Saturday, December 03, 2005

More Poetry

We are the children of ignoble birth;
we are the generation lost in the mists.
We are the inheritors of a decrepit Earth;
we are those whose souls shall persist.
With the rising air of the morning fog,
we dance through clouds and refuse to relent.
Through cries of blessed children and baying of frightened dogs,
we hear and heed the message 'twas sent.
To love ourselves and each other more,
to see our friends as true brothers,
Together outstretched, our hands push slowly the door,
and passingthe way, reach back for those others.
For in this way, and this alone,
shall we all abide together
in our warm, beautiful, loving home.



Happy Holidays, kids...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Poetry. Yeah, yeah, eat me.

Slowly faltering on the plain,
the time has come for something new.
Now the drops begin the rain,
and on the leaves collecting dew.
The cleverly wasted urban scene,
the bike path and corporate store.
And now awakening from the dream,
the shattered lives of a broken war.
And so returns unwelcome reality,
the taste remains unfortunately sour.
The reminder of our sad frailty,
the bleeding boy’s final hour.
So impossible now to blame the other,
similar frustrated recruit.
And how our words now bleed the brother,
and so too the man with the suit.
We erase the spot and trouble there,
ignoring he who broke the silence.
Breathing deep freshly polluted air,
and dreaming no more of the violence.
So does shake this man’s hands,
so the thought breaks his mind.
And for all their promises and plans,
he was still left behind.

I’ve never seen the ending,
I pray it’s graceful.
For they deserve more than this.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pusser

When I was about thirteen, my Ohma, or grandmother, brought in a stray cat she had been feeding for a few months. The cat was well-behaved, and rather nice-looking; it was all black with a white patch just under its jaw. She lovingly named the cat “Pusser,” a name that I suppose all crazy old women are destined to give to their first adopted stray cat. The cat ended up costing quite a bit of money, after all the shots and spaying had been taken care of; this was all quite a feat considering that my grandfather had for decades been allergic to cat hair. How my grandmother managed the feat, I’ll never know, but she managed to acclimate my grandfather to the little stray well enough for him to overcome his allergies, or at least subdue them enough that the cat could come into the house and upstairs to the living area.
You may be thinking how quaint and in fact rather cliché this story is starting out to be. “Oh, an old woman brings in a stray cat, and teaches her formerly stodgy old man husband how to love a new and unfamiliar animal in the process.” Right. This is the same grandmother who, when I was a boy of about eight, drove my brother, my two cousins, and myself on a trip to Hershey Park. (In Hershey, PA, with tons of chocolatey-themed goodness to get all the little portly ones sufficiently addicted.) On the ride down the highway to Hershey Park, a passing car blared his horn at my 50-some year old grandmother. Not in the least taken back by the rude driver, my grandmother, rather than muttering to herself or proclaiming “Oh, me!” like other, “normal” grandmothers might, instead leaned out the window and, shaking one fist quite vigorously, yelled “Ah, blow it out your ass!” Needless to say, mine was not a typical family, and my grandmother wasn’t the typical cookies and ice cream type.
So, after much mocking for the acquaintance of a stray, (which would only increase as her habitat eventually increased to encompass a full seven reformed strays, limited only by the fact that she lived in a rather isolated community on the banks of the Susquehanna) my grandmother brought Pusser into the house, and we all came to gradually accept her as one of our own.
My grandparents lived several hundred miles from my childhood home, so it was only a few times a year when my brother and I would have the chance to visit their home and witness, for a few days, or perhaps a week at a time, the insanity of the Pennsylvania Dutch upbringing that had produced my mother. Every time it seemed to me I grew to understand my mother a bit more – a weird eccentricity here, a penchant for twisted humor there, over the years the pieces gradually accumulated to paint a rather clear picture of her upbringing and consequent quirks. I suppose these are the quirks that were later impressed upon myself, and twinged with a bit of that colder, northern Pennsylvanian darkness, made me into the well-developed psychopath I am today.
One day, however, my brother and I were visiting my grandparents and were treated with one of the more memorable lines of that time period. Bear in mind this was the height of the Clinton era, so there were many a memorable phrases being tossed around. However, this particular one, either for its lunacy or its personal anecdotal quality, would always stick with me.
My brother and I were sitting in the living room of my parents house, and my grandfather had gone to town for some reason or another, and Pusser had snuck out an open door at some point in the preceding hour or so. Ohma was scampering around trying to find out where the little devil had gotten to, while my brother and I took the more relaxed approach, approximated by “whatever” and “she’ll come back eventually.” However, my grandmother was not so easily convinced, and so she set out about searching for the cat.
At some point, my grandmother realized that the cat must be outside, so she walked out onto the balcony of the house, and, with neighboring houses only a few hundred feet away, began calling for the cat.
“Pusser! Pusser! Here, puss, puss, puss. Where are you, puss? Here, puss! Where’s my little pussy?”

It was too easy. It had been set up so plainly for us, and despite the disturbing ramifications, we couldn’t resist rolling a ball at those pins. Without missing a beat, my brother and I turned to look at each other, each paused a second, and then in unison uttered:
“If she can’t find that, she’s got a real problem now.”

Yes, easy. Yes, childish. But we were children, and it was impossible not to remark in some way after that setup.

The cat ended up coming back, of its own accord, several hours later. We never mentioned what we had heard to my Ohma, or to my Opah when he returned, or for that matter to our parents when they came to get us. It was hardly necessary. It was a trivial comment and needn’t be shared. Of course, that didn’t prevent us from bringing it up in hushed tones to each other for the remainder of our trip.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Media? What Media?

I know, I know. I've been very lax in updating the blog lately, and for that I apologize. Honestly, I'm amazed to hear that anyone actually noticed - slash - reads this thing on anything more than a "oh look, he updated his blog three weeks ago and I haven't read the newest one" basis, but for those who actually do pay some attention, I apologize. I certainly didn't expect to get contacted by someone saying I should update my blog.
And granted, I have updated it a few times lately, but with mostly filler - the type of crap that I normally abhor - simply so that I could maintain some semblence of being current without taking the time to write anything new and inspiring. (Or depressing, more likely.) I could make all sorts of excuses about what's been going on with my life lately, but you and I both know that you'd just skim through the BS and not really care. So I won't bother.

So with that, let's get to the good stuff.

Here's an interesting note on the state of the American media. Highly personal, anecdotal evidence, and it shouldn't be taken as anything more than that, but... does anyone else find them in the same position I seem to be in lately, where you're only reading secondary sources and ignoring the actual "news media"? Hell, I read Ted Rall (www.tedrall.com) and Tom Tomorrow more than I flip over to CNN.com, I think.
Why is this occurring? Well, if you want to be flippant, you can say it's the same reason why I haven't made a good update recently - because I'm lazy. But I beg to differ with you on that. (Keep in mind you're reading what is, at best, a secondary source right now, if not a tertiary one.) I think perhaps the problem is that we're all agitated with the ridiculous number of filler stories coming from the major media outlets right now. A few years back - quite a few, at this point - someone had the brilliant idea of creating an entire news network that would report on stories 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The idea was sound - there's a lot of news out there, and it's hard to cover all the important things in only an hour a day, or an hour a week, whatever any specific program allows. Yet after being overwhelmed by the upsurge in 24/7 reporting, more and more viewers are turning to exactly those programs - the hour a week reports on PBS, the hour a night on Dateline, whatever it happens to be. They turn to these things for something a little more in-depth, something with a little more detail and a little less filler, than they see on the 24 hour networks.
Is this the definition of irony, or what? A 24 hour network provides time for 24 daily one-hour programs, each of which might tackle a specific issue in depth. They've all got their own biases, they're own editorial slants, and as much as we all bitch about those -- let them have it. I read the New York Times regularly, and I know they're not unbiased. But for the love of fuck, don't try to dress it up as unbiased, and don't maintain such a shallow perspective that you can't provide some sort of arguments to support your position. Switch it around a bit -- go ahead with three, four, even five hours a day of the shallow shit, the 45 second bits about this or that bit of recent news. But use the rest of that time to accomplish something real. Get some reporters with balls, send them out to go in-depth, to uncover as much as they can.
I know a lot of people that want to make a career out of the news industry, but are disgusted with the way it's currently run. Well, think about this for a second -- there's tons of people that want to report the news, but can't get a position because of the cutthroat, one-man-anchor way it's currently run. And most of those people studying journalism are disgusted by that system. So hire some of these people, and have them do what they're clamoring to do - produce in-depth pieces on important events. Or even less important events, you've got enough of them to do that. Don't fly the same ten people all over the country to observe the top-breaking stories in the most trivial of manners. Don't spend 12 hours outside the courtroom where Michael Jackson is going to be arraigned and comment the whole time on how it's "a media circus" - divert that time and those resources to producing something people would be interested in seeing. Use it to be informative, to challenge people, or even to talk about a water-skiing squirrel for a full hour than just for 4 seconds of filler. Interview the fucking trainer for that oh-so-talented squirrel, ask him how he did it, see what other projects he's working on, ASK HIM WHAT THE FUCKING HORSEPOWER OF THE R/C BOAT IS! Just stop reporting the same superficial bullshit for 45 seconds every half hour.
Have you ever seen CNN Headline News?
CNN Headline News runs on a strictly 1/2 hour format, reporting the top stories of the previous half hour. They cover sports, weather, politics, national and international interest pieces, all in a half hour, and then they do it again. And again. Again. One more time. Hey, let's try something different -- haha, just kidding, do it again. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?
Oh, and why don't they do it? Why will they never follow my sagely advice? Why will we never see this monumental shift in media attitude or system? Because of ratings! The all knowing power of ratings. They think the system they've got now is the one that'll get the best ratings, and scrabble for a 1.3 share.
Now, I could go on an ideological rant right now. I could say how the media has a greater obligation to the truth than it does to ratings, but of course that argument has been used before and has always proved futile. Media is a corporate, capitalist interest, and so they're going to go for market share, no matter what. PBS can be relied on for doing the real reporting, since they're the ones not concerned with market share, but when it comes to all the 24 hour networks, that argument is pointless. So I won't waste my breath.
Oh, don't worry, I haven't given up, though. Instead, I want to argue within this framework that's been layed forth. But to do that, I first need a little bit of audience participation. Don't worry, I'm not asking for a lung transplant, though hey Dr. Suess! knows I probably need one considering my chain-smoking, non-filtered style. No, instead, I just need you to answer one simple question:

Would you watch CNN more if you knew that every hour you would learn a lot about one thing, becoming informed and knowledgeable on that single topic with a minimum of effort?

God, I hope you said yes. If so, my whole argument is shot. It's pretty simple, though, don't you see? Rather than spouting the same shit over and over again all day long, and having people turn off after just half an hour, knowing the next half hour will be the same thing again, wouldn't it make more sense to provide some in-depth reporting that would peak interest? We all saw how sitcoms took a nose-dive in popularity in the late 90s, to be replaced by The West Wing and CSI. Aren't the most lauded, most watched fictional shows on TV the one-hour dramas? Aren't they the ones that have the most loyal fan base? Doesn't the Sopranos trounce My Three Dads in ratings?
So why not try it? Why not go a little in-depth? Why not provide something more? If other types of programming are any indication, you'll actually see your market share grow considerably, right?

Remember when you were a kid, and there were those Saturday morning programs that you loved? Remember how you'd watch the cartoons with the superheroes and the simplistic plotlines, the story archs that never really arched all that much and were always the same? Remember how later on they'd put on that educational programming and you'd go outside and play instead of watching it?
Well, I'M NOT A FUCKING KID ANYMORE. I don't need simple plots, superficial stories, repetition, and fantasy. What I desire instead is depth, intensity, truth, and uniqueness. What I want is something closer to the not-so-black-and-white-as-you-fucking-tell-me reality that I see everyday, that I live with all the time. That's what I'm looking for, and although I may be on the margins in a lot of things, I actually do believe that most Americans would jump on that type of programming if they were offered it by the mainstream. Just look at CSI.
Oh, and keep this in mind, if by some strange twist of circumstance my advice is ever actually heeded: The West Wing wasn't a hit the day it aired. It drew a loyal fanbase who spread the word to their friends and become a phenomenon only after word-of-mouth spread around the enticement. I know word-of-mouth is something that is harder to quantify than an advertising blitz, and takes longer, but give it time to develop and you'll see the fruit it bears.

Huh. Well, I had actually planned on hitting a few other topics tonight, but I see that this rant has gone on for quite a while. So I'll save those for next time. I'll try to be better with updating more often.

G'nite, kids.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Remember this?

Anyone remember the debates? The Bush-Kerry debates?

Okay, remember how Bush was getting fed things to say by someone on the other end of a wireless headset?

http://cryptome.org/bush-bulge-28.jpg
http://cryptome.org/bush-bulge-28-2.jpg

Yeah, just making sure no one had forgotten about that whole thing.

Sleep tight.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Numbers

Average price of a gallon of gasoline on Sep 11, 2000: $1.85
Average price of a gallon of gasoline on Sep 09, 2005: $3.01

Number of Americans killed by terrorist attacks, Sep 11, 2001: 2,819
Number of American soldiers killed in Iraq as of Sep 11, 2005: 1,896
Number of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 231
Estimated civilian casualties in Iraq as result of American military: 24,712-27,963
Estimated civilian casualties in Afghanistan: 3,000-3,400

To-date cost of war in Iraq: $204 billion
Cost paid per American citizen: $727
Estimated 10 year cost of war in Iraq: $700 billion
Cost of Vietnam war, adjusted for inflation: $600 billion
Current cost per-month of Iraq war: $5.6 billion
Cost per-month of Vietnam war, adjusted for inflation: $5.1 billion
Fiscal Year 2000 Military budget: $280.8 billion
Fiscal Year 2005 Military budget, not including Iraq and Afghanistan "operations": $420.7 billion
Projected Fiscal Year 2006 Military Budget, not including Iraq and Afghanistan "operations": $441.6 billion
Projected Fiscal Year 2006 Military Budget for Iraq and Afghanistan "operations": $49.1 billion
Projected Fiscal Year 2006 Homeland Security Budget: $41.1 billion
Fiscal Year 2005 Homeland Security Budget: $40.2 billion
Amount of that for FEMA: $4.8 billion

Time Bush spent reading "My Pet Goat" after being told "We are under attack": 7 minutes
Time Bush spent holding "town hall meetings" and press conferences without discussing Katrina, after Katrina hit New Orleans: 2 days
Time between Katrina hitting New Orleans and Bush visiting: 4 days

Number of bodybags sent to Louisiana last week: 25,000
Number of people stranded in the Superdome with no efacuation after Katrina hit: approx 10,000
Number of hours after major news channels reported on people in Superdome when "Federal Administrators" first learned of them: 24 to 36
Early estimates of New Orleans casualties (still unknown): 10,000
Number of people living in New Orleans who owned no vehicle by which to evacuate: 100,000

Number of times you have to be fucked over by the elites before you take the fight to their doorstep: ???

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I have less than 52 years left?

Hmm...

According to The Death Clock, my "personal date of Death" is March 1, 2057.

52 years left to go.

That'll make me... what, a couple months shy of 74?

Wow. I really thought I'd be going out a lot sooner than that.

PARTY TIME!

The Lost Hard Drive, Part One - Greg

I sit here, wanting to write something down, primarily because my hard drive recently exploded and five years of writing have been completely wiped out. Though I wish something like the death of a computer did not effect me as much as it does, I cannot help but feel a strong sense of loss after this mishap. So I sit, wanting to write something that might encapsulate those years of experience, those innumerable documents of a boy becoming a man becoming a disillusioned bastard. I want desperately to express what it is that fell away when I lost these files, these markers of the past me.

It is ironic to me, really, that I would be so distressed over such a thing. I have always prided myself on my acceptance of change, of the inevitable march of time and the bitter broken path it leaves in its wake. I have felt myself immune to the worries of most, believing instead that my interminable sense of logic and calm-headedness would carry me through any turmoil relatively unscathed. Perhaps I have been wrong all along. Misguided, deluded, call it what you will, perhaps all this has been merely a charade, a hardening of the skin to prevent further chaffing. It certainly seems now, reflecting upon this loss, that I have a much more profound attachment to my past than I am willing to admit to.

How does one summarize years of life? How does one categorize all the troubles that took place? How is it possible to explain the mindset of even one’s former self in times of dismay?

The times were not without their setbacks, certainly. Not without trouble and passion, twists and turns, the inevitable ups and downs and tragedies. Mo died, and I wrote. Greg died, and I wrote. Mike died, and I wrote. Maue died, and I wrote. And now, those writing are gone.

I once explained to an associate of mine that I found writing to be one of the greatest forms of therapy for me. Perhaps the single greatest, in fact. By putting to paper my feelings, by releasing those pent up angers and frustrations into ink, I could somehow cathartically let go of them. Somehow, I could move past them. If in my everyday life I was seen as cold, as distant, as over-logical and somehow inhuman, in my writing I contrarily appeared as overemotional, disturbed beyond normal bounds, and certainly a bit psychotic as well. To my friends and family, I did not show the majority of my emotions. To my computer, I expressed every heartache, every betrayal, every joy, every accomplishment, in the full range of my feeling. To risk sounding rather cliché, I poured my heart and soul into my writings; perhaps it left little to show the rest of the world. Perhaps that is why I was called heartless, perhaps why I was named soulless, by so many of my compatriots.

When Greg died, I remember how I reacted. I remember what I did, quite clearly. But never again will I be able to write with the full range of emotion which I funneled into my writing of that time. Never again will I be able to fully capture the extent of my pain at that tragedy.

When Dave told me Greg was dead, that he had killed himself, I felt my heart break. Literally, the pain struck me fully in the chest. As though a rib had spontaneously cracked, something in me snapped so fragilely. But instead of saying anything, instead of crying, instead of hugging Dave and expressing how much that loss meant to me, I smoked a cigarette, waited a few minutes, then got into my car and drove. I had been on my way to meet Jessica, whom I was dating at the time, and I was already behind schedule. So I drove, mind blank yet overflowing, until I reached the Towers. I parked my car across the street, walked across Fifth Avenue, up those 20 stairs to the courtyard, walking on past the students gather around outside, not seeing them but knowing they were there and looking at me nonetheless. I walked into the lobby, and out again the other side, out to the other courtyard, the “Ashtray” as it was called, for the mass numbers of smokers who congregated there at almost all hours of the night, and sat on the cold concrete bench beside Jessica. I barely said a word. I wouldn’t speak to her, couldn’t allow it. Couldn’t let myself spill out all the things I wanted to say, couldn’t let myself weep like I so strongly desired to, because she was just a person, she was not me, and I couldn’t expose myself to her like that. To expose myself meant to allow for trust. To allow for humanity. That was something I was unwilling to do.

So I sat, and when she asked me what was wrong, I said simply “Greg’s dead.” I’m not sure she even knew who I was referring to, for she had never met Greg, other that perhaps in passing for a few minutes – I doubt even that. And so I sat, knowing she didn’t know him, knowing she didn’t know me, and knowing that I wouldn’t let her. I sat, and she sat, and I wouldn’t look at her. I wouldn’t look at anything but the glass ahead of me, the 12-foot high window to the Towers lobby. I remember focusing so hard that my eyes were burning, I remember feeling as if I would melt the glass by sheer force of will, that enough anger and loss and depression was burning inside me that were I to let it out, it would demolish the entire city. Newscasts the next day would blame it on a terrorist’s nuclear weapon, if I were to unleash the pain so fresh inside me.

After 45 minutes, I stood, said “I’m going to go now,” and walked away. Back through the tower. Back through the Fifth Ave courtyard. Down those twenty steps. Across the street, into my car, and drove back to my apartment. I laid down, curled up on my bed, and stared into the darkness for hours. When morning came, I wasn’t certain whether I had slept or not. I didn’t go to classes for three days. Didn’t bother to e-mail my professors, saying I wouldn’t be there. Never bothered to explain my absence later. They were my professors. They didn’t deserve to know about Greg. They wouldn’t understand, and I wasn’t going to use his death as an excuse for missing class. So instead my absences were unexcused. Instead I bore my pain silently, knowing that no one I talked to could ever understand.

And a week later, I wrote. I wrote incessantly, for hours on end, I couldn’t stop writing. I wrote of the things we’d done together, of the late night runs to floor 13 to smoke weed, the two of us the only ones awake in the whole building, save perhaps the security guard on the first floor. I wrote of the times we sat, eight feet apart, writing to each other on Instant Messenger. Of discussing politics and philosophy and atheism and people. Of the stupidity of people, of their strange desire to over romanticize everything, to overreact to every slightest little incident. Of their ability to be so overly emotional and yet so unaware of the emotions of those around them. Of our hatred of “Dragonball Z.” Of race relations and global warming and fraternities. Of how life could be so much simpler, people could do so much better, if they would just calm down and take stock of the situation. If they were to stop thinking within their bubble for just a few minutes a day, were to think about the broader world, they could stop getting so upset about every petty thing in their lives and start helping each other out. Not some hippie ideal, some peace love and daisies bullshit, but simple, clear, logical methods to reduce stress and make human interaction more bearable. Of Damir’s love of “taking shits.” Of Meagan and Chelsea’s attractiveness. Of Ines’s unending ability to be happy in any situation that didn’t involve the possibility of death. Of life.

And the words poured out of me as if I wasn’t writing them. As if I wasn’t putting down my own thoughts, but rather trying to write for him. Trying to write down everything I knew of Greg. Trying to put every opinion, every thought, every personality trait, every drug experience, every short, loud laugh, into words. Trying to capture Greg’s soul, though he and I never believed in souls, and bottle it up with my a,b,cs… I was trying to write down Greg so that Greg wouldn’t be gone. Trying to capture him so that he could still be there, could still hang out with me, could still mock our mutual friends with me, so that we could argue for hours about the way people are, and the way life is, and the way the universe is, and at the end of it all run back up to the 13th floor to smoke a few more bowls. To drink some Goldschlager and swear like sailors over how shitty it was. To take a couple pills of dex and make profound statements that later turned out to be profoundly stupid. To go downstairs and outside the building together at four o clock in the morning, me to smoke a few cigarettes and him just to get away from programming for a while and talk to someone, and talk for an hour and a half about anything and everything that we could think about, me lighting another cigarette and another cigarette and neither one of us caring that we still had entirely too much work to do to be spending all this time outside talking. And then abruptly, without saying a word, I’d finish my tenth or twelfth cigarette, toss it to the ground and grind it out with the toe of my shoe, and we’d both turn and walk inside and back up the elevator and get back to work, never saying “time to go up,” just both innately knowing, feeling.

And that’s what I lost when my computer crashed. That’s what I lost when my hard drive blew up. I lost those pieces of Greg I’d written then. I have the memories now, still, the memories of how he and I were then, of how I was when he died, I remember the pain and the anger, I remember the friendliness and the similar quirky humor, but I don’t remember the words I wrote. I don’t remember what the angry, hurt, broken me wrote to comfort myself about Greg. I don’t have that memory anymore, because that memory was saved to disk, not to brain. The hours I poured into writing about Greg are gone because the files are gone. And though I can easily recall hanging out with Greg, can easily recall our late night chats and our later night drug forays, though I can swiftly bring to the front of my mind the pain and the resentment and the betrayal I felt that night Dave told me about Greg and the burning eyes when I sat there on that bench in the Ashtray, I can’t ever get back those words from the week after. That’s why I’m upset about losing my hard drive.


Part 1 of a series. More to come...