Friday, August 13, 2010

Building A Better Politics

Apparently the dear Dr. Laura had a fit of stupidity while taking an on-air call during her radio show. Some might say she's a racist for repeatedly and intentionally saying the word 'nigger' whilst talking to a black woman about the racist comments of her white husband's friends. I'm taking a TNC approach to this one. Dr. Laura isn't a racist. She's just ignorant.
What we have here is another instance of someone mistaking authorial intent as the beginning and end of how a word is understood. I'm waving my Wittgenstein stick here as I subscribe to his 'meaning as use' theory of language. Since language is a public act words gain meaning through the interaction of at least two people. Dr. Laura could have meant whatever she liked when saying 'nigger'. Doesn't mean a damn thing because that's not how that language game is played. Had she premised her usage of the word on it's regularity in the speech of black men she might have a defensible position. Actually, no not really. All Dr. Laura did was attempt to excuse her usage by citing its usage in a completely different language game.
Stupidity and ignorance reign once again with Dr. Laura. Because she didn't know, or refused to acknowledge, that authorial intent only plays a small role in defining a word she stumbled right into a classic ignorant white person trap. It doesn't matter much that she apologized. The words were spoken. No matter what she intended, the meaning of the word 'nigger' doesn't suddenly change to suit her needs. The word has a meaning that invokes a whole different language game than the one she was playing. With a different game come different rules. Dr. Laura was ignorant of this and ignorance isn't much of a defense.
Thus Dr. Laura was wrong and remains ignorant of exactly why she was wrong. Thus she needs a beating with the Wittgenstein stick.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Building A Better Politics

I'm a little bemused at this post from FrumForum writer John Vecchione arguing for the arrest of WikiLeaks principal Julian Assange. It's not so much the argument itself as it's the strange phrase Vecchione uses in reference to the soldier who gave WikiLeaks some 90,000 pages of classified information on the Afghan war. Vecchione uses the phrase "disgruntled homosexual soldier", the only reference at all to the source of the leak. Now it's fairly obvious that the soldier was indeed disgruntled. When one thinks of 'massive leak of classified information' the idea of a non-disgruntled soldier doesn't readily come to mind. Oh, and the soldier is in fact a soldier. So the phrase 'disgruntled soldier' shouldn't come as a surprise (unless, of course, you're simply stupid). Thus the striking part of Vecchione's phrasing is the word 'homosexual'.
I don't get it. So the disgruntled soldier is homosexual. So what? You would do just as well as saying 'disgruntled blonde soldier'. That the soldier is homosexual shouldn't need pointing out. Such a piece of information adds nothing to the larger purpose of Vecchione's post--namely arguing for the actions the U.S. is and should take with regards to Assange. From Vecchione's perspective I can understand his distaste for Assange and desire to prevent or at least curtail Assange's freedom of movement. I don't share it, but I get it.
So the soldier is gay. Why mention that at all? If Vecchione's intent were to argue for tighter security in handling classified documents then talking about the soldier is only natural. But Vecchione's focus is on Assange. All I can really conclude from Vecchione describing the soldier as gay is Vecchione doesn't like gays. Additional supposition leads me to think Vecchione not only dislikes gays but believes gays are potential security risks in the military.
The obvious, Vecchione's dislike of gays, doesn't necessarily lead to my supposition. But still, why use that phrasing at all? If your argument were against gays serving openly in the military then the orientation of the source leak makes for an easy point of entry. That's not Vecchione's argument here. What it indicates, I believe, is Vecchione's bias against gays. Such a bias appearing so randomly colors the rest of his post. Worse yet, it weakens his argument by injecting an unreasonable position within his wider argument. If something so innocuous as the source leak being homosexual bothers Vecchione then how reasonable is the rest of his argument? It puts Vecchione's objectivity into question when such objectivity is necessary to firmly establish his argument's viability.
What that leaves the reader with is an argument that, whatever its merits, lacks the needed perspective to make it truly persuasive.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Get Back Sessions

For some reason I've been waking up somewhere between half-an-hour to an hour before my alarm goes off at 6. This despite falling asleep around 2. Not sure why. I haven't changed anything about my habits. I open my eyes and look at the clock then roll onto my back. Instead of drifting back off my consciousness goes knocking about the room next door until it comes crashing into my bed. All the jumbled pieces of dream assemble and fade. I don't remember the dreams other than I know I did dream.
Sit up on the edge of the bed for a bit, find my glasses, coffee and cigarettes. My head is already giving me instructions, reminders and such. Switch on the desktop, music is needed. Couple of games of Sudoku to get the neurons oiled and turning. News and blog posts to read. Already have blog ideas drifting in and out. Put together some more images to print off for my design notebook. An hour later my tongue is coffee-stained. Still need more caffeine.
Writing occasionally grabs me while I plot out the day. My head runs through the work I need to do today. Haven't dressed yet and the ashtray is already getting full. The cats are roaming, on the desk and off. One occasionally curls up in my lap just as I'm finishing my third (fourth?) cup of coffee. Volume goes up incrementally. The blinds go open at once. Still not dressed. Someone has emptied the coffeepot.
There are pills to start taking. Timing is everything. Weather reports, traffic reports, people walking on the street, people walking in the house. God, I'm running out of cigarettes. The mild melodic drone shifts into faster tempos, higher volumes. Hand claps and hi-hats. Muscles call for strain and stress then settle into a relaxed state. I start to lose the thread. More pills. On goes the shiny new album. On goes the fresh post of coffee.
Clothing becomes a necessity rather than an option. Damn wrinkled shirt needs a hot iron. Wrinkled hair just needs a beating. Choices: razor burn or a bit of stubble? The fog that fell in my mind an hour ago lifts. Pills start to kick in. More volume. I'm chewing on my lip again. Need to stop that. More smoke in my lungs. Don't want to stop that. Sort out my bag. Someone reset the clock, it's later than I thought. Sunglasses, keys, cat. Switch out the cat for my wallet. Then the door.
That's my morning, longer now with extra lack of sleep. Very confused about that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Get Back Sessions

I'm a terrible kisser. It's all lips and tongue and knocking of teeth. I breathe in the person almost like I was trying to suck their soul into me. True, I kiss like I mean it. That doesn't excuse sloppiness though. See, passion needs a sense of control. Not self-restraint per se, but direction and intention. I kiss with uncontrolled intensity. I like the feel of a woman's tongue, of tongue entwined. When I'm breathing in I'm also soaking my nose in her oder. It's as if I want each kiss to take a little part of her with me. I want her touch and taste and smell to form a permanent impression in my mind. Perhaps this is due to my ever-present fear that each kiss is the last one. I kiss like I mean it because I kiss as someone with everything to lose. For when that last kiss comes I want to remember it. That, I think, is the problem. Holding back would mean I thought future kisses were to come. But maybe that's what I should do. A kiss should not result in the abandonment of all reason. And still I kiss with such abandonment because I fear abandonment.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Get Back Sessions

My family is coming up on the one year anniversary of my father and then grandfather's death this month (a father should never have to see his youngest son die first and I suppose my grandfather felt the same). The month of May has traditionally been the hardest month for my family. Can't say why, but that's how it goes. While my father and grandfather are not going to die again we have entered this month with a grave sense of life and its burdens. Yet my heart feels light right now. I think my father and grandfather have a hand in that. Their strength has become our strength. And while they now live in the light and glory they also have chosen to do what they can to ease our burdens. It's just something I feel and have no other explanation for it.
My thinking on death has slowly formed to the belief that whatever happens after our bodies stop doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter because you only get this life once. Even if you buy into Nietzsche's eternal recurrence you still only get one shot at this life. So my father and grandfather are dead. That's part of my life now. In the face of death and suffering I can either cry or laugh and carry on. I'll laugh even if there are tears in my eyes. And knowing I have a trio of loving fathers--God, my father and grandfather--looking out for me makes that laughter all the more joyful. I stopped fearing death when I realized I'll only have this life once. That's the freedom I believe Christ showed to us. That's the freedom I believe my dad and granddad are guiding me toward.
This life I have now will one day stop and even if that's the end of it I will still live this life as well as I can. Honestly, is there a better way to live? I may end up in misery, I may get swept up accidentally and sent to Gitmo, I may find myself in a real Holocaust style concentration camp. There are so many ways life can all go wrong. But it's still life, still my life, still this life. So what I fear isn't death but failing to live this life I have right now. Salvation may lie only through the grace of God but I don't have time to seek salvation. God gave me something better. God gave me life. So rather than insult God I'm going to damn well live this life. And the loss of my father and grandfather a year ago only strengthens my resolve to live as well as I can. Anything less is simply an insult to God and those who have died before us.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Get Back Sessions

I'm facing the horrible sin of turning 30 in less than six months. Blasphemous! you say? Life dies at 30? I should have a full-on freak out, or at least that's expected of me. "You're turning 30! Oh god that's old!" Pop culture has it that once out of your 20s you're life is pretty much over. Yes, that's exactly what's going to happen.
Don't buy into it. Maybe I'm well and truly fucked up in the head. Maybe I'm deluding myself. Or maybe I'm seeing 30 as liberation. I'm tired of being in my 20s, expected to live life as hard as I can. It's gotten so boring firing up the jet-packs on my way to the next big show. Getting in with the cool cool kids on the after hours disco dance or stumbling into the hothouse party. Never was my style in the first place. Sure I like a posh club, but I listen to better dance music, euro scene with the city-breathing dub step sounds. I like a good pub just as well when I'm with my friends. Seeing the shows but standing aloof. That's what I've done all along. The pose is tiresome. The clothes are not mine. The scenesters are not me.
Turning 30 means I'm now exempt. I don't have to take the pose, wear the clothes or pretend I'm another one of "those." I don't have to stand aloof in the back of the club. I can do it in the fucking middle now. It's not so much that I've faked myself for the last decade but that I've had to actually show interest where none exists. Not only can I not care I'm not even expected to. I become that old dude. I'm comfortable being the old dude.
Living on the other side of 30 opens up a whole new world of possibilities. For some reason I thought 28 would allow that, but it just meant I was in my waning days in the eyes of others. When you spend a lot of time observing you can feel other's eyes on you. But 30 gives me full rights to say "fuck off." Sure I've had that attitude for a good while. Even so, that was part of the expected pose. Now I can say it with pure honesty, not with a slab of irony.
It's liberation through invisibility. When no one pays attention you can do as you like. If I'm tired I can look it. If I'm annoyed I can run with it. If I'm interested I don't have to feign disinterest. Since I'm not obviously old I don't stand out. I can hold onto my arrogance without the absolution of some faux apology.
I think a wonderful ride awaits my 30s. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Get Back Sessions

I love fucking with language. I love good puns and lateral usage of words. It's the confusion it strikes in others, which they hate. I suppose that's what I get for reading too much about language.

The Political Consciousness

"So much of human genius is unintentional, is stumbled upon, and found amidst the ruins of dead traditions and full-proof plans." -TNC

That's a line from one of TNC's latest posts. He's focusing on President Obama's critique of new technological devices like iPads and Xboxes as being distractions. Coates takes the angle that what Obama is doing is over-emphasizing past culture at the cost of recognizing the innovative spirit of new technologies and mediums. And there's a real truth to what Coates says. As a self-professed geek Coates doesn't hesitate to say that without these alternative mediums (in his case comics, hip-hop and computer programing) he would have ended up as another college-degree holding menial worker. Moreover, he explains how having a parent not only aware of the cultural products their kid is absorbing but actively participating ties past culture to the culture of now. By understanding these mediums, as Obama claims not to, parents can readily connect with their kids while providing a history to these new mediums.
There's the trick. My own father would constantly critique my music but the critique was one part a denial of the present and one part revealing past music that informed what I was listening to. Without him I wouldn't have the appreciation for melody, lyrical ability and song structure that I do now. But that took my dad listening to my music first and then pulling on its ties to the past. Yes, he was an old codger at times, but equally he was an appreciator of music. I still find it amazing how he actually liked Fujiya Miyagi because of the bass lines. Thus his attempts to understand my music led me to do the same for his and I'm better for it.
It's all well and good to say that you're open to new things, new experiences and such. Modern life though requires understanding the past through the present. Without that knowledge of the past the present becomes less meaningful, less revealing. It calls for knowing both the old and the new. So for a pragmatic man like Obama to take shots at the new is a touch depressing. I can understand his basic argument that we shouldn't devote excessive time to outright distractions. That doesn't mean we should go without any distractions at all.