Mad As Hell, and They’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

27 12 2009

The peaceful Green revolution from this past June is gone. The people of Iran are tired of bleeding. They’re beginning to make their oppressors bleed as well. The protesters are starting to strike back- especially against the Basij.

Pay attention! This could be a threshold moment.

Here are some pics lifted from an Iranian blog:

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And the Beat Goes On

27 12 2009

While Americans relaxed in the post-coital afterglow of the holidays, the young people of Iran once again took to the streets in defiance of the religious madmen who rule their country. While we watch the news amid peace and plenty, young people with literally everything to lose are clashing with the police in the streets of every major city in Iran.

Today is the celebration of Ashura– in memory of one of Muhammed’s grandson’s who died in the battle of Karbala. This is a major holiday for shi’a, and the supposedly devout rulers of Iran seem to be repeating the actions of the sunni despot Yazid. Every drop of blood they spill while slaughtering their own people only creates new reasons for the survivors to turn against their rulers.

At least the western media is actually starting to cover these protests in Iran. I predict that state of affairs will last until another celebrity kicks the bucket, but for the moment, Americans can watch as the young people of Iran struggle for their own independence and freedom.

Because of our past associations with Iran, we cannot do more than watch. The sins of our past prevent us from lending a hand when the protesters desperately need it. What we can do is pay attention and tell others about what we see and hear. The rulers of Iran are expending enormous efforts to silence the protesters and prevent their message from reaching the rest of the world. The very least we can do is defy the despots in Tehran and spread the word.

People are striving for freedom, and paying for their efforts in their own blood. Despite the differences in language or religion, their actions make them our brothers in spirit. Don’t let the murdering tyrants in Tehran commit their atrocities behind a veil of silence.

Current status: Angry

Current music: Let it be by the Beatles





Insert Generic Holiday Greeting Here

25 12 2009

I spent the day painting a couple of rooms inside the house, unpacking some books, and unwrapping some paintings we last saw when we packed ’em up for the move from Italy to the Shallow South. I did get to sleep in a few hours, which was nice. Now I’m waiting for the painkillers to start working their magic (climbing up and down ladders is moderately taxing for a someone with a bad leg).

We no longer do the whole holiday thing. We send a gift to friends or relatives whenever we think about it, we don’t wait until it’s a holiday. I also send out a holiday email every year to a few people who matter to me. Our primary observance of the christmas season is to stay at home with the TV off.

I’ve managed to avoid most of the usual christmas drakh on TV by not watching TV. We rarely go anywhere near malls or other shopping outlets during the rest of the year, and the panic-stricken frenzy of the mindless hordes during “the most wonderful time of the year” turns rarely into never. Those hordes- and the predators who hunt among them- do make a large adjustment in my behavior: from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, I carry a gun whenever we go out. Why is it that the holiday season brings out the worst in so many people?

Those of you who celebrate Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanza/Yule without being obnoxious about it deserve better than the orgy of consumerism which afflicts this country during the holidays. I, for one, appreciate your restraint.

Current status: Sore and tired

Current music: Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel





The Emptiness

17 12 2009

Loss is an inescapable part of life. We experience this at infrequent intervals during our lives as our relatives begin to succumb to the ravages of time. Despite this ongoing proof of mortality, we always seem to be stunned that those whose existence is importance to us are not as eternal as the stars. The void left in our lives strikes us anew with each passing, as though we are incapable of learning from previous losses.

I am reasonably well-read on the psychology of grief, and despite this self-awareness I find myself struck down by a new loss as though it were an entirely novel experience. As a male born in the 1960’s, even the hardened armor of stoicism ingrained in my being by my father’s generation is not proof against the keen blade of sorrow, and I weep openly, forgoing the unspoken admonition that men should not give rein to their passions.

Because of my life-long love of learning, I have not even the surcease of religion to soothe my anguish. Despite my pain, I cannot cast aside reason for faith. My beloved wife- herself no admirer of any god or ess- tries to ease her grief by believing in an afterlife. I am unable to so deny the fruit of my intellect, even for remediation of emotional pain.

This night, my life is dimmed by sorrow. I cast these words into the ether in lieu of open demonstrations of grief or the hollow promise of faith, as both are alien to me by my culture and upbringing.

Current status: Bitter

Current music: Man in the Box by Alice in Chains





Egregious Stupidity

15 12 2009

Stand by for some examples of Weapons-Grade Stupidity. The kind of stupid that takes effort to accomplish.

At school, an eight-year-old boy is asked to draw a picture of what christmas means to him. He produces a crude image of a stick figure on a cross. His teacher goes completely off the rails and orders the lad to the principal’s office, where he is suspended from school and forbidden to return until he has received a psychiatric evaluation for his “violent and disturbing” drawing. What really set the teacher off was the inclusion of little x’s for eyes, to indicate the stick figure was dead.

If you follow the link above, you can see this “violent” drawing for yourself. Scary stuff, isn’t it?

What’s really scary is the fact that the teacher and principal are both so lacking in any shred of common sense that this warranted anything more than a chat with the child’s parents- if that. Looking over some of the papers from my time in school, I find far more heinous things: edged weapons drenched in gore, tanks, airplanes, sharks, dinosaurs, guns, and literally thousands of stick figures in various states of dismemberment and violent death. Despite these doodles,  I somehow managed to survive to adulthood without requiring extensive psychotherapy or lengthy imprisonment for the safety of others. What the Hell happened to our schools in the intervening years?

I will now introduce two terms to explain the current state of education today: Parental abdication of responsibility and Zero Tolerance.

Far too many parents have abandoned the task of actually raising their precious crotch-goblins to the schools. This abdication of responsibility has forced schools into a no-win situation of heightened expectations and diminishing returns- coupled with increasing class sizes and budgets which do not keep pace. As a result, school administrators have developed a strategy which helps them avoid lawsuits and keep their cushy jobs without having to actually teach their students anything: zero-tolerance policies.

Simply by adopting all manner of asinine restrictions, rules, procedures, and policies and then slavishly following them regardless of logic or reality, school administrators can pretend that they are incapable of doing their jobs while avoiding responsibility for this incompetence. A kid draws a picture of a pistol in his notebook? Gotta suspend the little thug. Zero-tolerance policy for weapons, you know. Another kid points his finger and says bang? That’s an expulsion. A little boy gives a little girl a smooch at recess? Have the little bastard arrested for sexual assault. Sorry, ma’am. Those are the rules. My hands are tied.

Speaking of sex crimes, there’s a young man in Michigan who is a registered sex offender, and has been for the last six years. His “crime” was having sex with his girlfriend when he was seventeen. Trouble is, she was only fifteen at the time. He was convicted of sexual criminal conduct and required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. I’m trying to figure out what Public good is demonstrated by this nonsense, but I’m drawing a blank. Anybody out there have any ideas?

Matthew Freeman duly registered his address with the police and tried to move on with his life. One evening he was outside in his parents’ driveway shooting hoops, which happens to be across the street from an elementary school playground, when a state police car pulled up. The officer used a laser rangefinder to determine that Matthew was only some 300 feet from the school, and he was charged with a school safety zone violation. I’m certain that the public in Pittsfield Township can now breathe easier knowing that this dangerous predator has been prevented from playing basketball in his parents’ driveway.

The quote from the county prosecutor has the dangerous terms in it. See if you can find them:

We view these as public safety issues,” Hiller said. “That’s the paramount concern we have when dealing with sex offender registry cases. This particular law is in place to protect children, so that’s obviously a very serious matter.”

Any luck? Allow me to paraphrase for you: It’s for the children!

Those four little words are being used all over this country to completely destroy our society. FSM forbid that any children get exposed to the real world at any time in their delicate little lives. We can’t be bothered to teach our own kids the difference between right and wrong, and the people we’ve stuck with the task aren’t willing to take on the responsibility either, so the obvious answer is to create a whiffle-ball universe to protect the dear little tykes from anything which might hurt them- physically or emotionally.

What’s really tragic about the whole issue is the fact that the actions taken to protect children from anything “bad” are actually making kids more vulnerable to bad things. All those ridiculous wipes and disinfectants we surround kids with have the effect of leaving their immune systems vulnerable to just about everything. Refuse to discuss drugs or sex with kids and you pretty much guarantee that they’ll learn about them the hard way. Pretend that violence will just go away if you don’t pay attention to it and you guarantee that they’ll grow up to be victims. Hover over your kid’s every movement to provide support and you create a being unable to make a decision without mommy’s approval.

Parents all need to take a step back and take a look at these idiotic and self-defeating measures we’re taking to protect the children. Perhaps they could perform a basic risk-assessment before implementing anything “for the children”. How likely is this “bad thing” to occur? If it did occur, how much damage would it cause? What can I do to reduce the probability of severity of this “bad thing”? It isn’t difficult to make these sorts of decisions. It gets even easier when you can teach your kids to do their own risk-assessments. At that point, all you really need to do is make sure the kids have enough information to make the right choices and the training to ask for more input if needed.

Oh, wait. That involves dropping the iphone and turning off the latest reality TV show and actually trying to raise your own kid. You know, effort. Ugh!

It’s ever so much easier to leave all that tough stuff to a bunch of government employees who have to spread their attention among several hundred other kids in their classes.

So much for future generations of Americans.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by J.S. Bach





Iranian Irony

8 12 2009

The alleged government of Iran, in celebrating the “National Day of the Student”, unleashed its Basij goons on those students in a storm of beatings and arrests across several cities in Iran. The principal targets of those beatings and arrests were, of course, students.  This is in the wake of his epic rant about how the US is somehow preventing the Twelfth Imam from returning. Honest! Click on the link- I couldn’t possibly make up something that stupid.

I swear President I’minadinnerjacket must be getting his political strategy tips from the Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Villain Stereotype. All he needs is a top hat, matching cape, and sinister mustachios to complete his transformation to Snidely Whiplash. Next week, the Basij tie all the female students they’ve arrested to sawmills and railroad tracks in a bid to get the deed to the family farm. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Oh, go look it up. Google is your friend.

Apparently, the “leadership” within Iran believes real life is following the script of a lame 1930’s adventure serial. Not finding success with becoming a Major Player on the world stage, they’ve apparently decided to go with Zany Comic Relief.

It is the National Day of the Student, to celebrate the courageous student revolution which overthrew the brutal Shah. What’s that? There are students demonstrating against me? Have them arrested! Yes, all of them! Who do they think they are, anyway?

I swear it would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. The manifold stupidities of the past are preventing what could be a bright and shining future in the region. The US has far more in common- culturally and economically- with Iran than with all of the Arab states combined. Iran should be a bulwark against the corrupt Arab regimes- especially the House of Saud. Instead, the US panders shamelessly to Saudi interests in order to contain Iran.

I need to find a reality with a more reasonable author. Could you please direct me to the nearest dimensional portal?

Current status: Bemused

Current music: Istanbul (not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants





Ends and Odds

6 12 2009

I’ve been silent for a while.

Again.

You might have noticed.

I rarely find the need to speak out on a topic if I feel others have done it better (which is usually the case). Given the plethora of sources for opinion and criticism these days, I try to avoid covering topics which have been done-to-death or over-hyped unless I think I could add fresh or useful material to the discussion. This means it often takes something pretty big or important (to me, anyway) for me to blather about it here. When I get worked up on a subject, I tend to go a little overboard.

As a result, my posts have grown increasingly bitter in tone. Since I don’t think I’m like that in real life, I’ve been giving the matter a lot of thought over the last few weeks of silence. No, I haven’t reached any conclusions, experienced any mind-blowing epiphanies, or “found myself” (whatever the Hell that means). I’m just explaining the mental activity on my end which has been masked by the deafening silence on the reading end.

I know, I know- Cool story, bro.

On to the ends and odds.

The Sexy Mr. Phlegm

I managed to come down with whatever version of the Galactic Super Killer Death Flu is wandering around the Shallow South these days, and it laid me out hard. I missed a couple of days from work, spending the intervening time bundled up in my bed under a mound of blankets. I emerged infrequently over the last few days to eat and hobble to the bathroom, and managed to strain my ribs from coughing my lungs up a little too energetically. My wife reached into her bag of magic tricks and cooked up some soup in a huge pot on the stove. It took four days, but her soup finally got me to the point where actual human contact became possible, and she dragged me out shopping today (for groceries- we don’t do holidays).

Aside from a mild amount of weight loss, the only beneficial effect of the bug I caught is the effect on my larynx. When I get really sick, my voice drops an octave or so, and I end up sounding like a cross between James Earl Jones and Barry White (without the charisma). At the grocery store, I ran into a couple of ladies who worked there who recognized me as a regular. When I replied to their greeting, it came out in a husky, basso profundo rumble that both women assured me was “dead sexy”. My wife immediately dubbed me the Sexy Mr. Phlegm.

I get no respect.

Depots of Our Lives

I’ve noticed that there have been a lot of Depots in my life lately. Home Depot. Office Depot. Food Depot. As far as I can tell, depot was originally a military term for a general-purpose warehouse or storehouse. These civilian versions seem to be just a bit too specialized for their own good, in my opinion. At the start of the last century, department stores were coming into their own as the big boys in the marketplace. After the middle of that century, shopping malls with specialty stores grew into the marketplace leaders. With the advent of the internet, more and more stores are turning into laser-focused specialty boutiques in the hope of securing a smaller (but theoretically more reliable) customer base. This theory frequently crashes and burns with the rapidly changing tides of fads and fashions. Many of the super-specialty stores have had to branch out in order to survive, and far more have fallen by the wayside. On the other hand, Sears, Macy’s, and Penneys are all still in business. Maybe there is some value in being a “general specialist”.

Four-Pawed Beasties with Appetites Inside …

I like animals. I like most animals more than I like most people. Watching something horrific happen to people doesn’t bother me nearly as much as bad things happening to animals. I like cats, and dogs, and mice, and birds, antelopes, anteaters, wildebeasts, orangutans, sloths, etc. I’ve always had an animal or two in my home (barring times when I was in the Navy at sea or in barracks), and my lovely wife came to me with a dog in tow. We have pets instead of kids- for a variety of reasons. We’ve had a long run of cats (usually two or three at a time, but once as many as seventeen), based on the mobile nature of my work in the Navy and the related abundance of apartment life rather than any antipathy for dogs. We enjoy our cats, and we let them be cats. They are mostly free to come and go as they please, and we cheerfully pay the higher electric and gas bills as a result of this practice (having an open access to outside for the cats means the weather can come and go as well). Our cats usually live long and happy lives … for cats.

The downside to pets is their relatively short lifespan. Cats in the wild generally only live for three or four years. Domesticated cats often live ten or twelve years. Ours often go fifteen or more- probably a combination of mongrel stamina (all our cats are mixed-breeds) and my wife’s good cooking (she makes her own cat food). Whenever we lose one of our cats, it tears a little bit out of our souls. Since we have had- and lost- so many, our souls are pretty torn up these days. And we’re near to losing another one.

This particular cat has had a tough life. She was adopted from a shelter when she was about six, and had already lost about half her teeth to abscesses. She was skinny and scraggly and therefore unlikely to be adopted. My mom probably wouldn’t have picked her, except she reached a paw out through the bars and grabbed at Mom as she was walking by. She lived with my parents for  several years, touring the country in their RV. When my mom died of cancer, she lived with my dad until he died a year later, on the road in his RV. I picked her up from the local animal shelter and brought her to live with us. She figured out how to live in a multi-cat household, gets along with our other cat, and positively adores my wife.

A few days ago, my wife found her collapsed in the bathroom, cold to the touch, but alive. We rushed her to the vet, where they found her chest cavity was filling with fluid. They got rid of the fluid, put her on oxygen overnight, and gave us a bunch of drugs to give her when we brought her home. We know how this tale ends. The last cat we lost went the same way a year ago. We cannot reverse the damage to her heart. It will kill her sooner or later. All we can do is make her comfortable and happy for as long as we can. When she dies, another piece will be ripped out of our souls.

And it’s worth it. The joy and friendship and happiness we get from our pets more than makes up for the pain when they die. All they ask in return is attention, food, and care. A rare bargain.

“And so, frail creatures of a day,

let’s have the best time that we may.

and do the very best we can

to give one to our fellow man.”

Those lines from Robert Service’s L’Envoi apply just as much to the four-pawed critters who share our lives as to the people.

Well, this has gone long enough, and I have to go back to work in the morning.

Current status: Somber and reflective

Current music: Achilles’ Last Stand by Led Zeppelin