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Saturday, February 11, 2006
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END
or, TWO MINUTE WARNING
The time has come, the Walrus said,A couple of years ago, this blog was created as a "virtual diary" for the hundredth running of the primary election in the state that invented them. It was a little-noticed and unheralded centenary: issues were negligible and the audience sparse. The news coverage was infinitesimal (even though it was one of only two contested races in the Greater Metropolitan Area -- as it begins to be called). PACs and out-of-state money dominated races, and the money in a candidate's treasury almost exactly translated into votes: if you had $100,000 and your opponent had, say, $30,000, the percentage would come up 67% to 33% or thereabouts.
A huge number of PACs were channeling their money through the legislative leadership, who picked and chose their candidates -- and THEIR candidates ALMOST ALWAYS won in the primaries.
It was interesting to see how, a hundred years ago, the "primary" election was instituted so that the party leaders couldn't choose their candidates in smoke-filled back rooms, and now, the party leaders choose their candidates in smoke-free back rooms. We've come a long way, baby.
But the press and the people still pretend that it's what we were taught in high school civics class. And, while voters were genuinely appalled when I told them how much money was pouring into my district from out-of-state (over 70%) and how much from out of DISTRICT (92%), the local news media were uninterested. But then, I'm used to uncovering a story and having no one read it, as you will see later.
And, then came the political experiment of "Lane County for Kerry," which had started with a meeting of six, dwindled to three, and mushroomed into an organization of over 1,000, and seemed to scare the local party to pieces -- the National and the State and the County parties were unprepared for an actual grass-roots organization.
And, both were Peyton Place revisited, but only the primary campaign has been chronicled. Then, after nine years of NOT writing about partisan issues -- feeling that I couldn't be a "journalist" and a party member at the same time and do ethical justice to both or either -- I resigned my Precinct Committemanship on November 3rd, 2004, although I'd actually sent the letter to the County Elections Supervisor the week before, along with the citation from the Oregon Revised Statutes (to show I'd complied). And I returned to writing.
A legendary newspaper fellow had moved up here from Hippieland in California, and he started a paper called AVA OREGON! (The 'AVA' part was a TLA for the "Anderson Valley Advertiser.") I had already written my first article -- prior to November 2nd, which was the U.S. presidential election day.
The first issue of the newspaper came out that Thursday, November 4th. For a few months, November, December and January, it was a great ride, and my articles ended up on the front page most weeks. And I was back up to my old writing speed, from the days when food on the table and rent and phone and gas were dependent on how much copy I could crank out at five or ten-cents-a-word.
[NOTE: I have always been able to make a living writing from sheer prolificity if nothing else. I have never failed to produce an assignment, even when I've foolishly overbooked my time. Copy is to order; on time, and to length. Not a plug, just a fact.]
So, when the paper folded, I transitioned into the blog, with the one freedom I'd never been given in the freelance have typewriter, will travel daze. (sic)
That was to apply the discipline of criticism to politics and public debates raging in the news media, and try to look at the different corners in which not much light is oft shed.
And it's been an amazing ride. But, as I said, all good things must come to an end. Were I driving enough advertising traffic to make it lucrative, I would consider differently, but it's always been a point of honor NOT to accept advertising for this blog, simply to not be in a position where I was constraining my words for financial considerations. Answerable to none, only obligated by the dictates of conscience, this little blog has sprouted a blizzard of words: something over 350,000 last time I checked. But, it's time to write for cash again, and the constraints of my time ... well, it may not be today, or tomorrow, but things are winding down here at Skiing Uphill. So be forewarned.
The newspaper folded approximately one year ago, so, for a full solar cycle, this blog has been filled with a column more days than not. Just for the sheer joy of writing. In some sense, it has been a meditation on the ordering of my mind and my "political" philosophy, but that polemic will wait for another day.
So, instead, I'd like to take a moment to talk about something that was in my mind throughout the whole Oprah Book Club phony memoirs fiasco, and the debate about whether a book is "true" or "fiction," and whether fraud has been committed, et al, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
You see, I wrote a 'fictional' memoir in six days in 1986 -- as Walter Brennan used to say "No brag, just fact." It was in just such a moment, and I had the luxury of enough screenplay money to pay my rent for six months and just WRITE. I was in an old office building on Kingswell Avenue, in Hollywood, and it was late July, but the second floor had thick walls, and it was easy to keep cool by opening and closing windows.
I cranked up the stereo, put on the headphones, and, fueled by half-liter bottles of Dr. Pepper, and a chile relleno meal at Dos Burritos (with their amazing salsa bar) once a day, I wrote in the summer smog, and took on the persona of "Wayne Johnson" from Wyoming, who'd come to Los Angeles and ended up a pornographer.
I wanted to tell the true story of what I'd seen there, working for the magazines, and the movie companies and the cassette tape makers of commercial pornography. It was a compelling story, but obviously to tell the "truth" about how things were, I had to combine characters, alter details, and tell the truth after you'd stripped the facts away.
Because the strange thing about straight journalism is that you are constrained to the facts, but can never actually tell the truth. I knew of a superstar who used to rent 35 mm prints to show in his "private theater" and funny thing was, the studio noticed, perfect VHS bootlegs would appear on the streets the next day. They then insisted that a security guard would accompany the film cans, watch them projected, and return with them to the studio, and, oh, by the way, the superstar would pay for the security guard. The superstar said nothing, ponied up the extra cash, and the bootlegs vanished.
That's truth. But you can't report it factually. Why? Well, first of all the superstar would sue your ass into kingdom come, sue the foolish newspaper who printed it, and would pursue the legal assault with even more fury if the story were actually true.
That's the difference between facts and truth.
Now, to tell the simple facts about the security guard would be to compromise the employees in a certain department of that studio, and it would be unethical -- not to mention utterly irresponsible and reprehensible -- to report those facts.
But truth is what remains after the facts are stripped away.
And the facts were that the porn industry was mostly the projection of the audience, and not what many in the industry thought was any sort of realistic or interesting portrayal of the act of Reproduction.
I have this little thing: I do almost all of my writing before I sit down to write. I know what I know, and I know what I want to say, and only then do I sit down and do it.
I noticed in college that I had this oven timer in my sub-conscious, and after I'd read all the stuff, and forgotten about it, suddenly a little "ding" would go off, and the paper would be done. I would simply sit down and write it.
And, in that July and August of 1986, that oven bell chimed, and I wrote down nine years of writing for "men's magazines" -- in particular for ADAM, which had been founded in the year after my birth 1956, and ran until 1997, whence it passed away.
It was a funny book. It took you through the whole subculture without feeling slimy or degraded. It simply assessed this strange phenomenon of repression, commercial pornography, and the factories in which it was churned out.
And when I reread it, and edited it, it was funny, but it was lacking something. Again, I can only assert, because the witnesses are dead, but at the end I added a section of questions that I'm frequently asked, which would be an inadvertent precursor to the FAQ. By about a decade, which is often where I seem to live, about ten years ahead.
Again, no brag, because it's a miserable place to be, out of joint with time. But I have this weird knack for seeing things coming ahead of time, which is a very useful skill, and more than makes up for being so perpendicular to the circadian rhythms of the nation.
I have never enjoyed writing a book as much as I enjoyed writing that book. At the end of the six days, I wasn't shagged out a bit, and immediately started another one.
I managed to write a clean, non-feelthy-language book about a not-so-clean industry, and while it was funny -- by conscious choice -- it was informative, and it was TRUTH, stripped of facts. I was flying. Or perhaps it was the Dr. Pepper in the 2-liter bottles. It was an act of capacitance: nine years just sort of zapped into the Leyden jar of my computer (yes, Virginia, I started writing my "commercial" stuff on a computer in 1985, when I got a PC from a rich yuppie who couldn't figure it out and bought a new MacIntosh instead.) I used WordStar 3.3. And I knew .dot commands.
I hated those green monochrome screens, and got myself a gold screen, which I would reverse field in, and type on golden pages. It was especially cool if you'd started out having to write with carbon paper and invariably managed to reverse one sheet, and had to retype the page so you'd have a copy (xeroxing was pricey on starving writer's wages).
Many years later, I got to see the typewriter that Theodore Sturgeon wrote his famous "Star Trek" screenplays on -- "Amok Time" and "Shore Leave" with Spock in heat, and the White Rabbit respectively. It was the same model I'd written with since college: a good old Smith-Corona electric portable.
The funny thing was that model had a little bit of a design flaw, the screw that tensioned the belt off of the motor that ran the typewriter would jiggle loose and get lost, and, not being able to afford to have my typewriter in the shop, I'd taken a pipe-cleaner and used it to hold back the big wheel. When I opened Sturgeon's typewriter, he'd done the same exact thing. Only difference was that it was a different kind of pipe cleaner, the smooth kind, and not the kind with 'scrubbing' bristles that I preferred.
But, other than that, the Smith-Corona portable was a tank. My old roommate, Mark Weiss, the screenwriter used the same brand, although he used the "new" model that used ribbon cassettes, rather than the old wind-the-spools kind. Classic model typewriter, that. As rugged and dependable as a jeep -- the original WWII model, not the SUVs that bear the name.
Compared to that clackity-clacking, writing on a computer was sheerest heaven -- unless you had an amazing idea, and had to wait until the computer booted up, in which case it was writer's hell. As it still is; there's something about feeding a perfect white sheet (and a backing sheet for the platen, now chewed as soft as a wool blanket from repeated typings) lining the paper up, flicking on the lock, clacking the platen back to the top of the page, listening to the soft whirr of the motor, and typing another page.
You got used to the discipline of automatically feeding a new sheet of paper into the typewriter, without forgetting what you'd been writing from the page before.
But if you wanted to move a paragraph around, you had to either retype huge chunks, or else cut and paste and xerox. With the computer, you could move chunks of type around, but by that time, I was well versed in the discipline of knowing what you wanted to say before you started to say it, so I didn't backfill a thing. The prose just kept pouring out fresh and vital.
I was once denied an apartment in Hollywood because the landlord found I was a writer. He said the clacking of the keys would keep the other tenants awake at night. The faint clacking of the computer keys were all but invisible in the soundscape of Vermont and Kingswell. Hollywood and Vermont were just a block down and that was a major intersection.
There were some beautiful sunsets that August. At night, to get the kinks out, I'd walk up the hill about six blocks to the Griffith Park Observatory and watch the sunset over Los Angeles. Then I'd walk back down the hill, buy another two-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper and start writing again.
But, like Charly in the eponymous movie based on the short story "Flowers for Algernon," by Daphne du Maurier, I started slowing to ran dwn. Or, like HAL singing "Daisy, Daisy," in 2001-A Space Odyssey.
Still, running on fumes, I wrote a TERRIBLE book that neither I nor anyone else has been able to read, ever since the words were put on paper. Sometimes, you got to know when to fold 'em, as the song says. I folded up writing shop, and moved into editing mode.
I pulled out the novel, and went through, cleaning, pruning, fixing. But there wasn't much substantial to change. I'd been in a magic trance for six days, and the words had flowed effortlessly, with perfect pitch and timing, with fluidity and elegance. It was less a job of editing than pruning and trimming, as you'd attend to a hedge. Snip snip.
So, I edited the novel, and printed it out, and pencil-edited it, went down, copied three copies, and started to market it. Two editors wrote me back politely that the subject matter was not something that "ANYONE" was considering, but feel free to query about more tasteful subjects.
I was astonished. Sure, a lot of people found such things disgusting, but SOMEBODY had to be interested. The experts were saying that it was a $3 billion a year industry in the United States.
Evidently, publishers believed that none of those who spent $3 billion either could read, or were interested in reading about what they spent their $3 billion a year on. I never got the chance to prove them wrong, as would prove out.
And, for a decade, the irrational prejudice about the subject matter reigned. I had queried about the potentiality of writing such a book as early as 1979, but the late, legendary agent Bob Mills wrote me back that he'd had an autobiography by a certain San Francisco porn actor who'd been in "Behind the Green Door," and even though it was interesting and well-written, no publisher was interested in the subject.
In 1991, I got an agent, who loved it (as had everyone who'd read it, which confirmed my assessment that it was objectively a good book) and we had it at Dell books, and the editor took six months making a "decision," and I told the agent to get the book back and market it elsewhere.
The agent forgot about it, and so did the editor.
The agent was later indicted by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, so I must tell you truth without facts.
And, every time I try to market the book, I can't even get anyone to read it. I can't get a publisher OR an agent to read the book, now because there have been too many of them, I suppose.
But it's a god damned weird thing to write a good book, and not even be able to get a publisher to read the damned thing, let alone publish it.
So, like this blog, I'll undoubtedly have to publish it myself. You CAN buy copies of part one of this blog at Cafe Press, and if anyone is interested, I'll post the information. But, publishing my "fictional memoir" will have to devolve on me. Which is fine, actually: I have been a typesetter and a graphic artist for thirty years now, as well, and I'd really prefer to do my OWN typesetting for the book, including a RILLY KEWL typeface for dropcaps that I have in mind. It will have a slightly old timey look, perhaps a nice quietly deco typeface, and some air in the leading.
I might even include illustrations, but I don't know. I've designed the cover a couple times, and I like them, but I'm not quite satisfied yet. Anyway, it's been twenty years, and this book still sits here, mocking me. I don't know what it means, but it's a story in itself, at least.
Oh, one other thing:
Wayne Johnson added this line to his "memoirs," at the end. "Yes, I know that this book was written in six days, but much more impressive things have been created in the same length of time, or so I am told."
And he was certainly correct. We shall not debate his profound wisdom here. The memoirs are his "posthumous" memoirs, of course. With an introduction by Hart Williams, the executor of his literary estate. And there we leave it.
So, no one knows the day or time, but all good things must come to an end. And, to my readers on six continents, I very much thank you for reading this little blog, and if anyone knows a way to get someone in Antarctica, I think it would be a hoot to have been read on all SEVEN continents. We've been the "Website of the Day" on Counterpunch, and absorbed an astonishing number of "hits" and seemingly have pioneered the new field of investigative cartoon journalism, with hard-hitting exposes on Smokey Bear, and the CIA's "Harry Recon" and "Ariel Recon" messenger pigeons, and their suspicious resemblance to Hanna-Barbara's "Yankee Doodle Pigeon." (Any resemblance of Muttley's laugh to King George's is purely coincidental.)
Vaya con dios, if I don't say it later. It's not time for "So long and thanks for all the fish!" yet, but that Douglas Adams line from THE HITCHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY was the final quote when the newspaper, AVA OREGON! folded a year ago and I started writing this blog again in earnest.
PS: I'll post last week's and this week's radio bits later today.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
TODAY'S GUEST BLOG
or, WHAT I'D HAVE LIKED TO SAY
I had intended to write about the fundamental gutlessness of the "filibuster" busters, but my friend Mac McFadden put it far more elegantly than I'd have done in my wordy way. Here, with his permission, is what he posted to the Ed Schultz board, and, following, links to the infamous cartoons. By the by, here's the Headline Of The Day:
BUSH CALLS FOR END TO CARTOON RIOTS
(Chicago Sun-Times, United States)
Take it away, Mac.
Cindy vs. The 17 Senators: Choose Your "Hero"
A close friend of mine had an interesting take on Cindy Sheehan and the 17 Democratic Senators who voted FOR cloture (against a filibuster), but AGAINST Samuel Alito.
His full take on the State of the Onion can be found here: http://www.hartwilliams.com/hd8/blogger.html
"Cindy Sheehan got herself arrested in the gallery before the King had arrived, and I thought that her timing was impeccable, and I thought of the suffragettes who had been arrested for unfurling banners at a similar presidential speech, and, for the first time didst I apprehend the concept behind the colloquialism of recent vintage, "You go girl."
Well, she did. And let's stop talking about "spine" and "balls" and "guts" and the rest. Let's just call it moral backbone. Compared to Cindy, seventeen Democratic Senators are single-celled sacks of formless protoplasm.
With such as these are we to defend ourselves from a "POTUS" gone mad? Today was the coronation of his King's Court. Today was his self-announced proclamation as Emperor. (Either that, or else it was the first time that any United States President used the State of the Onion speaking to confess to a series of felonies. But then, George IS already the first President to serve who IS a convicted felon. You could look it up.)
With such as these, who would enthrone the bloody coat hanger and the endless war; who would pretend to vote against a man whose appointment only the day before they had assured; with such as THESE are we supposed to form opposition?"
Hart and I share the opinion that we've gotten the spineless representatives we have demanded. For many years now, every time a Democrat has stood up and taken a stand on an issue, the harshest criticism has come, not from the evil Republicans, but from other Democrats. Constantly harping about how "we can't win with fringe policies" and other such debasements.
Am I the only one who recalls the lack of support the party rallied around Howard Dean during the primary when the MSM focused on his over-exuberance at winning an important primary contest. The party leaders ran from him as fast as they could, lest they too be painted with the "whacko" brush. Dean's primary bid was instantly destroyed. (For the record, at the time, I was already a John Kerry campaigner.)
I have seen numerous similar events on the local level. Our basic party platform appears to be: "We're Democrats, we try not to offend anybody, please don't hurt us."
So I offer you a comparison:
One the one hand, the mother of a dead soldier, who has the moral courage to stand up to the Man Who Would Be King. To put her ass on the line and spend the night (and possibly an additional 364 nights) in jail by insisting on "seeking to redress her government for grievances". A right supposedly guaranteed her by the Constitution.
On the other hand; 17 Senators, too craven to stand up and be counted when it counted. Too fearful they might be taken to task by the voters of their state for opposing the lifetime judicial appointment of a man who considers Robert Bork to be the most highly qualified SCOTUS nominee ever. Yet, willing to cast a NO vote that they knew would make absolutely no difference. Wanting to have their cake and eat it too.
The late former Senators Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruenig (who were the only NO votes on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that sent American combat troops to Vietnam) must be turning over in their graves.
Will you 'stand up' now for Cindy Sheehan as the right paints her as just another whacko seeking to extend her 15 minutes of fame? Or will you stand with the 17 "brave" Senators who caved in and voted for cloture, but against appointment (in a show of uselessness)?
It's time to choose.
And this was the first response:
yallcomedj Yesterday, 12:53 PM Post #2
I applaud you as I do all of the posts from you that I have read.
I was at the World Can't Wait protest in Minneapolis last night. We had about 75 - 100 protesters against 2 bushies on the other side of the street. It was good, BuT WE NEED MORE !!!!
I will continue to protest this bastard every way I know how.
Thank you Mac for your most elloquint call for all of us to stand up and defend this nation that ALL OF US LOVE!!!! ( not just the damn neo-cons)
Skiing Uphill here again:
A lot of people who are talking about the 'cartoon riots' either haven't seen, or don't know where to find the cartoons in question. Here's some links:
The original 12 cartoons with English translations:
The "additional" three cartoons not published by the paper:
I got these links from ...
which also references this article (which I can't find the original, since the blog is in Spanish).
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
or, CRY HAVOC! AND OTHER CARTOON MAYHEM
Once upon a time, a reader wrote into a newspaper in Middle America, asking why horses in the fields stood head to tail, side by side.
Which seems astonishing in itself. To have observed the phenomenon without really taking a moment to have looked at it -- in which case the answer would have become patently obvious -- well, it seemed an astonishing lapse.
In the same manner, cartoon rioting has been rampaging across the Muslim world. Western observers have looked closely, noted that the cartoon in question was a caricature of Mohammed, and divined that the horses stand head to tail, side by side to keep guard against Communists.
After all, the horses, with their wide lateral field of vision and facing in opposite directions would be able to clearly see any Communists coming from miles away.
And what could be a greater threat than Communism?
Since some of my commentary yesterday seems to have raised hackles, and I believe that hackles should be smoothed whenever possible, I thought I'd take a moment to look at the process, and see if, perhaps, the Dread Specter of International Communism might not be the reason that horses stand side by side, head to tail.
First, consider that the cartoon was published on September 30, 2005. One must wonder at the power of such a cartoon to cause deaths, rioting, burnings and demonstrations across a wide swath of Islam, and in such an astonishingly delayed manner.
Secondly, we really need to dispense with the "racism" analysis as, fundamentally, racist, right up front. Islam, the religion, comprises what "race"? From Serbs to Turks, to Indonesians, to Pakistanis, to "Africans" (in the sense of "African-Americans" but not including, say, Egyptians) to Egyptians, Algerians, and Moroccans, Islam crosses many 'racial' barriers and boundaries. Most "Arabs" are Muslims, but most Muslims are not, in all probability, Arabs. The largest single Muslim nation on Earth is Indonesia, which has a very slight incidence of "Arabs," demographically.
The greatest incidence of racism in the entire discussion has been the racial profiling on the part of American and European "experts" in discussing the cascading violence, which continued today.
We watch as the Norwegian Embassy is attacked, and wonder at the knowledge of rioters protesting a Danish cartoon, but, really, we have been guilty of the same thing. The national debate leading up to the Iraq invasion, and, come to think of it, the debate about the Taliban, and Al Qaeda was easily morphed into "Al Qaeda are brutal Arab extremists. Saddam Hussein is a brutal Arab extremist. Therefore, Saddam Hussein is Al Qaeda." (The nuance was that Al Qaeda are terrorists, and Saddam Hussein has sponsored terrorists, therefore Saddam Hussein sponsors Al Qaeda.)
I'd like to point out that the horses stand tail to head, side by side to shoo flies. They work together in a common cause.
The cartoon (and its dissemination into the Muslim world, which ought to be more closely examined) was merely the spark. The fire could not have occurred without plenty of dry tinder to nurture the spark into a brushfire.
So would you deductively reason that one cartoon in a Danish newspaper caused rioting across half the world (and its corollary, that because it was 'racist,' 'disrespectful' or in 'poor taste' the cartoon should have never been drawn, ergo there would be no problem, which retroactively erases the rioting), or might we conclude that what has set off the conflagration across Islam -- literally -- is based on far deeper and, perhaps, more profound grievances with Europeans than the editorial choice of one Danish newspaper on one day last autumn?
Might we not also conclude that, given the depth and passion of the rioting, it was inevitable that SOME perceived slight would have triggered this deadly response?
Well, let's look at the obverse: suppose that this one cartoon HAD, in fact, been the reason for the rioting. Could, then, all Western countries ban all forms of distasteful, offensive or potentially offensive thought, comment, deed and ... cartoon? Assuming that such COULD actually be managed, would even that assuage the grievances that have erupted in the rioting?
No. Ten-year-old boys will always break glass bottles in arroyos, and so, someone will always find a way to be offensive.
But the focus on the cartoon as other than a catalyst for a lot of acting out on deeply held grudges misses any questioning of the WHY? WHY did the spark find such fertile ground?
(And, even before that, we must acknowledge that the rioting is not about "tolerance," as much as it is about intolerance. At the cost of several lives and with burnings, arrests and massive violence, the rioters have declared their INTOLERANCE for criticism of Allah (whom, one would presume, is fully well capable of defending himself, after all).
(So let's not talk for a moment about how we must be even more tolerant of intolerance. It's an equation that can never balance out. It will always be dividing by zero, which is why so much of the "tolerance" gibberish of the Western media seems like so much, well, gibberish.)
Perhaps we can reason by historical analogy: last year, there were riots across the Muslim world when it was reported that American "prison guards" at Guantanimo were flushing copies of the Koran down the toilet, urinating on them, etc. As we all remember, the cause of THAT rioting was a paragraph-long news item in NEWSWEEK's "Periscope" column. So perhaps we can grant some validity to the "Evil Danish Newspaper Provocateur" theory.
Or, it could be argued that this example absolutely disproves the thesis that a large swath of the Muslim community (and, again, note how we've fallen yet again into meaningless stereotypes and generalities: not ALL Muslims are rioting. A significant portion are NOT) are so thin-skinned that a single cartoon or article can send them into days of violence.
Some dark conspiracy theorists believe that this is because the CIA pushed hard-line Islamic fundamentalist education as a means of creating holy warriors to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. But we can't ascribe the phenomenon of Muslim fundamentalism to the CIA alone. After all, the kickoff (in a sense) of the long cascading CF of the current crisis might be said to be the Iranian Revolution, which was a Fundamentalist Shi'ia phenomenon.
And the Algerian and Egyptian cascading violence of the past several years has little to do with either the Iranian Revolution OR the Mujahadeen defense of Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion of the late 1970s and 1980s.
So: we can reasonably conclude that the cartoon riots spring from a deeper font than an inkwell on a Danish drafting table.
Two questions have to be asked, however:
First, is this a spontaneous uprising, a wide-spread social response to the West's perceived dissing of Muhammed (and by implication, Islam and Allah)?
And secondly, if NOT spontaneous, who stands to benefit from it? (Since, of course, that party or parties who stand most to gain from the rioting would almost assuredly be in league with the agents provocateurs fanning the flames).
Well, I am of two minds. I believe on the one hand that the rioting is spontaneous, and is tapping a deep, collective anger at Western/European/Christian civilization over their domination, disdain and even contempt for Islam and the Prophet.
But, on another level, I consider it likely that there are those who might notice that the ancient Shi'ia/Sunni dichotomy of Islam can fade into meaninglessness in the face of a perceived threat to the Faith. There exists a possibility of reanimating much of the Ancient Persian empire, and the swath in which the rioting is occurring also forms a potent political bloc. Imagine a solid Muslim political alliance stretching from Indonesia through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and you suddenly have a potent world power.
And we DO need to recognize that many of our Western disagreements with Islam as currently practiced are essential: for instance, virtually no country in the West would tolerate the treatment of women (half the population of the world, please note) that is routine in Saudi Arabia (where women are beaten on the streets by religious police for any perceived infraction), that was routine in Afghanistan under the Taliban, that has become once more routine in Iran, after the Ayatollah.
Of course, Pauline Christianity is equally harsh towards women, and Western civilization has managed to sort of ignore the subservience clauses. But the point remains: there may well be a fundamental difference of life philosophies that are as incompatible as oil and water (pun intended) and will require armed conflict to resolve.
Most wars are less about property than ontology. "They don't believe like us" is a far more potent battle cry than "their skin isn't the same color as ours!"
Both (and others) have been frequently the bases of long and bloody struggles. The battle between the Protestants and the Catholics is rightly called "The Hundred Years' War," in European history. We may be in a protracted struggle, Western Christian Democracy versus Oriental Muslim Theocracy (or Monarchy, though Monarchy seems to be an idea whose idea has come and gone). This may be the twenty-seventh year of that war begun with the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Or it might just be a coincidental one-shot. The Al-Jazerrah equivalent of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds." It's important to keep an open mind and keep observing. The letter writer had observed enough to note the horses' behavior, but not long enough to understand what it means. We need to do the same.
Whether anyone is "behind" it, or whether someone capitalizes on the rioting in the same way that George W. Bush has capitalized on 9/11 to all but arrogate Ultimate Power remains to be seen.
But one way or another, horses will stand side by side, head to tail to shoo flies, whether they fear International Communism or not.
And cartoonists will continue to draw cartoons, whether we outlaw them or not.
So we might as well apologize and see whether we can avoid angering the Rioting Base of Islam in future. But somehow I don't think we can.
History tends to run like a glacier, slow to move, and impossible to stop. And sometimes, it tends to snowball from a single cartoon.
But you'll have to agree that the avalanche conditions already existed before the snowball was dropped.
And that horses are pretty clever in their defense against flies.
Monday, February 06, 2006
DOMINO THEORYhart williams
or, SLOUCHING TO GEHENNA
In a week of astonishing criminality, perhaps the best metaphor was the commercial yesterday (which I've parodied on this blog) of the fellow looking for a new job who works in an office filled with monkeys. Er, make that STAFFED by monkeys. On the Superbowl version, he's talking to another office worker, the obligatory beautiful blonde woman, who says, "I know how you feel, everyone I work with is a jackass." And we cut to the wide shot of the cubicle office, where, painstaking dressed in human office drag, the office is filled with donkeys.
I felt sorry for the poor crew on that commercial. For that one-second shot, hours of wrangling animals in a narrow, claustrophobic space, under hot lights -- and I promise you, it wasn't the best-smelling set in the world -- trying to get the "outfits" on the donkeys, and you can see in the background, that one suit was in process of being shed by one of the less-than-enthralled quadrupeds, not that it's any picnic for the chimp-wranglers, which is a great segue to ...
It's been full-court press all week, the Alito hearings, with confirmation timed to the State of the Onion Speechifying, with the bald-faced brass to forcefully try to shove the abrogation of the Fourth Amendment in its entirety as "entirely legal" since, of course, it was only aimed at "bad guys" er, Al Qaeda (funny how bin Laden and Al Qaeda show up at opportune moments in the Bush Media Show, ain't it?) and, of course, where Al Qaeda is concerned, the presumption of innocence is turned on its ear: they're suspected of being Al Qaeda, therefore, they are Al Qaeda until proven innocent, which, it seems, comprises the vast majority of all wiretappees.
I'm working in an office with monkeys.
The Democrats supinely let Alito through, and then, pretended to vote against him in a number greater than would have been needed to sustain a filibuster.
I'm working in an office with jackasses.
Take your pick. I have never been so proud of being an Independent.
Progressive, yes, but independent. A "GDI" as the frat-rats used to call us in college.
I am a feminist, feminists notwithstanding. It is the right of every woman to equal protection under the law, to equal personhood, and to the unique freedom of her own reproductive machinery. Unless she agrees to have a child, no power on Earth has the right to trump her consent in the matter. We are faced by barbarians who would imprison her in her own body and force her to bear a child, no matter how the impregnation was accomplished -- whether by rape, incest, etcetera -- as though she were a brood mare for the State (and its hidden backer, whispering in the State's ear, the Priesthood, or, should I say, the self-anointed, since the Evil Grand Viziers to Prince Bush form a very small minority of the clergy).
In the mid-1970s, the Democratic Party was notably silent on this issue. By 1980, the cudgel was gleefully picked up by the Ray-Gun Administration, and it survives to this day, this State-asserted right of Primacy over a Woman's reproductive apparatus, as though her private parts were actually public utilities.
So, presumptively, Republicans in four states have already introduced bills banning abortion, in anticipation of Alito's fulfillment of his Purpose: overturning Roe v. Wade, which actually found that this quaint notion that a woman's body belongs to her, and NOT to the State. Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Georgia.
Last time it was abolition and state's rights. This time it's abortion and states' rights.
And, sadly, Betty Friedan, a co-founder of NOW, an author of astonishing influence and one of the godmothers of modern feminism died this week, and not much has been heard. And for that I am sad. An era has come to an end, and I am sorry that she lived to see us reduced to this, without seeing a resolution. I hope that she did not despair when she died that her life's work was tumbling into ruins in the face of the concerted attacks of the monkeys.
And the continued complicity of the jackasses. I cannot believe that the WOMEN Senators did not vote against cloture (or merely ABSTAIN, which is easily defensible, and has the same effect of defeating cloture, and, therefore, Alito.) I cannot believe that Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Elizabeth Dole and Kay Bailey Hutchison voted to betray their own sex.
But even we men have our quislings, so perhaps it is not so difficult to understand.
But that isn't even what I wanted to talk about.
Too bad that the Rolling Stones didn't play "Sympathy for the Devil" last night.
Please allow me to introduce myselfT'would have been the perfect accompaniment for the corrupt regime of the Bush Era, even to the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919, as I watched three suspicious game-altering plays, and, you know something's wrong when you can predict the call before it's made, before the play even is called in the huddle.
You can watch those officials taking in the play, assessing its importance, and then rushing in, pulling the flag, or jacking arms up into the air in signal of touchdown.
They pulled the same crap in the national championship game in the Orange Bowl, Florida v. Nebraska, and, having had the wrong team score late in the fourth quarter (Nebraska), the officials MOVED the Florida team the length of the field in a matter of seconds.
But nobody said anything about that, either.
Unfortunately, I like both teams, and it's too bad that Pittsburg's victory is tainted with corrupt officiating. So, while everyone will lie that the game was jake, it goes down in my book as a forfeit. Sport is about honor, too. Something that Bush has forgotten (if, in fact, he ever did know it, he was reportedly a cheater and a bully as a child, too).
I watched with gleeBut that isn't even what I wanted to talk about. The day is coming soon when someone will notice how LITTLE the referees are paid, and how just a few calls can alter a close game, and how many BILLIONS are wagered on the Super Bowl. And then the brown stuff will hit the rotating blades. Do I believe that the officiating is fair?
Less and less.
This is a second Gilded Age, or another Roaring Twenties and never let them tell you that elections don't matter. This Bush pollution has surged through ever layer of American society, the lying, the cheating, the stealing; the rationalization and the easy morality and easier hypocrisy.
Pleased to meet youWhen I saw them pull Bart Starr out to deliver the Lombardi Trophy after the Game, so that the Commissioner of the NFL could give the trophy to the Owner of the Team (a monumental moment of self-congratulation by non-combatants), and they had Bart Walk across the field, and then deliver the Trophy to its mark on the strange min-stage they constructed at mid-field, and Bart Starr was relegated to the position of the cute little kid who carrys the rings at an expensive Southern Wedding, I wanted to cry.
They had Bart Starr out there like one of those trained monkeys: deliver the package and get the hell off the stage so that the Corporate Overlords can do their Dominance Ritual. (But he was hustled back under the Coliseum floor, where the gladiators and the animals are stabled. Bread and Circuses, after all.)
So if you meet meNo: what I wanted to talk about was the rioting over some cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (Inshallah) published in a Danish newspaper on September 30, 2005, and republished last week in French and other European papers.
The Melbourne Sun reports:
About 20,000 protesters marched on the [Danish] consulate, some carrying banners that read "whoever insults the Prophet Mohammed is to be killed" while others threw stones.And the claptrap on the radio this morning has been whether or not Denmark should apologize for the cartoons.
I gots news for you, kiddies: this is an intractable conflict, it is matter versus antimatter. In the West, everyone is fair game for criticism, even God. In Islam, depicting the human form is idol worship (since Man was created in the image of Allah), and insulting and/or depicting Mohammed is tantamount to blasphemy, and equivalent to insulting Allah him/her/itself.
Something has to give. And all the mealy-mouthed morons in the West won't alter that fundamental clash of fundamental presumptions.
But the desperate desire for moderation has us Americans exercising our "free speech" to denounce Denmark's "freedom of the press" in "criticizing" Mohammed. After all, if all them Ay-rabs is Pee-oh'd then they must be somethin wrong, right?
Either we hold fast to the concept of free speech, else we surrender one of the hardest-fought, most basic assumptions of Western Liberal Democracy. This is an old conflict. It is a conflict that predates Christianity and Islam. It even predates the invasion of Greece by Xerxes and Darius. Perhaps it even predates the Trojan War. But it is an ancient conflict, and we might as well resign ourselves to the fact that either Islam gets over it, or else we do. There is no middle ground.
But you have to wonder whether this is part of a conscious campaign to polarize the Muslim/Arab world (there is overlap and exclusion involved) against "the West."
Surely they have legitimate grievances. We have meddled in their politics and internal affairs for far too long. But in the coming global civilization, the Islamic prohibition against the depiction of the human form is a dinosaur of history. They have had to do some very dodgy rationalizing to allow television and photography. Because, strictly speaking, both are JUST as prohibited as drawing (mild) cartoons about Mohammed.
I stuck around St. PetersburgBut we are stumbling to Gehenna.
Gehenna was originally a valley outside of Jerusalem, where garbage, animal carcasses and the bodies of executed criminals were burned (using sulphur, giving off that acrid smell you get when you light a match), and was, thus, the metaphor for "hell," or the place of eternal punishment. In the Biblical text, Matthew, 23:33, Jesus observes,
"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Gehenna?"It is generally translated as "Hell." But I am assured by Biblical experts that the original text was "Gehenna."
I am fearful that we are so quick to capitulate to what is, in essence, barbarism (which meant, to the Greeks, all non-Greeks, just as "Gentiles" were, to Jews, all non-Jews, and just as "Infidels" are, to Muslims, all non-Muslims).
This is an intractable conflict. We either stand up for freedom of speech, and cry, oh yeah? Well, FUCK Mohammed (Blessed be his name), or we accept the ENTIRE Islamic concept of 'idolatry' and the depiction of the human form. Remember, the Taliban banned music as being essentially sinful or evil or whatever.
But, worse, we are engaged in an even more intractable conflict that "Inshallah" represents:
Here, not because it's authoritative, but because it's witty, and in such a witless world, any wit is welcome:
InshallahThis is combined with "mashallah" in a toxic brew that forms an even greater clash of cultures:
An awareness of God (Arabic: Allah) is exhibited in common Arabic expressions that are used throughout the region -- even in Turkey and Iran, where Arabic is not the local language. A common response to "How are you?" is "Ilhamdillah!" -- "Praise be to God." When expressing hope for a future event, one might say "Inshallah" -- "God willing." The exclamation "Mashallah" -- "What God wills!" -- is often heard as an expression of delight, at the sight of a new baby, for example. While there are those for whom these phrases reflect the divine, others use them the way many English speakers use "Good-bye" (literally, "God be with ye").You see, the Western mind, and the Christian faiths are all based on the fundamental conception of "Free Will." On the other hand, the Islamic conception is that there IS NO free will, it is all written by Allah.
This leads to not only a fundamentally different mind-set, and means of prioritizing ALL values and functions of decision-making (and, thus, all of human behavior), but these two conceptions are at odds with each other in the same manner that matter and anti-matter are. When you bring the two together, there will be an explosion.
So, as we examine the "cartoon" rioting, we might as well look down the row of dominoes and understand not where the first domino falls, and the second, but where the LAST domino is going to fall.
Either Kismet (preordination, destiny) has got to go, or "Free Will" does. There is no middle ground. And either the idolatry prohibition of has to go, else free speech and free press does.
And, while I've still got free speech, and a free press, I must note that China has done a great job of censoring THEIR internet, and that American phone companies and cable providers are about to do the same. Your homework, read: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/21/AR2006012100094_2.html
The Coming Tug of War Over the Internet by Christopher Stern.
Please allow me to introduce myselfThe only thing I can really complain about was that the Rolling Stones had written the PERFECT song to capture the zeitgeist of this year's Super Bowl, and they didn't play it.
But they ought to have.
I choose, of my own Free Will, to say "Inshallah."
(Unless, of course, it isn't self-contradictory to say so.)
Nonetheless, am I the only one who smells the persistent stench of brimstone -- as they used to call burning sulfur?
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