Monday, November 22, 2004

This post is inspired by the Nov 17 posting on Glassmaze regarding an incident in the Iraq war in which a young soldier kills a wounded, unarmed enemy combatant. It started as a direct response but became too long.

The post agonizes over to what extent morality should be applied to individual soldiers during wartime.

My quick answer is that, in a war whose basis has slipped from very practical (find WMD) to entirely moral (remake Middle East for democracy), morality cannot be separated from it.

The dirtier truth, of course, is that war makes a mockery of morality. Even within the context of a "good war" (one with an airtight rationale), the actions required of the participants are at odds with the standards of decent, moral behavior required during every other facet of life.

War is a beast. It wrecks beauty and optimism just as surely as it ruins lives. It turns innocence into hypocrisy.

Is that boy-killer guilty? Yes. Did someone fill his head full of shit, put him in a combat zone, and then tell him to have restraint? Yes. Who did that?

We did. We let the animal out of the sack. We tried to harness it for our purposes -- honor, oil, capitalism.

We lied through our teeth to do so, although many of us probably didn't know it. We told him before he went that he would be a hero for fighting. We equated his killing with defending 'freedom', we put it on him that 'democracy' depended upon him. We trained him to say 'yes sir' when his instincts screamed 'no freakin way'. We trained him to cherish vague, nonsensical notions like 'flag'. We promise him that he would 'never be forgotten'. And should he have the misfortune to be killed, garlands would rain upon his grave for all of eternity. Young women would recite poems about his smashed youth, and give him all that loving, bittersweet attention that young men crave.

But these lies are always balanced on a painfully thin ledge because war is about none of these things.

War destroys freedom. It corrupts us all. It makes a mockery out of our pretenses to be 'civilized'.

I deal with war every day. Its not the hot, new cause de celebes. Its not the Darfurs or the Kashmirs or the Kosovos or the Iraqs. I deal with old wars whose justifications are no longer current, or even known much of the time. Mythology replaces fact. Every kid becomes a forgotten hero. The only people who pause to care about the wars I deal with are usually the ones with a vesting interest in maintaining the facade that war is worth its price. Generally these are people most broken by war -- soldiers who fought, family's left behind by the dead.

But after the headline events are over, the wreckage of war goes on and on and on. We act as if the jingoists -- the flag-wavers and memorializers, the myth-makers who guild our stinkiest turds, the immortalizers -- do us a favor by telling us these sweet lies. But they aren't. They are just prepping another generation.

So what price, war? No one really knows. But before you believe anyone who tells you they know, or that whatever the cost it is worth it, ask the dead soldiers if the price was worth it. Go ahead: just ask them. Read all the bestsellers they would have written. Make love to them under the moonlight. Laugh and cry with them. Pat their grandchildren. Oh yeah: you can't.

Ask the silent veterans, the ones who still have thoughts to shield you from.

Ask all the ones who discovered (in their foxholes) that God was just another complicated myth invented by man to justify terrible things.

Ask the mothers and sisters and brothers and fathers and friends who have only the thanks (sometimes tepid, sometimes fervent) of a grateful nation to keep them company where once they had a whole human being.

Ask the silent avenues, and the windy ruins, and the relentless scavengers picking through the rot.

Ask the flapping flags and eternal flames standing sentinal over wormy, cross-capped lawns.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

"That teapot looked like it was camoflauged to remain incognito in a learned huntsman's nightmare."

I'm rather proud of that sentence. I wrote it myself. It makes sense in context:

Actually, come to think of it, it doesn't make at all but who friggin cares? Its a cool sentence.

By the way, I know its a bit strange to be proud of a sentence. Its not like I own it. I just shaped pre-existing words a little bit, altered some pixels to fire black instead of white, and hit "send" before I could un-make it.

But I'm proud of some mighty odd things, generally. For example:
  • I'm proud of my golden retriever for having the good sense to be my pet, even though she had absolutely no choice in the matter.
  • I'm proud that I regularly wear dark socks with white shoes, and white socks with dark shoes, and all beneath the noses of my various handlers (wife/boss/ego).
  • I'm proud that I stabbed a guy in the face several times last night.
On other fronts, yesterday I wrote a letter to Unbreakable telling him that his wedding kicked ass. It is a real, paper letter. I haven't sent it. I think he was the last person I wrote a paper letter to. Does that make me a man of letters? (M.O.L.) Now I have to go to the post office, obtain envelope, obtain stamp, obtain address, and send it.

Now I will compose poetry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

12:00 noon.
Got my sandwich.
Got my Yoohoo.
Got my right-wing baiter goggles on, am venturing into Craigslist.
Wish me luck.

Monday, November 15, 2004

This morning I wasn't sure what my commuting mood was so I threw some discs in [my father in law's] Bose in the hope that they would inspire me. This is always a shaky tactic: Monday mornings can go either way. Optimism and Pessimism vie remorselessly, ocasionally getting mixed up. Nostalgia and anger wait in the wings to hoard the fallout.

I put in the Cure's "Staring at the Sea" which I got for $3 at a garage sale this weekend. Their old music reminds me a lot of Pinback: layers of guitars, slow crescendos, goth lyrics. Although I'm really not into the Cure anymore, there are very few bands with as characteristic a style, or with as much claim to be the soul of an entire subculture (i.e. 1980's Goth). I listened to this album a lot in high school -- and back then the tape had the B-sides, too. Songs like "Imbetween Days" are still priceless. I didn't make it too far into "Staring at the Sea" before switching it out. Robert Smith crying about a girl lost in a forest is far too romantic for a traffic jam on Interstate 95.

Counting Crow's "Live" is often a good choice. "Recovering the Satellites" is a dope song, although I hate to listen to it when I'm not 100% in the mood. So I forwarded the album to "Children in Bloom" -- a soaring melody that sticks to my inner-eyebrow and repeats endlessly. Its a good song for a bright, beautiful morning like today, but it was still altogether too wistful. I wasn't feeling sad and didn't really care to. I canned it for Springsteen's "Ghost of Tom Joad".

We need to tear down the Statue of Liberty and erect a statue to the Boss. I know that sounds corny, but a 100 foot tall busty lady in bronze is cheesy, too. And that bitch can't sing. Take a listen to the song "The Ghost of Tom Joad". It sends shivers down my spine. And "Youngstown" is as good a working-class anthem as there ever was. Listening to it makes one wonder how the hell Republicans can ever gain a foothold in the rustbelt. But I wasn't ultimately in the mood for dustbowl revolution this morning, nor gritty odes to ironworkers.

Which left me with one choice, obvious now in retrospect:

I needed to blast "Standin' in the Shower, Thinking" by Jane's Addiction. Then I needed to blast it again. It was like a hot water hose straight into my cranium. It reminded my of the gap between the way I experience music and the way my wife does. To her, music should never be too loud. Distorted guitar, angry funk, crazy sound effects: all of these things are alien to her. That feeling when volume is cranked up and sound gushes like a fluid into the veins, not so much listened to as absorbed through the skin, when you can't help but *move* or *sing* or make Big Plans to rediscover happiness or smash false idols...I don't think she's ever felt that. Not to put her down. She's got her own life to live. And I'm the first to admit that there's nothing worse than loud, shitty music when you're not in the mood or (worse) loud shitty music that doesn't have anything to recommend other than excessive volume. But its a marked point of divergence that I think speaks to differing styles of relating to the universe. I think that language does us a disservice when it likens what we do with music "listening". I don't want to "listen" to music: I want to *feel* music. I either want to mainline somebody else's rush, or plug in the stratocaster and create my own. (i.e. save me an inch in the mosh pit, I'll be out dynamiting Julliard).

On other fronts, my Attorney tried to claim that I wasn't a nihilist. I think he was just making conversation because, after conducting a brief investigation, I discovered that I am undeniably a huge, unredeemable nihilist. I just have a thin(ning) crust of optimism to keep me from making myself truly miserable. For the record: I'm not particularly proud of this label. It just is what it is. I have found my Philosophical Center. My zen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

2 quick book reviews:

Just finished the third book in Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series.
Verdict: Don't bother.
I read book 1, thought it was a bit annoying but had some creative fantastical elements. (It certainly was no "Harry Potter" or even close.)

I read book 2 and found it to be somewhat better, but still annoying. I just didn't give a damn about the characters: they were shallow and flat and not very life-like.

I read book 3 and found it interminable. It would never end. It was full of new and pointless "plot" twists, syrupy moralism, cheesy new-age spiritualism, angels, a half-assed battle for the Fate of the Universe, many ultra-convenient literary devices that existed for no other reason than to facilitate endless, boring dialogue.

Stay away from this series. Its over-rated.

I just picked up Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast" trilogy. THIS is why English fantasy (and English writers) are the bomb.

His prose is literate, funny, and gothic at the same time. It is freaking brilliant. Pure ambrosia.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I had big plans for this morning's entry: an ode to the Mamas & the Papas, thanks to Ra for allowing the sun to shine, thanks to Greg or whomever invented the Gregorian calendar for deeming today Friday.

Then this morning was over, sucked into a black hole of meetings, confrontations with the boss, report-generating, etc.

I'm getting out of Dodge this weekend: going up to the mountains by myself to work on my NANOWRIMO project. Me. Alone. In the mountains.

I ask, does it get any better than that?

I know. You think that me, alone, in the mountains, in the company of a busload of drunken nymphomaniacs would be better. I have to plead the fifth in my response to that, you perv.

But back to NANOWRIMO. So far I have not generated even close to my daily quota of words, but the month is still young. I have the general idea down, and the characters are sort of fleshed out. Its not a deep story or anything. Just an entertainment of sorts. I hope.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Jeb 2008.

Monday, November 01, 2004

*grumble grumble*

Somewhere between Blogger and the U.S. gov't IT infrastrautre, my ability to blog effectively has come to a screeching halt.

The problem:

a) Many of my favorite blogs won't update, so I stare month after month at the same old post (loving it, of course, but needing more and more and more)

b) On many of those same blogs, the computer fails to post my comments. Or fails to display a comment I've made that the rest of the world is privy to.

c) Now, my own blog won't update. I'm stuck staring at the same *&^%$#@! post in my own (*&^%$$##@@

*grumble grumble*

[Clay Sails beats a hasty retreat downstairs for another cup of prozac]