Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Journal

One of the guys I work with gets a subscription to the Wall St. Journal and brings it to work and then leaves it around when he's done. (Even as this blog is mostly unread, I'm still not gonna be dumb and talk about my job, except to say that I have a lot of time to read. I've already said too much.)

Anyway, so I think the Journal is a fine newspaper and is the best source of financial news this side of London's Financial Times and all that, but their Op-Ed section just gets me steamed every time. Every freakin' time. And I can't ever leave it alone. I try and just read the world news or the business and investing, but I'm like the moth to the flame. I can't help myself. I always go right for it. And I'm always ranting away in my head as I read.

Like when Karl Rove, who's a semi-regular contributor, talks about how politicized the Obama administration is. That guy has got some titanium cojones, I'll tell you. He takes this tone of impartial concern, like he's just calling it like he sees it. No agenda here. Yeah, thanks for you're pearls of wisdom there, Karl. You're a real pal.

Lately they've been hammering what they're calling climategate. This whole slate of e-mails that got hacked from the university of East Anglia's (which, come on, this isn't exactly the center of the dang climate science universe [edited to say, actually it kinda is]) Climate Research Unit. And the e-mail's appear to be pretty damning in one sense, that scientists were trying to manipulate the data for political reasons.

The journal's boys have been arguing that the sole reason is to increase funding of the researcher's own work, and that this goes beyond just this one instance. Just to be clear here, this means there is a worldwide conspiracy (that goes way beyond the university of west bumblenard) of quite insane proportions. The entire IPCC, some 2500 scientists, made all this stuff up just to get money for research.

What I would suggest is that really these researchers may in fact be concerned about the politicizing of the data the other way. And with valid reason. Concern over climate change started back in the early 1980's, but Republicans and the the Oil boys used and still use the tobacco strategy. The science isn't in. It hasn't been proved. The link isn't there. Blah-de-blah-de-blah. And the fact that there's been some leveling trends recently that most of the models didn't predict would be some serious ammunition for the let's-continue-to-externalize-pollution-costs crowd.

Technically, there still isn't absolute proof that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. But here we're talking about the weather. One of the main applications of chaos theory is weather systems. Chaos theory. Need I say more?

And after one of their regular guys goes after this e-mail stuff, a meterologist then says basically that. That the models didn't predict it, that we don't understand the effects of clouds and water vapor, that the weird weather (the once in a hundred year shit that's now happening with regularity) is just our perception and the media's tendency to over blow things.

Here's my point. Okay, say climate change is bullshit. Pollution is still bad. If we fill up our atmosphere with carbon, it'll be like smoking cigarettes when we breathe. So, the planet'll be fine. But we'll all have lung problems and cancer and shit because we don't have clean air. Super. You've really convinced me. I'm gonna write my congressman and tell him not to support the carbon trading scheme.

Which I am, but just to say that carbon trading is nonsense and the Euro market is so full of holes their not really getting anywhere with it. A graduated carbon tax, which, yes, is a tax that consumers will have to pay, is the way to go. We've been externalizing the costs of environmental and social aspects of consumables for a long time. Sometime ya' gotta pay the piper, as my grandma says.

Scientific American recently had an article suggesting that the technology currently exists to legitimately use solar, wind, and wave power to satisfy our energy needs. It's just political will and about 50 trillion dollars (worldwide) that we need. That's a scary number, but just imagine what happens if the reinsurers in London have to stop reinsuring catastrophic insurance. If the governments had to take over reinsuring corporations.

Anway, I'd just ramble right at this moment, so I'll drop the numbers and so pretty hard core scholarship that's getting integrated well. So just now. Just not just right now. Okay then.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In the words of the masters on the day of thanksgiving

Do not attach yourself to any particular creed exlusively, so that you may disbelieve all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognize the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotenet, is not limited by any one creed, for, he says, "Wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of al-Lah" (koran 2:109). Everyone praises what he believes; his god is his own creature, and in praising it he praises himself. Consequently he blames the beliefs of others, which he would not do if he were just, but his dislike is based on ignorance.
-Ibn Al-Arabi, Futuhat al-Makkiyah (The Meccan Revolutions)

This organic, constitutional, sensory oddity, in which Albert Corde's soul had a lifelong freehold, must be grasped as knowledge. He wondered what reality was if it wasn't this, or what you were "losing" by death, if not this. If it was only the literal world that was taken from you the loss was not great. Literal! What you didn't pass through your soul didn't even exist, that was what made the literal literal. Thus he had taken it upon himself to pass Chicago through his own soul. A mass of data, terrible, murderous. It was no easy matter to put such things through. But there was no other way for realityto happen. Reality didn't exist "out there". It began to be real only when the soul found its underlying truth.
-Saul Bellow, The Dean's December

It seems there's a connection between the true subjectivity of the God concept and this notion that literality is in the surficial interpretations of reality or whatnot that are not taken into and then followed through the soul. That it is this process of soul searching, if you will, that transforms the superficiality of literalism created through some merely rational or maybe emotional process into true understanding. This is the process of subjectivification that might somehow go beyond subjectivity. Maybe. Or something.

Anyway, a day of thanks and praises to be sure, but let us not forget that the history of which this day marks the beginning of, the history of the founding of the American nation, is a history of oppression, forced removal, and the wholesale slaughter of the native peoples of this land. It is a history of slavery, disenfranchisement, and intolerance. If we are to move beyond these disastrous failings of moral being, then we must not ever forget. Forgetting the too painful truths of this history can and has and will only lead us back into the darknesses of immorality and ignorance.

But still, to thanks and happiness and blessings and good feelings and family and friends and good food and stiff drinks and all that good stuff. Go forth and be ye merry, for there is a time for all things under the sun.

Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship,
These mean nothing to Me.
I am apart from all that.
Ways of worshipping are not to be ranked as better
or worse than one another

Hindus do Hindu things.
The Dravidian Muslims in India do what they do.
It's all praise, and it's all right.

It's not I that's glorified in acts of worship.
It's the worshippers! I don't hear the words
they say. I look inside at the humility.
That broken-open lowliness is the Reality,
not the langauge! Forget phraseology,
I want burning, burning
Be Friends
with your burning. Burn up your thinking
and your forms of expression!
-Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Masnawi

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The trinity

The trinity reminded Christians that the reality that we called "God" could not be grasped by the human intellect. The doctrine of the Incarnation, as expressed at Nicaea, was important but could lead to a simplistic idolatry. People might start thinking about God himself in too human away: it might even be possible to imagine "him" thinking, acting, and planning like us. From there, it was only a very short step to attributing all kinds of prejudiced opinions to God and thus making them absolute. The Trinity was an attempt to correct this tendency. Instead of seeing it as a statement of fact about God, it should, perhaps, be seen as a poem or a theological dance between what is believed and accepted by mere mortals about "God" and the tacit realization that any such statement or kerygma could only be provisional.
Karen Armstrong-A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

The idea of an all powerful, all knowing God becoming mortal, frail, and human is itself an incomprehensibility. It reflects the broader classic theosophical paradox of freewill (how does an all powerful being limit that power?), which has been struggled over without ever being fully answered successfully. And that's essentially why faith is the key to religion. The human mind is incapable of producing a logical or rational answer to the question that would be satisfying to someone whose attitude was not already receptive to the idea.

Which is sort of the point. The experience of religion is meant to go beyond the intellect. This is why Eastern spiritual systems tend to include intellectually incomprehensible concepts such as everything is emptiness. Trying to understand sunyata in an intellectual way only leads so far. In the same way, trying to understand how a god could become a man could only lead so far. The symbolic power of this incomprehensible idea is clear in the enduring nature of Christianity as a religious force.

The word Kerygma is a Greek word that means a kind of public teaching. It was the apparent teachings of the church. Originally, this was contrasted with dogma, which meant the hidden teachings (the mysteries, sort of). The word dogma used to have this mystical connotation. The change really occurred during the late medieval period as Aristotelian ideas were being reintroduced to European Christians through new translations of Plato and Aristotle previous lost to the Latin world as Spain was reconquered from the Moors by European Christians (and subsequently all religious freedom that had existed under Moorish rule vanished in a flash, and death, torture, and forced conversion destroyed or displaced much of the Jewish and Muslim populations of the Iberian peninsula).

The introduction of Aristotle's metaphysics would turn the medieval conception of reality on its head. The reality of that period was what Paul Tillich calls mystical realism. The idea was that the world we experience was not the ultimate reality. The reality of the divinity (which theologically drew much from Plato's phenomenological ideas of form over substance) was the true reality. Aristotle argued that substance has primacy over form, and Thomas Aquinas took that into his own philosophy. William of Ockham would take this to it's logical conclusion, building the basis of later positivism that was then called nominalism. A belief that not only is substance first, but it is all there is. Abstractions and universals were merely mental constructs.

At the time, while nominalism had great value in the realm of science and math, what it meant for religion was the shifting of the locus of attention in church doctrinal dogma from a spiritual plain of what were essentially theological attempts to understand the incomprehensibility of God to the physical plain of the authority of the church. Dogma took on the connotation of edicts of the established Catholic church, which were more or less inviolable. The mystical world in which the reality of God's logos (word or law [the logos was a Greek idea {the actual word can be translated in many different ways} that had been fused with the concept of the holy spirit]) was in all things began to wash away, and, with the reformation and the enlightenment, the mystic nature of life and existence receded into the background.

One of the great dangers of the idea of a personal God is the anthropomorphic tendency to make God in the image of a man. The idea of God as a father, for example, should always be understood to be, at best, a metaphor for some inexpressible thing. Otherwise, as Armstrong points out, we attribute our own ways of thinking to God, which is always a kind of blasphemy.

It's probably kind of obvious where I'm going with this. Intolerance as divinely inspired is quite clearly a case of the loss of a mystical understanding of the incomprehensibility of the concept of God, and that's the prerogative of free peoples to be sure. Where we come into difficulty is when attempts are made and executed to translate personal beliefs that are intolerant into public policy.

In this way, the fundamental principle of liberty (as individual liberty bounded by constraints of sociality [my liberty should not infringe on your liberty and vice versa]) is then subverted.

The American founding, which was done through the displacement of the native populations of the continent through disease, debt, and warfare, is the classic example of this type of thinking. The European settlers believed that this land, already in the possession of various loose confederations of native tribes who had been living here for thousands of years, was their divine right, a kind of new Eden that God had bestowed upon them. One of the ways that God manifested his personal blessing for those settlers was through the deaths of the natives at the hands of diseases carried from fetid European cities. A personal God, when he's your personal God, can act in this way. And you see the things that you do, for example kill and exploit native populations, as the will of God.

But God's will can't be understood by humanity. God doesn't even have a will per se. It's a matter of speaking. One meant to attune the listener to the potentialites of the godhead; not create the sense that my own desires, be they base or even evil, are my destiny because they are the manifestation of the will of God.

You, we, I cannot comprehend what the idea of God even is. We can't comprehend it. God is an incomprehensibility. And not an incomprehensibility in that incomprehensibility. And further not comprehensible in the comprehension of that incomprehensibility. Such that faith becomes an acceptance of the not comprehensible nature of the comprehension of incomprehensibility. And the comprehension of the not comprehensible nature of the comprehension of incomprehensibility, and on ad infinitum (the infinite cycle of incomprehensibility). Faith is the mystical matter of the personal state of being in the attempted comprehension but the known incomprehension of whatever it is that we mean when we use the word God. A word that is empty of all real meaning, as no human signification could in truth represent God.

The Western world seems to have long since forgotten this essential mystic element of religious symbology. God is a real person, a father who loves his children and punishes their enemies. Or he is dead. That literal father is such a ridiculous and so clearly a blasphemous idea that many walk away into cynicism. When in truth the value of the idea of God was in that mystic experience of the incomprehensibility of God.

I know I said I was done with the God talk for awhile, but I just can't leave it alone. The history is too brutal. I've been watching PBS's recreation of the displacement of native Americans by European settlers, We Shall Remain, and it's just such a God damned shame. I can't even begin.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Some Socrates and some thoughts

This is from Plato's Theaetetus. I've had his complete works sitting on the mantle of the (non-working) fireplace right in front the rest just waiting for a free moment.

SOCRATES: The art of the greatest representatives of wisdom-the men called orators and lawyers [my note (and politicians)]. These men, I take it, use their art to produce conviction not by teaching people, but by making them judge whatever they themselves choose. Or do you think there are any teachers so clever that within the short time allowed by the clock they can teach adequately to people who were not eye-witnesses the truth of what happened to people who have been robbed or assaulted?
THEAETETUS: No, I don't think they possibly could; but they might be able to
persuade them.
SOCRATES: And by 'persuading them', you mean 'causing them to judge', don't you?

THEAETETUS: Of course.

SOCRATES: Then suppose a jury has been justly persuaded of some matter which only an eye-witness could know, and which cannot otherwise be known; suppose they come to their decision upon hearsay, forming a true judgment: then they have decided the case without knowledge, but, granted they did their job well, being correctly persuaded?

THEAETETUS: Yes, certainly.

SOCRATES: But, my dear lad, they couldn't have done that if true judgment is the same thing as knowledge; in that case the best juryman in the world couldn't form a correct judgment without knowledge. So it seems they must be different things.

Now assume this jury is the American people. And assume that the current structures are failing or, at the very, very least, not anywhere near approaching optimal, and that that becomes a kind of generational robbery, as those structures not only allow for substantial environmental degradation but also fail to prepare and educate the next generation to continue the systemic optimization project (the infinite chain of being [in which immortality is glimpsed perhaps]). Wouldn't it also be in the best immediate interests of those lawyers (as per the time limits of human life), who in reality do make up the largest percentage of professional politicians and have since the end of feudal times here in the Occident (an idea from Max Weber's Politics as a Vocation), wouldn't it be in their rational interests to try to persuade people and also to persuade people to persuade people to decide based on hearsay to continue to tacitly support a verdict that was incorrect in order to maintain the same Ouroborian cipher of the waxing and waning of the human irrationality of true self interest (an approach that will by it's very definition limit the movement towards true knowledge [objectivity {the true self in it's proper relation to the true other}]). The maintenance of that pendulum of flailing humanity is a great source of personal power and wealth for such demagogues (and one of the points Socrates makes in Gorgias is that even further, if the persuaders themselves are not experts in anything other than persuading, while they may be able to persuade, they are highly unlikely to actually know or have any real valid answers) but is just really the status quo of a world of exploitation, inequality, and ignorance for us all.

And really democracy doesn't work when the American people don't have true knowledge, or at least are moving in the direction of true knowledge. And when the structures of that society are encouraging those people to in fact simply make decisions without thinking, which, this thinking, it takes education (it's one helluva process learning how to think. I don't feel like I'm even halfway there myself) and cultural commitment to the core process of seeking out true knowledge. We need to find the social will to search out the political and economic truths, which we must seek and maybe find in the forests of philosophy.

The map of that forest is hidden in the human mind. And hopefully in that map is the key to unlocking continually deeper objectivity, moving closer to true knowledge and understanding. That's what education is all about. And our education system is failing. And our public education system is rapidly becoming the worst in the western world, even as our private education continues to be the best. And this inequality is a clear indicator of a friction in the fabric of the structure, and relieving that tension in the bio-psycho-social web through the instruments of society ( businesses, governments, schools, etc.) requires conscious attention and coordination. We cannot be stupid about these problems, and we cannot in reality ignore them or pretend they are otherwise. They will not go away just because we wish on a star and believe the con games of the pols or the media persuaders or the corprocrats or their cadres of lawyers.

Regardless of who's lying to whom (and I suspect that anyone lying to the world is then also lying to themselves in probably not totally conscious ways, and also anyone believing the lies then also was firstly lying to themselves about some other maybe seemingly unrelated problem), it's a reinforcing cycle of compulsions, apathy, and helplessnesses that keeps us as a people from our own heroic efforts in service of the goals of knowledge and the understanding of objective reality.

Or something. It might just be me on that one (that sentence originally read: I might just be me on that one. Which I thought was amusing [I might indeed]). I don't entirely know about the heroic part for myself (but, course, my own megalomania keeps hope alive). Just the attributes of numbness. A common response to the insanities of modernity; a thing for which the human animal may have been intended (it was our destiny, right?), but for which it was not entirely designed.

How much do we entrust to human redesign? In moral and political minefields of, really, what should be philosophical leading (as where the hell else do you go for true knowledge? Am I right? Can I get a hell ya' we need to let the philosophers come to the fore? They couldn't be any worse than the lawyers [Oh. Wait. We don't have any damn philosophers anymore, just really semanticists rehashing ancient esoteric arguments in the languages of more modern analytics {Ya get whatcha pay for, America}]), in those fields, if it was really not just formulated by an elite but truly publicly formulated (if the whole population had some basic level philosophic ability), if you did have those democratic formulations in more direct or participatory ways, as really the more people working on these problems the better, the better directed our social resources and the development of those social resources might just be. All the research points in that direction. The average of a larger population's estimate is more likely to be correct than any one single estimate. But without something approximating true knowledge for all, there can be no likely redesign.

Actualizing and transforming the structures, from the businesses, to the partnerships, to the corporations, to the political bodies, with knowledge that hews more towards objective truth (an absolutely illusive and possibly asymptotic ideal for sure), that's really the trick. And it's an outside the box kind of thing, because you really have to be able to see beyond the current structurality. To the potentiality of future structure. (Everybody, say it with me: OR SOMETHING.)

And this is why seeing Ann Coulter talk about Sarah Palin being a true or a real American makes me so upset (not really upset so much as sends me off on a tangent all week about how dangerous this particular dualistic concept is). Because the very principle of the constitutional democratic movement, this whole western thing (which has always been half hearted and imperial), is about more voices, more cultures, not homogenization but the hetrogenization of the democratizing force of expanded consciousness (more knowledge). That's what the great political philosophers have been talking about in essence. And it's what's going to give us our best shot at a bright and sunny future. And the divisive, demagogic language of enthnocentrism and us versus them duality is just gonna slow us down. It is and will always be unproductive. Even as it might be personally lucrative to trade on this reinforcement of small mindedness and narrowly defined interests (a call to put the blinders of bigotry and hatred back on [Give in to the dark side]).

Now, course, translating philosophy into action is surely difficult, but if ever the basic structures of what might be useful in that process were in place it would be in a bureaucratic and technocratic structure of both a public and private sector as currently formulated. The physical structures are quite close, although clearly our energy infrastructures are all ridiculously outmoded. One might say antiquated. But in a realignment of the moral plain on which our political, public, and private structures are enacted maybe, there might be some leverage.

Okay then, I know that's not really a completed thought there about the potential of the current structure to be regenerated and not just chucked and we'll just start over. Still, I've gone about as far as I'm gonna go here on Sunday morn. I might just try for a run. Hadn't been able because of a winged scapula (alignment problem of the shoulder) that still causes some pain and a lot of discomfort even after doing physical therapy and all kinds of stretches for several months now. But I'm thinking it's a good day to give it a whirl. I've been getting down with the power walk, and, besides feeling like a yupmaster dork-a-tron, it's been good for the shoulder and the mental health and all that, but there's still nothing like a flat out run to get the ole' engine started.

Enough then.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

music etc.

I've got about eight different blog posts in various states of disrepair on various topics ranging the whole wide universe of ideas and experiences. Or something. I'll maybe finish the recent spate of unfinished posts though, maybe. It's like that. I roll on posting for a time, and then I want to work in a different format. Usually I want something longer. I'm not naturally anywhere near as brief as I am here. They say that thing about brevity though so, you know. I'll maybe try ta work on that sometime.

I will get back to Khanna's The Second World though because that man has got the geopolitical scholarship tied down tight. He does seem to miss how incredibly dangerous the endgame on the imperial expansions of current energy infrastructures is. Whether it's climate craziness or peak oil, that shit could very well go nuclear on us sometime in the not to distant if we're not careful with our future. And shit.

He is much too blithe about the oil problem for my taste. If we're at 100 million barrels a day, which is about right (his figure was 120 million by 2030, which is a 35% increase from now, so it's close if you average it out over that period), that's 36.5 billion barrels a year. He gives some general reserve estimates, which admittedly have almost without fail had to be revised up multiple times pretty much everywhere, and the largest reserves are in the several hundred billion range. My intuitive calculation on peak oil from these general numbers would be around 80 to 100 years (depending on the expansion of use and the accuracy of current reserve estimates). Honestly, I think it'd probably be better if there was less and we were being forced to be more serious about energy transition, but such is life. Nor does he acknowledge the concern over the improper use of groundwater that's leading to the serious problem of shrinking water tables or other of the serious environmental concerns of globalization. It is a book on politics though, but the proper and sustainable use of resources is a main political question, so in truth my assessment has to be that he ultimately misses the boat.

Anyway, I went to see some live music for like the first time in eons the other night and holy god is there something so, just, therapeutic and awesome about live music. It really does the soul good. One of the opening bands was this group called The Portland Cello Project, which is exactly what it sounds like, a group of cellists (?). I dig the idea of trying to bring different styles of music to different types of venues and all that, and they were pretty cool, turning songs from the video game Halo, Pantera, and Outkast into all cello pieces, but mostly the room just talks drunkenly over music that mellow in the more bar-like music venues, so the music it gets overshadowed by the cacophony of drunken conversations.

Still the main act, Thao w/ the get down stay down, was wond-a-ball, a lot of fun, and great, bubbly danceable music with lyrical darkness there under the surface, which is right up my alley.

So, good and much needed release of steam. I've been sort of trying to organize myself a little better with regards to scholastic and creative work, and it's an on-going process for sure. The true facts of our world though can be disconcerting to say the least. So it's always important to reground the self in the spirit and so forth, and live music and ecstatic dancing is the best way I know of to achieve that goal (though clearly there are many roads to the top of that mountain).

Still, I'll admit the question of subjective and intersubjective existence has been existentially weighing me down a bit lately and has been contributing to various difficulties with the necessaries of health and well being. Things to work on. Always more things to work on. Hmm. Sigh.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Returning from Amsterdam/Dynamic Structures/Life is life is life is life is

I'd been trying to organize my thoughts on the nature of living and what have you for some few days now since returning from Amsterdam Saturday. One of those thoughts was to play up potential confusions about what that statement might mean. A metaphoric Amsterdam that's more in line with what's in people's heads about Amsterdam. Course, the Amsterdam I'm talking about is an economically depressed former manufacturing town in upstate New York, and I can't really find my way to complex metaphorical intercombinations of conceptuality and actuality or any such things just in this particular moment right now.

It's been probably almost a month since my grandfather was shown across, but the reality of that fact was mostly lost to me until we finally placed his cremated remains in a hole in the ground this Saturday just gone.

The fact in now upon me and has taken hold in a seemingly unrelenting way. Even a whole day of playing with my nieces has only provided a momentary respite from a deep and endearing sadness that fills the very pores of my soul with a melancholic haze that refuses to lift. I spent the night Saturday at home drinking PBR and alternating between a sense of the radical impermanence of all and every thing and the full realization of the very real fact that some fine day that will be me that goes into the ground.

In that alternation of the sudden and on-rushing great anxieties of the imagination of my own last moments on this earth and this sense that nothing not even the deepest of meaning and profundity is anything but the fleetingest of momentary passing, everything seemed worn and shabby. The world was so dull and lusterless I thought it might drain of all color and that that might be an improvement, if not a lasting one, as what can last? What I ask?

And of course the megalomaniacal nature of the feelings released from this truly downcast occasion makes me dislike myself more than is normal, for being so concerned for my own death, for my own end. And that common transfixion (if perhaps heightened, if not so uncommonly so) of self that played or prayed upon my imagination for much of the night Saturday as I put myself in that final place of rest and watched as the horror of the realization of the end seized and made everything else insignificant, that base vanity of self love was just yet another weight in the balancing of the scale. The karmic balance of maybe just the interior of my skull, maybe just the turn of the screw, maybe just the chance of a peaceful final moment in life, maybe really in reality the difference between the gates of heaven and the depths of hell.

This would be the place where I derail into tangents on heaven and hell, James Baldwin's dictum that we pay for our sins by the lives we lead, the Hindu and Buddhist ideas about death, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Not so today. No, just this once I'm staying with the concrete and not tailing off into abstractive digressions, if also maintaining an all too sentimental tone.

My grandfather, my grampy, was, in his person, the kind of person that I would like very much to be. He was self-possessed and measured in everything. There was a level of attention, of concentration paid to the most minute detail of existence. And the thing that I will never forget and that draws from me still heaps upon heaps of tears is the light that was in his eyes, and of his soul.

There was a light that few possess, a light, an intensity, a great force of being that was not lightly earned.

After the funeral, as the family was all gathering ourselves to eat and then go our separate ways, my father passed around photocopies of these lists that my grandfather had made. He and his fellow prisoners of war had written out on tiny scraps of paper these long and intricate lists, and that had been in his bedside drawer until the last. They were lists of food. Different restaurants, recipes, all the different ways to cook potatoes. Lists of food.

In reality though they were lists of hope. And not the callow hope of political sloganeering. The hope that these young men themselves would not die in a German prison camp and would have the chance to see their loved ones and to break bread with those loved ones again in the everyday celebration of living. And he did get that chance. Six months after being captured at a forward position, the Russian army liberated the camp where my grandfather was held, and soon after that he was returned to the US army and on his way back to the bosom of his family.

I imagine he kept those notes to remind himself that every moment, every second of life is precious. Not one should be wasted or taken as a given. And the presence within himself of that constant reminder was what, I imagine, gave him such a light. I will always remember those eyes that shown as steady as a lighthouse, those eyes that revealed untold depths of being. I will remember the last time I looked into the depths of those eyes. The joy of living had not faded one bit at that time, that last time I saw my grandfather, even as his body was then already failing just back in early June.

The strangeness of burying a loved one on Halloween kind of occurred to me in the week leading up to the service. But it never really sunk in until I got home and people were all out dressed in all kinds of costumes and whatnot. In my neighborhood, because it's mostly apartments, people sit out on their front stoops with baskets of candy, and it's this really communal thing. And usually I do think that's top flight, but this night it just made me feel lonely.

It's been some fifteen years since I spent Halloween in a psychiatric facility. For many reasons, it was singly perhaps the most intense and indeed the craziest night of my life. (Actually, now that I think about it, being in a near riot on Halloween in a mental institution at 16 only really ranks as a crazy thing, not the craziest, which says a lot about the amount of crazy shiite I've done or that's happened since that time.) I've been variously diagnosed with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder at various times by various different doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, what have you. And I've struggled with the dual weights of emotional turmoil and the stigma of mental illness and the imprint of adolescent institutionalization for all of the intervening years, never really able to talk honestly or openly about the neurologic storms that cast my mind high on the crests of hypomanic euphoria or low into the troughs of despondency and despair.

There has always been a concordant shame that comes with the lows, an idea of how idiotic I am for dwelling in the trough, for not fighting harder against the storm. But today I realized in what the idiocy was. It was not in not fighting but in the fighting itself.

Today I went to the grocery store. Even though the weight of unhappiness made my legs feel leaden, my mind numb, and my body electrostatically charged. Even as the verge of tears was like a swell behind my eyes. I went grocery shopping.

I didn't force myself as I've done so often to just do some little symbolic gesture of infulility even in the face of the blinding futileness I've felt. That sense that nothing has any real meaning. I didn't fight against the tide. I just made a list of foods to buy. A list of food. And I went. And I was okay. Everything was okay.

That's not to say that the feelings abated. I still feel charged with sadness, but that's okay too. It shall pass. I don't have to fight against it to get past it. But I do need to be willing to accept it, if you will allow me a moment of cheesy self-helpitude. I need to be present in my self, to remember the value of each moment, even the ones that wrench and seem to cast me out of my humanness. Or to cast me back into my humanness and out of my abstract self. Staying in the presence of a faith in the grace of life. Or something.

It is what is. In many ways it's a blessing not an illness. For me, at least. That's not to say that it doesn't make things difficult at times or that remaining unmedicated is the right or even a very safe answer (and there are all kinds of complications involved in this choice, which is just that, a personal choice, not some universal prescription, and there have been a few close calls for myself on both sides of that fence, so..), but it does make me acutely aware of the need for balance.

Life is a high wire act, even without genetic/neurologic/psychologic/sociologic complications (of which what life might not have at least one or two of those?). But it's too short to fool around with bullshit delusions about who or what we are. Too short to make false pretenses of some bland normalcy. And much too short not to do and be what makes you happy.

Cause when it all comes down to it, that may very well be all we get. We get now. Best enjoy it.

I get the sense from that light that my grandfather had that he did. He honored those lists and the men whose favorite foods were on those lists that never again got to eat them with their friends and families. The men and women who died on the forced marches. In the prison camps. In the gas chambers.

And at his grave side, as the marine in his dress blues played taps, the funeral director placed a small flag with a round plastic plaque that read US veteran into the ground. And I looked around, and I realized the cemetery was full of those same flags. We are burying the American generation that knows for true the horrors of war.

In the same way that my grandfather's death was not real to me until his ashen remains were there before me, these wars we are fighting are not real to us unless we know those who've died and see the grief and devastation for ourselves. 150 dead. 200 dead. (All adding up to thousands and thousands who continue to die in the horrors of war.) It's just numbers. It's not real.

And so we forget. We forget the charred remains of Europe. We forget the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The burning jungles of Vietnam. The scorched deserts and cities of Iraq. The scorched earth of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We forget what most of us never really knew.

We forget how perilous is the balance of this world. For myself and those like me, we will never forget the primacy of balance. How delicate is that scale. It is the very fact of our lives. None of us, sane or otherwise, can ignore the realities of death and destruction, otherwise they have no weight to bear on the face of change.

Regeneration is a kind of watchword of mine. It's just something you have to do after a bout of depression, as the trappings of life, be they material, physical, philosophic, whatever, as they fall away like sand through an hourglass. But regeneration is not merely the domain of the depressive or the bipolar. It is the cycle of life both human and otherwise, and the structures of society must reflect that. Our structures should be dynamic and regenerative. Not static and degenerative. Only really changing after some problem is so bad it can't be ignored any longer. And then mostly in a hyper reactive expression of emotional outrage, not in some considered structural adjustments (in fact the nature of structure tends to be downplayed, especially here in the US but also throughout the west, because of the liberal philosophic tradition of individualist paradigms of personal freedom [as extended to corporate entities as well]).

Those words, dynamic structures, have been kind of stuck in my head all day. The idea of structural dynamism is one that, I feel, has to really seep into the structure of global society for there to be any chance for this project to work. As we begin to build one integrated planet our national structures must grow and, dare I say it, progress beyond there current forms of hopelessly compulsive self-interested action. The global society cannot be a selfish one. Otherwise, well otherwise, (as I've said just maybe once or twice here and there) it's Thunderdome.

The Thunderdome dilemma is real. It's not just me. I may be crazy, but I'm not a fool (in this particular way).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Last thoughts on Friedman for awhile

I've finally finished Milton Friedman's Freedom and Capitalism, a slender philosophical volume that purports to solve for us the problem of governments, private enterprise, and the social consequences of the poor and inefficient interaction of the two, the social goods or evils. It took a bit of time as I had to read it in small doses to keep my temperature from getting too hot.

He takes for granted that the markets (which while not a code word for corporations per se, their actions are the bulk of what makes up a modern market [as per supply side theory {which itself has social constructivist forces (the will to believe and all that)}]) will suss themselves out. This is really what his argument comes down to, is that it's only through the perverse incentives the government sets up through it's process of trying to redress past wrongs to present populations (a problem for sure [but the solution of which I would say that is the only reason to enter into the tacit consent of the social contract of fair play and what's mine is mine and yours is yours {the only reason not to start a revolution}]) that keeps the private sector from righting those past wrongs of its own accord.

And in a way Friedman is right because of course real freedom (or freedom for the most with hopefully protections for the few) is true if not pure democracy, one hopes. But what he never explains is why large populations should for example do away with protections against discrimination (I'll return to this one a few times), but maintain protections for wealth and business assets. None of his ideas are consistent with what it would be logical for various majority populations, both in localities, nationalities and globalities (?) to take. Some common numbers that get thrown around a lot in progressive circles are the various percentages on the control of wealth and resources. Globally (and here nationally) some small 5-10% of the population controls some 65-85% (I know I should hunt up the real numbers, but these numbers are within an acceptable range of error for a blogpost, so) of the resources. If you consider what democracy is, it becomes clear that it is absolutely clearly in the rational self-interest of that 90-95% of the population to band together and use the mechanisms of government to redistribute the wealth and resources of this top 5-10%. In purely, bald, rationally self interested terms.

Here we see that pure democracy and pure capitalism in actuality do not naturally mix or converge on each other. And the convergence is, of course, an American illusion. Everywhere (literally every single country on this planet) outside of the United States understands how destructive the Washington Consensus was in South America, in South East Asia during the financial crisis of the late 1990's, in Russia and Eastern Europe after the fall of the curtain, etc. The truth of the facts on the ground is that the institution of so called free market reforms exacerbates the inequality of wealth, thereby in reality inhibiting the economic freedom of the many in order to give it over to the few for hyper luxurious consumption and the exploitation of local resources and populations by the corporations. This is and has only been achieved outside the United States through the use of military autocracies, and, for example, the populist swing left of South America (and their current virulent hatred of the US [Who doesn't effin' hate us anymore?]) and the success of demagogic left wing politicians to consolidate their own autocratic powers has as much to do with the impositions of the Washington Consensus by international bodies such as the IMF and World Bank or the direct consultation of the former rightist autocrats on economic 'reforms' as it does with, for example, some perceived naturally autocratic nature of populist or leftist movements.

And Friedman's hand in all this has to be seen as a denial of everything he's written about freedom. A man who advised Augusto Pinochet cannot, with any credibility, say anything about freedom that is meaningful and not worthy of our eternal scorn and ridicule. Clearly, his talk about freedom was only in relation to social policies (returning to the earlier example, discrimination laws are perversions of the natural corrections of the market [thereby keeping the markets from correcting themselves], but patent laws are the proper role of government [meaning government's only place is in protecting businesses, not in protecting people {a la democracy (political freedom)}]).

Economic freedom then, and economic freedom of the few over the many, takes primacy over political freedom. And economic freedom essentially means ceding control of society from a government to a mishmosh of corporations (that binge and merge in all kinds of unhealthy ways), which means the curtailing of all kinds of non-consumerist, non-economic freedoms that don't even show up on any type of balance sheet, as currently calculated.

And in pursuit of essentially a rationalization of this, ultimately autocratic or at least demagogic, structure, it remains impossible to remain philosophically consistent the deeper you go into the abstraction. So, Friedman gets caught, and he throws in Anti-trust laws (essentially so he can point out the union exemption and call for its abolishment [and to be sure, there are significant problems with the current structure of labor unionism in the US]) as the pure backstop against corporatist tendencies to strive for monopoly (and this does also apply to the union that's run like a kind of corporation). He never really does explain how or why it is that Anti-trust laws are the one and only form of government intervention in business (beyond enforcing contracts and the like) that he calls for. How does that take primacy philosophically over discrimination laws (which, in a perverse inversion of logic, he compares to 'the Nazi Nuremberg laws')?

He claims that business, when left to its own devices, becomes a bulwark against the centralization of political power, but that's never really been the case. Corporations constantly and consistently collude with government when given the chance, and laissez faire has always been a smoke screen for the co-option of government by corporate interests. Corporations, as is in there currently structured rational interests, invert democracy and create either an autocratic integration of business and gov't (which we've seen in South America on both the left and the right, and increasingly in South East Asia, Russia, China, etc.) or for example the demagogic work that's being done by the right in the US at the present juncture (yes, I'm talking to you Fox News [in truth it is this limited spectrum of left/right equaling democrat/republican that maintains a kind of centrism that remains unbalanced and uncentered, swinging wildly across the spectrum as both sides overreach and fail to work together {balance is not a single two dimensional spectrum kind of deal and trying to build it in that way can only lead to the charismatic use of power for the furtherance of non-democratic aims}]). Democracy has to be subverted (the self interests of the people have to be either ignored by an autocracy or hidden away by a demagogery). It is never clear how true political freedom and the economic freedom of business and consumers (the only vote he seems to value [and if someone suffers from compulsive hyper-consumption {Yes, I'm talking to you America}, can their dollar voting be said to be really free {a convicted drug addict for example will lose his political right to vote because, I assume, it is said he can't live up to that responsibility (although, I have to admit disempowering felons seems like a good way to guarantee recidivism)]}). So how can we reconcile these two forces, these two very different types of freedom?

The reconciliation never occurs. For whatever Friedman may have been as a mathematician and economist, he's a pretty shitty philosopher and an even worse social scientist. And I'm pretty sure (as economics is all about assumption [theory building {philosophy}]) that without the last two the value of the first two can only be in dilettantish games of diversion and delusion. No real solutions to our problems.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Comparatively speaking

Of all vulgar modes of escaping from the consideration of the effect of social and moral influences on the human mind, the most vulgar is that of attributing the diversities of conduct and character to inherent natural differences
-John Stuart Mill

Though much of the inequality of income produced by payment in accordance with product reflects "equalizing" differences or the satisfaction of men's tastes for uncertainty, a large part reflects initial differences in endowment
-Milton Friedman

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Geopolitical intensity

I saw this cat on the Daily Show the other day who made all kinds of claims about his ability to use some kind of computer model to predict outcomes of political, business, legal, whatever situations. The idea turns out to be taking certain qualitative ideas about the power and salience of the major players, quantifying them, and running them through some type of game theory computer simulation.

But, course he doesn't explain his models at all in his book which I sent off to for, because it just sounded too tempting that he might (not that I would understand the mathematics). He also turns out to be just completely full of himself and spends more time jerking himself off intellectually than saying much. The brief biblio and end notes point to some hints about this whole predictioneering nonsense or attempts at 'engineering the future', which in concept is not always or necessarily often a 'bad idea'. It's just when you get the 'engineering' wrong. Which, with the current state of our understanding of human consciousness, is going to be a bit murky. But by thinking through the rational and then the deeper spiritual and maybe also the philosophical (which is substantially different than the rational I would say) among all things maybe we can work it all out.

And Bueno De Mesquita is clearly a smart man who has made some serious predictions throughout the years, which have predicted outcomes in geopolitical situations such as the Oslo accords or the Clinton health care flame out or other classified stuff apparently. It is fairly interesting, if also slow and a little patronizingly put, and he still has a few chapters in which to make good on the overall work.

But, course Amazon has that free (supersaver) shipping for orders of just 25 hot dollas or more, so I always try to at least find a cheap second book. Often the book that Amazon pairs it up with. They usually hit the target with their pairings, if you want one, you want the other, if it's just one book that I had in mind to spend a little disposable cash on (on-line and brick and mortar book shopping is one consumer behavior that I fully admit I have a bit of a problem with [I can quit any time, I swear. I just need those two books on behavior economics. Oh, and that other Jared Diamond book, The Third Chimpanzee. And that book I saw in Border's the other day about the thing. I need that book for sure. And also Rawl's work on political liberalism [edited to say: got it]. And surely everything on my wish list is also crucial, but after that. That's it. No more. I'm done.}])

So I got the second book, which was The Second World by Parag Kkanna, and, yo, this guy is no joke. A serious geopolitical antroponaciomorphistological (that word is made up [but still descriptive]) look at the inter-relations between politics, culture at multiple levels, and the old school kind of global history crowd's stuff (Toynbee being the largest example of, but also Oswald Spengler) with that early somewhat immature work in the field of international relations.

Well, Khanna updates that work for like the twenty-third century and shit (I swear this guy is way ahead of his time [and only a year older than me! What the?]) taking geopolitics and the understanding of the globalization process to this whole other level. He uses this process of apparently going to all these places and talking to the people there, and then connecting those on the ground probably informal field interviews with businessmen, gov't officials, taxi drivers, and on with this historico-international perspective of culture. Intensity does not even begin. I haven't been this excited about a book since I discovered Niall Ferguson's The World at War a couple of years ago.

Khanna is especially in favor of the European version of empire over the American or the Chinese (he identifies these as your three poles of power, with second world 'emerging market' nations as the focus of the lens through which to see the tripartite world empire [well, it just sounds conspirial when I write it like that {and it's not (more considered)}]). He does seem to admire the Chinese even over ourselves, the Americans (which points to some concern [edited to say: as I'm now finishing the book, it turns out China is the one of his poles that he goes into with any depth, and it's a nuanced look to be sure). It's really helping me already to see more globally in terms of geosociopolitical stuff. Kind of seeing the world historical dialectic or something. Heavy, man.

Man oh man. It is indeed a heavy problem of international coordination, which has to be the way, whatever you think about all the stuff in the book of revelations and some of the other old testament stuff (without the Jewish, apochrypal, or mystic commentaries [more perspectives are better]). We have to work towards togetherness, and international bodies need to be made fair and decent with proper incentivization of behavior. (Let us not continue to use a structure that incentivizes greed, sloth, avarice, resource hoarding, apathy, over-consumption, hyper-consumption, etc. just because we don't think we can do better. Let us walk out into the light of the Spirit and go beyond such poor organization. Technology is the result of culture, and culture is the sense of the people and who we are and what we can be together as a society.)

On occasion, not any time recently I'll admit because of more basic level learning in new fields, I've tried to work out a language of superstructure theory, which would be a more integrated version of the current social sciences, wherein all where considered in the theoretic position. It has something to do with visualizing the coordinations somehow, but nonetheless...

I did have a moment there just a minute ago where I was visualizing the globe in my head and trying to work out some kind of international cultural intermix in terms of interlocking layers of cities, countries, regions, inter-regions, national tensions. It's a very powerful way of thinking and really requires an elaborative process when you, probably like me and not Khanna (who appears to have been on a trip around the world a la Toynbee's East to West), have never been to the places he's talking about. You've got to use imaginative, creative tools to imagine this world that Khanna describes. No less than some sixty or seventy countries spanning northern Africa (the broader middle East as it were), South America, South Central Asia (the Stans [Khazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.]), South East Asia, and then he does finally get into a look directly at China, which it turns out he's not so blind to the dangers of.

And but a yet necessary further step for the US to really rejoin the community of nations as a genuine leader is to engage in this type of thinking both within the educational system and in the private sector and in the intersection of these two. Really the public and the private need to get into greater syncopation. The public-private partnership has to be a more healthy, less nutzo freak out version of the current version. Learning real cooperation, not simply self interested cooperation.

Anyway, my interest has been piqued to be sure.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Un Poco Loco

(Which is the name of a Bud Powell song that is just the greatest song in the universe, but here describing my own state of being a little bit nutzo on the whole wrath of god type deal there, which I swear I'm done with for at least, like, a few months)

I don't know what it is about economics that brings out the revivalist preacher in me, but it does, and especially Milton Friedman. The arrogance just oozes out of the work. It makes me so mad. Which is so totally not the graceful response. Yes, thank you Martin Luther. I am aware. Joyful attitude. Got it.

And really all the talk in the world about spirituality is pretty much worthless. Theosophy and theology, all that stuff, none of it means anything that doesn't inspire the soul. It's supposed to be about spiritual practices or the inspiration of spiritual practices. Not just spouting off at loud mouth jerkheads.

As I was saying. Grace, faith, turning toward god, a joyful heart. All that stuff, it's about the basic fact that the only potentially real freedom we have is in our own attitude. We don't control life, but we can control our own response. Maybe. Or something.

So, anyway. Most of all that stuff in the last post was cribbed off of Paul Tillich's A History of Christian Thought, which is just an outstanding work, and will be the last bit of religion and myth for me for a while even though Durkheim's Elementary Forms of Religious Life is just sitting on my bookshelf taunting me. Right on top of Randall Collin's The Sociology of Philosophies, which I'm planning on trying for again over the Christmas holiday. It is literally the Infinite Jest of the Social Sciences (probably about four hundred pages longer with about 30-40 more pages of end notes [no end notes within end notes, but all kinds of crazy end note charts and graphs, so...{my bookmark is still there where I abandoned ship the first time, probably about page 185}]).

These days it's macro, philosophy of econ, and game theory. With Weber's sociology of bureaucracy and soc. of power just to keep things live. The game theory and macro is kicking my arse what with all the math. My math is so very rusty it's not even funny. It's really isn't. I know I'm not laughing. Anyway,

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hybris Absurdum (2nd 1/2)

Neoliberalism is a term that comes from Milton Friedman's attempts at reappropriating the mantle of enlightenment era liberal philosophy for the modern conservative movement. Claiming that the liberal philosophical tradition was more initially centered on the ideas of an individual's rationality being the basis for natural rights of personal freedom (for Locke, for example, life, liberty, and property or for Jefferson [by way of George Mason's Virginia Constitution] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness [being substantially about property anyway one would assume {and also more poetic}]), Friedman then attempts to use this fact as proof that the modern purveyors of liberal philosophy have lost their way.

The problem here is, as Joachim of Floris has long since pointed out, bonum et necessarium in suo tempore, the good and the necessary according to its time. Truth is not static. Every time you try to nail it down, you find, inevitably, that you have nailed your own hand to the picnic table. Inevitably. The picnic table.

The early foundations of the liberal philosophical tradition were fighting against monarchic political systems, a feudal economic system, and autocratic religious institutions. The truth of the primacy of individual freedom was in response to the reality of a collectivism that was a means towards the maintenance and perpetuance of an oppressive and devastatingly wide inequality.

As the Western world moved farther towards democratic structures (albeit imperfect ones that at their best export the exploitation, per internal enthocentric democratic demands), liberal philosophy moved towards equality as an organizing principle. Quite clearly there were many early on who were dazzled by the idea of revolution and believed foolishly in the potentials of a modern Russian autocracy which were never really there. But that idiocy has little to do with the importance of equality. It does remind us though that Friedman is right to say that these freedoms are important. Equality does not negate the importance of freedom nor freedom equality.

For Saint Augustine though, and later Martin Luther, their is only one fundamental freedom. This is the freedom to turn one's life toward God. Or to not to.

For Augustine, the consequences of turning away from God were great. I'll let Paul Tillich explain:

Augustine described it thus: "The soul died when it was left alone by God, as a body will die when it is left by the soul." The soul which is dead, religiously speaking, has lost its control over the body. When this happened, the other side of sin became actual. The beginning is pride, hybris, turning to oneself, becoming separate from God. The consequence is concupiscence, the infinite endless desire. The word concupiscentia, desire or libido (in the ways in which modern pychology uses it) has two meanings in Augustine: the universal meaning, the turning toward the movable goods, those goods which change and disappear, and the narrower meaning of natural sexual desire, which is accompanied by shame.

Now, in Luther, this idea of turning oneself toward God was described as salvation through faith in grace. A closer look at Luther's question of faith and we find that faith was not about a strict and literal faith in the words of the bible per se, although he was a biblicist. Luther was not talking about a faith in the fact that the world is six thousand years old or things of this nature. Luther was talking about an experience. The experience of a living faith in one's own connection to a loving God. And in turning toward God (which can be understood in metaphoric terms as opening one's soul to the potentials of grace for example), the experience becomes one of loving all things, as God exists, God works through all things. Luther said quite plainly that people could know the word of god without having ever been exposed to the bible or Christianity. It was about the reception of grace, the faith that grace would come if thou hadst a joyful and loving heart with which to see and act in the world.

Then came John Calvin. Calvin did not believe in freedom. He believed in predestination. Actually double predestination. He believed that all people had been chosen before birth, before committing any sin, whether they were to go to heaven or spend eternity in damnation. He claimed that evil and hellfire were necessary as some sort of contrast to show just how glorious was god's glory.

While Calvin always held that no one can know beforehand which way you were destined to go at the end, the actual Calvinist and radical evangelical churches had to deal with a populace that undoubtedly wanted some assurances, some way to know for themselves that they were one of the chosen few. Here faith becomes certainty. Doubt becomes the enemy. Only those who believe with absolute certainty can possibly be one of the elect. Also, God's blessing here on Earth was another indication. If you were blessed by material wealth, even as it was a sin to spend that wealth (Calvinists were rigidly ascetic), you might just be one of God's chosen few.

Calvinism was a mixed blessing at best. One of the outcomes of Calvinistic thought was essentially the idea of investment, which is at the heart of capitalistic enterprises. The protestant ethic of hard work and a spendthrift life is really what brought the West beyond the feudal/mercantile system of the middle ages, in concert with liberal philosophy and the industrial revolution, but Calvin also gave to us righteousness. This idea that somehow being absolutely certain brings god's eternal glory. Course, Calvin himself never had any certainty on questions of theology, only about his own status as one of the elect. He famously reversed himself on his deathbed on the question of the ontology of evil, thinking that maybe his idea that god creates evil in order to bring his own glory into high relief might just be totally batshit. Certainty has and will always be dangerous because in certainty there is no room to question. No room to philosophize, to falsify, to reason out the deep questions of human life, and to potentially move in concert with the dynamic truths of a human life, a thing which has no stasis. Certainty is the dead and rotting core of a stale and idolic religion, and Luther knew it. Calvin could not see it.

Returning to Augustine, we find that pride is the observable consequence of the original sin both allegorically in Adam and in reality in each of us, which was this turning away from God. Hybris, pride, or the Greek hubris (that always fatal flaw) and certainty are not so far from each other. Such that the means by which this community of believers meant to guarantee God's special blessing may very well have been the sign by which we might know that they did, in fact, turn themselves away from God.

The ultimate expression of this turning was the 'infinite endless desire', the inability to find any true or lasting satisfaction, the shallow materiality. The modern mentality in which protestantism is a stale and static force for emotional idolatry, and consumption has become the true religion of the people of the West.

The strange irony of the situation is that this shallow materiality is ultimately irrational. And it would not be rational to accept this situation as the given or the necessary. And it is through the non-rational experience of faith in the grace of the truth and the beauty of the life and the world and the word that will allow us to see just how ridiculously childishly irrational we all have been/are being. And but yet this is what we find in the economic assumption of scarcity; that it is assumed not only that desire is unsatisfiable but also implicitly that the attempt should be made, and that this, again implicitly, is the rational way towards happiness and possible satisfaction. Essentially, the satisfaction of a spiritual fulfillment is factored out of economic equations. Augustine's ultimate freedom is canceled out against what? The potentials of materiality to bring us some measure of that spiritual joy? And so what is left is the milquetoast freedoms of car brands and whatnot, Milton Friedman's most treasured thing. The idol that he worshiped.

The problem we find in this disregard for the truely fundamental freedom of the self is that it creates a complication for the economic assumptions of any chance at equilibrium. There can be no assumption of linearity or curvilinearity in the functions of prices, wages, savings, investment, consumption, etc. Inflation for example, the wage-price spiral, is unsolvable for a society as employment approaches zero because of the fundamental irrationality of the rational self-interests of the competing parties for whom cooperating means to lose. The Nash equilibrium will not hold in the reality of these bargaining situations because it requires social concern from all involved, both labor and business. Within our current structure of that bargaining process, this is not really possible.

And this is the purely, grotesquely hilarious theater of absurdity that has long been the reality. The modern individual is Augustine's prideful self, the self devoid of grace, and this is the self that has no doubt. This is the self that knows its own election and cares nothing for the concerns and cares of the rest, cares only for it's own freedoms to choose amongst the gimcracks of shallow materiality, and will never get beyond the infinite endless desire. These selves will forever and perpetually be caught in the types of bipolar economic convulsions the depression side of which we are living through at this moment, and they, we, will never know equilibrium, know balance, know grace of any kind. No peace can come of this way of being. Or so it would seem.

Okay so I'm getting a little preachy now, and the economic element of this argument is underdeveloped here. There's also substantially more to say about the transition into capitalism and the way Protestantism lost the spirit and also secular moralism and it's relation to this turning towards god. The last point is one I'm sticking on a bit I'll admit, but, well, it'll all shake out somehow. For now, that'll have to suffice.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Credo Quia Absurdum Est (1st half)

The groups in our society that have the most at stake in the preservation and strengthening of competitive capitalism are those minority groups which can most easily become the object of distrust and enmity of the majority-the Negroes, the Jews, the foreign born to mention only the most obvious. Yet, paradoxically enough, the enemies of the free market- the Socialists and Communists-have been recruited in disproportionate measure from these groups. Instead of recognizing that the existence of the market has protected them from the attitudes of their fellow countrymen, they mistakenly attribute the residual discrimination to the market
-Milton Friedman, Freedom and Capitalism

What makes this statement seem especially ridiculous is that the book was originally published in 1962, two years before the civil rights act was passed. By this account then, Jim Crow laws only register as residual discrimination.

And that illustrates what appears so far to be a pattern in Friedman's thinking. He doesn't seem to understand or at the very least does not acknowledge that freedom, his central organizing principle, is itself fraught with contradiction and complexity. Perhaps in a world where these perfectly free markets actually existed minority groups would in fact be better off in supporting competitive capitalist ideals, but in that world, assumedly, this 'residual discrimination' would not have come into existence in the first place.

Because the truth of the matter is that freedom is only meaningful as a foundational principle to the full spectrum of society if we were starting from a point of true equality. But the truth of this world is not only current inequality but a historical legacy of vast inequality and oppression. There is a reason that socialism was particularly appealing to minority groups and to those in poverty in the first half of the twentieth century in America. This reason is the oppression they faced at the hands of the dominant system of the time, which was an unregulated and quite cutthroat competitive capitalism. Certainly, early twentieth century America was closer to the capitalist ideal than the socialist one. Now the question of what is a socialist ideal is a question that Friedman rightly poses. And I'll have to leave that aside for the moment.

Returning to the notion of freedom, we find that even in Friedman's own thought there is no clarity on what freedom is or how it's achieved. As he says:

Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it does this task (exchange of goods) so well. It gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

And then, not five pages later:

Indeed, it is important to preserve freedom only for people who are willing to practice self-denial, for otherwise freedom degenerates into license and irresponsibility.

So, people getting what they want when they want it is the crowning achievement of free markets, but the fact that people in fact do this is degenerative and licentious. This is absurd on its face.

The statement from which this blog is titled, which translates as 'I believe because it is absurd', has been attributed to the early Christian apologist (which in the original sense was someone who responds to [here responding to the rise of gnosticism]), Tertullian. What he actually said was was slightly more nuanced and, it would seem, aimed more at the mystical understanding of god in the intellectual irresolvability of paradox, a way and need to go beyond the rational. An idea that came into the West from the great traditions of Eastern religious philosophy, but that was especially apparent in the ideas and arguments about the meaning of the trinity. But anyway.

It could, in its less nuanced form, also apply to Friedman. And that's my generous reading. The other reading of course is that this whole exercise of his, this applique of philosophic principles to his economics, is at heart duplicitious. I'm trying to be generous today, and so I'll just say that it's painfully simple minded (clearly, my generosity knows no bounds).

And to understand the problem, once again, we must look to the intersection of the economic and the spiritual. To the equilibrium of the two mayhaps?

Monday, September 21, 2009

The inevitable rambling Wallace posting

I waited a week to write about DFW or Infinite Jest or anything of the Wallacian nature. I thought I might try last Saturday, but when I saw the picture of Wallace over there on the Infinite Summer website, it just made me too sad to even try to be able to actually think about trying to say something meaningful.

For the most part I read Jest in about 10-25 page increments over the past three months; sometimes a little faster, sometimes a little slower, but always just like a mule. Plodding along through the hills and the dark down there caverns of this tumultuous, twisting book. Some of those caverns were pretty seriously dark. And the highs (Eschaton, for true) were so funny and hilarious, laughing for pages and pages, and the insights that just kept coming at the speed of light, it all brought me in. It all made for me, myself the reader, a warm place by the fire in this book, this work of the greatest art. And the warmth and comfort provided gave Wallace the freedom to explore the darknessses of the world of reality in a way for which I myself, the reader, would be able to look and see without being turned to stone.

Turned to stone by the hard truths of life. The straight no chaser. Those lows. And but then those lows made me want to crawl out of my own skin, and more than once I was tempted to skip ahead, but I plowed through. Going on like a mule. I stayed with it (the Infinite Summer) the whole way, only finally rushing ahead in the last week, this past week.

I've been done since last Monday, I do believe. And I still held out hope the whole way. I thought right up to really about page 970ish or so that it was going to really, in some indeterminant way, come together somehow in some way other than it did. I should've known better when I saw his article about David Lynch and how Tarantino kind of rips Lynch off and commercializes him. And but yet that is the thing about Lynch that I do so love so very much. You always have to construct the story for yourself at least a little bit. I should've guessed that that was where Wallace was gonna end up. Still, I felt deflated at the end. All the air went right out of the sails in that final last eighth of a page (in the paperback blue sky and whisping cloud edition).

And (but) so if you want answers then you're (I'm) gonna have to go find them for myself (yourself [ourselves all together!]). I guess you go back to the beginning and then you fill it in as much as you can as you go through the second time. And maybe that's why the Wallace fans, the ones who just love Wallace (which is where I would put myself right from really within the very first page of the story there in the Year of Glad, although I did doubt him on more than one occasion but only just so very ever so slightly [obviously, I can also be self indulgent if maybe not to so intense and ululatingly powerful an effect]), they, by most accounts many of them, go right back and start back with the second round right away. Which does make sense what with the end being the beginning and all.

And I don't know if I would start back over right now even if I could and had the time (already this semester I've laid out a course of study that is so heavily research intensive to a degree that's just about going to blot out the sun). Those times when Wallace was maybe trying to shock people a little bit, maybe trying to get us to wake up a little more than we do. That stuff was rough. Those two women's back to back AA stories early on. Randy Lenz's detailed cat and then dog killing. Some of the Fackelmann stuff. Poor Tony's crazy final binge out. Ruthless, unvarnished truth of life. Of the most disturbing type. In some ways the proofs of our humanity.

Kate Gompert's first drink or two with Marathe though in retrospect was pretty durn awesome. I know that it probably means bad stuff for her at least in the short term certainly in getting the boot from Ennett, but I was happy to see it. Gompert a little buzzed and not totally crushingly saddened was a pleasurable moment for me. And drinking with and misunderstanding the mad legless philosopher/agent (and possibly double, triple, quadruple, quintuple [who knows to what levels his deception reaches] agent) of the AFR no less.

And but still I was disappointed when it ended in a way that I felt was a little cheesy. A curtain of Sunshine coming down over everything. Somehow though this whole drawn out final scene with Gately and Count Faxula had me laughing uncontrollably on and off for a good solid twenty pages/40 minutes. I laughed so hard around and about Mt. Dilaudid and Lake Urine that I had to stop reading. I still can't see those two names without cracking up hard. Then though it was bordering on the painful. I couldn't stop laughing at these two helpless junkies just junking their way right into an even more fucked up situation than either of them could possibly know, what with P H-J falling out of a tree, and Bobby C finally showing up to see the Faxter for Sorkin with his retinue of drag queens and the strung out pharmacy tech. And the Fax man just cooking and shooting and cooking and shooting. Running out of diluted water and finally going to the lake (which is solely by itself as it's own brand of shocking humor, all alone as this moment of the perfect and purely mixed emotions of comedy and tragedy, I'd say [a kind of strangely poetic lynch pin for this whole crazy novel, maybe in some sort of way]).

Anyway...For the Count it was all done. But the Bimster was just getting his start in life. And but still yet to do all kinds of heroic and good hearted things, if also some serious violence and drug abuse. Who knows how many heroic deeds Don G has left in him or if he will ever get to see what the P.G.O.A.T. looks like behind the veil or how it'd've gone for Hal'n'm I guess up in the Concavity/Convexity out at JOI's grave site. A lot of questions that require further rereading and a quite large dollop of concentrative creative elaboration no doubt.

And that is hands down the thing that amazes most (or one of those things). That a thousand page novel with another hundred pages of end notes/addendums/errata/way more specific information about pharmaceutical drugs both made up and real than you would ever possibly want to know about could possibly send you scurrying back to the beginning of it to start over to try and see what all you missed out on the first go round, that this could happen is nothing short of an amazing feat of writing. It really is a Herculean effort. Trying to put a world this large and detailed together into any kind of coherent work would be virtually impossible for those of us among the mere mortals of the realm.

Wallace for himself was a titan though. No question of his genius, even if you feel it's self indulgent of him to write as he did in Jest (and go read his reportage and see who you think is the self indulgent one. I dare you if you think that). A man with a vocabulary twice the size of most of us mere humans. And a precision of both observation and interpretation of observation non pareil.

So much of the work was drawn from the real area surrounding Boston that from the perspective of a long time Bostonian it was just a whole helluva lot of fun to go through just for that and that alone, forget about all the rest. Inman Square, Cambridge, Allston, the Storrow 500 (very real and hilariously spot on with that one was DFW), the BPL, the Back Bay, et cetera all real and mostly as described. To a degree of the angle.

It was quite a ride, and I do have to say that the timing was bad on some of the no chaser hard truths towards the end as I myself was just not of a mind for such darkness at those moments of time, and it was contributing just a speck for a moment to my own difficulties. And that's why I wouldn't go back except in a period of stability and for essentially a quick few week reread. That's all the time I can imagine for a second round in the next several years though regardless of anything else. Which is certainly somewhat of a bummer. Plus, no way I show so much restraint in reading a book that I'm as into as I was with this one. It's never happened before. Maybe with another collective read via the continuing infsum (I'm out for Dracula, but we'll see what comes up after that), but otherwise on my own, no way. I'm a sprinter when it comes to literature.

I do still imagine this book will be one that I'll return to at more than one juncture in my life if I live a long one, which is something I'm really kind of hoping for, but one never can bank these things for certain. And I look forward with great relish to the time when I can read more of the man's work. A now finite body now. A too finite body quite many would agree. Still, I'm not angry at the man, as apparently some are. I'm sad for him and how black those final days must've been. The depths to which was the reach of his feel. I would sort of guess from this work.

And I know that because of the freshness of his leaving, the pain that still exists about this loss, that it's still difficult to talk about the man himself and his relation to his work. And that more generally sometimes there's a desire to deal with the work and not the life and its relation back to the work, and that that can be an often times useful approach especially in academia, but that there are just such depths in this work that his own capacity for sorrow must have been something that I just know that I for myself probably could not even begin to imagine trying to stay standing and live through. I would guess.

Right now tonight (this morning now) though I'm not trying to do anything but just slightly recall the emotions of the realization last Saturday that it was the one year anniversary of David Foster Wallace's suicide as I was approaching the end of what must've been his master work and would think about this book that I now love as a desert island top five, this infinite jest, this lopsided Serpinski Gasket, and I would know what it means to miss someone you're not even sure you knew. If only for just a flash when I clicked through from Infsum's twitterlink and saw the picture of Wallace with his head down and that sly smile like he's up to something (which quite clearly he most surely always was) and then had the momentary feeling of having had the true sense of the man himself for a flicker of a second, and that had made me feel heavily the weight of this loss that the man himself is gone even as the work lives on.

That's just it though, the work lives on, and the truth of the fact is that this work, if we get it right and get our shit together, this work will be read for eons to come (If we get it right. If we get it really right). The work lives on. Ultimately and at the end of the day, Infinite Jest lives on more than most or at least has that great potential to do so. Ultimately again it's up to the individual reader (collected). We decide for ourselves as we always do as the literary or whatever consumer. Or we try to. Maybe. Maybe we (you) are one of those who stopped 50/75/100/150/185 pages in. Maybe Wallace isn't you're thing. And that's okay, hey, everybody's gotta do and have their own thing.

The only thing that I would ask though, and I ask this with all restraint, respect, and sincerity. Don't trash him, please. Don't trash the man or his work or how it all ended. Not anonymously on the internet or in any way, shape, or form. And I know I'm nobody to ask that, but it just seems like, what with this country and culture so hell bent on vitriol as the new national past time, that I should just put it out there. Be respectful of this man who so clearly put everything he had on the line every time he picked up the pen. And honor that effort with an equal one of your (our) own self (selves).

Surely that's not really totally possible (like I said, Wallace was a titan), but it's still a good thought to end on nonetheless.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The inevitable, rambling, overlong baseball post

Certainly most people who know baseball know John Lester's story. How he was a promising young pitcher who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was 22. How he spent a year in chemotherapy and then came back and at 25 is probably the most dominant left handed pitcher in the game of baseball right now. He's just recently broken Bruce Hurst's record for most strikeouts in a single season by a Sox lefty and was totally on point last Sunday evening out at Fenway Park, allowing three hits and no runs over eight innings.

I saw it live and in person from the State Street pavilion half way up the third base line, which it was my first time to sit up there, and I do have to say that it was really just totally pretty awesome. You're looking down on the field from way up high and but you feel so close like being right on top of the field, and you get a really clear view of how well Lester commands both sides of the plate, how much movement his fastball has, how devastating his cut fastball really is. It just bends right at the plate, virtually unhittable when he's got it working. It was a joy to see it.

I went on Tuesday as well and got to see Daisuke take the mound for the first time since June, and he was solid, went right after hitters, and got the K's when he needed them. And at every big strike out the crowd was right behind him. Getting to their feet, yelling, clapping, shouting their support (or disdain for like Figgins or whoever [which really how can you not like Chone Figgins?]). The nation was roaring for the K, for the kill. And while I think it's great that he got such support and a standing O when he left the mound for the dugout with one on and no outs in the seventh with a pat on the back from Tito and a tip of his cap to the hollering crowd, I still think it's just really shitty that Sox fans are so quick to boo their own team's players when those players are struggling.

Matsuzaka was booed off the mound back in June after being 33-15 in his first two years here after making the switch from the Japanese puro yakyuu (only three other pitchers had better records over that span, and one of them got a Cy and an eight year, 230ish million dollar contract with the Yankees for his troubles [And I know Matsuzaka's outings were consistently flukish and mostly short over that period; still they were consistently wins]). They booed Takashi Saito (who has an ERA in the 3.40 range as of this writing and was down in the twos maybe when it happened) as he was about to (I repeat about to) give up the losing run in what had been a tie game since the sixth on one of Penny's better starts just before the break. I don't understand why you would boo your own pitcher right as he's trying to send the game into extra innings, even if he did just walk the bases full. Course they booed Lugo a lot before he was put on waivers. And then there's the fact that Red Sox fans will forever have the distinction of being the only fans in baseball probably ever to have booed John Smoltz. That's really, really classy folks.

In retrospect, the idea that John Smoltz and/or Brad Penny could each/either both come back from serious injuries and make the switch to the American League was some serious wishful thinking. I admit, I thought it could work, but now that I think back, it doesn't seem like it really ever could've. Penny has no reliable secondary pitch. He's a fastball pitcher all the way. Even with perfect location, there's no way you can make that work in the long run against AL lineups. And the Smoltz project was even more pie in the sky, I now also see. Here's a guy that basically had to reinvent himself then now that his fastball is in the high eighties/ low nineties, down from the high nineties even just a few years ago basically because he went to the bullpen for so many years and pitched the middle of his career out of the pen amassing no less than 254 saves. I think. Still, now that he's older, there's just no more blowing guys away with the heat.

Pinpoint accuracy, finesse, a little deception, and at least one out pitch are the barest of necessaries in order to find success in the AL East. Smoltz's slider was real when he could get it to fall, but he was having trouble throwing it for strikes all the way from his starts with the triple-A PawSox onward, and his then now slow fastball (by Major League standards at least) becomes a meatball if it catches any of the middle of the plate and the hitter's looking for it. Trying to figure out how to deal with all of that and a DH and coming off major shoulder surgery was a lot to ask. I mean, coming back and starting at 42 and trying to figure all that out in what is unquestionably the toughest division in all of baseball was never going to be easy. Add to that the pressure of playing for the BoSox. Only a very slight chance that whole project ever had. And I still wonder what would've happened if they'd offered or he'd accepted a set-up role in the Boston pen (Saito was able to make the transition even returning from injury), and for example Buchholz had come on as the fifth. Would we be looking down at the Yankees and not up? Who can say if that wouldn't've been too soon to bring the kid up. If he'd've had his confidence all the way back by then (which he sure does now, and even though Lester was great, I was a little sorry that I didn't get to see Clay as planned before the rain out Friday pushed Sunday's schedule forward).

I did say before the season last year that it would be too much pressure getting regular turns in the rotation for either Lester or Clay. Actually I said it was gonna be too much pressure for both of them, and that it was too soon, but I was only right about Buchholz. Lester was the rock last year. Number two from May on and the number one starter for most of the season and into the post season right up to that top shelf game seven performance when he got only just barely out pitched by Garza in the ALCS, throwing a No against Kansas City at some point along the way to there (a defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Championship series, sending them onto the World Series and the Sox into the off season).

Still, two rookie starting pitchers on one of the most high pressure teams in all of major league sports, especially with the expectations for Clay after having already thrown a no hitter in the second start of his career back at the end of '07 (a thing that even some of the greatest pitchers retire without having ever done), there was very little chance that that wouldn't be too much. Course Lester probably has a little more perspective on the whole thing than Clay (who just recently got engaged to a suitcase model from that Howie Mandel show with the suitcases for whatever that's worth) what with the hair loss and the facing of death that is the battle with cancer. Even still I say that the 45 million dollar contract coming almost right before the season opened spun Lester's head a bit and had him a little distracted and contributed to his early struggles this year. I would suggest to Theo that it's surely a good idea to get those things done earlier in the off season and certainly before spring training if at all possible.

See, the pressure in Boston baseball is not just the bright media spotlight (and top quality sports writing from both the Globe and the Herald [and also some pretty rudely jerk-off column writing from both as well]), it's not just the park (which can be pretty hitter friendly at times [although can also be a huge home field advantage with its' strange dimensions, passionate fans, and of course the green monster]), it's also the rivalry. Having to try and keep pace with the New York Yankees (especially this particular year's second half, holy mother what?!) and their unmatched revenue streams as their main rival has been difficult for the home team here in Beantown, especially when the division they are already both in boasts a third team that beat out both of these teams and went all the way to the Series before being beaten by Philly last year even if they have now faded back to 500 after being swept by the Sox this past weekend (of which Lester was the final game going against James Shields) and are now fully out of the hunt. As well as Roy Halladay coming around for Toronto (who pulled the reverse of their usual and started strong before fading just before the break) and the still potentially damaging Baltimore line up (even if they are 2-15 against the Sox this year [the most totally lopsided it's been in a while]).

But because there is no profit sharing amongst the teams in baseball each team essentially controls the rights for its own markets and just gets paid per by ESPN or Fox or whatnot for the weekly Saturday and Sunday baseball on what must just be a season to season basis for whichever few good match ups get picked up. Substantial monies go to the players and MLB of the post-season receipts from whoever makes it to where ever, so the real source of money for a team is in stadium receipts and cable television revenues from the regular season. And in this regard New York just cleans everybody's clock. There is no more lucrative sports market in all of the world than NYC.

Which is why New York has two of every major sport. A good one and a shitty one often, although still even more often lately two shitty ones. And less occasionally these days two good ones. They haven't really had the kind of sports luck (or perhaps acumen is the right word here [heh, heh]) that Boston has had this new millenium in general sports success. Still, the Yankees do and always will have more money than every other team in baseball without, dare I say this, regulation. The New York Yankees payroll, relatively speaking, claims the largest differential between its main rival, the Boston Red Sox, of any rivalry payroll differential of any and all professional sports rivalries. In '08 it was 135 to 240 something. A difference of over 100 million dollars. That's still a lot of bread. I don't care how much money the Fed just printed or the banks and the markets've lost.

And for a lot of reasons that team has been less and less successful for the past 10 or so years (to the great enjoyment of Bostonians and Red Sox Nation generally). And even after going out and spending 400 million (over a period of years) for three big time free agent signings over the off season [and overpaid by half for at least two of them, but we'll just have to wait and see about that]), they still struggled early as Alex Rodriguez was swamped with the steroid allegation and then went down with an injury, and Sabathia, Texiera, and Burnett all started slow. Finally though we saw what that team could do as they just destroyed the Sox in the middle serieses (Can you pluralize series? I guess the second plural is just sort of assumed to be understandable from the context) of the season, winning 4 or 5 games straight and starting with the broom in the Bronx over three back in August.

The bombers didn't get here on pace to easily win 100 without the Sox taking several of the early series (es) themselves though. I believe it was three. Three beautiful sweeps that is (even if one was only a two gamer and doesn't really count as a series). Still, this tells you how well the Yanks have been playing since the break that the Sox are five games back even with eight straight early season wins against 'em. Those were good times, I do gotta say. I will always always for the rest of my life always and forever enjoy watching or listening to the Sox beat the Yanks or reading it in the paper the next day or even just going to and checking the box scores and quick run down, which is mostly all I get to do these days. Always will get up for that.

Yes, the Sox are trailing right now as we're coming down to the wire but only by five games and only by four losses. Which means the AL East pennant is still on the table, if within a fairly close reach for the bombers. This road trip the Sox are currently on is the key as it ends in NYC for 3. (Just quick, yo, the key is NYC for three. And also just quick, what up with the new Yankee stadium. It's a damn launching pad. I swear they did that on purpose somehow.) The hometown heroes here in Boston've just about clinched a wild card spot at the very least as Texas is on the fade as we head down the stretch, and surprisingly it's not their pitching that's the problem. It's been their hitting here recently, which is pretty odd as the Rangers have been one of the best hitting teams in the game for quite sometime and still sport a dangerous if hard slumping line up. It's really just been this year that their young crop of pitchers had finally been successful. And then they get shut out for like two and a half games, maybe longer. And now they're all but done for the year.

As for Boston's staff, way back in spring training, a lot of people were saying that the BoSox's starting rotation might be the strongest in baseball, and for most of the season those people were mostly wrong. All of a sudden, right when things are getting serious, it just looks like they might end up where we all thought they were gonna be way back when. That rules the schoolyard.

Also, Vlad Guerrero looks like he's getting ready to join Mel Gibson's Braveheart crew and bash some skulls when he's warming up on deck swinging that bat around behind his head all crazy, and Gary Mathews Jr. has about the widest, most bent legged batting stance I've ever seen. Also again, Billy Wagner has a pretty funky delivery his own bad self. The guy looks like he's throwing a knuckleball, but then the ball kinda zooms out of his hand to the plate. It's really weird looking and really effective. He'll get his four hundredth save next year for somebody fer sure. And Shields's set move when he's about to throw is this quick sweeping sideward motion to the set. Also weird, although not ultimately very effective this season.

I have to say, Sox fans are like lost puppy dogs. They seem to wander around aimlessly, making it virtually impossible to move in the walkways underneath the stands. They stand around in the middle of these walkways. Bunching up especially at the various entrances out to the stands; at the very focal point of all traffic is where people always stop. Obnoxious does not even begin. Riding the T with everyone is pretty crappy too because there's never enough cars for at least an hour before and an hour after every game, so it's like sardines that T riding is. And I cannot say enough about how much I dislike Sweet Caroline as Red Sox nation's theme song. I don't mean to be mean, but, seriously, like seriously seriously, we need a new theme already. Not only does the song suck, but it's also all the way tired now after how many years of being played at virtually every home game? They've played it once a game at every one I've been to over the past three years almost without fail. I do love the music Alex Gonzalez and Victor Martinez stand in to though. Some kind of double time Caribbean stuff. Really pretty rad. And lastly I wonder if Pedey picked Dr. Dre for himself or if that's meant as some kind of joke (I would guess not as it's been his music since at least last season [It still does seem funny to me though that Dustin Pedroia stands in to Dre]).

Okay then, I'd say that's enough baseball talk (as if that's even possible, hah!).