Thursday, November 30, 2006

True Reunion Confessions

Went to my 20th high school reunion last Friday night. Wife of Hatcher’s brother and his wife were visiting from Wisconsin, so I went stag. All the better for achieving the primary purpose of attending high school reunions – as people get older and more distant from their high school years, they are more willing to confess certain things to you that they felt those many years ago, or that they feel now in comparison to then. The confessions of formerly held convictions is easy, because when you’ve more than doubled your age, and in some cases you have your own kids approaching high school and you realize how idiotic teenagers are, you can talk about your 17 year old version of yourself like he’s a totally different person, and he is. The “now in comparison to then” confessions are slightly harder to coax, but not impossible – when you haven’t seen 98 percent of the people at the reunion for 15 to 20 years, they know there is little risk of seeing you again tomorrow, so there is very little prospect of long-term embarrassment.

I don’t go to make these confessions. I go, kick back a few cocktails, and patiently wait to receive them. Any confession that involves you personally, no matter the sentiment expressed, is a great ego stroke because it confirms your centrality or significance outside of your own ego.

So I seek out confessions of 2 varieties. The first is the “vindication” confession, and it goes something like this: “Wow! I was so superficial and shallow in high school to seek good looks and a great personality in a boyfriend. By looking at you now I see this was a colossal mistake.” The vindication confession is clearly a “now in comparison to then” confession, and it really has nothing to do with you as a high schooler; instead it’s a recognition of your obvious superior status today relative to your peers. Always good to get a vindication confession.

The second variety of confession is the “regret” confession, which expresses regret over failure to act on certain feelings held long ago. It goes something like this: “It would have killed my social life and drawn great laughter from my friends to have dated you in high school, but I found myself oddly drawn to your scrawny body, despite the acne. I just didn’t have the courage to approach you.”

It will come as no surprise that no such confessions came the Hatcher’s way, but that is not to say no confessions came my way. At my fifth reunion, I got one of the following variety: “I was always repelled by your air of smug intellectual superiority.” This was two months after starting graduate school, which was approximately 1 month and 30 days after having my air of smug intellectual superiority replaced by an air of deprecating intellectual inferiority, so I took it in good humor.

Lucky for you I got a picture of the only former classmate to make any sort of confession to me at year 20. It was from the guy in the middle of the picture – the handsome one with the Motorhead t-shirt, and the stylish hair.
The confession: “I used to think you were such an idiot in high school.” How many of you have ever had a 40 year old guy wearing a mohawk saying that they thought you were the idiot? Didn’t think so. Not exactly in-line with the type of confession I had hoped to hear at the reunion, but if I had gotten the vindication or regret confession from this guy, I would have thrown up my Chartreuse on the spot.

Being pollyanish in nature, I clung to the past tense “used to think” as a positive indication that his opinion has since changed, and it had. Apparently we were in English together senior year, and we often debated in class. He tells me that looking back, he now realizes that I was a smart cat, and that I got the better of him in most debates, but there was one time where he clearly was right and I was wrong and idiotic.

We were discussing Kafka’s Metamorphisis, a story in which the main character, Gregor Sampsa, goes to bed one night and wakes the next morning as a giant cockroach. The day prior to this discussion, as I recall, the teacher had taken me aside and took me to task for not participating in class discussions, and to tell me she won’t let it go on. I couldn't risk a bad grade going on my permenant record, so as everybody is plumbing the depths of symbolism in Kafka, I am planning to make the teacher regret forcing me to participate while nominally making an effort. Of course, no one in the story knows quite how to deal with the guy who turned into a roach, and his family has to kick him out of the house to replace his income by renting his room. The story is about alienation, and how tenuous our connections to even our closest family members really are. Cheery stuff. Anyway, the teacher poses the question: who changed the least in the story?

Now for a clever student the obvious answer is to look at who changed the most on the surface (i.e. the guy who woke up as a roach) and choose him, because this is precisely the kind of crap an existentialist author like Kafka would inflict on his readers to show how clever he is. And so the Mohawk guy says precisely that – the guy was a “roach” when he went to bed, and he woke up that way. Others expressed sympathy for his situation, and contempt for the family that threw him out on his antenna. When the teacher called on the Hatcher for my opinion, I was buying none of this existentialist crap, and expressed the cold view that obviously a man who turns into a bug has changed significantly, and that if I were his father I would have called the exterminator rather than agonizing over what to do. Of course I was being an idiot, but by design. The lesson: even when I was an idiot high school, I was smarter than everybody. It’s enough to give a guy his air of smug intellectual superiority back.

Monday, November 20, 2006

2006 Election and the Birth of the Most Ethical Congress

Well, that was a good old-fashioned a**-kicking during the election, and all I have to show for it is $30 in winnings. Should of bet the Senate race – much better odds there. Elections are funny things – very messy data that is tortured to no end to make completely unsupportable suggestions of their longer-term meaning. The Clinton election in 1992 was the death of the Republicans; the Republican Revolution in 1994 was the death of big Government liberalism; the Republican setbacks in 1998 were a kick to the head of the recently resurrected Republicans that would send them to another death in 2000; the 2000 elections was the death of the Democratic party, even its moderate elements, with the burial of it side by side with the long dead big Government liberalism; and here we are in 2006 when the electorate, with big government liberalism back in good health and packaged with his new friend defeatist pessimism, while ideology and big government conservatism dies a swift death. Our politics are like the Night of the Living Dead.

Now if all I cared about was my tribe being in power, I’d feel comforted with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of what she promises to be the most ethical House of Reps in American history, because it won’t be long until my tribe takes over. Last time we heard that promise it was Bill Clinton talking about his administration in 1992 while in the back of his mind he was conjuring up creative uses for Cuban cigars, the market price for the Lincoln bedroom, and ways to raise plenty of cash from Chinese commies. Her first move in the most ethical House of Reps was to support John Murtha for Majority Leader, who expressed within days of the vote that the House ethics bill being floated by the Dems was a load of crap, but he’d support it because Pelosi was in his corner, and this was her baby. When Murtha went down in the vote, Pelosi stood by her man saying how valuable it was that he “spoke truth to power,” which is a cliché that has long over-stayed its welcome. And unless she was referring to the portion from the Abscam tapes, one of the biggest Congressional scandals in US history, when he said to FBI agent dressed as an Arab Shiek – “is that a suitcase full of money in your robe or are you just glad to see me?,” I wouldn’t know what she is referring to.

Meanwhile William Jefferson, Democratic Congressman from New Orleans, is in a runoff in December after no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote. The state of the most ethical House in history could hang in the balance in the Big Easy, as Jefferson is known for coincidentally having $90,000 in cash in his freezer. Apparently he’s clean because the bills are all frozen together and may not thaw properly, making their status as legal tender questionable. If only Johnny Cockrane were available to defend him – “if the money doesn’t transmit, you must acquit!”

I was lamenting to a friend that the Democratic party never seems to put the pressure on its crooked members to quit. Have sex with a page – we’ll heap praise on you when you die; drive a woman off a bridge in a drunken stupor – step right up as the leader of the opposition; rape a woman in Arkansas – hmmm, better rethink this whole date rape issue and have a further dialogue; stash $90K in your freezer – there’s gotta be a plausible explanation; leave the National Archives with classified documents of national important that fell into your socks - we all just laughed ‘cause that’s crazy mixed up Sandy for you; payoff your mistress out of your Rainbow Coalition to cover the costs of your illegitimate kid – when can we sign you up for a spot on the Today show?; have sex with a teenage campaign worker – well then the Rainbow coalition has a place for you as a youth counseler! And that’s just the Kennedy family! These guys are beyond parody, and I could spend the next two years laughing my ass off if the rest of the country realized the high comedy, but instead most people think this is the West Wing rather than the Office.

Anyway, all of that aside, whatever change in policy this spurs, I honestly hope that it works. I don’t think that anything coming from the Democrats with respect to foreign policy will do anything to improve our standing, and much of what they are flirting with could make it far worse. But the thing about the world is that there is an element of unpredictability, and a really bad bet can come through even as a good one goes south. It’s better to be lucky then good. Hopefully the Democratic Congress will be like an episode of Three’s Company – where Jack Tripper gets himself into a huge mess because of a misunderstanding, but somehow it all works out in the end. And there is one thing about the U.S. that we can all take comfort in – being the richest country in the world enables us to afford really bad governance, no matter how you define bad. Not without a cost, but still we can afford it. And something tells me my share of that bill is about to go up.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Racist Goldfish

Bill and Joe got two goldfish a couple weeks ago, and within 10 days Bill's fish had effectively starved Joe's by hogging all of the flakes. Joe's fish goes belly-up, and we return to the store to get him another one. Joe doesn't want the typical little orange goldfish - he wants something a little different. We're at Petsmart, and luckily for me each bin of fish has a little card telling you whether the care of the fish can be achieved by a beginner, so we focus on that section. Joe wants the Black Moor Goldfish, which is black as night with big bulgy eyes; at $5, it is considerably more expensive than the $0.25 run of the mill goldfish, but there is a two week life guarantee on the more expensive fish, so I'm OK with it. The guy who is helping us out is black, and he asks Joey which particular fish he would like. Joey shrugs as if to say they all look alike to me, and says any one will do. I am sitting there cringing with white guilt at the implied insensitivity up the evolutionary chain expressed by Joe, and the guy just laughs and scoops up the first lucky Black Moor goldfish. I suggest Othello as the name, but Joe goes with Bulgy because of its eyes. We get home and place our $5 Moor in the tank with our 25 cent goldfish (Ego - don't ask), and Ego will have none of the Moor - he swims to a corner and avoids Bulgy at all costs. So now I can't invite any liberals over to the house because of my racist goldfish.


I'm betting about a zillion dollars on Tradesports to win a nickel when the Democrats take over the House of Representatives tomorrow night. I couldn't believe how high the odds were - the bet is about $8 to win $10 if the Democrats take over. And what a welcome take over it will be, given their well thought out and expressed agenda. As far as I can tell, their agin whatever George Bush is for. If W takes his crap in the morning, well the Dems are for taking it in the evening. Very nuanced. Like him or hate him, at least Gingrich put together an actual agenda for the 1994 elections that most every running Republican signed onto, so you knew what you were getting.

Do you know what you're getting tomorrow? I'll tell what you're getting - at least among incumbent Democrats, if you re-elect 'em your either getting someone who voted every incremental step along the way for regime change in Iraq (policy of the country from the Clinton years) to bombing the bejesus out of Baghdad because they were popular notions at the time, or you're getting some nutbag whose reflexive pacificism would have him "bombing" a murderous thug who just killed his whole family with hugs, trying to get at the root understanding of why the assailant hates him.

All, of course, think George Bush is the dumbest guy walking. Which is OK for the pacifists to think, as far as I'm concerned, but for the rest of the incumbent rocket scientists, who to a man distance themselves from their own responsibility in voting for Iraq on the basis that they were duped by the most idiotic President the world has ever known, you have to ask yourself: do I really want to entrust these guys when they've been repeatedly fooled by a moron who they hated in the first place? Can you imagine these guys negotiating with Kim Il-Jong, who in their view ideologically has his heart in the right place (as do all murderous totalitarian commies)and is probably pretty smart? Why, they'd probably just sign some absurd treaty that would only hasten the North Koreans getting nukes, make pronouncements about how reasonable and intelligent Kim is, and pat themselves on the back in the process for keeping the world safe.


And can someone please point out that the Democratic talking point that iraq has been a distraction from the war on terror is perhaps the most idiotic thing ever said in a campaign? Where do they think terrorist attacks are taking place on a daily basis, with American people and assets often as the primary target? It aint happening here, that's for sure. We clearly have many brave Iraqis who are allies in the war on terror, and who will continue to be targets if we leave - so this is the message we send to allies in the war on terror - we're right behind you until the terrorist fight back, at which time we have to stop being distracted from the war on terror and pull out as fast as possible and redeploy our troops to Germany, where we really have a terrorism problem. Look, if we pull out before the Iraqis can defend themselves, we just lost the war on terror, it's that simple - everyone will know that once we reach a three year point of steady (but historically low) losses of life, with the NYT and the rest of the media painting every day as a disaster with no upside, we'll wise up and leave. You can argue about whether it was the right move in the first place, but to suggest that the Iraqi front has nothing to do with the war on terror is truly a talking point worthy of the Pelosi's of the world. No wonder every terrorist organization in the world is looking forward to the election tomorrow with the glee of Howard Dean.


The Sixers are 3-0, on their way to a perfect season. If you don't think so, I can assure you that Vegas Heavy-T will take the other side of that bet. Meanwhile in college football, Louisville is poised for the national championship game, provided they can get past perrennial powerhouse Rutgers. I'm all for it - people who say that if Michigan-Ohio State is a close game, it should replayed for the national championship are wrong. Both will have their chance at each other, and if the loser of the first match-up were to win the second, while Louisville goes unbeaten, why would the second winner have the claim over the winner of the first game, let alone over Louisville? College football has always been screwed up by the notion that in a world of 1 loss teams, the team with their loss most distant in the past is the winner. It's a stupid way to judge performance across a whole season, which is necessary when there are no formal playoffs. Let the two best undefeateds play for the championship, and anyway who wines about can have their loss thrown in their face.

Sign up for my Notify List and get email when I update!

powered by