Chicken Sandwiches. And Other First World Problems.

September 24th, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I spend most of my time wearing a blazer with elbow patches, sitting in a book-lined room beside a roaring fire with a pipe and tumbler of dark liquor. So I have never found myself standing in the middle of an enormous field on a hot summer day with a homemade sign.  This is unfamiliar territory for me. It is with great trepidation and care that I am treading into these turbulent waters of modern American culture war.

But I fear that it will not be long before I am found sipping on Polynesian Sauce in a dark corner, feverishly nibbling at an illegal chicken sandwich. We are only a few months away until The Chik has to go underground. I will be forced to procure the orange oil on the black market, furtively sneaking into dark alleys to execute my transactions.

Chick Fil A

I will be forced into this life of crime. I will be yet another of life’s victims, swept away by the changing tides of the populace’s fickle sentiment. I was unaware, oblivious, ultimately, innocent.

It wasn’t my fault. I was busy.

I was busy avoiding Wal-Mart and Monsanto, saving the trees, saving the whales, buying a hybrid car, participating in car share, riding my bike, being a vegetarian, taking a composting class, taking a yoga class, going primal, going paleo, fighting factory farming, fighting global warming. I was recycling. I was being sustainable, empowering minorities, respecting women, worrying about homelessness and poverty and autism and breast cancer and AIDS and bank fraud and Alzheimer’s and corruption and public schools and sex predators and natural disasters and unemployment and veterans hospitals and divorce and terrorism and famine and war. I was running a marathon.

I don’t mean to brag, but I do a pretty good job of being a savvy consumer: my wife’s diamond is blood-free from Canada, all my Poodle skin watchbands were sourced from local neighborhood dogs, and I only eat horses that I’ve ridden.

So this Chik-Fil-A thing. I really think we’re losing by railing against a fast food chain known for its pious Sunday closings and sending their employees to college. Can’t we just be upset that our government and political system can be dominated by bigoted rich people?

And aren’t we upset by brand identification? Our only value is as consumers.

I appreciate and am ultimately glad that we are having a discourse about the lack of freedom and equality for all in America, but why must it be boiled down to consumption? The only conversation our Country can have is about, “What’s For Dinner?”

Like cattle, we are owned. And we have been branded.

I’m sick of being a brand. Our only power is not as consumers.

What if we could come together as a community to demand Equal Rights for all, regardless of what chicken sandwich we eat? It’s embarrassing for the conversation to have sunken to the culinary. We are quibbling over sandwiches instead of pontificating on the moral superiority of fairness. And the common good. And shared sacrifice. This is a moral argument. Not a backyard cookout.

The real issue, the actual problem is that there are rich, bigoted blowhards running for president, running our companies, and running our country. Your very own boss and/or brother are probably bigoted blowhards. I am probably an asshole too.

Don’t debase deserved and appropriate vitriol and outrage by directing it at a chicken sandwich.

The problem is that there are wealthy business owners using their wealth to monopolize a corrupt system. The problem is that money equates to power and influence.

This is not about chicken sandwiches. This is about corruption and unfairness. This is about how our only value is as consumers. And how we let it happen. We can’t just demand equality and fairness, we have to protest with how we eat.

Interesting tidbit: even former slaves and descendents of former slaves and people of color do not want gays to marry. Even people who, more than anyone, know our country’s capacity for hate and unfairness and persecution, even they (!) do not want to grant equality to homosexuals.

So maybe it’s not the rich bigoted blowhards…

Why, as a community, are we so fond of constantly drawing lines in the sand? Do I really have to be defined by how I feel about gay marriage and what kind of chicken I eat? (For the record, and to say nothing of the Poultry Principle, my friends are allowed to disagree with me. It’s practically encouraged, if not official policy.)

I have an idea: stop talking about “gay marriage.” Demand Equal Rights for All. Make blacks, women, and immigrants stand with you. We are a country of foreigners, strangers, outcasts, reckless friends, fiends, struggling families, hard workers, students, coaches. Challenge, struggle; it’s kind of What We Do. We struggle. We all fight and scrap and try our damnedest. We are oppressed and downtrodden by the Powers that Be. We are all helpless. We must stop fighting each other. All we have is each other.

This is about Fairness and Equality. Not chicken sandwiches.

Vote with your mouth sure, vote all the time, in every manner you can: what you buy, what you eat, who you fuck, where you work, who your friends are.

But don’t let them convince you that all you have to do is know what chicken sandwich to eat.

Dullness Leads to Power

September 9th, 2012 at 10:09 am

It is the time of year when we find ourselves reaching for Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.

“The assholes who run politics in this country have become so mesmerized by the Madison Avenue school of campaigning that they actually believe, now, that all it takes to become a Congressman or a Senator – or even a President – is a nice set of teeth, a big wad of money, and a half-dozen Media Specialists.” -HST

But before you contemplate the prescience of 1972 political literature, consider this. We now know what Mitt Romney was studying when he was dodging the draft and camping out in Paris. He was getting back to his roots.

Back in 2000 there was a bestselling book by David Brooks called “Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There.”

Early on, Brooks gets to talking about France in the 1830s. The Bohemians (the artists, intellectuals) did not appreciate the Bourgeois (the merchant middle class).

These Bohemians, like Gustave Flaubert, were infuriated by an abundance of obvious shortcomings exhibited by the corporate middle class. These bourgeois were materialistic. They valued money and productivity instead of creativity and imagination. They were unheroic conformists.

Despite the fact that the French corporate middle class in the 1830s was a bunch of dull, joyless, prosaic, punctual philistines, it was these very drawbacks that led to the group’s success.

I will quote extensively. It’s worth recounting:

“It was the merchants’ petty-minded efficiency that allowed them to build successful companies and amass riches. It was their icy calculation that enabled them to devote themselves to the bottom line. It was their mechanical tinkering that enabled them to build the machines and factories and so displace the craftsmen and artisans. It was their concern for money that allowed them access to power and position. Nowadays we are used to the fact that sometimes the people who devote their lives to, say, marketing soap or shoes get to amass fortunes, live in big houses, and attract dinner party flattery, but in the 1830s all this was relatively new and shocking. It was the bourgeoisie’s dullness that led to its power.”

Dullness leads to power.

It’s the world we live in.

“A man on the scent of the White House is rarely rational. He is more like a beast in heat: a bull elk in the rut, crashing blindly through the timber in a fever for something to fuck. Anything! A cow, a calf, a mare – any flesh and blood beast with a hole in it.” -HST

Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller

April 10th, 2012 at 4:34 pm

“Remember, if you can’t make money, make friends.” – Henry Miller

Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller

I care not for trends and fads, nor do I care to know how The Establishment regards the life and letters of Henry Miller. But at the rate I’m going, I’m going to have to keep reading Henry Miller books and eventually develop an opinion of my own. In the meantime, the opinion is verging on positive.

Henry Miller’s Big Sur book is 400 pages of rambling, rants, idle preponderances, and anecdotes. The book simply eschews. At every page. It seemed a bit Thoreauish. My favorite excerpts are below. Remember, Big Sur does not exist. Don’t go there.

It would be too easy, too convenient to refer to any degree of prescience in Miller’s Big Sur book because I am quickly learning that there is no prescience. Nothing changes. The writing is on the wall. We are. It is.

“I would rather be surrounded by the work of children and the insane than by such “masters” as Picasso, Rouault, Dali or Cezanne.”

“Well, nobody belongs who’s trying to simplify his life. Nobody belongs who isn’t trying to make money, or trying to make money make money. Nobody belongs who wears the same suit of clothes year in and year out, who doesn’t shave, who doesn’t believe in sending his children to school to be miseducated, who doesn’t join up with Church, Grange and Party, who doesn’t serve “Murder, Death and Blight, Inc.” Nobody belongs who doesn’t read Time, Life, and one of the Digests. Nobody belongs who doesn’t vote, carry insurance, live on the installment plan, pile up debts, keep a check account and deal with the Safeway stores or the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. Nobody belongs who doesn’t read the current best sellers and help support the paid pimps who dump them on the market. Nobody belongs who is fool enough to believe that he is entitled to write, paint, sculpt or compose music according to the dictates of his own heart and conscience. Or who wants to be nothing more than an artist, an artist from tip to toe.”

“I am not interested in the potential man. I am interested in what a man actualizes – or realizes – of his potential being. And what is the potential man, after all? Is he not the sum of all that is human? Divine, in other words? You think I am searching for God. I am not. God is. The world is. Man is. We are. The full reality, that’s God – and man, and the world, and all that is, including the unnameable. I’m for reality. More and more reality. I’m a fanatic about it, if you like.”

“I abhor people who have to filter everything through the one language they know, whether it be astrology, religion, yoga, politics, economics or what. The one thing about this universe of ours which intrigues me, which makes me realize that it is divine and beyond all knowing, is that it lends itself so easily to any and all interpretations. Everything we formulate about it is correct and incorrect at the same time. It includes our truths and our errors. And whatever we think about the universe in no way alters it…”

“Man is not suffering from the ravages wrought by earthquakes and volcanoes, by tornadoes and tidal waves; he is suffering from his own misdeeds, his own foolishness, his own ignorance and disregard of natural laws. Man can eliminate war, can eliminate disease, can eliminate old age and probably death too. He need not live in poverty, vice, ignorance, in rivalry and competition. All these conditions are within his province, within his power, to alter. But he can never alter them as long as he is concerned solely with his own individual fate.”

“The sum of all knowledge is greater confusion.”

The Mystery of Capital by Hernando De Soto

April 4th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

The Mystery of Capital was originally published in 2000 and I can only imagine that it is now horrendously out of date. All problems are solved about every decade, right?

The Mystery of Capital by Hernando De Soto

This book is not a Mystery or Thriller. It is not suspenseful. Rather, it is a economist’s straightforward assessment on yet another reason why our world is so fucked up. Yes, another stirring contribution to the ever-popular genre of Teen Lit, WOWISFU. WOWISFU is the next Hunger Games. (pronounced Wowzafoo.)

Regardless, I found The Mystery of Capital to be a worthwhile read. In a most obtuse, simplistic assessment, De Soto argues for government regulation and oversight to foster proper development in regards to property, real estate, and capital in general. (De Soto focuses entirely on Third World, Developing, and post-Communist countries.)

He supports a system of government aggregating, organizing, and facilitating the proper networks of legal framework, methodically opening up their bureaucracies to large swaths of populations currently operating on the periphery by adopting, co-opting, and implementing the frameworks already in place on such black markets. Using the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century as a model, De Soto speaks of a global industrial revolution in our common era in which life is now organized on a very large scale. In such, institutions are slow to adapt and therefore entrepreneurship triumphs, even if it means triumph in the black market, or “extra legal” sector.

Contrary to very popular and dominant arguments, De Soto insists that the world’s problems are not overpopulation, urban growth, and a poor minority, but rather, outmoded systems of legal property. Unfortunately, Legal Property is not near as sexy or easy to master as say, racism (ex: “The problem with the world today is that there are too many (name of color) people.”)

De Soto speaks of Metcalfe’s Law: “The value of a network – defined as its utility to a population – is roughly proportional to the number of users squared. An example is the telephone network. One telephone is useless: whom do you call? Two telephones are better, but not much. It is only when most of the population has a telephone that the power of the network reaches its full potential to change society.”

De Soto’s primary argument resides on an insistence in formalizing the property rights of so many “extralegal” citizens living and doing business outside of their population’s established networks of commerce, thus preventing their community from realizing the full potential of capitalism.

In simple math, legalization of property = creation of capital.

And while I do not have the intellectual capacity nor desire to fully engage in the nuances and complexities of this issue, this book was most rewarding to me in a conceptual manner. It was illuminating to immerse myself in the true nature of our Abstract World. De Soto has a comfortable grasp on how our systems of governance rely on symbols and abstraction to generate money, wealth, and affluence, what De Soto refers to as capital. It’s a twisted, mind-bending read. But it made me feel smarter and more informed. Which is what books are for in the first place, right? To make us feel better, smarter?

Reading is sexy.

Is Hipster a Bad Word?

February 1st, 2012 at 11:59 am

I couldn’t help but notice that our culture decided to slander Hipster with negativity. We’ve been stereotyped with skinny jeans, snobbishness, obsession with music, and a general malaise between goth and emo.

Hipster with Dog

Hipsters are the new Hippies. We’re dirty in a clean way. And friendly. Go ahead, don’t like us. We don’t mind. Our elitist isolation is part of our charm.

You start out innocently enough: peaceful, small, idealistic. But once your self-identifying clan has grown into a position of power, affluence, and elitism, the show is over.

I, for one, am proud of the moniker Hipster. It’s one I embrace. Since when is hip uncool? And why have we been ghettoized, marginalized, and relegated to neighborhoods such as Brooklyn, Portland, Echo Park in Los Angeles, East Austin, and The Mission District in San Francisco? (Because the suburbs want to make us vomit and are what caused our existence in the first place.)

In light of all this, it was with a very mainstream glee and populist satisfaction that I stumbled upon Z.Z. Packer’s definition of Hipster in her “Keeping it Weird” article in January’s Smithsonian. It’s an article subtitled, “Even though it’s the state capital, the city still works hard to be quirky.”

Packer begins her contemplation of Austin, TX with, “Hipsters of all stripes trek to Austin, Texas. By hipsters, I mean people who love irony but are suspicious of symbolism, who are laid-back without being lazy, who groom their music collections the way Wall Streeters monitor their stock portfolios, people whose relentlessly casual dress is constructed as painstakingly as stanzas in a pantoum.”

That. I like that.

And I know I’m a Hipster because I love that and identify with it but am outraged that Z.Z. Packer did not capitalize Hipster. Especially when appearing in a sentence with “Wall Streeters.” Occupy!

And I know that I’m a Hipster because I love the fact that I don’t know what a pantoum is. Sure, it’s probably some kind of poem with strict rules like a Haiku, but no, I’ve never heard of it. But I love it.

Why Orwell Matters

January 10th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

It was all too much for me: the death of Christopher Hitchens, the death of Kim Jong-il. It was suddenly time to finally read Why Orwell Matters. It had always seemed a bit redundant and unnecessary to me. Of course Orwell Matters, he wrote a book called 1984.


Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens

But I’m happy to report that having read Hitchens’s Why Orwell Matters, Orwell does in fact matter.

How can we not connect the dots of North Korean death, Hitchens death, Hitchens work on Orwell, and thusly Orwell’s work on North Korea?

Hitchens remarks, having actually visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, that, “It’s the only time in my writing life when I have become tired of the term ‘Orwellian’…The resulting dankness and dinginess and misery would have been almost indescribable without reference to a certain short novel that had been bashed out on an old typewriter, against the clock, by a dying English radical half a century before.”

See, Orwell does clearly matter. If only to provide journalistic ease in framing the horrific magnitude of the shit that is North Korea.

Hitchens continues, “There have never been any reported dissidents in North Korea – a few defectors of course, as even The Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four was quite ready to admit…and we know as yet almost nothing of its secret prisons and remote detention camps. But one prediction I make is that before this book of mine goes on to the remainder shelf we will have found out.”

Have we found out?

Is Why Orwell Matters on the remainder shelf yet?

Hitchens also interestingly captures Orwell’s ability to predict the Occupy Wall Street movement. It turns out that Orwell was buried in the churchyard at Sutton Courtenay in Oxfordshire, the same resting place as a Mrs. Asquith (Lady Oxford) who had once remarked, “Since most London houses are deserted there is little entertaining…in any case, most people have to part with their cooks and live in hotels.”

Hitchens is quick to note that, “Of this splendid piece of aristocratic callousness Orwell commented in his diary that ‘apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99% of the population exist.’”

So while Christopher Hitchens dutifully defends Orwell against Empire, the Right, the Left, Englishness, America, Feminism, and the post-modernists, it is obvious that Orwell matters for 2 primary reasons: 1984 & Animal Farm.

Read ‘em, I say. It’s sexy.

Hitchens concludes, “…’views’ do not really count; that it matters not what you think, but how you think; and that politics are relatively unimportant, while principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.”

7 Things Not to Envy About North Korea

December 21st, 2011 at 12:09 pm

For some time now, long before Kim Jong-il finally kicked it, I have been wrestling with a morbid curiosity of  North Korean.

Can you relate?

The reasons for my fixation are probably somewhere between Orwellian Obsession and Despot Envy.

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

With her book Nothing to Envy, Barbara Demick provides an impressive journalistic contribution to history by giving voice to the people of North Korea by telling the awful, modern story of their national cult by interviewing normal, everyday citizens who defected from the misery of the failed state.

Immediately addressing my North Korean compulsion, Demick asserts that, “While the persistence of North Korea is a curiosity for the rest of the world, it is a tragedy for North Koreans.”

Guilty as charged.

Even alongside the modern era’s menagerie of beasts, North Korea still contains plenty to be intrigued and horrified:

1. The recurring global theme of co-opting and perverting religion and exploiting people’s capacity to Believe

“What distinguished him [Kim Il-sung] in the rogues’ gallery of twentieth-century dictators was his ability to harness the power of faith. Kim Il-sung understood the power of religion. His maternal uncle was a Protestant minister back in the pre-Communist days when Pyongyang had such a vibrant Christian community that it was called the “Jerusalem of the East.” Once in power, Kim Il-sung closed the churches, banned the Bible, deported believers to the hinterlands, and appropriated Christian imagery and dogma for the purpose of self-promotion.”

Pyongyang was the Jerusalem of the East??? It is never a good sign when you live in a country with hinterlands.

Demick shares with us matter of factually that during the famine of the ’90s, it was the, “Simple and kindhearted people who did what they were told – they were the first to die.”

2. North Korea is literally covered in shit

“North Korea was chronically short of chemical fertilizer and needed to use human excrement since there were few farm animals…The countryside reeked of the night soil that is still used instead of chemical fertilizer.”

3. There is a name for that creepy material preferred by Bond villains and Dictators alike

“Vinalon, a stiff, shiny synthetic material unique to North Korea.”

4. North Korean Irony

“In 1991, while South Korea was becoming the world’s largest exporter of mobile telephones, few North Koreans had ever used a telephone. You had to go to a post office to make a phone call.”

, and

“An aside here about sex in North Korea…[what] many North Korean defectors…found most surprising about South Korea was that couples kiss in public.”

1991. Few North Koreans had ever used a telephone, much less a mobile phone. Think about that.

And these poor people are so prude, so repressed, so stifled by the mere grim struggle to subsist on a daily basis that they are most surprised by public displays of affection. Affection. Think about that.

5. Grotesque Canopies of Frozen Menstrual Rags

Life in dormitories of North Korean schools was a bit different than the typical cushy American upbringing:

“[Students] were roused by a military-style roll call at 6:00 AM, but instead of marching off like proud soldiers, they shivered into the bathroom and splashed icy water on their faces, under a grotesque canopy of frozen menstrual rags.”

6. Government Healthcare

A “Let’s Eat Two Meals a Day” campaign was cheerily implemented by the North Korean government during the famine of the ’90s.

How’s that for a new diet fad?

“They [North Korean citizens] jumped from the tops of buildings, a favorite method of suicide in North Korea since nobody had sleeping pills and only soldiers had guns with bullets.”

How’s that for actual death panels?

7. Big Brother

One young man featured in Demick’s book used his new life in South Korea to read all the books unobtainable in his homeland.

“His favorite was a translation of 1984. He marveled that George Orwell could have so understood the North Korean brand of totalitarianism.”

The Revolution by Ron Paul

December 20th, 2011 at 5:00 am

“I would choose freedom even if it meant less prosperity.” – Ron Paul

The Revolution by Ron Paul

I approve of most books that come with an additional reading list. Hooray, Reading!

I especially approve of books with “A Reading List for a Free and Prosperous America.” Good for you, Ron Paul!!

The Revolution is refreshing because Ron Paul dutifully and thankfully goes after the Bush Administration and goons like Alberto Gonzales responsible for the Patriot Act and its focus on citizens rather than foreign terrorists. In The Revolution, Ron Paul accuses politicians of treating Americans like sheep and even criticizes a Senator’s quote with a summation of “creepy propaganda.”

And Ron jumps into the real issues, like weed, for which Mr. Paul diplomatically tells us, “People’s opinions on this issue are so deeply and fervently held that it can be very difficult to persuade them to revisit the evidence dispassionately.” But he quickly assures us that, “We seriously mistake the function of government if we think its job is to regulate bad habits…When you actually study the beginnings of the federal war on drugs, you uncover a history of lies, bigotry, and ignorance so extensive it will leave you speechless.”

And all this from a medical doctor no less. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a leader familiar with healthcare?

Ron Paul hits his stride and wraps things up with a topic he is clearly comfortable and passionate: money (End the Fed is his 2nd book), sharing with us a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson:

“All the perplexities, confusions, and distress in America, arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.”

And I agree. We are all foolish in many ways, especially money. Consumption Is The Problem.

Ultimately, it will be difficult for Ron Paul to garner the needed blind support of the masses because he is a walking embodiment of a theme familiar to readers of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Freedom is messy and ugly and difficult because it demands freedom for everyone, even those you don’t like.

The Latest Fitness Craze

December 9th, 2011 at 6:08 pm


The Hop-Kick.

Everyone’s doing it.

Step 1: Stand erect.

Step 2: Giggle.

Sports Question

December 1st, 2011 at 8:21 pm

When Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow kneels in the end zone, is he thanking god that he wasn’t molested by a coach?

Or is he condemning the Pope for condoning Priest Pedophilia?

Tim Tebow Tebowing

No one likes to get Fined.

But have you ever been Sanduskied?