Saturday, April 28, 2007

Halberstam, Thanks for the Fish

"Fuck off, kid!"

If only Halberstam had said that to me, I would wear it like a red badge of courage. If an icon spitting on you isn't a passing of the baton, I don't know what is.

The genesis of this post was a comment on a post at
Slate about David Halberstam by Press Box press critic Jack Shafer. Thinking on my comment, I realized Hablerstam was owed an obit of sorts, and so is Kurt Vonnegut – perhaps even more so, but I can't link to a future post.

After partying, or at least trying to, way too much at the sacrifice of my grades, I was drafted and had to serve in a war I knew was wrong, but I never confused duty with politics – a problem many people seem to be handling badly today.

As any vet can tell you, most of your time in the military is spend in an extreme state of boredom, and so I read. I looked forward to being free of course required reading and return to my favorite: science fiction. But what little bit I paid attention in school must have had an affect; I could no longer read as I had read before. It lacked the depth and style of what I had been forced to read. I found myself analyzing what I just enjoyed before. Eventually, I read the stuff I was assigned to read in school but didn't.

I read classics, and for the first time, I began to read nonfiction. I wanted to know how my ass ended up in Vietnam, and one of the best books I read was Halberstam's Best and Brightest.

It is one of the most important books I have ever read. I noticed the run-on sentences Shafer mentioned in his post. Faulkner came to mind. There must be a period somewhere in those long paragraphs other than the end, I kept telling myself as I stop reading and look back for the period. (When you are in a state of continuing utter boredom, you grab any mental exercise that comes along.)

At any rate, after reading about how even the smartest policy makers and implementers (deciders) blundered as well as everybody else could, I decided that after my military commitment was completed, rather than stand on the sidelines and watch these type of guys drive the U.S. into the ground, I would go in there and blown the whole thing myself.

BureaucratMan was born, with my trusty sidekick, RedTape, I have the power to say: "You won't get that, today!"

Sunday, April 22, 2007

It's no missing white girl, but…

No one would be so crass as to suggest the administration is relieved that national attention is drawn away from the ongoing foreign policy debacle especially when Iraq is in the midst of some of its bloodiest days - yet. Or at how lucky they must feel that the worst killing spree in American history followed on the heels of the Imus story, another attention diverter.

Besides shutting up Imus provided a benefit beyond his distraction from the war as he was stoking the fires on the Walter Reed neglect story. "Republicans support the troops, Democrats support the vets" is not the message the administration wants but its better than the constant evidences of a foreign policy failure pouring into people's homes day and night from their televisions.

Even the tribulation Alberto Gonzales and investigation of lawyers being mistreated show keeps the tragedy that's become the Iraqi Civil War from the lede story in the evening news cycle. But this contains the explosive potential of undoing the administration. Will those missing emails be the missing 18.5 minutes on Nixon's White House tapes? Will this fulfill the curse?

What will next week bring?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Imus: Shakespearian Tragedy

Like mimes, no one really cares if a shock jock is brought down. But Imus was different. Imus was a shock jock but he became more than just a shock jock. He evolved, or he is the result of his own intelligent design.

At any rate, his show Imus in the Morning became the go to show for those in power, wanting more power, or access to power and could handle themselves – or at least thought they could – in a live situation. In an age of reality TV, Imus offered reality politics and everyone who was anyone tuned in, and I did because I knew they did.

I'm a late arrival to the Imus phenomena and he did not discover Wonkette or MoDo, or any of the other NYTimes columnists or the TV or newsmagazine reporters and editors – I came to Imus already familiar with them – but it was interesting to see them and hear them speak in what Frank Rich call the most conversational interview on the air, anywhere.

Either he or the format of his show was way better than the spin that occurs on Sunday morning. I pay as much attention to that as the constantly displayed footage on cable news. Tell me your political position and I can tell you what you're going to say. Some how, Imus had one of the most interesting perspectives in the coverage of the Plame name leak and the Walter Reed neglect stories.

Perhaps the embarrassing situation of new reporters being news makers in the Trials of Scooter like Tim Russert and the behind the news clubhouse or Andrea Mitchell outright caught carrying the Republicans' water or John Dickerson's sitting in the courtroom crowd and suddenly his mug is flashed up on a the big screen during the prosecution's case was a harbinger of Imus own embarrassing moment to come. A good Shakespearian tragedy needs a harbinger.

Oh, and Imus is a hero. He could trash Rep. Joe Barton all he wants for shelving a bill to help autistic kids. Imus fought in support of troops coming home not just going over to Iraq. His ranch for kids with cancer, and his reputation as a fund raiser all punch his hero requirement ticket for a Shakespearian tragedy.

Imus gets kicked off TV and radio while Limbaugh clowns someone's Parkinson's and Glen Beck questions the patriotism of a recently elected U.S. Representative for no other reason than he is a Muslim and they are still on the air. Perhaps if Imus had been trumpeting the conservative cause instead of a bunch of kids with cancer, he'd still be on the air too.

Why does street talk win Grammies but is taboo for white guys. Is black rap like the n-word and only blacks can use it with immunity? What is the exact number of kids with cancer Imus has to run through him camp as penance for his racial, gender slur?

The two supposedly spokesmen for the black community have not apologies for their misuse of their public influential powers and yet they hold Imus to a higher standard than they themselves could pass. Rich opened up early in his Sunday column the thought that the women players at Rutgers where the only non-hypocrites in this drama, and that would be true if none of them had rap on their ipods trashing and demeaning women in the same tones as Imus. They probably don't. Rap is more a male thing -- but do any of their boyfriends have it on their ipods? If the glove do fit, you can't commit.

I will miss the Imus show more than I will miss Imus.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Life evolves but is not evolution

I came across a piece by Brain May who played guitar with Queen and has gone back to finish his PhD in astrophysics and for some reason post opinions in the NYTimes Life is Evolution (behind the wall).

To determine what life is, it must be reduced to its most basic form. We are a complex system based on a simple unit, the cell. However, the single cell is still a complex system even unto itself. Even in a single cell, we must find the simplest to get a grasp on what life is.

Life is chemistry: a chemical reaction. While chemical reactions have occurred since electrons formed after the Big Bang and matter cooled enough that the potential difference between elements cause them to combine to form molecules, life’s chemical reaction is different. This chemistry has a purpose, and that purpose is to continue the chemical reaction and reproduce it.

While the physical world and the whole universe seem to be a chaotic system with planets, solar systems, and galaxies the strange attractors in a chaos theory, the strangest of all strange attractors is life. Life is chemistry with an attitude. To be alive is to exploit the immediately surrounding environment. Life is the capability of a group of molecules to utilize the potential difference between elements and other molecules in the immediate environment and either reproduce the capability, enhance it, or protect it.

The article did point out one glaring problem in modern biology: how did it all start. Once the DNA molecule is present on earth or its precursor, evolution takes care of everything else. Perhaps this is where the confusion arises between what is life and what is evolution.

The idea that life started in some idealistic muddy pond begs the question. Until we find out differently, the precursor molecules to life should be forming all the time. The problem is that we have not looked in the right place or in the right way, or these molecules came from outer space. Since higher life forms eat lower life forms, even Darwin thought that the precursors to life are quickly devoured.

Not until the 1970’s did we come to know the complexity of life around deep ocean thermal vents based on chemosynthesis. Perhaps clays laid down in sedimentary layers or accumulating in smokers where exposed cross-sectioned by earthquakes and fissuring to produce life’s precursor molecules, and then again perhaps not.

While we’ve yet to find life anywhere else but earth, everywhere we look on and in the earth, we find it. So far as I know, we haven’t found it in molten lava or fires – extremely hot and caustic fluids, yes, but the hottest on earth, no.

Live does not violate the second law of thermodynamics. After all chemical reactions occur that are needed to maintain life, all energies and matter are at a lower state. It is the concept of life that appears to violate the law. Life is organization in the midst of universal chaos.

Given that life co-ops its surroundings and evolves in doing so, eventually the whole earth will one day become alive.

Government Lawyers – of all things

Waiting for LBJ’s Curse on the Second Term to be fulfilled, I wondered if it would be something from the rapid run up to the Iraqi war and the fixing of the intelligence, or maybe the Plame name leak, or perhaps the googling of phone conversations without any authorization.

The secret prisons and the snatching of people off the street to take them there and the most indefensible prison for a country conceived on the notion of unalienable rights, Gitmo, ought to be fertile ground for bringing a president down. I thought the use of signing statements to rewrite what would shortly become law certainly begged impeachability.

But no. The big scandal is the firing of government lawyers. No one argues that Bush does not have the power to do so. The Patriot Act gave him the power to do so without Senate approval. The controversy is over how he fired the lawyers he had the power to fire anyway. Of all things, why this?

No matter how much I study Americans, I can continue to be amazed at what sets them off.

Is this a great country, or what!

Writing to Write

Blogging has scratched an itch I had forgotten I had.

Guys don’t keep diaries. Although one of the most famous diaries in literature is a very old one kept by a man long ago, Samuel Pepys, today, guys might keep a journal, or even more technical or scientific, a log, but generally, there will be no post to dear diary or anything that would jeopardize our manliness.

I’ve seen all manner of recommendations that it is therapeutic, but I could never keep it up for long. The closes I came to keeping a journal was based mostly on what our son got for Christmas, because I can remember getting things but I can’t remember which year it happened, and I wanted him to know what I sometimes wonder about my own youth. One day he will find it in the records I leave behind.

I found a letter my mother’s father left his children in her records after she died. He died before I was old enough to know him and this letter he left his children is one of the best insights to who he was. I have read it several times.

When I was young and in high school, a girl talked me into joining the Dramatics Club. The sponsor said we needed money and we should do something such as put on a skit and that I should write it. Until that moment, I had never thought about being a writer. I was going to be a scientist, an inventor.

I wrote the skit. I plagiarized the Addams’ family. The short skit had a duel plot the climaxes of which came together at the end, and the whole experience surprised even me. I went from wanting to be a scientist to wanting to be a writer. I loved reading and wanted to do to others what I felt when I read something that especially touched me for one reason or another.

And so, I majored in journalism because that sounded like writing. God punishes us by answering our prayers. I should of asked to be a storyteller. I can write but I don’t have anything to write about.

I wrote a short story once a long time ago called “Futuring by JetAge”. Only two characters are in the story, Scout29c and the Bearer. That one character has a name and the other was only a work related reference was part of the story. I sent it around and got all kinds of rejection slips. I plan to publish it here on the net, and that is why I’m posting this here post.

To a journalist, publishing is everything and though this little blog might not be much: it’s the publishing that makes all the difference. I seem to be able to post week after week. Sometimes I even feel the pressure to meet a weekend deadline – since it appears I’m a weekend blogger.

Part of the problem is that the place I work has a policy against blogging. So I’m not suppose to blog – and I don’t most of the time. Usually I’m to busy to either blog or read blogs. I write reports and I can read reports on the web, but I’m not suppose to blog – that is the policy. I’m not sure what they would do if it came to a head and I was reading a technical blog. Probably say that any blogging is wrong since that is against policy. But they are wrong. DEAD WRONG!

Blogging or some form of daily posting is to a writer what practice is to a musician or daily running to a marathon runner. What they are asking me to do is run a marathon ever so often but I’m not allowed to go run except on the day of the marathon. What kind of marathon would that be?

People who want to be writers and are waiting for inspiration to strike before they begin writing are wasting their time. When or if a great idea were to come to them, the difficulty in turning it into words would get in the way of the endeavor.

My writing of analytical reports has greatly improved because of my weekend blogging. The words come easier. And after I realized this effect, I did it even more.

I’m writing to write.