Thursday, September 30, 2004
My take on John Kerry is ambiguous, in that I don't like him. Not much ambiguity there, I guess, but I still hope he wins. Some radical part of me keeps saying that four more years of Bush, while disastrous for the country and indeed the entire world, would be great for grassroots progressive organizing-- exactly the kind of thing we need to secure positive change in the long run. But I think four more years of watching a trained bonobo running around pretending to be in charge of the country I still, despite my better interests, indeed something like a battered wife, still love would finally drive me over the edge, set me to carving obscenities into my forearms with rusty cutlery, make a kamikaze run at the White House with a circa '84 dangerously lifelike squirt-gun, maybe even cause me to volunteer myself as exchange for the Expos.
Not that Montreal would be in any way equivalent to scarification-- has anyone ever seen an unattractive French Canadian woman? Some Canadians insist they exist, but the same can be said of Sasquatch so there you go. Some Berlitz tapes... hey, my Latin teachers always told me, in auto-defensive response to the charge that they taught a dead language, that my studies would allow me to pick up any Romance language with little to no effort.
But John Kerry. The man ran a primary campaign based on a chimaera of "electability" and has gone on to run a campaign... I was corrected by Snarkout last night (during a political break from the dancing at the RJD2 show (manoman, it's been too long since I went out and DANCED!)) when I claimed that it made one nostalgic for Al Gore. Al Gore had run an incompetent campaign, he schooled me, while Kerry's is merely really really really bad.
And I can't shake the memory of my time with Boston Mobilization for Survival, working on the Campaign for the Iraqi People, a group of anti-sanctions activists. Any time we contacted Kerry's office we would get a not-even-royal brushoff: Kerry supported the president's position, end of story.
And no matter how much he skirts it, no matter how much his apologists try to explain it away, Kerry voted to give the president authority to go to war. He can protest that he was given bad information, that he expected the president to use the authority more prudently, but the truth remains that doing such was a thorough abdication of responsibility. One can't sign a blank check, hand it to an untrustworthy individual, and protest later that one never imagined this snake would empty out an entire bank account because he had promised only to fill it in for a buck fifty. At least one can't do it if one doesn't want to be seen as an utter dupe, an irredemable moron, or both.
All that said, it was great fun watching this sunshellacked wooden weasel of a man wiping the podium with his subsimian opponent, especially for the extreme comedic value of our chimp-in-chief's stuttering, halting, blinking twelve times per second (there were times at which I swear his eyelashed were giving hummingbird wings a run for their money,) head bobbling, lolling left and right, beady- and blankeyed, mouth a black line slanting across his jaw responses: repeating the same weak points over and over, using the exact same phrases each time, banging them endlessly like a carpenter with only three nails. When given a chance to elaborate, when asked directly to elaborate, to deepen, to expand his argument, he didn't seem aware that such a thing was even within the realms of human possibility. My housemate, her laptop propped on her knees, read somebody's instant assessment that the man's tone was that of a cornered boyfriend desperately trying to convince his girl that things would work out if she gave him one more chance.
But he did let the nation know of the supreme strategic importance of Poland.
And so begins the spin. The Democrats have wisened up a bit in four years. Remembering the Repubilcans' savvy at turning a clear defeat into a victory in the first Bush/Gore debate by spinning body language, they have learned to declare victory immediately and hold onto it, sending out emails to their supporters asking them to stuff the ballot box at every online poll available, write letters to the editor, call radio shows. They've learned from Karl Rove that even a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.
But the spinmeisters of the right, shifting their lines of force faster than a jujitsu master, have already found their new footing: even if Kerry won the debate, what he needed to do was win it decisively, and his win was not shattering enough. Sure, he might have won the debate, they say, sure Bush unscripted looked every bit the spluttering idiot he is, but so what? Even though he showed himself to be better informed on foreign policy, even though he argued convincingly that Bush's plans were failed and that he could do better, even though Bush dodged 90% of the questions with all the subtlety and grace with which he dodged service in Vietnam and couldn't even pronounce "Vladimir," people still trust Bush more on foreign policy.
The debate was a victory for the Senator, a few more victories like that will ruin him. Cynically masterful and masterfully cynical. One can imagine Rove's cologne: a subtle mix of charcoal and rotten eggs, with high notes of something left in the road by a passing show pony.
Lucky for me I live in DC, which means that I not only have no say in my local governance (behold Congress trying to force unlicensed assault weapons on our fair district), I also have no meaningful vote in the Presidential Election. I could even vote for Bush with a clear conscience, knowing that he has only a slightly better chance of getting the District's electors than I have of finding love. And so with a perfectly clear conscience I plan to go into a voting booth on November 2 and vote for David Cobb.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
The rest of my most recent Insound order (aka my birthday present to myself) arrived today. I'm currently listening to the new Channels EP, and it really sounds like a much poppier mid-period Jawbox... hints of Burning Airlines flavor here and there... and the occasional hint of what J. meant when he said the band came together over a shared love of Siouxsie and the Banshees.
And a perusal of the website explains why the track I'm currently listening to doesn't really fit the above description-- we have a John Cale cover!
GAH! They're opening for Mission of Burma at the Black Cat in October! Excuse me while I have a shameless music geek moment here... ok... almost over... there. And they're opening for Hot Snakes in Cali... too bad Hot Snakes decided they're too cool to play DC this tour. So I get to decide between missing them this time 'round or figuring out how to get up to Baltimore without a car (no, the entropymobile is not sold yet, but that will come within the next few weeks... those of you who see me regularly? be sure to hold me to that statement or I'll procrastinate through 2005)
Oh, the harmonics! Robbins is still my guitar god. Him and Grubbs and Albini and Brownstien and Miller.
In lighter news, I still have negative Game. Sunday night I was handed the ball, the field was clear, the endzone was inches away, and I choked like Dubya on a pretzel. It is now official: I will never have sex again.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
No attempt at a clever title... it's been over a month since my last post to this bastard 'blog. A month almost exactly since my last attempt at an entry. I had it almost written out entirely, another epic tale of mechanical malfunction and man's inhumanity to man (more than once I have considered renaming this collection of words "Things Fall Apart" and declaring it an EntropyBlog-- your BlogSpot home for mechanical, social and psychological collapse) when my computer locked up and I had to restart, losing at least 80% of the entry. I tried again, and again the system flipped me off, and again I lost a vast majority of what I had written.
Few things irritate me like having to repeat myself. It makes my job more frustrating than it has any right to be, and has caused me to be unnecessarily short with customers on many an occasion. Words aren't easy for me, and having spent so much time in search of how to say something it galls me absurdly to have to marshall the lost syllables, chase down the right word, corral the prodigal turn of phrase. And, good Virgo that I am, I refuse to do anything out of order. No new entries until the last one is complete.
So I neglect my blog. I tell it I'm off in search of little lost words, but finally despair and wander off to the next village, too consumed with shame to return empty handed.
I committed virtual suicide of a sort the other night. I went to my Friendster account and -- an act that was oddly reifying of my continued cocooning, despite its inherent virtuality -- deleted every last friend from my list. I did not delete the account. It's still there, disconnected and alone. It was accomplished under the influence of the same selfish despair that inspires IRL suicidal thoughts, the very vindictive desire to punish others for one's own perceived failures. I've gone anonymous, pulled up stakes, climbed into the treehouse and pulled up the ladder behind me. Like when I was 12 or 13 and my favorite pastime was to run up to my room, slam the door, and wish that nobody would come up to check on me while secretly hoping somebody would. And one day no parent came up, after the requisite sulk period, to talk me down. I had no partner in the rapprochement tango and so had to dance both parts on my own, see what it was like to lead.
The thing about hitting rock bottom is that it never really happens. We sink in the pool until we reach the point where we think there's less room between us and the bottom than the top, and so the less effort required is to swim down and push up off the solidity of that floor. So we actively head down instead of just sinking, pushing ourselves toward that moment of clarity. It never arrives, but we've started heading this way, too late to turn around and struggle for the surface. We've made our decision, now (Dubya-like) we have to stick to it no matter how misguided it turned out to be...
No lifeguard to come for us, swimming down into depths that have no bottom, and at this point we've lost track of which direction is even up.
This happens to divers, I remember learning. The solution is to exhale and follow the bubbles. I don't know how this works in the horrifically shambling metaphor I've constructed, but it's something, I suppose, to consider.
Physically, I'm in possibly the best shape of my life. Either now or when I was running high school track. So I think back to when I was in the best mental shape of my life, which was back in college probably. Senior year, when on top of all my classwork I had two writing deadlines every week, one for Brown Band scripts and one for Film Bulletin pieces. The latter was optional, but more critical because I knew it had an audience. I was responding to my world, and in a way that was visible to a large chunk of that world. I had my public-- I did it for them.
I don't know if anyone reads this bastard here, or if it's just spitting bits into the void (blog clamans in deserto) , which means I feel no great need to keep it updated. My long silences probably discourage readers, which means I have even less reason to write. Is that a Catch 22 or a Downward Spiral? (Heller being far superior an artist to Reznor, I can only pray for the former).
I used to greatly enjoy physical puzzles-- those slats of wood that joined together into complex fractal 3-D snowflakes. I even made a few during jr. high woodshop. The first trick, since they usually came assembled, was to get the thing apart. Then came the task of getting it back together. Enough attention paid during the first half made the second half much easier, but this was usually made impossible by the euphoria of eureeka: tear it apart, I have defeated thee! Then the hangover of trying to remember what went where.
Most of the simpler puzzles had one bit of wood that was the key: smooth, without locking groove, slid right in and out. The trick to getting the thing apart was to find this piece, the key log that held back the entire chute. I still remember one such puzzle, which I searched for months for that one key piece before I realized that it was all interdependent. You had to slide two opposing pieces in opposite directions, which would cause two other corresponding pieces to lean apart from each other, all gradually and symmetrically releasing the holds they had on each other. Finally the pieces all came apart, but getting them back together was something I never did figure out.
Real world problems put both of these kinds of puzzles to shame, I've come to suspect. There is no key problem, no simple first step that will cause everything else to fall into line. There are no symmetries, no obvious loosenings to tell which is the right direction. All the issues are interconnected in impossibly intricate ways that demand midcourse switchbacks and impossible intuitive leaps. I've tried exhaling, but still see no bubbles to follow.
I guess I just keep writing and hope that an audience will find me. Or possibly try to find faith that the writing itself, and not the implied audience, will be the help I need.