Friday, April 30, 2004

The Heroic Face of America

Look, I know that there are a lot of American heroes over in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. I respect our servicemen, surely. Granted, some aren't worth the beef jerky they eat for lunch -- but so it goes for any organization. You take the good apples with the bad, and for the most part assume everybody else is somewhere close enough to the middle for the whole lot of them to get the job done ethically and efficiently. For the most part, they're doing their job. Fair enough.

However . . . this new face of the American military, that of the mercenary / 'security' contractor, is a wee bit disturbing. If this be the modern military of America and her allies, bring back the draft! (Especially, um, when they're wanted war criminals.)

Reminds me a bit of 'Mercenary Song' by Steve Earle:

I guess a man's got to do what he's best at
Ain't found nothin' better so far
Been called mercenaries and men with no country
Just soldiers in search of a war


And we're bound for the border
We're soldiers of fortune
And we'll fight for no country but we'll die for good pay
Under the flag of of the greenback dollar
Or the peso down Mexico way.


What Goodeth A Man If He Winneth the World . . .

Surely . . . er, hopefully, you've already seen or read about the Iraqi prison mess. If not, because Silentio is your only source of news, well, c'mon people -- start clicking those links over there on the right! The obvious upshot of the story: we've become what we've set out to destroy. Who says there's never any truth to archetypally bad, cliched fiction, eh?

Photos of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners drew international condemnation on Friday, prompting the stark conclusion that the U.S. campaign to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis is a lost cause.

"This is the straw that broke the camel's back for America," said Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. "The liberators are worse than the dictators."

"They have not just lost the hearts and minds of Iraqis but all the Third World and the Arab countries," he told Reuters.

The CBS News program "60 Minutes II" on Wednesday broadcast photos taken at the Abu Ghraib prison late last year showing American troops abusing some Iraqis held at what was once a notorious center of torture and executions under toppled President Saddam Hussein.

The pictures showed U.S. troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.

[. . .]

"That really, really is the worst atrocity," Atwan said. "It affects the honor and pride of Muslim people. It is better to kill them than sexually abuse them."

Makes you just wanna wrap yourself in the American flag, don't it?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


I hate waiting. I am that guy in a long line, the one huffing and puffing; the one shifting his weight between right and left foot far too many times for a normal person; the one muttering a myriad of vulgarities just under his breath (just loud enough for the toddler behind him hears). I am, to put it mildly, not a very patient person.

This is not, of course, anything incredibly new. I realize that if I am that guy above, there are at least a half-dozen more somewhere in the line with me. What makes it a bit more strange, I guess, is that I am oddly patient with people. I may not like a person, but I will at least give them the benefit of the doubt that they have something to bring to any given conversation. My purpose for this is, I must confess, that they might also show me the same generosity -- that is, I realize that I, too, can be both a bore and a nag.

What is different about situations that cry out for a bit of patience, though? Things like lines at the supermarket or to get into a concert; or, in my present case, waiting for the courier to show up and pick up my passport renewal papers? Situations, after all, are rarely devoid of people. Lines, typically anyway, are composed of other people. As are couriers, not to mention the people they have to deal with on any given day -- i.e., in traffic, on other courier runs, etc.). Situations, then, for the most part, are also people. Why, then, do I not give them the same sort of slack?

Is it because situations often assume your cooperation? That is, when you're in a traffic jam that you're not going to start ramming the cars ahead of you; or, when you're waiting for a courier, that you're going to sit at home between the hours of 12 and 5, eschewing lunch (because you forgot to buy anything the evening before), and, well, just bloody wait for what you're told to assume is the inevitable arrival of your courier. I'm not so sure this is the case, since there is a similar (implicit) social contract in effect between me and people -- eg., I don't, or at least rarely, walk away from somebody while they're talking (unless, that is, the act of walking away [or, say, yawning] is a rhetorical gesture to communicate something like anger or boredom, and thus to, in a way, continue the conversation). Or, is the difference that situations -- those that most often drive us crazy, anyway -- often come to us in very impersonal forms? This might explain why we call a cluster of individuals, with various stories and rationales for being at one place at one given moment in time, a LINE; or an individual worker, with bills and debts to pay, say, a COURIER.

Of course, this doesn't answer the question at all. I've still no clue as to why I should privilege my interactions with people, when in fact situations are peopled with individuals (though often strangers) as well. If anything, you'd think that the former would piss me off more. Which is more disturbing, for instance, a friend or acquaintance who betrays you (even in something as mundane as taking the last piece of chocolate out of a bowl) or a complete stranger who does something to piss you off (be it steal your wallet or take up too much space with his suitcase on the subway)? Is it even fair to differentiate at all between the faces of people and the (apparently) nameless faces of situations -- for example, between the terrible waiting at a hospital for some indication about a friend's well being and the situation of having to wait at the hospital at all (in all its nameless ugliness and reality)?

I've no clue. All I'm sure of is that I've been waiting nearly an hour, and the damned courier still isn't here; and I have very bad feeling that it was HIS grey van I saw pulling away from the curb at 11.55, as I was walking back from the post office not one hundred yards from where I live. But what else can you do but wait anyway?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

And We All Say . . . . "AMEN!"

Neal Pollack has a secret ear to George W. Bush's prayer life:

Heavenly Father, give me the power to try to change what I cannot, and to not change what I can. Give me the strength to believe what is obviously false. And grant me the lack of wisdom not to know the difference.

In the name of the Saudi government, with whom I cynically and unlawfully struck a pre-war deal, and in the name of the money that went to planning a then-secret war in Iraq when it was supposed to go toward rebuilding Afghanistan, and in the name of Congress, which was not aware that it had appropriated funds thusly, and in the name of many good people whose reputations have been sullied by my political operatives because they dared tell the truth, and in the name of the American soldiers who have died or will die because of my administration’s greed and arrogance, especially the ones whose tours of duty have been extended even though they’re exhausted and injured, and in the name of the Iraqi women and children who died during the siege of Fallujah, and in the name of all the civilians from all the world’s countries who have died and will continue to die because of my willful bungling of the War On Terror, which I single-mindedly believe that you, Father, have chosen me to lead, let me say: Amen.

It's Funny Because It's True!

Alan Graham, this month's guest blogger over at Boing Boing had a great idea the other day: an homage to the late, great comedian Bill Hicks. Inspired by this, I thought that I, too, would slap down a few of my own favorite quotes:

"I'm so sick of arming the world, then sending troops over to destroy the fucking arms, you know what I mean? We keep arming these little countries, then we go and blow the shit out of them. We're like the bullies of the world, y'know. We're like Jack Palance in the movie Shane, throwing the pistol at the sheepherder's feet.

"Pick it up."

"I don't wanna pick it up, Mister, you'll shoot me."

"Pick up the gun."

"Mister, I don't want no trouble. I just came downtown here to get some hard rock candy for my kids, some gingham for my wife. I don't even know what gingham is, but she goes through about ten rolls a week of that stuff. I ain't looking for no trouble, Mister."

"Pick up the gun."

(He picks it up. Three shots ring out.)

"You all saw him - he had a gun."


Children are smarter than any of us. Know how I know that? I don't know one child with a full time job and children.


I have never seen two people on pot get in a fight because it is fucking IMPOSSIBLE. "Hey, buddy!" "Hey, what?" "Ummmmmmm...." End of argument.


I was in Nashville, Tennesee last year. After the show I went to a Waffle House. I'm not proud of it, I was hungry. And I'm alone, I'm eating and I'm reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me: " Hey, whatchoo readin' for?"

Isn't that the weirdest fucking question you've ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading *for*? Well, godammit, ya stumped me! Why do I read? Well... hmmm... I dunno... I guess I read for a lot of reasons, and the main one is so I don't end up being a fucking waffle waitress.


You ever noticed how people who believe in Creationism look really unevolved? You ever noticed that? Eyes real close together, eyebrow ridges, big furry hands and feet. "I believe God created me in one day" Yeah, looks liked He rushed it.


It's always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it's just hilarious.


I've learned a lot about women. I think I've learned exactly how the fall of man occured in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, and Adam said one day, "Wow, Eve, here we are, at one with nature, at one with God, we'll never age, we'll never die, and all our dreams come true the instant that we have them." And Eve said, "Yeah... it's just not enough is it?"


People ask me what I think about that woman priest thing. What, a woman priest? Women priests. Great, great. Now there's priests of both sexes I don't listen to.


What do atheists scream when they come?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Seems About Right

Statement of Audience

I realize that nothing I say matters to anyone else on the entire planet. My opinions are useless and unfocused. I am an expert in nothing. I know nothing. I am confused about almost everything. I cannot, as an individual, ever possibly know everything, or even enough to make editorial commentary on the vast vast majority of things that exist in my world. This is a stupid document; it is meaningless drivel that I do not expect any of the several billion people on my planet to actually read. People who do read my rambling, incoherent dumbfuckery are probably just as confused as I am, if not moreso, as they are looking to my sorry ass for an opinion when they should be outside playing Frisbee with their dog or screwing their life partner or getting a dog or getting a life partner. Anyone who actually takes the time to read my bullshit probably deserves to ingest my fucked up and obviously mistaken opinions on whatever it is that I have written about.

For other helpful comments about blogging -- namely, why they are "fucking stupid" -- you do not want to miss the fine piece of blogging entitled, naturally, Why I Fucking Hate Weblogs!

Re: Chapter two of his post, just to remind ourselves. I'm fairly certain I fall somewhere between a "Self-important Moron" and "The Ego Stroker." This was hardly news to you, I'm sure.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Weekend Miscellanea

I've been pretty pitiful with blogging, haven't I? Two measly posts -- one of which I've been meaning to delete since Thursday. Ach. Life, sometimes it passes you by. One of these days, what with all this writing and editing I've been doing, you'd think I'd find some time to finish this bloody PhD thesis! So it goes, so it goes.

A couple of odd encounters this week: (1) While browsing the philosophy section of a a lovely used book shop in Glasgow, I was recently confronted by an unctuous undergraduate asking a series of questions about the nature of my research that ranged from the painfully specific ('What's going on in the second paragraph of Herman Melville's short story, "The Chimney"') to the just plain painful ('So, Moby Dick represents Herman Melville's repressed homosexual desire, right?' Yes, quite.) I'd met him a few weeks ago at a lecture I sat in on -- where he barraged the guest lecturer with an odd series of questions whose upshot seemed to be: 'How can I have rampant casual sex without feeling any Christian guilt?' The lecturer, who didn't give a toss about this guy's sex life, was far more competent in handling the interrogation. In the end, I stammered ('Ummm . . . well . . . I think the fact that he probably beat his wife is a bit more interesting than who he wanted to bed'), lied ("Yeah, I've spent a lot of time pouring over Melville's understanding of the Sphinx), and finally had to knock over a stack of unshelved books to break the guy's attention long enough for me to make my escape.

The second odd encounter was truly frightening. In fact, I think it fully embodies the inherent truth of psychoanalysis -- namely, the return of that which is repressed . . . the return of the Real. I was in the library talking to an old friend of mine, when a professor approached me while calling out my name. I only vaguely knew the professor, and assumed that the sentiment was mutual, so I was rather surprised. I was, however, all the more shocked when he added: 'Do you happen to have a paper on the internet about world religions?' 'Oh, dear,' I thought -- though, to be honest, it wasn't nearly that clean a thought. Because, yes, long ago I did publish such a paper, a ridiculously conservative, very poorly nuanced paper about, so the phrase goes these days, theological humanism. Thankfully, the professor was pretty cool about the obvious dissonance between what he'd heard about me in the department and what he was reading online. Things and people change, obviously. Nevertheless, the encounter was unnerving, to say the least.

Also of note this week, a friend of mine's grandmother-in-law pooped on his bathroom mat. There is, of course, a short explanation that could, and probably should, accompany this anecdote; but I think it's funnier to leave it as it is.

What else? Oh. . . . if you get a chance, make a point of it to see the documentary Capturing the Friedmans. Disturbing, yes; frustrating, all the more; but a stunning collage of conflicting perspectives of a family's past gone grotesquely wrong. You'll walk away, quite likely, thinking your family surprisingly functional.

Lastly in this hodgepodge of miscellanea, two links. (1) I've not really given this the thought it deserves, but it looks to be something well worth the time. And on a completely different note, (2) nobody knows 'decaffeinated belief' quite like Slavoj Zizek. You may not have a clue what he's talking about during and after the first reading, but it may very well be fun trying.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

A Request

I never wanted to use this blog in this way, and I suspect that I'll probably delete this post once/if I get the requested information, but here goes: I need the phone number of one Jedfrey (aka, Jedd) Tudor. Emailing him has not proven the most reliable or easiest way of getting such information. I think he reads Silentio from time to time when at work, and I know for a fact that some of you out there know him -- perhaps even well enough to have his number close at hand. So . . . if he reads this, please find a way to get the number to me. Or, alternatively, if somebody else knows the number reads this, could they, too, please find a way to get the number to me. Thanks. If you cannot figure out a means of communication, then feel free express your confused state in the comments. We'll come up with something, surely.

Monday, April 12, 2004

She Said . . .

I asked a very important question of K. this afternoon . . .

See here for clues as to that question (and her answer).

Sunday, April 11, 2004

A Glimpse

I know I promised these sometime last week, but just haven't had the time to make good. There is no such excuse at the moment. My favorite, I think, is the last one.

All in all, we all (the Z. family and I) had quite a time on the highways and byways of Scotland. Neither K. nor I had seen much of Scotland that lay north of Glasgow, so it was nice to feel a bit adventurous for a change. It also felt very good indeed (too good, in fact) to drive again -- even if I was on the 'wrong' side of the road and car. Those of you who have driven with me back in the States, I realize, are cringing at this thought, considering how erratic of a driver I am on the 'right' side of the car and road. A friend of mine, who is typically the worst backseat driver you'll ever have in a car, once told me that he didn't mind me driving, but only because of an uncanny spell of luck I seem to have when behind the wheel. Oncoming cars would magically disappear . . . gaps miraculously widen . . . etc.: the highway was my Red Sea. Thankfully, good fortune must've followed me over the ocean because by the end of the week I'd managed to hit only one curb whilst parking (not bad for me). Heh -- though I suspect my general disdain for the brake pedal took more than a few years off K.'s mom's lifespan. Hmm . . .

Monday, April 05, 2004

A Bit Later Than Anticipated

I know this is extraordinarily late . . . but it is the best I could manage, what with having Katrien's folks over for the week. If you're just now getting ready to enjoy tonight's NCAA championship game, perhaps you'll like to recap what happened last week. In this turbulent world of information -- outgoing and incoming -- sometimes a review is healthy. So, yes, chew on this, our basketball-lovin' guest blogger: he is a mighty fine treat.

* * * * *

Sweet, Elite, and Finality

So, I'm popping Chicken gizzards on the backroads of Indiana, screaming "Villanova" to the cast of the Dan Patrick show as the Showkiller is asking them NCAA trivia -- in this case "The highest seed ever to win the tournament?" (#8 'Nova, in 1985) -- when I realized I probably should put my second weekend and Final Four preview thoughts to paper.

East Rutherford Regional

The only Regional to play to form. Wake gave the #1 seed St. Joes some trouble, but the last undefeated team continued their three game winning streak right in front of Billy Packer. Pitt was rumored to be the team who would come into East Rutherford as the #1 had they won the Big East tournament; they didn't, and they didn't play like they would have made it either.

On Saturday it was St. Joes, in their first Elite 8 since 1981, facing the Oklahoma St. Cowboys. Did I mention I was working? [ed. Say it together, folks: PHOTOLAB.] So all I heard was the news of the lead changing hands three times in the final 10 seconds. The scary result is that Oklahoma State won: scary because in their last Regional appearance St. Joes, then coached by Jim "Please ignore my daughter Dee the horrible sportscaster" Lynam's club, lost in Bloomington to Indiana -- who unless your name is Jimmy Dolan, you are aware that they went on to win the title. Why should OSU winning the title be traumatic? This isn't an irrational hatred like the ones I have for Lute Olsen, Jim Boheim and Roy Williams. This comes from the fact that Sutton still represents what is wrong in college basketball. [ed. It's Eddie's fault that 60% foul shooting is considered decent?] Sure, Memphis St and Tulane paid the death penalty for their transgressions in the 80's, but Sutton not only brought disgrace to Kentucky, he set the example for coaches to follow later: run a dirty program and move on to another job. [ed. Which is our guest blogger's way of saying: "No emphasis on foul-shooting."] This is similar to what John Calipari did at UMass, Jim Harrick did everywhere he went, and the penalties that Tommy Amaker is still overcoming at Michigan for what Steve Fisher allowed to happen. Sutton is worse, though, because he always calls upon the name of his college coach, coach Iba, like he is carrying on the great tradition of basketball. That will get touted during the Final Four, and the Kentucky violations will not be mentioned. Good thing he didn't throw a chair or punch a telephone. [ed. I got lost in the midst of that paragraph. How does all that relate to them playing St. Joseph and St. Joseph once playing Indiana?]

Phoenix Regional

In the land of Jean Gray [ed. Oh man, he didn't just drop an X-Men reference, did he?], one constant of this tournament continued: Maybe Packer was right. Connecticut continued to roll. First Vandy gets crushed, and then UConn shows Alabama no respect at all for knocking out Syracuse, and rolls all over them. [ed. Mmmm, yeah. You know how I like these recaps.] Makes me wonder, though: does that bode well for the Huskies? They have faced no challenge at all in this tournament. Personally, I think that spells disaster heading into San Antonio. There have been no tests, what happens if the game's close in the closing minutes? [ed. The final score will be close?] We don't know how they will handle it, because on the tournament court they haven't had to. [ed. So it spells disaster for UConn because we don't know how they'll handle the pressure? Hmmmm.

St. Louis Regional

The perfect storyline is that Bill Self in his first year leads the Jayhawks to the title. This would, of course, lead me to continue my dogging of Roy Williams. The way they played against UAB, it looked quite possible. The Blazers lose their coach to technicals, and never really got to play defence the way they did against UK. The result is a rout, 100-74.

The second game was about injuries and overcoming. Early in the game BJ Elder has a Nevada player roll on his ankle [ed. That doesn't sound kinky at all! Whatever floats yer boat, Mr. Elder.], and cannot continue. This looks exactly like the opportunity for Cinderella to try on her shoe and continue on to the ball [ed. Oh! Now you're talking!]. But in the second half the Wreck regroup and outscore the Wolfpack to move on to play Sunday. On Sunday, the Tournament-finally-producing-close-games continued, with Tech and the Jayhawks going to OT -- where the Yellow Jackets pull away with the win. They now return to the Final Four for the first time since 1990. That year their "Lethal Weapon 3" came up short to UNLV, who went on to win the tournament. This year they play Oklahoma St. Another omen for the Cowboys?

Atlanta Regional

Friday night's script seemed to be very similar. It was a closer game between X and Texas, but Rick Barnes gets ejected in the closing seconds as his team is knocked out by the Muskies. Thad Matta, whose name on Thursday became linked to the possible opening at Purdue, continued his team's amazing run, with Chalmers and Sato providing the senior leadership on the floor.

It was Chris Douhon playing the Elder-role in the Georgia Dome, as he was still playing injured after hurting his ribs going for a loose ball in the ACC finals. In looking not to shoot but instead distributing the ball (and fighting for rebounds), he pretty much controlled the Blue Devil's offence. The grimace [ed. That one is for an old friend of ours] on his face during his trips to the free throw line showed the pain; but like Wojo and Hurley before him, he fought through the pain to lead his team to victory.

On Sunday, it came down to a tip, as Xavier had opportunities to win but just fell short. It's a game in the early 90's you had the feeling Duke would win. But after close-game loss, like that to Indiana in '02, the Blue Devils seem ripe for an upset. But guess who played a pivotal role? Douhon once again continues to lead the team while injured. And Duke returns again to the Final Four, where they get a rematch of the '99 title game with UConn.

Final Four Prediction

I'm taking Duke over Georgia Tech. Which, though, probably means Eddie Sutton finally wins a title over the Huskies.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

A Bone

To reward all who visited while I was gone, I offer to you . . . . Russian Prison Tattoos.

A Little Housecleaning

Couple of items on the blogging agenda, which I may or may not get done today. Especially of note is our eminent guest blogger's NCAA recap. For those of you who are following the tournament only through the convenience of modern blogging technology employed here at Silentio, keep an eye out for week-two coverage later today / early tomorrow. I didn't get our esoteric Hoosier's recap until I was nearly out the door, on my way for a few days driving through the Scottish Highlands -- oh, how lovely that was!

If I feel sufficiently motivated later tonight, and if you're good, I might even post a few pictures from the drive. For the time being, though, I have a series of rejection emails to assess and bemoan, and a host of imminent deadlines to address and delay.