Last night I got to go to the annual pseudo-prom, hosted by a coalition of friends that I am sometimes attached to, the CAEL crew and the Mike Saul Crowd. Thanks to Twinters for being my date, despite your insidious plot to tower over me in the high heels. 5'8 used to be average male height! Average! Why do people keep getting taller? It doesn't make you better people, you know.
It was fun and all, but the DJ sucked compared to last year. Last year they knew their audience: Mid to (increasingly) late twentysomethings attempting to relive their youth. Despite a few token attempts to throw in the cheesy late eighties/early nineties material I was paying for, it was mostly 2003 on sort of stuff. Know, sir, that Britney Spears' "Toxic" does not move me... I did however, have fun when he started playing Kanye West's "Jesus Walks" and I started running up to people and shouting that George Bush doesn't care about black people. On a related note, he *did* play "Livin' On a Prayer" which was my October, 2004 theme song.
In all, it was a grand affair. When a song I liked did play, I jumped very, very high in the air. And it doesn't matter if you're short when you do that.
Yesterday I read a review of a play about a group of very smart, working class British high school students called "History Boys". The reviewer wrote that "Like all of us who went to school...the boys are (to quote one of their teachers) 'magnificently unprepared for the littleness of life'."
I recall a conversation I had with my childhood companion and frequent whatjailislike.com/ correspondent Anna Zbilut a few years ago in which we noted the oddity of how our kindergarten/first/second grade teachers all seemed to be under the impression that mastery of paper mache products would be the foundation of all significant knowledge in our lives. We scoffed at this notion, for it seemed an odd notion indeed. We had this conversation in the spring of 2002, which was the end of my scholastic career. Since then I've come to realize that our grade school teachers were right. In terms of the things I've done to earn a living in the last four years, primary school learning has come into play far more than high school or college. Performing minor office functions as I so often do, I realize that I'm constantly employing scissors and glue, implements I've always disliked, but I'm certainly doing that more than discussing the anti-democratic themes of Milton and whatnot.
I've heard this argument all my life from stupid and largely worthless adults, that the humanities are useless because they do not earn you money (the most important thing in the world)
It was rot then and it's rot now. Milton's going to be around long after those hungry sacks of flesh are dust and the transitory concerns of my employers are forgotten, and their scissors have long since dulled...
I'm not only unprepared for the littleness of life, I'm utterly unwilling to accept it. I refuse to ever allow my life to be little, and I think that refusal *is* pretty magnificent...
So I just saw this headline on Yahoo News "Bin Laden Urges Fighters To Sudan". Now of course, the people being slaughtered in Sudan that the West has been talking (and talking) about intervening for are Muslims. So I was thinking, "Hey, Bin Laden's going to be on our side on this one!" as he famously was in 1980's Afghanistan, and less famously but more aptly, in 1990's Bosnia. So I was like "Hey, cool, like old times!" But then I read the article and it turns out he's saying that his martyrs should attack UN facilities, because all the West is at war with Islam.
Fuck you, man! Seriously that guy is such a dick, he's going for any opportunity to kill Westerners, even when they're theoretically trying to help innocent Muslims out. Such a dick! I'm so through with that guy.
My roommate recently found an all too typical sob story on some dude's blog. The blog is fairly hilarious, and fairly typical of many things I've seen on this here World Wide Woe machine. The guy's header for himself is "Single, bored and lonely". With a sales pitch like that you have to wonder why.
Anyway, apparently this guy happens to have recently kidnapped, raped and murdered a ten year old girl, and was apparently going to eat her before he was stopped. "Killing with intent to eat", I believe that's the section of the Oklahoma penal code he's currently being prosecuted under.
Anyway, that's not the sob story, the actual sob story is something he wrote several months prior, he was lamenting the reason women didn't like him: Because He's Too Nice A Guy.
And as we all know, women don't like nice guys.
People who know me know that humor is important to me, I traffic in it rather frequently on this website. I like to laugh a great deal. Laughter is my greatest source of joy (it's certainly not sex, because I'm single, bored and lonely) and I'm highly discriminating about what makes me laugh. Please understand, dear readers, that I have not literally fallen off my seat and collapsed on a floor howling with laughter since the Spring of 1996, it seems destined to happen once every ten years.
That little girl died so that I could laugh my ass off. She's much like Jesus that way.
Yeah, I know. I'm not a nice guy.
My grandmother, who once kicked me out of her home, likes to pretend that never happened (or perhaps doesn't remember that it did) and periodically has my father invite me to their home for holiday celebrations. So I spent a few hours of Ressurectionfest 2006 there. It was a characteristically dismal affair. The slightest proximity to my uncle Gerald is enough to put me in a state of total misanthropy, such is my revulsion for that ill conceived parody of a man. That's my family. Is that what Jesus died for? At least I got to visit my old books. I have a lot of those. Also, my father makes good very good chicken and stuffing (my alternative to the traditional ham)
Now I'm spending a quiet evening in the solitude of my apartment. I get too damn few of those. I thought I would have one last night but got invited to a party at the last minute. Alas, I have too many friends. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful...
When the movie The Incredibles came out a couple of years ago, I liked it a lot but noticed the thematic undercurrent of smarter/stronger/more talented kids are being held back by egalitarian social structures. This theme echoes a lot of annoying conservative rhetoric, but it's not entirely without validity. It was of course, embraced by Ayn Rand fans. But really. What is more antithetical to their philosophy than the concept of the superhero? The superhero is a figure that is, arguably the kind of advanced supercool better than everybody else ideal Objectivists are fond of, but exists only to help others. Superheroes consistently put the needs of others ahead of their own. It's their essence.
If Ayn Rand wrote Superman, it would be extremely boring. Superman would fly around all the time, seeing people in trouble and saying to himself "Well I don't have any real incentive to get involved here. Those people falling to their deaths should figure out a way to help themselves." And he would fly on.
I discovered from randomly looking at a Livejournal that an acquaintance of mine is an Ayn Rand fan.
Really, don't people get over Ayn Rand by the time they graduate high school?
As my literate audience well knows, Ms. Rand essentially argued that individual humans must act out of self interest and self interest alone, altruism, empathy and compassion are weaknesses, and everthing good in our world was created by great men (Ms. Rand has a reputation for feminism, certainly in her later years, but it's interesting how hung up she is on "Great Men", makes me think of Sylvia Plath's "Daddy") whose grand ambitions are constantly threatened by their less talented inferiors, "the parasites" ie the rest of us. Her most famous novel, about a supernaturally brilliant architect who decides that he's not going to play by the parasites' rules anymore is called Atlas Shrugged. An allusion of course, to the mythical titan, who held the world on his shoulders. Ms. Rand believes that it is the Great Men who suffer the terrible burden of making our world work and that instead of worrying about anybody else, they need to pursue their own dreams, unchained by such primitive, parasitic, moral notions as compassion etc.
What a bunch of arrogant, delusional garbage. It's not "Great Men" who keep our world going, it's everybody else. It's the people who grow the crops, manufacture the goods, and sweep the streets. It's auto mechanics and housewives, it's nurses and teachers and data entry clerks. It's all of us. Rand was a big believer in personal responsibility and accountability. I am too, except I think the entire human race needs to stand as one, we've got to be responsible to our planet and to each other, because most of us don't have "genius" or "greatness", mostly what we've got is each other.
"Great Men" on the other hand, as far as I can tell, seem to be the ones causing most of the trouble.
I get why Rand felt the way she did, she grew up in Soviet Russia, which would inspire a strong appreciation for capitalism in anyone. But really, it takes a special kind of person to look around at a society dominated by secret police, gulags, show trials, mass starvations and exterminations, and conclude "You know what the problem is around here? Too much compassion!"
Lennin and Stalin we're Great Men too.
What's so insidious about her ideas is that they're rooted in very good ideas, very American ideas that I like a lot: individual freedom, persona responsibility, free enterprise. But those ideals are not inconsistent with the ideals of compassion, altruism and wanting to make the world a better place, and only an extremist would say that they were. Just as the Bolsheviks perverted (and pretty much flat out ignored) the noble ideals of socialism, that the hungry would be fed, that everyone who worked hard would be rewarded, Rand and her Objectivists pervert the ideals of capitalism and democracy. One could argue, with much less bloodshed, but considering how influential her ideas are with the people running the show in Washington these days, I'm not convinced of that...
Extremists always prevent us with a false choice: individual freedom or concern for one's fellow men and women, as if those ideas are by nature irreconcilable. There can be only one! Where the hell does this idea come from? But extremists of course, are all the same, I don't think Objectivism (and to be more expansive, I'll call it for my purposes right wing libertarianism) and Communism are all that different at all. They're both doctrines of moral and intellectual tyranny.
Of course, free enterprise and capitalism can exist side by side with a progressive social welfare state, Western Europe proves that, and even though it can veer to far towards certain extremes eg this whole thing with French kids rioting for the right to never be fired ever, for the most part it works, despite a hell of a lot of well financed propaganda on this side of the Atlantic. It works here too, this country would be a much worse place if it were not for the enduring (but constantly threatened) legacy of the New Deal.
Right wing libertarians are constantly singing the praises of "freedom" but they seem to care very little about the idea of expanding freedom for those who have traditionally been denied it. They treat "freedom" as if it were a concrete, quantifiable object. They act like they're afraid that the more freedom someone else gets, the less they will have. But freedom perpetuates itself. It's the true rising tide that lifts all boats.
The right wing libertarian tells us "If you're starving because you can't make it in the marketplace, it's your own fault and no one owes you anything." The Communist says "If you're starving, you must become a servant of the State and be taken care of that way." The social democrat says: "Your barriers can be removed and you can get the help you need, if you're willing to work for it." Creating opportunity expands freedom, not diminishes it.
FDR (Rand's sworn nemesis) crystalized it all with his "Four Freedoms" speech: Freedom of Speech and Worship, the traditional American ideals of limited government, but also Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. Freedom and social equality simply cannot exist without each other. You cannot have liberte without egalite and fraternite.
I'll let FDR's truest heir, Barack close this out, an excerpt from his 2004 Convention Magnum Opus:
"John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it's not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we're all connected as one people.
If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription drugs, and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.
It is that fundamental belief, it is that fundamental belief, I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.
E pluribus unum. Out of many, one."
Believe it or not there's a bit more to say on this topic, but hopefully I will go back to being funny with the next post.
NOTE: There are a number of errors above, contradicting any reputation for nigh infallibility I might ever cultivate.
The Daily Show and Colbert Report are the balm to my psychic wounds. This is a well known fact. The problem is, they're in reruns this week, and I have many, many psychic wounds. I appreciate what you're doing, guys, I do, and what you've always done. Thank you for all your efforts, I really have no right to complain.
You're addressing the psychic wounds I had a couple of weeks ago and I appreciate that, I really do. It's just that new ones have opened up since then and...look, my psychic wounds are not your responsibility, you guys are just performing a good service. Thanks, really. Those of us who lack psychic wound insurance have a serious plight.
"Screw all that crap about trying to get monkeys to type Hamlet. Let's get them to put it on!"
-Reina Hardy, 2006
I say "indeed".
Okay, computer fully restored, I will now resume setting the literary world ablaze.
Of Nothing Ever Goes Right For Rory (Part 45 in an ideally 45 part series)
I didn't get the coveted Borders job. Also, the laptop came back fixed last night, except I discovered an entirely new problem.
The question must be asked: Haven't I suffered enough?
Why do so many cosmic forces hate America?
Apparently Greymatter needs to be added to the list of America's enemies. They're emboldening them anyway.
I assume that we're all in mourning for the tragic, early end to Tom Delay's career in Congress. He was too young, and too good for this world. I weep, thinking about how much damage he still had left to do to the democratic institutions of this nation. So much promise unfulfilled...I'm barely holding it together.
Like Tom, I'm a man who has always put America above my petty partisan interests, and right now America is suffering because of two things, one, my computer hasn't been fixed yet, and the other, Borders has not hired me yet. But they interviewed me, that's pretty awesome. Still, I know my country is suffering and it's hard to take. If it were just me I could handle it, but America wants me to have my computer back and to work at Borders SO much...There's a sick little boy in a hospital bed in Brooklyn right now, who doesn't care about getting a new heart nearly as much as he cares about these things. Do you hear me Gateway and Borders? You're standing in the way of the wishes of dying children! How can you live with yourselves?