Friday, February 23, 2007

muddle

Where have I been? What have I been up to? I could concoct a story, and believe me, it would be a hell of a story. But I'm tired. I can't think straight.
Can't think straight. How apt an expression. Thoughts refuse to proceed in orderly straight lines but curl back and founder in the murky sea from which they emerged, or they spiral off in little curlicue patterns, useless. Others merely float away in woeful silence on some invisible flux, like astronauts cut adrift in space.

Every thought that attempts to assert itself is instantly engaged by its contradiction; they grapple in a death embrace and are sucked into a vortex of wasted energy. I attempt concentration, but my mind drifts into pointless reverie no matter how hard I try; a mind with a mind of its own. My intellect is beyond repair. Weeds are growing up amongst its rusting parts. Cobwebs adorn its engine compartment.

Doubt is the tyrant of the realm of my mind. His operatives are everywhere; he is everywhere. A truly effective tyranny is one that a population foists upon itself and deems enlightenment. This is how I too have kept myself in line all of these years. I have been oh so proud of my doubt and skepticism. Of my remove. Here, even now, this conceit reveals itself. But egoism is evasion. The anti-social person is the highest order of megalomaniac; he doesn't even deign to find others worthy of influencing.
To what end my remove? To no end; no end is the end. Those who remove themselves from the fray secretly believe they will live forever. They are misers, hoarding what they think is eternity.

I am exhausted, in the truest sense of the word. Spent. And how little there was to give. What paltry production.
But what about the war? What about immigration? The presidential race? For the love of God man, what about Anna Nicole? Britney's depilation? The world revolves.
I don't care anymore; I have used up my supply of concern. My tank battalions are stranded in the desert; there is no fuel, the war is lost.
What does it matter, the concerns of the world? What sort of man toils in that arena, the world-stage? What sort of vanity is this, to want to influence the world? My world is that which is before me.
My self-fulfilling conceit is that there is nothing true and real beyond my senses. And she, who I have never known, who I will never know, who I've passed without a word countless times while staring down at my feet, at myself; she who has appeared in thousands of immortal guises, nearly all lost to memory but still existing somewhere (where do they go?) in the muddle that is my history, she is not there, and never will be.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

...

You don’t know how long you've been laying here in the park. You only know you can’t move. Outwardly, you are as inanimate as a piece of lead. Within, however, is all churning motion. You can’t believe she rejected you. You started the day in love’s vise grip; you lay here now, crushed.
Endlessly, compulsively, you turn over in your mind memories of her, progress you thought you had made, moments at once soaring passion and earthbound embrace, now endless freefall into an abyss within and the hard ground without.
You attempt to escape your thoughts, but every contemplative path circles back slyly and lands you before her cruel, indifferent image. Unable to distract yourself and not really wanting to, you torture yourself with images of her with him; as if you can make the reality of the two of them together vanish by turning and twisting the image about in your mind until it wears away. Instead it only fades and recurs over and over in endless variation.

Something draws your attention out of the corner of your eye: a small bird has landed within arm's reach. You have been motionless for so long it must not realize you’re there, you think with grim humor, picturing yourself in a time-lapse film, molding over and decomposing into the earth. The bird turns its head about with short, abbreviated movements that make it appear as if it is projected by an old, flickering film.

You've never before found yourself engaged by the beauty of something commonplace, of anything really, but in your weakened state this creature you would never have noticed before, with its fine, intricate markings and exquisite fragility, with the novel grace of its movement, appears to you as something divinely transcendant.
It is just then you realize you will survive, even as you know the ache is not nearly over. You will pass out of oblivion, leaving the pain behind. You are still in the darkened wood, but a peak above the treetops marks your way out: the journey before you is still long, cold, and tiring, but now it has a destination. You have been released.
The bird flies off. Free as a bird, you think, watching it flit away.
You rise and lean forward, slapping the grass from your pant legs. You hear a small airplane not far overhead. You look up. Squinting up at the plane obscured by a brilliant sun, you see it is trailing a banner. Putting your hand up to shade your eyes you read:
Untethered.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Big Brass Balls

No doubt there will be better analysis offered elsewhere of the curious example of double-speak and logical dysfunction displayed in Douglas Feith's op-ed in today's Washington Post, but this stands out for sheer nerve:
In evaluating our policy toward Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001, my office realized that CIA analysts were suppressing some of their information. They excluded reports conflicting with their favored theory: that the secular Iraqi Baathist regime would not cooperate with al-Qaeda jihadists. (We now face a strategic alliance of jihadists and former Baathists in Iraq.)
Feith wants you to believe that the present Ba'athist/jihadist alliance in Iraq, created entirely by the invasion, confirms his previous, wholly inaccurate (some would say deliberately misleading) assertion of such an alliance, a proposition directly counter to the CIA's "favored theory" ("favored theory" being an attempt at dissembling what someone with a clear conscience would call duly vetted intelligence).

Feith tries to disparage an accurate appraisal by calling it "theory" and mischaracterizing it as an assertion that Arab nationalists would never ally themselves with their jihadist enemies (this no doubt a clumsy attempt to grease his exit, using would not when in fact the intelligence conclusion was, more relevantly, that they were not).
But the invasion has only proven what we already knew: that when faced with a common enemy Arab nationalists and jihadists, among other regional players, will cooperate. We also know, by the same example of the Soveit occupation of Afghanistan, that in the absence of such a threat they will quickly resume internecine hostilities.

Feith is not merely trying to save his skin with this distortion; his arguments belie a perverse satisfaction and sense of opportunity realized by the persistent movement Feith represents. Now that they have clumsily created a reality of the illusion they fabricated, they use it to argue for a continuing presence in Iraq and even a wider war. It is in this context that we should also view the current narrative drive to generate outrage at the Iranian provocation of the U.S. in Iraq; something that might be more accurately characterized as Iranian reaction to U.S. provocation.

He further seeks to cover the tracks of his office's incompetence and lack of integrity by describing the proper rejection of compromised intelligence as "suppressing" information. By an illusory standard implied here, every shred of information offered warrants equal consideration, and being right counts for nothing, as the "suppressed" information Feith pines for has since been proven, to put it gently, hogwash.
There's no small hint of irony in this language; by promoting unsupported allegation and outright fraud over the objections of intelligence analysts and citing it as reliable intelligence Feith, not the intelligence community, effectively suppressed analysis.

And what of those "excluded reports"? Intelligence delivered to policymakers in Feith's office by the charlatan Ahmad Chalabi, which they in turn fed into the intelligence system to extract, by considerable effort, the same distorted picture of Iraq they now claim was the result of "failed intelligence." If not for the bloodshed it would be almost charmingly picaresque.
Why we would even humor such people, let alone spare them the widespread disgrace they deserve as they find comfortable sinecures in academia and elsewhere, while continuing to elect those who take them seriously, is beyond me.

ephemera

Shingle Fights.

You never knew when you might come under attack. The wind-searing sound of the tightly and rapidly spinning projectile slicing through the air gave no warning until it was too close to evade: a square piece of asphalt shingle, torn from the roof of one of the vacant houses and hurled like a boomerang.

The flight of the properly sized and dimensioned shingle, about four inches square, was remarkable. Thrown at a high trajectory the projectile would do a single, slow roll of 180 degrees as it made its way to its target. Once one became familiar with the particulars of the shingle's flight he could be deadly accurate within about fifty yards and could vary widely the trajectory to either rain down from above on its target or approach it at high speed in a harrowing, corkscrew spiraling line-drive. The natural bend in the shingle's flight, manipulated by a skilled and experienced thrower, could negotiate corners.

We were sitting in the shade of a tree in the middle of a wide field, located propitiously alongside a grade variance, that is the property line that once cut through this spot had separated a row of houses that were situated a few feet higher that those they backed up against. The block wall that separated the backyards had been leveled to the higher grade; this left a perfectly sized curb on which to sit, as if on a bench. The tree's shade protected the grass beneath if from the brutal summer sun that burned the unprotected grass into a brown, dirty scrub most of the year. A kid, I don't remember his name, was seated on this natural bench, resting his elbows on his knees with his hands clasped out before him. The shingle cut through our circle in an angry flash, the slicing sound of its flight terminating in a sickening sound of struck shallow bone, as it hacked a bloody gash across the back of his hand.

In the face of such an assault we would repair to a vacant house of our own and mount the roof, tearing off shingles and returning fire. Battles were quickly engaged, as two rooftop gangs exchanged fire across a street, the shingles turning like small black birds in graceful, varied arcs. Marksmen positioned themselves behind the peak of the roof, ducking out of the way of the shingles that careened and skidded past. Soon the ground was littered with these, the street and sidewalks scuffed with their impact marks, the houses pockmarked with their black commas. Motorists would happen through warily. Sometimes an outraged adult would chase us off. We melted back into the environment like urban guerillas.

Somehow no one was ever seriously injured.