July 30th, 2004

pod

Herman Munster for president! Couldn't we have at least gotten a Gomez Adams lookalike?

I know I'm not the first person to question this, but how is that John Kerry can condemn the Vietnam war in one breath and then speak with pride about his time there and his compatriots with the next. Yes, I understand that one can be brave even in pursuit of a foolish or unjust goal, but should one really be proud about it? I think that in this day and age that is insensative at the very least, and perhaps even sends a dangerous message. Imagine if in 30 years an Iraqi politician looks back on his days helping the insurgency kill Americans. He admits that the cause was unjust but still wants to use it as an example of his bravery and patriotism. How much different would that be from what Kerry is doing by bringing out his band of brothers? You may argue that the Vietnam war was not nearly as unjust or brutal as what the insurgents are doing in Iraq, but that's not the picture John Kerry painted of it when he returned. He was one of the people who took great pains to shed light on the massacres of the civilian population by American soldiers. He may not have taken part in such massacres himself, but he was working in support of at least some of those who did. Kerry didn't understand what he was getting himself into in Vietnam. He did not know about the massacres or the geopolitical causes of the war. That's a fine reason to forgive him for what he did, he is not a war criminal and should not be treated as such. On the other hand, perhaps our theortical Iraqi insurgent also did not commit acts of violence against civilians or realize that he was engaging in an unjust action. Would we still accept his pride and nationalism in having killed our soldiers?

I don't think that Kerry needs to apologise for what he did in Vietnam, if he's being honest about it, and I have no particular belief that he is not. I do, however, find it very troubling that he is able to accept that Vietnam was an unjust and harmful war, and yet still crow about his part in it. Let's say one day you came across a little old lady who had locked her keys in her house and forgotten where she put her spare. After some searching you helped her locate the spare key and enter the house. The next day in the newspaper you learned that she had been a burglar who had robbed the house. You might not feel bad about what you did, as it was well intentioned. On the other hand, you would accept that you were duped and you would not have pride in your actions that had been part of something horrible. John Kerry went to Vietnam and helped our country rain untold suffering upon its people (this is his view of the conflict, it doesn't need to be yours or mine for the comparison to hold up.) He continues to be proud of what he did and trumpets it loudly in a number of forums, bringing his old war buddies on stage to speak for him. Is it evidence of his bravery? Probably. But it is bravery for an evil cause. Imagine how the Vietnamese orphaned by the American war feel watching it on their television sets. Imagine how the military families who have lost members to the Iraqi insurgency would feel 30 years from now if our supposed politician was making these speeches and standing on stage with his terrorist brethren as proof of his patriotism.

It strikes me as, at the very least, highly inappropriate.

Kerry's speech was okay. I watched it with an open mind and he made at least some policy recommendations. Many of them were completely unworkable under the current fiscal situation, and I'm unsure as to why he is fixated on $200,000 as the number above which people are rich. That's not necessarily the case. In New York City $200,000 for a family of four would put you at very comfortably middle-classed, but it wouldn't be enough for a mansion or a super luxury car. It wouldn't even be enough to pay for college for two kids out of pocket. My family made around $200,000 in 1991 and we certainly weren't what I'd call rich. I don't so much object to there being a higher tax bracket there, but what we really need is a tax bracket that starts at $1,000,000 in order to tax the super rich, who have more absolute wealth than those between $200,000 and $1,000,000, and who are actually rich enough that they can pay for their needs out of pocket. You could even make it higher than $1,000,000. I also don't like that he didn't talk about bumping up funding for the IRS by like %300 or things like the capital gains tax and the estate tax (Death tax is a really dumb name for it. You're not taxed for dying, your heirs are taxed for inheriting. When you're dead you don't have anything and you don't deserve anything. You're dead. Money isn't going to change that.)

I will now proceed to talk about other stuff:

I am really growing tired of advertisements that insult potential customers. Especially those that do it in reverse. "Ultra-Clean isn't for people who love filth. It isn't for islamofascists or those who hate America. It isn't for the type of person who breaks into morgues late at night and commits unspeakable acts of violation against the dead. If you are one of those people then I don't suggest you buy it." It's not bad enough that we have to be bombarded by advertisements day in and day out, including when we go to the movie theatre and pay ridiculous prices to see shitty films (that one bunches up everyone's shorts.) Now we have to be told that if we don't buy whatever shitty product they're selling that we're Necrophiliac Jihadists, and untidy to boot. What about people who don't want to pay $30 to get the stains out of a $12 T-shirt because we don't buy overpriced designer crap that barely looks tolerable on a rail-thin Swedish model and makes the average human being look like a husky walrus being attacked by some sort of environmentally friendly fur trap? How far are we from Budweiser hiring women to go into bars, look for men drinking a competitor's beer, and loudly exclaim "Oh my god, I think that's the guy who raped me! Oh wait, sorry, my mistake. It's just that most rapists drink Michelobe." I'd say 5 years max.

I said I was going to write about weightloss and I might as well do it now, when people have either skipped over this entry because it's too long and uglies up their friends page (Sizequeen iconoclast I may be looking in your direction) or are wondering whether Amstel is the beer of guys who screw around on a girl with her roomate. Weightloss is a lot like pushing a big round rock up a rather steep hill. The beginning is the worst part. You're standing at the bottom of this massive earthy undulation looking at your boulder and saying "How the fuck am I supposed to do that?" But you start, because some things just have to get done. The intial bit after you've started is tough, but you're full of energy and all rested up with memories of that box of Kit-Kats you devoured the day before in an incredibly foolish "Last meal without boiled turnips" move. You're hungry but you're motivated, so you push like a motherfucker and the stone starts to get rolling up hill. You build a little momentum and things start moving and you start to think that you can do it. You've got the enthusiasm of new work pushing you and a lot of ways to go. Eventually that enthusiasm runs out, though. You start to realize that what you're doing is pushing a fucking boulder up a big-ass hill without assistance (unless you're having someone else restrict your food intake in which case your effort is likely for naught.) Sucks to be you, huh? What's critical at this point is that you be able to look back and see that you've made some progress, because the next phase is driven by the knowledge that if you stop now you're either going to have to spend the rest of your life sitting with your boulder at the bottom of that hill, or roll it back up to where you already are. You've probably spent a good deal of your life playing that Sisyphus game and you know it's dangerous. So you make your decision, you push onward, despite the cramping and the monotony, towards the top. The next trial is the slip. It always happens and it's always rough when you do. Something happens, like you find yourself stranded out in the middle of nowhere and the only sustenance to be found is an entire box of Hostess ding-dongs that must be consumed in a single sitting because they expire the next day. Or maybe you go out with your friends to a restaurant that doesn't have anything appetizing and low calorie on the menu, the specifics are not so important. What is important is that you fuck up, eat more than you should or something you shouldn't, and the scale admonishes you for this. This is a bit of a double whammy. Not only are you going to have to re-climb territory you've already passed, but you also have the memory of delicious fatty fried foods lingering. At the bottom of the hill you imagine you see a bucket of KFC and a fresh-baked cherry pie. Maybe it won't be so bad down there, you think, as long as you've got the Colonel to keep you company. It's a mirage of course. The chicken will taste vaguely diseased and the pie is burned at the bottom. It's never worth it to give up. Never. But you're thinking with your lips and tongue, not your brain. It's kind of like picking up that blonde at the bar with the suspicious sore on her lip. You know it's a bad idea and that she's been around the block so many times the children think she's part of the neighborhood watch, but damn the girl has tits.

It's not worth it.

So you pick yourself up, after your slip. You but your back into it, heave, get the ball rolling again, and start to move. And you will slip again, and there will be points where it seems like all your effort is for naught because the ground is soft and grips your stone and you just can't get the thing to move. It's a constant struggle and you can't take time off because that just gives you more ground to cover. You heave and you heave and finally you get it up to a point where the pushing isn't as important and you can focus on keeping it around where it is. The thing is, once you're there you HAVE to hold it. It's really easy to step aside and let it go crashing down the hill. Or to lean against it and let the ground give way beneath your feet, slowly sliding down towards that burnt pie. Maintenance is the hardest part, and I've learned that lesson several times. You need to keep pushing. For the rest of your life. It's a big commitment. A constant dull pain and self-denial. The only choice you really have.

Of course there are ways around the whole thing. With surgery you can bulldoze the mountain and roll the stone over to where the peak should be without effort. With a carefully controlled program by someone else you can travel to the top quicker being pushed from behind. Both of these methods work to some extent. The problem with the bulldozing is it's drastic, irreversible, and you could die beneath the treads. It's not clear Gastric-Bypass surgery increases lifespan, it may be mostly cosmetic. The problem with being carried up is that you don't develop the mental muscle necessary to stay there. You find yourself standing alone eventually and then you have to hold it there, without the benefit of having done the work to get there in the first place. It's tough. Really tough.

The thing is, you rolled the boulder down the hill in the first place. Nobody's born fat, and nobody got that way on breastmilk. You may not have known what you were doing at the time but you did it. Everything has consequences.

P.S.

This is funny. http://www.townhall.com/columnists/GuestColumns/Mazzella20040730.shtml
Apparently poking fun at America in advertisements is the same as shitting on the flag.
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Things I do not understand

If I plan right on my diet I can have one moderately large meal a day. We're not talking 2 hours at a Chinese buffet or a box of cupcakes here, but maybe a burger or a couple pieces of pizza. For some reason I always want to do this for dinner, even though that goes against the principal of instant gratification that seems to drive so much overeating. I don't get it. The only theory I have is that I subconsciously know that I can moderate my eating during the day if there's a promise of a nice payoff at night, but if I take the payoff earlier I have less incentive to be careful at night. That doesn't feel right to me though. Ideally I'd want a larger lunch, since metabolism is higher at mid-day and the calories come off more easily. How bizzare.

I can't decide whether I believe in the minimum wage or not. On the one hand I think people deserve decent compensation for their labor and I know that companies will short them if at all possible. Wal-Mart encourages employees to get on footstamps and welfare, which many are eligible for thanks to the fact that Devil-Mart pays shit for wages. Karl Marx said that if left to their own devices capitalists would pay workers only what was necessary to keep them alive and breeding replacements (not even the second part for the particularly short-sighted money-worshipers). In that, as with a good deal of his pure economics, I think he was right (Conservatives tend to confuse the sillyness of the communist manifesto with the rather valuable economic analysis in Das Kapital.) At least when it comes to unskilled laborers. It is fairly clear that the Wal-Marts of the world don't see their employees as human. They see them through Bushvision, just lower creatures to be used for their own personal gain. In order to combat that it seems like we should have legislation limiting exploitation. On the other side of it, minimum wage laws cause unemployment and are bad for the long-term economic health of marginal businesses. Just as artificial price hikes through agricultural subsidies lower the profits of American food companies artificial wage hikes do so for other businesses. I think the best solution is to link minimum wages to revenue or profitability. In other words you are able to pay whatever you want so long as you are spending %60 of your capital on labor (or some other number.) The problem is this would be very difficult, if not impossible, to get to work across various industries that naturally have different percentages of funds devoted to labor. It is probably too complicated to make work, but to me it seems like the only equitable solution.

I don't understand people who promote campaign contributions to major candidates as your patriotic duty. I find campaign contributions beyond a certain point to be somewhat sleazy. A campaign needs certain monies just to get itself off the ground. It needs cash so it can hire staff, print up leaflets on policy, and get information out there. Beyond that the money is almost all used for spin. When you give money to your local assemblyman chances are he isn't going to use it for a manipulative television commercial. John Kerry is. He already has the millions he needs to travel to all the campaign stops, keep his website cocky and funny (the better to seduce the women's vote with) and do all the other stuff. Most of the money from here on out is going into soundbites. I think that stinks. I realize that pragmatists will say that he needs those spots to do battle with the Bush Behemouth who even now is much better funded than he is. I say...maybe. Campaign funds don't define who wins a race. There's a correlation, but I still believe that there's a segment of the population who would rather have a candidate who doesn't need to spin the television all day long. Maybe I'm stupid for thinking so, but I've been called stupid before.

Regardless, I don't think there's any sort of moral requirement to pay for sleazy campaign advertisements. I also don't think that it's the only way the campaign could be won. If everyone agreed to have a conversation about politics with 5 people who disagreed with them it would do a whole lot more to spread information and change opinions than those spots ever could.

I don't understand why I watch lousy television instead of writing or engaging in other worthwhile pursuits. I've cut back but I still do it and it doesn't make any sense. I am just as happy sitting in a chair listening to the Cranberries and pounding out prose, happier in fact. Watching crappy TV is a drug, it dulls the senses and leaves you vaguely uncomfortable but cowed. It's pointless and useless. Writing is invigorating. It's exciting and it builds the adrenaline. I feel sweaty and engaged and happy. I see myself in a jungle ten years from now, open-shirt, brow oozing with bodily salts, and fingers racing across a keyboard. I feel at home. So why don't I do it more? Why do I lack the discipline? Why bother turn on the idiot box except for important and useful purposes, like to watch the Mets throw away their season one error at a time?

Couldn't tell ya. Habit? Fear of failure? Lazyness? All of the above most likely, but there's something else there. Something that isn't wired right.

Why am I more comfortable this summer than I was last? I don't know. I'm a little bit thinner but still wouldn't be mistaken for a lightweight, not by a very long shot. I think it's been a little cooler, but that's not all of it. For some reason I'm just not overheated and miserable like I was back then, and then I was working in an air-conditioned building. I think I may be more comfortable in my own skin and more mature. Less focused on the physical and more able to tolerate discomfort because of inner peace. That is impossibly cheesy as I type it, yet it just may be accurate. If so, that's some good progress for a single year. 50 lbs gone, a degree earned, and inner growth. The trifecta (The qunitecta involves professional and romantic success. Yeah...about that stuff...I will have to get back to you.)

Fabulous.

I don't understand how people can ignore the humanity of others. When I don't give money to the beggars who have returned to the streets of New York thanks to Osama Bin Bush's economic strategery I do so for rational reasons. You don't know which ones of them will use it to harm themselves. Better to put time and money into charities that you can be reasonably sure will provide them with food and clothing rather than crack rock. I feel bad for the people though. I feel bad for not giving them money. There are others who look right through them, ignore them, or even loathe them for no discernable reason. When a panhandler (it's not right to say homeless person because some of them actually have nice homes) talks to me in an effort to get money he is not likely to get any of the cash but I will at least offer a verbal response, and even a conversation if I have the time and they want it (mostly they don't.)

I don't understand why we can't figure out a way with all the things we produce and wealth we have to provide everybody the things they need to live. I know communism won't get, and I understand it's because of human nature, but I don't know why it has to be that way. We have the technology and the resources, just not the willpower. We'd rather have mansions for the few than housing for the many. We're animals when you get right down to it. Greedy, short-sighted, thoughtless, animals.
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Pathos and pomp, pathos and pomp, go together like shake and stomp

My legs hurt, my eyes droop, and I find myself unable to get down a coherent thought in anything resembling interesting language. I'm high. Not on weed, or heroin. Endorphins. The body's natural high, the chemicals that the receptors for all the fun synthetic drugs were designed to accept. I honestly don't know if I like it at the moment, because it's dulling my senses and lulling me to sleep and I had stuff that I wanted to say before bedding down. You're lucky, though. I'll have to be concise.

I wanted to talk about LJ, briefly. That's right, you're reading something other than navel gazing OR political screeds. I'll give you a moment to compose yourselves. That better? Need a bit more? Breath in, breath out. You're a hollow reed (meditation technique from "Perfect Strangers," works every time.) Okay. Here we go.

I think that Livejournal social interactions are on the one hand fascinating and on the other rather sad. One of the things that makes me sad is when someone puts up a poll or a question asking for people to give their opinions, and they only get one or two responses. It's like a homeless man who sits down with a cup and rattles it, and then you come back a few hours later and he's got 70 cents. This happened to me recently, when I posted a poll to see what I should change the name of the journal to. I did this purely because people have been complaining and I'm not wedded to what it is, so I wanted to see if those who were disatisfied could do better. There was only a single serious answer and it was too dark for me to use, since I like the balance of a 'name' full of pathos and a journal title full of pompousness. Pomp and pathos, they go together. This was hardly an earth shattering ego-blow, but it does make me wince when I see this happen to others.

It generally occurs with people who have smaller "friends of" lists. There are about 25 people who read this journal on a semi-regular basis (my friends of says 42 but a lot of those are dead accounts, and then there are a couple lurkers out there in the shadows) On any entry except the most spectacular I can expect between 0 and 3 of them to comment, generally out of a group of about half a dozen who do so on a semi-regular basis. Now I'll grant that this is totally understandable. This journal does not invite discourse. Not only do I have a tendency to get a bit hotheaded at times (No, really, ME. Seriously. No joke.) but the subject matter also lends itself to read and run. Many of the posts are long and disjointed, and those that aren't are often not the sort of thing one can say much about. "Okay...so he hates himself and is mired in mediocrity and self-doubt. He also believes that the socioeconomic forces that interact with the minimum wage make it a difficult policy to judge. Ooo, look, the next person posted about puppies! I'll tell them that I also like puppies!" So let's say that the numbers would be higher were I not prone to obnoxiously verbose and dark writings. Let's say that on average 1 in 15 people that read a post comment on it. That means that if you want 4 responses to a poll question (the minimum to make it look well-recieved) you need like 60 friend-ofs, slightly above average. If you have 13, you might get no response. That looks very lonely. There's nothing wrong with having 13 friend-ofs. Maybe your journal's private, maybe you just use it to keep track of your life and not as a social tool or a place for pontification. Perhaps you don't update it as often as you might like because you're off having a life and picking up exotic women with model looks in exclusive bars. I don't know. The thing is, I feel bad for someone who has 13 people who claim to be their friend and nobody who wants to answer their question. It's probably just neurotic weirdness fueled by a solitary childhood, but that's what you read this journal for, right? So you can point and laugh at a psychic trainwreck and then go play croquet with Buffy at the Easterbrook club (I take it for granted that my entire 'readership' consists of young debutants. I think blorky pretends to be a pretty pretty princess when he's not powerlifting or immersing himself in science and Eastern philosophy) Nontheless I think it's indicative of the social patterns of the internet, which include loose anonymous attachements and the bandying about of the word "friend" like it carries no weight. One does not ask a question of 13 friends and get 0 responses. Friend here means aquaintance, or reader, or something of the ilk. It's a loose and easily severed relationship that can grow into more but doesn't necessarily. Some of my "friends" and I have never directly communicated.

This bothers me. I think friend should be something of a sacred word. It's cheapened by its use in formats like this. To the ancient Greeks friendship was the purest sort of love and the strongest bond a person could have with another. It was a thing of transcendant beauty and even divinity. Not something you obtain over the internet by clicking a button. I feel uncomfortable with the wording, and I know it's just a word and it doesn't mean anything but it bothers me. Friends are people you love and rely on. They matter to you, more, in some ways, than family members or lovers. Bros before Hoes. You can pick your nose, you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your parents. These are sarcastic or humorous but they have real meaning too. Lovers leave and enter. Family members you are required to love and tolerate no matter what shit they pull. Friends, though, that's a voluntary lasting association. Not the clicky flitting thing it is on LJ. I don't like that aspect of the social interaction.

All this is not a plea for more feedback or comments. This service is what it is. I'm glad for anyone who wants to read the crap I have to write, and I have no expectations. I just feel bad for the people with 13 friends and a question asked and no response. I probably shouldn't. They have real friends to ask questions of, and hot models to sleep with. That's cool. It's just that word.

It's a powerful word. To me.
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