Tuesday, May 31, 2005

gangs & armies

I was trying to explain this all to my teenage son the other day. Because I have had no small professional acquaintance with gangs.

Its all about fear and belonging, I said. Mostly about fear, but also that intense adolescent wanting to belong. The irony is, that once you belong, you are even more scared. With reason.

Its all about creating a closed world, a safe/dangerous world. And its also alot about dragging the world down, about creating viscious circles. The worse things get, the more you need a gang. Just look at any prison.

There is a reason armies like recruiting young men. Not just or even mainly because young men are fit and healthy. Its because young men can be induced to kill. To Believe. To Hate. To Do Anything for Status. The army is just a sort of more professional type of street gang, writ large.

What's really scary, is that the army has started to aquire a taste for young women (just like street gangs have, actually). Turns out that they have buttons you can push too, and that these days, they are willing to have pushed.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Non Compliance

You hear a good deal about this, if you are a parent dealing with the school system and a bright but idiosyncratic child. Its even a recognized psychiatric disorder; how fascist is that?

Famous non-compliers:

Jesus Christ




Martin Luther King

Martin Luther

Genghis Khan



and so on.

Pretty much everyone who counts, really.

And many more, so many many more, who don't count. Who were very very brave, and got beaten and forgotten for their troubles. Real heroes, actually.

Anyway, you can shut down the Hitlers, at the price of shutting down the MLKs. I know where I land on that kind of decision. Oh the Hitlers have to be fought all right, those who give up their humanity to thrive on our hatreds, fears, and resentments truly are evil. But you can't fight ideas with laws, let alone rules.

Its as simple as that.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I've Been Tagged (sorta)

1. Total number of books I've owned:

I have no idea. Thousands I am sure, I still have boxes and boxes in the basement that can't find shelf space. More to the point, in University, I used to work part time in the library. A university library is an amazing thing. I guess I didn't own the books, but I felt I had some kind of claim on them. Every night, I had to sort & card all the returns, so I would notice books I had never thought of reading. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, 1890 something version. The Journal of Psychadelic Drugs. Complete sets of Punch from the Victorian era. Swift. Liddel-Hart. Gibbons. Oh my.

2. Last book I bought

I do believe that that would be Reversable Errors by Scott Turrow. Used bookstore, cost a buck. I love and haunt used bookstores. Not a bad book, not as great as Presumed Innocent & The Burden of Proof, but much better than The Laws of Our Fathers. I'm not much into mystery & legal stuff, but the man sure does write well. Sorta like I read everything by John Le Carre, I'm not much into spies and action, but goddamn can that man write.

3. Last Book I Read

This is actually tough, because I usually have about three on the go at any given moment, and sorting out which I finished last requires some effort. I think it would be Merlin's Booke by Jane Yolen, another used bookstore buy. I'm just about done with The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Stephen J. Gould (one of my heros).

4. Five (or so) books that mean something to me

Hmm. This is really really tough. I'm gonna go not with the best or favourite books, just the ones that shook me up one way or another.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller left me shaken, weeping. The ending was so terrible & sad after all the ha-has that the only hope I could see was that someone had written it down. And that people had read it; perhaps there is some hope.

Little, Big, by John Crowley, a book so amazing that it is impossible to describe, except to say its a fairy story. Maybe. (I've always thought Helprin's A Winter's Tale was a kind of pale companion.)

Sex and Destiny by Germain Greer. Its a polemic, so it perhaps overstates the case a little (ha), but it sure summed up a great deal of my thinking at the time. Still does.

Nova, by Samuel R. Delany. To my mind, the best science fiction book of all time. A poetic romp, just sheer joy to read each page.

The Narrow Road Through the Far North, by Basho. Quite possibly the deepest book I have ever read, and it is very short indeed.

Bonus: I suppose I should add the Bible. I'm not a conventionally religious man, and I certainly don't go to any church. But that book is so seminal to everything in our culture, both good and bad, that it bears reading and rereading. It maintains a permanent place in my bathroom. I prefer the poetry of the King James version, myself, though perhaps the American Standard captures the New Testament feeling a bit better.

5. Pick five people to tag

Nope, ain't gonna do it. I only did this cuz Lili asked me to. I don't believe that blogs are a kind of cult that need to support and link each other up all the time. In fact I'd be happier if no-one ever read this, its just for me, really. I'll just stay here in my little corner & play with my own toys, thankyou very much.

Besides, I am far from sure that I want any five of the people I relate to to know that I relate to any of the others.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Love the Boss

I do, my current boss. He is my friend, he has taught me so much.

But I am becoming more and more aware, that I am better at so much of this stuff than he is. There are things where he is better, very important things, but he is getting tired, and not so much up to it anymore I think.

Its kind of a horrible yet delightful sensation, when you see that. His achievements are legion, he has made truely wonderful things happen. But right now, I think, I can do it better.

There. I said it.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Back to the Horns

Saw Kingdom of Heaven the other day. Was struck by how much it actually did track history, I mean it isn't really accurate, but none of the big stuff was wrong really. I mean Balian wasn't sleeping with the princess, so far as we know, and certainly the whole army did not show up at Kerak (I've been there BTW, mostly a pile of stones on a hill). And Palestine is not really a desert. I wish they had shown what happened at and after theHorns of Hattin, it really was a most amazing story (and yes, Saladin really did personally kill Reynauld). Maybe in the dirctor's cut extended edition.

And of course they had to make it Good and Evil, if not between saracens and christians, then within the crusaders. But Reynauld and Guy (who weren't actually buddies) actually had a point. If you are a crusader, you aren't there to make friends. Your job is killing people. In the long term, a losing point, but a valid one none the less, from a crusader point of view.

I wonder how the movie is going down in Isreal?

Oh, and yes, it really did happen on the 4th of July.

Found again

Eek, I posted to a blog, and got automatically linked. Fuck.

This anonymity stuff is harder to maintain than I thought.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

I don't know

Perhaps because its beyond knowing. It might not have to do with knowing. And after all my years of dealing with people and the street, I learnt that truth is a fairly complex and debatable thing.

But I stumbled accross Lili-G. I don't quite know what to make of it. Well, truth is not an on and off switch, of course, and anybody interested will see things through their own lens. But her voice is pretty authentic. There are some questions I have about the story she tells, but at the end of the day, that doesn't matter.