What if the world ended and no one knew it?

Colson Whitehead’s new novel Zone One is one of those books that only matter to First World readers. It is a well written book (if you like overly wrought descriptions of the way the world was…good and bad) that follows a zombie novel formula. Formula: Something happens that cause the undead to eat the living; some people survive; and survivors band together and attempt to end the zombie apocalypse. This formula (in the context of Zone One), however, only matters if you have been to New York, or at least seen enough Seinfeld episodes to be  aware of the labyrinth that is NYC. Zone One is a thinking man’s zombie novel, a Western Civilization thinking man’s novel. Somali refugees don’t give a shit about zombies.

If you were a Somali refugee and constantly moving through the scrub to avoid death, would you know if the world ended? Not talking Ben Affleck-big-ass-astroid world ending catastrophe (because then the complete world would literally end), but thinking about First World implosion. Would it matter that cell phones stopped working, internet porn couldn’t be accessed, and soccer practice was canceled because all the little suburban tots are munching on each other? Millions of Americans dying due to them being the menu’s main course doesn’t really register to Third World readers (…wonder how many Third World readers there are?). *Note: is it more PC to say “underdeveloped” or “Third” world?

The question really lies in how you define “world.” The First World historians/writers/film makers/commentators get to determine and record what is worthy of being saved for posterity. Those with the guns and money decide what words mean, and who/what is valued. If you were a Somali refugee, the fate of the First World wouldn’t rate on your give-a-shit meter…unless of course you were one of the fortunate refugees that gets their daily nutritional intake from UN charity.

Hunger is a monster. Hutus were monsters to Tutsis. Real life zombies that used machetes and cans of gasoline to gnaw the life out of the Tutsis is a great definition of what “monster” means. (If you have no idea what Hutu and Tutsi mean, go here.) Blood thirsty and shambling hordes don’t have to be undead…plus living, breathing monsters are far more scary. This is probably why we like to imagine fanciful creatures instead of facing the evil that walks among us. This evil is better ignored; let’s just pretend that we need a zombie survival guide instead of mathematical chart confirming the randomness of bloody car crashes that are the result of self-absorbed drunk drivers. Real shit is always scarier, and real shit is always more funny than fiction. This is also why true crime books sell better than horror novels.

Literature, good literature should be able to transcend time and place. It should be able to take common human experiences and thoughts and relate to a reader regardless of their situation, geographical location, or place within the time path of human existence (face it, getting eaten is not a timeless common human experience). David Copperfield is good literature that supplies a bonding to those who can, at a minimum, empathize with shitty sweat shop laboring. Everybody, regardless of their time in history or location, knows what a shitty asshole bosses can be.

Zone One is just a novel that spends the prerequisite time on revealing the background (people get a “plague” and start eating the living), the middle story (people survive by outrunning the undead), the present story (bands of survivors start dealing with the undead). The real story of this book is how memories of places, events, history, and living is described. Zone One is not a zombie book, it is a book about loss. The loss of what was before and how the protagonist deals with the loss. The protagonist is actually a representation of all the world that made it through the original undead onslaught and how the world attempts to getting back to “normal.” Again, one has to ask what is “normal.” Normal for me is not normal for a Somali refugee. My normal is an unbelievable heaven to a starving Horn of Africa resident.

World War Z (fictional oral history of the zombie apocalypse) and Robopocalypse (robots replace zombies) are good books. Zone One is a good book. But they are all fluff. I usually mock deep thinkers who try to argue that zombies are actually manifestations of all the other fears that inhabit our world and minds…but there is some truth to this. However, even with their fear manifestations, these books are nothing more than good reads. They entertain by playing on deeply seated fears and thoughts…but they are not good literature.

In the end, it isn’t the story that matters but how the story is revealed. Zone One is revealed in an interesting manner. Memories and thoughts of the time before the all-you-can-eat horde arrived is described in almost poetic streams of consciousness. The first 5 pages of the book is one of the best descriptions of not only of how NYC looks, but how it feels. At times, I kept wondering where I had read this story, or at least this type of prose. Finally it dawned on me. Colson Whitehead is obviously a Cormac McCarthy fan and reader. Like McCarthy, Colson Whitehead delivers a story that is a pleasure to read but leaves you wondering, after a few paragraphs, “what the fuck is this book about?” But like McCarthy, you enjoy the reading…the actual exercise of moving your eyes and digesting the words…so much that it could actually be about building a microwave.

Like World War Z and Robopocalypse, at the end of Zone One I asked myself “who really gives a fuck if the world actually ended?” My world, my time and place, my miniscule moment in the time stream of humanity is nothing more than mine. My life and death isn’t important. My place in the collective memory of my world isn’t important. The end of my world means nothing. Novels about the end of the world as I know it are nothing more than a good read.

The real deep shit is questioning what responsibility does art and literature have in reflecting on life. Life takes many forms and represents many things. I like a good zombie book, I love things that make me ponder life. Zone One is a good book but I keep wondering if I really give a shit about America after it has had one of its butt cheeks bitten off. Maybe if the hungry Somalis were willing to eat obese Americans…

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New Security Paradigm?

Paradigm: A worldview underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject

Arguably, the 21st Century is the beginning of a new era in global thought and interactions and that Americans need to “…stop thinking of ourselves as ‘post’ something – postcolonial, postwar, post-Cold War, post-post-post-Cold War. Those eras are meaningless.” (Thomas L. Friedman, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, p. 27) In this supposed new era following 9/11, American strategic thought has shifted. The nation’s security strategy is no longer outward looking, it has become more holistic with both an external and internal view. There is now an understanding that security issues outside the U.S. affects the security within the U.S.

After ten years following the end of the Cold War, the strategic paradigm shifted in 2001 and resulted in a new strategic  concept called “homeland security.” One may even argue that this security paradigm shift is comparable to, or the result of, the end of the Cold War and the increased threat from radicalized terrorism.

Now the debate continues on how this paradigm shift affected the concepts of what homeland security means and what it entails. Public perception has shifted with this paradigm and it is now considered part of the American security apparatus.

…or is there really a new paradigm? Did we really feel the shift?

We still don’t have this shit right. Ten years after 9/11 and those responsible for making the country safer (I don’t mean the po-leese or the military…I mean policymakers and analysts) are still trying their damndest to develop a real homeland security strategy.

For those of you keeping score at home, the last version of the National Homeland Security Strategy was issued in 2007 and the Obama Administration issued a National Security Strategy in 2010. And…DHS has recently fessed up to what it is still working on…or ignoring (maybe if you ignore it, it will go away).

  • REAL ID still isn’t enacted (even though it is congressionally mandated…but inadequately funded, plus it sounds sort of po-leese stateish),
  • risk-based airport screening is not happening (but TSA will touch your junk),
  • cyberattack strategies are nonexistent (don’t you dare call it “cyberwar” or I will cyber-kick-your-ass),
  • firefighers and the po-leese still can’t communicate (partly because they hate each other based on history and culture…why can’t we all get along?),
  • biometric exit solution has no solution (okay…I have no idea what a biometric exit solution is, doubt DHS knows either, but that shit is broken too), and
  • Mexican drug cartel spillover violence is spilling over (damn them for coming here and disturbing us while we are snorting our coke).

Supposed smart people have not only issued the national and homeland security strategies, but there is also the:

What do all these strategic documents have in common? They all identify goals that may make the homeland more secure. What do they not have in common? Similar (prioritized) goals that could secure the nation. There is very little consensus among these documents. Additionally, none of them define the term “homeland security” in a similar manner.

If we do not have a common, or agreed-to, definition for the term “homeland security” and we don’t have a consensus on  the nation’s homeland security goals, how do we actually do it?  These documents do not consistently address risk mitigation associated with the full range of homeland security threats. Also, there is no, or little, debate on the resource and fiscal costs associated with preparing for low risk, high consequence threats.

So…where does this leave us? Well, what we got here is a failure to communicate. Until we take a nice, long, deep breath and take a moment to review what (the Hell) homeland security is, we will continue to have a disjointed and disparate approach to homeland security policy. It will continue to seem like every crisis and disaster is reacted to in an ad hoc manner, and the public (voters) will continue to wonder WTF is going on.

Defining homeland security, and specifically homeland security strategy, is difficult. However, it can be addressed in simple terms that provide a basis upon which a real strategy could be developed. Specifically, a national homeland security strategy is an ever-evolving process which couples a nation-state’s resources with realistic courses of action to achieve the nation-state’s prioritized homeland security policy objectives (goals) which advance national interests.

No prioritized goals equals no strategy. No strategy means limited security. Limited security means sending in the troops in a knee-jerk fashion. Too much reliance on law enforcement and the military results in a po-leese state. But the balancing of a po-leese state (don’t touch my junk) and insecurity is hard. Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s general counsel, recently addressed this subject at a talk at the Heritage Foundation. Basically, the drive to militarize U.S. response to terrorism, both domestically and internationally, results in confusion and counters the basic tenets of the American legal system. The more we rely on the military, or a militarized po-leese force, the more we move away from addressing individual homeland security threats and focus only on a one-size-fits-all response (we can afford to send in the troops everytime right? right?).

Get the goals prioritized; realistic security will follow (free your mind and yo’ ass will follow)….oh and this can be done without putting troops on the streets. Double plus good!

North Korean Torture and Live Concerts

The North Koreans like to torture their prisoners. I want to believe I could handle North Korean torture. I want to believe I could handle the pliers (or whatever tool the NKs call “pliers”), the testicular shock treatment, the beatings, the rubber hose to the toes, the rats in the face cage (shout out to Orwell). I can’t. I won’t. I will sing like a caged bird. I will give all of you away and describe not only my sins but I will make up sins and attribute them to you. I’m not going to have rats caged to my testicles without bringing some of you down with me. I have my breaking point and I am pretty sure it is close to the surface. Seriously…testicle shock!!!! I wanna be Rambo in Rambo III and show those nasty Vietnamese that I can’t be broken (he was tortured in that movie right?) but I can be easily.

One personality attribute that I have that might assist me in this dire situation would be my ability to bullshit. In true Herman Cain (one of the million…it seems…GOP presidential candidates) style, I would be able to answer any question with the following qualifier: “I don’t have the facts to back this up, but…” My only hope would be that the angry, poor, and hungry torturer would ask me questions that I could truly answer with convincing bullshit. A side note:  Herman Cain would say this angry, poor, and hungry torturer is not trying hard enough to make themselves the happy, rich, and fat torturer they could be if they weren’t so damn lazy.

In this North Korean torture scenario, I have devised the answers to the following potential inquiry: What was the bitchinest and most sucking concerts you have attended? Let’s face it, North Korea doesn’t get a lot of Western musical acts and it seems plausible they would desire information on this type of entertainment. Plus, as a former (but unreformed) Boy Scout, I believe one should be prepared for North Korean torture…especially that rat testicle stuff.

Note: I have no facts to back these answers up, but I did attend all of the concerts mentioned and that counts as circumstantial evidence. Also, note that I had consumed copious amounts of alcohol during most of these concerts thus dates and memories may be wrong…but these would be answers under the duress of North Korean torture so I get a little leeway.

BITCHINEST CONCERT

Tie – Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” (1984) and Judas Priest’s “Defenders of the Faith” (also 1984…obviously 1984 was a good year for bitchin’ concerts) tours. These concerts had the trifecta of rock concert awesomeness: spectacular lights, deafening explosions and guitars, and overwhelming theatrics. Both of these concerts could have been considered operas (IM’s Bruce Dickinson could easily be an operatic singer and JP’s Rob Halford probably loves opera). The light shows put Georgia’s Stone Mountain to shame. The music and fireworks were so damn loud that my ears rung for days afterwards (I now attend live musical acts with earplugs…yeah I’m old that way). IM had a giant mummy…Eddie…and JP had a motorcycle (and the band was attired in bondage leather). Both of these concerts took place at Huntsville, Alabama’s Von Braun Civic Center (yes that Nazi, but he was our Nazi), and its concrete walls reflected the roar of these concerts in absoluteness…the VBCC was built for loud rock concerts. How do you top that? Simple answer: you don’t. They weren’t just about the music, they were about the show…they were the complete package. Two notes: my dad attended the JP concert with me (if he had only knew about Rob Halford’s homosexuality!…see the bondage leather comment)…he loved it, and because of my age (14) and my dad’s attendance…I consumed NO alcohol before, during, or after either of these concerts. These two are still the best concert(s) I attended.

Gratuitous Mention

Milli Vanilli/Young MC (1990?), Starwood Ampitheater, Nashville, Tennessee. Yes I know you are laughing now, but…who doesn’t enjoy campy Euros lip synching while wearing tight black pants and doing their trademark chest bump? Laugh all you want…I was entertained and drunk. Oh and a shot out to Melana for manning up as a true friend and taking the place of my girlfriend (who had recently broken up with me and thus did not attend this concert even though it was HER idea) as my “date.”

Sting’s “Soul Cages” (1992?) Starwood Ampitheater, Nashville, Tennessee. This is the barefooted, black-clad Sting…I think he even played the flute during the concert. Definitely moody and artistic. However, alcohol was needed for this too.

Fat Boys/Salt-n-Peppa/White Boys (1987 or 1988), VBCC, Huntsville, Alabama. I don’t remember if the White Boys were white, but the Fat Boys were definitely fat. However, nothing compared how phat Salt-n-Peppa were! To this day I still get weak in the knees when I see bootilicious spandexed women…thank you Salt and Peppa!

MOST SUCKING CONCERT

Beach Boys (1988), Murphy Center, Middle Tennessee State University. I was totally drunk at this one…how else could I have seen the Beach Boys? You know their songs, you know their lyrics: cars, girls, cars, cars, girls, cars. Yet none of their songs were the least sexual…maybe in the 1950s and 1960s…but I had already seen IM and JP in concert, how could the Beach Boys compare. They sucked, and I sucked for attending. Now, if my memory serves me right, a newly acquired college friend talked me into going after we had split a 12 pack of Busch…which I think we followed with some plastic bottled vodka. Basically, the best I can tell you is that this concert sucked.

Gratuitous Mention

Whitney Houston (1987) Murphy Center, MTSU. I did this one out of love. I had a girlfriend at the time who wanted to go. Additionally, I did not drink at this one. This was the peak of WH’s rippling vocals, and she was as good as imagined…but it was Whitney Houston. I believe this concert would have been better if she had been coked up and beaten down by Bobby Brown, alas that was the future and not the present in 1987.

Don Henley’s “End of the innocence” (1990), Starwood Ampitheater, Nashville, Tennessee. Definitely drunk at this one because I went with Patrick Crawford and I have no memories of being with Patrick when I wasn’t shit faced. I believe DH was trying to be moody like Sting but definitely was not artistic. However, Patrick and I did a fantastic job of making up pornographic lyrics (which we sang out loud) to “All She Wants To Do Is Dance.”

There are numerous concerts that could be added to both gratuitous mention entries, however, they would be mainly described by the amount/type of alcohol I had consumed while attending the concerts. I don’t have facts to back this up, but…I know how to drink at a concert.

Uncool but not that uncool

I was cool for 3 months in the Summer of 1989. This was the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years of college (okay, that
is a lie…this was the summer between my freshmen year and my second freshmen year). This Summer of Coolness lasted exactly 3 months, not more and not less. I was never cool before this summer and never after. This summer was when I drank with my 4 other roommates and I slept on the floor of the apartment on a mattress (and I actually convinced a few young ladies to join me there). That summer I dated a dancer (easier to do than originally thought…very little competition from her male dancer friends), a photographer (from Boston to the horror of my family), and a former cheerleader (she might read this blog, so no comment here). This summer was one of beer and Southern Comfort and watching Michael Bamman sleep on the apartment sofa…he now has a PhD. So drinking to abandonment and sleeping on a sofa for 3 months does not ruin your academic future.

That paragraph seems to imply that my coolness was based on my dating prowess (I had none…just a fortunate string of events that resulted in meeting young ladies who didn’t immediately see through my bullshit), drinking to “abandonment” (not necessarily a cool factor, but an
extremely true statement for that summer), and living in crowded college apartment conditions (very true…and because 3 of them were of legal drinking age…well you get my point: I DRANK A LOT that summer). The real reason I was cool that summer of 1989 is because I felt cool and feeling it is what makes it so. I felt it because a mattress on the floor of an apartment bedroom is better than living at home. I was so cool that summer that the following December I was “invited” not to return to Middle Tennessee State University. Do any of you (other than Michael Bamman) realize how hard it is to be kicked out of MTSU? Only the cool kids (see Michael Bamman) got kicked out of MTSU…which
led to a period of uncoolness (I enlisted in the Army in January of 1990).

By the way, it takes earning a 0.08 GPA to get kicked out of MTSU. That, for you non-cool kids, is four Fs and one D. I got a
D in philosophy…I think the professor felt sorry for me or assumed I was going through a personal philosophical experience. Damn right I was! A lot of Southern Comfort leads to a significant amount of philosophical discussions.

Why am I discussing my lack of coolness…well I just spent 12 days doing one of the most uncool things in the world. I just took a 12 day cruise through the Aegean Sea and there is absolutely nothing cool about cruise ships or their passengers. HOWEVER, what I lack in coolness I
make up for in observation skills.

Here is a list of my Aegean Sea cruise experience in no order whatsoever (well other than the order in which I wrote them down in my
ever present notebook…and some would argue that is some subconscious order):

Cruise ship stateroom art is ugly and confusing. There was a single “painting” in the stateroom and I didn’t notice it until about day 6.
Now all stateroom esthetics are lacking, but this painting was actually disturbing. It looked like stick figures drowning in water. I don’t assume this was what it really was, but I am your average art aficionado (which means I have seen some art…some really famous art…but I don’t buy expensive art…I get it though) and if an average art viewer thinks it looks like people drowning…well then it is people drowning. People drowning is not what I would consider appropriate cruise ship art. Then again, what do I know…I saw some of Jackson Pollock’s shit and I thought it looked…like shit.

Not all “romance” mix tapes are made the same. While on a small Turkish boat touring the crystal clear waters of the Aegean, there was a bad mix tape playing over the speakers. Wait for it…wait for it…that awful Celine Dion Titanic song came on. Now art that MAY look like people drowning is a bad idea. A song from a movie about people drowning is fucking horrible. I guess it got lost in the cultural divide. Maybe Titanic wasn’t a big hit in Turkey…but I was thoroughly amazed.

Food. Lots and lots of fucking food. Everything you have ever heard about the tons of food on cruises is not true…there is actually more than you have been told. Supposedly the average cruiser gains 14 lbs per trip. There was so much food that I actually started skipping meals and running more. I gained approximately 2 lbs on the cruise (this was a result of the ship offering my favorite German beer and nothing to do with the all-you-can-eat boat itself). However, I wasn’t hip checked by any grannies at the buffet this time…but I was slightly shoved by a pissed old lady on her way to the all-you-can-eat sushi bar.

On-board entertainment isn’t…in the traditional sense. There was a house (boat) band, there were dancers, jugglers, acrobats, and possibly a juggling acrobat. None of them were entertaining because of their abilities…they were a fucking riot. The boat band, I believe, was from Thailand and did Jimmy Buffet and Rolling Stones covers. They actually wore Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses…all the time (day or night). There was an acoustic guitar player (again…I think from Thailand) that I dubbed the Asian Jim Croce. He literally made every song he played sound like Jim Croce, which is slightly disturbing if you think hard enough about it. I once overheard a Johnny Cash request from an Australian passenger, Asian Jim Croce knew no Johnny Cash…but he knew the complete Jim Croce hippie catalog. Needless to say, you have to have pretty shitty tastes in
what you call entertainment to be entertained…which means I have shitty tastes because I was completely entertained. I wasn’t laughing with them…

Dr. Kevorkian is right. Kill me before I get on a cruise ship in a wheel chair or walker. Plain and simple…kill my ass.

You don’t have to drink to feel drunk. I was not meant to be a sailor because I felt slightly drunk floating the Seven Seas. It’s just a constant buzz, well really more like that slightly stumbling walk kind of buzz. Unfortunately the only goofy thoughts I had were related to Jim Croce.

There is now porn pay-per-view. In an earlier blog I busted on bad cruise ship television. I will now eat crow (or at least fondle a butt plug) because they now offer porn…seriously the wheelchair and walker bound are now a market for porn. Who knew? SERIOUSLY???? Who knew?

Slutted-up grannies. Speaking of porn. Evening always brought this delicious anticipation of what you were going to see in the COCKtail dress category. I guess after watching porn, these older female passengers felt the need to get their slut on. Cellulite and high slit skirts do not match…trust me. But backless gowns and thigh high boots do…trust me.

Enough…I could go on and on about my observations. I may even fill in more details later, but I can’t seem to get a certain slow (and old) bump and grind couple out of my head…Jim Croce deserves better.

I am not cool, but I am an expert in identifying those who are more uncool than me. Obviously my MTSU education has paid off.

Better before…

I have gotten older. NO, that is not earth shattering news, neither is it the most original way to start a blog post. I completely get the obvious reasons of how I know I have gotten older. I can’t get up off the floor (after sitting there eating hot dogs and watching the “Squidbillies”) as quickly. I turn the volume up on the radio and television (not because I like blast it for effect) because I can’t hear the damn thing. However, there are little things that strike you out of the blue, things that are so random or so nonobvious that it strikes you deep and hard. Pop culture and technology do not cause this effect on me generally. Music,on the other hand, does affect me with an “oldness” at times. It has nothing to do with the idea of not knowing new bands or songs; I was late hearing about Justin Bieber and his supposed fever. This does not make me feel old, this makes feel like mature. Here is what makes me feel old:

I no longer know if a band has “sold out” or not. I listen to music, I listen to a lot of music. My tastes have not necessarily matured…Lady Ga Ga is on my iPod. What I no longer possess is the ability to compare a musicians’ music to what was before. This blog is the result of seeing numerous Internet boards about “sell out” bands, and even though I knew 95% of the bands being so labeled…I had no idea the bands had sold out. Korn, Fall Out Boy, and Blink 187 doesn’t make me say the following “…better before…” I have no reference point, no historical moment where I believed these band were better before…

The cherub was smoking right there in Wal-Mart; it was Van Halen’s “1984.” At the time, and at first glance, I thought it was a small child smoking. I know my mom thought it was a small child (probably would now if you showed her the album cover today). My memory is fuzzy, but I think there was some chattering from parent and church groups about this cover art. When you went in Fayetteville, Tennessee’s “old” Wal-Mart (they have a Super Wal-Mart now…they’re uptown that way today) the albums and cassettes were to the left. I can still picture that album sitting there out in the aisle…it screamed “new music! new music!”…nothing is better than new music from one of your favorite bands.

Cherub’s smoking, or the idea behind VH’s “1984” cover isn’t what had me and my fellow 8th grade head bangers talking. The presence of synthesizers is what had us chattering. Certain things causes 8th graders and 40-year-old men to have enlightened discussions about the before and after. Bands and musicians, at least popular ones, usually have a certain album, or time, where their fans decide to stay or go (or, at least, to grudgingly listen). At minimum, these musicians do something that causes a fault line among their devout. VH’s use of synthesizers is one of those fault lines.

“Jump” and its synthesizers is still a great song and I fell into the “VH is still a badass band.” It took balls to put the synthesizer on that album. Remember, New Wave was the synthesizer sound and New Wave wasn’t badass…it was cool (to some…the ones who thought the weepy androgynous sound was cool…and yes Motley Crue was androgynous too…but they were WAY badass). So, by using synthesizers on “1984,” VH attempted to expand their sound (not much…I mean they were still singing about getting nookie) and this proved their badassness. Others felt VH had sold out; they were no longer cool…those “others” are wrong by the way.

A few years later the discussion of “better before” would rear its ugly head once more in reference to VH. Damn you Sammy Hagar. I like the Red Rocker and I even have that Pepsi commercial song on my iPod, but this isn’t badass VH. This is just another sorta long-haired rock group from that grey period at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of 1990s (this grey period is titled “right before Nirvana”). VH was better before David Lee Roth left…this is true.

Another significant discussion in the “better before” arena is…Metallica was/wasn’t better before they cut their hair. Now I have never really thought about how the collective Metallica can be a Samson and lose their badassness by cutting their hair, but I know a lot of people do. If cutting or losing hair is a sign of “no longer rocking it” then I am totally not rocking it. Some of you might remember that I once had a sweet bitchin’ flow. My bangs rocked to my chin, I had that whole head jerk motion down! In one quick nod I could remove my glorious (thick) bangs from my eyes. Now I cut my hair to stubble (male pattern baldness causes you to make an important decision…be a douchebag who uses Rograine or just cut your hair). On a related point, in 1984 David Lee Roth was showing signs of male pattern baldness.

Why is it a musical sin to mature? Are we mad that musicians develop and change? Does anyone get pissed at you when you move your life in a different direction? WTF people! VH (old and new members) and Metallica are bands whose members are older than me. If they didn’t mature I think I would just pity them. Nobody likes OLD immature dudes, those type of guys are the old drunks at bars that smell bad and sport trucker ball caps (with no irony).

We are mad at these bands for maturing or changing because it reminds us that life isn’t eternal and that we, too, will mature and age. We buy their albums, we go to their concerts (and drink so much vodka that we throw up in a paper bag that was on the floor of your cousins 87 Bronco…but Bon Jovi rocked!), we worship these bands…we want to be them (I still want to be Rob Halford of Judas Priest and I do know he is gay….get over it! That dude is fuckin’ BADASS). BUT we don’t want them to change…that seems unfair. I’m aware that life isn’t fair, but bands and musicians can mature and someone is going to buy their music.

I have sold out. I work for the man. I enjoy keeping others down. I have a good job and I pay taxes. I own a home. I go to bed (to READ) at 9pm. It’s life. I am old and I have no idea how the Offspring have sold out.

Dark Sludge, or Crap I’ve Observed

I am totally aware that I am an iconoclast. Partial self-awareness allows me to understand that I go out of my way to question authority, superstitions, beliefs, and traditions. People build them up, I bang the foundation with a ball peen hammer to test its foundation. To some it is part of my charm. Obnoxious is what others would say. I am here to pound a ball peen hammer against a few things.

Lately I have seen a couple of things that have stuck in my mental spaghetti strainer (you know…that mesh in your brain that daily crap filters through and when examined you see this dark sludge that is too big to make it through the holes). These things are insignificant and have no real meaning, unless some ignorant blogger attempts to find some meaning. Damn you ignorant bloggers!

Note: This is going to be published with little review. I am purging here. Read it as nothing more than eccentric ranting.

Fayetteville, North Carolina, is “America’s Hometown.” How do I know this? At mile marker 51 (going south) on I-95 there is a big billboard that proclaims it. It even has a pseudo-waving American flag that emphasizes Fayetteville’s Americana importance. I am assuming the Fayetteville, NC, Chamber of Commerce is behind this fancy piece of patriotism. It is not satirically, nor is it ironically patriotic. It is straight on all-you-can-eat buffet patriotism. Step up and enjoy America’s Hometown. See all that is good about America. Another assumption is that the designation of “America’s Hometown” is a good thing. I guess a town wouldn’t want to advertise this if it meant something negative. Now I am not spun up on my Fayetteville, NC, history…but I think the Roanoke colony (empty and not on a map) or Jamestown, Virginia, has better claim on the whole hometown thing. I remember seeing a similar sign in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1994. It didn’t have the pseudo-waving flag though. Lawton and Fayetteville do have a thing in common though, they are both the sites of U.S. Army bases. Maybe the whole military installation thing allows for such historically wrong proclamations.

Hall exercise walkers at my work are goofy. It is 80 degrees, the sun is shining, DC is a very walkable city with great sites, and if you use the stairs to leave and enter the building…well then you have added a stairmaster to your workout routine. The white calf length socks add to the whole visual I get when you move by with your arms pumping. There is one guy who actually wears a headband. He is definitely one of the male models in Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical” video. I know you are thinking that I should be glad they are exercising, and wondering why I would have issue with this display of get healthiness. I have issue because they give me dirty looks, as if my using the hallway is impeding their attempt at good living. My sneer probably doesn’t help in establishing a congenial relationship. Again…it is fucking nice outside.

I’ve become the nutty professor. When explaining to people about my work place I describe my coworkers as that college professor they had with the stacks of papers, newspaper clippings, and books. For added affect, some of my coworkers really have blazers with patches on the elbows. Here we deal with the minutia of policy, legislation, and the workings of government. You wanna know who won what election on what political platform, I can point out a colleague who can provide every detail of such campaign. My colleague can then tell you a specific section of a specific public law that politician rammed through. In the past 3 weeks I have caught myself quoting specific pieces of legislation. Also, I have a giant pile of paper, newspaper clippings, and books on my desk. Additionally, I constantly have discussions with coworkers about mundane details of unimportant stuff. For the record, I do not have a PhD. But I work as an academic and I do teach a graduate college course on bullshit.

Billy Ray Cyrus can kiss my ass. This honest and heartfelt sentiment has nothing to do with his “Achy Breaky Heart.” It has nothing to do with his 1980s/90s mullet (actually he is my favorite mulleted musician of all times). It has to do with his being the narrator of a show about military homecomings. BRC is in cahoots with the liberal and fascist news media. Every time I turn around someone is trying to show me some service member reuniting with their kids, spouse, and pets. None of this shit is any of our business. I am overjoyed about their homecoming. I intimately know the feeling of reuniting with family members and I would never allow anyone to film nor exploit it for commercial gain. BRC, the news media, and corporate America don’t give a shit about these people, they give a shit about ratings and the possibility of making money off this important event. Want a good show? Have a show where consumers get to meet the owner/president/CEO of some company that has provided crappy service or product, and then the consumer gets 3 minutes to beat the shit out of the owner/president/CEO who would be tied to a chair. I would thoroughly enjoy that show.

Important note…what does not irritate me: Dunn, NC, proclaims itself the “Dump Truck Capitol of the World.” Something about this sort of proclamation seems valid and I bet they have the data to prove it. I feel better knowing this piece of trivia.

9-11’s Tin Anniversary

Former President George W. Bush, in a National Geographic Channel interview, admits he and his administration had no strategy following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. I understand this completely. American Presidents have rarely had a coherent foreign policy strategy. President Thomas Jefferson paid a ransom to the Barbary pirates and sent in the Marines (…you should be humming the USMC hymn now “from the shores of Tripoli…”), President James Madison waffled on British attacks on U.S. shipping and which resulted in the War of 1812, and President William Clinton assumed there was a peace dividend at the end of the Cold War and deployed American troops to a bunch of shitty places (I spent 18 months of my life in one of these muddy shitholes) for no other reason than it “felt” like it was the right thing to do. American foreign policy and strategy is rarely neat and coherent. Historically, it has been disparate and uncoordinated. Blind men boxing in the dark is an accurate of American foreign policy history.

Strategist, in public, won’t admit this. In private, numerous strategist pine for the good ol’ Cold War days. George Kennan, while at the National War College, wrote (as Mr. X) and designed the most coherent U.S. foreign policy that lasted almost 50 years; Mr. X developed the U.S. containment policy of the USSR. This policy guided U.S. actions from 1947 to 1991. This is the only time the U.S. has had a strategy. You have to give W some slack, like most American Presidents, he was making the shit up as he went.

For the past ten years, I have written the following phrase more times than I can count: “September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” This phrase has been a staple in my professional writing career as a national and homeland security analyst. That phrase is a lemon I have squeezed until juice has run down my forearms and soaked my Timex Ironman watch. I am not sure how much longer I can squeeze it. I do have a prediction though; at the end of the 21st Century, 9-11 will be nothing more than a footnote.

Philip Bobbitt states that al-Qaeda is just the first of many terrorist organizations that will make the 21st Century a slow bleed of conflict. Many strategists at the beginning of the 20th Century claimed that Asia was going to be the focus of U.S. foreign policy; they were wrong. Europe dominated U.S. foreign policy. Now strategists are singing the importance of Asia again. Sorry Asia and China but I think your ship has sailed. Globalization has rendered specific regions as meaningless; the world is the focus. How in the hell does a country have a coherent foreign policy for the whole world?

In the Sunday, September 4, 2011, edition of the Washington Post there was an article about the “5 Myths About 9/11.” I won’t waste your time and comment on these myths, but I will point out that there is a whole bunch of us that make a living out of typing “9/11.” We have typed it so many times that it may have lost some of its power and symbology.

I am numb to 9/11. My emotional attachment to this date has morphed into a clinical detachment. Terrorism developed from an independence movement, into an ideological Cold War struggle, into a religious zealotry. 9/11 is a term on equal footing with the Battle for Algiers, the Red Army Factions, and Lockerbie. Events become words which eventually fade into a backdrops of our worldview without having a real distinction.

I’m not negating the importance of 9/11; I am recognizing the effect the date has had on me professionally and personally. I am playing in a charity golf tournament on September 11, 2011. When I return to work on September 12th I will probably type “the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” I will do this because I think about 9/11 every day and I haven’t a clue on what strategy to adopt. I’m just gonna continue to muddle through just like most American Presidents do.