Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Original Swindle

So Pope Benedict has excommunicated an African priest from the church. Now, what grievous offense did he commit to deserve this ultimate punishment from the church? Well, he's one of those crazy exorcist priests, but that's not it. The church is all cool with exorcism, the main problem they had with his was that he blended in indigenous African beliefs in to his exorcism ceremonies. But there was more to it than just that.

He got married. And he started a group called Married Priests Now. And he ordained a few married men as priests.

Now people can get pretty offended when I slag on religion all the time, and I really don't care. What gets me is religious folks who seem to think that religion is the only place you can get a moral center. Which is bullshit and exactly the opposite. The whole basis of religion is based on a lie (a sin in all the major religions) or a group of lies. If you don't know what I mean by that, I'm talking about Adam and Eve, the burning bush, red sea parting, Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah's Ark, virgin birth, guy comes back to life three days after dying on cross, etc, etc, and so on as the King of Siam would say. And religion has been the main cause (or excuse) of every world conflict in human history. We atheists don't blow up clinics or do suicide bombings to get people to believe what we believe. We just roll our eyes and think what morons all the believers are.

Catholics tend to get the most offended, especially when you insult their pope. As I always say, "fuck the pope." He's an immoral ass hole. And I love it when things like this recent excommunication happen, because it just gives me more proof. If some Catholic starts talking to you about the "infallibility of the pope," this is a great opportunity to point out this little fact:

A Catholic priest who gets married, or is outspoken about changing the rules to allow priests to get married, has committed an excommunicable offense.

A Catholic priest who rapes little kids has.......not. And the bishops who protect those priests get promoted to higher posts at the Vatican, even after they are publicly exposed.

And then the pope and his minions turn around and accuse the gay people of hurting children and families.

But those believer out there will continue to defend these con artists and wastes of oxygen that call themselves "holy men." If a high school principal acted like the last couple of popes (protecting child rapists, letting them continue to work with children, advancing their careers), nobody would be defending them. But put a white collar around your neck and it's a free pass to commit whatever crime you want without consequences.

That's a great lesson all you Catholic folks are teaching your children.

The Original Sin is religion itself.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

K-K-K-Katie, Stupid Katie

Did you 60 Minutes on Sunday? What the fuck was that?

With the current state of the mainstream televised media being complete shit, 60 Minutes has been the one place that I could count on for (mostly) good journalism. Not any more.

Not since Katie Couric has darkened their halls.

After that total fucking puff piece on Condoleezza Rice, the last bastion of respectable journalism on network TV has begun it's long slide into the world inhabited by Geraldo, Soledad O'Brien, Larry King and the rest of the "newstainment" hacks that have taken over the media.

I forgot I was watching 60 Minutes last night and thought someone had switched the channel to FOX News with the major ass kissing Dr. Rice was getting. At one point Condi got to get in her straw man argument, a favorite tactic of the Bush administration. She actually compared black people being denied the right to vote in the south during Jim Crow to those people that are against her illegal and immoral war in Iraq. The straw man moment came when she said this:

"Well, growing up in the South and having people underestimate you because one of the reasons for segregation, one of the reasons for the separation of the races was supposedly, the inferiority of one race to the other," she explains. "And so when I look around the world and I hear people say, 'Well, you know, they're just not ready for democracy,' it really does resonate. I hear echoes of, well, you know, blacks are kind of childlike. They really can't handle the vote. Or they really can't take care of themselves. It really does roil me. It makes me so angry because I think there are those echoes of what people once thought about black Americans."


Of course it should have been asked without the yelling, swearing and name calling, but you get the point. This is the way Karl Rove has taught all his evil minions to work in interviews. Instead of actually answering the questions or charges brought by their opponents, they just make up weak and dumb arguments that no one is actually making and knock those down.

And then of course, there was the dating question. Katie actually asked how one goes about asking the Secretary of State out on a date and then held her hand up to her head like a phone (you know, pinky at the mouth and thumb at the ear) and said "Hi, Madame Secretary? Listen," and giggled as she did it. Katie Couric is in her late forties, not her early teens, just in case there was any confusion.

I was reminded of a joke Tina Fey made on the SNL news when CBS was hiring Couric and said something along the lines of CBS was doing it because they wanted more uncomfortable flirting in their interviews. Well, here it was.

Really, at this point there would have been no surprise if Condi said, breathily, "Well Katie, I just haven't found anyone 'special,'" and then we heard a 70s wonkie guitar and Condi just hiked up her skirt, went spread eagle and Katie just dove right in for some porno girl on girl action. I mean, she was already doing it figuratively, why not just commit fully to the job?

Katie Couric gets $15 million a year to read a teleprompter for about 20 minutes a day and do the occasional People Magazine-like stories on 60 minutes. And in the process is destroying the road for female journalists that was paved by the likes of Helen Thomas, who has to spend her days getting ignored in presidential press conferences for asking too hard of questions.

I would wonder how Couric can sleep at night, but I'm pretty sure the 15 mil helps a lot.

But shame on her. And an even bigger shame on the shallow men who run that industry and hire non-threatening, airheaded bimbos instead of the real female journalists out there.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Poverty's A Drag

I got called for last minute temp assignment today. I went to the place, I had been there once before, and gave the receptionist the name of the contact I was given to report to. She couldn't be reached and didn't answer page. I ended up waiting around for two hours while no one was able to figure out what was going on. Eventually the HR guy came to talk to me and told me there had been a miscommunication and they didn't actually need a temp today. On the plus side I finished Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell while I was sitting there. On the other plus side, I didn't actually have to do any work and I'll get paid for four hours even though I was there for only two. Gotta love those temp agency rules.

I was down in Union square and had a whole day left. So instead of doing something productive I decided to kill it at the Virgin Megastore.

Now I don't actually have any money, so going to a record store can be a kind of torture under these circumstances. And the Virgin Megastore can be a kind of torture under any situation. But there is one good thing about Virgin that is the only reason to go there. Listening stations. When you are broke but really want to hear a new album that just came out you can go see if they have it playing at Virgin. Now since they have so many of them it's not just crap like Justin Timberlake, though that kind of mindless shit is the most prevalent. I was able to stand there and listen to a couple of good albums. Not the new Robyn Hitchcock that I had my fingers crossed for, mind you. My fingers were crossed, but I wasn't counting on it because I knew there was no way they would have that one hooked up. He's only a living legend and a god among musicians. They wouldn't want to make way for him and have to bump the new Paris Hilton off the queue.

In fact, they didn't even have the new Robyn Hitchcock on their shelves at all. It's not uncommon for these big chain monster stores to have almost no Robyn Hitchcock albums, another reason I generally don't like them. But even the worst of them will at least have his most recent. Not Virgin. The only Robyn they had was Luxor (from 2003) and Spooked (2004) and that was it. Nothing from the Egyptians era of the 80s or his newest disc which came out nine goddamn days ago. You may not have to put it out for me to listen to for free in the store, but geez, how can you call yourself a music store and not sell the newest records from one of the two best singer-songwriters of their generation?

But I got to listen to the new Indigo Girls album, which sounds like their best album in about ten years. I wouldn't have thought I'd say that about an album that has Pink as a guest on a track, but there it is. I also got to listen to the Raconteurs album. Wow. Just wow.

Of course I would have preferred to be listening to these both in my Sony Discman on the way home on the subway, but alas, I had about nine dollars in my pocket and very sketchy employment of late. So standing in the middle of a corporate music store with uncomfortable headphones is my only way right now to hear some of the new stuff I want to own.

I also walked around and looked to see if they had other stuff I wanted, because I like to torture myself.

A trip to the DVD section. Yes, they have the Criterion release of Noah Baumbach's first movie, Kicking And Screaming. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. New digital transfer, deleted scenes, interviews with the cast ten years after the film, a movie geek's dream of one of my all time favorite films. And it's $30.

Wait, the used/clearance bin! They actually have some CDs there for as little as $3.99, surely I could find something. I made a rule, only a $3.99 disc. No $6.99s, even though I had just enough money in my pocket to do that, but I couldn't spend all of my cash. So I thought if I could find a super cheap CD, that would tide over my insatiable need for new music for a little while. I looked through every single disc, and despite my opportunities to buy a Silverchair (remember those Australian teenage Pearl Jam wannabes?) disc or Pat Boone's greatest hits, I took a pass.

I walked around the corner and found the box sets. Ahhh, the Billy Bragg Volume 1. Oh baby, come to Papa. Billy's first four studio albums and a live EP, all remastered for premium sound quality, each album coming with an extra CD of unreleased material from that era, with two concert DVD's included to boot, featuring his shows in Berlin, Lithuania and Nicaragua in the 80s. A total of 7 CDs and two DVDs. I stood there staring at it salivating. I even smelled it. $84.99

I have held this set in my hands at least a half a dozen times now and have never had the money to buy it. Well, sometimes I've physically had the money in my account but knew my wife would kill me if I blew money we couldn't really afford to spend at the moment. "Sorry Honey, I don't have my half of the rent, but look, I've got the new Billy Bragg box set!"

It's been out since Spring, hell Volume 2 comes out in less than a month, and I still don't have it. It is killing me.

When I was single I would've bought it and been willing to be late with the rent, or eat Ramen noodles for a month to afford it. But my sweetheart doesn't like Ramen and I don't find our couch very comfortable, so I've resisted against all my bad judgment.

I actually looked toward the front door to try to figure out how fast the security guy might be. They always hire big guys for that, not fast ones. I figured I could zip past him and make it down the street pretty easily. The only problem would be that I would have to avoid Union Square the rest of my life. But it's Billy Bragg, so it might be an OK sacrifice.

But I'm a pussy. So I wiped away a tear and put it back on the shelf.

It was a long subway ride home. But at least I had Billy Bragg's Back To Basics to console me.

Just because you're better than me
Doesn't mean I'm lazy
Just because you're going forwards
Doesn't mean I'm going backwards

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

There is an astounding article in Tuesday's New York Times that should be causing an a reverberation of amazing magnitude in the rest of the press and, even more importantly, the halls of Congress.

But of course it's not.

Read the article yourself, but the gist is basically this: After a inquiry by the Canadian government, the facts of the case of the Canadian man detained and sent to Syria to be tortured are now a matter of record. A Syrian born Canadian citizen named Maher Arar was, due to faulty intelligence originating with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, suspected of being an Al Qaeda terrorist. When he was traveling through the United States (JFK airport in New York) on his way home from a vacation he was picked up by the FBI. He asked to speak to the Canadian Consulate in New York and was refused, in conflict with basic international law. He was then transported on an American government plane to Jordan and then taken by ground to Syria. He spent at least ten months in a Syrian cell and was repeatedly tortured over that time, including being beaten with a shredded electrical cable.

Let me remind you that the Syrians were doing this to him at the bidding of the US government. The Syrians. The supporters of Hezbollah, a very well know terrorist organization. The same Syrians that have illegally occupied Lebanon for years.

And their torture worked. Mr. Arar confessed to training with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. One problem, it wasn't true. In fact, he has been found to not had done a single thing wrong. This is the usual result of torturing suspects, false confessions and information.

So while George W. is out there publicly shaming Syria for all the bad things they do, he turns around and uses those bad things for his own ends. And you can bet that the Syrians didn't do it for free. I imagine they are making a pretty penny from the US for providing this service, part of which then goes to help Hezbollah try to destroy Israel.

This is the same government that puts commercials on TV telling people that if they buy a joint they are "helping terrorist" (by the theory of that money goes from the dealer to the supplier to the grower who might be connected to a terrorist organization).

Oh, and the US government refused to cooperate in the inquiry, and hasn't called their own.

And this is what isn't being talked about enough in the mainstream media, especially the television news. And it's also not being talked about by our politicians. This case should be front and center of the argument about why Bush should be stopped in his attempts to "clarify" the Geneva Convention.

Whenever some Republican hack says it's just loony partisanship to call for the impeachment of the president, this should always be the first thing brought up. If the right-wing can impeach a guy for cheating on his wife why is it so out of left field to want to do it for illegally torturing another human being?

I'd like to say just a couple things to the President:

Sir, if you don't know the basic right of human dignity then you are beyond reproach. The Geneva Convention is not "vague" you evil bastard. If you don't know what "outrages upon personal dignity" means what you can't do to people, then you have absolutely no moral center.

What is being done to these people in your name and under your authority is not a game like your fraternity's ritual hazing, despite what your little pea-sized brain might think.

God I hate you.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Into The Fray - Part 2

"This is hollowed ground! This is not the place for your political agenda. The truth is you're a fuckin' ass hole! Fuck you!"

This is what a middle-aged guy in a suit started screaming at a protester holding up an effigy of Bush with an American flag tied like a noose around his neck. Written on it was something about Bush being the world's biggest terrorist and seeking the truth about 9/11, hence the "truth is you're an ass hole" line. I watched this same guy in the suit, screaming at the anti-Bush protester that this isn't the place for political agendas, look up at another guy holding a sign that said "9/11/06 - Commemorating 5 years of the Clinton legacy," and he just smiled and nodded. Typical conservative, I remember thinking to myself. It wasn't that the day was being politicized that he was pissed about, it was that it was being politicized by people he doesn't agree with. As for the "hollowed ground" we were supposedly standing on? We were standing on the sidewalk plaza of the PATH station entrance, outside the entire 16-acre area of the WTC site. I just have a hard time buying a place as hollowed ground if it's where you catch a train to Jersey. I wanted to ask him how far away one would have to before he doesn't consider it hollowed ground anymore.

Oh, and the guy holding up the Clinton bashing sign had written on the other side "When the left says 'peace' they mean 'surrender.'"

But don't accuse the conservatives of politicizing 9/11, they're just "honoring the victims."

So what was getting a lot of people's panties in a bunch was the conspiracy theorists everywhere. And they were all over the place. They were wearing black shirts that had variations of "9/11 Truth" on the front and the backs looked like this:

Most of them were affiliated with the movie Loose Change, a documentary that puts forth alternative theories about what really happened that day, and followers of this guy names Alex Jones.

Now I'm as big a conspiracy theorist as the next guy. But I'm more of a "Oswald couldn't have acted alone" and "What was the involvement of the CIA in the El Salvadoran death squads?" kind of conspiracy theorists, not a "the moon landing was staged and the earth is flat" kind of one.

Unfortunately, a big number of the people at the event this last Monday were the second kind. I'm not saying they don't have a point to a certain extent. I do believe that there should be a much more independent investigation in to the attacks, rather than one run by old government cronies with an interest in the results and friends to protect. I also believe that there is a lot that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice and others knew and know that they are not telling us. Well, I believe that everything that comes out of that group's mouths is a lie. So I'm with them there.

But some of the things that they are purporting are a little far-fetched, and really, unnecessary to support the idea that our government had something to do with 9/11. There's a great article at Salon about this.

And the thing about conspiracies is that they require a small group to be involved, not a large one, or the secret part of a conspiracy in unsustainable. If you buy into a lot of the claims made by these guys, hundreds, if not thousands, of people would need to be in on it.

Now the Loose Change guys aren't part of the groups that believe UFOs destroyed the World Trade Center or that no planes hit them (there is actually a theory that they were holograms, seen by everyone in the area from every possible angle). But they do believe these basic things, as just a small example:

The planes that hit the WTC were remote controlled drones with no people inside.
No plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
No plane hit the Pentagon.
Flight 93, the one that crashed in Pennsylvania, actually landed in Cleveland that morning, with all of the passengers and crew from the other flights on board. This is my favorite one, because it just doesn't make sense in any way. As the Salon article asks, "...why would the government spare the lives of the people on those planes only to kill thousands more" at the World Trade Center?

Anyway, I'll leave it to others (this one is great, run by a guy who thinks there is a government involvement himself, just not done the way the Loose Change guys think) to debunk the conspiracy theories. I'm here to describe the action from the day.

Like I said at the end of the first part of this, the conspiracy theorists were a major presence. There were definitely several hundred of them and they were armed with copies of the film on DVD to give away for free to anybody who would take them. The interesting thing that happened was the spontaneous debates that broke out in the crowd. Someone would challenge one of the black shirt posse and there would be an exchange of ideas (sometimes heated and contentious, other times just someone wanting to know what makes the person believe 9/11 was an "inside job") which would attract a crowd gathering around to hear. Like this:

And this (guy making some sort of point like "why didn't that building fall if the one next to it..."):

It would get heated when people accused the conspiracy people of being "un-American" or "insulting the families" of the victims or claiming that they were "supporting the terrorists." It was always, as I saw it, the challengers that got all wound up, and for no reason. Especially this guy, with the Yankee hat:

He would follow the arguments around and get in the face of the people supporting the conspiracy theories. Unfortunately for him he didn't really have good counter-arguments. The 911 Truth crowd, while believing some really whacked out claims, were really articulate about why they believed what they believed. Some of these things were based on what people would call "junk science" but they made their side of the argument well. The angry guy with the Yankee cap (and really if you are a Yankee fan, why are you a chronically angry person?) usually only had the argument that "I was here," which really seems to be well beside the point. The guy claimed that he helped in the recovery after the attack, and that he saw body parts with his own eyes. How this made him "know that Osama did it" I never really quite got from him. He would also off to the side be saying things like, "I'll bet none of these black shirt people even got jobs" and "get these guys to a fuckin' employment office."

Super-duper arguments, Angry Guy!

And that was all he had. Really, nobody was able to counter them with anything smarter than, "if you don't like this country fuckin' leave." Ahh, nothing like a return to the good old Cold War standard of "love it or leave it" and "move to Russia."

I just watched this whole time, never really getting involved in the arguments. I did have a nice little conversation with a fireman about Wilco because he saw my shirt. Found another fan in the crowd. But I couldn't believe how little the people arguing against the conspiracy theorists could make a good point. When one would say that there's no way the fires could burn as hot as they claimed the one in the WTC did because kerosene doesn't burn that hot, no one could bring up that jet planes don't run on kerosene, but on jet fuel (hence the name).

It could have something to do with the fact that most of the people trying to argue with them were brain dead zealot Bushie types with American flags all over their clothing along with phrases like "let's roll" in silk screen. Or the woman holding the sign that said something along the lines of "People united + Support for troops = defeat of axis of evil."

The only thing in this country dumber than George W. Bush is one of his sheep using his terminology. What sucks about these people is that they say "united" but what they mean is that I should believe in their ideology or shut the hell up.

And another thing, I didn't get a picture of them (I guess I just couldn't stomach it) but the flag wearing government/Bush supporters are really crappy sign makers. Everyone who had a sign of some sort that bashed on Clinton/Democrats/liberals or used some sort of Bushism in it was holding the most pathetic piece of poster board that was scrawled on with black magic marker. Crooked and uneven. At least the paranoid people know how to go to Kinkos and get a slick banner made. I mean come on people, your hero spent good money getting his "Mission Accomplished" sign made.

Of all the wacky things I heard that day, from holograms faking the plane crash to Bush being a Trotsky-ite (seriously, some of the paranoids, calling themselves "real" conservatives, think Bush is a Commie. I wish), I didn't hear anything that made me laugh/wretch more than these two comments:

"Our government wouldn't purposely hurt its own citizens." This guy needed to go to a history class that talked about the Tuskegee experiments the Bonus Army or the Japanese American prison camps, among other things.

"Nobody benefited from 9/11." Apparently this guy never heard of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice, or Wolfowitz.

The black shirt crowd might be paranoid, but at least they don't blindly trust our government no matter what. Thomas Jefferson would be so disappointed.

There was also the admonition that this is the wrong day to do this and that "you can do this the other 364 days of the year. So I guess there is no-1st Amendment holiday of which I was not aware. And I wondered how it could possibly have been so easy for Dubya to convince people that the Patriot Act was a good thing. And the whole idea that they had a problem with politics being injected into the day was a weak argument at best. Bush has been propping up his presidency with the dead from that day five years ago (and would do so even more later that night to celebrate the anniversary), and Giuliani was down in the pit of Ground Zero running for president at that very moment.

Eventually the conspiracy crowd gathered for the rally to listen to Alex Jones talk, among other people, but mostly him.

And he screamed a lot through his megaphone and some of the flag waving crowd around me made statements that went along the lines of blowing him off as a misguided academic or a liberal nut. And this is where I get bothered. Alex Jones is a loud-mouth radio host, not an academic at all. He is also a religious nut who has a lot more in common with the Michigan Militia types and Pat Buchanan than he does with Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn. Don't put him on us liberals, he's not our fault.

There was also this guy:

He was your basic ranting bible-thumping loon who didn't really make any sense. He kept saying that all the "stupid, stupid people" would be going to Hell. It made me make the joke to the guy next to me, "Wow, all of Alabama is going to Hell?" He laughed.

All in all it was a trippy day. It almost made me proud to be American. Lots of ideas, albeit a lot of crazy ones, debated in a free-exchange of ideas in a public forum, and no punches thrown. Sometimes it looked like someone might take a swing, but as far as I saw it never did.

But that mild pride is easily dashed by seeing shit like this:

Apparently Captain America was hanging around somewhere but I never spotted him.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Let's See, The Answer To That Is.....Wait, What Was The Question

OK, so I know I ended yesterday's post saying that today's would be about the conspiracy theorists at yesterday's memorial/vigil/protest/gathering of weirdoes. But I haven't found myself in the mood today to do that yet. I still haven't quite digested it all and am still letting the whole experience and feelings all sink in and.....oh, OK, that's plain old bullshit. I'm just lazy. I know it will be a long post and I just don't have it in me right now. Sometimes I'm a real lazy ass. As lazy as Reagan's imaginary black welfare mother with the Cadillac.

So bear with me, I know all three of you are waiting with baited breath for more of my long-winded observations of Monday's happenings. I'll try to get to it tonight or tomorrow. But like I said, I'm feeling pretty slothy right now.

A quick story from today though. I went down to pick up my paycheck from the temp agency I've been working for. While waiting for the sole elevator in the very old building they are in I started chatting with the other guy standing there.

Another sign that I'm not living in Boston anymore. You know, people actually talking to each other and being friendly.

Anyway, turns out this guy works at the agency I use, but I had not met him before. We were chatting about what places I've been working and other things (this elevator is incredibly slow), and at some point he asked me where I was from.

And this is always the tough question in my experience. Asking me where I'm from is to invite me to recite the "Friends, Romans, countrymen..." speech from Julius Caesar, it's so damned complicated. I never have a easy quick answer to that question if I want to be honest.

I have, like a lot of people in my generation, lived in quite a few places. Counting my place of birth (where I only lived until I was six) I have lived in the states of Iowa, Georgia, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, and now New York.

So what do I say? I grew up in Georgia, but when I use that as my answer I always then have to go in to an explanation of why I don't have a southern accent (Midwest parents, didn't move there until I was six, explain that I used to, etc.), which just adds to the confusion. I used to say Seattle a lot, but I didn't move there until I was 23. It's probably the best answer since it is the first place I lived as a post-college adult and, let's face it, it is really cool to be able to tell people you lived in Seattle in the 90s when you were a twentysomething. How very Gen-X of me. But the whole "from" Seattle thing always falls apart when it turns out that the person you are talking to is from there and they ask you where you went to high school. Or it comes out during the conversation that I moved there in my twenties, and the person will say "No, I mean where are you 'from' from?"

This is what happens when your parents move you to a different school for your senior year. You end up graduating from a different school then where you went the rest of your childhood. I can't tell people I'm from suburban Chicago, because I lived there for only two years (senior year and the year after when I couldn't go to college for reasons I don't like to talk about, so thanks for bringing up bad memories you ass hole). And I really can't say I'm from Chicago proper because I didn't live there until after Seattle and for less time.

I know what you might be thinking. When in a new city the answer to that question is easily accomplished by just telling people the name of the last place you lived.

But I would rather jam an ice pick in my eye than tell people I'm from Boston.

And if I say I'm from "nowhere" or "everywhere" people will just think I'm weird.

Am I over-thinking this?


Quote of the day, from Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot:

A person keen on all things French is called a Francophile. One who has a thing for England is called an Anglophile. An admirer of Germany in the 1930s and '40s is called Pat Buchanan .

That's the line that got me strange looks when I burst out laughing on the subway today.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Into The Fray - Part 1

I wasn't planning on going. I woke up yesterday and was having my coffee when I turned on the TV. The World Trade Center memorial was already underway and they were reading the names of the dead aloud. I decided to check out the video from September 11, 2001 to see what it was like to watch it from the perspective of five years later. But more on that later.

I decided to go down there.

Now just about everyone who knows me knows that I'm not patriotic. I make no apologies for it, nor do I see it as a personality flaw or a bad thing. Patriotism leads to nationalism which leads to jingoism. Which leads to needless violence in the name of something that is just a bunch of imaginary lines on a map. I'm a Humanist, because I think that is so much better for the world than patriotism. And there are no pledges or bad theme songs that you're forced to stand up for at baseball games.

So god and country were certainly not my reasons for heading down there. But I was drawn for some reason. I figured I might find some inspiration for something to write about. Because, you know, there is such a shortage of articles, blogs and commentaries being written about the anniversary of the attacks that someone needs to fill the void. So I grabbed the camera and headed to the subway.

Being a New Yorker now for less than two months this obviously isn't "my" anniversary. I was in Chicago at the time. Hell, I woke up that morning after the towers were already gone and only found out something was going on when I headed out to the White Hen Pantry for coffee and saw bumper to bumper mid-morning traffic because they were evacuating the Loop. None of my friends in New York were killed or hurt. So the events of 9/11/01 don't really belong to me in that way. And I hate people that act like it's "theirs" when it's not. Mostly it's the flag waving, Bush supporting conservative types. Shit, there are so many of these people who act like it happened to them and they don't even know anyone in New York. So I was going to just look around and soak in the experience, and try not to get too annoyed by these people. And hopefully get some pictures of people I could make fun of in my blog.

Truth be told, I was hoping to see this god-awful truck that I've heard about, painted with the twin towers and the Statue of Liberty, a cop hugging kids, the names of people, lots of American flags and the words "Have you forgotten..." (sans question mark for some reason). Oh my god, yes! I've totally forgotten about that day because there is just no one in the media or the current administration who ever brings it up.

Guys like that are exactly what I'm talking about. So I was hoping to get a look at that dumb hick, as I read somewhere that he was driving to New York to be here for the anniversary. Alas, I didn't see him anywhere. Probably because he couldn't find New York, it being above the Mason-Dixon and all.

But there was another truck:

My buddy Joe wrote about it a couple of anniversaries ago, but seeing it for yourself is a sight. It looks like a monster truck got crapped on by both an American flag and a Thomas Kinkade painting. And there lots of people getting their picture taken with it, along with a few of us that were taking pictures of it out of irony and to make fun of it on the internet.

This is just another one of those people trying to make this event theirs, even though it really didn't effect them at all. And he wants everyone to know who he is. He actually has his name on both doors of the truck. It actually says "Owner:" and his name. My favorite part is that along the bottom of the truck it says "America, like Ford...Built Tough." Man, this guy loves America so much he compares it to his beloved fossil fuel burning redneckmobile. America combined with advertising slogans. Who wouldn't get choked up by that?

What I find really annoying about these people is how they act like they have some sort of love for New York. The fact of the matter is that guys like Mr. Ford Tough, before 2001, hated New York and probably had never been here before the World Trade Center became Ground Zero and the excuse for Bush to strip us of our civil liberties. They hate everything New York stands for, from immigration to liberal politics to cultural diversity to gay people to multilingual neighborhoods. To them, New York has always represented the worst things about America. But now it is their prop to use as their excuse for their militant nationalism and "with us or against us" nonsense. If it had been a Timothy McVeigh instead of brown people that attacked New York no way would they be rallying around the city like this.

It's a disgrace and a shame for New Yorkers to have to put up with that and the hypocrisy of Republicans' choice to use the city as the backdrop to their convention. A city that some of them used to compare to Sodom and Gomorrah.

When I got down there the memorial part of the event (with the families down in the actual pit, closed to everyone else) was close to ending and I walked around the area, doing a full circle around the entire site and ending back at the PATH station plaza with a photo exhibit and that stupid truck parked close by.

There was also a row of tables set up being run by what appeared to be two groups, NYPD Officers for Jesus and Firefighters for Jesus, handing out pamphlets. That's where I saw this guy:

I just found this shirt funny. I really wanted to walk up to him and tell him that if he really was committed to that statement he would be dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a match. I just couldn't help but laugh out loud and take the picture.

I wish these people would figure out that religious fanaticism is the cause of, not the solution to, world conflict. It should be fucking obvious, but, true to religious fanatic thinking, it's always the other religions' fanatics that cause the problems, not theirs.

The other major presence there yesterday, and I mean major, was the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

And this guy.

More on them tomorrow.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Perfect Example Of Sportsmanlike Conduct

When I was younger I played league baseball for a total of one season. I was really bad at it. I got put in right field, where they always put the shitty players, and I didn't get a base hit all season. I just never really had the fundamentals taught to me very well. So what was my coach's reaction to this? Was it to give me good instruction, also known as coaching, on keeping my eye on the ball, a good stance, how to hold the ball, the mechanics of my swing?

No, it was to berate me in front of my teammates. In practice one day when I came up to take my swings the coach suddenly screamed out, "Everybody can sit down, Mayer's up to bat!" What is it with jock-strap coach types always using last names? Is it supposed to give them some sort of feeling of power?

Anyway, he wasn't joking. The big fat ass, ex-minor leaguer who never made "the show," with a big "chaw" in his cheek actually made the entire team sit down before he would let the pitcher throw to me. He said nobody should bother trying to field since I wasn't going to hit it anyway. So I stood in the batter's box, looking out at an entire field of my teammates sitting on the infield dirt and outfield grass as I tried to hit a ball that everyone was just told I had no chance to hit.

I was eight years old.

Why do I bring this up? I always think of it whenever there is a crazy coach or sports parent in the news. I'm sure most of you have seen the youth football coach in the news who clocked some kid on the opposing team. A thirteen year old kid. A blindsided full-on body slam. The kid's crime? A late hit on the Mr. Testosterone's son. Thankfully, and surprisingly to me, the ass hole was arrested. They say he faces up to a few years in jail, but I don't buy that as a possibility at all. What will happen is he'll be given probation and community service and barred from coaching any youth sports ever again. In other words a slap on the wrist for a 36 year old man who attacked a child. That's the way it works in America. Get caught smoking a joint and they'll throw the book at you, get caught on tape attacking a kid and you get a firm "tsk, tsk." Oh people are outraged right now, to be sure. But this will blow over and the guy won't get any real form of punishment once he finally gets his day in court.

There are those that are already trying to paint his as an aberration. Well it's not. This is just one visible symptom of the cancer that is youth sports. Kids who play in these sports leagues grow up to jackasses who think it's OK to beat up children and solve your problems with violence. Or even worse, they become John Rocker. And don't even get me started on the pathetic parents who are living their failed dreams and ambitions through their kids. That guy who ran out to tackle the kid is a prime example of one of them. My old little league coach was an even bigger one.

And what do I think should be done to him? Ten years in Attica ought to send a message to these other failed jock fathers that this shit won't be tolerated. If you think that's a harsh sentence, let me remind you he violently attacked a child. Act like a violent criminal and you get treated like one.

And he can share his cell with Coach Scarborough from the Central Dekalb (GA) Sally League Cardinals. Ass hole.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Courage In The Line Of Water

One of the great joys of having moved to New York is how much there is to do in the summer, including free stuff. Which, after all the moving expenses, is especially nice to have right now.

And probably the creme de la creme, the Cadillac, the Paris, the prom queen of free New York entertainment is the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park. An institution in New York, started by Joseph Papp 50 years ago, I've always wanted to see a production at Shakespeare in the Park. Well now that I live here I was going to finally get my chance.

We moved here right after Macbeth (starring the amazing Liev Schreiber) had finished its run, but the other show this season was Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children with a new translation by Tony Kushner, and starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Austin Pendleton. So we jumped at that.

My buddy Joe and I went last Friday to wait in line for tickets for us and our wives. See, this is how it works: they give out tickets at 1:00pm on the day of the show, two tickets per person, first come-first serve. People start lining up outside the Delecorte Theater in Central Park at an ungodly hour of the morning. We got there about 7:45am and the line was really long already. So we sat on the ground, with the woman next to us nice enough to share her blanket, and began our 5+ hour wait for tickets.

After a while, of course, it started raining. Not heavy, at least at first. It rained about three times during our time in line and I forgot my umbrella. At one point it came down kind of heavy. And sitting on the ground is something you couldn't do at that point so the rest of the time in line was standing. And rain makes it impossible to read or play cards. But hey, we were getting free tickets to see Meryl Streep on stage, so no biggie.

You can probably see where this is going. We didn't get tickets.

We came seven people short of getting them. Seven. Over five hours of waiting in the rain and nothing to show for it.

Well, not nothing. It was five hours of hanging out with one of my best friends and favorite people having great conversations. Conversations that included my glowing defense of my view that people who like Larry the Cable Guy, the Marmaduke comic, and Thomas Kinkade paintings are not just people who have different tastes than me, but rather brain-dead zombies who are a waste of the earth's precious oxygen. I think I won that little debate.

We blew off some energy after the annoyance of not getting tickets by playing some frisbee. Funny how the rain cleared after we didn't have to sit outside anymore.

It looked like we wouldn't be seeing the show at all, but thanks to a change in my schedule we got to try again on Tuesday. We got there at 6:30 this time and were a lot farther up in line. In fact, this time we over compensated and could have shown up several hours later and still would have been fine. This time we were prepare with blankets, trash bags to wrap them in, and umbrellas. And boy did it rain that morning. Harder and longer than the first time. So even with the extra precautions we got pretty damn wet. Six and a half hours this time. But dammit, we got the tickets.

The show was still in danger of getting canceled because the forecast did not look good for Tuesday night. But we went. And it rained. Most of the night. But it was light enough for the show to go on, so we sat and watched in the rain.

It sounds bad I know, but it was actually the opposite. Man, what a show. Watching Meryl Streep just electrify the stage all night long made the dampness completely irrelevant. Words can't begin to describe watching Streep inhabit the character of Mother Courage. And Austin Pendleton is nothing short of a comic genius. A brilliant show filled with top-notch performances.

Something Joe said to me during intermission was right on. We were talking about how lucky we were to be able to see her on stage, and he made a great analogy. Yeas from now when we tell people (be it grandchildren or some other young people we annoy with our old man stories) we saw Meryl Streep it will be a lot like those old guys who can say they got to see DiMaggio play. And really it's true. I really got the chance to see the greatest actor of the last century, perform one of the great roles right in front of my own eyes. Not on video, but right there. And for free to boot. It just cost 12 hours of waiting in line in the rain. I would have sat through a hail storm and a plague of locusts and it still would have been a good deal.

I am so glad we live here.

Oh, and something I found out after I got home. The light rain didn't keep Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Austin Pendleton and the rest of the great cast of artists from spilling their souls and guts on stage. But a few miles away the same rainfall was too much for the Yankees to play a children's game. So Meryl Streep spent about three full hours acting her ass of in the rain, which sometimes included flopping around in mud, but Jeter, A-Rod and the rest of the baseball jocks on the Yankees wouldn't even play a little game that involves them sitting in a covered dugout half the time anyway.

Fucking pussies.