Thursday, November 23, 2006

Born-Again Bathers - Reprise

With Mel Gibson only recently in the news about his anti-semiticism and now Michael Richards on the cultural griddle for his rapid-fire use of the "n"-word, it's time that I confess my own life-long prejudice.

I absolutely fucking hate stupid people.

If I saw a guy flailing for his life in the Detroit River and he was somehow able to tell me that he jumped in because he saw a gum wrapper floating on a wave and thought the gum was still in it, I wouldn't throw him a life preserver. I'd say, "You should dive down as fast as you can -- the gum's probably still sinking to the bottom. Get it before it lands in the empty eye-socket of a drowned corpse."

Water is featured in that analogy because water factored into an outrage that occurred this past weekend:

The born-again bathers next door were at it again in their urinal font jacuzzi.

To recap for any new joiners, the born-again bathers are my next door neighbors who, ever so considerately, installed a hot-tub along the side of their house, virtually beneath my bedroom windows. And so every time they go out there -- never earlier than nine p.m. -- my wife and I are privy to their conversations, parties, and arguments. Luckily, no connubial concertos have made their way through my windows or walls.

But just being assailed by their poinsonously banal gibbering is punishment enough. And their arguments! Christ in a paisley handcart! The girl is a spoiled child who never progressed beyond the age of thirteen and will seemingly say anything so long as she does not have to discuss the subject hand. And the guy, with his humorless barking laugh and factory-floor voice, saying one night during an argument, "You have a prideful mind!" Then barking that flat laugh that sounds like two boards being slapped together. "You have a prideful mind!"

Well, at least he gave her credit for having a mind. More than I give her credit for.

So, Saturday night my wife and I literally dropped into bed and were fast asleep around ten p.m. Around midnight we were wakened from a sound sleep by screaming and laughter and voices coming from the Almighty Goddamned Tidy Bowl next door.

I rolled out of bed like Jake Lamotta way past his prime, bed-head sticking up off me, my eyes stinging in the dark. I cranked open my window and bellowed, "Does your clock say the same time as mine?" No reply; just those damnable voices. So, I upped the ante: "Then does 'Shut the fuck up!' mean anything to you?" A few moments later, from the center of the bedlam, came the meek man's voice, "Sorry."


So, I called the cops -- at the very least just to get my complaint on the books somewhere (they didn't come around in time to catch the noise-making). Then I called my neighbors who didn't seem to have their phone outside with them. When their voice mail picked up, I said, "You are a pair of inconsiderate assholes!" And proceeded to remind them of the geographical proximity of their douche pool to my bedroom windows.

In all fairness, I'll say for the born-again bathers -- they stay in the tub for one cycle of the jets (about twenty minutes) and then they're done. Harassed as I feel by their contemptible nose and even more contemptible inconsideration, I must admit that they are never out there hour upon hour carrying on.

After all of that, I wasn't fit for sleep, so I watched about five reruns of The Trailer Park Boys. I drew much relief from the character, Bubbles, saying rhetorically to one character, when asked if he was serious about something, "Does the Tin Man have a sheet metal cock?"

The next morning I woke, rankled and still pissed off by the disturbance the night before. I rolled out of bed around quarter to eight and wrote a letter for the neighbors. Then I put on my gravy-colored jeans, my blue-slate-colored Alaska fleece sweatshirt, and my Southern Comfort baseball cap. By then it was ten minutes past eight a.m. I went next door and rang the doorbell. I had to ring the fucking bell three more times before those degenerate born-again Christians woke up.

Sure as shit, when the man opened the door, he and his wife were standing there wearing white robes! No doubt in prelude to the white gowns they'll surely don in the Kingdom of Heaven when one of those dumb shits drops their fucking radio into their Two Thousand Flushes Tub, electrocuting the both of them.

Much as this tale would be enhanced by a description of how I grabbed the man by the throat while hurling epithets at his granite-brained bride, I did neither of those things. When confronting ardent Christians the only tack to take is that of parody and condescension. So, upon entering their home, I said, "I didn't wake you up, did I?" To which the girl revved up with all the considerable self-righteousness she could muster in her flustered state to tell me just how horrible it was of me to waken them as I had. Not the least flicker of irony or realization passed across her face.

She then informed me, shouting down her foyer stairs at me like Josette on the Mount:
  • I am selfish

  • I should loosen up

  • I should realize that I live in a sub-division and will never have total silence around me

  • I have no right swearing on their voice mail -- "What if my little neice and nephew had heard that?" (They would have died instantly of cranial cancer, just as I had planned)

  • That she and her born-again husband are not out partying in their tub every night of the week

  • That it's not as though she and her husband have twenty people over every weekend

  • That if my wife and I would only come over and go in the tub and see how enjoyable it was we would never say another ill thing against it again
And god help her, she moved from inanity to inanity with such seriousness -- such indignation -- that you might have thought she was delivering closing arguments in the Hague against Pontius Pilate.

I stood there wearing my non-plussed face

I had heard the two of them argue in their tub enough times to know that her hundred-word vocabulary would soon fail. When it did, I turned to the man and said that I preferred to speak only to him. The wife loved that.

"We are one!" she declared.

And they surely are. Whatever brains reside in that house, they are shared by the two of them like a bong filled with bay leaves.

When the wife had exhausted herself, I said that I simply wanted to talk things over. I told them that I was sure their hot-tub met all the codes of our township, but I knew there was one code it did not meet: that of consideration for others. I told them their decision to position the tub at the side of their house was absolutely idiotic--

At which point, the wife regained enough of her equivalibrium to say, "It's not at the side of our house!"

I raised my eyebrows. It is at the side of the house. I mean, it's located at the side of their house -- right next to the side of my house.

It was my turn to be utterly mystified. "Uh, your hot-tub is at the side of your house," I said, feeling a weird, uneasy surreal sense that the room was filling with the sarin gas of insanity. I pointed to the back of her house and said, "Back," then pointed to the front, and said, "Front," then motioned toward each side of the house and said, "Side... Side."

She shook her head and pointed at the front of the house. "That's not the front. That's the side."

She was not joking. I shit you not -- she was not joking. She was taking her hundred-word vocab to its limits; she was swinging for a grandslam. "Our hot-tub is in the backyard." There is no way in this bright wide universe that anyone can say there is such a thing as "intelligent design" in face of such abject ignorance, stupidity, and imbecilic dunderheadedness.

All the while the simpleton husband stood there with his tousled hair, GQ eyeglasses and his white robe conveying the hilarious image of confused benevolence; tongue-tied righteousness; Christianity reduced to crushed Christmas tree bulbs. He was as bewildered by what his wife was saying as I was.

Looking uneasily from his wife to me and back again, he said, "Well, we agree that we woke Matt and his wife last night."

"Yeah, but he's saying..." the wife muttered, then lost her train of thought. I guess the man had held on too tightly to the bong-brain and left her sputtering. But that didn't stop her from suddenly suggesting that she and her husband erect a sound-proof barrier around the hot-tub area. Man, she was going for broke; she probably had to lie down the rest of the day after that decathalon of brain/mouth tag-team wrestling.

"Well, since the problem centers on human beings being noisy," I said, feeling as though I was speaking into Nietzsche's abyss. "You know, maybe the human beings could be, you know, sorta, a little more, like, quieter." Words often escape me when it comes to expounding upon the bleeding obvious.

After I had said all I went there to say, I moved to leave. The born-agains seemed relieved. But then I was suddenly alarmed, remembering something I knew about the explosively stupid wife: she's pregnant. If that's not monkey-inspired roll-of-the-dice evolution at work, I don't know what is. No "intelligence" would own up to the design of that stupid biblical bimbo being on her way to hatching a mewling waterhead.

Stepping out the front/side door of their house, the wife's fucked-up geography lesson settled on me like a hex. I stumbled down their front walk, suddenly disoriented...

I was later found wandering around in the onion field outside of the sub-division, muttering, "I can't wait for the Rapture. I can't wait for the Rapture."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld -- Thrown Under the Bus

He has a face made to be struck with a shovel. His teeth have been honed on the necks of babies. There are no eyes behind his eyeglasses. Stick your hand into his chest and you're likely to pull out an electric eel or a hunk of undigested gristle from the body of a puppy.

He's Donald Rumsfeld and he personifies the banality of evil.

The fact of Donald Rumsfeld's existence is proof-positive that "Intelligent Design" does not exist. The creation of Donald Rumsfeld arose from the confluence of the same uncountable random events that place a chicken bone in the throat of a choking man.

Having never earned an honest dollar in his life, nor thinking an honest thought, nor doing an honest deed, Rumsfeld brought decades of despotic dispassion from the corporate world into the realm of politics, where he could more effectively destroy the lives of human beings. Cost-cutting meaures that sent workers to unemployment lines just didn't do it for him anymore. It was shameful, but bloodless. To satisfy the blackhole within him, Rumsfeld needed to feel the damp, dead weight of steaming entrails in his hands.

His strategy for the war in Iraq was predicated on one best-case-scenario piled onto another, cemented together by miracles, good luck, and a level of hubris that would have made the ancient Greeks shiver in their sandals. Rumsfeld's joining of corporate vampirism with civilian-wrought military tactics is enough to make the devil himself blush.

I honestly believe that the war in Iraq is going exactly as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush desire. Bloodshed, misery, shattered lives, exploded homes are remote, academic, non-reverberating events to these three. I've read that even when in fine health, Cheney had to gaze at color photographs of mutilated fetuses for more than a quarter of an hour just to achieve the semblance of an erection.

The worst part of Rumsfeld being thrown under the bus is having to hear all the phoney, fictional tributes to the great bravery he showed from behind his desk in the Pentagon; the gallantry he displayed among pampered, bloated millionaires and sycophants.

Goddamn you, Donald Rumsfeld. History will remember you as a collector of skulls; gargoyle, corpse chewer, grave maker, destroyer, and poet laureate of neoconservatives:

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Glass Box
You know, it's the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.

And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,

Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

—Dec. 6, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

A Confession
Once in a while,
I'm standing here, doing something.
And I think,
"What in the world am I doing here?"
It's a big surprise.

—May 16, 2001, interview with the New York Times

You're going to be told lots of things.
You get told things every day that don't happen.

It doesn't seem to bother people, they don't—
It's printed in the press.
The world thinks all these things happen.
They never happened.

Everyone's so eager to get the story
Before in fact the story's there
That the world is constantly being fed
Things that haven't happened.

All I can tell you is,
It hasn't happened.
It's going to happen.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

The Digital Revolution
Oh my goodness gracious,
What you can buy off the Internet
In terms of overhead photography!

A trained ape can know an awful lot
Of what is going on in this world,
Just by punching on his mouse
For a relatively modest cost!

—June 9, 2001, following European trip

The Situation
Things will not be necessarily continuous.
The fact that they are something other than perfectly continuous
Ought not to be characterized as a pause.
There will be some things that people will see.
There will be some things that people won't see.
And life goes on.

—Oct. 12, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

I think what you'll find,
I think what you'll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

Monday, November 06, 2006

Necon Surety Has Cut-and-Run

I was witness to a ghoulish, reprehensible display this week that revealed to me -- painfully so -- why America takes the idea of going to war with another nation so lightly; takes it on eagerly; almost gleefully, like going into this year's Homecoming Game.

At my unnamed place of work a department wide meeting was called earlier in the week, during which much talk of our position in the marketplace was bandied about. At one point, a maniacally smiling man and a jolly bloated woman addressed the audience. Nauseating patriot music was piped in and a photograph of American soldiers taken during World War II was displayed on the screen at the front of the room. As the duo read their parts with saccharine gusto, they compared our company's position in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace to the American soldiers portrayed in the HBO series Band of Brothers fighting the Battle of the Bulge.

The duo related a scenario so familiar from our culture: the United States up against insurmountable evil; the U.S. distinctly in the role of the underdog. The climax of the presentation came when the maniacally smiling man read out the scene when a German scout was sent to the American line with a note from the German commander asking if the Americans would surrender. The American commander scrawled on the note "Nuts," meaning, no. And incredibly, "Nuts" became our rallying cry in that antiseptic auditorium. When the maniacally smiling man asking if we were going to give in to our competition, the dull-eyed drones shouted back, "Nuts!"

Well, the smiling man did capture the sense of his presentation in that moment. It was truly fucking nuts. One of the most morbid and nutty displays I've ever witnessed in corporate life.

But sensing how people in the auditorium were slurping up the familiar pablum of how America overcame adversity and won the day, yet again, I saw immediately -- clearly, crystaline -- how it is that America takes going to war so lightly. How there is almost a feeling of the Olympic Games come earlier among those who support warmakers. America starts wars seeking more Battles of the Bulge so that these stories can then be used to motivate corporate zombies to slay the dragons that keep their bosses from getting ever richer. War is the ultimate sport because it requires no athletic skill. You don't have to learn the tedious technique of vaulting over a bar set 18 feet in the air, using nothing more than arms and legs and a long pole. There is no shot to be put in war. In the case of the war in Iraq, there is no boring strategy to be adhered to. No thinking in war. Just run and grunt and shoot and hope not to be shot.

Of all the images emanating from Iraq, there seems to be no Battle of the Bulge forthcoming. There is Abu Ghraib, there is Mission Accomplished, there is the hellish sprial into mayhem. The warmongs ask, "How can this be happening?" I ask, "How could you not see this coming?"

I'm not psychic and have no access to an oracle, but to me it was pretty elementary.

You've got George W. Bush -- silver-spooned-leaden-brained progeny of corporate and political criminals. He is propped up by a sordid viper's nest of moralists and following the 2000 presidential election, literally becomes a squatter in the White House. He does not win the election, but is handed it by the Supreme Court. Handed it like his plum spot in the Champagne Corps during the Vietnam War, handed to him like every job in his life and every cent of venture capital or sack of money to rescue whatever company he was strangling to death at the moment. The man is as inarticulate as a carburetor. And I don't think it was any mistake that it was specifically George W. Bush -- dullard son of George H.W. and the Silver Douchebag. He had the Bush name, but more importantly no mind to comprehend the ugliness and treachery ahead of him. Doubtless the people propping up W. knew he would go down in history as the worst of America's presidents. The man's name would become an obscenity even before he completed his second ill-gotten term in office. They knew that his brow would never furrow above his too-close-together eyes with the question of what was happening around him.

This is not to let George W. off the hook for his administration. He's as culpable for the horrors he has wrought as Pol Pot or Stalin. W. thinks in a child's scrawl of hierogliphic Christian jibberish. And he truly embodies the "banality of evil."

A dozen years ago I wrote a one-page short story titled Interview with the Devil as a reaction to the ideas in our culture that evil, evil men, and even the devil (if such an entity exists) is not an urbane, educated, sophisticated personage who knows what wine to drink with what meal, who listens to classical music and reads Proust. The Hannibal Lechter of the retched film Hannibal is absolutely not my vision of evil. My idea of evil is that of a malicious dullard who amuses himself by pulling the wings off of flies.

He is the truck left in neutral that rolls over a child.

Even his once rabid supporters have lost heart and faith in him. The articleNeo Culpa in Vanity Fair is a stark window onto the twisted souls who aided and abetted W. in his push to "liberate" Iraq:
Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Now he says, "I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."
Worse yet is:
Kenneth Adelman: "The most dispiriting and awful moment of the whole administration was the day that Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to [former C.I.A. director] George Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and [Coalition Provisional Authority chief] Jerry [Paul] Bremer—three of the most incompetent people who've ever served in such key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can bestow on anyone! That was the day I checked out of this administration. It was then I thought, There's no seriousness here, these are not serious people. If he had been serious, the president would have realized that those three are each directly responsible for the disaster of Iraq."
And then there is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lamenting during his visit to Spain recently that the world is unfairly frowning upon modern day America:
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday he believes some of the U.S. actions in its war on terror have done damage to the image of the United States abroad, particularly its commitment to the rule of law.

The U.S. has drawn criticism around the world for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, its treatment of detainees and secret renditions of terrorism suspects to clandestine prisons in allied countries where they are allegedly tortured.

"The notion that the United States does not fully support the rule of law is one I find very disappointing," Gonzales told reporters, especially given that President Bush "believes the Unites States is the leader, is a beacon of hope in the world and it's important that our actions should reflect a total commitment to the rule of law."

He blamed the country's deteriorating image on misunderstanding in Europe about what the U.S. is doing to fight terrorism.
Uh, no.

No, it's the CIA prisons, it's Guantanamo Bay, it's Abu Ghraib, it's Jose Padilla, it's the PATRIOT Acts I & II, it's the dilution of the Geneva Convention, it's the arrogance, the unthinkingness, the violence -- the goddamnable violence -- that has the world looking at America and wondering, "Have you gone fucking crazy?"

So, the neocons' surety has cut and run and another America election looms. I wonder how many years it will take for the political parties to put away their advertisements and settle down to the true competition in an American election -- the Republican blackbox hackers against the Democrat blackbox hackers.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Root of All Evil

British scientist Richard Dawkins made a two-part documentary titled The Root of All Evil? in which he looks at religion -- particularly fundamentalist religion -- as possibly being evil, or, more like a predatory virus corrupting and warping our world, rather than making it a better place.

What came through in a number of the interviews Dawkins conducted with zealous adherents to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, is that some people -- more than we'd care to realize -- follow society's laws and refrain from such things as murder and stealing, only because they fear hell, or that they have a holy book that expressly forbids such actions (though usually condones such actions in selective, abitrary cases).

Reader of this blog, why do you not murder? Why do you not steal or maim people?

I'm pretty much an atheist, and believe adherence to any religious text -- any single text of any kind, really -- is a sign of fear in a person, a sign weakness; it is that person clutching to irrationality because they cannot face rational reality.

I don't murder people because murder is wrong. How do I know murder is wrong? What tells me murder is wrong? The notion of it just feels wrong. Sure, I get angry with people, frustrated and mortally disappointed, but the idea of actually murdering the person who fires such feelings in me is not something that enters my mind.

I'm aware that murder exists. If I were being attacked, or my family was in danger, I would take my shillelagh and flog the gray matter out of any miscreant's head. Self-defense is not murder. Allowing yourself to be murdered is as irrational as committing murder. Any fool knows this.

To kill someone because they believe something I don't believe is utterly ridiculous. A mindset that embraces such thinking cannot even be called primitive, but truly other.

Stealing? Well, I'd hate it someone stole from me. Yeah, I'm an atheist but I can certainly appreciate the wisdom in the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I also believe that people reap what they sew. But generally, I don't steal because it's wrong. The same intangible something that tells me murder is wrong tells me stealing is wrong, too. When there is some object that I really want and cannot afford, I save my money and wait to buy it. Not because I'm virtuous or afraid of jail or hell, but because for the most part, I like how our society works.

If you actually wanted to commit crimes, you would likely go uncaught and unpunished. A police officer once wrote to me after reading one of my books. He and I met for coffee and had a great chat. He told me that if people saw how close to actual anarchy our city streets were, no one would sleep at night. He said that the only thing keeping us from sinking into a complete lawless free-for-all is that most people simply choose to obey the laws.

So, what keeps you in line? Fear? Virtue?


An O, so interesting postscript to Richard Dawkins' documentary is that he interviewed evangelist Ted Haggard regarding Haggard's views on evolution vs. creationism. Haggard did his phoney-smiling-best to appear magnanimous while indulging Dawkins' admission to being an atheist, then did his furrowed-brow-best to appear forthright when chiding Dawkins to not be arrogant in his views. Of course footage from Haggard's sermons was predictably interwoven showing him literally dictating to his flock what to think and what drone back to him in response to his rhetorical questions during services.

With regard to the accusations made against Haggard, he has gone from completely denying that he carried on a three-year homosexual relationship with a male prostitute, and that he imbibed methamphetamines to now admitting the male prostitute gave him a massage and that he, Haggard, purchased methamphetamines from him -- which he then threw away.

I wish that Haggard would just own up to his own evolution and be whatever it is that he is. If he's homosexual, cool, be homosexual. If he's straight and strays, that's between him and his family. But if he is going to posture as some kind of moral compass for his community and literally preach at his flock how to live, he might consider getting his own shit together first.

At the end of the day Haggard proves my belief that these conservative moral titans have multifarious skeletons in their closets. They make the attempt to set themselves above those around them and dictate codes of morality they themselves cannot live up to. They are hypocrites to the core, screeching about family values and "character" during every goddamned election. Meanwhile, they have neither.

So, Ted Haggard, Godspeed my publicly flayed man. You're reaping what you have sewed.

I hope the man addresses the log in his own eye and stops making a career out of tending to specks in the eyes of others.