Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ग्लास एंड तह एंड ऑफ़ childhood

The freshly cut glass had a dangerous feel to it. The edges bit into his hands. The cuts it made were shallow, nearly invisible but painful. David was proud that day. He and his dad had spent hours rubbing the paint on their 1979 Toyota Corolla. The dull, chalky yellow had vanished under their sweat and beautiful hot-rod yellow blazed forth. They had defeated the merciless California sun, brought out the true beauty of the car and David wanted to apply an extra coat of wax to protect the newly exposed paint, to keep it safe from the July heat.

His dad needed to pick up a new window for the house. It was a perfect errand for the newly new car as it meant driving off base and showing all of Sacramento the fruit of their labor. David hurriedly washed his hands and put on his favorite Harley Davidson t-shirt. He glanced in the mirror briefly as he washed the powdery wax from his hands, feeling it go slimy as soon as the water touched it. He felt home here after years outside the country. His long hair turning blond, his dog, his skateboard all made him feel like he had returned from exile. No more mean old Germans, still stinging from the defeat of the Nazis after thirty years, conveying their displeasure with the American military presence to him through the blows of their children on the playground.

He hurried to look at the car again. He moved the glint of the sun by walking around it, leaning forward, squatting, feeling his hair fall over his face and back on to his neck. If he looked straight into the sky he could feel it between his shoulder blades. That was his favorite sensation.

“You’re gonna have to cut that hair” his dad said as he skirted the car and bounced into the drivers seat.

“I know” David replied, trying to time his landing in the passenger seat to coincide with Dad’s frame, so that he could feel like he was making the car sink with his weight.

He had no intention of getting his hair cut; he had learned not to oppose that command, just the action. Mom would be the one that had to take him, and he could charm her into letting him keep most of it. He would enlist the help of the Supercuts stylist to extol the virtues of long hair on men, try to extend the seventies a few extra years, appeal to nostalgia. He was confident that the hair was staying.

The Toyota felt agile, he waved to people they knew drawing as much attention to the car as possible. He liked that it wasn’t new, but remade, given new life through work and knowledge. The paint was desperately bright, he wished it didn’t have a vinyl top. That patch of fake, brown leather was robbing them of some wattage.

At the lumber store his dad produced a soft cottony piece of paper. The man at the lumber store looked at it with raised eyebrows and laid it down. He quickly cut the glass. It was fragile. Carrying it was a precarious operation what with trying not to slide his hands to protect them but having to adjust his grip to keep up with Dad’s longer and quicker strides. Dad held the glass solo when they got to the car.

“Get in and put your seat belt on.”

As David adjusted himself and his dad began to lean into the car it became clear that the glass was not going to fit in David’s lap.

“Put your seat all the way back.”

“It is, but I can lean it back a little.”

David’s heart started beating faster. The glass came in now, the front edge sliding on the dashboard while he propped the back edge and kept it from touching his face.”

“Lift your head up.”

David tilted his head back and with a final adjustment the glass fit, the front edge resting on the dash and against the windshield, the back edge nearly touching his neck. He started to say something inadvertently leaning forward and felt the biting sensation on his neck.

“Dad this isn’t going to work.”

Dad pretended not to hear and moved hurriedly toward the driver’s seat.

“I’m not riding like this.”


“Look how close it is to my neck, what it…”

“It will be fine.”


David started to move, lifting the glass up turning his head to so it didn’t hit his chin.

“Dad just put it in the trunk.”

“It will break in there.”

David had forgotten the bright yellow paint. The car was just a box where he was going to be decapitated.

“I’m moving” he said.

The sound of the glass scraping against the windshield seemed to propel his Dad back out of the car and around to David, he took it and gently slid it out. David remained in his seat touching his neck and fingers, feeling the little cuts.

“Open the trunk.”

David leaned over and grabbed the keys from the ignition. He slowly got out and moved to the back of the car. His Dad impatiently looked at the trunk, gesturing with his head and eyes to indicate that David should hurry up and open it. He did and then looked in briefly confirming that there was nothing in the way. He didn’t watch his father put the glass in. He got back in the passenger side and held the keys awkwardly, hovering them in the space between the seats.

When his father got in the car David did not look at him.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

घोस्ट दोग सेकुए;

(Camille Winbush) the original Perline

Perline: <> (Hagakure passage)

(font identical to previous Hagakure passages, overlay ghost filter) image to be
determined later…panning camera)

Text/Narration “ The Way of the samurai is found in death. Every day when he is most calm the samurai must contemplate death by sword, being pierced with arrows, being shaken to death in a great earthquake or committing seppuku at the death of ones master. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.

Perline’s Mother:

“Japan is so far away Perline”


<>(Perline is in her room, turning over a gift box of Japanese paper, brush and ink. There is an ice cream cone drawn at the bottom of the card)
“I promise I’ll write to you all the time. You know they have rice paper over there, and people don’t write with pens, they paint, Kanji, य'रे called Kanji, Japan is a strange place… I bet)


Perline’s Mother:



“mom, I’ll be right back, after a couple years”

Perline’s Mother:

“Ok sweety I’ll be here waiting.”


“Maybe you can come and see me.”


“Yeah sweety…yeah ok”

The next scene is the steps of a museum in Japan, somewhere mountainous, not urban but modern. A small museum, like a shrine to a fallen Samurai. Cut to beautiful elaborate woodwork in the interior, the archway and lacquer work, (sound of gong as shots change, same or similar to gong in GDWOS also similar to gong in opening sequence of “Kung Fu”.) ferocious masks, statues, panning shots of all these things a few seconds long each. The narration begins.

(Forest Whitaker)
Ghost Dog :

“There is an ancient legend about a wandering samurai, a Ronin, who had lost his way and his master. He failed to commit seppuku at the death of his master, he hesitated for a moment, less than a heartbeat, and he knew he was not ready for death. His shame and dishonor were great but he knew in the Way there was a path for him. He did not fear death, nor was his wish for life so great that he did not wish to leave. He merely knew at the moment of his death that there was an action that he must perform, and that his death would have to wait for the completion of that task.

<<”Ronin” the graphic novel should be visible as an influence, as well as “Ghost in the Shell”, and the monastic elements of “Kung Fu” – older classic Kung Fu Theatre type movie monastic training scenes ala “Chinese Connection” shuld be inclided. This sequel should feel like “Ronin” as a screen play. Perhaps the original GDWOS is so strong because it is how I imagine a Ronin more in touch with his environment. Instead of slaughtering the street toughs, Ghost Dog is part of the Hell’s Kitchen-like neighborhood. He walks, seamlessly, invisibly down the street, whereas Ronin stood out. Perhaps it is very similar to Ronin, Perline is the Ronin, but she is in a Japanese city where she stands out, like a wandering, masterless Samurai in Hell’s Kitchen. Elements of Hamlet 2000 to include: Substituting modern states for ancient feuding houses. Special forces are ninja like assassins, military forces are like samurai field generals. One state seeks total domination of all the others, alliance are sought and honored until inconvenient, treachery is everywhere. Perline is the retainer of one of these great houses (Atreides and harkonen/ Capulet and Montague type enmity between them) and her quarry are members of her kind who work for the rival house(s). Her great feudal house is France. (La Femme Nikita). <

Weapons are both traditional and modern, Ninja smoke bomb should be used in one scene, traditional Japanese weapons, crossbows, manriki gusari, the things that look like small sickles, starts with a k “Kama?” Will need expert consultant in Japanese weaponry, perhaps Stepen K. Hayes

Story board artist from Cohen brothers.

Get copy of Ronin graphic novel, as well as Batman vs. arch enemy comic form storyboarding ideas.

I was born, like all humans, without the capacity for remorse. But I was never taught that such a concept was necessary, useful or in any way desirable. Why would anyone want to feel remorse, guilt, shame, or any of the myriad of other useless human emotions.

Fear is important, as are rage, happiness, greed, envy, lust and a host of others. But remorse? If I believed in God I would consider it a blessing that I was born without the capacity for such tripe. As it is, I simply consider myself lucky.

I was born into a martial culture, my father was dropping bombs on Vietnamese civilians when I was born. I took pride in this destruction for many years. Then I was angry for many years. But I never felt any shame. I wanted to challenge him, to confront him about the deaths he had to have known he was causing, I wanted him to feel pain, but I always said with noticeable pride in my voice: “My father was a B-52 pilot in Vietnam”. Maybe killing is in our blood, it makes me happy even now to think this, my heart races a little to think of the murderous impulses that course through my veins.

I am the product of an unbroken line of military men and women on both sides of my family. My great aunt was one of the first female Marine Corp officers, she served as a mathematician in WWII, no doubt calculating more precise and efficient means of slaughtering Nazis and incinerating Nips.

My paternal grandfather was a Marine, my maternal grandfather was a fighter pilot in Korea. He did a two year program at West Point at the end of WWII and came out an officer and a pilot just in time to wait around for the Korean conflict a few years after his graduation.

My paternal great-great grandfather was in the Prussian Imperial cavalry, beyond that I don’t know who served under whom but whenever I watch movies about the Romans fighting the Germanic tribes I am pretty sure that my ancestors were the “barbarians.”

Killing is underappreciated in modern culture. It is done crassly with guided missiles, and food blockades, jumbo jets full of fuel and passengers and trucks packed with explosives. Everyone is appalled when some poor schmuck gets his head sawed of with a dull sword on the internet but no one bats an eye when a stray bomb hits a school in Afghanistan. The Janjaweed in Darfur gets lots of bad press for raping and pillaging on horseback but at least their not farming out the dirty work to a subcontractor…or a machine.

The last modern culture to appreciate hand to hand combat was the Japanese Empire which ended with a fireball in WWII. The kamikaze performed a ceremony reminiscent of their samurai ancestors before departing for battle. The glorification of this concept of killing and dying as an intimate human experience is gone. Ironically, now that we are “civilized”, more people die, and in ways that are far more gruesome. One need only imagine a child in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, or any number of African nations, picking up an anti-personnel mine and then slowly bleeding to death after a major limb is blown off. Compare this to the honorable hand to hand combat death of two warriors who have knowingly chosen a martial existence and it is clear that modernity has not led to civility.

There is nothing wrong with killing, it is a part of the natural order of every species, the humanitarians who pretend otherwise are fooling themselves. Perhaps only a martial culture can teach this. The Cold War may have never revved up, but it spawned a martial culture. Our games were hand to hand combat, full contact sports (including street basketball) and plain old street fighting. As children we learned the art of intimidation, brute force, finesse and technique, psychologically undermining an opponent, and when all else failed: negotiation.

One may find that negotiation is the most important skill for survival. All the ju-jitsu in the world won’t help you if you are flat on your back in a hospital bed at the mercy of a nurse who speaks only Russian and had been given specific instructions not to give you any water. If you are sure that you will die of dehydration without that water than negotiation is your only hope.

Soviet doctors on the whole are better at what they do then western doctors. Faced with outdated equipment and lack of basic supplies they must out think the problems they face, which vary greatly depending on what the hospital or clinic is out of that day (or hour). I rarely got the sense of arrogance from a Soviet doctor that I invariably get from most American doctors I interact with. There is obviously less stratification in Soviet/Russian culture, you may very well see your doctor on the subway or in the market. Perhaps this prevents the aloof attitude that American doctors can’t seem to shake.

Without the proper supplies my doctors managed to bring me back from what should have been death from blood loss. They stitched me up and sent a shrink down to see if I was planning to try the deed again. The shrink was very compassionate (as he was my first I didn’t know that this trait is unusual in American psychiatrists). He asked me why I had attempted suicide and I answered that I didn’t want to go to prison. His response is with me to this day. Instead of discounting the possibility that I would go to prison he stated in a very gentle way “I have many friends who have been to prison who now lead very normal lives, they have wives, children, and meaningful work”.

Although I dismissed this response mentally and immediately thought of Soviet era dissidents who were considered heroes for standing up to the totalitarian state and that they were nothing like me I realize now how profound that doctor’s words were.

The idea of prison is terrifying because it is unknown but there is a greater fear than that of prison itself and that is the social stigma attached to it. Here was a doctor, representing, in his very person, the essence of what society considers respectable, telling me “I have friends who were in prison……” This opening phrase, in many ways, was more important than anything that followed. It was a vindication in advance, like saying “if you go to prison you will have nothing to be ashamed of when you come out.” This was a very insightful thing to say on his part, he had to decide what to say with a very small amount of information about me, and he knew that what he said would have some effect on whether I would repeat the suicide attempt. I wonder if an American psychiatrist would have said anything quite so effective.

I. Psychological Overview
II. The Soviet Insane-asylum

III. The lies of our fathers
a. California school Soviet slide show
i. Mom’s reaction
ii. Her story of Soviet dissidents
iii. Treatment of my dissent in America
1. 1992 reading Marx and Lenin
IV. Summer in the Soviet Union
a. Impressions initially of Soviet life
b. The coup attempt
i. Tiananmen Square times 1000
ii. Trying to write about it
iii. Talking/lying about it to the press
V. School afterward and the return
a. Trying to educate myself
i. Learning the American classics from the Soviets
1. why they are Soviets and not Russians
a. Armenian/Georgian
b. Can’t erase history,
i. Culture that raised them was purely Soviet,
1. parents and grandparents Soviet
2. Stalin had the trains running on time
ii. Marriages and children
1. parents response to first marriage
2. Inna
a. Tennis and culture
i. Movies
ii. Dressing nice
1. boots
2. coat
3. Rueben Ratchivitch
a. Cars
i. This is our new model
ii. Otdel’ kadrof
1. traveling zagranitsa
2. Turkey
b. Rueben as a child in Tblisi
iii. libraries
iv. Olga
1. Vladimir
2. pregnancy
3. Christmas at home
a. The missing car
b. The ski trip and the oatmeal
c. Drinking bourbon and football
d. Fired across the Atlantic
4. The return
a. The anger
b. Break ups and make ups

v. homelessness as a teacher
1. Yuri, Aikido
2. Mafik
3. Lena
4. suicide
VI. the trauma of the return
a. forced therapy, forced medication
i. what choice when returning with my tail between my legs
b. UC
i. Freud
ii. The bookstore
iii. RPS
iv. FBI
c. The trip out West
i. The road
ii. The mountains
1. Estes Park
2. Trish
iii. California
iv. Mexico
1. surfing
2. home grown
3. mysticism
a. when the student is ready the teacher will arrive
i. Heather
ii. Gordon
iii. Little wolf (volk)
v. California
vi. Seattle/Vancouver
vii. Alaska
1. wilderness
2. the wolf
3. the lean to
4. the enlistment
VII. the trauma of the return
VIII. Lena and Parents
a. Christmas
i. Greek Orthodox
ii. Vladimir
iii. Sex on the side of the road
b. The great escape
i. The road
ii. Sending Lena home
IX. Virginia
a. Sic Semper Tyrannous
b. Arlington County jail and the feeling of invincibility

i. Panopticon
ii. diagnosis
iii. Chess \
iv. Reading and Sergeant Burns
v. Failed attempt at work release
vi. The Christians, the Muslims and the Devil’s advocate
vii. Spades and push ups with the brothers
viii. The night release
1. soccer at Georgetown
2. nights in the libraries of GWU and Gtown
a. Boston Market trash and other food sources
3. wandering SE Washington
4. Natacia “ya tebya lublu”
a. Algerian/French
b. DJ Shan and Trax 2000
c. Fairfax County jail
i. Combat
ii. Blue band
iii. Isolation
1. on display for the field trip
2. pick one religion
3. disobeying an order
4. volleyball, basketball
d. grocery voucher and bus ride to Dayton
e. parents put me in a hotel
f. homelessness in Cincinnati
i. how did I get there?
1. walking up the hill in Clifton
‘Civilization’ and Le Resistance

In every era there exist commonplace beliefs which appear nonsensical to later civilizations. The leading philosopher of Greece was put to death for corrupting the youth by teaching them that the pantheon of gods might not exist, Rome, despite all its technological and civic achievements glorified slavery, Copernicus attempted to square his theory with the official Catholic version of the universe, Thomas Jefferson maintained slaves despite all his writings of liberty and the equality of men, nineteenth century philosophy disputed the validity of the material universe and attempted to find some alternate reality which placed men outside the scope of history and evolution, the twentieth century validated the logic of the cold war and calmly asserted the rationality of a doctrine entitled “mutually assured destruction (M.A.D.)”. We may look back now at our intellectual forbears and mock their naivety but the madness of our ‘civilization’ continues unabated.

The battle of irrationalisms continues into the 21st century. The lines have been drawn between two camps which will both be discarded by future thinking persons as lunacy. Though it would be convenient to classify the two sides as religious fundamentalists and rationalists we unfortunately must acknowledge that 1) there are religious fundamentalists on both sides of the “clash of ‘civilizations’” and 2) the rationalists have been relegated to the children’s table. “Islamic fundamentalism” and neoliberalism currently wage a pitched battle for the hegemony of the planet earth. Although many countries and cultures exist which fall outside both of these forms of collective insanity and may be considered rightfully hostile to both concepts the raw physical power lies with these two systems of ideas. Let me back up for a moment. The term “Islamic Fundamentalism” would have made the Ministry of Information in Orwell’s 1984 quite proud. It contains an argument within the term itself that is overlooked each time the term is used. To deconstruct the term it simply means that those individuals who choose to wage war against the United States and its allies and happened to be Muslims are adhering ‘fundamentally’ to the tenets Islam. This performs two functions for the creators and users of the term: First it creates an association between whomever the term is applied to and the religion of Islam, thus marginalizing the religion itself and those who actually adhere to its fundamentals, and secondly it lumps together various elements of the resistance to neoliberalism’s attempts at global hegemony into a convenient ‘group’. This moniker of ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’ can then be marginalized by associating the most heinous acts of some members of the group with anyone who opposes American might and happens to also be a Muslim. An even broader term which includes all “Islamic Fundamentalists” as well as non-Muslim members of the resistance to the tyranny of the ‘market’ is “terrorist”.

In the United States this term is used quite broadly encompassing animal rights activists, environmentalists, socialists, communists, those who engage in non-violent acts of resistance to the deployment of nuclear weapons, and anyone whom the media wishes to characterize as dangerous and undesirable. With the recent abolition of habeas corpus the U.S. government may now simply arrest someone, classify them as a terrorist, and hold them indefinitely without the benefit of legal counsel or the ability to challenge the legality of their detention. (cite source Military Commissions Act)

To humor the future historians for a moment I will recap the basic concepts of both philosophies. Neoliberalism is a social policy masquerading as an economic philosophy. This policy pretends to have ‘free markets’ as its core economic platform but the ‘free market’ as practiced contains numerous contradictions. ‘Free’ refers only to the movement of capital, not human beings. Although competition within those markets is touted as a fundamental principle they are in fact heavily regulated in ways that nearly always favor a large, multi-national corporation over individual citizens. To take the most obvious example, a corporation may relocate an operation to any point on the planet where labor costs and regulation is more favorable to its profitability but individuals may not legally relocate themselves to the locations where labor is paid the most and living standards are the highest. This fundamental contradiction results in a phenomenon known in the rich areas of the world as “illegal immigration”. I realize the absurdity of such a notion in a world controlled by powers that continually use the word “free” in their political and economic rhetoric but please bear with me as I attempt to explain this madness.

The multinational corporations need two things to be successful, large markets where their products are in demand, and large reserves of cheap labor whom (they are human beings after all) can be ruthlessly exploited to create those products at a fraction of the cost of their selling price. One example of this is ‘sweatshops’ where marginalized members of a population, often children, are paid wages which are near the poverty level but the product of their labor is consumed by those with large amounts of disposable income in faraway wealthy countries (Nike sneakers selling for $100+ in Europe and the U.S. produced by children being paid ?? per day).

The profits amassed by these activities can then be used to buy influence in governments around the world to ensure that laws enacted by those governments continue to remain favorable to the multinationals often at the expense of the individual citizens of each country.

The countries where these multinational corporations are “located” (located meaning where the stockholders and executives reside usually not the same countries where production facilities are located) maintain massive military forces which can be used to pacify elements of the global population which prove unwilling to submit to neoliberalism.

Opposed to this order of things are some of the elements of the marginalized labor force, though many willingly submit in hopes of reaching the economic pinnacle themselves someday. The most visible element of this opposition are the suicide bombers and other elements of radical religious groups who have abandoned all hope of rational negotiation with the powers that be and simply wage war against their militaries and civilians. While the standard narrative in Western culture is to portray the suicide bombers as fanatics and the neoliberal countries as the purveyors of reason and progress one must consider the possibility that the suicide bomber is the more rational of the two.

The logic of the suicide bomber at its core is altruistic in the truest sense of the term. Each suicide bomber is prepared to sacrifice his life in the belief that his actions will ultimately result in a more just and peaceful world. The neoliberal corporation also engages in actions which result in the death, injury and impoverishment of millions of people but these actions are performed in the pursuit of financial profit and with no sacrifice necessary. This statement appears ludicrous and it is for that very reason that it must be presented with its opposite and the resulting dialectic analyzed. Setting aside the moral calculus of daily death and misery in the third world with the relatively small number of victims of the WTC attacks one may reasonably assume that much death and misery results from both suicide bombings and the global war which has been waged by the U.S. and other Western Powers over the last 100 years. I will not elaborate the case here that the military actions of Western governments are directly tied to expansion of markets and pursuit of ever greater profits but suffice it to say that the current system of the world results in the abject misery of the majority of the worlds population and the vast enrichment of a very small number of individuals.

The suicide bomber challenges this world system in the only way feasible in his or her world view, attempts at political and economic reform aiming at greater economic, political, and capital egalitarianism have failed miserably and the enemy must therefore be attacked at the point of its spear so to speak.

Teaching Russian in the Russian countryside, the wedding. Teaching Russian in the city, the war in Chechnya, viktor tsois lyrics in class for translation, the vague feeling of beign rebellious, the firing, the homelessness, the wandering, the Hapkido school,

When I arrived in Moscow in the winter of 1993 I had a cushy job and a swank apartment a few floors up from my office. For a twenty two year old with no idea what the hell he was doing this set up was pretty grand. I even had a pool of drivers that could take me anywhere I needed to go and a cook that made breakfast and lunch for the entire office everyday. She may have made dinner too but I was never at the office late enough in the day to find out.

A few months later, or maybe it was weeks, I was out of the apartment, broke and jobless. My employer had promised to pay my account back in the states, but this hadn’t happened. Then he fired me and said my plane ticket was good for a year and could go home whenever I wanted. I had managed to finagle a one year multi entry so I stayed. I taught English.

My first students were three boys destined for a year abroad in America. Their dads were up and coming biznessmin who had decided that their economic success warranted their sons having a private American English teacher.

One of the dads picked me up at the subway station and deposited me at a sanatorium about 50 miles outside of Moscow where the boys were awaiting my arrival. The ride out into the country with two of the three dads left me with the impression that they expected me to be something of a drill sergeant as well as English instructor. An early morning routine of calisthenics and running was strongly suggested as a way to entrench the discipline of learning into the young men’s minds. They wanted me to prepare the boys for the independent frame of mind they felt the boys would need to survive in America during their exchange.

My students and I were separated in age by ten years in the case of the youngest and six years in the case of the two older boys. They were not Muscovites. Though they “looked Russian” to me I was soon to find out that the twelve year old Dennis was Ukrainian. His two older companions, Sasha and Ruslan, were Azerbaijani. My experience in determining the ethnic identity of Russian citizens consisted of one semester in the Soviet Union as a college junior and I was soon to learn that ethnicity, nationality, and identity were all mutually exclusive concepts.

Although Ruslan and Sasha were younger than I, it was immediately clear to me that they were adults in a way that I was not. They both carried a heavy sadness, a bitter edge that was wholly unlike the sullen and spoiled attitude of the teenagers middle class America. I did not want to know what had hardened them, I knew it was bad and that was enough. I found it strange that their fathers thought they would learn something about the ways of the world and how to be self sufficient from me. They both washed their clothes by hand in the sink, knew how to steal cabbage from the fields of a collective farm, and eat it with black bread to take the edge off the burning sensation it created in our mouths. They were fiercely unafraid of soldiers and bullies that tried to intimidate them and their assumption that I had their back in any combat situations made me nervous and envious of their bravado. I had nothing to teach these boys about self sufficiency, manhood, or anything outside of rudimentary English grammar.

Sasha and Ruslan grew up in Baku, their fathers were Russian, Ruslan’s mother was Azerbaijani, Sasha never mentioned his mother. The banter of teenage boys tells an outsider things about them that they would never reveal voluntarily. Ruslan wore a medallion; he never took it off, even when we all took off our crosses in the sauna because they singed our skin. I could see his jaw set against the pain, I knew what that pain felt like because I foolishly tried to leave my crucifix on in a pathetic attempt to show that I was man enough. To this day I don’t know how he could sit there calmly relaxing and laughing while that metal heated up on his neck flesh. Dennis mentioned once that Ruslan’s mother had given him the medallion, and that she was a Muslim and that even though Ruslan believed in Christ he considered himself a Muslim out of loyalty to his mother. When Ruslan’s father left Baku for a much younger Russian woman in Moscow Ruslan came with the package, and it was clear from their interactions as a family that he was considered by his step-mother to be a hindrance to the harmony of her new family.

So when his necklace heated up in the sauna perhaps he thought of his mother, the difficulty of life in Baku for an Azerbaijani woman abandoned by her Russian husband, and the pain she must feel at the loss of her only son. I had nothing to teach this boy about life, he had become a man at an early age, and he was teaching me something about what that meant. His baby half sister adored him in spite of the veiled messages her parents projected about him. I could see their discomfort when she crawled into his lap during weekend visits, they wanted her to shun him like they did, they wanted her to see his Muslim mother in him, and everything about him as a thing from a past life to be discarded and forgotten.

My wife noticed this dynamic while visiting us. When Ruslan lashed out in rage at Dennis for one of his many insensitive and crass remarks she simply whispered in his ear “you know what it is like for someone to cause you pain, don’t do it to someone else”. Ruslan silently responded to these words, this address to the man inside a boy’s body. He acknowledged the respect she was paying him, treating him as a man, respecting his suffering, helping him not to spread it like a virus that spewed out it the heat of anger.

We didn’t do any jumping jacks or running that summer, and we didn’t study much English beyond the workbook exercises that consumed our morning hours. Instead of setting an example for them to follow I fell in with them, learned their bad habits, and enjoyed their infinite profanity and ability to insult one another in ways I did not know were possible. Whenever Dennis was particularly annoying Ruslan would menacingly mumble “whose mouth is going to be hurting tomorrow?” I naively thought this meant Ruslan was threatening a slap in the face, but later heard the same insult with “mouth” replaced by “asshole” and understood the implication was different.
When the boys were especially unruly or their fathers had threatened by telephone to visit I would try to scare them into studying with the ominous question “when the guy at the embassy asks you why you want to study in America what are you going to say other than…(gesture miming drinking, gesture miming toking, gesture miming fucking)”. By the end of our time together we would all perform these three gestures in unison and whoever could be the most graphic in their air humping received special praise and kudos from the rest.

I loathed the expectation that I would enforce order, I reluctantly bullied them into studying the worse than useless material provided by the “coordinator”. But I knew that through our informal conversations they might actually learn something useful about American high school language. Unfortunately for them my Russian was slightly better than their English so we rapidly fell into Russian whenever an interesting topic came up. We talked about cars, girls and food, as the lack of these three things grated on all of us, regardless of age and nationality.

Much of our time was spent planning the manufacture and design of a cheap car that could be produced in Russia using components from the three models already being produced in Soviet era factories. Sasha had an enormous car encyclopedia which showed every car in the world and where it was made. Whenever appropriate a boasting loudmouth could easily be silenced by the accusation that the car in their garage at home was a “Beijing Cherokee”. Apparently the Chinese version of the popular American SUV held a special place of contempt in the hearts of Russians.

Rueben Rachievich, My Armenian father in law, joined us one weekend for tennis and the discussion turned to the meaning of nationality, ethnicity and identity. In the Soviet era those who had parents of differing ethnic heritage could choose the nationality they wanted stamped in their passports. The smart money was on choosing Russian if you had one Russian parent. The assumption was that this integrated you into the Russian dominated culture of the Soviet Union and shielded you from the stereotypes associated with non Russian ethnicity. On any job application or university admission form your nationality would appear. There was an unspoken rule that Russians were at an advantage because those making the decisions were likely of Russian nationality and favorably inclined to helping others of the same lineage. The flip side of this was the implication of betrayal to ones ethnic and true national identity by “siding with the enemy”.

This decision was made by young Soviet citizens at age 16. I was terribly envious of such a large measure of authority over ones identity being granted at that age. Right smack dab in the middle of the tumult of teen life the kid got to say who he was and have it stamped in his passport, “take that dad, I’ll teach you to walk out on us, I’m picking Mom’s nationality”. The fact that I could have such a mental outlook at all proved to me how infinitely immature I was relative to Soviet teenagers.

My wife’s father had been enraged when she chose her mother’s Russian nationality. He was very proud of his heritage, not only as an Armenian, but specifically as a “Tbiliski Armenin”. Tbilisi, the ancient and stone bridge riddled capital of Georgia has a significant Armenian population and they are held in high regard by both Georgians and Russians. When I traveled to Georgia with my wife before we were married I witnessed the deference paid to her Tbilisan Armenian heritage, as if she were due all the courtesies reserved for a guest but entitled to all the intimacies reserved for a true Georgian.

Rueben Rachievitch had much to say on the question of nationality. Ruslan had chosen Azerbaijani as his nationality, though he had done this after he had moved to Moscow and both his parents had become Russian. Sasha had chosen his Russian side to dominate that fateful slot in his passport. Rueben observed that nationality was not about blood, or where you were born but about your education, and how you identified yourself. To him the boys were automatically cultured because they had been educated in Baku, an ancient and intellectual city. They carried this distinction for life, whether they chose Russian or Azerbaijani as their official nationality. I loved him in that moment for his diplomacy, his cultured and sophisticated way of paying homage to the boys heritage, knowing that as new Muscovites they would now experience what he had gone through as an Armenian coming from Tbilisi so many years ago.

My attempt at ethnic identification came at 17 or 18 when I started attending mass. Though I had thoroughly debunked the idea of Christianity to my own satisfaction at age twelve I felt that attending mass instead of Presbyterian services stamped my proverbial passport as a Pole instead of a Norseman. Mom had been in charge of the religious upbringing and her family was Scandinavian, dad was a lapsed Catholic and Polish. My decision to self identify as Polish Catholic was strongly reinforced when I traveled to the Soviet Union for the first time at the age of 19.

My last name is easily transliterated into Cyrillic, in fact it would be more accurate to say “returned to” Cyrillic. For the first time in my life no one was asking me how to spell my last name, I said it, they said it, they wrote it, perfectly and always the same way. This had a very powerful effect on my idea of me. Americans could not, or would not pronounce my name correctly. Spelling it was simply out of the question. My contempt for my country only deepened as I became more well read and attempted to alleviate my fellow Americans’ difficulty with my name by saying “you know like Stanley Kowalski in ‘Streetcar’”….…”you know ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’”….…”K_O_W_....”

For a 19 year old who has always been a little uncertain that he wasn’t a member of a different species an entire nation of people saying, spelling and talking about your name properly and respectfully has a powerful effect. In Russia Poles were considered intellectual, hard working, and artistic. I discovered that Chopin was Polish, that Copernicus was Polish, that Poland had been a great center of European culture. I also learned that I really was a Catholic because I had a Polish last name.

To the Russians know religion is simply a part of national identity. A country of official atheists looks at religious denominations as one of many genetic characteristics: Russians, Serbs, Armenians, and Georgians are Orthodox; Croats, Poles, the Irish, the French, and the Spanish are Catholics, Brits are Anglican, Azerbaijanis, Chechens, Turks and Arabs are Muslims, Indians are Hindu, Asians are Buddhist.

Belief was irrelevant. I never met any Soviet atheists. For all their Marxist education they were far less doubtful than the Americans I had known as a general rule. But it was never something that led to discussion, if you were an atheist that was all fine and well, but you were Catholic atheist if you were Polish and an Orthodox atheist if you were Armenian.

Ruslan should have been a Muslim atheist, but he was an Orthodox believer. He carried his Islam like a cross, first to defend it, but silently wishing he hadn’t been saddled with an Azerbaijani mother, and a chain that told the world he was a Muslim.

The first crucifix I ever bought was in Russia. My Catholic girlfriend had given me a St. Christopher medal to protect me on my trip to the Soviet Union. When I got to Sochi I found a cross in a kiosk and hung it next to St. Christopher on my chain, part of my newly discovered identity for all the world to see. The religious portion of my distorted ethnic heritage, conveyed to me in jokes about dumb Polacks with big cocks. Even now I am offended that Microsoft Word recognizes this disgusting word “Polack” with no red underline, in tacit complicity with the American ignoramuses who made me ashamed of my beautiful Polish heritage, who made my mother send us to a respectable Protestant denomination and kept us out of the dark and dingy mass that would have corrupted us and made us papists.

My contempt for America grew with every new love I found in the Soviet world. I read the greatest classics of American in English literature in Progress Publisher editions with Russian footnotes explaining details of American Indian culture in The Spy or nuances of Scottish life in Hatter’s Castle. I was amazed that I could grow up in America, score in the top percentile on the SAT and attend college on academic scholarship and be so woefully ignorant. It was bad enough that I knew nothing of the great literature of the world, that I was barely monolingual and struggling to learn a second language when everyone in Europe spoke 2,3,4,5,6 languages but to learn about the greatest American cultural achievements from Armenians, Georgians, Russians, and Ukrainians who knew not only the great writers, poets and directors of their own cultures but of American culture as well was embarrassing on a whole different level. “You’ve never seen ‘On the Waterfront’? You’ve never read Shakespeare? My wife took me by the hand the foreign language section of the Moscow State University library and began loading my arms with books.

What does a culture have to be proud of when it does not know what it has to be proud of? Libraries…

The boys wrote me a letter a few years later, their trip to America had been a great success, I was even able to speak to them on the phone and after a little bit of English we fell back into a profanity laden Russian that felt warm and familiar, like the sauna.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

थिस इस जिओं एंड वे अरे नोट अफ्रैद

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death

Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Friday, October 31, 2008

जिहाद अगेंस्ट रसिस्म

Lacan's word play on the word 'publish' has been on my mind lately. He always used a word which was close to the French word for garbage and refused to publish anything. Most of his material comes from his seminars. Without really knowing what his objections were to publication I would like to speculate.

Writing involves self censorship, even the formation of a sentence necessarily entails imprisoning ideas which are broad and wide into tiny little boxes called words. I associate this concept with Foucault but I'm not sure if it is his. Even the attempt to be as open and clear as possible involves some truncation of a concept. On top of this there are the societal limitations on what we write. At the most basic level: "what would my mother think?", "what will the government think?" etc. upon reading this.

I have often wanted to experiment with the talk-and-type software to see if the limitation is less when it is the spoken word being recorded. My writing on this page is my attempt to transcend, smash, obliterate every boundary, social convention, and moral that would prevent my mind from flowing freely onto the page. I select the most abhorrent topics I can think of and try to write about them as if no one is reading. Thus suicide bombers, child molesters and various other social outcasts are my favorite areas of contemplation.

Since I don't know any of either group I have to imagine them, conjure them up and instead of imagining them as the 'other' i imagine them as myself.

Of the two groups I find it more likely that I could be a suicide bomber as the idea holds some level of attraction for me while sex with a child does not. Nevertheless my writings on Wilhelm Reich and Greek sexual practice are an attempt to deconstruct words like 'molestation', 'deviant' and others that are thrown around in our culture quite often.

'Deviant' is one of my all time favorite words, perhaps because it sounds so sinister and yet the meaning is so banal. To be deviant is first to deviate and if what you are deviating from is absurd to begin with then to be deviant is to be correct. For example, if the stories my mother told me were true, the Soviets used to classify dissenters as psychologically deviant. Thus people like Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov were deviant by the standards of their culture. Furthermore a nice upstanding German family in 1938 would classify the teenagers that did not want to be in the Hitler Youth as deviant, an SS officer who refused to participate in the mass murder of children likewise would also be classified as deviant.

Conditioning takes so many forms, not only as to what is supposedly deviant, but also to what is supposedly normal. In the culture I grew up in racism is the norm. As the election approaches I find myself hoping Obama will win primarily because I want the first president my son knows to be black. I have noticed that they are showing a lot of black crime suspects on the local news which is something I remember from my childhood and one of the many not so subtle forms of conditioning that creates racism in European culture. I hope that a black president can counteract some of that, as well as the thuggish image projected by many black role models, rappers, athletes, etc.

I feel very little guilt when it comes to my racism, I regard it simply as a product of my environment. If I grew up in Europe in the 18th, 19th or early 20th century I would hate Jews, I grew up in America so I am ambivalent toward blacks. I think this is a fundamental problem with the way racism is addressed in our culture. Individuals are singled out as racist but the underlying structural causes are not addressed. I used to use the analogy of a dog bite, if the first collie you ever see bites you, then you will be afraid of collies for a while until you get to know a few nice ones. If 30-40 percent of the collies you know in your lifetime create a negative experience, maybe not a bite, maybe just a growl, your unconscious will internalize your negative feelings about collies whether you like it or not.

I had a black baby sitter when I was 6 whom I admired and looked up to, I had a great group of friends when I was 9-12 years old, many of whom were black. My negative experiences of black people began when I moved to the Midwest and I still have racist tendencies. So how can people who have lived in an openly racist culture their entire lives be expected not to be racist?

The first step to controlling racism is to acknowledge that it exists, not in society but in oneself. If this happens it can be recognized when it arises. Too many white liberals are quick to point out the racism in others without looking carefully at their own tendencies. This extends to all non-white races, not just blacks. European culture, of which America is the most vulgar and ham-handed representative, has been killing, raping and pillaging non-white peoples for hundreds of years. This fact is not openly discussed in the brainwashing that passes for education. It is hidden, worse it is celebrated. I think of movies like 'Apocalypse Now', shouldn't I feel revulsion as the helicopters swoop in playing Wagner and launching rockets at school children? Shouldn't I feel hatred for Robert Duvall's character when he says 'it's Wagner, it scares the hell out of the slopes"?

Although my intellect is aware of such things millions of minutes of patriotic indoctrination on military bases, at parades, seeing dad in uniform, a uniform similar to that worn by Duvall, cause me to identify with Duvall, to celebrate the destruction of the Vietnamese peasants. I watched that scene hundreds of times, trying to undo the conditioning, Clockwork Orange style, focusing on the old Vietnamese man, running next to a cart pulled by an ox, running from the gunships over head, pathetically attempting to save the animal that represents his family's livelihood. And I am proud to report that this conditioning works, I do not feel pride now as I watch the helicopters swoop in, I look forward to the little girl throwing the grenade in the helicopter with the wounded, and relish the screams of the American soldiers as they are burned alive.

But this takes work.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The beginning of indoctrination

I have been reading a great deal of Wilhelm Reich lately and he has got me thinking about monogamy as a form of indoctrination. In fact, not only is monogamy a form of psychological indoctrination it has important economic roots, and like most behavioral conditioning which has an economic purpose, that purpose is to oppress some for the benefit of others.

Reich and Malinowski develop the theory of marriage as an economic institution by observing the (name) people and their progression from a sexually open society to a monogamous society with all the requisite taboos against child sexuality, incest and the like.

Startlingly Reich notes that there were no laws in the Soviet Union against incest because historically incest had never been demonstrated to have any deleterious effects. My understanding of the incest taboo, as derived by the culture I was raised in, was always that it was a step taken to insure the Darwinian selection process by eliminating a practice harmful to healthy offspring.

Without investigating Reich and the Soviet contention that incest has no harmful consequences for offspring I will accept it at face value with the intention of researching it later. If this contention is accepted then an alternative reason for the incest taboo must be present.

Freud's Totem and Taboo has been the standard western model of the rationale behind the incest taboo, namely that it was the first, primitive and necessary step of human civilization toward development of a modern culture. Reich challenges this notion and asserts that in fact the incest taboo was intimately intertwined with a general taboo on free child sexuality which among many aboriginal cultures is quite common.

Reich enumerates the various cultures in which children are allowed to explore sex play with one another without regard to age or relation. The Origin of Compulsory Sex Morality He then develops his theory, based primarily on Malinowski's observations of the Trobrianders, that All sexual taboos, incest, age limits, and others are derivative of the marriage tribute system of gifts which ultimately resulted in a "chief" who possessed more property than other members of the tribe.

Once the formerly egalitarian culture produced a chief the chief propagated a legal system which insured that his property would be maintained and continually increased through an elaborate system of marital gifts.

I invite the reader to read Reich and Malinowski in the original is she wishes to see the details of this broad outline. My goal here is to summarize the findings of Reich in a manner which reflects on the institution of monogamy in modern European culture; monogamy being the modern equivalent of marriage and the default format of the relationship in all the European derived cultures I have lived in.

We are conditioned from earliest childhood not only against incest and childhood sexuality but toward monogamy as the "normal" template for human relationships. Even the most sexually liberal among us rarely take the news of a lover's infidelity lightly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"the story of your suffering has no value whatsoever."
"The only narrative of any value is a theoretical narrative."
"I love racism, I cannot imagine my life without racism."
"there is no progressive movement without racism."
"Political correctness is still inverted racism."
"the only way to fight racism is to mockingly play it to the end."
"left liberals today have this upper class patronizing attitude ...deep distrust of rednecks and so on."
"Republicans in an intelligent way are trying to mobilize what used to be called a working class vote."
"Dangerous moments are coming, dangerous moments are always a chance to do something, but you have to think."
"the necessity of a lie to maintain the public morality (Batman:The Dark Knight)"
"Kung Fu Panda - Neils Bohr - regarding the horseshoe above his door ..
"when you say 'I believe in human dignity...
"nobody really believes in democracy...
regarding the Wall Street meltdown, "the main task of the ruling ideology today, no, is to make this crisis, this meltdown, appear not as something inscribed into the very dynamic of the system but some kind of a contingent malfunctioning of the system due to, I don't know, bad legislation, bad politics and so on, to sacrifice individuals, wrong decisions and to save the system... this is what everybody is looking for today and unfortunately this reading will win the reading which will redeem the system...."
"this was the problem that our great comrade Stalin, when things start to get wrong with 5 year plan, no, the point was how to save the Party, the idea was it must be traitors, you need traitors no? You need traitors to save the system so that you can say yes there are troubles but its not we the Communist party or the 5 year plan but the English spies, saboteurs and so on... Here OK,..but the tendency will be to, to localize culpability, but I think what is the true question to approach is precisely: What is it in the system itself today with all these highly virtualized futures, speculations and so on which renders it so fragile that everything appears so firm but all of a sudden it's like a kind of a financial tsunami, the edifice you think its so firm all of a sudden it starts to melt down no, again that's for me the true task this is for me the crucial point the duty not only of a truly progressive not only Marxist whatever that means today but democrat but to really ask what is the flaw in the system...what annoys me the that they act as if you know this was just some mismanagement or whatever."
"There is some truth that September 11th was an historical event." - Zizek

develop this

why sports are bad

Indoctrination of adults into arbitrary political categories for which they will later be expected to give their hard earned money, their loyalty and possibly their lives begins with the culture of sports in childhood.

The process is deceptively simple and by the time we are sophisticated enough to recognize it we are too far indoctrinated to question it.

At a very young age, which decreases as time moves forward, we are taught to identify with a team either through participation or simply because we happen to live in a particular place. As children we attend high school football games, soccer matches, gymnastics meets, martial arts tournaments etc. and we learn to identify with a particular group for reasons that are entirely arbitrary.

We are expected to show team spirit and hostility to the other teams. This territorial impulse is then massaged and manipulated into hysteria for this or that college team, pro team, celebrity, driver, wrestler, fighter etc.

Suddenly when we realize that we are grown up and living in a world where people fight wars and kill each other over ideas we naturally cling to the notions of our home team. We put "support the troops" bumper stickers on our cars, pay taxes to buy weapons and in some cases sacrifice our health or lives for our home team.

The merits of the "others", as we are taught to think of them, are never considered. Whether or not those whom we as a nation happen to be killing at the moment have any merits is really not the issue. The dangerous element of sports is that it precludes us from thinking about that question of merit altogether. If the Soviets can be our allies during WWII, then our mortal enemies during the cold war, without fundamentally changing anything about their ideology one can only assume that their classification as ally or enemy is arbitrary and rests on political notions that have no basis in philosophy.

Similarly if Saddam Hussein can be a great bulwark of security and friend to the U.S. while he is at war with Iran, and then a dictator deserving of death when he defies his master we must again ask, how can this reassignment of value occur so arbitrarily with no one asking questions.

Because we have been taught to "root for the home team, if they don't win it's a shame."

Sports is our first lesson in how not to think, but to act blindly in service of those in power.

Dialog for a film

A cell phone walk and talk between Aubrey(A) and Hans(H)who is at home.

Aubrey is an extremely insecure, overtly attractive model type, Hans is a ill-kept, grungy looking guy with confidence that belies his average to below average looks.

Aubrey is walking in a chic urban environment, a billboard advertising tires by showing a near naked female is visible in the distance and she approaches it during the conversation, she is passing it as it is mentioned in the dialog.

Hans is surrounded by books, notebooks, Chinese food containers, and is playing a video game on an obscenely large TV during the entire conversation. Shots of the part of town Hans lives in show poverty in all its stereotypical forms, black kids in tank tops on bikes, some rough types drinking out of paper bags, an old lady pulling a grocery tote.

The window displays in Aubrey's part of the city show MP3 players, jewelry, cell phones, cars, other consumables. Videographic style is similar to "Natural Born Killers" cutting in and out of commercials, during the dialog, switching from the characters dialoging in color to the ads in black and white. The ads should be from different historical periods and parts of the world. Grace Jones modeling perfume in the 70's, James Bond selling Aston in the 50's, Winchester Rifle ad from the 1850's, cigarette ads from Africa, Russia, Asia skyline shots of Hong Kong, LA, these shots should comprise at least as much on screen time as the two characters.

The dialog continuing while products and advertising are shown. Some street fighting scenes from Iraq, Afghanistan and Viet Nam should be interspersed with the first person shooter game Hans is playing.

this montage should include rapid short clips from: The beach party scene from "Apocalypse Now", Budweiser ad, beef "it's what's for dinner" ad, milk ad, A.N. scene of cow being lifted by the helicopter, Zizek wildly gesticulating, Saddam and Rumsfeld shaking hands, massacre scenes from Indonesia, head shot from Viet Nam, Mai Lai massacre, standard Holocaust shots, Gitmo, service academy graduations, parades, rifle twirling scenes from "A Few Good Men", abuse of detainees in Abu Graib, Wilhelm Reich in jail, Robert Anton Wilson, Marx, Freud, Foucault, Jesus, 4 Jesus's from Clockwork Orange, final rape scene from same, shot from Zentropa TBD, Thomas Paine, Cindy Sheehan, Jefferson, churches, mosques, temples, kamikazes performing zen meditation before tale off, UFC cage fighting scenes, "Full Metal Jacket" training scenes, "Saving Private Ryan" D-Day scene, Iranian propaganda scene from "Obsession" with U.S. flag overlayed on U.S. soldiers terrorizing civilians, concentration camps in Yugoslavia, lots of U.S. planes bombing, mayhem destruction and death mixed with this banal dialog which could be happening any where in any western city.

H: “you know you are so much hotter than all those bitches”
A: “…I know, I mean, you really think”
“don’t even start in on yourself, I’ve heard them all, your nose is too thin, your cheek bones aren’t high enough, ass not round enough, you are going to fucking wear yourself out with this shit”
“don’t lecture me Hans…”\
“bitch, if you didn’t want a lecture you called the wrong person”
“I want a pep talk”
“fuck that, and fuck your insecurities, you know you’re hot shit, what are you looking at”


A: “what, I…”
H: “I can always tell when you’re looking at a billboard, what is it?”
“that fucking little cunt in the tire ad”
“oooh, I know where she is almost naked”
“fuck you! This isn’t helping”
“hey can I call you back I need to take care of something”
“Goddamit Hans”
“calm, calm sweety I’m just showing you how ridiculous you are being, do you really want a bunch of guys jerking off to your ads in their shitty apartments?”
“of course that’s what I want you fucking imbecile”
“damn you are in a state, you wanna meet somewhere and talk this over”
“I don’t know, I’m so irascible”
“don’t be stealing my big words, I need those to pick up bitches”
“fuck your bitches, none of them are as hot as me”
“now we are getting some where, go on”
“none of them have a body like me, my tits are perfect, my stomach is rock hard, legs forever, mouth….”
“that’s it, that’s what I’m saying”
“you better not be jerking off”
“don’t flatter yourself sister, I’m thinking of the tire ad”
“that bitch is too skinny and you know it”
“what do you want from the Europeans, those fucking savages wouldn’t know a great body if it was getting a Brazilian…..”
“Hans we are supposed to be talking about me”
“of course, of course, how foolish of me“, so do you want to go to a gallery or something?”
“Oh yay, just what I need, a bunch of ugly depressing art and the ugly, socially awkward wanna-be artists milling around looking pained and horrified by the plight of the common man”
“you are such a fascist whore…damn that’s kinda hot, do you have any Nazi stuff”
“I think I’m going to start fucking somebody with a shaved head”
“strong move, bitches always look hotter standing next to a bald guy, the last thing you need is another pretty boy douche bag boyfriend glomming on to you and stealing all the attention.”
“Ian was not a pretty boy”
“Ian, Jesus who said anything about Ian, his fucking British teeth made me go home and find my dental floss, I’m talking about the endless string of Abercrombie wanna-be fucknuts that you are always finding in sportsbars”
“no good?”
“look, your mission in life is to look hot at all times, you can’t be standing next to a guy who other girls and other guys are going to look at, some of those dudes are so pretty they make me start thinking about switching teams for a week”
“so I should date ugly guys? That is ..”
“Not ugly, just not pretty, there is an ocean in between, look, you find some aspiring writer-artist-filmmaker type that doesn’t look like a poster child for methadone and you clean him up a little, and start showing him around”
“hmm, a project, I could get behind that”
“make sure he is big, even if he’s fat, not disgusting of course, but you wanna look dainty next to him, skinny shriveled up artists are pathetic, you need something burly, shaved head works, not too friendly, someone who people might mistake for a body guard or a chauffer.”
“good, good, I know a couple guys”
“no one you’ve already banged”
“fresh meat, someone who is going to be wowed by your celebrity status, like a lap dog…only bigger, like an attack dog, but better looking”
“I feel better”
“that’s my girl, now get out and start hunting”
“are you gonna help me?
“that depends”
“you know I am a great wingman”
“the last time I went home with a chick when we were out together you wouldn’t talk to me for a month.”
“No, you didn’t answer your phone for a month because you …”
“OK, OK I remember, no need to rehash my life history, but if we go out together I am going to shamelessly pimp you out, I pick the guys, none of these lederhosen wearing fags”
“you know I don’t know what lederhosen are”
“stockings for men, you’ve never been to Europe”
“Milan not Austria or wherever the fuck men are wearing tights and suspenders “
“I give Milan the finger”
“Milan…hmm I wonder what it is about Milan…”
“there was no way I could have known…”
“that a six foot blonde might be a guy”
“actually that guy sucked great cock so I don’t know what I’m so bitter about”
“because he didn’t call you”
“Damn, you are a fascist whore”

Sparta, War Culture, Soviets, Star Wars

Wanting to live for another person is no more than egoism going bankrupt and then opening a new shop next door, with a partner.

Robert Musil, A Man Without Qualities (951)

When we were kids we used to love to “play Star Wars”. I noticed early on that all the joy came in the setting up part. This was all we really knew how to do, arrange our various ships and soldiers, map out territory and get ready for a battle that never got fought. It took nearly thirty years for me to see the parallel between child’s play and the reality of our day to day lives on military bases.

Our lives were a preparation for war. Our fathers flew the planes that carried nuclear weapons destined for the Soviet Union. I wonder now if the sense of anxiety that I felt when I realized that all the pieces were in place and that there was nothing left to do but fight was also a metaphor.

‘War Culture’ was to be the title of my book. The life of a child soldier inside modern day Sparta. The older I am the clearer the conditioning methods become. Beyond forced patriotism and basic religion, military life for children involves deeper forms of brainwashing that take decades to peel back.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

8 day s ago I found out that Stephanie and I were going to have a baby. Since then I have been thinking a great deal about the following: why am I so angry with you, why do I distrust authority figures and every person who loves me? I have come up with some answers and though they will be painful for you to hear I have to write them, whether you read them or not is up to you.

A pivotal moment in my development came when I was about ten. Two incidents keep coming to mind and I struggled for a long time to figure out what they had in common and why they played such an important role in the formation of my identity.

Number one:

We were frantically preparing for the Grumpy and Mimi’s arrival at our house on Mather AFB. Dad was installing an air-conditioner. Dad and I went to the store to buy a large piece of glass to put in the window.

As we carried the glass to the car I remember being aware somehow that it had been freshly cut and that the edges were razor sharp. Dad told me to get in the passenger seat and handed me the glass. The only way it would fit in the car to put one end of the glass on the dashboard and for me to hold the other end like a table with the edge a few inches from my neck. I realized that dad was going to get in the car and drive home with the glass in that position. I knew that if anything went wrong on the drive, even so much as a quick stop, I was going to be cut-to-decapitated depending on the severity of the incident. I simply stated that I was not going to ride like that and suggested that we put the glass in the trunk. Dad began to protest that the glass might break but I was adamant and the glass went in the trunk. No yelling or drama was involved and I didn’t think about that incident again for a long time.

Number Two:

Sometime in that period the family went on a camping trip to the Feather River. The white water was the big attraction and the other families and their children would ride tubes down after hiking upriver.

I did not want to do this. My dad and I went anyway. I don’t remember how it came about exactly but I am pretty sure it was not my idea. When we tried to get in the water we lost our balance and our tubes got swept into the current. My dad kept a hold of me and I remember being impressed at how tenacious his grip was as we were drug along the rocks in the relatively shallow water. We recovered, got to shore on the opposite bank and found some wild blackberries. I can remember dad being excited about the size and quality of the berries (they were quite good) and me asking “how can you eat at a time like this?” still a little teary from the ordeal. Eventually I came around and began to enjoy the berries myself at which point dad asked “how can YOU eat at a time like this?” and we both laughed.

The significance of these two events is that they caused me to doubt my father’s ability to care for me. I did not reach that decision then but I believe now after much introspection that they were the crack in the parental gloss that I had lived with until that time. This is the moment psychoanalysis would refer to as the realization that one’s parents are not gods and not infallible. From that moment on I could not blindly accept his decisions about my life. I had felt my life to be in peril on two occasions because of decisions dad had made.

When I was thinking about this yesterday I kept focusing on why my dad would make these decisions. In the case of the glass he was stressed about my mom’s parents, and I suspect especially her father, visiting us in the California summer in a house with no air conditioning. In focusing on the task at hand he simple neglected to consider the implications of the glass in such a position. In the latter case I think he just didn’t want to say to the other fathers “no we’re not going down the river, David is afraid, and I have no idea what the hell I am doing so I’m not going to risk our safety because of peer pressure”.

It is really not all that important why these things happened. My dad was certainly not a bad father, the important thing is that they happened and formed a strong enough impression in me that I am writing about them over 25 years later.

So there was no longer any possibility of me doing anything “because I said so”. All rules and authority began to come under strict scrutiny and it wasn’t long before I started to see the holes in most systems. Soon I came to realize the flaws in the religion I was being taught. My friend Steve and I would stay up for hours debating the finer points of Catholicism verses Protestantism. He was even more irreverent about Catholicism than I was about Protestantism and being a year older than me helped increase his credibility in my eyes. So with the help of these debates and a lot of hard questions that my mom (who was the spiritual advisor in the family) could not answer I concluded that Christianity was bunk. The pivotal question was this “is everyone that doesn’t believe in Jesus going to Hell”? I had already decided that if the answer to that question was yes there was no logical way such a religion could be true. Even at that age I was aware that the vast majority of people who had existed in human history did not believe in the divinity of Jesus even if they had heard of him.

So if my father is not looking out for my best interest and the religion I am being coerced into believing under threat of eternal hellfire is false then it is obvious I am going to have to A) Protect myself by making my own decisions, B) Question existing religions until I can find an understanding of God that seems plausible to me.

These conclusions were, no doubt, the source of a great deal of my parents’ frustration with me. I always did well in school but partly I suspect because knowledge of facts was a defense mechanism against those who would attempt to deceive me. To this day I approach every authority figure, institution, religious guru, government, news source, teacher, police officer, judge, bureaucrat, boss, professor, girlfriend, family member, friend, and grocery clerk with the underlying suspicion that they are going to:

1) pretend to know more than they do
2) attempt to deceive me
3) abuse any and all power/authority they have
4) manipulate me
5) and do all this while pretending they are acting in my best interest.

Once such an ideology is formed the vast majority of interaction with the outside world, not surprisingly, serves to reinforce it.

My fourth grade teacher misspelled the word “marathon” on the blackboard (marithon). When I corrected her she attempted to conceal her mistake by telling me that the word I was referring to had a different meaning. So I walked to the front of the class and pulled the dictionary of the shelf and read the definition aloud to the class. Needless to say this behavior was considered disruptive and showy and generally bad. To my parents’ credit they did not punish me but this incident further reinforced my belief that people are generally going through life pretending to know more than they do and fearful they will be found out.

When I was homeless many years later a Salvation Army preacher used to let me stay at his house sometimes. I woke up one morning to find him kneeling next to my bed attempting to perform oral sex on me. I remember being relatively amused at how the examples of authority figures not being what they seemed were getting stronger and stronger. As I rained blows down upon him and watched his blood spatter on the walls I thought deeply about the tragedy of the fallen god and how a young mind is so hurt when those it worships turn out not only fallible, but culpable, deceptive, and abusive of power all the while pretending to be good, moral and just.

I didn’t hurt the preacher, I just told him to get out and he complied immediately.

When I was in jail prior to that incident I was always struck that no one bothered me. I conducted myself in the typical, anti-social manner I had grown accustom to using for interaction with the outside world yet I was avoided. One time I got jumped by a couple kids after I told them their gang was a joke and all they ever did was talk shit but I guess there is only so much anyone can take. I actually felt bad for them because I had given them no choice but to act. They didn’t hurt me, after the larger one swung on me five or six times without landing a punch I stepped inside his guard and whispered in his ear “I don’t want to hurt you”. He just kind of stopped moving at that point and then the guards came in and took us away. I always wondered why I talked so much trash to him and goaded him into acting. I think now that he may have been an authority figure in my eyes because he was talking about being in a gang in a jail. Everyone knows from TV and movies that the gangs are the authority in jail so I guess I wanted to challenge the validity of that authority figure just like any other.

I spent a lot of my time in religious discussions in jail. I would sit with the Christians for awhile and poke holes in their doctrine and they would eventually tire of me so I would move on and ask Mustafah (yes he was a big black guy) provocative questions about Islam until he got sick of me and blustered and threatened and used all the intimidation tactics that had clearly worked for him in the past.

The only time I could really relax was playing chess with Carlos or playing spades with the brothers. Both of those activities seemed relatively pure. Carlos would always school me in chess and the brothers were always exasperated by how bad I was at spades but at least there was no bullshit in those environments.

Sergeant Burns wasn’t too fond of me. He just knew I was trouble, very suspicious. He was searching my cell one time when I came back from the shower and had found a bunch of magazines. I didn’t know that magazines could be turned into shanks but apparently Burns thought I was hoarding them to create an arsenal so he took me off work detail. I was mildly amused that he pretended to believe this. It was clear that he had searched my cell to find a rule infraction and when he couldn’t find anything serious he came up with that. Chalk one more up under authority lying and abusing power.

I feel bad for all the good people I have interacted with in my life that have had to bear the brunt of all the suspicion and distrust that the bad people helped me to amass. When I was in law school my therapist helped to understand that people are not all good or all bad. This realization went a long way in my healing process. He introduced me to the concept in reference to my parents but I eventually realized that we are all in a constant state of flux and decision between what we might call good and bad or right and wrong.

I came to this conclusion recently while reading Abraham Maslow’s original ideas about self actualization. The part that really stuck with me was the concept of constant decision making, that life is a never ending series of decisions and every one is a choice to grow and develop as a person or stay still and/or regress.

I had studied the concept of self-actualization briefly in an intro to psych class but only the pyramid. The pyramid has basic needs at the bottom as a pre-requisite to moving to ward the peak which is self-knowledge and a happy well adjusted and productive life. Even now I resent the massive oversimplification of Maslow’s ideas because they are profoundly important and to reduce them to a colorful triangle in a textbook is a crime against intellectual development. But then again I am also aware of my pre-disposition to anger toward authority (in this case the authority is the textbook and its editors and publishers and the professor that chose it for the course) so I know I am being overly harsh.

In any case Maslow’s true ideas of self actualization have led me to write, read, do Yoga, meditate, find and listen to the music I love, exercise, take my dog to the park, be benevolent and caring in my interactions with Stephanie and ultimately to seek peace with my past by writing this letter.

So this is what I want you to do assuming you have made it this far in the letter. I want you to figure out the source of your anger. I want you to ask yourself why the slightest deviation from your expectations sends you into a rage. And if you are unwilling to do that I want you to simply stop directing that anger toward me.

I have thought a lot about our family dynamic lately. I have had to bear the brunt of your anger for a long time now. In our family I am the most vulnerable, you can’t direct too much at mom because you have to live with her, and you can’t direct too much at Tom because you want to be around the kids. So you direct it toward me.

Perhaps I realized this by watching you interact with Jack. I want you to be very aware of how your tension level rises, and you yell or manifest some other indication of anger, very quickly and unexpectedly when you are around Jack. I want you to think about the times you have completely lost control just in the last year. When I told you I was going to Taos for the summer, when we were in Colorado and you were driving with Debbie, Peter and I in the back seat of the Deville, and when you left those terrible, hurtful voicemail messages on my phone. You are angry dad, you are going to have to deal with that anger or everyone that you love is going to have to deal with it for you.
Sit down with someone and figure out the source. You will be glad you did eventually but it is not going to be fun or easy.


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Walden or Life in the Woods
- Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

From the Mystic Odes of Rumi

Our death is our wedding with eternity.
What is the secret? "God is One."
The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house.
This multiplicity exists in the cluster of grapes;
It is not in the juice made from the grapes.
For he who is living in the Light of God,
The death of the carnal soul is a blessing.
Regarding him, say neither bad nor good,
For he is gone beyond the good and the bad.
Fix your eyes on God and do not talk about what is invisible,
So that he may place another look in your eyes.
It is in the vision of the physical eyes
That no invisible or secret thing exists.
But when the eye is turned toward the Light of God
What thing could remain hidden under such a Light?
Although all lights emanate from the Divine Light
Don't call all these lights "the Light of God";
It is the eternal light which is the Light of God,
The ephemeral light is an attribute of the body and the flesh.

...Oh God who gives the grace of vision!
The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire.


“But what I still don’t understand is this: That people should love each other, and that it takes a firm hand in government to make them do it, is nothing new. So why should it suddenly be a case of either/or.?”

“There’s one of those Marxists over there,” Strumm explained, “who seems to be claiming that a person’s economic superstructure entirely determines his ideological superstructure. And there’s a psychoanalyst denying it and insisting that the ideological superstructure is entirely the product of man’s instinctual substructure.”


No matter whether the substructure is economic or sexual, well, what I wanted to say before is: Why are people so unreliable is their superstructure? You know the common saying that the world is crazy; it is getting all to easy to believe its true!”
That’s the psychology of the masses, Your Grace,” the learned General interposed again. “So far as it applies to the masses it makes sense to me. The masses are moved only by their instincts, and of course that means by those instincts most individuals have in common; that’s logical. That’s to say, it’s illogical, of course. The masses are illogical; they only use logic for window dressing. [dad, Alex] What they really let themselves be guided by is simply and solely suggestion! Give me the newspapers, the radio, the film industry and maybe a few other avenues of cultural communication, and within a few years—as my friend Ulrich once said—I promise I’ll turn people into cannibals! That’s precisely why mankind needs strong leadership, as Your Grace knows far better than I do. But that even highly cultivated individuals are not motivated by logic in some circumstances is something I find it hard to believe, though Arnheim says so.”

Musil, A Man Without Qualities, 1107

Musil and other passages trimmed down to a single sentence could be chapter headings.


I have always harbored a secret notion that the British are better than us. When my mother was little she lived on a British air base where she had a servant.

“They really know how to treat their officers” she would say. Her father had been an American liaison officer to the British after WWII and the Brits had set him and his family up nicely in an English manor home with manicured lawns and old stone walls.

Now when I see Hugh Grant or some other young British actor on the screen I admire them a little too much. I covet the culture that treats officers like royalty and gives them palaces to live in and servants to wait on them.

We didn’t live in any palaces. But we always thought we were rich. My father, like my grandfather, was an Air Force pilot. Grandfather just missed WWII but got to go through the two year program at West Point just in time for the war to end. My dad was in Vietnam when I was born. Just me and mom on a remote air station near the Canadian border somewhere in Maine.

My brother followed me two years later after dad was back from Vietnam. I never heard my Dad or anybody call it ‘Nam like they do in the movies and on TV. It was always Vietnam, pronounced properly so that it rhymed with bomb and not Ma’am.

When I was three I successfully escaped from our house by dragging a bar stool to the front gate and climbing over. I wonder now if that early tendency to find a way out wasn’t indicative of something prison-like about our family. Later in elementary school I would calculate backward from twelfth grade to figure out how many years were left in my sentence.

Kindergarten was in Washington State. On the first day Mrs. Fitzpatrick tore the top off the pencil box my mother had been instructed to buy and had helped me choose. I can still hear the sound of all the pencil boxes being ripped apart as I inched forward in the check-in line. It seemed incredibly unjust and wasteful to my five year old mind that mother and I should expend so much time and energy carefully selecting a box based on a design located on a top which was to be ripped off before the box was ever used.

I wondered some thirty years later if Mrs. Fitzpatrick hadn’t read an article in a scholarly journal that touted the psychological mastery that could be instantly obtained over five year old children by destroying something they love while they stood helplessly watching. Our mothers were all with us, they too seemed perplexed by the ostentatious display of force and destruction but none dared to challenge Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s authority. Thus she achieved the status of pack leader over parents and children alike in a matter of minutes. Brilliant.

First grade began in Texas where I learned that it was unacceptable to whistle in school. This caused me much distress as I had recently learned to whistle and wanted to show off. First grade continued in Germany. I stood in front of the Mrs. Kowal’s first grade class and my mom asked me if I would like to stay or come back tomorrow. I responded that tomorrow would be better for me and my mom smiled knowingly and led me out of the room and back to the hotel which, like the school, was inside a heavily fortified military base.

The fortification level was called into question when terrorists blew up the officers club where we regularly dined and I began asking my mom at night if the terrorists were going to get us. In my mind they always had long black beards and drove around in a Volkswagen van. Maybe I had seen a German movie or news clip with such an image. Or maybe I retroactively added that scene from "Back to The Future".

Second grade was where I was introduced to whole wheat toast by Ms. Halcomb. Third grade gave me the opportunity to interact with older kids on a daily basis as I was in a class euphemistically called “the third and fourth grade team”. It was at this time that I learned that I could alter my identity. I had long chosen my clothes based on what I was to be that day: brown corduroys and a red turtleneck to be an Indian, dark blue shirt and pants to be a policeman etc. But suddenly I learned that I could take on a new identity, outwardly project someone else such that others thought I was that someone else. This is also when I discovered the Archangel Complex.

It all began with a young Pittsburgh Steeler fan named Alex, whom I like to call Felix-Alex-Felix. Felix always wore his head-to-toe Steeler garb: gloves, hat, jacket and scarf. I was a Cowboy fun so I pitied him a little for his poor choice in teams but more so for his distinctive manner of running which was just a few shades away from a Special Olympic gait.

Felix would often return from recess with his Steeler hat askew and a bloody lip or some other sign of having been roughed up. I took umbrage to this outrage and considered it a personal affront to my dignity that someone would have the audacity to loay a hand on my friend. I always asked him to point out the villains but he would just mumble something and sadly take off his coat and return to his seat.

One day I asked Alex if he would trade coats with me at recess. He readily agreed and I pulled the Steeler hat low and the gloves high and set off through the playground in my best imitation of his strange running style.

The inevitable bully suddenly appeared in my path and I approached him in the sheepish manner I imagined Felix would have if he had been wearing his clothes that day. I kept my eyes low and scanned the ground as if anticipating that something bad was going to happen.

“Hey!” the ruffian bellowed.
I looked at the ground, shuffled a little.

“Hey I’m talkin’ to y……”

If I live to by one hundred I will never forget the look in his eyes as I slowly lifted my eyes to meet his. This boy had never seen me before, knew nothing of me yet there was terror on his face. He stammered and backed away, I shoved him hard, seizing upon his fear and weakness, closing for the kill.

“WHAT??!! WHAT did you want to say, didn’t you want to ask me something?”
I was chasing him now, grinning evilly, soaking up his fear like sunshine, relishing his confusion, this wonderful comeuppance I had wanted every time I saw Alex’s sad face after recess.

The memory gets foggy at that point, I smacked him around as best as one eight year old can do to another, stood over him, maybe kicked a little sand in his face or maybe kicked him in the face. Doesn’t matter, I was hooked. I learned the value of fear and confusion, the position of mastery one is in when his opponent is taken by surprise.

I would employ this lesson throughout my life.

Chapter 2

I had a dog when I was three or so. One day he chewed up a garden hose so my father took him to the pound. What a piece of shit. Who takes away a three year old’s sole companion over a garden hose. I guess they figured I wouldn’t notice or remember, but I learned another valuable lesson from that incident: act right or you will be eliminated. Though my dog Charlie was only with me a short time I had somehow stumbled upon a basic principle of pack hierarchy, there can be only one Alpha in any pack and if you think you are that Alpha you have to act accordingly.

We returned from Germany when I was nine. Dad was already back and had secured housing on the base for us and purchased a used Ford Torino which my brother and I thought was the baddest car we’d ever seen because it was the same one Starsky and Hutch had. Never mind that it was a Beige automatic with a white vinyl top, to us in was a heromobile. The air blew cold on my face when I got in and Tom and I started ranting and raving about how awesome it was and I think I asked my dad how much it was and he named a sum less than $2000. It was the first time I remember feeling air conditioning in a car other than my grandfather’s Buick.

My father was wearing a flight suit when he picked us up and he showed his great affection for mom and probably hugged us but I don’t remember now. I was too busy admiring the enormous leather and huge doors and windows. How could a car with only two doors be so big inside? I had learned all about Porsches and Ferraris, Lamborghini’s and BMW’s while living in Europe but I had never seen anything like this car. My enthusiasm for American iron was pretty short lived. I started to notice that all the cars looked very similar. In Germany I had been able to identify a silhouette from a great distance and proudly call out the name of the car. Now I had to wait until I was close enough to see some distinctive piece of trim or headlight to know what I was looking at. I didn’t know it then but the acceptable expression of reality was about to get a great deal narrower in more areas than car design.

Mom enrolled us in summer sports programs so that we could make some friends and get in a groove before school started. I made my first black friend Terry Thomas. Terry informed me in so many words that it was unacceptable for my dad to have a push mower because he was a major. We did get a power mower shortly thereafter, not sure if there was a connection.

That mower was destined to be dragged behind my bicycle all over the housing area on weekends as I searched for people who needed their grass cut before the Tuesday morning inspection. Some weekends I made sixty bucks and for a twelve year old kid in 1983 that buys a lot of skateboard parts and laser prints of big cats.