Wasilla = Tikrit?

Reading about Sarah Palin, in today's New York Times, I couldn't help but get the feeling that this could be the story of any ruling clan in an Arab Petro-dictatorship. Really, the home-town cabal, sham integrity, and personal ruthlessness are Baath-rific, but without the secularism...

Certainly, that would give more context to SP's bizarre "That's the beauty of Democracy, Charlie" response on ABC... It was the winking rumination upon popular rule typical of the charismatic, strongman who regularly has to sit down with journalists and put on some window dressing.


Have Message, Will Win

I didn't want a "Fighter" back in the primaries, why would I want one now?
Few hysterical Democrats have recognized in Barack Obama's strategy to counter the McCain campaign's Gothic distractions the sage composure of another of America's favorite, vaguely foreign gurus:

Did you notice how they're dancing in the end? That could be the American people...


People who love me today

Grape Nuts cereal.

The new Website promoting Grape Nuts is one of the most fascinating and enjoyable interactive installation pieces I have experienced in my brief existence. The young man who insists that he lives in the Website has a poignant quality about him, and yet there is also something transcendent about his ability to deliver an oral history of the genesis of Grape Nuts. This is more than an ad campaign; it is a philosophy.

Importantly, you will finally get the answer to the age old question: "Why are their neither grapes nor nuts in Grape Nuts cereal?"

Still, those of you trying to figure out how to avoid confusing your Swheat Scoop kitty litter with your cereal (Again!) will find the site wanting.

My Mother.


Bryan Adams, stop the Love Train or someone will get hurt!

For those who really have done everything for you.


Really, you're just not that interesting

"PW daily called it a “memoir,” a word that makes my skin crawl and which apparently makes everyone else’s skin crawl, too. What is a 26 year old who hasn’t overcome an addiction or been a child soldier doing writing a MEMOIR? But it’s hard to figure out what else to call a book of autobiographical stories, I guess. That is a few too many words to fit onto a computer screen, apparently."

Monkey and I used to hold down office jobs.

As you can see, that has left Monkey an angry, brain-addled and rambling wayfarer and, as for me, I am just bitter and cling to elemental hatreds.

It has come to our attention recently, that the French National Assembly voted to effectively gut the 35-hour work week that figured among the crowning achievements of the incomparable Jospin government. Further, French employees have seen their work year take on added days. From where I sit, the prospect of more mandated office hours can only result in an explosion of time-wasting never before witnessed.

This wasted time will undoubtedly come in the perverse form of needless e-mails.

Somewhere along the way, e-mail became a substitute for work. At one point, I was paid to do things that involved, for example, knowing something about what was going on in the world. (Thank G_d that I can do it for free, now.) In fact, one of the offices I occupied -- occasionally zoning out just to make sure my screensaver still worked -- actually had a compilation of news stories with links relevant to our stock-in-trade that were sent out daily and arrived surely and conveniently in all our mailboxes. Often, we would have people with glorified titles like Something Assistant or Intern compile or summarize news stories from regional press sources so that we could have an overview with what was going on in our particular corner of the world. But, of course, being specialists in some sense of the word, we also kept abreast of our regions and sources ourselves -- after all, why work in a gray matter field if one is to remain uninterested and remain at a distance from the subject of one's predilection.

Inevitably, though, there was the brave soul who would work at home starting somewhere around 5:00 AM. This usually consisted in sending links to the office or to a particular division of important or must-read stories. Sometimes, one is tempted to indicate that one subscribes to the Washington Post -- but the spirit of cooperation precludes such earnestness. I believe it dawned on me at some point that it was perfectly acceptable and an oft practiced work habit to arrive at the office not having read the paper -- which naturally explained, I suppose, the usefulness of having someone to point out to you what you should be reading as opposed to what you want to read. What a revelation, though, to learn that it was entirely ethical to use the first couple of hours of the day to drink coffee and read the news online. How different and unscandalously divine. And -- on those days where you wanted to hit the breakfast buffet at Reeves -- why not just e-mail a couple of articles to your colleagues before 7, and then, you can step into the office guilt free at 10 or 10:30 having already finished some work for the day.

I can't say, though, that it didn't induce a cringe on those days when a helpful colleague would shoot me an e-mail linking to a story specifically about my own sub-region or whatever it was that I was doing. As if to say, "See, I could be doing your job and mine all at the same time." Although the message would always innocently query, "Did you see this?" Seriously, I should think that I can keep up on my own little patch of gray. That is, after all, why I am so paid.

But that, thankfully, is all in the past.

No frustrations with office e-mail though could have ever prepared me for the nightmare that now confronts me -- here in the ivory tower -- in the form of Listservs.

It's not like I haven't confronted Listservs before. I believe my first experience of having a stable e-mail address -- sometime shortly before the turn of the century -- was almost immediately followed by the action of subscribing to some kind of Turkistan digest. Before I knew it, I was in the midst of internecine conflicts between Turkmen and Uzbek, an overflow of flaming, retaliatory e-mails in rambling Turkish touching on the American genocide of "Turkish Redskins" in the New World -- and occasionally, the thunder clouds would break, and a glimmer of information about the Azeri opposition or an oil contract in Kazakhstan would shine through with the hypnotic iradescence of an opal. In spite of these rare gems, it did not take long to understand that a Listserv is more burden than blessing... but inertia prevents a prompt unsubscribe. Instead, I eventually dropped that e-mail address and the Turkistan digest surely kept chugging along in its infinite querelousness.

Now, in the world of "Big Grad" one is required not only to enlist in Facebook, but also to participate in various Listservs. Nothing could be more depressing. Not only that, but through some stupid notion that I'd be engaged in some sort of productive dialogue, I actually subscribed to an additional THREE Obama-based Listservs (on a digest-basis, of course; I'm not that dumb.) The result is a useless bombardment everyday reminding me of the superfluousness of Web communications.

Amidst this continuous tintinabullation the screech of my departmental Listserv stands out in terms of odiousness and self-absorption. Perhaps I would be fine if there were just a constant drone of calls-for-papers for which I am woefully un-prepared. Perhaps, the course announcements for seminars which sound tempting but could not possibly fit my schedule would settle comfortably in my knotted innards. But does anything justify the constant ringing of small-minded voices saying, essentially, "I am here."

First, there's a reason I don't subscribe to the Nation. I do not consider it to be a source that informs my particular viewpoint. But let's ignore that for now and focus on the true abuses...


I apologize. That message was intended for the person who has, since April (I inadvertently deleted all evidence dated January to March) who has sent such useless comments to the departmental listerv as:
"Congratulations, Dr. _______ indeed!!"
"thank you for sharing this article"

"great issue, ______ staff!!"

"a tasteful tribute site as well."

"Congratulations, dr. [stupid nickname]! the university of [look at how awful and stupid I am] is lucky to have you."
And he has also found the time to forward FOUR articles from the New York Times.

Seriously, every time I see his name on a Listserv e-mail I become apoplectic. And, the thing is, not ONE (OK, maybe TWO) other grad student actually abuses the Listserv in this inane, narcissistic manner. Nobody cares if you want to congratulate Abner! You know, if I knew Abner, I would probably send him a PERSONAL message or CALL HIM to offer congratulations. But you -- you insist on having the world witness your magnanimity. This serial Listserv piggy-backing ruins the usefulness of such a tool for EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You make me barf.


The American American Americans have been Americanized for so that they can America America America America

I watched Obama's speech in Berlin today. Three things kind of stood out in my mind.

First, I cringed at the knowledge that the McCain campaign and Republican media would use this speech to prey upon the worst demons of our citizenry, among them rampant and unashamed xenophobia. The Corner provides an excellent example of this: In response to the address, "People of Berlin, People of the World," K-Lo, as more savant bloggers apparently call her writes:
"Apparently this is a moment that Obama doesn't really need Americans for."
One has to be alarmed when the United States is transported to a separate planet by right-wing pundits.

But, on a more positive note, I couldn't help but delight in the rhetoric of uplift that appeared to strike a chord with the diverse assembly gathered in Berlin. Acutely sensitive to the political and social arrangements that stereotype, marginalize and physically threaten people of color, immigrants, and Muslims in Europe, Obama was able to connect with the struggles of these communities in his speech while also reminding his US audience of the road we ourselves must travel:
"The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."
For some reason, MSNBC's Chuck Todd commented that the content of the speech would be something with which McCain would be equally comfortable -- and yet, it doesn't seem to me that McCain can look at foreign countries and see them for their populations as opposed to for their targets.

Finally, I couldn't help but thinking, not just upon seeing the 200,000 people assembled for the speech but seeing them waving American flags, that we really can't afford not to elect Obama. To fritter away that goodwill and return to the days when the only time we see American flags burnished overseas is when they are being burned would pretty much signal our decline into irrelevance and the victory of the deepest misanthropy that a nation of free citizens can express.

13 hours, 5 tins of anchovies, 2 pints of Ben and Jerry's, a bottle of red wine and a hunk of cheese

It took a while to sink in...

It had never crossed my mind that quality television programming could exist on networks other than the CW and Lifetime...

Yet, this past Sunday, I had a jarring -- perhaps transformative -- revelation as I lounged before my boob tube to take in the Mad Men marathon on AMC. Okay, so I needed an extra nudge from an occasional reader to discover for myself what all the buzz was about. The important thing is that I swallowed up my willful ignorance and indulged in the television equivalent of a marzipan orchestra.

Thirteen hours later, as I nurtured my bed sores, I was overtaken by a sensation of woozy euphoria tinged with a modicum of rueful anger over the fact that other television programming existed (with the exception, naturally, of Gossip Girl and Lifetime original programming).

Perhaps it was the savory dialogue, perhaps it was beautiful Jewess Rachel Menken, perhaps the way each shot was perfectly, colorfully framed as if it were itself a maquette drawn up by Sterling Cooper's Art Director Salvatore Romano.

What makes the series for me, however, are the strength and complexity of the exquisite anti-hero Don Draper as well as the tension generated by feminine aspirations in this male-dominated world, all set against the individualistic ethos propagated by Ayn Rand and adopted by the movers and shakers of the Mad Men microcosmos. In essence, then, Mad Men achieves for me the transposition of the oeuvre of that greatest American writer of the 20th Century, Mickey Spillane, (Okay, maybe Nathanael West gets points in this category, too) onto the cutthroat world of advertising. Certain scenes appear to uncannily capture in pictures the lights and darks of urban society that Spillane expressed in the bare bones poetry of his descriptions.

But whereas Spillane's Mike Hammer series seems to vaunt the triumph of individual morality over the blurred lines of an evolving society, Mad Men clearly mocks this effort as hubris.

Don Draper, himself, exemplifies this startling reversal. We are led to understand, early on, the Draper has a life scinded in two by wartime service; his pained handling of his purple heart hints at pained memories of brave service brushed under the carpet of his current achievements. This dynamic is reminiscent of Spillane's masterpiece, The Long Wait. There, Johnny McBride, amnesiac seeks to clear his name of smears which he can't recall, his life split between his actions and a forgotten past. However, just as McBride recovers through the novel a continuum of valor that justifies his current identity, we eventually discover the calculated cowardice and flight from identity that enabled Draper's ascension. This delightful ambiguity doesn't so much reveal a weakness in Spillane's narrative as it demonstrates Mad Men's ability to adapt its account of the transitional 60s to our society's self-perception in this 21st century.

Similarly, while strong women abound in the Mike Hammer adventures, their presence generates fear, distrust and anxiety. At first seduced, Hammer must conclude by reestablishing order. Thus the classic closing lines of I, the Jury:
"How c-could you?" she gasped.
I only had a moment before talking to a corpse, but I got it in.
"It was easy," I said.
Navigating the emerging social mobility of women in Mad Men, however, hardly comes easy to the aforementioned mad men. Betty Draper, Peggy Olson and Rachel Menken each expresses her desire for self-realization, and Don Draper's relationship with these women becomes a wrestling match with the status quo, the burden of passion, and marketplace calculations. The resulting consequences of belittlement, enabling and surrender mark the stark contrasts borne of these tensions in the private and public sphere. One would be hard pressed to find another program on television that traces as sophisticated a portrait of the power dynamics between the sexes.

Another one of the shining achievements of Mad Men is that, while so many programs strive for critical acclaim and authenticity through the illustration of brutal violence, the maturity of Mad Men is to portray a world where our demons and our valor express themselves in the muted betrayals and victories of personal ambition -- where the drama is generated not on the criminal margins of society but at its consensual core.

Finally, after countless hours spent watching television over the course of several years, one is once again reminded of the poverty of American fiction and the need to confront the truth that our country's greatest storytelling talents have apparently migrated to film and TV.


With Great Power...

What better way to close the parentheses on our absence, than with the below meditation on what may have happened had Bryan Adams chosen to use his powers not for good -- but for evil...

Peregrinations and Retrouvailles

Well, that was embarrassing...

While it may have appeared to my readers that I was malingering for over three weeks, I had actually completely forgotten about my participation in the Annual Young Werther Symposium on Exacerbated Self-Pity and Drang. Or, as we like to call our little get together -- appropriating the turn of phrase from Gerard de Nerval -- "Werther without pistols."

Naturally, in keeping with the theme of the symposium, we maintain late 18th century unity of time and place by isolating ourselves in remote hamlets without access to modern communication technologies. On principle, then, our annual event shares much with both the Society for Creative Anachronism as well as more conventional Revolutionary War Reenactments.

Of course, the distinction of our special event is the opportunity to engage in intense wallowing for three straight weeks. I was especially honored to attend this year, because, after having submitted my initial billet four years ago, I finally was accorded the role of Lotte in the Ceremonial Concluding Mummery. (Yes, for whatever reason, the event draws only male participants.)

So, without further ado, and with the above offered explanation, I have the great pleasure to announce that I am much refreshed, and look forward to catching up on what appears to be a monumental backlog of events to be scrutinized -- Including the mysterious fate of ASM...



This just in from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution:
Law students taking summer internships at big law firms in attempt to position themselves for future employment!

Next week, an exciting front page expose:
Rising high school seniors complete community service projects to enhance their college applications!


Do I look like Naveen Andrews?

Interesting article about Iraq the other day in the Washington Post. Of note is the slideshow that demonstrates that Iraqis definitely do not look like Naveen Andrews. I have hammered this nail before, and we will continue to provide evidence that it is an insult to the proud Iraqi people to assume that we resemble South Asians in some way.

For further demonstration of the differences between Iraqis and South Asians I give you Figure 1: a portrait of Caliph and famous Baghdadi, Harun al-Rashid.

As you see, he looks almost exactly like the Iraqis pictured in the slideshow.

Figure 2 shows the famous Indian prince Rama from the famed story called Rendezvous with Rama.

If you are having trouble identifying Rama in the illustration above, just look for the blue guy. Yes, he is shown twice. Soooo confusing.

There you go. I don't think the dramatic difference of appearance between Mesopotamians and Hindustanis could possibly be made clearer. But apparently, J.J. Abrams never bothered to figure out what an Iraqi actually looked like.

Again, this is the most insensitive piece of casting since Robert Rodriguez tried to pass off Antonio Banderas, a Spaniard, for a Mexican in Desperado.

"I'm NOT Mexican"

And by the way, it was pretty insulting to have Salma Hayek, whose parents are both Lebanese, portray Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

"I'm NOT Lebanese"

I hope that Hollywood will come to its senses and factor in the appropriate sub-continent/blood lineage as it goes forward. If not, does anyone have George Clooney's phone number?


Lightning Strikes Twice

Turkey makes it exciting, but the Germans, as usual, exploit the Turks' efforts and impose limits on their aspirations.
The skies unleash their fury on Basel, reminding us that if Julie Foudy and Tommy Smith were playing, we probably would be doing something else.
All in all, the Milli Takimi plays with Heart, and can dream sweet tavuk gogusu dreams for 2010.

Quick, Abi, before I cry, pour me a raki...

In the Mood for Victory

To get you in the mood for this historic Turkiye - Germany confrontation, here's a little ditty from the hipsters who straddle the German/Turkish divide... and who brought us the notorious Almanci Yabanci:


Reminder: A Day without Scarves

Tomorrow, June 21 is the day we have declared action against the Oppressive Dunkin Donuts Regime (ODDR). Here's how you can make your voice heard:

  1. DO NOT wear a scarf, no matter how tempted you are to accessorize.
  2. Go to the nearest Dunkin Donuts.
  3. Order a "Deici Frapped Mochislamofascichino."
  4. When asked to repeat your order, ask for one dozen maple frosted donuts (may be replaced by French crullers and/or chocolate honey-dipped.
  5. Pay in cash.
  6. Include with your payment, a 3X5 yellow index card with the words "Free Rachael Ray's paisley scarf!" written on either side.
  7. Once you have your Donuts and change, leave the store.
  8. Eat the Donuts.
  9. DO NOT put a scarf on even after leaving the store and returning home.
  10. Repeat steps 1-9 as necessary.
Thank you for your cooperation. Together, we can defeat the forces of xenophobia and racism in our midst (unless they happen to be the Italian national team, in which case we will be forced to tolerate them for 90 incredibly boring and frustratingly sad minutes.)

And another thing...

I would like to devote this celebratory video to Monkey, who I believe I caught sight of when the TV camera panned over the stands -- although all guys look the same with their shirts off and Turkiye written across their stomachs in red grease paint.

Monkey, come home!

Time to convert?

Is secularism's subtle rollback in Turkey the cause of the miraculous way in which the Turkish National Team is winning every game in Deus Ex Machina fashion? I, for one, am getting religion!

The Turks just made the Croats relive the battle of Krbava Field all over again! Will they succeed in extending their empire over the rest of Europe? All I know is, come Wednesday, the Germans are going to look like the wrong end of a Fassbinder flick, if the Milli Takimi keeps this up!

Ne mutlu....

The Persistence of Metternich

When are cliches not just bad color commentary?

So Tommy thought he was complimenting Tuncay when, during the first half of today's Turkey-Croatia quarterfinal match in Euro 2008 competition, he declared "He played with all the persistence of an Istanbul carpet seller!"

What was this remark truly, but yet another European belittling of how progressive and unencumbered by morbid European nostalgia Turkey is today? Maybe to this haggis-eating lout, Turkey today is just another rustic Old World tourist destination teeming with swarthy, Euro-grubbing merchants.

But perhaps more tactful praise might have been directed at Tuncay, giving Ataturk's children their due and providing those watching at home with some sense of the complexity of contemporary Turkey. I don't know -- something along the lines of:

He played with all the persistence of a populist pro-Islamic politician.

...with all the persistence of the headscarf ban.

...with all the persistence of Armenian genocide denial.

I'm just sayin'...


Cosi Fan Frutti

I generally refrain from using the word "Gay" unless I am talking about my 2nd favorite movie, Zorro the Gay Blade. Many people (some of my best friends) tell me that the G-Word can be a hurtful slur, especially when used to describe things that are actually homosexual -- like batteries, celibate fish, and marriage -- and even moreso when used pejoratively.

But, as anybody who tried to communicate with me during the Euro 2000 France-Italy final knows, I think the Azzurri are totally gay! They ruin the game. And I hate them.


3 - 2

I notice that the Czechs are pretty tall. That kind of makes Turkey's victory all the more impressive.

That was kind of weird when Demirel got sent off in extra time, huh? What a weird and glorious match.


Places to Go, People to See

I am headed to the Palmetto State to see some people. Please return to visit our blog on Sunday, June 8, when I am sure we will have something nice to say about Cokie Roberts.

In the meantime, to help you get into the spirit of Summer, please enjoy this clip from a movie that, if Bryan Adams made movies, would surely be his chef d'oeuvre:


Truth in Advertising: You can predict the future

Please help me determine where these two awesome hip hop free-eating kids will be ten years from now:

A) Dead of e-coli infection
B) Dead of botulism
C) Dead of the plague
D) Brain-addled by Creutzfelt-Jakob disease

10 Things I hate about you

Like many young Americans who are trying to enjoy History today, I am finding there is something stuck in my craw. And it is making odd scratching noises as I get all choked up and teary eyed, singing Wind Beneath My Wings while thinking about Barack Obama.

Ah, yes... it must be the fact that Hillary Clinton has already begun the 2012 campaign.

Now, there are times when it is important to leave well enough alone. But that time is not now. As an avid reader of advice columns, I recognize that now, more than ever, it is time to stage an intervention. In fact, the bunker relationship of Clinton and her supporters, bears all the signs of emotional abuse. Indeed, her supporters are clearly victims of narcissism.

In the advice columns, one finds the evidence of this particularly poisonous relationship in the Best Friend Conundrum or the In-Law Standoff. It generally goes something like:
I've been friends with Chuck and Blair since we all met in college a few years ago. Since that time, Chuck and Blair began going out together, but things recently deteriorated and they went through a messy breakup. I value my friendships with both of them, but in my recent meetings with Blair, she has told me some awful things about how Chuck treated her and specifically requested that, if I want to keep my friendship with her, I will cut off contact with Chuck. I want to be supportive of Blair, but I have also heard different versions of the break-up from some of Blair's other friends. What should I do?
I am very close to my family and live a few hours away. As a result, I usually devote about one weekend per month to visiting them. I have recently become engaged to a guy who is all that. The initial meet-and-greet with my parents went over well, however, following the previous two monthly visits at my parents house, my fiance spent the entire drive back talking about how disrespectful my parents behaved toward him. To be honest, this takes me by surprise, since I didn't notice anything off about how they treated him, but he insists that I am too close to them to notice the slights he has picked up on and then proceeds to review with me in detail. It is now a few days before our next planned visit, and he has become increasingly irritable as the date approaches and has asked if we can call the trip off. I have offered to make excuses for him and go by myself, but he protests that this would send the wrong message to my parents and has said that if I really loved him, I would stand up to them about the way they treat him. I'd like to defend him, but I really have no idea how to when I honestly cannot see what they have done wrong. What do I do?
For a while, I have wondered why the Clinton supporters were so angry and how they managed to maintain their furor despite the lack of empirical support for Clinton's claims of wrongdoing on the part of the Obama campaign and the media. Only last night's speech and its specific location -- sealed off from cell-phone, Internet, and televisual communication -- revealed to me the truth: Clinton is manipulating and abusing her supporters in order to keep them from leaving her for Barack Obama.

As most advice columnists will point out, whether the abuse or manipulation is conscious or not is irrelevant. A narcissist genuinely believes that he or she is constantly being persecuted either by a real or constructed rival for the constant attention and validation he or she seeks, or due to his or her grandiose status, of which the rest of humanity is intolerant or envious.

A narcissistic abuser, as advice columnists will point out, will try to cut off his or her victim from information, construct false narratives of victimization (e.g. "Your father told me that I wouldn't make enough money as a professional blogger to support your lifestyle"; "The media has kept me down because I'm a woman.") and apply rules arbitrarily such that they are to their advantage (e.g. "Blair made Chuck systematically go through his photo albums and e-mail account to delete any photo, message or reference involving his exes, but she still regularly meets with several of her ex-boyfriends"; or "You owe it to me to give me all the delegates from the primary we agreed not to contest in Michigan, but you shouldn't have any, because they didn't vote for you.").

As with any abusive relationship, the victims cannot leave, because the combination of control of narrative, arbitrary application of rules, and the control of information create a vicious cycle of misperception and anger, where anyone who seeks to criticize the relationship or the abuser only further justifies the abuser's false narrative of persecution: "See, the media and Obama supporters say that I cannot win the nomination because by all empirical measures I cannot: They must really hate me and love Obama!" This feeds the bunker mentality of an abusive relationship, where the victim cannot leave, because the abuser has convinced him or her that he or she cannot trust anybody external to the relationship as they are only motivated by hatred for the specialness of what they have together, and further, that the victim would have no life worth living without the abuser.

It is this detachment from reality, the spectacle of seeing a small fraction of those 17 million voters (since it is only a small fraction who have been emotionally fragilized by the process) continue to be ensnared in Clinton's abusive manipulations, that has angered Obama supporters and generated the inflammatory rhetoric and counter-accusations that comes across online. Wat can we do to solve this?

First, as any advice columnist will tell you, validating Clinton in any way shape or form would be the worst possible reaction. That will only further perpetuate the adherence of her troubled victims to the "Clinton-BocaRaton Co-dependency syndrome" by legitimizing her delusions of grandeur and providing another false narrative to her supporters. But, then, so will our continued anger and incomprehension of how someone can survive by fueling so much hatred.

No, as most advice columnists will suggest and as clinicians will agree, we need to engage Clinton's victims in a slow, methodic phase of questioning the different principles upon which their relationship is founded. Ask pertinent questions. Provide them small snippets of information when you think they are ready. Allow them to hope for positive outcomes that might not be dependent on their relationship with Clinton. More than anything else, though, you must give them time. Time to cope. Time to heal.

But, be patient. Even if we start today, it may take up to five months.

Yes We Can!


Through the Looking Glass meets Toxic Avenger

Na na na na na we're not listening!

How can a speech be resilient? That's what Chris Matthews just said. Was it that despite mangling the truth, words still managed to come out of Clinton's mouth? Or is "resilient" just the only acceptable word now to describe anything Clinton does that is destructive and irrational.

Howard Fineman mentioned that Hillary's camp is demanding that Obama not offer the VP spot to another woman. I had my doubts for a while, but I have now come to realize that -- far from being a movement defined by obtaining power to fight for equal rights and equal status -- feminism really is just Hillary Clinton's one-woman cult of personality. My only question, then, is why not choose someone with a better personality?

Tom Brokaw mentioned that Obama's speech moved from "Yes We Can" to "Here's How." He says that that's what we've been waiting for all this time.

Actually, Tom. No. We haven't been waiting, because we've actually been listening to Barack Obama. While I feel good about Obama's chances for winning in November, something tells me that even by January 20 2009, we'll still be hearing from the Russerts and Brokaws of the world: "Gee, he sure can talk about hope, but Obama is still a cipher in terms of the policies he plans to enact..."

Can we drop the Klinton Krazies and still win in November? Yes we can!
My assumption is that the Appalachian voters who voted for Clinton did not actually and would not actually vote Democratic in most of the last election cycles. They do not belong, then, to the vote total of reality-challenged Clinton supporters who plan to defect in November. No, these are more likely to be of the sort who, as the Clintons themselves pointed out: "Don't need a president, they need a feeling."

By a crude estimate, then, my sense is that these voters will have the most effect on Obama's margin in Arizona, California, New York, New Jersey, and Florida. While Arizona is probably safely in McCain's hands already, the only states where defections may make a difference are New Jersey and Florida. With the political climate as it is, though -- and, by the way, Thank G_d for Bob Barr! -- it seems fair to give Obama the benefit of the doubt in the Mountain West and Virginia such that an unfavorable turn in the two pivotal "angry states" would be offset. I am, in fact, predicting here and now, a Reagan-esque landslide in the Fall.

But even if some tell-tale combination of racists and the Klinton Krazies (these are distinct constituencies, right Geraldine Ferraro?) does signal an Obama defeat in the November, I believe that it is far more important to rebuild the soul of the Democratic Party around the assumption that we can assemble a majority progressive coalition and re-mold the political rhetoric of foreign policy and national security to the Democrats' advantage, than to cater to the demagogues and power brokers within the party who would insist on turning virulent Bush-hatred and the bitter memory of the Clinton impeachment into the only coherent and sound form of Democratic discourse for the foreseeable future.

Finally, is it okay to refer to Clinton's now defunct campaign for the nomination as the Ronaldo candidacy? It seems that many women thought they were voting for the first woman to ever run for president. Oddly enough though, the Clinton campaign conveyed the message that a woman would only be fit for the job if she knew how to act like a man, thus increasing the degree of difficulty for any future women politician seeking the office. If anyone has run a sexist campaign, then, it has been the Clintons. It is they and their surrogates who have persistently challenged Obama's masculinity and, thus, fitness for the job, and suggested to her voters that... um... at least anatomically speaking... Clinton is a man. (And a Latino one, at that.)

Disaster: The story of a primary gone wrong

As the final primaries take place even now, I will try to offer assorted reflections on the months that were...

First, given that the nomination of Barack Obama spells certain apocalyptic destruction here on earth, there is a vital question that I need your help answering.

Is the certain disaster represented by the Barack Obama candidacy more like the looming asteroid of Armageddon or more like the unstoppable comet of Deep Impact? And, in a related question, is Hillary Clinton then, the awesome, ballsy Bruce Willis character who will obliterate Obama? Or is she the bold Morgan Freeman-esque national leader who decides the fate of the select few survivors?

(In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't seen either movie, but I bet they're both awesome!)


Rachael Ray's scarf denied prestigious Fulbright grant... or First they came for my Venti Mochaccino

The path to cheap latte and a French Cruller is paved with virulent xenophobia. As my loyal readers know, I have used this space previously to voice my disgust with the shameless xenophobia of recent Dunkin' Donuts ads. At the time, I had been unaware of the flexible immigration policies practiced by Dunkin Donuts, nor had I visited the local Dunkin Donuts franchise which was run -- shockingly enough -- by a South Asian family (again taking jobs from merit-worthy Appalachian voters!).

I suppose, bowing to the pressure I had leveled on the D-squared breakfast juggernaut, they decided to show a more cosmopolitan face in their new ads -- and what could be more cosmopolitan than Rachael Ray, in a scarf!

However, some shrewd guardians of the American lifestyle, those who had lectured us on the slippery slope of introducing Fritalian into our coffee lexicon, noticed something menacingly awry in Rachael Ray's sartorial preferences (yeah, blame the stylist -- we're not listening!) in the new spot. What's next? -- they challenged us -- Would you like your global jihad in Deici or Venti?

Yes, they noticed that behind that innocent paisley pattern, lay the sweaty, swarthy hands of the Persian Puppetmaster:
"The pattern is still widely popular in Iran. It is woven using gold or silver threads on silk or other high quality textiles for gifts, for weddings and special occasions. In Iran its use goes beyond clothing - paintings, jewelry, frescoes, curtains, tablecloths, quilts, carpets, garden landscaping, and pottery also sport the buta design."
Some, though, have suggested that the black-and-white scarf pattern is not paisley at all, but rather... a Kaffiyeh...

This insidious piece of cloth, also known as the "Palestinian newsboy," as we all know, can mean anything from, "I am a Palestinian (or other Arab nationality) male" to "I am a naive and self-indulgent French teenager trying to figure out why I'm the only one of my friends who hasn't gotten laid yet." And so it was that, under pressure from alert US citizens who have led an admirable crusade against both French and Arabs alike over the past several years, Dunkin Donuts finally returned to its old ways of bashing on all things that appear foreign -- with the exception, of course, of its own latte.

Not content, however, to see Rachael Ray's accoutrement silenced, the US Department of State, amalgamating the black-and-white paisley patterned foulard with the Palestinian kaffiyeh, chose to deny the Fulbright Grant it had previously offered the scarf to complete graduate work in the United States. Although the State Department refused to shed light on any specific threat posed by the kaffiyeh-like item of apparel, they pointed to Israeli model Moran Atias' choice to exile all scarves from her own wardrobe as a model for their decision. While Ray's scarf has maintained its silence on this lost opportunity, an Israeli lawmaker has commented on the decision:
This could be interpreted as collective punishment[...] This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules.
This is why, in addition to maintaining my call for a boycott of You Don't Mess with the Zohan for re-invigorating the "suspect Arab" discourse within American cinema, I would like to declare June 21 "A Day Without Scarves" as a reminder that by punishing scarves for the actions of a few extremists, we just end up punishing ourselves.

What upsets me most, though, about the dual decisions of the State Department and Dunkin' Donuts, however, is their crass violation of the golden rule: Fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong!

Now, everybody knows, when it comes to hating Arabs, the French are in a whole other league! While, here in the U.S., we have been hating Arabs off-and-on for a maximum of maybe 60 years, the French have finely tuned Arab hatred over nearly 200 years. Seriously, these guys were interning and torturing Arabs long before your average American could begin confusing Guantanamo with Guantanamera!

So why is it that the kaffiyeh is as popular among French trendsetters and youths as Cheap Trick in Japan? Based on my own unscientific and informal field surveys, more French (of non-Arab origin) youths in the all important 18-24 demo wear kaffiyehs than Palestinians. But don't trust me, see for yourself:

This is a country that tells Arab women what they can wear to school, and yet the only subject for debate among the French over wearing the kaffiyeh is whether its current standing as a fashion accessory dilutes its powerful symbolism of solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

One can only come to the conclusion that wearing the kaffiyeh is 100% compatible with defeating Islamofascism! 'Nuff said.

Lactose Intolerant

Monkey, after reading your last post, I thought you should see this comic strip.

You're last post confused me quite a bit, and seemed to contain at best a 1:5 ratio of information to words. In fact, I think you might be keeping poor company, after all. For your story held for me a rambling incoherence not dissimilar from this Babyshambles song:

In any case, I finally have been able to take a breather from Cooties Camp. Not only have I missed blogging, but I had to digest your last two posts all at once. Of course, this is only a momentary respite, as we have quite big weekend plans for the boys. Tomorrow we're heading up to the 'burbs to take them to the Kohl Children's Museum, where they will be challenged to not touch anything despite whatever encouragements they might receive from museum staff.

Then, the real test will come on Sunday, when we take them to the Shedd Aquarium,where, not only will they have to avoid touching starfish, but we will provide them with repeated tales that dissuade them from any draw the sea or its various creatures may have upon their impressionable young minds.

To wrap up our camp, we have planned out an evening full of surprises for our adepts of "the Cootie-free life"

I'll let you know how things go once it's all wrapped up.

Meanwhile, the faculty lounge has provided some interesting conversations. I just learned that one of my fellow faculty mentors was holding a workshop on "Unlearning Grey's Anatomy" At the end of a busy day, when we all gathered round to bang the drum a little bit, I asked one of his pupils what he learned in that workshop. All he could do was keep repeating "Isaiah Washington was right." My colleague later explained to me, "These boys' mothers watch a lot of Grey's. Sometimes I worry, that if they don't keep repeating it, these kids may start to grow breasts."

I'm like, "Dude! Haven't you heard of the SciFi Network?"

No Milch Today

Verdammten Schnitzel!!!!!!! Can I not even hier excape that bastard, Chris Noth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Like Pete's Katie, teh so-called Mr. Big follows me through every frickin' press juncket in the Hapsburg Empire -- and he's not even on the efrickin' Continent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!L It's worese now, bescasuse aeverybody is fawining all over his "life-partner" and little 5-month-old spawn!

And now, it's all I can do to keep my schnitzel together, what with not having slept but 6 hours over teh past five days!!!! Everything is like in a dream. Even my dreams are like dreams. LIke I'mm dreaming my dreams and not living them, like it s all verwirrungt, you know what I mean?

I have been talking more frequently with Jenny, recently. We have talked about having to learn what to do when you're dreams crash upon the shores. She tels me that before ending up doling out pickles and Grey Goose in the Schatz im Freud, she was a pirate. I thought about how you would repsone in a similar situation, and I asked her fi she was acutally like an "Old School" pirate, or one of the kind of pirates that sink French yachts. She tells me neither, that she used to film US blockbusters and package them for illegal sale in wet streets behind butchershops spattered with sawdusts and under bridges outside tawdry Hungarian spas.

"What mad eyou change your lief?" I asked her.

She told me there wasn't no change, but that she had bmet a guy, who had dreams of his own and led her here to Vienna, and that she guessed we all follow our dreams sometime, until they come crashing down agaisnt the rocky shores of the New Europeean reality, where one day, every movie will be a Dogma film, and pickles wil cost an extrra 10 kronigs with your drikns. I told her, "but, Jenny, there isn't such a thing as a Kronig" and she tells me, "That's what I mean, Monkey, and soon we'll all be pirates, won't we."

And I had the impression that she had said something very deep right then. I didn't know what about it was so deep, but its obvious conclusiveness gave me the impressions that I should have leaned in and kissed her right then, and maybe I would have, if it hadn't been for teh fact that she was Pete's girl now, and then there was Heidi.

Yes, there was Heidi. But where was Heidi, now? I thought. Jenny and I sulkily strolled among the Kokoschkas at the Albertina, reflecting upon our own confused identities, the careful and remarkable precision of the contours of our alienation, our own exiles from our feelings, from our dreams, and the vast borderless landscape in which we were swimming like the gold flakes in a bottle of Goldschlager.

Meanwhile, Heidi was getting made up by Irina (returned from her shoot) to attend the FM4 opening gala for the 8 Festival for Fashion and Photography. Irina had come back, wheich was a good thing, since Jenny was too knew to be indulgent, and Pete needed a helping hand to hold in case Kate would be on the town somewhere with all the hubbub over the festival. Heidi also needed Irina -- I guess, in that sense, we all needed Irina -- in order to know how to conduct hereself and hobnob with the various designers and artists whose eye she hope dto catch, in order to have the promise of something greateer than the rolling hills of Kitzbuhel and the drip of milk from a cow's udder. Perhaps I couldn't promise her that more. Perhaps that's why you've never sought to console or gain pardon from Dagmar -- bugt I'm not trying toi ciriticize you, now, Jew. That is n ot my purpose. The task at hand, now, is to telll my story:

Jenny went off to work as did I, and it must have been 4 in the morning, still dark at least and my head only vaguely weary, that Pete and Irina and Heidi stumbled past the desk toward the elevator bay. Pete jerked still of a sudden, which resulted of Irina and Heidi tumbling to either side of them, so had he been their balance. He turned aroudn and approached me.

"Almost forgot this, Mate," he told me, as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out something brown and sticky, rolled several times in plastic wrap until its form had become unrecognizable. "Saved you a spot of Sachertorte -- he said. Thought you could yoose it, y'know, pick you up a bit, i'n'it?"

"Thanks Pete," I said, lifting up the mushy chocolate treeat as if I were toasting him, like men do amongst themselves, as if hiding their feelings behind mannish rituals -- but who were we, Pete and I to hide our feelinngs. I almost felt like we were mates. "G'night now"

My words followed him as he reached out his arms and conducted Heidi and Irina to the elevators.

I unrolled the Sachertorte adn didn't even notice how messy and sticky my fingers became as I filled my mouth with it morsel by creamhy morsel.

The call came a couple of hours later, as a pale violet glow illuminated the pavement out front.

"Konig von Ungarn, Gruss Gott!"

It was Dagmar. "Monkey, is that you? What are you doing?"

I told her I was the NIght Porter, for whatever that would mean to her. Anyway, she urgenlty needed to speak with Heidi, she told me.

I tried the room. Pete answered on the fifth ring, but not altogether out of it.

"Yeah, Monkey that you?" Cough Cough, then I heard the gagging. It must have lasted several seconds before someone else grabbed the phone. No luck, it was Irina this time.

"Can you get Heidi on? Her sister needs to talk with her and quickly!" There was a brief pause, the sound of Irina's palm covering the receiver. She was laconic upoon returning to the phone.
"Yeah," she said. The phone dropped and echoed against the Biedermeier mahogany surface of the six-drawer dresser of the Konig von Ungarn.

For some moments, all I heard were petulant cries that filled the luxurious air. "Get away from me... I can 'andle it meself..." It continued, but then a breeze swilred against the receiver and Heidi picked up. I told her it was Dagmar, and patched her through to her sister.

Some time later, I was polishing off my chocolate fingerprints fromthe phone at the front desk, and Klaus came to relieve me of my duties. I hadn't exactly remained awake the rest of the shift, but my mind recognized a certain low level of concern over the reason for Dagmar's unexpected call at the crack of dawn. That left me inquisitive and worried engouh to keep my eyes heavy but open.

The stench of puke greeted me as I got off on our floor. I could tell whey as I prgressed along the hallway. In front of Pete's suite someone had set out a room service trey with four flutes of champagne (I recognized them from the night before) a couple of empy platters, and the silver ice bucket full of thin, gruelly vomit, whose faint chocolate aroma was overwhelmed with the overbeering nastiness of bile. Goddamm Pete and his Sachertorte I though momentarily, my own stomahc heaving, but, I suppose my muscles were too weary to stir a more violent reaction to the grotesque still life. I paced further down the hall to collect my thoughts, then returned past the doorway, and finally reached the courtesy phohne by the elevator.

"Klaus," I said, "send someone up to clean the Doherty suite, bitte."

It was nearing noon, that Pete, Die Presse in hand, slipped into the koffeehaus where I had stationed myself, wearily poring over the faux marble surface of the table and sipping black tea loaded with kandizucker and cream to keep from sinking into sleep. As he order strudels, he caught me out of the corner of his eye.

Pete grabbed the strudels when they were all in the bag, and pushed his 100 euro note to the baker -- "You keep it, luv," was his charming admonition. His gaunt form held me in its shadow for a moment, then he leant down and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. "Monkey! Wotcha doin' 'ere?" Then it stopped, he pulled back and took a strudel out of the bag and placed it on the table in front of the teapot.

I restrained myself from shoving the strudel right back into his pasty face. Instead, I asked calmly, "What was that about, the call earlier?"

"Dunno, mate," Pete said, "you'll 'ave to asker yoursewf."

I settled up for the tea and followed Pete out the door. When we got back to the suite, the tray was gone, and the stench had subsided. Walking through the doorway, though, was like a journey once more into the night. the shades were drawn and little light penetrated beyond the three inches of carpet underneath the luxurious, cream satin curtains of the Konig von Ungarn. Heidi, when I found her, was rolled up in Pete's Union Jack with Irina's head nuzzled into her armpit. Her other arm lay at a right angle with spread fingers snug among the rich, silky threads of the thick carpetting of the Konig von Ungarn.

I knelt down and raised her chin slightly, caressing her golden locks with my free hand. I must've sat over her for at least a quarter hour before her breath became more pronounced and her lips parted with a muted cough.

Later... over a strudel and some viennese coffe taht I had Klaus send up, Heidi explained to me what was happening.

"There's a Milk Boycott on throughout Europe! Dagmar doesn't know what to do with out me. Sunday's World Milk Day, and she wante sto know whehter we deliver or not. I have to be there for her. Monkey, I have to go back tot Kitzbuhel, tomorrow!"

Pete was sitting in the lotus position watching CNN-Europe while Irina was still putting on her face in the bathroom.

"Pete," I said, "Let me see your paper."

Heidi and I spread out Die Presse on the table and there we saw the confirmation of what Dagmar had said.

So... it was a MILK WAR!