Poem: "We"

Oct. 1st, 2013 03:59 pm
"We got our asses kicked yesterday."

Monday morning at a diner in the suburbs,
the words spiral over from the next table.
The men have been talking about work,
and at first I think they mean on the job site.

But of course by "we" they mean the Bears,
and the ass-kickers are Detroit, I realize,
as the sentence stutter-steps around the offense,
drops through an alternate parsing route, and scores.

This "we" that makes such strange linguistic sense,
I still can't wrap my hands around it and tuck it under my arm.
I'm not a part of this "we," this synecdoche,
the "we" meaning "they" meaning "us all."

My ass suffered no kicking on that gridiron,
nor did the asses of my two neighbors,
and Chicago's still intact, as far as I can tell,
her buildings straight, her storefronts unsacked.

This allegiance, this adhesion, it's all Greek to me,
an apostate, an infidel to the geography of devotion.
Betrayed by congregations of "we," cast out,
I stand apart. No border could make "we" of "they" and "me."

Until this morning's news intrudes. Dateline: The Capitol.

We got our asses kicked yesterday.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
I wrote my own mailing list software for this website at least a decade ago, but I've grown a bit tired of trying to maintain it on my own. I'm switching over to MailChimp for all my email newsletter needs. The old mailing list is going to quietly expire. If you'd like to sign up for the new one, you can do so right here, or from the Mailing List link in the site menu:

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
UPDATE! 11:44 a.m.  I was right to be suspicious of this story. Turns out that R.D. Rosen in the Washington Post debunked Cheeta's supposed longevity back in 2008. The news media has done an abominable job of fact-checking today. NPR itself acknowledged in a sidebar to a Cheeta story in 2009 that the chimp identity was not what it claimed to be. This clearly isn't as big a fuck-up as the reporting in the run-up to the Iraq War, but it's a difference of degree, not kind.
NPR News is reporting in its headlines this morning that (to paraphrase) Cheeta, the chimpanzee who played Tarzan's ape sidekick in the movies, has died at the age of 80. This makes it sound like Cheeta was the only chimp to play Cheeta, which he wasn't, and that his age was well-established, which it wasn't.

There were something like fifteen or sixteen different apes (including at least one orangutan and one human) who played Cheeta in the films and TV shows, often with more than one in the same production. And while the Cheeta who just died is alleged to have been born in 1931, this has never been established as fact, nor has the claim that this chimp was acquired from the estate of Johnny Weissmuller in 1957—nor, really, the claim that this chimp was one of the original actors from the Weissmuller-era movies.

Chimps in captivity have been known to live into their 60s, but 80? It's possible, of course, but the chain of custody on this chimp is based on hearsay. I don't believe it myself. But whether it's true of not, the story being reported in the NPR news blips leaves a lot to be desired, implies facts that aren't facts, and reports hearsay as straight fact.

I swear, it's like NPR based this news report on an email forward from my mother.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
If you're reading this, I assume you have at least a passing interest, if not a full-blown stake, in the future of online journalism. Most saliently, how can the business of news-gathering and distribution be monetized? Can it ever make money? How will the news business survive in the future, and what will it look like? How will readers consume news?

If you live in Chicago and care about these questions, you owe it to yourself and your community to attend the Chicago Media Future Conference. Organized by Mike Fourcher, Barbara Iverson, and (my friend) Scott Smith, this FREE conference will be held Saturday, June 13, at Columbia College's Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash) from 1:30pm to 4:45pm. The program consists of two moderated 90-minute panels, each with a 10-minute introduction.

I hope you'll take the time to attend, but don't do it just on my say-so. Organizer Scott Smith was a guest this past Friday evening on WLUW's Out of the Loop Radio, and you can hear him discussing the conference in this audio stream, starting at about 2:01:

(As an added bonus, the segment after Scott's is about the recent ruling in 2006's infamous Jefferson Tap police brawl.)

Anyway, the discussion of these topics is already underway at ChicagoMediaFuture.org, and you can follow the conference on Twitter at @chgomediafuture.
I have my breakfast stop to thank for another little gem this morning. The 31-year-old father at the booth next to mine (I know his age because it came up in his conversation) was summarizing news stories from the Sun-Times for his two young daughters, and I was listening in with half an ear over my eggs and coffee as I read Then We Came to the End.

Both my ears perked up when he mentioned Brigham Young University. You may have seen this A.P. story already:

Apostles, not apostates: BYU paper's ungodly typo
Thousands of issues of Brigham Young University's student newspaper were pulled from newsstands because a front-page photo caption misidentified leaders of the Mormon church as apostates instead of apostles....

The caption called the group the "Quorum of the Twelve Apostates." The mistake happened when a copy editor ran a computer spell check and apostate was suggested as the replacement for a misspelling of apostle....  [full article]
I almost sprayed coffee all over my book as the father transmitted the gist of the story. After he had explained the meaning of "apostate," one of the girls asked, "Did someone do it on purpose?"

"No, honey, it was just a mistake."

A delightful mistake. I wish I had a copy of one of those recalled issues. I think I'd like to be a founding member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostates.
If you're looking for some alternative political listening for this long, long Election Day, check out this segment from the October 24 episode of WNYC's "On the Media," which handily debunks the myth of the Bradley effect:

Ghost of Bradley Present
Here are a set of three very different articles, different in every way, one for each of the three beauty queens in John McCain's life:

The Daily Mail on Carol McCain:
"The Wife U.S. Republican John McCain Callously Left Behind" by Sharon Churcher

The New Yorker on Cindy McCain:
"The Lonesome Trail" by Ariel Levy

The Nation on Sarah Palin:
"Beauty and the Beast" by Joann Wypijewski

We have tabloid journalism, sober liberal reporting, and over-the-top analysis that tries too hard, but I found each article interesting in its own way.
Sarah Palin doesn't know what the Bush Doctrine is, and her embarrassing attempts to weasel a clue out of Charles Gibson are not even worthy of a high-school forensics student:

Yes, Mrs. Palin, obviously you're ready to be President. I will sleep without nightmares knowing you will answer that three a.m. phone call with that blank deer-in-headlights stare. You make me pine for Dan Quayle.

(With thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ajodasso for a ready link to this video when I went looking for it.)
Seven years on, what does September 11th mean? Nothing.

Perhaps it would be less confrontational to say it means everything, or anything.

I had a terrible argument with a relative of mine during those bleak last months of 2001. I said something to the effect that a person's experience of September 11th was more valid if he or she was there, or at least that's how, in my clumsy way of speaking, my words came across. My relative took great offense at the idea that he wasn't as affected in Utah as I was in New York City. "You're telling me," he said, "that you wouldn't feel bad if someone blew up the Church Office Building in Salt Lake?"

"Of course I'd feel bad," I said. "But I wouldn't feel the same way as a person in Salt Lake. It would be more abstract for me."

This got me nowhere, but I stand by the core argument I was trying to make. I was in Queens when the planes hit the towers, and as much terror and horror as I felt watching from the seat of my bike at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island as all that black smoke roiled into the air four miles away, my experience was nothing like that of the people who had to run for their lives through the debris cloud when the first tower collapsed, or, God forbid, like that of the ones who had to choose between burning to death or jumping to death. And my experience of that day—of seeing the city where I lived and worked and played be attacked and disfigured and transformed, of losing the ugly but somehow comforting giant landmarks that made orienting yourself in the urban maze so simple, of ghosting through the otherworldly hush of Manhattan in the days that followed, of rolling through the deserted and darkened subway station at Cortlandt Street—was quantifiably different from someone whose experience of that event was entirely mediated through television, radio, print, email, telephone, and word-of-mouth, and who maybe had never been to New York City at all.

This doesn't mean someone two or even twelve thousand miles away could not have been affected as significantly by September 11th as someone who was in one of the target zones. I can't even call the spheres of experience concentric, because someone in Japan who lost a family member that day is no doubt still more affected by it than I was. I don't think there's a person in the world who wasn't affected somehow, and to graph everyone's comparative experience would call for the most complicated Venn diagram ever devised.

Only if you grant my proposition that September 11th is in and of itself meaningless can you possibly say that John McCain and Barack Obama appearing together at Ground Zero is not political. Maybe I suffer from a lack of imagination, but I can't see how the sight of opposing presidential candidates, one young and black, one old and white, sharing a stage at the site of the most deadly terrorist attack on American soil can fail to be political. What that political meaning will be will of course be different to each person watching, but it will be there because of the individual emotional freight we all bring to such images as contrasting skin color, American flags, snapshots of the dead, and giant holes in the ground.

And that emotional freight will dictate how we feel, and how we feel will, in most cases, dictate how (or whether) we vote in November. The more I read and listen to voices on the radio, the more elections I live through, the more I'm coming to believe that we vote because of how we feel, not because of what we think. And I think we are feeling our way blindly into deeper disaster.

With Bush's approval ratings so dismal for so long, there is no logical reason for McCain and Obama to be so close in the polls. A Republican administration got us embroiled, bogged down, and distracted in Iraq, wrecked our economy, rolled back our civil rights, and ruined our standing in the world, and yet it's still working for Republicans to say that only they can fix the mess they got us into. McCain's recklessness in picking his running mate is confirmation of his "maverick" credentials, while Obama's long and fruitful relationship with his is swept under the rug. Obama's long experience is dismissed as non-experience, while Palin's non-experience is pumped up to levels of Jeffersonian statesmanship. Her family demands that its pregnant teen daughter's "decision" remain a private matter, while stumping for judicial change that would take that same private decision away from other families. McCain's erratic record is seen as consistency, and Obama's consistency is seen as dangerous. Outward signifiers like flag pins are more important than inward qualities like reason, compassion, and integrity. The levels of Orwellian doublespeak are remarkable, and the mind-bending contradictions make natural sense to way too many people.

Reason does not rule us as a species. The heart does, or some deeper, less specific organ of instinctual decision-making. That's why we're more likely to swallow big happy lies than sober assessments, galloping cowboys than careful blueprints, loaded buzzwords from an old white man than reasoned conclusions from a young black man. It's the same organ that tells us God can cure our cancer even though we know He will never restore our severed limbs. It's because we make our decisions with our guts, not our brains.

Of course, that's just my gut talking. It's just what I see in the meaningless image of those twin smoking towers, the greatest and most crucial Rorschach inkblot test in our nation's recent history. If I hope anything today, it's that we can all see through the inkblot, and not let our vision be clouded by it.
I like the part in this Paul Begala editorial at CNN.com where he calls Lieberman McCain's "fellow Iraq Kool-Aid drinker."

Now I'm logging off. Really.
In July Sarah Palin asked, facetiously, what it is the vice-president really does:

Granted, she seemed to be using levity to deflect the question of whether or not she would be a McCain VP pick, but she sounds pretty silly in the process. Maybe she should have read last year's Washington Post series on Dick Cheney's role in the Bush White House.

Palin pick

Aug. 29th, 2008 10:57 am
If this is true, McCain and the Republicans are going hard after disgruntled female Clinton supporters. Now I'm very afraid.
I guess giving away free ebooks is only news when HarperCollins does it, not Tor or Ace or especially Baen.


Feb. 18th, 2008 09:58 am
An anonymous reader points out that I did indeed hear Africa referred to as "the dark continent" on NPR last week, and that they apologized today on air:

The mere sound of Dubya's voice makes my skin crawl at the best of times: the petulance in it, the nervous laugh that always accompanies the dopey statements he thinks should be self-evident, the lack of any statesmanlike timbre whatsoever. Whenever he opens his mouth to address an audience, any audience, he sounds like a dull bully being called on the carpet and defending himself incompetently.

Hearing him yesterday on the news, though, I heard a chilling new steel in his voice. As he was chiding the House of Representatives for not rubber-stamping the Senate's wiretapping reauthorization bill, telling them they must do so immediately, I swear God it sounded like he was about to say, "That is why I have taken your congressmen hostage, and I will execute one representative every minute until this bill is passed. That gives you ... um, less than a week, heh heh, so let's hurry, people!"
The best part about this news story from the UK...

Stripper Spanks Teen In Surprise Blunder

A teenage schoolboy was pulled around his classroom on a lead and spanked by a stripper after a birthday surprise blunder.

The pupil's mum had ordered an agency to give her son a "surprise" on his 16th birthday—and the teacher had even agreed to film the prank.

But it all went wrong when the unnamed company sent a stripper dressed as a policewoman instead of a "gorillagram"—in what it called a booking error....  [full article]
...is that no one was suspended. Suspended? In the US, some school official would probably have lost his job by now, and the family would have been run out of town. Not to mention that someone would sue someone somewhere.

(This story sounds like a pilot episode for Coupling Jr. Poor teen Jeff! Um, who was the bright bulb who thought they could bring that show successfully to American network TV?)
Philadelphia Inquirer books editor Frank Wilson uses Cormac McCarthy as an excuse to peddle the rankest of bullshit in his column of yesterday:

Of course, as D.H. Lawrence pointed out in the last book he wrote, Apocalypse, those who warn of apocalypse secretly crave it, the way puritans tend to be turned on by the very vices they so loudly denounce.

The Road is just the latest installment in the pornography of despair.  [full diatribe]
That saw Wilson trots out about those who warn of apocalpypse is one that gets appropriated and applied out of context time and again in a ploy to shame us into thinking that everything will be all right if we just carry on in the style to which we have become accustomed. Lawrence's book was at least in part a diatribe against Christianity, a religion whose anticipated Apocalypse is a rather different animal from environmental disaster. Believers in Apocalypse believe that Apocalypse is inevitable, and they look forward to the happy horseshit of the Millennium that will follow. Believers in environmental catastrophe, or in nuclear winter, or in a host of other terrors of the modern age, don't believe the end is necessarily inevitable. If they did, why would they be trying to raise enough awareness to avert it?

Furthermore, in the balance of his column, Frank Wilson pretty much shames books editors everywhere by displaying his tin ear for brilliant, poetic prose, his utter lack of sophistication as a reader, and his blindness to symbolic content as he drops road apples all over The Road. Of course, if he denudes the book of its value as art, all that can remain in his cramped little mind is a perception of pornography. It's all in the eye of the beholder, after all. To me, pornography is American soldiers and Iraqi citizens dying unnecessarily while Washington watches, skies and seas poisoned as we blithely career down dead-end roads in our dead-end SUVs. Pornography is not contained, nor would be it even be containable, within the borders of The Road.
Our favorite paper news digest, The Week, has published this week's issue on the web, for free, without a paper version:

For one week only, The Week has published a full issue exclusively online, bringing a bonus issue to you at reduced impact to the environment.
Not a bad advertising technique, either. And when more people subscribe because of this, they can use even more paper!

(But the really bad part is, this issue is not so well suited for bathroom reading.)
Here are a couple of fun little squibs from page 8 of this week's The Week:

Bad week for...
Mitt Romney, after the presidential candidate alienated an audience of Cuban Americans in Miami by quoting, in stumbling Spanish, the Communist slogan "Fatherland or death. We shall overcome!" Romney apparently didn't realize that the slogan has been used for decades by Fidel Castro to salute Cuba's revolution.
Only in America
Utah state officials have ordered motorist Glenn Eurick to remove the vanity license plate "merlot" from his car, after discovering that Merlot is a type of wine. State law prohibits the names of "intoxicants" on license plates, but Eurick, who has had the plate for 10 years, said most people in the largely Mormon state were puzzled, not offended, by it. "People usually ask us what the words means," he said.
Utah, I drink to your health.
I'm not sure which would be worse to receive—a head in a box, or, um, something else in a box.

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