and what a pair of performances--though the two never share a moment on screen): "the American people need someone to articulate the popular rage." Sometimes the outrage is as simple as not being able to get a drink in the privacy of your own home. These sorts of things are chronically underappreciated.

Well, laughter being a little easier to elicit at the moment might be for the same reason that I'm not posting anything substantial today. This requires a little background. I went on a bike ride, from a favorite starting point near one of the marinas here in Seattle. The marina is perched at the north end of Elliot Bay, which sidles up to Seattle, giving it a glorious sunny-day vista toward which the homes and apartments up in the hills turn their glassy window-eyes that glint in the sun; as if they're all watching for the same ship to come in.
There's a decent little bike path that runs the few miles from the marina to the tourist-attraction waterfront boardwalk, just blocks inland from there is downtown; and what a day here in Seattle, with just a few wispy remnants of clouds garnishing a brilliant blue sky. I won't even try to do it justice.
Coming up on the park at the north end of the waterfront I was instantly made nostalgic by a certain smoky scent; one my mother once described as, after boning up on some How to Spot if Your Kid's on Drugs literature, sickly-sweet (accusingly, if I recall correctly). No big deal in itself, of course, but it was as if someone was burning the stuff by the bushel; maybe the police destroying contraband?
Turns out this weekend was Seattle's annual Hempfest. A massive festival celebrating all things hemp, and they clearly weren't emphasizing knit backpacks and rope. Of course I had to dismount and take it all in on foot. It seems I managed to inadvertently "take it in" quite in fact; respiratorially. Having been hors de that particular sort of combat for years now I've developed a significantly lower tolerance to exposure; one that would have yielded a welcome economy those many years ago.
Anyway. The bicycling back was pleasantly surreal, a feeling of riding a little higher in the saddle, floating along; the music in my earphones sounded incredible (the best music ever recorded, I'm convinced), enjoyable even while I was briefly lost trying to make it back to the truck.
I arrived home and polished off half a Marie Callendar's frozen coconut cream pie, spent two hours plucking away the same three chord rhythm on an out-of-tune guitar (I've never sounded so good!), and started to craft this post as one of those round-ups of articles of interest, but then only managed about three paragraphs of Norman Podhoretz's posturing as the last true defender of the faith known as the "Bush Doctrine" (courtesy of Dr. Leo Strauss at Stop the Spirit of Zossen [by the way, if you ever read the phrase "hat tip" here, I've been abducted and replaced by an impostor]) before my buzz was thoroughy destroyed. That it was acquired by purely accidental and innocent circumstances (I feel compelled to reiterate--a sort of immaculate intoxication) doesn't mean it shouldn't be managed--all the more so--for enjoyment and guided to a soft landing. Damn neocon buzzkills. Oh well.
Nappy time.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Brave and the Bogus

The Christian Science Monitor is running a series by Jill Carroll that chronicles her time as a hostage of terrorists in Iraq. Carroll was pilloried by the usual suspects among the keyboard commando forces earlier this year for making a video critical of the occupation and praising her captors for their treatment of her (under duress while still held in captivity--by a group sympathetic to al Qaeda in Iraq that had already killed her Iraqi interpreter when abducting her). Of the many shameful episodes that our warbloggers will hopefully someday have to atone for, this outpouring of affected outrage stands out for its petty and senseless nature.
It was said that Carroll was critical of the war--God forbid--before her abduction; this, and the fact that she set out to get the story from the Iraqi point of view, were her true transgressions.
What this remarkably brave young woman did, after already serving as an embedded reporter with the Marines following them into what infantry grunts call the Shit, was leave the relative safety of that embed to witness more completely the war's effect on Iraq (seeking the facts on the ground, or, to leaven the phrase with the disdain of quotation marks as none other than Norman Podhoretz has taken to: "the facts on the ground"). Reporting the story. Perhaps it's also that her kidnapping illustrated dramatically just what a disaster the war is and how reporting on it is more dangerous than any other conflict in American history, contradicting the tired but persisting the-liberal-press-is-only-reporting-the-negative mythmeme, that galled them so.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

...

I came to laying on my side on a concrete bench. My head was at such an extreme angle and my neck so stiffened by this unnatural position that I knew raising it would be a painful, if not impossible, affair; I opted to roll over onto my stomach and slowly push myself up into a sitting position while leaving my head, more or less, in its listing attitude. This too was no easy feat, accomplished by grunting, groaning effort. Laughter, accompanied by a lewdly malicious voice, attracted my attention from the other end of the cell. Two locals were sitting there watching me. He spoke again, the fat one with the leer in his voice and eyes, in a colloquial Spanish that I didn't understand. I said nothing.
Looking down I noticed my pockets had been turned inside out; my shoes were gone. I did not yet know how I arrived there; I sensed a partially formed, vague memory lurking just below the surface of consciousness. I tried retracing my steps mentally: the girl in the bar, dancing, being led onto the beach, rolling around in the sand. So far so good; too bad there's no way this one ends well. Sort of like a movie that reveals the hero's death in the first frame. Closing my eyes I tried to pierce memory's fog, at once afraid and enticed by what I might find there.
A dim scene played out: the girl was suddenly screaming at me; I was beseeching her to be quiet, asking in broken Spanish what was wrong: trying to say, ¿Cu├íl es la materia?, and just managing to stammer, qual estimer, qual estimer? At the same time thinking her hysteria seemed odd, acted. Get away, a foreign and sober impulse welled up into my sloshed mind, get away from her. Several missing frames later and I'm struggling in the deep, loose Baja sand; wheezing, stagger-running, covering as much distance from side to side as forward but making progress back toward the plaza, and the hotel. Memory submerged, and only briefly resurfaced to reveal a glimpse of being herded into the back of a Mexican police car by baton blows, kicks, and epithets.
I was now staring at the wall across from me; it was covered in a profusion of graffitti, mostly vulgarities in Spanish. I realized I had been staring at a word. It shimmied and danced as a pair that separated, nearly aligned, and separated again repeatedly as I fought my double vision. I tried closing one stinging eye; I couldn't, like a very young child who can't yet move his eyelids indepently. So I placed a hand, trembling slightly as if a small electric current was running through it, over one eye.
Slowly the word came into focus. No, I thought, no possible way. But there it was. Faint and weathered by countless years, crudely etched in jagged lines; I could just make out:
UNTETHERED

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Soldier, and Brave

...the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot, an eight week college for the phony tough and the crazy brave.
--The Short Timers, Gustav Hasford

Behold a Marine, a mere shadow and reminiscience of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, buried under arms with funereal accompaniments...
--Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

I've just finished talking to a kid barely out of high school who's joined the Marine Corps; Monday he'll board a plane headed for boot camp. He wanted to ask me what it's like; nerves. Though he wouldn't let on. Funny how the hint of it in his voice and the bare trace of it in his manner could so quickly and thoroughly bring me back to a sensation experienced many years ago. A military van took me to the processing center in L.A. in the still-dark morning; I hadn't managed to sleep the night before. I was leaving home to an uncertain future and in typical adolescent fashion only just realizing it; from a dark and windswept interstate I watched the only neighborhood I'd ever known drift into the past; as if the van wasn't moving but the landscape was sliding by. I thought about my mother who had got up early to see me off; I confess I felt a lump in my throat. That was childhood passing.

I know exactly how the kid feels. Well, no, I don't. There was no war on when I signed up, and frankly I didn't give its possibility much thought.
The kid just needed some reassurance. Yet another absent father's son. A scared boy, but brave too. Now the children put into empire's mill are of my daughter's generation. Having one of them stand before you, a stranger, implicitly seeking the small kindness of a word of reassurance, is also a "great clarifier", a phrase Bush is fond of using for war or whatever particular chaos he proposes in lieu of studied and sober action.
Maybe my pacifism is merely a lack of will after all.

I thought my indignation toward the pseudo-warrior class couldn't get any greater. But talking to this earnest and unwary adolescent, pretending that I know something as I assure him that he probably won't go to Iraq, not mentioning any of the other wild possibilities that come to mind as I picture that recent, televised image of a faltering, possibly mad President Bush stammering something about Islamic fascism, I can't help but grow depressed, and a little angry.
I remember being so very young; I remember that sense that things would work out because they must, because people in charge are there because they are capable, honest, trustworthy, and wise. Because pessimism and cynicism are betrayals of youth. Sending these boys into harm's way out of anything but dire necessity is--calling it "a crime" simply fails.
How many has it been now? How many more will it be? For what?
Shame.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tora! Tora! Tyra!

My power of concentration makes a tempestuous and fickle concubine most days. I try to have a moment with her when I can, because I never know when she'll be both present and yielding. She has been completely absent for the past few days in particular, like a cuckolding slut who’s gone missing. It’s off with that occasional but familiar Lothario, the bout of illness, and I'll have to wait until he's done with her.

Mexicans call the unwelcome male that entreats one's wife in cuckoldry, Sancho. In the military he’s known as Jody. Part of the psychological burlesque of boot camp is (or was) the Jody cadence song, for marching or double-time:

Jody, Jody, six foot four
Jody’s at my girl’s backdoor
But when I get my ninety-six
Gonna put him in a fix

A “ninety-six” is ninety six hours of leave, or four days.

Anyway. When even the glare of the computer screen seems like the harsh light of day to my now sickly, mole-like eyes (funny how much they look mole-like as well in this state, peering weakly out from the sides of the nose their diminution makes larger) I’m self restricted to laying on the couch and listening to the television for my news. Soon this becomes a malady of its own, for it doesn’t take long before Anderson Cooper’s flak-jacketed, affected pose of profound concern (just slightly more than you would be able to muster, mister) as he more or less parrots the pro-Israel line over an endless loop of Lebanese rubble and broken bodies (as if testing our ability to sustain cognitive dissonance), and when CNN is interviewing doomsday prophets and asking them straight faced if it’s time to treat the book of Revelation as a weather report, and I give in to my base desire to indulge in mindless television.

Having watched the last episode of Deadwood three times already and very nearly resorting to watching for a second time the most recent of that Sex and the City for twenty-something males, Entourage, I venture out into the open waters of the channel stream.

How can I resist Tyra Banks? Is there any greater testament to the power of beauty to cloud judgment and confound reason than the Tyra Banks Show? Yes, they’ve given this woman a microphone, and however much I want to think they are winking at us behind her back, I glumly accept that it is all in earnest, and that this beautiful young thing with that rosebud pout turned insouciantly starboard—just so—really is being paid to commit the only sacrilege left in our times, that against beauty.
When the beautiful, the perpetually adolescent, when those possessed of an ideally formed and seemingly frozen in time youthful grace start carrying on and pretending to be adult, that is to say concerned and practical, all is lost. Beauty has only one duty, and that is to remain mute. This is the final vulgar transgression in our long slide into the hell of dissolute tedium, all these beautiful people pretending to be something else. Like exquisitely crafted funerary urns being used as inefficient beer pitchers, spilling forth their frothy mess.

But mute Tyra will never be. Oh my Lord, will she ever again be silent? She is so free with her copious thoughts and assertions; they are so important, so new and original and necessary every time they spring from those lips (my God, those lips!), and I can almost make myself forget the sounds. But this is how I know I am no longer young. I can’t ignore the significance of the sounds any more. I can’t pretend they are a siren’s song. Meaning keeps creeping in every few syllables, and it is the absolute enemy of beauty. The literal, because it directly relates to action and therefore to degradation, to time and mortality, is the antithesis of beauty. Beauty has to remain abstract, immobile, the illusion of eternity; even the sensual, physical beauty of a living human.

But of course I’ve purposely inverted things here; there are so many countless others who have so much more to say than beautiful young Tyra, and they will never be heard. Isn’t this the real sin? That we’re humoring this beautiful, dare I say it, idiot? Worse, that we are so charmed by physical beauty that we don’t even realize any more that we humor it? That we defer to it absently, as if in a trance?
No; this is nothing compared to the defilement of the noble ideal of beauty. That seems like the murder of youth; like the trampling of innocence itself, even if the object and subject of this defilement are the same entity. Beauty devouring itself! Only in our debased times. Anyway.

But what a treat I would get on this day! Not since the intrepid Ms. Banks donned a fat suit and discovered to her dismay (and let’s pretend to ours, lest a furrow, heart rending in its charm though it may be, should come to that flawless brow) that obesity is unattractive. But wait—there’s more. This unattractiveness yields a significantly degraded level of treatment from the opposite sex. Yes, it’s true! Men.

Today Tyra would bravely delve further into the brute madness that is masculinity. She would go undercover applying for a job as a stripper. Under about a quarter inch of make-up that would make her no longer beautiful but merely hot. Yes, just like a potential stripper who looks like Tyra Banks.

The first revelation was that Tyra found the inside of the strip club creepy. It was almost endearing how, in our debauched era when young women (perhaps Tyra is dating herself a bit here) are expected to engage in stripper-like behavior as a rite of awareness, she was shocked to witness lap dancing. Of course she quickly became inured to it. It almost seemed, normal. And this troubled her. This poignant observation and we’d only just gotten underway. I almost forgot about the Apocalypse.
It was on to the interview. Skillfully Tyra drew from her interviewer the investigative coup-de-grace: undoubtedly after much edited out baiting, near the end of the interview she learns that there are certain “types” of women (how debasing!) that suit particular customers' preferences (men!); she asks what "type" is she, and—ready yourself—learns that she is an--exotic. Zoom in and freeze on our undercover beauty—minor key shift in the soundtrack; just in case anyone missed it. Break for commercial. Whew!
Not since Gloria Steinem learned the bunny dip. It could only have been better if he had leered at her and used the phrase “brown sugar.”

He may have. I didn’t make it to the other end of the commercial break. Like I said, tempestuous and fickle most days, absent currently. Anyway, I think I hear her key in the lock. I'm going to make like I never noticed she was gone.