Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chomsky Pulls a Godwin

I like Noam Chomsky. He's that reliable old warhorse for the Left, always ready with a critique of the American Empire brutalizing third world peasants. But I have two problems with him --

1) He spends way too much time fussing over South America.

2) He clearly knows fuck-all about anywhere else.

While this latest is a good analysis of the current state of globalism, it's undermined by Chomsky painting some pretty broad -- and pretty wrong -- strokes concerning Germany and Europe at large. As far as Thilo Sarrazin, his recent book is less about the dangers of the mud races and more a reaction to immigration. He hit it big because he managed to articulate a very un-PC frustration Germans have with all the new Muslim faces settling into their country.

However, Germany's immigration situation is a hell of alot more complicated than just skin color. Presently, the native population does not have the birthrate to keep things running through this century. The immigrants do and anyone over there with any sense is arguing that, contrary to Sarrazin's fussing, Germany actually needs immigrants! That's the context of Merkel's assertion that multiculturalism has failed -- she was making a mea culpa to the German government's failure to properly welcome and assimilate all these newer, browner Germans. To leave that out, as Chomsky did, and to cast her words as further proof of some resurgent racism isn't just irresponsible, it's intellectually lazy. Noam, we expect more from you!

Hitler ate sugar!

But more importantly -- and what really set me off -- is Chomsky falling into the same old "if X then Nazis" logical fallacy. The US is nowhere near the condition of Weimar Republic Germany and Europe even less so. The many intersecting forces that lead to Hitler's rise to power included a global depression beyond what we're now experiencing, a multitude of political movements that engaged in real and serious violence to achieve their goals (no, those pussies in the Tea Party are not in any way comparable), and a mixture of resentment over Versailles and longstanding martial traditions just to name a few. And that second part, the politics of the era, is something that bears repeating -- I cannot emphasize enough how eager these people were to fight and die for the almighty Cause and that holds across the political spectrum of the time. Say what you want about the decline and decadence of Western Civilization, at least we're comfortable and stable enough not to be personally executing our own neighbors in the name of revolutionary ideals. Pre-1945 Europe was really an alien planet, more vicious and committed to killing each other than the bloodiest slum in Somalia. Not even the US, with its rapid descent into neofeudal Hell, can compare because even now Americans are more driven by reality TV and broadband porn than by nebulous sociopolitcal theories.

And as far as Chomsky's assertions about the National Front in Britain... Okay, the Brits are a bunch of racist wankers. I'll give him that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

God Bless Those Wacky Koreans

The gist of this is if you get a chance, go see Possessed. Just go, it's a great film.

And for those of you who don't just take my word for it (what the hell is wrong with you?) I've typed up an actual review...

If you like horror films, and I don't just mean the splatter gore porn, I mean real creeping dread then Possessed is the movie for you. It's all about atmosphere and character -- something sorely lacking in what passes for horror in America. This is like those '70s classics -- The Exorcist and The Omen -- all about the slow build into the horrifying finale. Except, and this is a big plus to Possessed, it lacks the cultural trappings of that era, making it so much more real and familiar even to a foreign audience.

And if that's not enough to sell you, Possessed also offers up an excellent critique of religion in daily life. Not theory, not rhetoric, just how everyday people adapt these beliefs and stories to their own circumstances. I'm being deliberately vague because I don't want to spoil anything but suffice to say this movie illustrates parallels between two very different faiths and it's far from flattering.

So yeah, go see Possessed. Old school horror done right, not like that fruitloop hack Miike.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Paul Ryan and Why You're a Sucker

As the US of A continues its downward spiral into third world irrelevance, I feel it necessary to point out -- again -- how the partisan slugfest holds no bearing on anything. Case in point, Paul Ryan --

I can haz deficits?

This Eddie Munster-looking twerp is performing a number you've seen a dozen times by now. He's pitching the great big austerity package that just passed in the House and is due to be shot down in the Senate. More importantly, his masters are expecting it to get shot down, that's why they chose a Wisconsin nobody to deliver this turkey. When this bill fails, whatever shovelhead gets the nomination in 2012 will get to throw it into their stump speech, decrying the Democrats disregard for serious deficit reduction.

This has been the Republican strategy for years now -- cry like babies over all the Big Gub'mint spending, demand cuts to welfare programs that have become more sacred than Jesus, then posture when it doesn't happen. The last time anyone was dumb enough to try and do it for real was Bush Jooner's push to privatize Social Security, which pushed back hard enough to make him a lame duck less than half-way into his second term. For all their noise, the GOP will never defund these programs because anyone with any sense knows their elderly white base is wholly dependent on Federal money -- as is every industry in this country turning a profit but that's for later.

This latest big-distracting-thing is grotesquely cynical even by existing standards because it adds 4 trillion to the deficit in further tax cuts to the ultra-rich while explicitly forcing the X and Y generations out of Social Security and Medicare but still requiring them to pay for the Boomers' golden years. How could such a mess of fiscal irresponsibility and generational theft be hailed as so revolutionary, especially as it boils down to a retread of the past 20 years of GOP partisan rhetoric?

Because you keep falling for it. The continued existence of the Republican Party is the best argument against democracy on this planet -- after routinely running up record deficits since the 1980s, the GOP still enjoys the public perception as the party of fiscal responsibility. The only logical conclusion is that self-described conservative voters are so fraking stupid you could sell them beachfront property on Mars.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fiend Excerpt: Life and Undeath

Do you mind if I smoke? There are precious few vices I can still indulge in and smoking happens to be one... Thank you, Doctor. What do you suppose Freud would say about this?

No, you don't think much of Freud anymore. Yet I remember when your type kept busts of him in these offices. Why you prostrated yourselves daily! Oh, I don't judge — not too harshly. Time lends a certain perspective to the immutable truths people embrace. Turns out they're quite mutable. Why, I remember when madness was nothing but an inconsistency of humors and these colonies would never challenge the dominance of continental kings and every red-blooded boy knew the best place for a quick rut was up the road at the local convent!

Forgive me, Doctor, I'm prone to rambling on and our time is limited...

As I said, I'm weary of my existence. No crisis of conscience, I assure you. I'm no serial killer — fortunately my appetite is not so great. Successful parasites after all do not kill their hosts. A few pints here and there are more than enough, and they keep the population down — my population. You see, my bite works a curious alchemy on my intended victim. Left alive and mostly healthy, they'll be quite averse to sunlight for several days — and a rare few even become quite fond of me. But should they die, should the veins run dry, then I'll shortly have another mouth to feed.

No, I do not kill regularly. Not only do I have no need, I have no wish to share. It's birth control, to put things bluntly. One too many vampires running around and the human herd starts to feel the strain... And some might begin to guess at the cause... And I can tell you from experience, such clever pajeros can be aggravating to say the least...

My need to prey on my former species does not concern me, dear Doctor. Nor the state of my eternal soul — which was quite blackened to begin with. I just can't feel... motivated anymore. I don't see the point in getting out of bed in the evening — Yes, bed. I don't sleep in a coffin like some histrionic agoraphobe! Perhaps we should cover this in detail?

As I said, I am quite strong, and I heal quite fast, and I am eternal as the mountains — barring any sharp pieces of wood. This all comes from one simple source — Blood. That all-giving, all-consuming font of life you've got thundering away inside you. Yes, I can hear it. And smell it and even see it. It's running all over you like Christmas lights! Blood is my drug of choice and really my only drug — aside from these cigarettes. Food and drink taste like so much ash and, as I lack blood in my own veins, no wonders of pharmacology work on me unless filtered through someone still breathing.

I also have the talent for striking people dumb with just my eyes — why I appear so evasive much of the time. Should I look you in the face too long, you'll forget everything I say. And should I leave someone alive, they’ll be only to eager to assist me, do my will, polish my boots — I suspect the same curious alchemy that alters the dead victims. They’ll even forget all about me in such a state if I but ask!

You might say I'm the perfection of stealth, that curious effect with the mirror extends to photos, videos, telephones. Nothing inanimate can see me — handy for sneaking about but I haven't seen my own face for a very long time.

However, I am not by any means allergic to crosses, or garlic, and my fingers are not — well, actually it seems my fingers are all the same length. Imagine that? I assume you've heard many more myths about those in my condition then I have time to dispel...

And I'm rare. In all my time and all my travels I've encountered only a handful of others like me. In fact I'd dare say there is only one of me for every million of you... Yes, it does sound lonely, doesn't it? That's partly why I'm here.

How old are you, Doctor? How do you occupy yourself away from this vocation of yours here? What do you do on the days when you have nothing worth doing? My point is simply you have yet to live a full lifetime and yet find yourself in want of things with which to occupy your brief existence.

I have lived several lifetimes. What more can I do with myself? I won't expire from old age — I won't age period and haven't for a long time. So what am I to do with myself? How many more nights can I wake up, go about my business, and retreat from the sun?

What's stopped me before from prematurely ending my existence is the logistics and... well it's hard to explain. Falling on a stake — while briefly unpleasant — shouldn't prove too difficult. I could do that whenever I like but... What am I leaving behind?

I know it seems a strange question. I have no living family — least that I know of — and I don't particularly want any. But to have my story end with me... I suppose that's why I'm being so forward with you tonight, Doctor. Maybe for the sake of my own ego, to know that someone should remember these experiences for me, these memories. I really think the world would be a sadder place without them.

I told you of my memories. No, I hinted at them — that vast ocean. I am so full of memories I have few faculties to commit to my nightly existence. Just the other week — maybe month — on the metro in this very city I sat across from an old woman who I swear I had sat across from on the train from St. Petersburg not a hundred years ago. The same woman, in every detail. The same lumpy coat, the same scuffed shoes, the same ugly hat. I nearly struck up a conversation in Russian, and this woman probably never left California in all her life! She'd think I was some communist agent risen from the past to corrupt her children and steal her pie or whatever you all fought about for so long. She would've had the police on me for sure!

I'm not mad — I think. I can still see where my mind ends and the world begins... On a good night. But everything is just too familiar — like this office. Do you know how many offices like this I've stood in, with doctors such as yourself? Neither do I. It all runs together. Maybe I am mad. That can't be good for anyone...

The little joys in life are too familiar. I've been going to the same club for a year now, a small place just east of here. Quiet, dim, and the only place in this whole damned city where a man can smoke in peace. That's not my only reason, no, I admit I've become a regular because of the entertainment — an entertainer to be more specific. She sings every Tuesday, old songs you'd think she was too young to know. I fight the urge every time not to sit closer — drawing attention to myself is not the wisest course, ever.

But how she draws me... I could almost say "I've never felt this before," if it weren't such a grotesque lie. I felt the same in a Caribbean tavern long ago, watching a mestizo girl sing older songs. Smoking was no sin there — neither was drinking, gambling, whoring — I'd spent an hour at cards there already with a stinking drunk Scotsman. And I do mean stinking — just thinking of how humans used to smell is enough to curl my hair even now. Not that I was seriously bothered then — amazing what can pass for normal at the right time and right place. But now with a little perspective, I'd rather retreat to the north pole and starve myself into an old man.

And then she came on, this waif with brown skin and tangled hair and a voice to make angels weep. Oh, you would never recognize her songs — Hell, I've not heard them since and damned if I've forgotten the rhythms. She sang some in French, some in English, some in Spanish with a horrible accent that I couldn't care less about. I'd swear that girl grew into the young lady I saw here, in this city just the other night, right down to that skin. Something about mestizos... I can feel the warmth of the sun in them. A warmth which otherwise now exists only in memory for me, but through them... I almost feel alive again. I feel my dead heart thud and my useless lungs fill with their sweet scent. A dangerous trap to fall into though. I know that girl did not grow up because she will never grow up. I followed her back to her own hovel that very night and...

Excuse me, Doctor, but some things I would very much like to forget — at least at present. The young lady in this city, however, is not one of them. I'd long since learned my lesson and contented myself with just watching and listening, enjoying what she could bring to one night which otherwise progressed like any other. "Yes I've learned my lesson," I repeated to myself every time, slinking away at the end of the night. Age brings wisdom and all... Unless you start to believe such nonsense yourself, "I won't make the same mistakes this time," you say to yourself which naturally and stupidly leads to "This time will be different..."

Which led to me hiding in the shadows as the club closed, waiting for this latest little singer. This time would surely be different because I knew what not to do — therefore I naturally knew what to do. As she left, I stepped forward to introduce myself.

"Excuse me," I said, "I saw your act in there and just wanted to say how excellent it was. You have a lovely voice."

She turned, startled and rigid. Had I come out of the shadows too fast? "Um, thank you," she said.

"Can I give you a ride home? My car is just around the corner." A lie of course. I've never owned a car nor properly learned how to drive one.

"N-no thank you, I was going to take a cab." She seemed to inch away from me. Damn but I'm not that monstrous am I? At least not outwardly so?

"Oh... Then may I buy you a cup of coffee?" Why did she have to be so difficult? If she would only give me a few minutes, let me present my case, what I had to offer — what no one else could ever hope to offer —

When some heavy voice from behind me said, "We're closed buddy. Time to move on."

One of the bouncers, and a thick one. His shaved head seemed to emphasize his mass. "I know, I'm just talking to the lady here," I gestured to her, expecting a curt nod or some signal to say, "It's alright, go back to whatever you big idiots do."

She gave some signal, something that made his eyes darken and a wide hand clamp down on my shoulder. "C'mon buddy, go sleep it off —"

Now I'll be the first to admit I have a temper — and I'll be the first to admit I hate to be manhandled — but I was not particularly harsh with him. I calmly reached up, took his wrist in my hand and squeezed. He dropped to his knees and started to mewl like a baby at the first crack. "Please, I'd like to finish my conversation with the lady." Releasing him, I turned back and felt something wet immediately douse my face. In the instant it took to realize what she'd done, the mace burned all the way to the back of my eyes.

"Gah! Te puta!" The nerve! Who did she think she was?! To just mace me like some common rapist! Why I was so beside myself with rage I couldn't give a final kick to that idiot of a bouncer, still whimpering over his dainty wrist.

The pain vanished as quickly as it came, my vision cleared, and she was running like mad down the street. I considered running her down out of spite, cut off that sweet rhythm of her heart I could feel all through the pavement. At the very least it would justify her behavior. It certainly wouldn't be the first time —

I didn't, that's the key Doctor. Honor demanded of me and I told it to get stuffed. Why brutalize this simple girl like so many others before, for all the same reasons? Why had I even spoken to her to begin with? Falling back into the sea of my memories, what really made her any different — not what drew me to her but what lead me to expect this all wouldn't end the same as before?

Like it? Read the whole thing on Kindle for only 99 cents!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Critical Rhetoric Failure

I'm one of those people who likes to paw through the merchandise at Barnes & Noble without ever buying anything. I'm okay with that, as otherwise I'd end up spending money on trash like this -- Histories Greatest Lies by William Weir. Now I like a good deconstruction of popular history as much as the next guy but that's not what Weir is apparently going for. Take his thesis on Afghanistan:
"Afghanistan has been conquered many times throughout history, but foreign invaders have not been able to unify or control the country for long."

Let that sink in for a minute... See the problem? Like Marx, Weir's argument defeats itself -- and ruins an otherwise okay book (I have to give him credit for defending Nero who, despite his many flaws, responded quite nobly to the Great Fire). The fact that Alexander, the Brits, the Soviets, and now the US can't exert proper imperial control over the country is solid evidence that yes, the notion that Afghanistan is unconquerable (or if you're being serious, that it's the graveyard of Empires) is absolutely true.

It's hard to tell how much of this is apologetics for the DoD's decade-long failure and how much is Weir being sincere (if sloppy). Americans who spend as much time obsessing over the military as Weir does -- at least as indicated by his previous output -- tend to be a reflexively conservative bunch. Not in a strictly partisan sense, but more in a comfortably traditional way, where military service is regarded as the height of virtue, leading to such suck jobs on the Pentagon's misadventures. War is less a subject to be studied and more of an escapist fantasy, full of good guys (Americans) and bad guys (Muslims, formerly Commies) dukeing it out in clear, conventional battles with no political goals in mind.

That's the key here. Weir's reasoning, whatever its cause, is symptomatic of a larger American disconnect with the reality of warfare. We view it as existing in a vacuum devoid of ugly political realities, where victory on the battlefield -- often defined as raw attrition -- is the one and only measure of success. As Stan Goff said, regarding his superiors' view of the '94 Somalia mission, "We killed more people so we fucking won!"

Things haven't changed since Somalia. At all. This same disconnect extends beyond the commentariat, all the way to the politicians and generals who conduct these imperial adventures. Their myopic focus on killing the bad guys blinds them to the reality that blowing apart a neighborhood to get one guy with an RPG is a tactical and strategic failure unless your only goal is to exterminate the native population. All the happy talk about "winning hearts and minds" is just that -- talk. Except the clowns in the Pentagon believe it, without a shred of cognitive dissonance, because American culture at large encourages a fantastical -- and self-serving -- hallucination in place of the surrounding world.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Quagmire Seeking behavior

I've got something a little more literary in the works for Thursday but I am compelled to comment...

The Pentagon has decided to flip-flop on the Iraq withdrawal. There's the standard bullshit about "Oh, what will become of them once we leave? We have to stay to provide stability!" Only the dumbest hominids still think American troops are an actual stabilizing presence in that ravaged desert. And as much as I'd like to include them in that group, the brassholes running things aren't that dumb.

The fears of Iran stepping into the vacuum that will be left in the event of a true and total American withdrawal are well-founded -- and entirely our fault. By removing Sadam Hussein, we removed what had been a counterbalance to Iran's control of the region. This isn't anything as cinematic as some Greater Mesopotamia forming in the wake of the Iraq War but more of a very logical extension of soft power -- the client state of Iraq changing owners.

Now since I don't particularly care for continuing the petrol infrastructure that requires Iraq's oil, I don't care if Iran gets to call the shots. It remains an only regional player whose saber rattling at Israel is just to keep its own hicks ginned up for the Holy Republic instead of wondering what the modern conveniences of plumbing might be like. There just might be people in America writing foreign policy who are full of enough paranoia and self-loathing to consider Iran a genuine threat, but I can tell you from living next to the Great Beast on the Potomac that such creatures are only ever trotted out to reinforce the positions of the dominant jocks.

The Pentagon doesn't want to quit for a very simple and ugly reason: they ain't quitters. Or more accurately, they ain't taking that albatross of strategic defeat around their necks. Because however they may spin the eventual withdrawal, the fact remains that America -- specifically America's generals -- lost the Iraq War. American soldiers will continue to fight and die for West Pointer egos until Obama finds some balls when dealing with his own Defense Department or until the US runs out of desperate cannon fodder whose only options are Wal-Mart or the Army.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Blog, New Directions, Old Spite

Can't very well reboot the ol' blag without an introductory post now can I? Especially since my real name is attached now. The things I do for publicity...

I'm a working writer. I've got a novel out on Kindle -- Fiend -- you should buy it. I'll be talking it up non-stop alongside philosophical ramblings, political rantings, and the odd book or movie review. I may even institute regular weekly features (like the "Two Minute Hate" I used to do in 2009, or random photos filched across the internet). As much as I like my privacy -- and as much as I hate the Web 2.0 culture -- I can't seem to shut up. Ever.

So buy my book and give me money (see above or to the left). Or be my friend and I'll give you a free copy. Remember: if you buy it then I don't care if you read it and if you read it then I don't care if you buy it.