09/10/14

Last of a Breed

I’m not totally sure which principles really matter any more. But, this man surely did. And his commitment to them affected culture.

truett cathy

Truett Cathy founder and chairman of Chick-fil-A. (March 14, 1921 – September 8, 2014)

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Harulduz7. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

Not on Sunday (An Ice Dream)

08/27/14

Mott Haven 2014

tre 2014

A House on Beekman.

Mott Haven 2013.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by juicebox jackson. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

Break Chain

08/25/14

Taking One for the Team

My dad was a beat cop and career FBI.

ben

I was preached the perils and uncertainties of law enforcement my whole life. You just don’t know what you’re about to face in a car stop or home search or raid. And, so the justification follows that police should be accorded some measure of grace when they act preemptively or out of self preservation, in the chaos and melee of the arrest. I mean, I would. But, I’m also frightened of small dogs and that movie Cloverfield. I shouldn’t do any job that requires more courage than is necessary to use a public urinal or maybe ask politely for a refill at Chili’s. I’d never be a cop.

But, in the Michael Brown shooting and aftermath it has struck me that this rationalization of force seems wrong. The default is off.

In the ambiguity of a criminal altercation, especially where there is no apparent threat of deadly force, the safety and health of the suspect still remains paramount. They are a citizen. Due criminal process. The police officer’s own self defense and preservation cannot be the priority.

Officers have to be ready to have the crap beat out of them on occasion.

If you can’t resist an assailant with something less than your firearm, then either you take it like a man in the face or else change professions. You don’t get to open fire. I guess you could also baby cry, like I would. That’s another option.

There is great disagreement over the details in Ferguson. But, even assuming Brown is in the vehicle window punching officer Wilson in the face, as his defense would contend, well then maybe that’s the price we have to pay sometimes to live in free society fearless that our own paid law enforcement won’t shoot us unless absolutely necessary.

I’m not a Ferguson protestor. Don’t lump me in. There are reasonably two sides to this story almost for certain. I’m just saying government has to take the high road here.

And, for all my law enforcement buddies, I’d qualify further. These are instantaneous choices made under pressurized circumstances. But, our justice system will vindicate your sacrifice, whether it be partial or complete. And, the moral leverage in taking the a$$ whooping will do more to reinforce the rule of law than any disproportionate and questionable show of deadly force you could justify or explain after the fact.

Cops choose to do this perilous job. And, they talk a pretty tough game. I should know. They big willie me all the time. Wait. That didn’t sound right. But, either you’re big enough to take some physical punishment in the name of protecting all our citizens, even when they don’t deserve it, or maybe you’re just not that big.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by dj transform. Lyrics here.

Today’s blong here:

Big

03/23/14

Appall Bearer

Fred Phelps Sr., founder and pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, died this week. The members of Westboro Baptist Church, over a 20 year period of time, have used military funerals as a vehicle to protest and prophesy the judgment of God over the alleged sexual sins of America, principally homosexuality and child abuse in the Catholic church.  Their protests have infamously employed signage that expressed among other and equally horrible things, “America is Doomed”; “Pope in Hell”; “Semper Fi Fags”; and “God Hates You.”

Regardless of your worldview, there is judgment in death, either for its brutal clarity or its terrible meaninglessness. Phelps knows now for certain which.

fred phelps

Performed by theipoetlaureate.  Music produced by dj clutch.

Today’s retread blong here:

god Hates You

01/9/14

Manopoly

Janet Yellen broke it.

Up until her confirmation this week, the Federal Reserve System was chaired by a long line of these guys:

pennybags

But, our obsession with demographic firsts is pretty stale. Numbers don’t really care.

You go, girl.

yellen now

Performed by the ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

Homemaker Equity

12/5/13

Superlative

Truthfully, I’ve read maybe 250 pages of Long Walk to Freedom’s 750 or so. But, between the movie Invictus and this meat pie I had once, I’m pretty sure I can fill in the gaps. Plus my brother-in-law is a South African ex-pat and so that makes me almost native by the commutative property of brother-in-laws.

I have one take on Mandela, and I’ve made it to others many times before.

I am unaware of any other human in all of history who was oppressed so absolutely and then was given so absolutely the power to invert that oppression on millions of lives in justifiable retribution and yet declined. Not Ghandi or Dr. King or Mother Theresa. All of these individuals, righteous and consistent in their pacisifism, never actually gloved the reigns to violent power that must have tempted Mandela. They were always subject to power, maybe power they declined, but power they never possessed in the way he did. He was the undisputed psychological Monarch of South Africa upon his election. Had he chosen to change the country’s language to Mongolian Chinese and require men to birth the nation’s children he would have had widespread support.

Call it strategic or contrived, he elected, in the face of significant opposition from his own and victimized people, to largely integrate and accommodate. If you notice, throughout much of the rest of the developing world, when abused society obtains power they return the abuse.

The only parallel is in the lives of famous religious figures, like Christ. They are disqualified from this conversation insofar as they profess either actual divinity or divine authority or x-ray vision. As far as we can tell, Mandela was not any kind of incarnation or supernatural peeping tom.

Just a man who chose to do right in the face of so much opportunity to do wrong.

Maybe the greatest human that ever lived. Seriously.

mandela

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Dave Santos.
Today’s blong here:

When They Ask You to Run

11/18/13

The Scarlett Red and Royal Blue

phillipines

Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced djclutch.

Today’s blong here:

How Do We Stay

09/1/13

64

That’s how old Diana Nyad is now, as she makes her 5th attempt to swim the 103 miles from Cuba to Florida. She’s nearly there. I expressed my infatuation with her last year, here.

I had so much fun at the turn of the millennium that I vowed, with the aid of bio-engineering and blood doping, to make it to 2100. (For a second, right at midnight, I thought that the entire power and technology grid had gone down, as forecasted, and prematurely yelled, “This is the greatest millennium ever!” As it happened, my father-in-law had cut the lights. Funny guy.)

In 2100, I’ll be 125. I believe 123 is the modern record. So, with advances in technology and cheating this is totally realistic.

Diana’s repeated attempts remind us to keep moving. To the end, there are new things to do and accomplish. Change your diet. Take a class. Move to a new country. Adopt a child. Become a pantomime. (Can you imagine waking every morning in a fake tug-of-war?)

I’m not even a third of my projected, albeit genetically modified, life expectancy. The fact that by 2100 I’ll only be legally 6% actual human (83% android, like Darth Vader, and 11% bovine), doesn’t mean I won’t be “alive” and expectant.

I love an opportunity to recycle my favorite blongs. So, here’s to Diana. Again.

diana nyad crying

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

Today’s retread blong here:

Surf and Turf

08/14/13

Man of the Cloth

Like a miniature Podcast Hadron Collider, my recently upgraded-to iPhone 5 nearly destroyed the known universe.

Without warning, my two most severe passions circled back on each other at speeds approaching that of light, when the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, this week, dedicated an entire podcast to the cinema career of Jodie Foster. Like two tiny neutrinos of cultural icon, my favorite sports analyst collided with the star of my indisputably favorite movie, when he declared Contact “unwatchable,” nearly tearing a small earbud shaped black hole in the ESPN Podcenter of space/time. (Actually, I believe he said that this masterpiece of movie story telling “put the ‘un’ in unwatchable,” if I remember correctly. At the time, my body was being stretched infinitely high by the extreme gravitational effects of the microscopic black hole, so I can’t be certain.)

Ask my wife. After years of reading him, I just whisper, in a delicate Boston brogue, “That’s Bill Simmons – That’s Bill Simmons – That’s Bill Simmons,” whenever he does NBA Countdown or appears on PTI or calls in to Colin Cowherd.

Ask my friends. How many times I’ve made them watch Contact. On Blu-Ray. And, repeat:

I guess you could say, “I’m a man of the cloth . . .

without the cloth.”

We all eventually disagree with someone we admire. But, to pursue with such august, over so long a time, such weirdly disparate enthusiasms, as Bill and Contact, and for them to so impossibly and ruthlessly meet on a sports podcast, is to feel as though you’ve reached a kind of event horizon of your interests. Like finding the end of the internet. Only, when you get there, you realize that at the intersection of all you love, your one passion thinks your other passion is a piece of crap.

I’ve been reading Jim Holt’s book, Why Does the World Exist?

I didn’t invite any, but my daughter naively answered the cover, “Because God made it.” I laughed at her and told her that she was not very smart.

Holt’s book is subtitled an “existential detective story,” which I think can be roughly translated, “Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.” (Yep. Contact quote. Won’t be the last.)

To various know-it-alls, scientific and philosophical, Holt asks, “Why is there something instead of nothing?” Which really is the most fundamental question one can ask, whether or not you are a person of faith. I suppose, on its face, it sounds irreligious or sacrilegious. But, it’s not.

For atheists and other variety of secular humanists, the question obviously focuses on what proceeded the singularity in the big bang. Nothing. Or Something. Did the dot of matter and energy at the dawn of time materialize from a real kind of nothingness or is there some alternative explanation of oscillating or infinite regression?

But, the question is true for any Divine belief, as well. How do you explain the existence of a Creator God? Either It came from nothing or always was.

Both theories are imponderable, of course. But, they are the only two possible explanations regardless of your conception of creation, religious or secular.

Since Einstein, the concepts in quantum physics have slowly increased in their philosophical influence over the culture of how we understand our origins and purposes. And, I generally love it. The New York Times Bestsellers List, every year, is guaranteed to have offerings of this kind. As Holt’s subtitle suggests, we love collecting the clues. And, the 13 particles (including Higgs Boson) of the Standard Model are like galactic breadcrumbs, through the universe, back home.

But, it dawned on me, what a weird perspective this is. To look at the manufacturing or components of our existence to draw conclusions about origin or purpose.

I mean, you would never presume to look at a sparkplug to guess about the purpose or design of a Ferrari.

Or to the electrode in the sparkplug.

Or to the copper-core of the electrode in the sparkplug.

Or to the atomic structure of the copper-core of the electrode in the sparkplug.

There is nothing about this “drilling down” that brings you closer to knowing or explaining the joy that the Italian sports car brings to sentient, testosterone fueled bipeds.

spark_plug

I mean a sparkplug tells you something about a Ferrari. It’s electrical. It’s a machine. But, the view at best is fairly myopic and provincial. The truth is wildly more spectacular.

Driving the Ferrari on the Autobahn? Everything you need to know.

So, why isn’t this generally true of humanity? Why doesn’t this personal and relational consciousness we experience, inclined towards morality albeit imperfectly so, tell us more about our origins and purpose than the randomized, inhuman, subatomic particles from which we exploded?

In the same way, driving a car to the store or work or graduation should tell you a good bit more about it’s actual purpose than reverse engineering one of its gaskets or spark plugs.

I won’t make a full defense of Contact, here. The last 30 minutes, however, are essentially flawless. They include (1) the most likely and realistically depicted extraterrestrial encounter ever shown on screen (embedded above) and (2) one of the most poignant expressions of existential faith and experience (embedded below), since Chewy screamed when they slammed the Rebel Base blast doors shut on Han and Luke still trapped out in the perilous subzero landscape of Hoth.

In her earlier disbelief, Jodie Foster’s character, Dr. Arroway, at one point challenges the fully believable priest character, portrayed by Matthew McConaughy at the height of his smarm:

So what’s more likely? That an all-powerful, mysterious God created the Universe, and decided not to give any proof of his existence? Or, that He simply doesn’t exist at all, and that we created Him, so that we wouldn’t have to feel so small and alone?

I have been conditioned my whole life to believe the former. So, my take is not very objective. But, when you look at the Ferrari of our existence, in contrast to the gasket of our quantum origins, I would disagree that a mysterious and relational God has given us no proof of Its existence.

And, in our disagreement with Foster, Bill Simmons and I appear to, in fact, agree. Again.

Black hole averted.

Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced Haralduz7.

Today’s blong here:

Wrong End