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

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.

Campaigning for Questions

October 3rd, 2011 at 7:45 pm

In his book The Revolution, Ron Paul relates George McGovern’s post-government struggles as an innkeeper. It just so happens that the Senator, former presidential candidate, and HST muse was forced to close his hotel because of exorbitant expenses mandated by (dum dum dum) “The Fed” to install things like automatic sprinkler systems and new exit doors.

<fist shaking in air> Those pesky exit doors! (In Homer Simpson grumbling voice)…I hate them so much…

George McGovern tells us:

“If I were back in the U.S. Senate or in the White House, I would ask a lot of questions before I voted for any more burdens on the thousands of struggling businesses across the nation.”

To this, Ron Paul concludes: “That is an important lesson: government intervention into the economy cannot be assumed to be good and welcome and just.”

To that, I conclude that we must ask more of our leaders. (I think, George, we were all hoping that you were asking a lot of questions in the first place.)

I have been consuming Dr. Paul’s book only because he has charmed me as a Presidential Candidate.

But to this, I’m calling bullshit.

Complete and total and utter bullshit.

There is too much focus on where our leaders stand on “issues.” It is time to stop asking our potential leaders what exactly they will do, and instead ask that they just do it well.

“Ask a lot of questions before I voted…”

Before??? <smacking forehead with open palm> Why didn’t I think of that?

Shoot the Yankee Bastards

September 29th, 2011 at 6:34 pm

There are many reasons to be fascinated with North Korea, as I am.

The Bond-esque villain-dictators, the high-step marching, the tragic wincing flinching impossibility of it all…

Nothing to Envy

If you were to actually read a book about the people who have lived there, as opposed to passive consumption of current events as I have, you’d be interested to know that there are also a few reasons to be humored by North Korea:

1. Korean Math Questions:

“Three soldiers from the Korean People’s Army killed thirty American soldiers. How many American soldiers were killed by each of them if they all killed an equal number of enemy soldiers?”

2. Korean music:

A song from music class, Shoot the Yankee Bastards, contains the lyrics, “Our enemies are the American bastards/Who are trying to take over our beautiful fatherland./With guns that I make with my own hands/I will shoot them. BANG, BANG, BANG.”

It’s too bad North Korea doesn’t have technology because I would LOVE to hear a recording of first-graders singing that.

Ron Paul Doubts Artist’s Abilities To Fill Out Government Forms

September 25th, 2011 at 10:35 am

Republican Presidential Candidate and graduate of the Ross Perot School of Elocution, Ron Paul has two books on the shelves. In his first one, The Revolution: A Manifesto, he doubts artist’s abilities to fill out government forms:

“NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] funds go not necessarily to the best artists, but to people who happen to be good at filling out government grant applications. I have my doubts that the same people populate both categories.”

Ron Paul would like to use this as an argument against federal spending and in support of the free market. “The NEA represents a tiny fraction of all arts funding,” Paul tells us, quick to note that private donations to the arts totaled $2.5 billion in 2006. With the NEA providing a comparatively miniscule $121 million.

“Freedom Wins,” Ron Paul is fond of saying. A campaign slogan, do I detect? And I totally agree: one year for Christmas an Uncle only gave me 50 bucks and my Grandparents gave me $200. I never spoke to that Uncle again. Right Ron Paul?

The Revolution by Ron Paul

Paul would love the relatively dismal and inevitably imperfect system of federal spending on art to support his case against government spending and in support of the free market. But Mr. Paul’s argument is instead an incomplete analogy that when taken to its inevitable conclusion, actually indicts the true nature of our government’s corruption. Can’t the same accusation be made of corporations, that the ones who succeed aren’t actually the best at doing business and making money by providing a service the people need, but rather merely the ones savvy in lobbying, filling out forms and affluent enough to contribute to major campaigns to ensure favorable market conditions? Paul would love to extol the virtues of capitalism and free enterprise, at the expense of that perpetually nefarious monolith of dangerous dissidents known as “Artists” of course, but in actuality it’s the Corporate State who is guilty of an addiction to an unsustainable and dangerous system of collusion and cyclical waste.

Leave the artists alone, Ron. Call me when a Banksy exhibit goes horribly wrong and hundreds of millions of gallons of spray paint spill into the Gulf. Everyone would think it was a Christo spectacle anyway.

Let’s focus on the problem. Is the problem Federal Spending? Or is the problem government investment in an unfair and dangerous economy of corporate welfare?

There are many things to like about Ron Paul. He wants to end the drug war. We wants to end war. He is a vocal advocate for the Constitution and personal liberties. He’s fun to listen to.

But like a lot of Republicans he seems to harbor a lot of resentment and disdain for various segments of the population. For a lot of Republicans, this disdain often manifests in peculiar social policies.

Whaddya got against the Artists, Mr. Paul?

Nons sequiter, Landscapes Moral

February 8th, 2011 at 7:11 pm

by Sam Harris, pages 19 & 21, respectively.

The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris

“Must we really argue that beneficence, trust, creativity, etc., enjoyed in the context of a prosperous civil society are better than the horrors of civil war endured in a steaming jungle filled with aggressive insects carrying dangerous pathogens?”

Must we? I don’t know.

But aren’t we? Yes.

“It is quite possible for people to traffic in ideas and other cultural products that diminish their well-being for centuries on end.”

Is he referring to the Second Amendment?

The World With Us

September 16th, 2010 at 10:19 am

I will not consider joining the Church of Euthanasia or support the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, but something is rotten in America and I will simply point out man’s penchant for cruel irony.

This picture was taken in June on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana:

laughing gull wallows in sludge in June on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana.

It is a laughing gull.


Palin Pidgin

September 1st, 2010 at 12:00 pm

“One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.” – George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

Our dear Sarah Palin has recently committed some amusing linguistic gaffes via Twitter. I only know about it because even a big, stinky Palin bowel movement is newsworthy these days. But also because I agree with Mr. Orwell and pay attention to how my nation’s (supposed (elected)) leaders (and popular figures) use language.

(Their words tend to be indicative of their thoughts.)

Sarah Palin and a book

First, Palin used refudiate instead of repudiate. Then had the gall, not to simply giggle, apologize, and correct herself, but to compare herself to Shakespeare and remind all of us simpletons that English is a living language.

Golly gee.

Then she used cackle instead of gaggle.

These are all understandable blunders. Just the other day I conflated “goodbye” with “later” and ended up telling a friend, “Glater!”

These things happen.

But with Sarah Palin they happen frequently and with a disappointing focus on being clear, concise, and correct. But most of all honest. And sincere.

This poor command of diction is no surprise however to those close to her who fear she may be suffering from a debilitating relapse into the confusing and tormenting world of a Salvia addiction.