Thank ye, Sandy

That’s my poor little dinghy, left foreground, tied up in a badly-chosen spot at the 79th street boat basin. (It’s somebody else’s picture, not mine.) I was down there around 1 PM today — before the cops chased us all away, as usual — and it was heartbreaking to see how the poor thing was getting tossed around. I  felt certain that it wouldn’t survive the afternoon. I guess I’ll venture down again tomorrow and find out.

But it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. At least it’s stopped people talking about the fucking ‘election’ for a few hours.



I promised an introduction to my cellmate Teabagger Bob.

(Actually, I doubt that he’s a real Teabagger. I think he’s just a guy who listens to Fox News.)

Bob is a very hard worker. He spends most of the day shouting into the telephone about various arcana of the business, in a penetrating, querulous New York accent. He clearly feels a great sense of urgency about doing the job and getting it right, and a lot of concern that he’s the one who will be blamed if there’s a snafu.

But every so often he gets into a big political wrangle with the two Russians who sit next to him, who are also very right-wing but clearly think Bob is a madman. And this is when I get a window into poor Bob’s tormented mind.

I don’t participate; I just listen. This is a spiritual exercise I recommend unreservedly.

Bob’s political outlook can pretty much be summed up as fear of freeloaders. Bob is convinced that the country is full of idle folk who are living high on the hog at his expense.

None of it makes any sense, of course, and Bob doesn’t have a fact in his head. Indeed, he believes, and asserts as incontestable truth, things that five minutes of Googling would demonstrate are chimerical. My liberal friends are to this extent right about the Bobs of the world; their thinking is not ‘fact-based’. (Of course, neither are my friends’,  or mine, or anybody’s; but that’s another post.)

I don’t know whether Bob has really overcome much adversity or not, though he clearly thinks he has. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s a self-serving myth — who was it that said every American wants to believe he was born in a log cabin that he built with his own hands? But certainly, there’s plenty of sorrow and adversity in every life, even the most privileged.

Bob’s view of the world is emotionally driven — but then, so is mine; I can’t throw any stones on that score. The difference, of course, is in the emotions, and in the narrative we each construct of our lives.

Bob wants to believe that he has prevailed, partly because he’s virtuous — hard work, of course, being an unquestioned virtue in overworked Amurrica — and partly because he’s tough.

Me, I think I’ve been lucky. I know I’m not virtuous — particularly when it comes to work — and I’m about as tough as a suckling pig.

Bob and I are both under the harrow. Fear is distressingly audible in his voice as he natters on the phone. Of course I’m scared too. But I’m a fatalist, and Bob is a striver.

Bob has really internalized the boss’ expectations.  And of course, what you get is what you tend to pass on. He is in effect acting like a boss to all these imaginary freeloaders who surround him. Get tough! Cut the bums off! I’ve got a job; they should get a job!

Me, I just wonder how to get on the gravy train myself.

And sometimes I wonder a bit about what the world would be like if everybody, from birth, had a modest seat on the gravy train. In this happy fantasy world of mine, the energetic and motivated could upgrade to second class, if they cared enough(*), but everybody, striver or slacker, would arrive at the grave having lived in decent comfort.

Would Bob like that unpunitive world? He wouldn’t like the idea of it, as he now is; but I bet he could get used to it. I bet we all could.

Bob has made it clear that he’s going to vote for Rombama rather than Obromney. Since facts don’t play any role in Bob’s thinking on this subject, it’s clear that he just likes the Rombama story better.

But the competing stories are the only things that distinguish the two contenders. In the fact-based world, they’re quite difficult to tell apart. So really, who can blame Bob for preferring a more congenial story?

My liberal friends fret about how to enlighten the Bobs of the world. They’re always coming up with arguments, and facts, to show the Bobs how deluded they are.

My theory: if you want Bob to vote for you, offer him something. Bob may be crazy, but he’s not stupid.

At the moment neither contender is offering anything but a story — or no, that’s not true; Rombama is offering lower taxes. Of course he doesn’t mean it, but still, nobody likes taxes.


(*) There wouldn’t be any first class. And there certainly wouldn’t be any business class.

Back to work. The noise! And the PEOPLE!

Disappointingly enough, I’m working again. I had hoped to die unemployed, but hey, that may yet happen.

The new gig is at a huge world-bestriding corporation, the absolute antithesis to my previous job at Buffalo Bill’s ISP And Massage Parlor, discussed earlier.The boss here appears to be a relatively normal and fairly likable human being, and the colleagues are OK.

What strikes me is that nobody gets an office any more. You sit at a bench. Behind you there’s a walkway and a half-dozen other bullpen-rats. No more Internet porn for you, Smith — the only thing that’s made work tolerable for the last twenty years.

You even have to kinda sneak checking your personal email. They try to prevent us from doing that, even, with a heavy-handed Web proxy censorship thing  — but ve haff vays.

Of course all the desktops are Windows. Q: Can I load Linux? A: Are you kidding?

This started out as an introduction to Teabagger Bob, who sits catty-corner to me in the bullpen. But it’s already too long, so this is just a tease. Stay tuned and you will meet Bob.


Apologies for stealing a wonderful phrase from Ernest Thesiger for my title.

Neither this, nor that

So … are you a Big-Endian or a Little-Endian? Or are you a moderate — do you think the truth lies somewhere in between? (If so, the hell with you). Or maybe you’re eclectic — you open the big end on odd-numbered days, and the little on even. Isn’t that pretty much the same as “somewhere in between”, at least on average?

Of course you have to open your egg at some place or other. It’s not an abstract problem.

You could stop eating eggs altogether. But who would want to do that?

As usual, my metaphor has run away with me, like an ornery but not otherwise very impressive horse.

Presented with a conventional either/or, you can always be sure that neither alternative is quite satisfactory. Plato or Aristotle? Theism or atheism? Progress or regress?

Neither obvious solution — eclecticism or splitting the difference — is satisfactory either.

What you have to do is escape from the question somehow. The mentality police have you in the interrogation room, and they want you to say Big End or Little End before they’ll let you go. So your job is to climb out the window.

The truth doesn’t lie somewhere in between. In fact it doesn’t lie at all. But if you want to seek it, don’t stay on the line-in-between. Go off at an angle.



Worth a thousand words

From Mike Flugennock, of course.

I bet Mitt got more votes by promising to shut down PBS than Obie would get by promising to keep it going — which he hasn’t done, actually, has he?

I listen to PBS myself, when I’m driving or sailing on an unexciting day. Faute de mieux, when there’s not a good eloquent fundamentalist preacher to explain Galatians to me.

PBS irritates me more than not. If it weren’t there, I wouldn’t miss it. Apart from Car Talk, of course, but those guys will find a home.



An interesting election (unlike ours)

The New York Times is very grumpy and dismissive about Hugo Chavez’ victory in Venezuela — by an 11-point margin, which would of course be considered a landslide here. Oh well, they say, he did better last time. Clearly the magic is fading. Not fading quite as fast as Obie’s, of course.

But still, there’s hope. Venezuela may yet revert to neocolony status, and wouldn’t that be wonderful. Uncle can wait, though the Times is fretfully impatient for good news to report. Chavez is, after all, mortal. And the smart money understands that these spells of public discontent are transitory things.

Until they aren’t.



The best of the worst

From one of my mailing lists:

Marxism is the legitimate successor to the best humanity produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism.

I don’t exactly disagree with the writer of this, but there’s something blockheaded about it, which disturbs me.

Old Karl is one of three thinkers born in the 19th century whom I deeply admire; the other two are Darwin and Freud. And for Karl, at least, I also feel an intense personal fondness. I just like the guy. I think that tossing back a few beers with Karl would have been fun, and I’m not so sure about that with respect to the other two.

‘Best of the nineteenth century’ seems right, though it was, overall, a hell of a bad period; and therefore, perhaps, the phrase, though no doubt well intended, is in fact fainter praise than the Moor deserves.

What struck my eye was the three sources my correspondent listed: German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism. Talk about unpromising materials! And yet my correspondent is right, up to a point: these were the books Karl had on his shelf.

All these confluent streams are shallow and polluted, and yet old Karl, swimming in such insalubrious waters, came up with notions that can still set us thinking, and even acting.

What bothers me, perhaps, about my correspondent’s phrasing is an implicit suggestion that Karl winnowed out the bad and kept the good; that his activity was, so to say, redactive.

This couldn’t be more wrong. All the bad stuff about Karl is the nineteenth-century stuff; the belief in ‘progress’, for example. That comes from ‘English political economy’. And all the stuff that’s completely unreadable and incomprehensible comes from German ‘philosophy’. And all the dated polemics — which are, admittedly, fun to read — come from French socialism.

So where did the good stuff come from? I have my own thoughts on the subject, but I’d like to hear yours.




American politics — at least since Richard Nixon left this vale of tears behind — is a terrible bore at the best of times, but a presidential campaign drags it yet farther down, to hadopelagic depths of tedium — lightless realms where only tube-worms can survive. Nobody has a thought to spare on anything but the horse race, or rather the horse’s-ass race. Please check your brain, and your autonomy, and your self-respect, at the door.

This is surely one of the many good reasons to loathe electoral politics.People talk as though it were a very detached and bloodless choice between Evil and Eviller, but it’s not. Once you start giving a shit, you’re in the Roach Motel, mentally and emotionally. You’ve been pwned.

The only real choices you have are whether to participate or not, and whether to care or not.

Speaking of Nixon, I was talking the other day to a friend of my daughter’s, a chap in his early 20s, if that. Daughter had mischievously told the lad about my Nixon obsession.

Lad was raised in the usual dogmatic New York liberal context and he found this appalling and inexplicable.

Maybe you had to be there? I mean, back in the Nixon years? It’s hard to convey what an intensely interesting madman Nixon was. Every president since has been a cipher.

Oh, people say Clinton has some personality, but I don’t buy it. I’m from the South myself. I know his type. He’s the big loud confident glad-hander down at the feed store, always trying to sell a lawn mower that doesn’t work.

Say what you will about Nixon, but he was always willing to go off-script and show you just what a nut he was. And his particular kind of nuttiness found an echo in many of us — it certainly did in me: his provincial chip on the shoulder; his resentment of the cool kids and the in-group; his somewhat excessive confidence in his own unaided brain-power and autodidact’s flimsy erudition; and of course his dislike of Henry Kissinger — though he was, at the end of the day, too impressed by qualifications to turf the guy out, as I would have done after thirty seconds.

Hell, these days, I’m, like, the President? I could send Kissinger to fuckin’ Gitmo, man. And I would, too.



Deer in the headlights

Of course I didn’t watch the ‘debate’; seeing two barely-distinguishable stuffed shirts exchange banalities is not my idea of a good time. But the general consensus that Rombama ate Obromney’s lunch fills me with vindictive glee. The snidely professorial President was aparently no match for the boardroom bully.