[the palaverist]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

[sad personal news]

I think I've told everyone who needs to be told rather than finding out this way. Anyway, I'm getting tired of telling people. So here goes.

After four years of marriage, Jenny and I are getting divorced. This is not an outcome either of us wanted, but it has become inevitable. The reasons are our own, but you are welcome to ask either one of us, and we'll tell you what we feel we should.

In terms of the logistical realities, it looks like I will be getting a new job over the next few months, then finding a new place to live. Where I go depends on where I get hired. Jenny and I are dealing with the details amicably. If you know of any positions for writers or any leads on getting into strategic consulting or corporate communications, let me know. They needn't be in New York.

In terms of the personal realities, this has been absolutely devastating. I have a great deal of uncertainty ahead, and very much sadness. I hope that this choice will bring Jenny happiness, and that I too can look back years from now and see that this was the beginning of new and positive developments in my life. But all that is in the future. For now, it just hurts.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

[coolest thing ever?]

Daniel McKleinfeld (who is appearing in Hamlet, so go see it), sent me a link to a Chuck Closterman piece about bands that are neither over- nor underrated, but rated perfectly, which contained this gem about Blue Öyster Cult:
The BÖC song everyone pays attention to is the suicide anthem "Don't Fear the Reaper." However, that song is stupid and doesn't use enough cowbell. The BÖC song almost no one pays attention to is the pro-monster plod-athon "Godzilla," and that song is spine-crushingly great. So, in the final analysis, Blue Öyster Cult is accurately rated — by accident. This happens on occasion; look at Scottie Pippen.
This is precisely true, so I went looking on YouTube, and OH MY GOD but look at what I found. Those glasses! That beard! That crappy stage monster and psychedelic drum solo! And keep an eye out for the bass player's severe case of sissyneck1 during his solo.

1. Beck once explained that the song "Sissyneck" is named for the weird pecking motion that is mysteriously common to bass players getting their groove on.


Friday, June 15, 2007


Kurt Waldheim, former UN secretary-general, former president of Austria and former Nazi, is dead, and so it suddenly became my job to come up with a condolence statement in five minutes that our ambassador could inscribe in a memorial book for the departed.

Considering Waldheim's unrepentant Nazism and the bland record of his years as SG (granted, during a period when the UN was still sidelined by the Cold War), there was not much to say. But we said it nicely. Diplomacy is all about finding a way to communicate on amicable terms with the folks you don't necessarily like.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

[a song meme]

Ask in the comments and I will give you a letter. Then post your top ten songs beginning with that letter.

My letter is I from Pagan Mom.

Those of you who know me will know how hard it was for me to narrow this list down to ten. So these songs are the ones that mean the most to me, or are simply the best of the lot, for today. I may have to do another post just to get in my favorites from among the rejects.

10. Isfahan by Duke Ellington (Far East Suite: Special Mix)

I'm a sucker for quality Orientalism, and The Far East Suite is a masterpiece of the genre. Johnny Hodges' alto sax leads "Isfahan," a stately paean to Persia's most beautiful city.

9. In a Cold Ass Fashion by Beck (Jabberjaw Compilation: Good to the Last Drop)

"I got options, I got cop shows
I get nauseous and the sweat is day-glo"

The best Beck lyrics lodge in my mind and stay there for years as cryptic labels that seem to sum up vast, complex, otherwise indescribable phenomena. "In a Cold Ass Fashion" is a throwaway produced by Carl Stephenson, who also did "Loser" and "Beercan," but it has more memorable lines than Beck's two most recent albums put together.

8. I Got a Woman by Ray Charles (The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years)

"She give me money when I'm in need
Yeah she's a kind of friend indeed"

Understated, smoldering, datedly sexist, genius. That crack in the voice when he says "money" makes my hair stand on end. Thank you, Ray Charles, for inventing soul music.

7. It's All in Your Mind by Beck (Sea Change)

"Well you're all scared and stiff
A sick stolen gift
And the people you're with
They're all scared and stiff"

It reminds me of someone I loved and lost, try as I might to change her. First released as a simple acoustic ballad on One Foot in the Grave.

6. I Am the Walrus by The Beatles (Magical Mystery Tour)

"Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your Knickers down."

It could've been "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" or "In My Life" or even "I'm So Tired," but we all know the Beatles, and I didn't want to turn this into ten songs by the Beatles starting with I. Anyway, this symphonette by John Lennon and George Harrison deserves pride of place, and I had it memorized for a while when I was 11.

5. In Bloom by Nirvana (Nevermind)

"Sell the kids for food"

For a metalhead like I was at the time, "In Bloom," with its surging power cords, tom fills and soaring chorus, was the way in. It was the first Nirvana song to grab me by the throat and not let go.

4. Intimate Interlude by Duke Ellington (The Intimate Ellington)

This song was the processional at out wedding. Jenny understood.

3. I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) by Aretha Franklin (The Very Best of Aretha Franklin, Vol. 1)

"You're a no good heart breaker
You're a liar and you're a cheat"

Aretha's Atlantic sides are some of the best-produced records ever made. Listen to the way Aretha's voice fuzzes out when she gets loud, and listen to that band!

2. It's So Easy by Guns N' Roses (Appetite for Destruction)

"Besides you ain't got nothin' better to do
And I'm bored"

So deliciously sleazy! There are days when I think this is the best song on the best album ever.

1. In a Sentimental Mood by Duke Ellington (Duke Ellington & John Coltrane)

Yes, Duke Ellington is worth three slots on my top ten. Besides, he wrote a lot of songs starting with I ("It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)," "I'm Beginning to See the Light," "In a Mellow Tone"). This exquisite track opens the beautiful album of collaborations by two of the greatest innovators, thinkers and spiritual seekers in jazz. With Aaron Bell on bass and the incomparable Elvin Jones on drums, closing the piece with a press-roll that's almost a holy act.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

[in soviet union, even video game is poor!]

Wired has a fantastic slide-show of Soviet video games, which look just ferociously awful. Put them together with Russia's creepy playgrounds, and you have a portrait of a very, very sick society. (Via BoingBoing.)

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[why 9/11 was not a hoax]

I have recently run across several sources suggesting that the attacks of 9/11 were somehow an inside job, staged by our government to keep us in a state of fear. I would like to address this idea from my own perspective, which is that the attacks were indeed a surprise staged by Al Qaeda militants intent on harming the United States.

One argument is that various people predicted the attacks. Unfortunately, while some of these predictions were prescient, none of them were specific enough to suggest any real knowledge. That terrorist attacks on the United States — and on the World Trade Center in New York — were likely was a matter of public record; after all, the World Trade Center was bombed by Al Qaeda-associated militants in 1993, and Al Qaeda had staged subsequent attacks against the USS Cole and US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. There is nothing startling in someone having predicted that this pattern would continue to escalate, nor in arguing that the US response to a serious attack, if and when it came, would be to invade Afghanistan and go looking for Al Qaeda in caves.

A bit more prescience would be needed to imagine the War on Terror as it came to pass, complete with an invasion of Iraq and the installation of mechanisms for endless war and social control. A relatively small number of people did indeed make such predictions, pulling together ideas from Orwell and suspicions that Bush Jr. wished to complete Bush Sr.'s work in Iraq. These predictions turned out to be the right ones, as opposed to the many, many other predictions made by knowledgeable and thoughtful people. This doesn't prove foreknowledge, but only that the events of 9/11 and its aftermath were not so utterly unlikely that no one could have guessed.

There are other signs and portents trotted out to demonstrate that the 9/11 attacks were somehow an inside job. The difficulty with believing any such scenario is that it would require that the Bush administration accomplished an incredibly complex, spectacularly criminal covert operation with such precision and efficiency that no one in the United States or elsewhere — and that includes a lot of very pissed of NYPD and FBI and Pentagon people — ever managed to find anything like incontrovertible evidence of their involvement. This would stand in contrast to the spectacular incompetence of the administration in just about everything else it has ever tried. I needn't go through the litany of failures here, but it's worth nothing that the efforts at secrecy — around the CIA black sites, the outing of Valerie Plame, the inaction on Al Qaeda before 9/11, the rapid decision after 9/11 to focus on Iraq — have been consistently ineffective. The idea that there is somehow a darker, more sinister, more competent force behind the overt bumblers in power is in some ways reassuring, but it is far less plausible than the widely accepted scenario on 9/11, which is that a small band of fanatical terrorists pulled off an attack that turned out to be surprisingly murderous.

So why haven't we been attacked again? A weird inversion of the idea that the Bush administration attacked America on purpose is the idea that they have subsequently not attacked America on purpose, and that this proves Al Qaeda is really a hoax. The lack of a terrorist attack since 9/11 is considered evidence that the Bush administration must have staged the first one, because our security couldn't possibly be good enough to thwart a second attack for this long.

For one thing, this argument demands that we believe our security forces are incompetent — the same security forces that secretly staged 9/11, remember, and covered it up. It also demands that we somehow ignore or explain away the bombings in London, Spain and Bali, which are evidence that Al Qaeda is indeed hard at work. Is Al Qaeda in league with the Bush administratioin? Is that why they've attacked elsewhere but not here? This seems highly unlikely. The War on Terror isn't going so well, nor is the Bush plan for government control through endless war. Bush and his party would be far better served by the capture of Osama bin Laden than by getting caught making friends with him.

The current administration has done more than enough horrifically bad business that we know is true: thousands of American fighters killed and wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, the sanctioning and use of torture, the indefinite detention of thousands of innocents, the gutting of American environmental laws while we look the other way on global warming, the devastation of our global image and influence, the incompetence on North Korea and Iran, the undermining of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the utterly bungled response to the destruction of a major American city, the corruption and scandal at every level of government.

The Bush administration is bad enough. There is no need to give them extra credit.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

[hometown heros]

Gothamist reports on a small act of heroism at my home subway station, Smith and Ninth on the F.

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[ninety days]

90-Day ChipToday marks 90 days of continuous sobriety for me.

Recovery from my various addictions has not been easy — for one thing, quitting has meant rediscovering all the reasons I was using in the first place — but I am glad to be on this path of recovery. I am learning about myself and learning how to reengage with the world in important ways. I am facing old fears. I am hopeful for the future. I am grateful for the last 90 days of sobriety, and looking forward to another sober day today.

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It's a very long way to the next presidential election, or even the first primaries, so I haven't been blogging a lot about the various bumps and ruffles in the polls. But TPM Café points to an interesting Gallup poll that shows Obama and Clinton in a dead heat, both when paired directly and when put in the pack with all the other candidates1.

This goes against every poll we've seen so far, all of which have put Hillary in the lead, and I see it as a hopeful sign. I am not a Clinton hater — I respect her work in the Senate — but I have a variety of reasons to think she's the least compelling of the leading Dems. She's the most conservative, for one thing, with a history of DLC-style triangulation, and I think that was a great strategy back in the early nineties. With the Bush disaster, though, I think we have a real opening for a new progressivism in America, and I would hate to see that frittered away on compromise and caution. I am also uncomfortable with the big-money aspect of her campaign and her ties to all the people who have kept Democrats losing for years. Her refusal to admit she was wrong on her Iraq vote is disheartening, and her political hedging around the issue is depressing to watch. And I am simply bothered by the idea of having two families rule America for 28 years, which is what we'd get if Hillary were to win in '08 and '12.

That said, any of the Democratic front-runners, including non-candidate Gore, would be just fine with me as president. I appreciate that Edwards has apologized for his vote on the war and called the War on Terror a nonsensical idea, I like that his talk on healthcare is serious, and I appreciate his emphasis on poverty issues. Obama is impressive in his whole political approach, he made his name as an anti-poverty activist, and he had the good sense to be against the war from the start — plus he has the advantage of beating every GOP candidate in early polls. Hillary is bright, capable, immensely knowledgeable about healthcare, and a sophisticated political fighter. And Al Gore has been right about so many things for so long that I wish we could just install him as president and beg him to fix everything that's broken.

So if Hillary wins the nomination, I can live with that. But I want this to be a race. This is an extraordinarily rich Democratic field, and I would hate to see it go to the default candidate without a struggle. I certainly don't want to see the party tear itself apart, but a vigorous debate and real passion on the ground would be great.

1.The matchups that include all the declared Dem candidates also include Al Gore, so an interesting question is where Gore's support goes if he doesn't run. Recent polls gave Hillary a 7-point bump and Barack getting just 4 points from a Gorectomy. But then, that poll also gives Clinton a 12-point lead.


Previous Posts

[things i'd like to write about but haven't]
[drop the red lantern]
[how not to apply for a job]
[pop is the new alternative]
[what does it all mean?]
[national fears]
[lies, damn lies, and sound effects]
[our pakistan moment?]
[how to fail like an olympian]
[cold winters]


July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
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July 2008
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November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
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