First, please go to this page and read some Eric Hoffer quotes. My jaw is quite lowered by the wisdom in observations such as this: 9. There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life. Moreover, when we have an alibi for not writing a book, painting a picture, and so on, we have an alibi for not writing the greatest book and not painting the greatest picture. Small wonder that the effort expended and the punishment endured in obtaining a good alibi often exceed the effort and grief requisite for the attainment of a most marked achievement.
"A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." John Stuart Mill
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded sense of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse." John Stuart Mill
Matt is doing an awesome job covering the more illogical and ill-informed responses to the recent tragedy. His link to this article is worth repeating, cause it's very well thought out and argued. Here's a quote: "Yet the mainstream left, ever shuffling its feet, fears only the discomfort that might result from repudiating such an indefensible and humiliating posture. (i.e. The Taliban's agenda.)"
I recently read a couple books by Mark Bowden which turned out to be very relevant to current events. Both were associated with long series of articles for the Philadelphia Inquirer, so you can read pretty much the whole books on their web sites. The first one I read was "Killing Pablo," about the hunt for Columbian kingpin Pablo Escobar. U.S. Delta Force worked for a year and a half with the Columbian military to find him and let them hunt him down. The Special Forces were consistently disappointed that when they would locate Escobar using tech surveillance, the Colombians who had to go in would hesitate, and word would be leaked to Escobar, and by the time they got there he would be gone again. One gets the sense that were it not for the Executive Order banning assassination, the Special Ops guys could have killed him in couple weeks instead of a waiting for the Columbians to do it in a couple years. Eventually it was his cell and radio phone conversations that compromised him. Unfortunately bin Laden stopped using such communication after a journalist wrote about how the CIA was tracking him through those signals or something like that. The other one was a slightly older book called "Black Hawk Down" about the battle of Mogadishu in Somalia, where 18 Rangers and Delta Force guys were killed and 73 wounded in an operation where they dropped into the middle of the city to arrest some rebel leaders and got bogged down and surrounded by thousands of angry people with AK's and grenade launchers. You may remember this as the time when dead American soldiers were dragged through the streets, but after you read this you realize it was drastically played down in the press. Two of their Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in the streets before it was over. It's estimated that they killed 500 Somalis (and mercenaries) before it was over. It's a horrific story, including descriptions of Somali gunmen using women and children as shields to fire on the Americans. I've also been reading about Stalin, totalitarian fascism, and the cult of personality, another scary subject. And the early middle ages, which I really hope isn't relevant cause Rome gets sacked a lot.
Another book I read a long time ago keeps coming into my mind when trying to understand what's going on: It's called "The True Believer - Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" by Eric Hoffer. Hoffer, the "longshoreman philosopher," was an untrained writer who wrote this book in the wake of WWII (published in 1951) about man's propensity for fanaticism and blind faith. He outlines the types of personality and social conditions that can lead to any kind of irrational following, such as Nazi fascism or religious fanaticism. It is a short and simple book (for a philosophy book) that really illuminates the mechanisms involved in the true believer syndrome. A scary read, especially in today's climate, but informative and hopeful in that understanding this mechanism is the first step towards thwarting it. Here's a couple quotes:
"A war is not won if the defeated enemy has not been turned into a friend."
"The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."
"The proselytizing fanatic strengthens his own faith by converting others. The creed whose legitimacy is most easily challenged is likely to develop the strongest proselytizing impulse."
"It is doubtful if the oppressed ever fight for freedom. They fight for pride and power- power to oppress others. The oppressed want above all to imitate their oppressors; they want to retaliate."
Here's a nice picture of my companions at the Dodger game last night. You couldn't pick two better guys to go to a ball game with than Tony and Matt. Back in the UCSB days, these two coached a little league team and I went out to see one of their games once. Between them they know pretty much everything about baseball, so it was an education. The game itself wasn't too great, the Dodgers lost to the Padres 3-2, but it was really nice being there with all the people and at least trying to get back to normal. Even if all we talked about was the current events. Attendance was sparse and the mood was subdued, but we all seemed to feel better coming out of there. Here's an action shot that Molli took:
It was by far the most emotional singing of the National Anthem that I've ever experienced.
Above is a painting I did on Saturday. I had planned to spend all weekend working on a different set of paintings, but my heart wasn't in it. Instead I decided to do some stuff just to try and express some of the things I was feeling. Sure it would be ugly and sad, but at least I'd get it out. I've used painting (and playing music too) as a form of therapy for a long time. To paint you must sit in one place and concentrate for awhile, make decisions and be creative. The act of creation gives one power, at least in a psychological sense, and for me a proof of being alive. Plus sitting there you have time to think calmly, without the endless input of the past week. So after a pretty much all black painting, I did this one of a guy screaming out in pain/anger/fear/sorrow.
posted by Greg 9:34 AM
This Oscar winning Bob Dylan song won't leave my head, and I haven't heard it for a few weeks. Here's the third verse:
I've been walkin' forty miles of bad road If the Bible is right the world will explode I'm tryin' to get as far away from myself as I can Some things are too hot to touch The human mind can only stand so much You can't win with a losing hand Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet Puttin' her in a wheelbarrow and wheelin' her down the street People are crazy and times are strange I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range I used to care but - things have changed.
A week later. After coming together last week, it seems to me that the anger is taking hold and people are starting to lash out, pointing fingers and letting their fear manifest itself in unhealthy ways. The only thing we can do is be there for each other, keep talking and sharing our feelings, and realize that everyone is confused and trying to make their own sense of what happened. There are things we can and will do to fight back, but they're not things that can be done overnight, which makes it even harder to accept. Here's a page on the psychology of grief that I found helpful.
posted by Greg 9:20 AM
In the interest of full disclosure, I can't say that I saw all of the great new movie "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back:" my eyes were closed from laughing so hard for at least an eighth of it. Suffice it to say that what I did see I liked a lot. I haven't laughed like that since I saw the News Radio episode where the radio station is the Titanic. It was hilarious in a semi-smart and definately not-pc way, and more importantly it had a real sweet vibe to it, a definate tounge in cheeky smirk. Read all about it on the new MoviePoopShoot.com.
posted by Greg 3:28 PM
Thursday, September 06, 2001
Um, so I saw the opera "Queen of Hearts" starring Placido Domingo the other night, and it was really great. It was my first opera. Though I admit it's a little hard for someone brought up on television and rock music to get into the slower pace, it can be very rewarding. I especially appreciated the sense of scale in every respect: huge stage, huge cast, huge orchestra, and more importantly, huge emotions and huge ideas. Love is a life and death matter, suicide a solution. The faith in the power of words put to music is inspiring. You should have heard me belting out those honky-tonk songs the next night!
"Interrogatees who are withholding but who feel qualms of guilt and a secret desire to yield are likely to become intractable if made to endure pain. The reason is that they can then interpret the pain as punishment and hence as expiation:
When we were at the Bakersfield Putt-Putt (mini-golf) before the Buck Owens show, I played the greatest video "game" ever: It's called "Mtv's Drumscape" drumming simulator. The idea is that you get to sit in this booth and play drums along with whatever song you select from their list of 50 or so. There is a pedal trigger for the bass drum and pads for the rest of the drums and cymbals, and you can hear yourself playing in surround sound. You selct the drumset you want to use (i used standard Rock) and the song (I chose "You Got Another Thing Coming" by Judas Priest) and then the screen tells you, "Start Jamming" as the song of your choice comes THUNDERING through the speakers. You're off, beating the electronic drums in time, adding your own fills and accent while your friends look on in amusement. You get to play the whole song, which in this case was about five minutes, enough for everyone to get a try and for me to start sweating. You can see how much fun it was in this picture. I just read on their website that if you buy one you can have a celebrity drummer like Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Rod Stewart. Trippy picture on his homepage.) come and do a promotional demonstration. Very cool.
And thanks to Foji for the great guest blog entry!!!
posted by Greg 10:38 AM
Saturday, September 01, 2001
firstly, I only recommend taking the train to Bakersfield if you have time. Freedom to enjoy the inconsequential. Adjointly, you must have patience. Patience enough to withstand tardiness, overly salted peanuts, and a quartet of kids aged 2 to 7. Some of them crying, while others taunting them into fits of bawling. Once in Bakersfield, cabbies know where the crystal palace is. "Buck Owens Cry..." I began to say when the hack up and whisked me to Nashville West's own shrine to all things Buck. Tee-shirts read Buck U on them as I entered the front doors. My suitcase in hand, I was escorted to my gracious hosts' table, wherein I was met with fine foods and BIG mugs of beer. "ITS BUCK!" i yelled at the stage as he eased into "Okee From Muscogee." "Buck must have seen you walk in, " said Molli.
Have ya been to the crystal Palace? Nudie suits hang in glass displays, each one carefully hand-sewn with rhinestones in patterns of birds, flowers, religious icons, and musical instruments and notes. When I can afford one, I'm gonna have one made for me, yes sir. I want one with The Virgin Mary de Guadalupe on the back. Behind the downstairs bar hung a friggin cadillac that Nudie designed for Elvis, that is rumoured to have been won by our man, Bucky, in a card game. "I'm not sayin'." Owens announced during the show when Kim asked him if this were true.
See, Owens accepts requests and also announces birthdays and anniversaries, and important things like that during the show. Between songs, him and Kim McAbee (his co-vocalist) will trade back and forth. Not unlike some of the shenanigans he'd get into when he hosted Hee-Haw. Buck's still got the pipes to wail out versions of songs both old and new. We heard him sing Long Black Veil, Black Limousine, he also did some Merle haggard tunes. Heck, he's such a pimp, he came down off'a the stage to dance with some of the fine young chicks in the audince. I bet he went home with one of 'em! After the show, we stumbled back to the Best Western. We couldn't stop laughing when we came upon this marquee in front of the hotel that read: "Congragulation Kezin."
we also persuaded Greg to pluck a few tunes on his big ole acoustic as I poured rounds of shots. By morning, we smelled funny, but we felt great. Buck'll do it for ya, too.
It's all true! The above entry was written by none other than your buddy Jonny Fojtik, who met us at the Buck show last night. It was awesome.
posted by Greg 6:39 PM