Friday, August 29, 2008

Four Increasingly Esoteric Thoughts About Politics

§ 1: Picking Sarah Palin strikes me as a very poor decision. A lot of people are calling it savvy (a PR term for "cynical"), but I think that given a little time it will prove very clumsy. Of course, Obama & co. have to tread gingerly when they assail her lack of experience, but this doesn't mean they can't exploit it. As a presidential candidate, Obama has plenty of chances to convince people that he is ready -- he will either do so or he won't. Palin doesn't really have that luxury. Not only will she not get the same amount of media coverage to make her case, having to make the case at all unavoidably reminds people why it is an issue in the first place ... because McCain is older than the dirt that makes up more dirt. Does he seriously want his age & health to be in the back of people's mind, especially as they watch videos of Obama playing hoops and lifting weights? (Maybe if McCain's captors in Vietnam had served more arugula he'd look more lively and vivacious.) Of course, what do I know, Palin may well poach scores of female Democratic & independents voters who (a) are vehemently opposed to abortion (even in instances of rape & incest), (b) are against gay marriage (& health benefits for the domestic partners in same-sex couples), (c) don't care about getting equal pay as a man (unless, that is, she is determined to convince McCain otherwise on this), (d) hate polar bears, and (e) think that human activity has nothing to do with climate change. Oh, and how can I forget, independent women who, like Palin, thought Bush was too moderate and supported super-isolationist Pat Buchanan during the 2000 general election. Barring that, at least she'll be the Far Right's seasonal pin-up girl. Welcome to your base, Senator McCain.

§ 2: After watching Obama's speech last night, I really have a hard time seeing him lose the election. While I've not drank the Kool-Aid on him, and still support him for naively Leftist reasons, I simply cannot envision a defeated Obama. (Note: In the event of a McCain victory, it's so much that I'd be disappointed -- I'm far beyond that at this point. Simply speechless.) He is successfully speaking to the country's better angels, and this might be one of the few times in recent history that the country is open to that. Maybe this is due in part to the crises of climate change and economic decay, to the dread that we are most threatened by those things we cannot help but create. While I don't necessarily put a lot of hope in Obama & co. leading the way on adequately addressing these issues, I do think there is a certain power in a promise believed -- even when that promise is a half-truth (at best). Obama's claims of being post-partisan should be believed, I say, if only because doing so, against Obama's intentions surely, creates a kind of hyper-partisanship, which in effect opens the way to a kind of revolution in the way we as a people set priorities and/or cast our attention.

§ 3: When a lot of people read something like that last sentence, they instinctively and dismissively think I'm describing a utopia, and point out that what I'm arguing for leads to gulags and mass executions. And I say, yes, it can and has. The better angels of our nature rarely win out for too long. But we appeal to them not because they are safe, but because the failure to do so causes us to forget and/or repress the revolutionary kernel of our being: the possibility of creating ourselves as something different. The betrayal of the Other in ourselves, e.g., the rejection without question or pause of a new set of possibilities that do not map out onto the contours of our country's prized pragmatism, is perhaps more destructive than even our persecution of the Other "out there" -- the one(s) we believe threatens us. The latter is deadly, but (typically realized in retrospect) impotent and pathetic. How can one faithfully identify foreign threats when one is not willing to identify the fundamental threat one poses to oneself? Who should trust such a person?

§ 4: We Westerners are a depraved people, for whom our politics are well-suited. This is why many of us say we're more interested in the strategy than the policy, and why one can watch 24-7 cable news coverage of politics and never hear a discussion of what a policy actually means (only how it sells!). But if the religions across the world teach us anything of value it is that redemption or enlightenment emerge only from the depths of our depravity. Would that this be true, and for a moment our depravity got us somewhere productive.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hopelessly Out of Touch

It's been out over a year now, but I finally got around to listening to M.I.A's most recent CD, Kala. I wasn't blown away by her first CD, but, holy crap, this one is good. I downloaded it a couple of nights ago, and Ireland & I have been dancing to it ever since. She is preferential to "Bamboo Banga", and insisted I upload it immediately. I, on the other hand, am quick to admit that I like the very radio friendly "Paper Planes," too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Time For The Grown Ups To Be in Charge

Sen. McCain, we're told by a lot of people in the media, is a serious politician and thinker of foreign policy. So goes the mythology, he has been battle-tested, knows when war is necessary and when it is avoidable, and thus offers this country a steady mind in the face of crisis. He is, in short, an adult with adult perspectives on adult problems, and we can know we're safe under his watch.

And maybe this is true. I know of adults who are scared to let their kids play in the front yard, after hearing of a kidnapping two states to the west of them. I remember a church trip to Kings Island being canceled on me, due to the worries of adults, because another church had a catastrophic bus accident a couple of weeks earlier. Adults are afraid of their children seeing a woman's nipple on television, for fear of the questions it brings up about the human body. What about the children, adults squeal! Will somebody think about the children?!

Similarly, McCain manages to see every international problem as a world-historical threat that can only be faced with brave rhetorical bluster and mature displays of reactionary power. Of Hussein's occupation of Kuwait in 1990, McCain declared "the peace and security of the world for future generations [demand] that the world community act decisively to end the Gulf Crisis now." Four years later he described North Korea's nuclear weapons program as "the most dangerous and immediate expression" of "the greatest challenge to U.S. security and world stability today," warning that "there can be no serious doubt that our vital national interests are imperiled." Five years later, another crisis: "America's most important values—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—are under vicious assault by the Milosevic regime." What was needed: "an immediate and manifold increase in the violence against Serbia proper and Serbian forces in Kosovo," including mobilization of "infantry and armored divisions for a possible ground war." And, of course, who can forget the War on Terror: "the transcendent issue of our time" -- "a transcendent struggle between good and evil. Everything we stand for and believe in is at stake here." And more recently, with the situation in Georgia, Russia is exhibiting its desire to "restore the old Russian Empire."

And so goes the storyline, complete with its very serious adult themes, that is McCain's grave vision of international relations. Hyperbole is the name of the game. It's the stuff of grown-ups and maturity.

Obviously, I'm just too young to understand.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Sadly, Napa/Solano Counties' Times-Herald has realized their mistake and removed this obituary. But, there is enough circumstantial evidence to make me think it is in fact a real one.

Dolores Aguilar
1929 - Aug. 7, 2008

Dolores Aguilar, born in 1929 in New Mexico, left us on August 7, 2008. She will be met in the afterlife by her husband, Raymond, her son, Paul Jr., and daughter, Ruby.

She is survived by her daughters Marietta, Mitzi, Stella, Beatrice, Virginia and Ramona, and son Billy; grandchildren, Donnelle, Joe, Mitzie, Maria, Mario, Marty, Tynette, Tania, Leta, Alexandria, Tommy, Billy, Mathew, Raymond, Kenny, Javier, Lisa, Ashlie and Michael; great-grandchildren, Brendan, Joseph, Karissa, Jacob, Delaney, Shawn, Cienna, Bailey, Christian, Andre Jr., Andrea, Keith, Saeed, Nujaymah, Salma, Merissa, Emily, Jayci, Isabella, Samantha and Emily. I apologize if I missed anyone.

Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing.

Her family will remember Dolores and amongst ourselves we will remember her in our own way, which were mostly sad and troubling times throughout the years. We may have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times too. But I truly believe at the end of the day ALL of us will really only miss what we never had, a good and kind mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself. As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again.

There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, GOOD BYE, MOM.

Seems like it would've been cheaper to just send in 'Rest in Peace, Bitch.'

Monday, August 11, 2008

An Open Letter

Dear Senators McCain & Obama,

You're both celebrities. You're both filthy rich. You're both ego-maniacs. You're both creations of the media.

You're both unable to live up to the expectations your followers place upon you. You're both unwilling to be the radical reformers you describe yourself as.

You're both crippled by your party. Obama, by Clinton. McCain, by Bush. You're both incapable of fully escaping their dead weight.

Both of your presidencies will in all likelihood be faced with challenges that will either merely ruin or fully devastate your hopes for a legacy worth remembering.

Both of you should know better. Neither of you do.

Your country deserves no better.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Pervy Olympic Lounge Lizards

This post may be from way back in 2003, presumably due to its link to this picture, has brought hundreds of people to Silentio over the course of the past day. I've no clue what search terms people are using in Google Images, but I can only imagine they, like most of you, are sorely disappointed by what they find here. Nevertheless, welcome anyway.

Some Weekend Reading

Get your printer ready, or if you prefer, just take the laptop to the toilet with you, because I have here for you some great weekend reading. If you're at all interested (or involved) in, or simply curious about the marijuana industry, you simply have to read David Samuels' essay in The New Yorker "Dr. Kush: How medical marijuana is transforming the pot industry."

Note to self ... begin seeing a therapist immediately about anxiety, and a doctor about stabbing pains in my eyes.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I Love Mad Men

Another week nearly expired. All we need is the weekend to officially snuff it out, like a pillow over a face. It's been a few weeks now since I returned from Belgium, and it's pretty remarkable how one eases back into the rhythms of a nearly forgotten life. Namely, that of the constant reminders of one's unemployment. I sometimes rather wish K. would berate me for my inability to get a job ... to hold some obvious grudge. At least then, I could direct my self-defensive anger at her. But, alas, no. Much worse when the constant reminders come from within. When they impose one layer of guilt for not having tried hard enough to remedy the situation; and then more layers still when the previous layers of guilt were not enough to shame you into finding a job. Around and around it goes.

Fortunately, I've discovered people more sad than I am: the main characters of AMC's magnificent show, Mad Men. We finished watching the first season last night, and I think I can say that on the merits of that season alone it has entered top tier of 'must see shows'. I'm really taken by the show's painstaking attention to detail -- with respect both to its sets and its characters. It's nice when a show doesn't even pretend to show you somebody as 'good', 'bad', or 'in-between'. The categories, as for most people in our lives, are neither necessary nor possible. (Even the loathsome Pete!) Most captivating for me is the depiction of heartbreak, especially in the marriage of Don & Betty Draper.

In this clip, from the season one finale, Betty confesses what we've known from the first episode. And I won't lie, I get a little dusty watching it.

The woman who plays Betty here plays this perfectly, and really exposes a level of raw emotion not seen since Carmela Soprano. Betty impacts me more, though, because of the level of pity I feel for her, which I never really achieved for anybody in the Sopranos.

In the next clip, superstar ad man Don Draper buys into his own sales pitch for Kodak's new slide projector, and it is mesmerizing to watch unfold.

The timing here is rich. And like Don says at the beginning, it walks a tight rope between being potent and being too sentimental. But something about the use of silence, punctuated with the clack of the projector. It just says it all ... about both the hope for something better with his wife and kids, and the regret that its not what it once was.

Not saying I relate to this or anything, at least not on the dramatic level on display here. Just saying, there's a ring of truth to it. And insofar as this is the case, maybe the healthy relationships, whatever that means, are the ones least true to life as we know it.