Archive for March, 2008

Tremors and flashbacks at the strand of nightmares

Generally I’d have to say that the age of 23 is like being on a foggy mountain peak, where suddenly you don’t even know anymore whether going forward leads up or down. I’ve started to suspect that even looking forward too eagerly might be somehow indecent, wasting the best years of life by enslaving yourself to a future that won’t, that probably can’t, be as good. Under such circumstances, although it wasn’t by my choice it was nonetheless a great reassurance as to the evolutionary trajectory of my life to go last night to a bar dedicated to a motley array of house, punk, karaoke and what I imagine to be various other musical preferences of the early hominids.

It was the kind of shitty music and dancing that could only appeal to people who have actually had holes eaten into their not overly capacious brains by taking too much ecstasy. As such, in combination with the fact that I’m home right now on vacation, it fished out all kinds of lurid memories of high school. I thought it might just be a subjective hallucination, that the place might not be any more objectively lashed to the year 1999 than the madeleine was to Proust’s childhood–and then they started playing a Limp Bizkit cover of Rage Against the Machine, courtesy of a DJ whose mustache looked like it could double as a scarlet letter of pedophilia.

The dance floor resembled the scene I envision after the end of Batman Begins, when they release the insanity-inducing poison gas over the whole city. In the other room, by the bar, they had a stage where what I can only hope, for the sake of the honor of Colorado’s womankind, were actually a couple of overweight transvestites were singing pop songs not so much in a single key as on a single note, and since in front there was a sign saying “No customers beyond this point,” I was briefly terrified by the prospect that this was the hired act. The place cunningly outflanked and outschemed any attempt to caricature it: just as I had finished estimating how many girls in the bar had been roofied in the last 20 minutes and was sizing up the probability of the clientèle joining a fascist youth group at some point I saw on the wall several pictures of Hitler’s head attached to the bodies of fat naked women. My view was that the bodies were probably new and the heads were art left over from the last tenants of the building. Such is southern downtown Denver. When I fly east back to school the time change will feel like more than just a couple of hours forwards.

links for 2008-03-25

Priceless moments

Maybe people are like the tai chi diagram, one half light and one half dark, but the problem is that the dark side seems to be all there from the beginning, whereas the light side has to be gradually constructed over time. This is why babies tend to be more polarizing than Reagonomics, although few people would openly admit to disliking them. I think when confronted with this mucousy little being screaming its bloody head off in front of you, with the implicit demand that you read its mind and give it whatever it is that it wants, you can really only either be attracted through the nurturing instinct…or repelled. In my first grade music class I remember watching a film that informed us that the babies in some African village or other don’t cry, but I don’t believe it, not unless they were doping them up like the gypsy beggars in the metro do, and it seems to me that, directed as it was at six-year-olds, the message was probably mostly either wistfulness or accusation, although at this remove I can’t really recall which.

And I don’t really know how you go from repulsion to nurturing attraction, though I have a feeling it generally has something to do with a certain rather precise and immediate process known as “becoming a parent.” Although in fact from what I can tell it’s much easier to idolatrize babies and parenthood when you’re not in the throes of this condition of being a 24 on-call nurse yourself. For example, yesterday I got full six hours of joy sitting next to two parents with a baby and toddler on a plane (well, next to the mom and behind the dad). The mother spent half the trip just quietly hissing curses at the father. I, in the full path of the screaming and constantly getting pawed by the baby, kind of like the reverse of a Catholic priest and altar boy, was thinking occasional homicidal thoughts but still got satisfying mental applause for keeping an eye on the baby and catching it when the mother fell asleep and almost let it fall on the floor. Then there was the flight attendant, one of those over-dramatizers who made a big show of pulling me aside like a doctor consulting the family about someone’s terminal illness to ask me gravely if I would give up my window seat to the mom, who, because there weren’t enough oxygen masks for them to all sit together, had become “separated from her family” by a whole one row of seats, as if this were exile to Siberia or something. And since he only had to listen to them once every half an hour he was constantly beaming at them like he was witnessing the Beatific Vision. Voilà the mythologization of parenthood in two airplane seats worth of distance.

Evolutionary psychologists inform us that our liking for small, fuzzy animals is just a proxy for an evolutionarily beneficial fondness for babies. But generally I find small, fuzzy animals to be cuter than babies, probably because animals don’t usually demand demand demand like babies do (and if they do, what do you know, they stop being cute pretty quickly). So they offer a chance for the free exercise of generosity in a way that babies don’t, and as Rousseau noted, altruism quickly becomes onerous when it stops being freely given and becomes a mere obligation, though whether this had anything to do with his abandoning his own children to the orphanage and popularizing laissez-faire parenting is unclear. Because babies are like bananas: although bananas are not bad in their own right, when you combine their flavor with anything else, like when you get a bit of water on cloth shoes, it soaks right through and the whole thing just tastes like bananas. So you might like babies, but, like slime-covered little emperors, they will quickly seize and dominate any other situation or activity where they are present and turn it into a veneration of themselves. It’s the Napoleonic Principle: the smaller they are, the more they tyrannize.

Sex scandals: a return to the American idyll?

It’s been surprising to see the vindictive spirits still running high about that New York governor scandal. Probably the only thing that would satisfy America now more than a sanctimonious social reformer brought down in a tawdry prostitution scandal would be Dick Cheney literally shooting himself in the foot during a hunting trip. To be fair, though, I’m convinced that both suffer a shared affliction which might explain their demented crusading: those big hairless white lumps growing out of their torsos aren’t heads, but rather the world’s largest zits, which had become fully ripe for popping. With their days of parasitically dabbling on both sides of the corruption game like drunken bi-curious hipsters coming to an end, maybe the obsession of our age with “corporate malfeasance” also will, and the energies of the saintly among us will go back to pretending to avert AIDS while actually getting high school students and Third Worlders orally castrated by their girlfriends by handing out condoms that taste like food.

links for 2008-03-18

  • “It should be noted that, while the subject of this paper is silly, the analysis actually does make sense. This paper, then, is a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is of course the opposite of what is usual in economics.”
  • “Historical linguists have, it seems, opened a new chapter in the human epic by establishing the first-ever verifiable links between the indigenous languages of Siberia and North America. … For the first time, linguistics has set a firm foot on the “land bridge” that lies sunken beneath the Bering Strait.”

Peaks and valleys are more beautiful than a plain

If you want to see a dog chasing its own tail, just wait until a society has solved its basic not-dying type problems and decides that the biggest issue is inequality. For all the social crusaders who are too spiritually lifeless to, I don’t know, go get high or make sure their kids aren’t turning into daycare-raised psychos, I guess it holds out the comforting prospect of a cause that always somehow seems important but will never be solved. Actually, I’m not quite sure what equality even means. I think for some, maybe for many, it just means everyone having certain minimum rights and having everyone’s actions judged by the same basic principles, which they like to call legal equality.

That’s all fine and good, though I don’t think it’s a very accurate descriptor. But for others it seems to mean that everyone does or should have the same amount of something, especially money, which they call economic equality. But for one thing, it’s never going to happen: some people are always going to have more money than others, for example, partly because they’re better at making it and partly because beyond a certain point some people give a shit about continuing to pile up more and some don’t. And trying to erase that fact means either depriving some people in equal measure as you’re helping others or trying to lift both sides of a see-saw.

For another thing, I really don’t quite get what notion of human homogeneity lies beneath the idea that everyone have or should have the same amount of anything important. Is it like some sort of severe myopia, where you take off your glasses and everyone looks pretty much indistinguishable? Of course, they’re all just blank colors at that level. And that’s what I feel this idea of equality is at its root: an idea for those that don’t know anything more about people than the fuzzy blobs they make out from the corner of their eyes as they hurtle by through life. Why should I humor the sycophantic delusion that the lives of swindlers and frauds are equal in any important sense to the true life-givers and redeemers, or that those that love me should be repayed by being no more privileged than those who hate or injure me unjustly? It seems to me that this comes down in the end to a swinish specist bigotry that subverts the distinction of good and evil in favor of the brute, meritless fact of existence. Whereas really we should do honor to those that make an effort to a bit of good in life, rather than considering the most important fact about them to be that they were born.

links for 2008-03-13

links for 2008-03-08

links for 2008-03-06

Negligibly alive

The other night when I was sitting in my room someone started painting me and my room with a laser pointer, and for a moment I was mildly concerned that I was about to be assassinated, especially since the beam was coming from one of the dorms of those envious bastards across the street at Lesley University. Then of course I realized that I’m not important enough to get taken out, and even if I was I probably wouldn’t be important enough for it to qualify as an assassination, but would just be a simple murder. Which was sort of a bummer, even considering I had just survived an entirely delusory brush with death. I wonder just how important you have to become to qualify as an assassinee. One assumes that there’s some sort of political or religious motive, but I’m pretty sure if someone killed the president intentionally it would qualify no matter what the reason, because he’s a major political figure, but after all holding such a position or the existence of a political reason to be killed are in the end just expressions of the fact that you’re a big deal. It’s like a secret title, perhaps even a silver lining to getting whacked. Now if only we could so crown more heads of state.