Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Still Want to Quit?

Somewhere a True Believer is training to kill you. 

He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon, and he made his web gear himself. He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs, his runs end when the enemy stops chasing him. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is'; he knows either he wins, or he dies. He doesn't go home at 17:00; he is home.

He knows only: The Cause."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Follow-up on the State of Men in America

In one of my local papers, a gentlemen wrote a letter of thanks to two young women.  The author had been hiking in some nearby woods and noted the two youths carrying out bags of trash that they had collected.  He thought at first that they were part of some "community effort" or other volunteer or work crew


he refrained from asking their names, nay, from speaking to them at all; why?

Out of fear.

Fear that "such a question might be inappropriate."

So instead, he wrote a letter to the paper, praising these young people in a way that might never reach them.  He went on to praise them for enhancing his day, for exemplifying values eschewed by many young folks, and for being good leaders.  His noted fear was mentioned, most sadly, only in passing.

This is where we stand in America: that a man fears unnamed retribution for praise or a compliment (or simply for speaking) is not even worth reflection or deliberation is a sad, sad state (or State, as it were) .  Thanks, Brownshirts; great job!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Curmudgeon: When I Was a Windy Boy

I was reading this here article, waiting to say "yeah, yeah" (yes, sometimes I tire, or get nervous when the first topic is "racial discrimination"), but instead the hairs on my arms began rising...

What follows are excerpts:

"When I was a boy, America was a freer society than it is today.

"When I was a 7-year-old boy, I flew alone from New York to my aunt and uncle in Miami and did the same thing coming back to New York. I boarded the plane on my own and got off the plane on my own. No papers for my parents to fill out... Had I run away or been kidnapped, no one would have sued the airline.

"When I was a boy, I ran after girls during recess, played dodgeball, climbed monkey bars and sat on seesaws. Today, more and more schools have no recess; have canceled dodgeball lest someone feel bad about being removed from the game; and call the police in to interrogate, even sometimes arrest, elementary school boys who playfully touch a girl. And monkey bars and seesaws are largely gone, for fear of lawsuits should a child be injured.

[Ed. note: it was at this point that I began to get really... scared?]

"When I was boy, I was surrounded by adult men. Today, most American boys (and girls, of course) come into contact with no adult man all day every school day. Their teachers and school principals are all likely to be women. And if, as is often the case, there is no father at home (not solely because of divorce but because "family" courts have allowed many divorced mothers to remove fathers from their children's lives), boys almost never come into contact with the most important group of people in a boy's life -- adult men. The contemporary absence of men in boys' lives is not only unprecedented in American history; it is probably unprecedented in recorded history.

[Ed. note: True dat.  More and more men are simply...suspect, not to be trusted, nay, to be feared and avoided.  Weird, weird world, and dangerous precedent.]

"When I was a boy, we had in our lives adults who took pride in being adults. [Ed. note: I have been thinking about this a lot lately...] To distinguish them from our peers, we called these adults "Mr.," "Mrs." and "Miss," or by their titles, "Doctor," "Pastor," "Rabbi," "Father." It was good for us, and we liked it. Having adults proud of their adulthood, and not acting like they were still kids, gave us security (as well as something to look forward to in growing up). Today, kids are surrounded by peers twice, three, four times their age.

"When I was a boy, the purpose of American history textbooks was to teach American history... [W]e were not raised by educators or parents who believed that "teenagers will have sex no matter what." 

And, to sum it all up:

"We were, in short, allowed to be relatively innocent." 

I am, quite literally, fighting back the tears.  

True enough, true enough, true enough that.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thoughts on Obama's Presumptive Nomination

"Some may mistake me as implying that it would be okay to stop talking about racism. But that interpretation is incorrect: I am stating that it would be okay to stop talking about racism. We need to be talking about serious activism focused on results. Those who suppose that the main meal in the aforementioned is to decry racism are not helping people."

 John McWhorter in a thoughtful article.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Old Grey Mare

Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must;
just never give up!
~Dean Karnazes

Do it.

Just. Do it.

C'mon: Get. Up.

Get up, get out, get going. Cannot. get. going.

Been injured for a while--longer than ever before. Doc says "Well, when you buy a car you don't expect THAT to stay new forever, do you? You're just getting older!"


So, I am more or less healed. But fat. Fat as a pig. Blubberous, really. And tired. All the time, tired.

Is this how most Americans live? Winded all the time? Tight clothes?

Alarm goes off and I hit the snooze. And again. And again. Restarting my running motor is proving difficult. Is this it? Finally? Is this "the change of metabolism" my family has so long wished upon me?

I have written before one of the differences past a certain point: that one CAN train hard enough to improve, but the pain required is no longer interesting. (And the bed remains warm and comfy.)

But there is, apparently, another factor: things fall apart. Joints begin to wear--not catastrophically, but...enough. And recuperation ain't what it used to be.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good quote

Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.

- John le Carre

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bill Cosby on The Importance of Being, and Being a Father

In Detroit’s St. Paul Church of God in Christ, Bill Cosby related the story of a black girl who’d risen to become valedictorian of his old high school, despite having been abandoned by her father.

“She spoke to the graduating class and her speech started like this,” Cosby said. “‘I was 5 years old. It was Saturday and I stood looking out the window, waiting for him.’ She never said what helped turn her around. She never mentioned her mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother.”

“Understand me,” Cosby said, his face contorted and clenched like a fist. “Men? Men? Men! Where are you, men?”

Audience: “Right here!”

Friday, April 18, 2008


[Ed. note 4/23: I had to remove the photo; I could not bear to look at it.]

Art requires skill and imagination. Skill without imagination is 'craftsmanship', and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.

Tom Stoppard
"Artist Descending a Staircase" (one of my all-time favorite plays)

One wonders what Mr. Stoppard might have to say regarding Ms. Shvarts.

Food for thought for the coming Passover; fodder for the Seder table.

Update 4/21: I cannot even look at this entirely legal picture; please remember, a woman's right to choose is absolute; freedom of choice, no apologies.

[For the record: I generally support a woman's legal right to choose but, then again, I support the death penalty, the war in Iraq, and market-incented sterilizations...]

So, This is What You Want?

Administration issues statement calling senior’s ‘abortion-as-art’ a ‘fiction’; student sticks to her story

“She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art,” Klasky said. “Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.”

But in an interview later Thursday afternoon, Shvarts defended her work and called the University’s statement “ultimately inaccurate.” She reiterated that she engaged in the nine-month process she publicized on Wednesday in a press release that was first reported in the News: repeatedly using a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself, then taking abortifacient herbs at the end of her menstrual cycle to induce bleeding. Thursday evening, in a tour of her art studio, she shared with the News video footage she claimed depicted her attempts at self-induced miscarriages.

“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, adding that she does not know whether she was ever pregnant. “The nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”

Shvarts explains her ‘repeated self-induced miscarriages’

Aliza Shvarts
Guest Columnist
Published Friday, April 18, 2008
For the past year, I performed repeated self-induced miscarriages. I created a group of fabricators from volunteers who submitted to periodic STD screenings and agreed to their complete and permanent anonymity. From the 9th to the 15th day of my menstrual cycle, the fabricators would provide me with sperm samples, which I used to privately self-inseminate. Using a needleless syringe, I would inject the sperm near my cervix within 30 minutes of its collection, so as to insure the possibility of fertilization. On the 28th day of my cycle, I would ingest an abortifacient, after which I would experience cramps and heavy bleeding.

[This piece] creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership. The first [goal of this piece] is to assert that often, normative understandings of biological function are a mythology imposed on form...that creates the sexist, racist, ableist, nationalist and homophobic perspective, distinguishing what body parts are “meant” to do from their physical capability. The myth that a certain set of functions are “natural” (while all the other potential functions are “unnatural”) undermines that sense of capability, confining lifestyle choices to the bounds of normatively defined narratives...

When considering my own bodily form, I recognize its potential as extending beyond its ability to participate in a normative function. While my [reproductive] organs are capable of engaging with the narrative of reproduction — the time-based linkage of discrete events from conception to birth — the realm of capability extends beyond the bounds of that specific narrative chain. These organs can do other things, can have other purposes, and it is the prerogative of every individual to acknowledge and explore this wide realm of capability.

Aliza Shvarts is a senior in Davenport College.

[S]everal students, including members of the Yale Women’s Center staff, defended Shvarts’ work as an appropriate exercise of her right to free expression.

“The Yale Women’s Center stands strongly behind the fact that a woman’s body is her own,”
the[ir] statement read. “Whether it is a question of reproductive rights or of artistic expression,
Aliza Shvarts’ body is an instrument over which she should be free to exercise full discretion.”

[S]ome students said they did not consider Shvarts’ art offensive. Kate McDermott ’11 said the artist was simply exercising her right to expression. “If you appreciate the idea that art is intrinsically related to politics, then it is perfectly acceptable,” McDermott said.
Anthony LeCounte supports the "artist" here:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Abortions for Art at Yale

Let us hope that, as supposed here:
that this is, indeed, a hoax.

Either way, I wonder whether her parents are...proud.

Also, with regard to abortion rights (you know: "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!"); is THIS what is meant?

For Yale senior, abortion a medium for art, political discourse

My reaction to the article and to the comments:

I am at a loss for the proper adjective.
Saddened? Deeply.
Horrified? Yes, and at some fundamental level.

Let me state: I do not care for some of the issues noted by others: I do not care about what this technically adult person does to her own body; I do not care about her risk of STDs; I do not care about fallout on the pro-abortion movement.

I do not care about the reaction of G-d or Any Powers That Be (although, if there is some Judeo-Christian god, he is going to be very, very upset).

And I am not sure I can explain my gut reaction--and gut reactions are often the outcome of both Nature and nurture.

And my gut says--this is wrong.

Fundamentally wrong.

Indeed, a crime against humanity. And I mean that.

This is offensive to all that is human--even at the secular level.

Saddam Hussein's sons were similarly self-indulgent, although their crimes also included fully matured humans and not just embryonic potentialities. Theirs were crimes against humanity--and so are Shvarts'.

And more sadly--she will likely perceive the coming outrage as "good debate" (as if genocide against the Kurds--or the Jews--was simply fodder for the chattering classes).

For all those that cry out "slippery slope argument!" whenever Conservatives wish to preserve what decency is left humanity, well, now you have proof that such slopes exist.

I will cut/paste the full article below, because my gut tells me it is not going to be on there for long.

For senior, abortion a medium for art, political discourse

Staff Reporter
Published Thursday, April 17, 2008

Art major Aliza Shvarts ’08 wants to make a statement.

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts’ project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock — saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.

But Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for “shock value.”

“I hope it inspires some sort of discourse,” Shvarts said. “Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it’s not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone.”

The “fabricators,” or donors, of the sperm were not paid for their services, but Shvarts required them to periodically take tests for sexually transmitted diseases. She said she was not concerned about any medical effects the forced miscarriages may have had on her body. The abortifacient drugs she took were legal and herbal, she said, and she did not feel the need to consult a doctor about her repeated miscarriages.

Shvarts declined to specify the number of sperm donors she used, as well as the number of times she inseminated herself.

Art major Juan Castillo ’08 said that although he was intrigued by the creativity and beauty of her senior project, not everyone was as thrilled as he was by the concept and the means by which she attained the result.

“I really loved the idea of this project, but a lot other people didn’t,” Castillo said. “I think that most people were very resistant to thinking about what the project was really about. [The senior-art-project forum] stopped being a conversation on the work itself.”

Although Shvarts said she does not remember the class being quite as hostile as Castillo described, she said she believes it is the nature of her piece to “provoke inquiry.”

“I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity,” Shvarts said. “I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be.”

The display of Schvarts’ project will feature a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Schvarts will wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around this cube; lined between layers of the sheeting will be the blood from Schvarts’ self-induced miscarriages mixed with Vaseline in order to prevent the blood from drying and to extend the blood throughout the plastic sheeting.

Schvarts will then project recorded videos onto the four sides of the cube. These videos, captured on a VHS camcorder, will show her experiencing miscarriages in her bathrooom tub, she said. Similar videos will be projected onto the walls of the room.

School of Art lecturer Pia Lindman, Schvarts’ senior-project advisor, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Few people outside of Yale’s undergraduate art department have heard about Shvarts’ exhibition. Members of two campus abortion-activist groups — Choose Life at Yale, a pro-life group, and the Reproductive Rights Action League of Yale, a pro-choice group — said they were not previously aware of Schvarts’ project.

Alice Buttrick ’10, an officer of RALY, said the group was in no way involved with the art exhibition and had no official opinion on the matter.

Sara Rahman ’09 said, in her opinion, Shvarts is abusing her constitutional right to do what she chooses with her body.

“[Shvarts’ exhibit] turns what is a serious decision for women into an absurdism,” Rahman said. “It discounts the gravity of the situation that is abortion.”

CLAY member Jonathan Serrato ’09 said he does not think CLAY has an official response to Schvarts’ exhibition. But personally, Serrato said he found the concept of the senior art project “surprising” and unethical.

“I feel that she’s manipulating life for the benefit of her art, and I definitely don’t support it,” Serrato said. “I think it’s morally wrong.”

Shvarts emphasized that she is not ashamed of her exhibition, and she has become increasingly comfortable discussing her miscarriage experiences with her peers.

“It was a private and personal endeavor, but also a transparent one for the most part,” Shvarts said. “This isn’t something I’ve been hiding.”

The official reception for the Undergraduate Senior Art Show will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 25. The exhibition will be on public display from April 22 to May 1. The art exhibition is set to premiere alongside the projects of other art seniors this Tuesday, April 22 at the gallery of Holcombe T. Green Jr. Hall on Chapel Street.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Art of Manliness

I knew there were others with thoughts similare to mine:

I was thinking this weekend how much my thoughts have changed since college, not necessarily as they pertain to me, but more outwardly, i.e, toward society.

Church? Yah, I still have problems with organized religion. But do I feel the need to ridicule Christians and repeal the tax-exempt status of all religious buildings? Nah... In fact, religion has played a great and beneficial role in society, at both the macro and micro levels. I wish that MORE people acted in alignment with their religious upbringings (unless, of course, those teachings lead you to strap on an explosive vest, that would be bad...).

Speaking of that: I see that the gummint is picking on yet another orthodox LDS sect... funny how in some states it is ignored that such activity takes place on a daily basis, but in other instance we will expend much dinero to "right the unrightable wrong." I mean, why not ask the mother what SHE thinks? (She is 16 now, so of legal age in TX; and NO, I am not condoning such sectual behavior, I am merely pointing out that far worse things--things far worthier of our attention--go on every day... Maybe it is because we, as a society, have so little power against the BIG things that we focus on the little things...).

Some writer pointed out recently an interesting hypocrisy with regard to a woman's right to an abortion, i.e., that that right ends when such abortion is for sex selection. Apparently, a woman can abort for whatever reason she wants EXCEPT if she wants a child of some other gender than that which WPTB saw fit to send... Someone else pointed out that focusing on such a minor issue seems out of place when we are simultaneously willing to "shove kids in blenders in the name of science" (I use quotes because they were that writer's thoughts and not necessarily mine).

Hey, have a great day!

Friday, March 28, 2008


Wanna know why there are so many more Liberal blogs than Conservative? Simple: we's got the yobs.

In any case: today I am meeting with a young man, SF soldier, just returning from Iraq--and exiting the military--looking for some advice.

What do I tell him? That flying a desk is SO much more satisfying than tramping through some god-forsaken (and I mean that) wilderness? Praise be this guy has a fiancee, so I can at least use THAT hook (the military is NOT the life for a married man, at least one that aims to stay so).

How do I tell him that, in the civilian world, NO ONE will understand what he is talking about, what or how he is thinking and, worse, eventually, neither will he. That is, I can still TALK about duty/honor/glory, I remember those concepts INTELLECTUALLY, but they no longer have meaning outside my family, and even there they are but echoes of what it means to and honest-to-goodness soldier...

Well, we'll see; I look forward to the converstation, to his insights.

I wonder what HE will tell ME.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Bum's Back

My bum is is back. He got thrown out of his housing. No excuses, no self-pity. He considers his time there a vacation.

What to think?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clinton the Racist Fear Mongerer

I have often maintained that Liberals are intrinsically more racist than Conservatives (Conservatives hew to the ideal of individual merit, regardles of extenuating factors; Liberals think those less privileged than them are bozos in need of their--and only their--rather self-important and certainly condescending most-extra-special-extra-help).

Thus, it was interesting to read this NY Times article asking whether Hillary's infamous "Red Phone" ad was racist (I know that *I* certainly found it so). No, not in the blogosphere way (where a racially offensive subliminal slur is imputed), but along the lines of Willie Horton or the darkening of OJ's skin or those ubiquitous ads for home alarm systems...

Indeed, the first time I saw the Red Phone ad I was expecting a criminal to be breaking into the room (versus the Mom figure), and I was half expecting, from the tone of the ad, for that criminal to be black.

So, as much as I feel dirty agreeing with the NYTimes, in this case, I do.


Ah, reading the responses makes me realize why I agree with the article: because the NYTimes doesn't! Many respondents are outraged, declaring that the author Orlando Patterson(a Harvard Sociologist--not my fave clique by ANY means) is "hypersensitive," "projecting," and "seeing racism even where there is none." However, THIS comment pretty much captures my reaction:

March 11th, 2008 7:46 am
I am so glad that someone else has said this publicly.

Ten seconds into the ad, my brain started screaming "burglar!" I immediately read it as aimed at the portion of the white electorate that would visualize that burglar as a tall, skinny, young black man, and I trembled again for my country.

Then I watched it two more times on my computer and ordered an Obama yard sign to mark my house as one where we fear evil, not our neighbors.

— Sporcupine, Kentucky

So little is said that the observer is free to project ANY and ALL fears onto the scene; middle-class, white-mom Ohioans likely reacted just as the above poster (and, indeed, were likely the target audience).

While the good prof indeed goes a bit far linking the ad to D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, I think what DOES come across (and this is clear in marketing/advertising) is that certain images, over time, have become "stock," and are used to immediately create certain reactions (a la Pavlov's dog), whether or not the overt message has anything to do with the reaction. Indeed, aren't complaints regarding "negative Hollywood images of African Americans in media, movies, and print" Liberals' stock in trade? And then they DENY the effects of that barage when it suits their Clintonian purposes?

So, sure: critics can claim such knee-slappers as "most viewers haven't eveen SEEN Birth of a Nation" or point out that Obama isn't named or that they can identify no racial over- or undertones in the ad; however, CLEARLY some (honest) ppl KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT from the voiceover, tone, and imagery (whether or not the expectation is realized is irrelevant; indeed, by NOT delivering upon set-up expectations, the ad-maker can offer "plausible deniabilty" to the Clinton Klan).

In other words, even if the ad itself is not racist (and, indeed, it is not), it cleverly plays into and manipulates its target audiences range of fears, among which are included racial fears; all this is based on years of conditioning, stretching back (in Professor Patterson's view) to the earliest racially inflammatory films, e.g., Birth of a Nation.

I think he's right.


What does this have to do with being a man? Dunno, really: mostly about giving a fair shake to any and all individuals, regardless of classification along gender, sex, or racial lines, or any other line beyond an individual's control (leaves me free to mock religion, given that religion is, eventually and ultimately, an individual choice; how 'bout them new Seven Sins? "Excess Wealth" anyone?).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Coupla-few Points

A powerful article on the Campus Rape Myth, worth reading in its entirety: I welcome analytical support and/or refutation.

Have I mentioned my admiration for Thomas Sowell? He really is articulate and reasoned; his current article concerns the New York Times, pretty much the antithesis of "articulate and reasoned" (well, okay, the NYT is occasionally articulate but increasingly rarely well-reasoned).

From the "Duh!" Files: Materialism Damaging to Children and Teens Out of Touch with cultural history.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Going in to work today, everyone around me was dressed in black (I was in brown and blue). The ubiquity of black was pretty amazing--the only variation I saw on my entire walk was one woman in a grey houndstooth overcoat. Weird.

My beggar acquaintance was, indeed, not at his post. I was reminded of an old newspaper vendor I used to pass (and when I say "old," I mean a hard-life, 80+ kind of old...). Of course, when he stopped showing up, it could mean but one thing... Like the old man Bill Murray kept trying to save in Groundhog Day.

And thinking of THAT reminded me of a neighbor I used to visit--an elderly (85+) gentleman, hungry for visitors. I would show up with a daughter or two, we would drink Gallo jug wine (I believe him to have been an alcoholic), talk about World War II (he still had the rifle--and the scar--he had taken from a Japanese soldier...the hard way). He was against war, but otherwise a jolly fellow.

Very sad one day when I was passing his house (which, according to him, he had bought for a song in the Depression when he was a successful salesman) and the decrepit siding had been removed and, clearly, the house was being renovated. Some day, I too will pass that way. I got the shivers. That said, I expect company then: my acquaintance had but two children--overeducated and affluent, neither had chosen to have children so, no grandchildren for my neighbor. That was an influence in my decision to expand my family (of course, the real decision lay with the wife, but you know what I mean).

Spent an interesting weekend with some houseguests--real "go getters," very driven, hard-working (constantly plugged in, taking calls, blackberrying...very annoying); I am concerned for their child (but choose not to expand on that for fear that anonymous bosh may not always be so). I continue to believe my wife and I are doing the right thing--even after my friend and his wife grilled us with regard to our philosophies (I merely point to the results which are, so far, so good). I remain...unconflicted. You should be too.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Movin' On

Today was the last day on the street for one of my favorite beggars. I have passed him for years--maybe as many as ten--on my way to work. I have seen him in rain, snow, sleet; his cheeriness ever undimmed by the weather. He would nod to me, wish me a good morning; if I had run (i.e., if I was running past him) he would ask how it went; on days when I wasn't running he would ask after my health.

I have always found it interesting to observe others' reactions to his goodwill. Most folks simply ignored him, perhaps out of fear or embarrassment, who knows? Some nodded, some returned his greetings, some gave him money. I never gave him a dime, but today, on his last day, I shook his hand.

As I approached his morning spot (he has an evening spot elsewhere in the city), I overheard someone ahead of me wishing him well on his "last day." I kept moving, then stopped, turned around and went back.

"Did I hear something about 'last day?'"

"Yessir; today's ma last day. I'm movin' into a house [in a nearby sub-section of the city]. And I start a computer class next week, too; heh!"

"How long have you been out here? I mean, how long have I seen you."

[Pause; eyes rolling skyward] "I dunno. Years? Long time. I dunno."

"Well. Congratulations then." [Handshake.] "Really. I think you'll do well, I really do."

"Thank you, sir. It's been a long time, long time. I'll still come out now and again. I hafta pay for my supplies and things for my computer class."

"All right then, so, not good-bye, but farewell and we'll see you again."

"Yessir, no doubt sir."

As I returned to my pedestrian commute, I thought, again, "What is a man?" [the actual quote is “Without guilt / What is a man? An animal, isn't he? / A wolf forgiven at his meat, / A beetle innocent in his copulation.”]

My beggar acquaintance is a man, his perseverance and/or his stoicism make him so. His (apparent) alcoholism or, for all I know, his drug use does not necessarily take that away from him. I do not consider him a victim; I do not think he considers himself as such--or, if so, he does not overtly blame society for his condition.

What is a man? Is a man one who soldiers on, despite conditions or circumstances?

Why do I do what I do? Because I need to do so, for my family. Without family, I would be doing...something else (I guarantee you).

Aside: I am reading Unhooked, with Unprotected on order; why? Because as a father I have a duty to my daughters, to protect, provide, listen, and guide. That is my duty, and I assume it willingly, without question or (real) complaint. I am grateful that I have a duty--it reduces confusion and mental meandering.

I am glad for my beggar associate: I wish him well, bear him no ill will for his choices, and would like to see him succeed. Perhaps next time I will engage him in further discussion; it has been about 10 years, after all, that I have known (of) him.

Y'all have a great day today: figure out your duty, and do it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Latest Thoughts

Deleted last night's post--don't post when you're tipsy.

So...spent today at an indoor cooperative playspace. Got to thinking about race relations.  My youngest clothes-lined a dark-skinned Indian girl (not that that matters) and I made her apologize.  Got to noticing the racial make-up of the group (I live in an highly-educated, reasonably affluent area): lots of Asians (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean; not too many Vietnamese or other South Asians, so far as I can tell), LOTS of Indian/Pakistani families...  

So, I was wondering why I (white middle-class educated male) feel ZERO tension/animosity toward/from Asian/India/Pakistani families...  I wonder if it is all "expectations management."  That is: my child clotheslined an Indian girl--I made her apologize and give up the Tiny Tikes car she was after... No harm done.

But... but... but when I see an AA mom, I am pre-disposed to worry about any "racial overtones," that is, I am CONDITIONED to be overly concerned with how SHE might perceive things--much to the detriment of the other party (in my opinion).

Does this make sense yet?

My point is that those who simply assimilate into society (and by this I do NOT  mean assimilate into white culture--rather, AMERICAN culture, which, in my opinion, is not color specific) enjoy success--are accepted immediately, no question, no problem.

Those with chips on their shoulders... not so much.

So, I looked around the room: LOTS of Asian/Indian familes... ONE African-American mom.  Hmm...

I'm tellin' ya: I'm rootin' for Obama.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dusting Off the Archives: An Old Email

[ed. note: an email written to an early mentor after bumping into him on the street after a twenty-year hiatus; only a few details have been obscured...]


This story could have any number of beginnings, so I will choose one if not at random at least nearly arbitrarily.

My father still breathes, or at least his body does. The man that inhabited that body left long ago--evaporated, dried up, disintegrated. The years of untended mini-strokes ate up his brain.

I was staying [up North], just out of the military. For some [ex-patriated] limbo evading various US agencies and memories), my father had reappeared in a flophouse [a couple of hours away]. (Later, as an interesting intellectual aside, it turnedout that the owner of the flophouse was the mother of one of my early loves, a girl who had, ironically, also joined the military.)

I visited my father at his job, a security guard at a discount sporting goods store. I asked him if he was hungry; he said that he would go on break in a few minutes. We went outside for a bite and a smoke (no, I do not smoke, but the army had taught me to share). After a few minutes of small talk he asked, "[Hieronymus]? Is that you?" I asked if he was in the habit of taking lunch with strangers. He replied that he took life as it came.

My father joined me and some compatriots in our "house of men" in DC; a waystation for exiting soldiers on their way to the next phase of their lives (one joined the ministry; one became a tool-and-die salesman; one is an anti-establishmentt real-estate mogul; I am what I am). From there, he accompanied me to graduate school. During the fall of my second year, I returned from class one day to find him strewn across the floor. I picked him up, put him in my car, and took him to the hospital. He had suffered a major stroke.

He recovered, sort of, and eventually went to live with my sister and her family in Florida. They have built him his own apartment. I have visited, but as I mentioned, he is not there. Interestingly, even in his dimished state he is likely smarter than most Americans; indeed, he devours garbage bags of paperback novels and is up on current events. But the deeper man (the man that my sisters did not really know) has long since departed. The destructive, petty shell left over is...something else.

I work to take the good parts of my upbringing--and there are at least a few--and incorporate them into my own life. This is made difficult when one holds one's that family in current contempt. This section could go on for pages, but let us simply say that I and my family do not see eye to eye. I am a home-birthing, private-schooling, social-climbing, educational-elitist, Republican-leaning, progressive wacko (or something like that) in their eyes, or so it seems. On the plus side, my children are charming and curious.

I have noted several ironies over the years. At the height of the dot-com boom I was given a "free" PC (with advertising installed). Of course, I already had four or five computers at the time. The real beneficiaries of such a computer would have been the underclass; of course, they didn't have the money to buy the products advertised, advertising that made the computer "free." The company folded.

Similarly, it is known to me that if my children suffered from, say, obesity, that I would move the family to a work farm in Montana and go vegetarian--or equivalent. Ironically, the priorities that make that draconian potential possible likely precludes childhood obesity in my family. This type of irony abounds.

I met my wife when I was 16. The story is long and convoluted, but there are very few other women--perhaps zero--with whom I would be happy. This is quite comforting.

This message has quickly degenerated into unassimilated bits; allow me to start over.

For your amusement, and for background, I have attached my chronological resume. It is up to date, because I am trying to figure out where to go next. I have left [my previous firm]. My severance should last a little longer, probably not long enough, though. People talk a lot about passion; I am still trying to find my professional passion. This is made difficult, of course, by the more immediate need to pay the mortgage and various tuitions.

My time in the military was deeply satisfying. I came to understand a number of things that I had been missing. As time passes, I find that many concrete concepts simply no longer translate (e.g., duty, loyalty, honor), and thus I become reticent, and yearn for that knowledge once more. Army life is not the life for a family man, though.

So, to my questions: what is the source of Life satisfaction (a question first posed by a deeply wise--and highly decorated--Top Sergeant)? Does one really need, e.g., Zen or the absence of pride or "a life lived for others" for happiness? What makes you happy?

On a more practical note: what general aspects of your family life caused yours to (apparently) 'succeed' (however one defines that) when so many others fail?

Where is America headed? (I thought I would throw in an easy one.)

If this missive sounds morbid, it should not. Even in the midst of deep professional questioning, I am struck by the extraordinary luck and love that surrounds and sustains me. My wife, my children, my relationships with them and with some friends, the opportunities afforded and open to me--I am aware of just how fortunate I am, and I am grateful.

I meant to write you a letter, handwritten things are such a lost art. But writing--hand-writing--causes cramps and self-consciousness. Indeed, were I to receive a hand-written letter, I would not know where to store it... (of course, one loses important emails all the time). For how long is something important?

Many bitter stories are in my hands; many happy ones as well. I do not know why it was important to stop by your house (my signing up for the race was not random--not much is truly random), but I am open once again to serendipity.

I am nearing 40 This fact fascinates me. I thought I would be an adult by now. My parents were adults (although my mother now seems more a teenager in so many ways). My father could do so many things that I cannot, and the things that I can do that he could not--outside of create a functional family--seem somewhat trivial. Many things remain a mystery to me, and as I approach 40, I wonder when the veils will lift, and who will help lift them. A 40 year old does not attract as many mentors as does, say, a 20 year old. Potential is less interesting when much of it has gone unused. If one could kill Fear (or, as I have put it, if I could once again walk without Fear)...

Well, it was good to see you. I am glad that you are still with your wife, still in your house. Glad to see and hear that your children are doing good things. I was interested to hear and read of your conservation work. I would be interested to hear your own plans for the future, or any reflections you care to share with regard to young families or life transitions or goals.

Best regards,

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Soldier's Creed

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I don't really mean to make this blog about abortion (really, it does not occupy that much thought to me), but...praise G-d for G--gle...

Abortion demonstration marks Roe anniversary

Published Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Students who walked into WLH 119 on Tuesday night were greeted with models of the female pelvis complete with fallopian tubes, cervixes, vaginas — and papayas on which to perform mock abortions.

In commemoration of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, the 35th anniversary of which is this month, the Reproductive Rights Action League at Yale (RALY), in conjunction with Yale Med Students for Choice, demonstrated different abortion methods and techniques, answered questions students had about the procedures and encouraged students to be active in abortion-rights groups during last night’s presentation. The presentation was part of a week-long celebration of the 35th anniversary of the landmark decision.

“I’m here to talk about what happens after you get past the picket lines,” Merritt Evans MED ’09, a member of Yale Medical Students for Choice, told the assembled crowd of about 15 students.

The presenters began by showing the students different surgical tools used during different stages of a pregnancy and ticking off statistics about the safety and number of abortions performed in the United States. Eighty-five percent of counties in America do not have any abortion providers, Evans said.

Evans and Rasha Khoury MED ’08, another member of Medical Students for Choice, who said she plans to become a gynecologist and expects to perform abortions, went on to describe one of the most common abortion procedures, manual vacuum aspiration, which “creates suction to evacuate pregnancy,” Evans said. The technique is a good option because the device involved is reusable and relatively cheap, she said.

“It’s not as scary as it seems. It’s just blood and mucus,” Khoury said, referring to the fetus remains in the device. She added, “You’ll be able to see arms and stuff, but still just miniscule.”

Evans and Khoury also explained the finer points of abortion-clinic etiquette, including some potentially sensitive terminology. Khoury said physicians performing abortions generally refer to the aborted fetus remains as “POC,” an acronym for “product of conception,” and refer to fetus’ hearts as “FH.”

The most complicated part of the procedure can be the emotional fallout some patients experience, she said.

“Often times, women are crying and cursing and saying they’re going to hell,” Khoury said. “It may be a quick and easy medical procedure, but it definitely is a very involved social-medical procedure.”

The presenters also urged the crowd to become involved in the abortion-rights movement by joining Reproductive Health Externships, a campaign in which volunteers are taught how to conduct abortions.

“It’s fun because you meet people from all over the country who do them,” Khoury said. “It’s pretty inspiring.”

The ethical implications of abortion may be a topic of endless debate, but Elizabeth Kim ’11, who attended Tuesday night’s meeting, said she remains unsure of where she stands on the issue.

“I wanted to learn about the scientific and medical process before I can make any conclusions about the ethics,” she said. “It disturbed me how quick and clean the procedure is, because it is a big deal.”

The week’s events began with the showing of a documentary about abortion Monday and will end Saturday with a performance by the all-female comedy group the Sphincter Troupe.


So...this article has been removed. Was it a hoax? Will I soon receive a "cease & desist" order? Was it removed because it named names or, more scarily, did the writers not even UNDERSTAND how incendiary the article would be?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Abortion Schmabortion

Every now and again, I am reminded that, sometimes, I just do not think like other people.

In the Boston Globe "Ideas" section was an article about abortion as portrayed by Hollywood. The author is dismayed that more and more protagonists are choosing to keep their babies. The offhand acceptance of abortion as a non-consequential act (or one that SHOULD be without consequence) makes me re-think my support of Roe v. Wade.

[ed. note: I am a relatively non-Christian, fiscally conservative, socially progressive male. Throughout my life I have generally kept out of the abortion debate--although I consider abortion "killing," killing can be justifiable. As for any religious aspect, I consider that a private matter between appropriate parties (e.g., the aborter and her Maker, if she believes in that sort of thing).]

The article highlights that, to some (many?) Pro-Choice is not about "choice"; rather, it is indeed (at least from the authors point of view and that of Ellen Goodman) pro abortion, termination, killing.

The author wrote: "So why does it feel like movie and TV screenwriters have come a long way, in the wrong direction [emphasis mine], since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision?", indicating that he finds any skewing of portrayals towards keeping one's baby as "the wrong direction." Hence, the right direction must be abortion. Hence, the author (and those who think like he does) are not pro "choice" but actively, decidedly, and weirdly in favor of women choosing to terminate their potential offspring.

He quotes Ellen Goodman as lamenting "abortion [is portrayed as] the right-to-choose that's never chosen." Ah, Capital 'F' Feminism: yes, ladies, do whatever you please, whatever you choose, so long as that "choice" conforms to Gloria Steinem's way of life. Choose to marry--a MAN?! WRONG! Choose to stay at home to raise your children? WRONG! Choose to bring to term that parasitic organism growing in your womb? Bzzz! Wrong AGAIN!

Through offhand comments one often gathers instant, honest insight into real thought processes: His--and that of The Boston Globe and likely its readership--is, to me, barren and, frankly, rather frightening. That abortion should not be illegal is not something that I (used to) dispute; but I indeed dispute that it should be without consequence, compassion, or concern. Some are fighting for animal rights; some tie themselves to trees; too few choose to view nascent humanity with...well...humanity.

And it is just such insightful, offhand comments as those in the article that make me re-examine my "commitment" (such as it is) to Roe v. Wade, that is, if part of the real effect (intended or not) of that legislation has been to fully devalue the reproductive process and all its participants (to include the fetus) as well as any "consequences," well then, maybe my level of support has decreased over time by a similar but inverse proportion. In other words: if Roe v. Wade leads to thinking such as the author's, then maybe that legislation ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Digging further, I find the author's blog; note that he ALSO considers (as noted in his thoughts regarding the movie "Juno") giving one's baby up for adoption as a worse "choice" than abortion, i.e., he lumps birth-then-adoption as "keeping my baby."

---Addendum the Second:
Contrast the above author's thinking with that of the main character in another Globe article (BTW: I generally avoid the Globe, as it tends to get me all wound up, but I was stuck in the airport...):
Men begin to reflect on their abortion "choices."

I am trying to read into the article how Globe reporting minimizes the impact of the article; I note that they use such discounters as the "whacky, right-wing religious conservative" meme, as well as a subtle stab at "men have no right" (by implying that men are now copying women in their "the personal is political" tactics).

What I found interesting about the article was the warning signal, the idea that men, blindly supporting a woman's "right to choose," themselves deny their own culpability, responsibility, and connection.

The real shockers were saved for the final paragraphs:

"Morrow, the counselor, described his regret as sneaking up on him in midlife - more than a decade after he impregnated three girlfriends (one of them twice) in succession in the late 1980s. All four pregnancies ended in abortion.

"Years later, when his wife told him she was pregnant, 'I suddenly realized that I had four dead children,' said Morrow, 47,'I hadn't given it a thought. Now it all came crashing down on me - look what you've done.'

"A few months ago, Morrow reached out to the former girlfriend who aborted twice. ... After they parted, she spilled her anger in a letter: "That long day we sat in that God-forsaken clinic, I hoped every moment that you would stand up and say, 'We can't do this' . . . but you didn't."

How many women, I wonder, have sat next to a "partner" in some clinic wishing, wishing that very thing, that the oh-so-modern, completely liberated, near-inconsequential "father of the baby" would suddenly leap to his feet and shout "No! No, this is just wrong, all wrong! I am very sorry that this has happened to you--to us--but, as a man, I need to take responsibility: let's get married; learn to love, if need be; and raise this baby--our baby--raise this baby right, together, as a family!"

Anybody ever wish that?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Politics: He Took Mama to School

So, count me among those who would have dreaded a Huckabee nomination--what many see as my secular humanism (informed, more likely, by Rand's Objectivism) generally causes me to eschew religious appeal; however, today's WSJ opinion piece by Peggy Noonan (whom I respect immensely, whether or not I agree with her views) hit some nail on its head:

"From the mail I have received the past month after criticizing [Huckabee] in this space, I would say his great power, the thing really pushing his supporters, is that they believe that what ails America and threatens its continued existence is not economic collapse or jihad, it is our culture.

They have been bruised and offended by the rigid, almost militant secularism and multiculturalism of the public schools; they reject those schools' squalor, in all senses of the word. They believe in God and family and America. They are populist: They don't admire billionaire CEOs...

They believe that Mr. Huckabee, the minister who speaks their language, shares, down to the bone, their anxieties, concerns and beliefs. They fear that the other Republican candidates are caught up in a million smaller issues--taxing, spending, the global economy, Sunnis and Shia--and missing the central issue: again, our culture. They are populists who vote Republican, and as I have read their letters, I have felt nothing but respect."

Day-umm! Ouch! You go, girl!

Count me among those suffering viscerally at the dismembement of American culture. And while I generally disdain most Americans, I would rather live among evangelical optimists than marxists nihilists. In fact, I would prefer to live where I am the LIBERAL than where I am the token Conservative...

Also in her essay, Noonan writes of Obama:
"[Obama's] takedown of Mrs. Clinton was the softest demolition in the history of falling buildings. I think we were there when it happened, in the debate in which he was questioned on why so many of Bill Clinton's aides were advising him. She laughed, and he said he was looking forward to her advising him, too. He took mama to school. "

By the way: anyone have anything bad to say (e.g., is it offensive in some way to some group) re: the phrase "He took mama to school"? Specifically, why is Hillary Obama's Mama?

In any case, I am glad: Hillary is a death machine, at both the individual (can you say "Vince Foster") and the national levels. I could live with Obama (he likely would be fairly ineffectual; pretty much how I like gummint to be). I do rather wish there were a Conservative running..

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

Can you believe that we have the Iowa caucuses? And what's with NH? I'm with those states (CA in particular) that claim that IA and NH have outsized influence; I'd like to see the nation vote its primaries all on one day...

Had a great New Year's Eve: asleep by 10:00 p.m. (a new record!).

Getting a bit bored with the "you'll see" comments regarding children and lifestyle: I've been waiting all my life to get to that which I am supposed to see and yet, strangely, Life just keeps on truckin'. The current crop of complaints includes my overly-conservative view of, e.g., The Wizard of Oz "dress up" kit (which my wife and I refer to as the "Hoe Hoe Hoe" Christmas present) which consisted of a pedophlypaper Dorothy dress (ending just below the crotch), A filmy "wicked" witch get-up (for the five-year old), and a satin-lingerie Glinda thing. We could not disappear that particular gift fast enough, and one relative was offended with my rapid "shut up!" in response to her "Oh, you look so beautiful" appraisal of my daughters' modeling efforts...

[ Check it; you'll have to believe me that the pics do NOT do this thing..."justice." Note also that the pic omits the high-heeled, plastic ruby "slippers." And *their* model, as JonBenetRamsey as she is, is clearly a midget, given that the dress magically falls at least to HER knees...]

Sheesh. I think the trash is already in the trash.

And you reader(s) have NO idea how weird it is that *I* appear the prude! idea (although my whole life I definitely made a distinction between "normal" lasciviousness and, oh, kiddie porn...)

On the positive side, seems that some relatives are getting the message: we only suffered about a 33% discard rate this year (and for you "starving kids in Africa" folks, we "discard" to Big Brother/Big Sister...).

That said, gifts FROM the children were amazing! Hand-crafted cards, hand-sewn items, and baked goods: perfect!

Lots on tap for the new year; business is booming and all is on course to continue my life (variously described as "Ozzie & Harriet," "rose colored" or simply "a bubble." Whoopee. I like my bubble. A lot. Being the black sheep of my family no longer bothers me, if it ever did.