27 July, 2004

The Cage

I decided the dog genome could wait and took the day off to wander around Boston. Today there was the "Really, Really Democratic Bazaar" on the Common. There were about five hundred anarchist-types in attendance; the crowd was lazy, relaxed but spirited.

There was the usual assortment of booths: Indymedia, Lucy Parsons Center, people selling various T-shirts, people protesting the Israeli apartheid wall. Pat Keaney was there with a biodiesel Volkswagen rabbit he had converted himself - it was a "dual tank" system, which starts the diesel engine with biodiesel and runs mostly on pure vegetable oil. Pretty neat. I asked Pat what you can do about the smell. "Enjoy it," he said. "That's the smell of freedom! That's the smell of Iraqis not dying, Colombians not dying, Venezuelans not dying. That's the smell of no coup to oust Chavez next year."

Some other folks from Seattle had a 70-foot puppet "backbone", which they wanted to restore to the Democratic Party; it had some progressive values written on it. Amazingly enough I held on to the flier one of their helots foisted on me, so I can give you a sample: clean elections, Instant Runoff Voting (not Approval Voting, Dan), end weapons trade, support reproductive rights, fair labor practices here and abroad, reject water privitization, investigate reparations for slavery, universal health care. Et cetera. You get the general flavor; about as left as you can get without rejecting capitalism and imperialism outright.

David Rovics came on stage at around three and sang some good tunes. He made several calls for an RPG to deal with the state police helicopter circling overhead. In the end someone proposed spelling out 'FUCK YOU!' on the ground using our bodies, which of course was received with more enthusiasm by the assembled crowd than anything else that afternoon (I was in the exclamation point). The chopper obliged us by circling around and coming in for a close look (I'm sure someone up there was chuckling).

I found Terry O'Brien and went down with him to the Fleet Center to check out the scene there. Terry, of course, was armed with a sign of somewhat dubious taste. On one side it read "Bush rapes Iraq and won't pull out". On the other side it read, "Kerry will try a new position". I claimed this was over the top, but Terry insisted that people appreciated it, because they were laughing.

The surreality began as soon as the damn thing came into sight. Normally, the Fleet Center is adorned by an enormous Budweiser ad, encouraging all the drivers on 93 North to drink up. But today there was a sign saying, "Boston Welcomes Democratic National Convention 2004" - next to a giant Bud Light can. What the heck? The DNC apparatchiks were wearing shirts saying "Boston and the Gilette Company welcomes you". Let no one have illusions over whether the corporate world is deeply enmeshed in the political process: they fucking advertise it.

The security there was ridiculous, by which I mean incredibly lax. What it takes to get into the Fleet Center is a square piece of laminated cardboard. Plan for a possible terrorist incident: mug a DNC meshuggenah while s/he's wandering around the city, possibly dispose of their body. Take your pass, enter Fleet Center with whatever implement of destruction you desire. Take out political figure of choice, or maybe do worse.

The streets in the area were totally desolate. In fact, the whole city has become something of a ghost town. The traffic problems don't appear to exist in the city proper, I suspect because most people have simply taken off for the week. The only people there are protestors, convention attendees, and police.

The Cage was bigger than I was expecting, about the size of an ice-hockey rink, interrupted in the middle by the truss structure of the old flyway going overhead. It's made of some sort of black netting, and actually does have razor-wire covering it. I'm not sure what the point of the razor-wire is, since it's easy enough to walk around outside the Cage. There was a stage with a microphone near the back of the space (on the side away from where Conventioneers might wander by); the sound system for this was ingeniously placed in the rafters overhead, and succeeded in so thoroughly obscuring whatever was said that it might make a fairly good white-noise generator. Which might not have been such a crime considering who used the mike most of the time.

When I arrived it was some wingnuts from the "Democrats for Peace and Justice", railing against the Patriot Act. I think they might have been Lyndon Larouche types. In any event, they were totally batshit and rambled on without a care for who was listening, or if they were even intelligible (a sure sign of mental incompetence). Someone snuck up on stage behind them and held up a hastily-scrawled "Shut Up" sign.

I took a break and had a nice conversation with a freckled girl who described herself as a "volunteer". She expressed frustration with Kerry and the decision to remain committed in Iraq, but was adamant about the fact that she did not want four more years of Bush in office. She agreed with my rejoinder that we needed to think in the longer term, not simply getting caught up in fighting for incremental adjustments every four years and then lying complacent. But she said, "We liberals (catching me in that net) never seem to have a plan for what we want to accomplish." I can't argue with that.

Back to the Cage. This time the stage was occupied by none other than FRED FUCKING PHELPS (http://www.godhatesfags.com). The signs his contingent was carrying were incredible: "Boston = Sodom", "God Hates America", "9-11 = America's Sin", "Thank God for 9-11". That last was held by a boy of ten or eleven, who must have been seven or eight when the planes hit the towers and can't possibly believe what it said on his sign. I was somewhat horror-struck that this kid was caught up in such a mad cult, merely because of who his parents were. But then, kids have to cope with all kinds of shit because of the accident of who they were born to; this was no worse than hundreds of millions of kids go through. Life sucks and it starts that way when you're very young. I should get down on my knees and thank the Lord for my own good fortune.

In the end, though, the Cage wasn't so bad, because the cops didn't give a "flying fuck at a rolling donut" who you were or where you were standing. The conventioneers were highly accessible, and very willing to chat (at least, the ones out of suits were). I was heartened to find that many of them were well to the left of the Party (many Kucinich delegates) - although perhaps this should be even more disheartening, since all these people have been subsumed and manipulated into supporting the Evil Empire that is the Democratic Party*. They wandered freely in and out of the Cage to check out the scene, and if any worthwhile protestors had been in there, they might even have been able to engage them in substantive conversations.

* Lest you doubt the evil of the Empire, the grapevine brought me a story wherein some DNC attendees rented out a restaurant for $10K a night. The restaurant owner said $6K would be enough. "Take it," said the DNCer. "We're given $10,000 a day to spend anyway, so you might as well." Jumpin' Jehosophat. This is what's called "profligacy".

26 July, 2004


The DNC is upon us. The traffic nightmare doesn't seem to have manifested yet, although we'll see tonight when I go home how bad it is. They're shutting down 93 South from 4pm to 1am, a timing I can't quite fathom (do terrorists only work the late shift?). I suspect they might have different timing for 93 North, because a coworker reported that his friend couldn't go that way last night.

The protests (which I haven't been to yet) are apparently sparesely attended. I saw the Globe picture of Sunday's ANSWER march, complete with the usual bewildering array of signs. If anyone was wondering why the protestors are there, that picture should answer it for them: "We have no fucking idea."

Anyway, I can at last answer the great question of why the capitalist system remains in place: because shiftless people like myself cop out and don't do anything to develop something exciting in the months preceding the convention. My cup runneth over...with guilt. But I'm not going to pretend I'll do better next time.

I'm lazily debating with myself whether I should get my drum and go out in the street, or whether I should just stay at work and do a human/dog/mouse genome alignment.

23 July, 2004

The holy ghost

Recently a bunch of cranks of the Save-me-Jebus variety reappeared in Central Square. I'm torn between two conflicting desires. One is to rend them mercilessly for their sheer stupidity; the other is to minister to them, like wounded deer, and coax them away from their folly. No doubt they see me the same way.

But I'm somewhat jealous of them, because I have never felt the "holy ghost" in any particular way. My parents are very religious, and I had a pretty traditional upbringing. I have a pretty good understanding of my religion and its praxis, but I've never, ever felt moved by it. It's such a foreign sensation to me that I can't imagine how anyone else is moved by it, either. When I see others in fervent prayer, singing the praises of God with their hands clasped together and their heads bowed reverently, I can only believe that they are faking it. They are pretending to be transported by the act of praying because they know this is what is expected of them.

Not that I'm particularly atheistic - I don't reject religion, per se, and I don't disbelieve in the existence of God, mostly because I'm not cocksure enough. But I can't precisely believe, either. I've never felt the immanent presence of God, the sensation that God is real; rapture, in other words.

The closest I get is when I look at the sky. A clear blue open sky, with pure white clouds floating in it like lazy giants, pierced here and there by a ray of sunlight: that makes my breath catch in my throat and lifts my soul up to the extremities of my body, so that I feel like I might float away for sheer joy. Then I can believe that Dyaus Pitr is there, that beauty is an undeniable testament.

But that's not the mode of worship I learned. The roof of my temple would be the vault of the sky, its idols would be jutting mountain peaks, its oblations rivers and fields of green, its lamp the orb of the sun. Not some rude chamber constructed by mere humans, with icons shaped by hands no more able than my own.

Maybe I lack the imagination necessary to translate the one into the other; maybe that is a faculty others do possess. It's unfortunate, since apparently (as I read in the Srimad Bhagavatam) devotion is the only path left to salvation in this wicked age.

17 July, 2004

Brown Equals Terrorist

A photography student in Seattle has been continually harassed and intimidated into not taking pictures at Ballard Locks, a tourist attraction in Seattle where he was practicing his photography. Not the first time we've seen the arbitrary power of the state...

16 July, 2004

Fashion check

Through careful observation I have determined that my clothing is out of fashion. (You can stop gasping sarcastically now.) Specifically, my socks.

Apparently at some point it was determined that socks halfway up to the knees look really stupid, and now everyone has socks that extend no more than three-quarters of an inch past the top of the sneaker. If you can even see them at all: some people have "invisible" socks that only cover the part of the foot that fits inside the sneaker.

It's annoying, in a way, because I've always thought I look like a dweeb with my socks halfway up to my knees, but bunching your socks up around your ankles is no better. Then you just look like Olivia Newton-John.

On the other hand, maybe I've reached the point in my adult life where I'm not expected to respond to fashion, anyway. I was always somewhat impressed by the fact that my school-teachers were apparently completely immune to the notion that the clothes they wore made them look like large, flightless versions of tropical birds; a separate part of me wanted to laugh at them. But now that I'm a bit older I think I can appreciate their perspective (if there was any "perspective" operating, here) a bit better. Do I really have to go and buy a whole new set of socks now that the fashionable sock-length has decreased? I'd rather shout, "Fuck, no!", hook my socks into my garters, and join the Flightless Tropical Bird community. Next stop: combover toupee.

sick of the double standard

Alright, this isn't news or something, but I am really really sick of this double standard between our genders that leads to such sexist comments like "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"

Newsflash to guys living in the 60s, women are not cows.

Thumbs up to Christina Aguilera and Lil Kim for "Can't Hold us Down"

Check out the lyrics.


If you look back in history
It's a common double standard of society
The guy gets all the glory the more he can score
While the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore

I don't understand why it's okay
The guy can get away with it & the girl gets named
All my ladies come together and make a change
Start a new beginning for us everybody sing

To all my girls with a man who be tryin to mack
Do it right back to him and let that be that
You need to let him know that his game is whack

You can bet I'll play this at my next party.

Obesity rant #3 of ...

Okay, if you've been reading the news you knew this was coming.

Apparently some faplap at the DHHS decided that Medicare should cover obesity as a disease. This means two things:
  • Since federal insurance now covers obesity as a disease, private insurers are likely to follow eventually.
  • Now that obesity is a disease, a whole spate of treatments will suddenly become profitable.

An even bigger dickhead made this statement:
The Department of Health and Human Services said a first step would be a look at obesity surgery like stomach bypasses.
How in the name of God can we have arrived at this state? It's really a sad commentary on our civilization that we can't look this problem in the eye, and instead resort to recommending unnecessary surgery.

As usual the Onion is incredibly prescient.

Meanwhile another blow is struck for the forces of capitalism. If anyone on the stock market is paying attention, this means GSK should get valued up.

Terribly disappointing. The rest of you, as a public service, next time you see a tanker carrying high fructose corn syrup, run it off the road. GSK might go down a few points, but it'll be worth it.

14 July, 2004

The crapper

I work in a ten-story glass box and spend a good part of my day confined in a cubicle with no natural sources of light. Not an atypical work environment, in this day and age. There are about sixty people on my floor, most of whom I see pretty regularly and some of whom I work with quite closely.

There's only one public restroom on the floor (one for each gender, rather), and everyone has to use it. It's not uncommon to run into someone you know while you're in there. For some reason, people are strangely squeamish about acknowledging each other while they're in the bathroom. I'm not sure exactly why this is - I mean, I suppose it's sort of unreasonable to expect people to have a conversation while they're both grunting over a toilet (pardon my French), but still, it's also really bizarre to see someone totally suppress their recognition.

I can't quite figure it out... is it shame over doing something so essentially primitive? There's nothing that demonstrates your pure animal nature like the fact that you need to take a shit. Everyone needs to eat, of course, but there there's room for enjoyment, even for a bit of art-appreciation. Evacuating waste, on the other hand...

Alternatively, it might be some kind of homophobia. After all, you are removing your pants... talking to your male colleagues in a room where you remove your pants might be a bit much for some people. Although no one seems to mind chatting while they're butt-naked in the gym locker room.

I just don't get it. Not that I'm looking for change, here...

12 July, 2004


I had intended a more interesting (I thought) rant today, but this one popped into my head, and so I'll entertain you (my nonexistent readership) with it while I mull over the former. (Honestly, I must stop with these expository introductions... highly distracting, don't you think? Next time, I'll just launch into the thing...)

Yesterday I was walking my bike home after getting my freewheel mechanism removed at Broadway Bikes, and I happened past a bit of tastefully done sidewalk graffiti. It was visually inoffensive, done in pastel sidewalk chalk with round, friendly letters, and it read, "Please Vote". I was immediately gripped by a sudden, convulsive urge to find some chalk and write a response. I began composing text in my head: "Please provide me a candidate worth voting for," "Please reform the electoral process," or maybe simply inserting "don't" between the two words. But, no, it would have taken a dissertation, and there wasn't enough space on the sidewalk. Besides, on the next block I found it again, "Please Vote", and I was hardly going to write out my dissertation twice.

It's such a simple appeal: two words, but the subtext is absolutely clear. It's important for you, a Citizen of these United States, to Participate in the Democratic Process, because that's What Makes This Country Good (Great?). But, my God, I thought (drawing from the deep well of cynicism within me) can people really believe that anymore? Hasn't the notion that politicians are a worthless breed - the spawn of vipers, all of them - universally penetrated our culture yet? Are there still pockets of hope and naivite that believe otherwise?

And then - my God, is democracy dead? And still further - did it ever exist in the first place?

But surely that's too cynical a position, even for me. No matter how corrupt it is, democracy is real; we have an affect on our public institutions. Our vote is a rein holding rampant abuse of power in check. Maybe it moulders and decays; maybe we, in turn, are more and more puppets, and the reins have been made to go slack. But it's still real... isn't it?

09 July, 2004

Dogma (Fahrenheit 9/11)

Sorry for the lack of updates... life has sucked recently, between strep throat and finishing revisions for a journal submission. I'll try to be more on the ball, now.

Anyway, I recently had a conversation with a bunch of old men (my dad and two of his friends). The topic was the inevitable failure of growth-centered capitalism as it runs up against the wall of resource constraint. It ranged pretty broadly from there, running across concentration of power, human nature, the purpose of society and, of course, postmodernism (after all - I was involved in the conversation!).

I've long been skeptical of one of my dad's friends. He's a very nice guy, a real decent human being, but he drives a Lexus SUV and spoils his kids quite a bit. I never imagined him as a thoughtful person, since I have apparently reached the conclusion that no one could possibly drive an SUV and yet have thought about the world. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he did ask himself questions about society, purpose and the direction we're all going in.

I guess this is what excites me about people; not their devotion to some particular ideology but their willingness to ask questions. In fact I'm becoming increasingly annoyed with the stark ideological divisions being made in this country.

Let me clarify the distinction: both I and my dad's friend are in essential agreement about the nature of capitalist society and its inevitable failure. The difference between us hinges on his perception of human nature as fundamentally driven by self-satisfaction, whereas I believe that drive is largely socially constructed. Yet this apparently small distinction results in radically different lifestyles.

The sharp political lines we see being drawn today are the same way - we are aligned on the basis of who we hate, not why we hate them. And debate centers around action, not motivation - who bombed what, who killed how many, who lied about what - not why they did it.

In the end it doesn't matter whether you support Bush or you support Kerry or you support neither; what matters is -why- you support them. Because Bush and Kerry are just individuals. They will eventually die, or get caught in a sex scandal, or fall prey to a neurodegenerative disease, or otherwise fall off the map. But their disappearance will not change the great currents of modern history. Powerful as George W. Bush is, he doesn't move the world - it was ideas that brought George Bush to power. It's ideas that we should consider, and answer, and argue about.

The recent Michael Moore movie is an excellent example of this failing in contemporary discourse. It's a laundry list of complaints about George W. Bush, but it has no train of thought. It complains about all the terrible things George W. Bush has done, but it does not make any coherent appeal to principles. Why make such a movie? Is Michael Moore ashamed to project his vision, to expose his ideas and beliefs to other people's examination? Can he only present them obliquely in the object of his hate, so that we must reconstruct his soul by staring at its shadow?

In fact I worry that we become so caught up in the game of ideology that we no longer HAVE principles. Hypocrisy is the rule of the day; we lambast Bill Clinton for infidelity but look the other way for Newt Gingrich. We hope that Saddam and Osama won't be caught because it would look good for Bush if they were.

The subtext is there, begging to be exhumed. What is all the shouting about? What is this "America"?

04 July, 2004

Keep America ignorant...

in the interest of Homeland Security, of course. A mid-west chain of theaters is refusing to show Fahrenheit 9/11. The owner of the chain of theaters explains that the documentary "incites terrorism."

I wouldn't say that Fahrenheit 9/11 is the best documentary I've seen, and it has many problems, but it is useful to have out there. Moore's indictment of the official 9/11 story, the Bush administration, and the whole Iraq war plan isn't as strong as it could be... but at least it raises questions and may present facts not as well known to a lot of people.

It is extremely disturbing that a whole segment of America won't even get a chance to see it.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?