Monday, June 30, 2008

Yesterday, reporter Seymour Hersh uncovered a U.S. led covert operation against Iran in an online report of New Yorker magazine.

"The Finding was focused on undermining Iran's nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change...working with opposition groups and passing money.

U.S. covert operations in Iran have been ongoing for the better part of a year and have included the seizing of Iranian citizens and transporting them to Iraq for interrogation. Furthermore, leading Republicans and Democrats gave a green light to the operations by signing off on a $400 million dollar budget.

The current administration does not believe NIE reports saying Iran has stopped its nuclear programs in 2005.

This should be big news. Generally, when nations cross over into other nations borders and kidnap citizens, it is considered an act of war.

However, a quick scan of msnbc, cnn and fox news shows, respectively, a bear scratching his back on a tree, a young man filling up his gas tank and a heartwarming story about a disfigured U.S. Army soldier determined to continue serving his country.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Gulf of Tonkin non-incident

Thirty years since the last American soldier left south-east Asia, the word 'Vietnam' still has the power to conjure images of Huey helicopters, soldiers torching grass huts with zippo lighters and war protesters shot dead in Kent State by national guard units.

Prior to 1964, American involvement in Vietnam was in the form of financial aid to France who struggled to regain control over it's south-east Asian colony. While America was more interested in containing the spread of communism than propping up a failed colonial empire, the distinction was likely lost on the people of Vietnam themselves.

Nevertheless, what changed Americas monetary involvement into a military engagement was an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin where naval forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam engaged two American destroyers.

However, recently declassified NSA reports show the American people were grossly misled on the actual events of August 2 and 4, 1964 and it was this misrepresentation that gave President Johnson the broad authority to wage war in Vietnam on August 7th, 1964. Five years later, the first lottery drawing since WWII was held to draft men into military service on December 1, 1969.

The war LBJ started would last 11 years and cost over 58,000 American lives. Had the American people known the full truth of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Congress would never have given authority to escalate American involvement.

"For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there." -- President Lyndon Bains Johnson, 1965.

With these declassified documents, similarities between the lead-up to the Vietnam war and the current conflict in Iraq are self-apparent.

Whether you agree with the Iraq war or not, we all must acknowledge that the intelligence data used to justify the Iraq conflict was grossly skewed. I would not debate the who-knew-what-when's of the matter because without a thorough congressional investigation (and the political will to carry it through) we will never know.

However, the detrimental effects of unjustified conflicts has upon a Democracy cannot be overstated because if a democracy can be led into war as easily as a dictatorship, then the difference between democracy and tyranny has become very small indeed.

An article on about the Gulf of Tonkin incident is an excellent summery of the new findings.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Post peak oil America.

Today, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $4.067 and despite some belt tightening and an explosive increase in bicycle sales, the average American is pretty much living as they have for decades. In other words, the life Americans are leading today is indistinguishable from the life led a few decades ago, but that is about to change.

"It is increasingly clear that the outlook for oil supply signals a period of unprecedented scarcity,...Despite the recent record jump in oil prices, oil prices will continue to rise steadily over the next five years." -- statement by analysts led by Jeff Rubin at CIBC

The great unanswered question is what is the dollar-per-fuel ratio which will make the current American lifestyle unsustainable? When does the average two-income American family decide that using two cars to commute between work, grocery shopping, school, soccer practice, church and girl scout camp simply cannot happen any longer? Furthermore, what does a world look like when the average American crunches the numbers and discovers the life they lead, indeed the lives their cities were built for, is no longer economically feasible on an individual level?

To find an answer to the future of America, we will need to look into the past.

America as we know it today has its beginnings during a 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy experiment which tested the mobility of military vehicles on American soil. A young Lieutenant Colonel named Dwight D. Eisenhower participated in the exercise which took 62 days to traverse 3,251 miles from Washington DC and to San Francisco. Thirty-seven years later, when the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956 was going through congress, automobile industry lobbiests found a powerful ally in President Eisenhower whose unsatisfactory two month long commute is the reason we can start a car in Washington, D.C. and arrive in San Francisco less than two days later.

Suburbs were born in the era of the trolley and commuter train but only reached brobdingnagian proportions in the age of the automobile and the super-highway. The creation of the Eisenhower interstate highway not only changed how fast Americans could travel but also the shape of their communities as well. The super-highway network had the ironic effect of both connecting remote suburbs to cities as well as dividing those communities through which they were built. As anyone in North Texas or Atlanta knows, the idea of hopping on a bike or walking to the local grocery store would be every bit as suicidal as jumping off a building if that store were on the other side of a major highway. The fact is that safely purchasing a gallon of milk or a pound of suger requires the turn of an ignition switch - not a bad thing when gas was less than half the price than milk.

However, as analysts forcast the price of gasoline rising to over 7 dollars a gallon over the next five years, the use of petrol fuel becomes far more problematic and, by extension, so does the very existence of the American mega-suburbs.

The fact remains that at some point (perhaps when Exxon credit bills look more like rent payments) America will undergo a very rapid and painful change but I believe this change will be for the better. Here are a few predictions for the next 10 years.

  1. Mass transportation, such as trolleys and light rail will make a comeback.
  2. "White flight" will reverse course, back into cities where trains can deliver food and products.
  3. Outlying suburbs will shrink or are abandoned to be changed back into the farmlands they once were.
  4. Cities and town will be restructured for a pedestrian existence, allowing families to walk to schools, work, shopping.
  5. Food will be grown locally, even in our own backyards, and our consumption of meat will be dramatically reduced.

In addition to these fundamental changes comes the very real effect on those people who must live through them. The price of suburb housing, by reason of supply and demand, would drop dramatically in an age of 7 dollar per gallon fuel, likely leaving people owing far more than what the property is valued at. However, this is merely one of many changes that America will undergo as we retool our economy, our cities and our lives to accommodate the post-peak oil century. Perhaps the only way to know how our lives will change is to live through the changes so we may look back and see where we have come.

George Carlin (May 12, 1937–June 22, 2008)

“If the “black box” flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn’t the whole airplane made out of that stuff?”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Maybe you already suspected...

So I was thinking the other day, what is it with these red states anyway? On a lark, I decided to overlay the national teacher salary ranking with a map of red vs. blue state as measured by the past four presidential elections. The results were pretty interesting.

The top ten states for teachers salaries also happened to be solidly blue states where the last ten states were decidedly red.


Wanna play a game of Jenga?

At a going rate of $3K a square foot, this structure is clearly dedicated to the uber-rich. My proletariat leanings instinctively balks at such shameless pandering to a bourgeoisie elite.

On the other hand, a shape shifting building is kinda cool...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Finally, I can identify swamp gas.

The Life Aquatic

Wes Anderson is the master of the final scene. I recently watched "The Darjeeling Limited" and "The Life Aquatic" and Wes Anderson's style is every bit as quirky and indy as his critiques have pegged him for.

The magic of Wes Anderson as a movie maker is not in the beginning or even in the middle of his films. Wes does not bother with the usual conventions of story telling but rather treats the camera as a scrapbook hobbiest would approach a collection of paper and old photographs. It's only long after the audience experiences the characters and their interactions do we come to understand the meaning of it at all, and that is where Wes ties up the entire project with the visual that defines everything.

For Darjeeling Limited, the visual was the brothers losing their emotional baggage as they jumped back upon the train of life - the vehicle they were forced to leave to achieve their moment of enlightenment. For Life Aquatic, it was Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) sitting with his back to the theater premier of his new film and placing a young boy high on his shoulders, symbolically honoring his childlike fascination of everything new and mysterious in the sea, and by extension the mysteries of life.

The beauty of these movies is in the gorgeous use of the symbolic, without which we would be lost in a sea of images that would appear every bit as disjointed, ironic and plot-less as our own lives may appear to ourselves.

Yet, it is only the appearance of meaninglessness that is true, not the substance of the event itself, which is why Wes Anderson's style is one of the most effective mirrors of our own human experience.

We do not live in a 30 minute sitcom. The camera crew does not go home at the end of a life event and often times the resolution is not as apparent or clean or even as honorable as popular entertainment would have us believe it should or could be.

Sometimes, life is just what it is and if we can accept that bit of truth, the experience becomes far more beautiful than it ever could be without that realization.

We're getting iPhones!!

Finally, "all the coolness that is me" can be physically expressed in a shiney gadget from Apple that fits neatly inside of my pocket. It's the new iPhone and I haven't been this excited about getting anything since....

OK, its been a really long time but I can definitely see me and Penny pitching a tent in front of the Apple Store so we are first in line. The new iPhone G3 hits the shelves July 11th.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jeremy is a big pinko commie.

My long time friend has left America to seek his fame and fortune in Prauge. Bastard.
OK. I get it. Eating meat is pretty disgusting and I can see myself becoming a vegetarian in the not too distant future. But in the meantime, I occasionally need a massive bowl of wings slathered in hot sauce with an unhealthy dollop of blue cheese dressing and celery on the side.

This is a design for a t-shirt offered by this website that I think is pretty hilarious.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Clever Cards

I received my 1000 business cards the other day and was disappointed that the 'truebluedot' is more like a true off-purple. The printer didn't do anything wrong per say, but simply used inks that metamerize under incandescent & fluorescent lights. I'll have to print them again locally with a screened Pantone and black ink.

Technical color problems are part of the game, but ohhh the delight of handing out a clever and excellent business card! Here is a site that features a whole slew of fantastic designs.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Devil's Only Daughter

For it's time we fell to talking, you and I
For every time I take a dram I hear you curse
-- Brian McNeill
Before I left Boston for New Haven, I sold my fiddle to a twelve year old boy with sandy blond hair and oversized glasses. His mother wrote the check to the specified amount, far below it's actual value, and that was the last I saw of my old companion.

Its been over two years since I last saw my fiddle, and some days it's absence is felt a bit more than others. To be honest, it was a relief to be rid of it. The case sat there in my room accusing me of not practicing enough, not going to sessions, not learning new tunes and I just couldn't be pressured at that time in my life.

Today, I spend a lot of late nights watching fine art prints slowly coming out of my 44" wide printer and at times like that, I think it would be nice to pull horsehair across strings and feel the vibration of notes underneath my chin once again.

I think I'll shop around for a fiddle. It would be nice to have a companion now that I have some time to spend with it.

The Art Of Survival

Just completed eight large format prints for Aaron Kotowski, which is great because I've wanted to make prints for him for some time now. Aarons client is a non-profit called IRIS, which is short for Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services.

Tonight, me and Penny are going to Yale University for the World Refugee Day event being held by IRIS where 24X36 prints of Aarons amazing photographs of refugees from all over the world will be held for silent auction, so I'm pretty excited about it.

Unfortunately, since the client is a non-profit, the budget was very tight. We completed four of the images on the best media available and cut some corners on the remaining four but I'm pretty happy with the results nevertheless.

Um, I Created a Life.

Stuffy white lady pushing stroller, to friend: I can't believe people are actually taking Justin Timberlake seriously these days.

Hipster crossing East: He brought sexy back, bitch! What the hell did you do?

--Central Park West

Overheard by: Zora Zero

via Overheard in New York, Jan 15, 2008

Guy's month out

I met Jeremy in Dallas during the heady days of the internet revolution where desperate recruiters spent long days cold-calling anyone who might have the smallest amount of web programming experience. Jeremy had recently graduated from Appalachian State with a degree in English and was flown to Dallas to interview because he happened to put the letters HTML on his resume.

For Jeremy, this was the beginning of a life long hate-hate relationship with offices, computers and flouresent lit cubicals. Jeremy's love-love relationship was firmly with Irish traditional music and this is how we met.

I had less than two years of Irish fiddle under my belt, which is not nearly enough by any standard. My sound was scratchy and out of tune and I didn't have many tunes under my fingers but I was dedicated and played every chance I could with whoever was willing to play. Jeremy, his wife Julia and I were the young Irish players and we sought out and began our own all-level sessions in the area.

Jeremy played traditional keyless wooden flute, which is notorious for it's difficutly in keeping pitch. It was abandoned in the late 1800s as a concert instrument when the Boehm system flute was invented which Irish musicans derisively referred to as 'typewriters'. The incessent clacking of silver keys next to your ear in a session was enough to drive anybody insane.

It wasn't long after they came to Dallas that Jeremy and his wife Julia decided it wasn't the place for them. Julia moved back to North Carolina to find a teaching job while Jeremy stayed behind to sell their newly purchased house. Conicidentally, at the same time, my wife was out of the country on a business trip for the month, and that was the beginning of the greatest guys month out that ever was.

"I am not drunk! I AM DRINK! Fuck you and your lame past tense ya big pussy! "

"Wide fucking open" was the a phrase we used in Asheville to describe when all caution in drinking is thrown to the wind, and that sums up how it was between me, Jeremy and a fiddle player named Glenn. After work, we'd meet at the bar to drink, play music and swim in the social scene of the inebriated until the lights were turned on and chairs placed on the tables. We would solumnly swear that we would not return the next day.

But no matter how solmn the vow or exhausted or hungover we were, one of us would find their way back to the bar and a text message would bring the rest of us together to do it all over again.

There were girls, there was music, there were jokes and stories and there was Guiness after pint of Guiness. There was the invention of the "Muldoon Pint" where a Stout was served with a pint of water, which greatly increased drinking endurance. There was Glenn's forehead slap which was applied hilariously to people who were in the middle of a story. There was the waitress Katrina from Ireland who took a liking to Jeremy. There was Jeremy singing an Appalacian song on stage between sets. There were nights where musicians came over and slept on the couch and drunken email messages randomly sent at the late hours of the night. There was so much going on that to this day if feels like a fantastic blur, but 'boys month out' was only temporary.

When the wifes came back and saw the credit card statements that were blackened with the words "Tipperary Inn, Dallas TX", not only did Jeremy and I have to pay the bill but we we had to pay hell as well. Though Jeremy had the appearance of a repentant man I can honestly say I didn't care.

There was just something about being alone in the houses our wifes arranged for us to buy that turned our balls cold, and there was nothing for it but to drink the chill away.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No when. No want. No worry.

I laugh, then I throw up a little in my mouth and then I laugh again.

Midvale school for the gifted

It makes me laugh, every single time.

The Dresden Dolls - Science fiction double feature

I lost my virginity at the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Highland Park, sometime in the early eighties. If you've seen Rocky Horror but did not lose your virginity then it only goes to show you weren't doing it right.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show starts with the song "Science Fiction", being covered here by the punk caberet duo, Dresden Dolls. It's a song of nostalgia for those early days of B-grade horror films and it never fails to make me feel nostalgic for being a part of the show.


There are some warm and fuzzy childhood memories that are better left exactly where they are. Captain Crunch is a pretty good example. What used to be a delightful, sugar infused breakfast cereal for your elementary school mouth becomes a Guantanamo bay sanctioned torture device for adult sized gums, gently shredding them with every excruciating bite.

The original 1978 BattleStar Galactica is much the same way. What was amazing as a kid becomes painful when you are an adult because such fine details as horrible acting, cheesy plots and ridiculous dialog are lost on a young boys imagination, especially when there are really super cool spaceships flying around and blowing each other up! And make no mistake, the Colonial fleets Viper fighter was very, very cool. Almost as cool as the Star Wars X-wing fighter.

Which explains why I missed the boat entirely on BattleStar Galactica when it was resurrected by the SciFi Channel in 2004. I finally succumbed when I kept hearing "This isn't your fathers Battlestar Galactica" from various fans of the new show.

Of course, they were right and I was wrong and I quickly caught up on all the shows, watching them in order on DVD releases one after the other and usually late into the night. When I ran out of episodes on DVD, I found other means to watch the remaining shows. It was like having a drug addiction and I needed my fix on a weekly basis. The new BSG was not only superior to it's 1978 incarnation, but easily topped every TV science fiction show ever made.

What makes this show stand apart from the usual science fiction TV fare is the human factor. Most of the characters are deeply flawed, even irrevocably damaged, and yet they are people whom we like, understand and are rooting for. Even in the flawed Gaius Baltar, the weakest and most damaged of all the characters, we find something redeemable and likable and perhaps something recognizable as well.

And this human factor is not just restricted to the humans. Even the Cylons struggle with their 'humanity' and are continually rediscovering and redefining who they are as a people and where they stand in relationship with God. There is no mistaking that Cylons view humans as warlike, deceitful killers who would eventually self-destruct as a race due to these inherent flaws and it was this perception which justified the surprise attack that nearly wiped out all of humanity.

But as the Cylons have 'matured' we see them gradually behaving in exactly the same murderous manner, not just to the human enemy, but towards their own kind as well. Perhaps the greatest difference between the Cylons and humans is that the humans are painfully aware of their own moral shortcomings where the Cylons are mostly blissfully ignorant of their own.

This past Friday, the last episode of BSG season 4 has ended and fans must now wait about a year until the next season begins. I'd like to find a methadone treatment, a drug that can help wean me off the addiction that Battlestar Galactica has become, but I'm afraid modern science (fiction) simply doesn't have anything that compares.

World War Z

I am not a fan of zombies. For my money, vampires and werewolves are far superior bad guys. As a rule, they are faster, stronger and more intelligent which makes them very challenging villains. Zombies on the other hand are usually depicted as slow moving, smelly, un-intellegent creatures whom you could easily escape so long as you were wearing a good pair of sneakers and walking briskly in the opposite direction.

The only scary zombie movie ever made was the post-apocalyptic horror film "28 Days Later" (2002). The zombies were unintelligent (just like the undead you've come to expect) but unlike their previous incarnations these guys were much quicker on their feet. You couldn't call them the walking-dead, they were more like the Olympic sprinting-dead and the cut-frame technique the director used gave them an other-wordly jerkiness that really pumped up the terror-volume up a few notches.

So, I wasn't really excited when a friend handed me "World War Z" a book by Max Brooks detailing the first hand accounts of a world wide zombie epidemic that left 600 million dead. However, I didn't have anything next to my night-stand so I was glad for a bit of distraction. Still, I suspected a book about zombies would be as interesting as reading a transcript of the US Open golf tournament.

I'm into it a few chapters now, and I have to admit I was very mistaken. Once again the New York Times Best Seller badge proves itself a excellent bellwether.

The book is less about creatures freshly returned from the grave than it is a social commentary about how the political world works. Instead of following the tried and true theme of the horror genre, this effort moves easily into the realm of science fiction where safe and critical social commentary has traditionally been it's bread and butter.

The book is a string of interviews with characters who played a part in WWZ such as the entrepreneur who knowingly sold ineffectual zombie-vaccines to the world and reaped massive profits while doing it. There is an interview with the ex-White house press secretary who minimized the threat until it was too late, (now ironically shoveling shit into a bio-fuel reactor). The book works in a way that makes you want to turn the pages, to discover how this apocalypse happened and how it could have been prevented.

As we progress in the book, we come to realize the reasons for the catastrophe was not unlike the reasons for any preventable catastrophe. Given the heinous and recognizable nature of some of the survivors who are interviewed, the reader may wish the zombies were more discriminating in their eating habits.

Bon Appetit!

Stop! Theif!

There is a long list of things that I am afraid of, or concerned about, or at the very least vaguely apprehensive over. However, in certain parts of the world, there are 'lists of things to be afraid of' that are a bit longer than mine and certainly a bit more colorful.

Lets take penis stealing, for example.

In certain countries in Africa, there is a belief that a witch can steal your penis. The scene goes something like this.

You are riding the bus or shopping at a marketplace. A stranger asks for the time or randomly bumps into you. At that moment, a curious and overwhelming feeling creeps up on you. Your penis. Its shrinking, withering, growing smaller and smaller until it's completely gone! You don't think it's gone, you KNOW its gone. Someone has stolen your penis and in a desperate panic the only thing you can do is shout.

"Stop that person! They have stolen my penis!"

Now, in Boston or New York, this cry for help only has the effect of making people move a little farther away from you. However, in Nigeria this is a call to arms and everybody gets involved. The suspect is quickly apprehended. The bus driver will stop the vehicle. The culprit will be manhandled off the bus and given a good beating that will end if police arrive at the scene soon enough. At which time, it would be just as likely that the penis thief will be arrested rather than the people who were beating the thief up.

In this months Harpers Magazine, Frank Brures wrote a piece titled "A mind dismembered: In search of the magical penis thieves." where he interviews no less than two victims of this heinous crime. For those of you who are curious, the magical theft of penises was not permanent.

Monday, June 16, 2008

But I thought we really connected...

When I was working in Boston, my job dominated my life which left me little time to socialize as a normal human being. At times like that, a person comes to understand the internet in a way not originally intended by the scientists who created ARPANET and how sites like craigslist can make natural things unnatural, uncomfortable and absolutely hilarious.

One night before I left work, late as usual, I posted an ad on craiglist under 'men seeking women' titled "Anyone for a drink In Harvard Square?". I drove the 30 minutes back to Boston opened my computer and replied to the first email I received.

No details, No exchanges of countless emails. No IM chatting. No pictures exchanged. Just meet me at the newstand next to the Harvard Square Station for some company and share a few drinks.

"Kevin, right?"

She wasn't exactly overweight, but definitely weight mis-shapen, or in other words the top half of her body suggested that the bottom half should not have been as large as it was. She wasn't exactly pretty either but I wasn't planning on a love connection so I didn't mind at all. What kind of skeeved me out was that she had some sort of skin problem that left her arms flaky and in desperate need of moisturizing cream. She wasn't exactly interesting either, but she was a real human being and wanted to 'get out of the house' and that counted for a lot. Besides, what was I supposed to do? Leave?

The pub I wanted to go to was a mellow establishment which was very nice for having a pint while staring through large bay windows as New England snow piled up on the streets outside.

However, unbeknownst to me, on Friday the qaint little pub turned into a mini-frat house and it was far louder and more crowded than I was expecting. Still, we dove into the fray and managed to get two seats at the bar and was able to order a few drinks.

When we settled in, she asked, "So, what do you do when you're not working?"

Whoever said honesty is the best policy obviously had nothing to do with policy implementation but, nevertheless, I'm still a fan of the concept.

K: "Well, there is what I like to do and then there is what I really do."

D: "So what do you like to do?"

K: "I like going to the gym. Taking a spin class or a yoga class. I even tried a hip hop class and I looked pretty funny too. I like swimming in the pool and relaxing in the sauna while reading a magazine when I'm finished. I really love swing dancing, but it's not as easy as carolina shag, and I take lessons whenever I can. I love to read fiction, non-fiction, historical biographys. I play Irish fiddle and enjoy going to sessions but the musicianship here is so high there are only a few I'll play. I like writing. Journaling mostly and sometimes a short story. When I'm not doing those things, I like hanging out friends and talk about music, religion, philosophy or anything not sports or weather related.

D: *visibly impressed* Wow! You like to do all that?!

K: Absolutely! But, then there is what I actually do.

D: *curious* So, what do you actually do?

K: "Well, what I actually do is I wake up at 5:00 every morning to arrive at the office at around 6:00AM, usually picking up a dunkin donuts coffee and a breakfast sandwhich along the way, which I eat in my car. I sit in my cubicle in the dark for an hour until the overhead floresent lights flicker to life at 7AM and then in another 40 minutes people will begin to arrive at the office. So for the first two hours I'm working alone and in the dark while formatting excel spreadsheets which tracks the progress of publication ads.

And thats actually the good part of the day...

The rest of the day is spent on the phone fielding questions from designers and the production team, going over color correction rounds with art directors and doing a few hundred other things as well so I don't have a spare minute to breath much less go to the bathroom. It's pretty much a dead run until I get out of work at around at around 6PM or 8PM.

After working 10 to 14 hours a day, I'm pretty exhausted and I get back into my car, in the dark, and drive home. But before I get there I'll stop by the package store and pick up one or two six-packs of beer, depending on how stressful the day was.

Then, I take my clothes off and plop down on the couch and drink the beer until I pass out in front of the TV in my t-shirt and boxers. When my snoring wakes my roommate, my roommate will shake me and tell me to go to my room and I go downstairs, fall into bed and to wake up at 5:00AM and do the entire thing over again.

After I finished the story, I went to the bathroom. When I came back, other people were sitting at the bar where me and my craigslist date were sitting just moment ago. I don't know if she calmly walked out the door or ran for it.

Today, somewhere in Boston, there is a weight mis-shapen, unattractive and flaky skinned girl who is telling this same story, but from a completely different perspective. When I think of this, I can't help but laugh and the absurdity of the evening and how perfectly it was ended.

Sometimes, we say it exactly right

When a person compliments an article or a short story, they often say "Nice piece".

Never, 'nice whole' or even "nice 9/16ths" because writing, even at it's best, can only capture a piece of a larger truth.

This smallness is both the beauty and the the ugliness of writing. The beauty is the attempt to create a truth in as few words as possible. The ugliness is in the utter futility of the exercise.

But, somewhere along the way, you become comfortable with this inherent inability to create a whole truth with pen and paper and come to embrace the 'lie by omission'.

Because if we couldn't make peace with the lie or the half-truth or the piece of the piece that isn't the whole truth then we couldn't write anything at all.

A world of blank pages may be more truthful, but infinitely more boring.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Slan Abhaile

I've spent three hours at the local pub writing in my journal. Soul searching I suppose. Among the brick-a-brack that adorns the walls of a typical Irish/American pub I noticed a black and white photograph of Brendan Behan, the famous Irish author of Borstal Boy. The photo was taken in 1953 at a Dublin bar. A pint of Guinness perched atop his portable typewriter, his hands blurred as his fingers flew above the keys. A man in a light colored coat was captured in the frame, in motion towards the bar getting a pint of his own.

When I saw that photo, I imagined a young man walking half way across Dublin lugging a portable typewriter under his arm so he could sit down in a busy pub to enjoy a pint as he wrote one of the most famous books in Irish literature. I heard the clack of the keys amidst the clink of pint glasses, the roar of laughter after a joke well told and the rustle of a paper being turned to the next news story.

Most people can't understand writing like that, in the middle of a busy pub with people bumping into you every time they pass by your seat, but I could. In fact, I can hardly write outside of a pub. When I saw that picture I felt like I knew Brendan in a way most people couldn't and I wished he was there at the end of the bar with his typewriter so I could hear the click of the keys and I would buy him as many rounds as he could drink and if he couldn't walk straight as he left the pub I would carry his typewriter home for him, if he asked me to, because I understood him. I am a pub writer just like he was.

And it was the way my father wrote too though he stopped after I was born. Neither of us had any idea genes could carry such information. I never saw him writing in a pub.

I lost my journal last weekend so I'm here beginning a new one. The journal was begun when I moved to Boston and it had over six months of memories written in it's pages but I do not believe it is any great loss at all. It was a simple story anyway. Me running away from the ghosts of a failed relationship and into the arms of a city that promised to help me forget. If ghosts had feet I might have gotten away from those bastards but we all know ghosts are not killed by drinking, fucking or driving far way from them. Still, doesn't stop you from trying.

I know what I'm saying is more than the sum of these words and these excuses or these ghosts lying around me like handkerchiefs. What I'm trying to say is something about Brendan and his typewriter and how I wrote poems on bar napkins over a pint just as my father did and it's about a lost journal of no great loss about a promised land called Boston where ghosts are not allowed to cross the borders but they do and how being alone in New Haven is really the same as being alone in Boston but you just have less people around you to share it with.

It's about me helping Brendan through the streets of Dublin with his typewriter tucked safely underneath my arm.

-- Caoimghgin
-- 08FEB06

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Scapegoats & Sin Eaters

"I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen." Prayer of the last sin eater of England, Richard Munslow.
I remember the first time I heard of 'sin-eaters' was during an episode called 'Sins of our Fathers'. The show first aired in 1972 on Rod Serlings' Night Gallery and the series survived in reruns for many years. The plot was set during the famine where a young Welshmen was required to feast upon the sins of Mr. Craighill to feed himself and his family. The dramatic ending of this episode is one of those artifacts of childhood that lies mostly dormant in my conscience; never fully formed but never quite without shape either.

For those not familiar with arcane Celtic folk-lore, the term 'sin-eater' refers to a person who, by an act of ritual consumption of bread and alcohol, removes the of sins of the deceased by taking those sins into himself, thereby allowing the departed to rest in peace.

The ritual was performed by the relative and the sin eater in the presence of the corpse. The sin eater would pray and receive a bowl of ale from the relative who passed the drink over the body of the deceased. A crust of bread is placed upon the chest of the corpse which is consumed by the sin eater. After praying, eating and drinking, the sin eater thereby takes the sins of the departed as his own.

One might think a profession as valuable as removing unforgiven sins might be thought of as a pretty swell guy. However, the 1926 book Funeral Customs by Bertram S. Puckle speaks of the sin-eater as a less-than-well-respected member of the community.
"Abhorred by the superstitious villagers as a thing unclean, the sin-eater cut himself off from all social intercourse with his fellow creatures by reason of the life he had chosen; he lived as a rule in a remote place by himself, and those who chanced to meet him avoided him as they would a leper."
Given the sin-eaters lowly status in society, I assume nobody asked if he'd like a second helping and was promptly shown the door as soon as his work was done, probably very late at night entering and leaving via the back door.

The occupation of sin eater is fascinating on many levels, but I haven't thought of the subject since seeing that Night Gallery episode when I was a kid. However, when a friend jokingly called me his favorite 'scapegoat' I suddenly realized I never understood why "A person selected to bear the responsibility for a calamity' was called such a strange name. This sent me in a small quest that incidentally resurrected that formless artifact of my childhood that Rod Serling was responsible for.

A scapegoat was in fact a goat, and it's function was very similar to that of the sin eater. Leviticus 16 describes an ancient jewish ceremony performed on Yom Kippur (The Day Of Atonement) where the high priest would make a sacrifice of two goats. The first goat was slain within the temple to atone for the sins of the people and the second goat was selected as the medium for which the sins of Israel was placed upon. This sin-laden goat was then led out of the temple and 'escaped' into the wilderness, which is where the term (e)scapegoat comes from. The scapegoat was likely feeling very fortunate for himself after seeing what happened to the first goat in the temple. However he would not survive for long as he was followed by members of the community and thrown off the first high cliff they came across, which ensured the sin-carrying beast couldn't carry it's cargo back to it's rightful owners.

The sin eater and the scapegoat share many similarities.
  • Both are living carriers of transgressions against God they did not commit themselves.
  • They are 'cast out' of the community and never able to return.
  • Each goes through a magic ritual that serves to remove sin and makes them vessels of those sins.
Neither the sin eater or the goat appear to have many perks for being employed in this risky and apparently thankless profession.

If you think the tradition of sin eating is barbaric, you may do well to look up the traditions of the Catholic Church which ritualizes the magical transmutation of wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ (literally, not symbolically) and encourages the consumption of this flesh and blood as a means of personal salvation.

Care for a glass of blood and a bit of flesh? Or would you consider sharing a bit of bread and some beer with a corpse for an evening? What would you decide?

There are a many unanswered questions about sin-eaters. Was the practice of sin eating a purely pagan tradition or a warped Christian phenomena or more likely a strange mix of the two? It occurs to me that the sin-eater may have been a political remnant in the battle for Pagan supremacy over the Christian bid for dominance. Perhaps 'sin eating' was created as a foil to the apparently unique Christian monopoly on absolving sins.

After thousands of years of practice, the pagan priests couldn't suddenly say, "Oh! Sin forgiveness. Yeah, we do that too." The natural response would be "And why haven't you offered that before?" However, Pagans could create a ritual which guarantees a sin-free arrival in the afterlife through transference of sin into another vessel. Provided the chain was unbroken, even the sin eaters could enter the kingdom of heaven, so long as another sin eater were available to eat his sins as well.

Could we not consider the sin-eater as an incarnation of Christ himself? Certainly not the celebrated Christ who turned water into wine or resurrected the dead but rather, the Christ who must perpetually bear the cross of other mens sins as he walks slowly, as we all do, towards mortal death. The sin eater, rather, takes on the role of the hated and maligned figure of Jesus, not the loved and celebrated savior of mankind. He suffers the stations of the cross every step of his life, abandoned and uncomforted by his community even as he offers eternal salvation to his people. It is a compelling image if one is moved by the motif of anti-hero as hero.

Unfortunately, the practice of sin eating is not a well researched aspect of folklore. The last known sin eater died in the early twentieth century and whatever answers he had went with him to the grave -- and, unfortunately for him, without another sin-eater to share a last meal with.

Baby Momma!?

A random conservative blog I came across argues that Fox news did not mean "Baby Momma" in it's older, more derogatory meaning, but rather the slang was used in a new, hipper, classier context of the same phrase.

It's a wonderful example of how Faux can unethically denigrate an political opponent's wife yet be completely legally blameless. How many southern baptists vote for men who have 'baby mommas' and who would make a 'baby momma' a first lady of America?

Is wikipedia hip enough for conservatives? The baby-momma entry has been recently edited to include the Faux News gaff and cites a less denigrating spin on the term. The vast majority of us have never heard the term 'baby-momma' within polite conversation, until Faux News decided to make it so.

Fabric coated cars.

Like a lot of us, you are probably wondering how you're supposed to survive the month after sinking anywhere from 50 to 150 dollars into your gas tank per week. Unfortunately, we're pretty much stuck with petrol for the foreseeable future unless we discover a viable energy source to replace it. Viable energy sources does not include bio-fuel, which is unsustainable and only raises the price of food.

While BMW does not tout the fuel economy benefits of a fabric coated car (rather, they advertise it's shape-shifting qualities), you have to admit fabric makes a lot of sense. Why pay money to transport hundreds of pounds of aluminum when really, it's yourself and perhaps some groceries you want to transport. Besides, airplanes were coated with fabric for years. Why not?

Of course, noise would increase as a sheet of fabric could not have the insulation properties of foam filled aluminum panels. Safety could be an issue but only the cabin of the car needs protection, not the entire vehicle.

It's a concept, and a pretty darned neat one!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I got your terrorist fist pump right here.

"A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? ... We'll show you some interesting body communication and find out what it really says." -- E.D Hill, ex-host of Fox News' America's Pulse

"Was it a handshake? A homosexual palm kiss? A secret communication that signaled the release of flying monkeys to lay nuclear death and destruction to America? Lets ask our body language expert..." -- Liberal biased media commentary about John McCain, (if such an institution existed).

You just gotta love Faux News.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Drinking, boating & jumping fences with pizza.

On memorial day, my friend Ariel planned a "man's weekend sailing trip" to Port Jefferson, New York from New Haven, CT on his 27ft sail boat. During this trip, I was thoroughly sunburned, absolutely punished with alcohol and I quite nearly broke my foot jumping off a fence carrying pizza and calzones back to the launch.

Yeah, really it was the best time ever!

Ariel started the journey by motoring his boat out of New Haven harbor and then ran up a single tack and gave me the wheel. He told me to aim for the smokestacks on the other side of long island sound and to avoid running over any lobster pots along the way (which there were a lot of, btw). The wind was good and we held a steady 7.2 knots almost all the way there, but the sea was choppy and currents were 'bitchy' and the two hour trip was a pretty nerve wracking affair for me since that was the first time I've ever sailed a boat in my life.

The trip was supposed to be 'just the guys', but they dropped out due to family or work considerations or whatever, so Ariel's girlfriend Hannah came along and Shannon was invited last minute as well. About thirty minutes into the sailing, both the girls were out like lights in the cabin and snoring away.

When we reached harbor, we called the launch and walked into town. Port Jeff is 'bizarro' New Haven. They have the same bars and shops but they are smaller and quainter and the people talk a little funny there. We immediately went to one of Ariels favorite bars (kinda like Rudies, but for grown-ups) and had an amazing selection of New England bar food which included wings, mussels, shrimp and burgers.

Somehow the combination of sun and waves made us all a bit more susceptible to alcohol and the modest few drinks we had felt like a lot more.

After that, we mostly hung out on the boat and relaxed but a late night urge for pizza drove me and Ariel back to dry land. After 9PM, he gates of the harbor are locked (to protect us or the town?), so we had to climb the fence to get to the pizza. Getting in worked out pretty well. However, when we were coming back (carrying several boxes of Italian pizza goodness) I somehow misjudged the landing and really injured my right ankle. I'm blaming my ever-so-fashionable Converse high-tops for the injury.

Funny to think Converse high-tops were the high-end-technology shoe for basketball players only 30 years ago. Today, they're nothing but a health hazzard in any sport except perhaps swing dancing. I'm still gimping around a bit and it's been three weeks already. I think another week and I'll be in good shape and back to doing some physical activity.

10 Reasons Gen Xers Are Unhappy at Work

This post by Tammy Erickson generated 97 comments from gen-Y'ers, gen-X'ers and Boomers and a lot of the posts were quite heated. Some people were surprised to discover the tensions simmering between these generations as well as within themselves. Perhaps the one thing all generations could agree on was the apparently unique gen-X trait of 'whining' a lot.

As for X-ers whining, yes, I believe there is that element...if nothing else, a lot perceive that they are accomplishing 'less' than their parents were able to while making more. They are looking at a future which not only has an uneasy economy, political uncertainty, a seemingly unending war,... they also are remembering who they were and some of us are wondering how we became who we are presently. -- C Erickson

It got me to thinking that perhaps the reason for Gen-X dissatisfaction was that they belonged to a political party that didn't exist, but the theory didn't pan out so well on the forums.

What do you think? Is Gen-X really the constituents of the Progressive Bull-Moose party?

Would we use Bullwinkle as our mascot?

It's a small world afterall. Or it used to be anyway.

When you were a kid looking at a map, you might have noticed the east coast of America matches the coastline of Europe and Africa like a jigsaw puzzle piece.

Neil Adams has a theory that the other side of the globe matches up just as well. Scientists are dismissive of Adams expanding earth theory, but I admit I love the elegance of Mr. Adams' approach.