Dec 06

Let’s not get physical

I liked this post, but have to quibble with this part a bit.

She never even clicked on the link. But when I gave her back the slide album she hadn’t looked through in 30 years she could barely contain her joy.

The power of physical objects in a nutshell.

I’d change it to read, “The power of physical objects to old people in a nutshell.”

When someone gives me something heavy and non-searchable that could’ve been digital, I get annoyed. At work people insist on handing me physical documents that I know exist in digital format. Most of the time I say, “Can you please put that on the file share? I don’t need any more paper.”

Maybe in 40 years when the big new thing is neural interfaces, I’ll sound like these old people who want everything to be physical, even when it’s senseless. But please. Don’t give me a physical book. In most cases, don’t print out anything for me. I’ve got enough shit to carry around already.

Dec 05

KW

Those who denigrate Kwanzaa as being a made-up holiday – why?

Do they not realize that all the other winter season holidays are just as socially constructed? That in fact all holidays are socially constructed?

Debating over whose holiday is real is like debating who has the most real imaginary friend.

Not that holidays don’t have value. They do. I really like Christmas, despite being in no way Christian.

Holidays, like most human endeavors, are what you make them, not what some half-known history constrains them to being.

Dec 05

cheering death

I don’t understand people who cheer on another’s death. Even when Osama bin Laden was killed, I didn’t feel happiness or elation. It was just sad – not because I have any sympathy for bin Laden, but because such things have to happen at all in our world. To be clear, given the chance I would’ve shot him myself, though it would’ve given me neither joy nor sense of fulfillment. It’s just a grimly necessary task, the putting down of a rabid dog.

Even now, all the celebratory photos following bin Laden’s death stick in my mind. I can understand the emotion a bit, I think, but it just seems untoward and unwarranted. What does bin Laden being dead gain you? What departed family member does it return to life? How does it make the world better, rather than just making us all a little more into monsters of necessity?

Osama bin Laden imprisoned would’ve become a living martyr, an icon to rally the jihadi aspirants. Killing him was the right decision – one of the few times I agree with America’s wanton dispensation of non-judicial execution. And no, I am not in favor of the death penalty even in regular jurisprudence.

But being ecstatic and celebrating like your favorite football team just swept the playoffs? Not for me.

I was also thinking today about all the military funerals I’ve been to. I doubt the few who read this blog have ever attended one, and if you do be prepared for the “Last Roll Call.” I am not easily emotionally affected by most things, but the roll call is absolutely terrible in its finality though at the same time it also has a dreadful beauty like trinitite. Knowing the roll call is coming up at a military funeral is one of the few times I recall experiencing a feeling of physical distress from words alone.

I will never do last roll call justice by describing it. It’s like trying to re-create the sun in a toaster oven. But it’s usually near the end of the funeral. Typically, the company commander or another member of the unit stands up and calls the deceased name’s once, as if for reporting for formation.

Of course there is no answer. Of course.

Then the speaker calls the name again.

No answer. Silence, terrible silence.

By this time, people are usually sobbing; faces are hidden in hands and limbs are slack as the air in the room is suddenly far too heavy.

I cannot capture in words how incalculably clearly this method of honoring the dead emphasizes their absence, like seeing for the first time a hole ripped into reality through which some Lovecraftian void has spilled.

Then a third time, and thankfully the last time, the speaker enunciates the name.

One last nothing of an answer, that void in the world giving forth no response, assenting to death forever with its frightful silence.

Never in life have I seen so many people in tears, people who I know did not even like the soldier whose funeral they were attending, and those who were present only to be ushers or to assist – all eyes damp, downcast. And the family of the fallen is always by this time bawling in great hitching wails.

No, I do not recommend military funerals or last roll call. It’s not something one forgets.

Thinking about those funerals, and thinking about bin Laden, I realize that every death is a tragedy. Every person we kill had people who loved him or her – rightly or wrongly, but it’s often so very hard to choose who we love – and every person was a kid once who dreamed the same dreams of success as nearly anyone who has ever lived on this planet.

Killing – even justified killing – cheapens us and rips another hole in the world. I’ve seen that void, seen its reality, at more military funerals than I care to recall. I can’t forget it, and I wish more people would somehow feel that emptiness before they so gleefully cheer on death, who neither needs cheering or even acknowledgement to find us all eventually.

Dec 04

Above and a bird

This is the best photo I’ve ever taken of a bird, especially one of the flitty, tiny variety. It’s a gray catbird taken at Sawgrass Lake Park.

IMG_4202

Dec 01

Paper over it

Reading this really well-done article about the newspaper strike of 1962-1963, and it struck me how much more difficult and expensive getting anywhere in life has become.

The Times newsroom, on West 43rd Street, was a bustling, self-contained universe. The managing editor, Turner Cat­ledge, would sometimes stand outside his office with binoculars, scanning the immense workspace. The city editor used a loudspeaker to summon dozens of clean-cut reporters—many with college degrees!—to a breaking story.

Now, if you don’t have a degree from an Ivy you stand very little chance of getting a job at the New York Times or any other major newspaper for that matter.

Not sure why this is. Risk aversion? Surely the best journalists don’t come from Ivies only.

I did photojournalism for five years. I know a little about it. From what I’ve seen, I’m a better writer than many of those Ivy League-educated standard issue journalists and I have no degree in anything.

I don’t have any real idea why the entry-level requirements in so many fields are so senselessly high now. I’ve often seen receptionist jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, and even a few that request a master’s.

No idea why on any of this.

Nov 30

Burglar

Ah, someone else from my benighted past!

A burglar? Never saw him as a burglar. Maybe a rapist, as he was très creepy, but not a burglar.

And found another one.

This guy was a terrible, terrible bully. I beat the absolute crap out of him on the playground one day after he pushed me a little too far. I made him eat dirt. Another day in the principal’s office – nothing unusual there.

Ah, the memories.

And another! Wow. The last time I saw this dude, he was like five years old.

I grew up in a classy place, yes?

Nov 30

How to be dead sooner

This is just terrible advice.

One area where I partially side with some of conservatism is that I don’t believe in the “feel good” mantras parroted by people like this.

“Sure, just eat whatever you want, it’ll be ok.”

Fuck. That. Noise.

That’s how I hit 200 pounds as a 5’ 8” guy with a small frame.

Even then if I hadn’t already been exercising some restraint, I would’ve been more like 300 pounds.

So, yeah, eat whatever you like and spend the last 20 years of your life with diabetes-caused necrosis as your feet rot off in a hospital.

Sounds like a good fucking plan.

Tell you what: you do that, and I’ll do the other thing.

Nov 28

$7 toilet water

All coffee tastes exactly the same to me – like something no human should ever drink.

Paying $7 for a cup of it seems like a Bernie Madoff-level rip-off.

I can’t tell the difference between a cup of instant coffee brewed with musk ox vomit and the most expensive, most artisanal yuppie cup.

All taste exactly the same to me: like foul poison.

Nov 28

The last

The last three times someone has talked to me in public, a woman I did not know initiated a conversation with me.

While it is fine, and I don’t mind, if I did the exact same thing to a woman alone in public (as I was), I would be looked at much more suspiciously and might be accused of mild harassment.

I find this hypocritical and completely shitty.

I am not blaming women, as I understand the constraints under which many live under reference interactions with strange men.

Nov 28

Fitting room

It’s interesting to be really terrible at the things civilized society values most, and to be really good at those it values least.

I don’t mind being a misfit, but it does impose certain constraints.