[the palaverist]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

[answer meme]

Answer Meeee!

I'd like to know 27 things about you. Simply post a comment to this post with the answers. Thanks in advance!

1. Do you have a tattoo?
2. How old are you?
3. Are you single or taken?
4. Eat with your hands or utensils?
5. Do you dream at night?
6. Ever seen a corpse?
7. George Strait or Jay Z?
8. How did we meet?
9. What's your philosophy on life and death?
10. If you could do anything with me, and have no one know, what would it be?
11. Do you trust the police?
12. Do you like Country music?
13. What is your fondest memory of me?
14. If you could change anything about yourself what would it be?
15. Would you cheat?
16. What do you wear to sleep?
17. Have you ever peed in a pool?
18. Would you hide evidence for me if I asked you to?
19. If I only had one day to live, what would we do together?
20. Which do you prefer - short or long hair?
21. Do you sing in the shower?
22. What's your favorite color?
23. If you could bring back anyone that has passed, who would it be?
24. Tell me one interesting/odd fact about you?
25. What was your first impression of me?
26. Have you ever done drugs?
27. Will you post this so I can fill it out for you?


Monday, September 24, 2007

[the fighting 13th]

I posted recently about the upcoming Congressional race in my district, NY-13, and got a comment from the author of NY13 Blog, who gave me a nice shout-out.

I'll be keeping my eye on this blog as we move closer to campaign season. Oh, and here's the comment, in case you missed it:
Hi! Found your post after searching for news on Fossella. Recchia has formed an exploratory committee and has some big backing (Rep. Jerry Nadler and even McMahon). Cusick and McMahon are not going to jump into this race unless there is some massive scandal and the DCCC comes throwing money at one of them to take out Fossella. So expect to see a Harrison v. Recchia primary race although I am not sure both will stay in through September.
Good stuff.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

[swastika hysteria]

Fashion house Zara has gotten itself into trouble by accidentally selling purses with swastikas on them in the UK. Denis Fernando, national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, responded forcefully: "Fascism and racist symbols are sometimes legitimised in popular culture, this is one of those times."

Except it's not. As a nice Jewish boy with a swastika on my living room wall, I'd like to explain.

Like most people in the West, I grew up associating the swastika strictly with the Nazis, and I was appalled by any display of it, in any form. It had a kind of radioactive power that compelled disgust — an entirely appropriate response to any attempted glorification of Nazism, however crude. When my German-descended high school classmate drew them on his desk (in pencil, crookedly and backwards), I took it as a personal insult, and that's how it was intended.

It was my trip to India in 1997, just after college, that changed my perspective on the swastika. Again and again during my four months in the Subcontinent, concepts I had never thought to question turned out to be completely contingent on cultural context, and swastikas were no exception. In Nepal, I was amused to find that the swastika was included with the hammer and sickle in a pro-communist graffito, a juxtaposition unimaginable in the West. In India, I saw swastikas branded on camel's butts, put on goofy stickers for kids, painted on people's faces. I even saw snacks arranged into swastikas. Three years later, in Korea, I became even more used to the ubiquity of swastikas, which tended to mark Buddhist gathering places or shamanistic fortune tellers' shops in otherwise nondescript streets of three-story brick suburbia.

The swastika on my wall is on the palm of the Hindu god Ganesh, in one of four extraordinarily beautiful posters I picked up for a few dollars on the street in Mumbai back in 1998. It's a symbol that can mean death, horror and destruction, but also means welcome and good luck to millions upon millions of people in our world. (In this respect, it's not unlike the cross or the crescent.) Ganesh's swastika is not the Nazi black outline on a white circle in a red field. It's red, trimmed with gold, hand-painted with affection. Likewise, the Zara swastikas were a cheerful green, enclosed in a red sunburst.

What interests me in all this is the way this fundamental shibboleth of Western culture makes absolutely no sense in the context of a globalized world. This won't be the last time some Asian swastika sneaks its way into the West. At the same time, the whole Danish-Muhammad-cartoon crisis makes it clear that these kinds of misunderstanding can run in every direction. What is necessary on all sides is a ratcheting down of the knee-jerk rhetoric, a consideration of context before the declarations of outrage.

I recognize that this won't be easy. Some jackass is always willing to scream bloody murder just to get attention. But we should remember that any symbol sent from one culture to another is in need of translation. A swastika from India is no more an obscenity than a Vietnamese person named Phuc.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

[don't forget congress]

There's a lot of attention already being paid to the 2008 presidential election, but let's not forget about Congress!

In 2006, I campaigned in New York's 13th Congressional District to support Steve Harrison's scrappy but unsuccessful bid to unseat Conservative Republican Vito Fossella.

Now that I actually live in the district, I'm even more anxious to see Fossella taken down. Steve Harrison has announced he'll run again, but the New York Times mentions three other potential candidates: City Council members Michael E. McMahon of Staten Island and Domenic M. Recchia Jr. of Brooklyn, and Assemblyman Michael Cusick of Staten Island.

I know next to nothing about any of these guys, but in the coming weeks and months, maybe one or more of them will declare, and it'll be time to do some research.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine is backing a friend of his, one Tom Perriello, in a campaign to unseat Virgil Goode in Virginia's 5th CD.

Goode is a former Democrat who voted for three out of four articles of impeachment against Clinton, then became a Republican in 2002, becoming the first Republican to serve in the district since Reconstruction. He came to national prominence by loudly criticizing Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison's to be sworn into Congress over a Koran rather than a Bible. (In a delicious irony, the Korean Ellison used was once owned by Thomas Jefferson, whose Monticello home is in Goode's district.)

I don't know much about Perriello yet, but I'm going to a fundraising party tomorrow to find out more. What I do know comes from his Res Publica profile:
Before co-founding Res Publica, Tom served as Special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a United Nations tribunal, and as a Yale Law School/OSI Teaching Fellow in West Africa. He has worked for the US State Department, the International Centre for Transitional Justice and others on human rights and legal reform efforts in Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosovo, Argentina, Chile, India, and the United States. Prior to law school, he worked as Assistant Director of the Center for a Sustainable Economy (now part of Redefining Progress) and as a consultant on youth and environemental campaigns ... Tom is also a founder of the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good. He holds a BA in Humanities from Yale College and a J.D. from Yale Law School and is a member of the New York State Bar.
It's all good stuff, but not exactly the kind of good stuff that's going to wow Virginia voters. Hopefully there's another side to his story. I'll keep you posted.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

[mattress purchased]

As an update on the mattress situation, I took the plunge and bought a Sealy Posturepedic something-or-other from Sears online for what seems to me a not insane price (Labor Day sale, comparison shopping, testing beds at Macy's, etc.). Of course, it's impossible to know whether the thing I bought cheap from Sears is or is not the same as the thing I tried out at Macy's, but what the hell. It appears to be flat and full of springs and I can sleep on it. And it's not one of those obnoxious pillow-top dealies, which inevitably wind up with divots. If I want cushions on top, I can put cushions on top. And then, when those cushions get compacted or stanky or whatever, I can take them off again, and replace the $30 foam instead of the $400 mattress. Genius.

It'll be delivered next Saturday, and I will sleep on it.

Oh, and thanks, Miriam, for the suggestion on an organic mattress. I would've considered it seriously if I hadn't already made my purchase, but now I just hope it's something I have absolutely no reason to think about for a very long time.


[birthday blues]

Tomorrow is September 8, my birthday. It's been a very tough year, to say the least. I'll try to think of this as a new beginning. Another year, and life goes on.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

[mattress blues]

I just want a damn mattress.

Right now I'm sleeping on an AeroBed, and it's actually not bad, but it's not great either, and I'm not too keen on having to reinflate my bed every night. What if there's a power outage? Will I have to sleep on the couch?

But then the question of buying a mattress looms, and I am overcome with the horrible complexity of it all.

Just over a year ago, Jenny and I paid a fortune at Sleepy's (probably not a good place to shop, but oh well) for a mattress I never really liked all that much. It had a pillowtop, which sagged into divots just like I feared it would.

What I want now is a firm mattress without any stupid memory foam or air chambers or anything else freaky, and without excessive cushioning on the top that will sink into a trough within a year. If I want to put foam or a featherbed on top of my mattress, I can. Then I can take it off again when it gets grungy or saggy or whatever.

But where do you even go to buy a mattress? Sleepy's has a terrible rep. Is 1-800-Mattress any better? And how do I even begin to compare all these confusing features? How do I not get stuck with a sagging beast?



Tuesday, September 04, 2007


It's done.

After six years together, four of them married, Jenny and I are officially living apart. This hurts more than I can say.

Granted, we had been moving apart for a long time. Jenny's consulting job kept her away for long stretches, and then, after the rupture point about six months ago, she took the gig in Chicago and was home only on weekends. And once we reached the point of recognizing the marriage as over, Jenny stayed with friends, and took a sublet for the month of August. So this is just one further step apart — but for once, it's my step, not hers. I have moved.

As far as the actual mechanics of the thing, all went relatively smoothly. The moving team from Flat Rate was efficient and friendly and led by a man who had come to New York to work with a friend of his who happens to be the ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the United Nations, but somehow ended up hauling boxes and furniture instead. Over the course of an exhausting Saturday, the bed delivery, the cable guy, the AC installer and FreshDirect all showed up at their appointed times and did their appointed business. So did my friend F, who had offered to go to Ikea and pick up furniture for me in his minivan (minor snafu: he bought only one bookshelf, not the five I need). By the end of the evening, with the help of still another friend from recovery, I had a working computer and a working TV stand with a working TV on it. Oh, and Jenny helped too, particularly with putting up the curtains so I could have some privacy, though it turns out my windows face out mostly towards brick wall and sky (you can see the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from my bathroom window).

Daniel came by on Sunday for more furniture assembly, and he displayed his considerable box-bundling prowess. By the end of Monday — which involved taking the subway up to the old neighborhood to get the car, then a drive to a Wal-Mart in deep Jersey for some $600-odd worth of exciting items like a dish drainer and a kitchen drawer organizer — I had cleared away a fair amount of the wreckage and established a basically functional home in which I could shower and shave, find my shoes and my keys, make my morning tea, check my email, and get out the door, and then come home again, order in some dinner and watch some TV. There's still a ton of work, but it will happen.

And there are good aspects too. There are advantages to living in a real apartment building again: an incinerator chute (to a bin, not to an incinerator) and recycling room where I can take my trash any day of the week, a full-time super, laundry in the basement, an elevator, a buzzer to let in guests and delivery guys without having to find my shoes and trudge downstairs. My location somehow allows me excellent FM reception for WFMU and WKCR, which is nice. And there's a ton of shopping and restaurants to explore in my new neighborhood — just last night I found an excellent kebab joint. One day I may even stop feeling sad about living where I do, and about living on my own.


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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May 2008
July 2008
August 2008
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November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
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July 2011


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