Friday, January 13, 2006

Day 7 

All is well. Tired, but from not sleeping. Craving crab cakes, of all things. One of the first trips I'll make once back in form, will be to get some crab cakes, by Jove.



Never been to Red State Son before, somehow, but he has a nice piece on the freedom of the press today.
Surf any site where endless war and nationalist frenzy are celebrated, and chances are good that you'll bump into this:

It is the Soldier not the reporter, who has given us Freedom of the press. It is the Soldier not the poet, who has given us Freedom of speech. It is the Soldier not the campus organizer, who has given us the Freedom to demonstrate. It is the Soldier not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the soldier, who salutes the Flag, who serves beneath the Flag and whose coffin is draped by the Flag, who allows the protester to burn the Flag.

Columns of drums beat as a solemn white male voice -- Bruce Willis? -- recites each line, indicting those who fail to fall to their knees at the sight of a camo-painted Hummer, or the image of George Bush in his flight suit, or a cluster bomb cleansing some Haji-infected neighborhood.

Pretty stirring stuff. Gets the wood nice & stiff. Only thing is, it's bullshit.

He backs it up. In his own way.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Founding Brothers 

I just finished reading this fine book by Joseph Ellis. It's a portrait of the major players in the birth of our country and how they moved around the context of 1790s America. It's beautifully written and assuringly authoritative. Ellis has drawn conclusions and speaks of them as truth but without the usual pedantic tone or the harsh judgment of other biographers I've read. It's more as if he knows the characters; and, indeed, this is the greatest thing about the book: it's a glance at these men as men, flawed, ambitious, confused, stoic. Men. (And, of course, Abigail Adams who, in some ways, was as important to US policy as anyone else of the time.) Having read some "revisionist" history, I understand that there were no cherry trees or altruists back in 1776; but this book also goes a long way toward humanizing this group that allowed for slavery and only entitled property owners with voting rights. They were products of their times, who struggled nonetheless with these questions. They were not evil, they were not good. They were human.

The final chapter, an analysis of the opposite minds of Adams and Jefferson -- the first of whom strived to cut through romanticism, the second being a lofty poet of it -- is a beautiful account of a less known jewel of American history: the correspondence between the two men which eventually bridged a great and painful animosity. Their letters are brilliant, especially as they face mortality with tender words and shared emotions. And the final page, in which the two men meet their end under extraordinary and undeniably romantic circumstances, had me on the verge of tears swaying on the L train.

(Incidentally, they made a documentary based on the book, I see, with none other than Brian Dennehy as the voice of George Washington.)


Day 6 

Today I feel great. Back on track after a good night's sleep. Decided to make the drink at work rather than package it in concentrate and siphon it out through the day. It tastes better that way.

Last night I went to trivia at our local bar, certainly the first time I've done it without partaking in one of the following a) drinking b) smoking c) eating one of their delicious pressed sandwiches. And it was not at all bad. It was, in fact, fun. We were in first place at the end of the first half but, after an especially challenging General Knowledge round and an audio cascade of some nineteen songs most of us were unfamiliar with, we fell to the team of eleven members. Alas. It didn't much affect me to lose the $25 bar tab, but the thrill of victory transcends free beer. Sometimes.



This is the first I've really said about Alito. Truth be told, I cannot tell how these hearings will end. He'll surely get out of committee, but will the Dems have the gall to filibuster? They certainly should. Bork has been the gauge on what an unacceptable nominee is and Alito is at least as conservative as Bork was, from what I've read. However, this is a completely different time. The country -- at least the popular national image of the country, which is what matters anyway -- is even more conservative than it was when it was morning again in America; Democrats are not in control of the Senate; and a cloud of evil is lowering upon our house. BushCo means business, as we all know, and getting an ultra-con with a boner for a President-King on the bench is just part of the program to set up a new fascism, perhaps to be called a milito-corporatism. (I'm not good at coining phrases, by Jove.)

At any rate, I haven't seen any of the hearings on live TV, but I read the updates when I can. I saw this morning that poor Mrs. Alito left the hall in tears after an especially charged personal discussion with the nominee.
Martha-Ann Bomgardner, who had sat behind her husband for hours of questioning over several days, left as her husband was being questioned by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

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"Judge Alito, I am sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this," said Graham.

Moments earlier, the senator had asked Alito, "Are you really a closet bigot?" The nominee said no, and Graham said, "No sir, you're not."

Another classic Republic tactic, the "Oh, poor me, oh, poor you, how unfair." The unfortunate assailment of an innocent family. The boo-hoo partisan politics. As just another egregious display of their ultimate hypocrisy, debates of national importance are watered down to the personal feelings of an individual or the unfair and not-very-nice prodding of another. In an attempt to paint something as overtly personal and socially uncouth they glaze over the larger picture, thus pushing the emotional buttons we're all programmed to respond to, Oprah-like, clouding reason with emotion. It's right out of their playbook.

When Rush Limbaugh gets nabbed for popping pills it becomes a personal matter and a call to christian forgiveness; when Scooter Libby and Karl Rove commit treason, it's the Democrats who are criminalizing politics. It fits perfectly in with the media punditry's portrayal of national politics as an ice skating competition with larger-than-life individuals striving not to commit gaffes or look worse than their opponent. Nothing about policy, history, cause-effect: just the angling of personalities. And in that war, the Right Wing wins every time because they're louder, they talk meaner and they cry harder.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Day 5 

A little more gaunt, perhaps, and a little slower. I've had late nights this week and I think it's vital to get your rest when you're living on syrup and lemon. So last night I got to bed early, though my stomach woke me around five this morning. There's a slight feeling of floatiness? I have sort of gotten into another reality in which I am someone who doesn't eat food so I suppose this makes sense. I think about smoking in the future but still have virtually no cravings right now. Feel slightly weak, as if there's a slight fever or virus. This is meant to be the time, about, when those toxins just come pouring out, so I expect that. There's a slight headache, I think from lack of hydration, which is barely even noticeable but persistent nonetheless.


Great News! 

Where does it all start? All I can say is "They" will not go quietly into that good night. With all the sugar plums and Abramoffs we've been enjoying these past couple months, it goes without saying that something is bound to spoil the party. We've been talking for a while about Israel and Iran, and how the former would probably bomb the latter to save us the trouble and to get even on a few grudges as well. It looks like it may come this spring.
Israel is updating plans for a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities which could be launched as soon as the end of March, according to military and intelligence sources.

The Israeli raids would be carried out by long-range F-15E bombers and cruise missiles against a dozen key sites and are designed to set Tehran's weapons programme back by up to two years.
Pilots at the Israeli air force's elite 69 squadron have been briefed on the plan and have conducted rehearsals for their missions.

Germany is also warning that Iran had better remain in good standing with UN inspectors lest the risk "consequences," whatever those may be.

I was reading over on DU that some people think Saudi Arabia gave Israel the ok to bomb Iraq from their airspace, a charge I know nothing about and would neither doubt nor call likely. In this world of global dominance, where powers mingle across borders as never before, almost anything is possible: yes, we defend ours and our tribe, but when that new tribe is the ultra-rich and ultra-powerful, ehtnicity, race and nationality get trumped quick.

It's also timely that Sharon is so incapacitated -- though I can't say for certain where he would fall on this issue -- and with Netanyahu dying to strike as it is, anything can happen. This would spell disaster for Iraq and the Middle East program. But this presidency and this Administration want disaster, they want escalated violence, they want a bigger bogeyman to hunt down. We knew he wanted to be king and the Alito hearings are confirming that. How else but with a war that never ends?


Monday, January 09, 2006

Day 3 

I guess maybe I'm gullible? Persuadable? I don't know. I like to think I'm semi-rigorous in my analysis of goings on and something of a skeptic but, truth be told, I spent about a month believing the world is controlled by lizard aliens a few years ago and I want badly to believe in the Loch Ness Monster. I prefer to look at it as I'm open-minded, however. I'm willing to entertain possibilities.

So the point is I'm in Day 3 of this fast-cleanse routine embarrassingly named "The Master Cleanser." All I can consume, for ten days, is a drink mixture consisting of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. I know! That's what I thought: the most obvious and sublime list of ingredients!

I know one person personally and several others anecdotally who have done the cleanse, which is designed to clear out all the toxins deposited in your body and rebuild your organs and cells from the inside out. Laugh. Go on, laugh! Judt like the rest of 'em! But these people spoke highly of its effects and I'd been meaning to try to fast for several years. (Nick and I tried once, a couple years back when we both worked at Burdick's. We looked like something from Marat/Sade by the end of the day and we broke the fast with Nuss torte. It's that good.) I've also been feeling a bit out of balance. I smoke and drink and do both regularly, and have found the pursuit of leisure perhaps too high on the list of prioroties, especially for someone who calls himself a writer (ok, I don't have the balls for that yet, but I've whispered it quietly to myself some evenings) and would like to create something to back it up.

So I look at this as a test of will power. It is, after all, only ten days out of my life, and even if the direct health benefits aren't half so impressive as accounts claim, I will come out of it knowing that I can conquer craving, at least temporarily. I prepared myself heartily for it the night before I was supposed to start, last Friday. I didn't start on time, however, as I wasn't able to get the ingredients and got paranoid about doing it right and not dying. That night I was very nervous. What was I stepping into? Some kind of cultish ritual? Would this kill me? What about the shows I have coming up and would I be able to drink after them? What if -- God forbid -- something were to happen to me and I could never have another slice of brie or a chicken parm sandwich? Would it have been worth it? The answer had to be no. I was dangerously close to abandoning the whole program, but I repeated to myself, perhaps a hundred times in a row, the mantra "I want to do this, I'm strong-willed, it's good for me."

Doing this did get me into a sort of meditative calm about the whole thing. I found myself moving more slowly with a quieter mind. Strange but true. And I felt at ease with the fact that I had to put it off an extra day. I told a couple people about it (others I was too embarrassed to inform) and the one response I got almost universally was "Why?" Well, why not? It did help to outline it for people so as to solidify it in my head more, I suppose. Though I must say the health benefits in the health benefits strict sense is not that high on the list. I'm a fan of purging and I'd like to dump some toxins out. But it's more about a second chance, a starting over and doing something difficult for myself. Having confidence in myself. Living up to my word.

There is a kind of security switch that goes on sometimes when I decide to do something -- it's in all of us -- where I know that something deep inside the brain has been locked. No matter how much I slip and slide on the surface of my brain, the security code is in place and it's on lockdown. It's a nice feeling and I think some people refer to it as "discipline."

So. Days 1 and 2 passed remarkably easily. I was still in that sort of monkish I'm-floating-above-the-world mentality and I could not have been more content. Yes, there were pangs of hunger and urges for cigarettes, but nothing very threatening. I lounged around the house, wrote some, watched football, went for a walk, saw a movie and did the Sunday crossword. When I felt hungry -- which was surprisingly rarely -- I would just have a glass of the concoction. The drink, which can be compared somewhat to lemonade and hot totty, is remarkably good and hearty. It's a comforting thing, too, that I know I can look forward to and be satisfied by. I like it warm, just below the temperature of a cup of tea. So, bla bla bla, days one and two and I'm a swami.

Day 3. Today. Was harder. Everything smelled great My method up to this point has been to really, really inhale these great smells so that I can almost taste them and not try to deny it to myself. Today that wasn't working. Today, I wanted to eat those things, and I began to wonder why I was doing this to myself and how I could be such a fool. It's also Monday and so I returned to work where I have to stand in the same place for nine hours and I'm used to getting a break and, generally, breaking up the monotony. What's more I work at a fruit basket company where I'm surrounded by food all day. There was a close call with the rugelach which I don't want to talk about. People love to eat there, and the range of lunches runs from home-made chicken to Thai noodles with shrimp and everything in between. I do think my sense of smell is improved and it was almost maddening on a couple occasions to inhale these delicious vapors and to stare at people eating -- which is something you don't want to do for too long. It's disquieting.

Now that I'm home, however, and sitting with a drink, I feel better. Tingly, in fact. (Our houseguest just informed me that when you stop smoking, oxygen makes its way back up to your brain where it belongs, and the effect is something euphoric. Ok, I'm cool with that.) I have a show in a little while and I feel good. I'm ready for it. This also may be one of the longest posts I've ever done.

I'll try to maintain notes over the next week as I'm on this thing, more for myself, I suppose, and posterity. But you're welcome to call me a kook anytime you like.


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