(These ideas are explicated in this sloppy manifesto)

Saturday, February 21, 2004
SplendorQuest: The counter-countermelody...

This again is from The Unfallen. This is the descant to yesterday's countermelody, both referring back to Loving Cathleen, below. There is a good deal more in the book on the philosophy of love and its contraries--plus it's a really sexy story about two people who deserve to have the best of life's gifts. But these three breathe together, I think, to show what works and what never does.
"You love the wild and the innocent," she said. "The unfallen--that's another word you use all the time. Do you know what I love? I love sovereignty. Self-control. Self-responsibility. Self-realization. Self-reproach, even, should reproach ever be necessary. I love Ibsen too, but do you know what is my favorite play? It's Cyrano. Not for Roxane. Who cares about another dumb blonde with too many boyfriends? No, what I love in that play is Cyrano himself. He says, 'I stand, not high it may be, but alone', and it takes my breath away, every time."

Devin said nothing. He wove his fingers into her hair and combed down slowly, treasuring the silkiness of her tresses.

"Do you understand what you've done to me? You told me all about your silence and distance and lies. Do you understand that story from the other perspective? Do you know what those women are doing when their men are trying so hard to hide from them?"

"...I've always thought of it as two clams, one striving to be closed as tightly as possible, the other as open as possible."

"That's not half bad--as analogies go. A clam is either impervious to injury or it is totally vulnerable. Your men 'clam up', don't they? They refuse to 'open up' and share with their women. Do you think the women are opening up as much as possible, making themselves completely vulnerable?"

"I've always thought so. I have virtually no first-hand evidence, of course."

"That's just what she says she's doing. What she's really doing is betraying who she is, in the hope that, by being someone different, he will treat her differently."

"...You've lost me."

"It's the business I'm in, isn't it? Fifteen days to a brand new you! The thirty-minute makeover! How to be the woman of his dreams! Reduce! Replace! Refinish! Renounce! Rejoice in your elemental nothingness! I don't write that rubbish, I never have. But there's plenty of it out there. It's a simple enough syllogism: If I change myself, it will change him. If I lose these twenty pounds, if I try this new hair style, if I ignore my own interests and pretend to be fascinated by his, if I stand on my hands and applaud with my feet, then he'll notice me, then he'll treat me as I want to be treated, then we'll be soul mates instead of just house mates."

"Is it really that bad...?"

"Dear god! It's so much worse. He doesn't love me, not really, and I know that but I can't say the words. So instead I will fold myself lengthwise along the spine. Who knows? Perhaps he'll love me then. If he doesn't, I will fold myself in half again at the waist. Then again at the knees and shoulders. Then again and again and again, making myself smaller and smaller and less and less demanding. Less needy, I hope. Less obtrusive. Less an annoyance to him. Less a curse, to speak the awful truth. He makes himself unavailable, so I strive with all my might to make myself unavailing. He wants to be uncompromised, and I do nothing but compromise myself, night and day, awake and asleep, always. This is my destiny. This is my choice. This is my life, a life composed entirely of absences and emptiness and nothingness."

He said nothing and she wondered if he was listening until a tear dripped off his cheek and onto hers.

"Did you understand what I wrote on the mirror? 'Be who you are.' The most important thing I know. Feminism is such a stupid joke. Women in the boardroom? Women in the legislature? Women on top or women without men--what does that have to do with anything? Women subordinate themselves. By choice. They never really learn how to stand alone, anyway, and they think it's what they have to do to get men. And the kind of men they get that way just make it all worse. They're not very much to begin with, and they betray what little they are for a kiss and a promise, and they go on betraying themselves, year after year, with the sage guidance of all those allegedly feminist women's magazines. Be who you are. You must be a sovereign, an individual, a soul unto your own. Until you can do that, you can't have anything worth having--not love, not money, not things--and you can't hang on to the things you get.

"'Do what you want.' What you want. Not what your parents want. Not what your husband wants. Not what the sisterhood wants. Do what you want. Follow your own mind, follow your own heart, follow your own star. Stand alone--not high it may be, but alone. Do you know who I respect? I respect divorced women who stay divorced. The ones who rush right into another disaster have learned nothing and probably never will. But the women who have subordinated and renounced and deferred and still wound up out in the cold, the ones who learned better, those are the women I respect. Self-control, self-responsibility, self-realization, all in abundance.

"'Have what you love.' It's a procedure. An algorithm--is that the right word? You may not be able to have what you love. Probably it's the rare case to have all that you love. But you can't have any of it until you are fully you, until you have ceased to betray and renounce yourself, until you have given yourself permission to be.

"Permission to be... There's a poem in there, isn't there? 'I am Ozymandias, king of kings. Look upon my works ye mighty and despair.' Shelley was sneering at the frailty and mortality and futility of greatness, but I think he got it just wrong. Ozymandias was mortal, but he was proud of his enormity while he lived. That's what I despise about women, that's what I despise in the Not For Women Only woman. All she wants is an excuse to grow smaller still, to be less of herself, to be less a person, less an entity, smaller and less significant than a speck of dust. Devin, do you love me because I'm so terribly small?"

He laughed. "Hardly."

"Do you love me because I'm so completely deferential? Because I'm so unassuming and self-effacing and pliable? Do you love me because I'm so diminutive, the perfect little pocket-sized helpmeet?"

He laughed harder. "You know better than that. I love you because you're immense. I hadn't known you for half-an-hour when I compared you to Prometheus in my mind. Does that answer your question?"

She smiled and even though her face was pressed into his chest he could feel her smiling. "I told you I've stopped editing myself for people. I was never a Not For Women Only woman. I never diminished myself or degraded myself or denounced myself. But I used to hide myself--most of myself. I stopped doing that because it was useless. In hiding myself, I was pretending for others to be someone I'm not. Not posing or acting, not portraying a lie. But forbearing to live the whole truth of my life. That had ugly consequences. First, it made me feel awful, made me feel there was something wrong with who I am, that I had to hide myself in shame. And second, it was horribly stupid strategically. Do you see why? The people you might attract being other than whom you are are not the people you would wish to attract. This is so stupid and so obvious, but it took me years to figure it out. To the extent that I wanted people in my life, I wanted people like me--people like you, Devin Dwyer. So how did I go about trying to find them? By being not like me. Very stupid. Very common, but very stupid."

Devin said, "I'm glad you are who you are. I told you it's you--the you of the inside--that I love."

He felt her smile again. "Last Friday at the hotel, I thought about saying something smart like, 'You're the best man I've had in years.' The joke of it is, you're the only man I've had in years. I don't even remember what love-making was like, before. I'd like to say that being with you is better than anyone, ever, but I can't even make a comparison. Being with you is perfect, though, and not just when you're within me. From the very beginning you said you wanted nothing but honesty, and I've been nothing but honest with you. I've been almost completely unedited with you, and I've liked it a lot."

He said nothing, just pulled her more tightly to him and watched the children playing on the beach.

Friday, February 20, 2004
SplendorQuest: Silence and distance and lies...

This is from my book The Unfallen. In essence, it is the countermelody to Loving Cathleen, below. I really like these two people, and I really like to let them talk. This is the furthest remove from high-action genre fiction, but this is everything that I think is important in art, real relevance to real life.
They walked up Boylston Street to Tremont, then up Tremont toward the center of the city. He stopped in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, right at the top of the Commons. He said, "I was married there. It seems like such a long time ago..."

"A very Catholic wedding, I imagine."

He smiled. "Very Catholic. It didn't matter to me and it did to her, so that's where we were married." They had turned into Downtown Crossing, heading down the cobbled mall to Washington Street. "You should ask me about my marriage."

"Should I?"

"I think you should. I'm a demonstrated loser at romance, after all. I should think that would be grounds for concern."

"I'm in no position to throw stones, I think. But suppose I were to ask you. Wouldn't you simply tell me it was all her fault?"

"That's the point. It wasn't. When two cars crash, maybe it's one driver's fault. But when a crash takes years to work out, both of the people involved are volunteers, and both of them are responsible."

"How awfully big of you to bear some of the blame."

He shrugged. "We don't have to talk about this if you don't want to."

"I do. But I think I need to eat. I'm afraid you've stripped me of my reserves. Among other things." She grabbed his hand and led him down the Washington Street mall. She stopped in front of a small restaurant. "Is this all right? It's just soups and salads, but everything's fresher than tomorrow."

"You're a cheap date, Gwen."

She smiled wickedly. "And... accessible. If properly seduced."

When they had ordered he continued, and they talked all through the meal. "I told you tonight how much I love your soul. I never once said anything like that to Nicole. Never. I told her I loved her and I thought I did, but I never thought to define and understand that love. And the truth is, a lot of the time I didn't even say, 'I love you.' Just, 'Love you,' a verb and an object without a subject. It wasn't an embrace, it was a dismissal. 'Love you. 'Bye.'"

"Aren't you being rather hard on yourself?"

"Do you want to know the real trouble, Gwen? Because you've put your finger right on it. I'm not being too hard on myself now, I was too easy on myself then. This is so stupid, and yet it hovers around everywhere like a cloud of gnats. I would hate it if anything ugly came between Hunter and I. I'd do anything to avoid that. I would hate it if Xander got the idea that my affection for him has limits, that my interest in what he says is faked. We've had our rough spots, Xander and I, and both of us have worked hard to get past them, because our relationship is so important.

"But--boom!--this is marriage to a fault. Keep the sex coming. Keep the meals coming. Try not to spend too much. And get out of my light. It was never that bad, but there was a hint of that from the very beginning. And that's just the expression. The reality is so much worse. Not only am I not going to do the work it takes to maintain this relationship, I am deliberately, adamantly, even philosophically opposed to doing with my wife what I would never hesitate to do with Xander or Hunter or anyone else. I refuse to repair this relationship or even acknowledge its decay because it is--at least nominally--the most important one in my life."

She traced a circle on the tabletop with her finger. "But that's a two-way street, isn't it?"

"I suppose. If not directly then in some reciprocal way. But all I'm talking about is what I did--which mainly consisted of what I didn't do. I promised to tell you about distance. On the surface, distance means just that, physical distance, mothertongue for, 'I don't want to be near you.' There was a lot of that, none of it conscious. I never stayed by her side at parties, for instance. I made her keep my pace when we walked, and I walked ahead of her if she couldn't. I never sat next to her at a restaurant table, and if I could arrange it, I'd sit at the opposite corner. I never wanted to do anything with her, and if there was something we could or should do together, I'd make excuses to do it alone, or stick her with doing it alone, or just do it pre-emptively, fait accompli. If I were paying attention, of course I would say, 'Wow, Devin, you're married to someone you don't want near you.' But the problem is the only way to stay married to someone you don't want near you is to forbid yourself to pay attention.

"And there are other kinds of distance. Mothertongue doesn't parse, so if you want to establish a distance between yourself and someone who loves you, pretend to attempt to parse mothertongue expressions into fathertongue. They won't make sense, because mothertongue is about feeling not sense, touching not talking. But you're one up, and smugly, too. And your spouse is one down."

"I don't think I'm understanding you."

"Okay. I'm working in my office at home and Nicole comes upstairs with a slice of pie for me. I go one up by saying, 'I didn't ask for any pie.' She says, 'But I thought you might want some.' I reply, 'If I had wanted some, I could have gotten it for myself.' She goes back downstairs with the pie, hurt, hurt for having her very nice mothertongue overture spurned as nonsense in fathertongue."

"But if you really didn't want the pie... What should you have done?"

"It's not about pie. It's about love. She's all alone in the kitchen and I'm physically distant in my office and she wonders at some level of consciousness, 'How can I show him that I love him?' And here comes the piece of pie, not food but a symbol of her love for me, a small expression but by no means a meaningless one. If I had loved her, or if I had been willing to let her love me, what I would have done is set the slice of pie on my desk. Then I would have thanked her and kissed her and maybe squeezed her on the rump and told her I had a little slice of something for her later on. I would have answered mothertongue in mothertongue instead of seeking distance in fathertongue."

Gwen said nothing. She was poking around in her salad and scowling.

"Silence is another good way of distancing yourself from your spouse. There's so much you can't talk about, because, if you do, the marriage will be wrecked. So you don't talk about it, you don't even dare think about it. And she wants to talk all the time, but she only wants to talk beside the point, between the points, never to the point. I guess it's for the same reason. We say that men are alienated from their feelings and the implication is that there's some sort of evil alienator lurking about. But the truth of the matter is simply this: Men are not permitted to quit.

"Not permitted by whom? By the culture, by their friends and family, by their spouses, by themselves. If a married woman decides her job isn't fulfilling enough, she stays home and freelances for a while. If a married man gets an inkling his work is making him unhappy--he slams the door on that thought right now. Especially if he's a father. If he has a suspicion he married the wrong woman--slam that door, too. If he has a little wisp of a fantasy that he'd like to chuck it all and run off to Tahiti like Gaugain--slam! He has feelings. No human being is without emotion. But he fears a vast host of his emotions, first because he is in a trap he won't permit himself to escape, and second because his cultural role effectively forbids him to escape.

"Now put this poor guy in the middle of one of those horrible, 'Honey, what's wrong?,' conversations. What's he going to say? 'I wanted to fly and I'm stuck as a desk pilot. I wanted to see the world and all I see is the taillights of the car in front of me, that and your big butt, bigger every day. I wanted to do something with my life and all I do is run around in circles like a dog chained to a stake.' Does he say that?"

She smiled wryly and that was answer enough.

"No. He says, 'Everything's fine, honey. Everything's just fine. Love you. 'Bye.'" Devin laughed. It was a hard and bitter laugh. "She knows it's not fine and she's got to keep picking at it. He won't admit it's not fine and he's got to keep running from it. And every truth he withholds comes back as an enormous lie--grousing over nothing, outraged criticisms of trivia, sarcasm and cynicism and geysers of black bile. All a dog can do is pull at that chain, after all, pull at the chain and bark out empty little threats."

He had a slice of quiche but he hadn't touched it. He pushed it away from him and said, "Silence and distance and lies are all you need to destroy any marriage. Physical violence and emotional abuse are bombs and guns, obvious weapons of destruction. But silence and distance and lies are like a corrosive gas. In time, everything is destroyed. You start out with love and a deep and--you hope--abiding passion. Your beloved is closer to you than your closest friend, dearer than your dearest relative. And when the corrosion is complete, you despise that person completely, and you can't even bear to look at her."

Gwen pushed her salad bowl away. "Why? Why would you do that?" She asked the question, but she was very much afraid she knew the answer.

He smiled, and it was a smile uncontaminated by even the smallest hint of happiness. "I used to think it was something like spite. You forbid yourself to say yes to something you could want and should want and may never be able to replace--you forbid yourself to say yes in order to hang on to the power to say no. It's not just independence, a state of not being owned or enslaved or whatever. It's a spiteful little betrayal of your own vows and commitments. I see stuff like that all the time, not just in marriage but everywhere, and I thought it was the same thing."

"But now...?"

He shrugged. "Now I don't know. I think maybe you can't make those vows and commitments with anyone except the right person." Her hand was on the table and he laid his atop it and squeezed. "If you make those kinds of promises with the wrong person, you've compromised yourself and you've compromised the relationship and chaos ensues. I don't think it's a necessary consequence that you have to break your promises, but you have to find a way, one way or another, to divert energy from a circuit that can't bear it. If you can't, it has to blow."

She snuck her hand out from under his then laced her fingers between his. "And with the right person...?"

"Are you teasing me? Do you know how many things I've told you that I've never told anyone? How many little things I do with you in my mind? There aren't any vows or commitments between us, but that doesn't matter at all. I'm more tightly bound to you than if we were lashed together with chains. I'm not enslaved to you. I'm not in your thrall. I'm a volunteer, baby, utterly yours and entirely uncompromised."

She was playing with her unused butter knife, spinning it on the surface of the table. "...Aren't you confessing rather a lot?"

"What if I am? It's the truth. I never felt anything like this for Nicole, but I never told her what I did feel. That was wrong. I don't want to be wrong anymore."

"...But what if the feelings aren't... reciprocated?"

He smiled, and it was a smile uncontaminated by even the smallest hint of unhappiness. "What if they're not? I can't do anything about that, can I? I can't even control my own feelings, much less yours. But even so, it doesn't matter. My loving you doesn't have anything to do with your loving me. Hunter was months old before he could do anything but soak up love and give nothing back. But I loved him so much it made me ache. I ache much worse for you, Gwen, and it doesn't matter very much what you do about that. What matters is you. What matters is that you are..."

"You're trying to make me cry again, aren't you?"

His eyes were grave, more grave than she'd ever seen them, more grave than she'd ever seen anyone's eyes. "I never want to hurt you, Gwen. I never want to disappoint you. I never want to let you down."

His voice broke at the end and she knew he was on the brink of crying himself. Their hands were still laced together on the table and she laid her other hand atop them and squeezed both together. She said, "Let's get out of here before we both make a scene."

They meandered slowly along the outdoor mall looking at the Christmas lights and displays. It was late enough that Washington Street was almost deserted and Gwen felt very much alone with her man. She could go that far, anyway--her man. They stood for a long time looking at the Christmas pageantry in the windows of Jordan Marsh. He stood behind her with his arms around her belly and she remembered standing with him that way on the platform of the subway station at Harvard Square. Tonight she could see his eyes reflected in the plate glass window and they were alive with delight at the ingenuity of the spectacle. And they were burning with his love for her. She looked at her own eyes in the window, looked for some sign of fear or confusion or despair or loneliness or doubt. But all she could see was contentment, a deep and enduring peace that began in his embrace and infused her whole being. She scowled at herself, for what she wasn't sure. Then she smiled at herself, mockingly. Then she pulled his arms still more tightly around her and laid her head against his chest and closed her eyes entirely.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
SplendorQuest: Loving Cathleen...

I think the thing I like best about her is that I don't ever yearn to get away from her. That seems silly to say, except for the part about it applying eventually to nearly everyone else. There are so many things about her that I admire, and so many others that I don't despise--which is just as important to me. But before all of those--and before her beauty or her smile or her scent or her endlessly pleasurable moister places--before any of those is the simple fact that I really, really like being around her. I really like having her around me. When I'm buoyant, yes. When I'm joyous, yes. When I'm serene or enthralled or romantic, yes, yes, yes. But also when I'm cranky or annoyed or angry or frustrated or stymied or bored--I like having her around me. I don't ever get sick of her, and I think that's the most hugely loving thing I could ever say about anyone.

I'm writing this because the subject of love keeps coming up in my mail, and my take on it is different from what I keep reading. I think maybe my correspondents are setting standards that are simultaneously unrealistic, unattainable and utterly irrelevant. I actually had to discover that it was possible for me to love a woman in the same way--or at least with the same intensity--that I've always loved whatever I happened to be concentrating on. It might be equally accurate to say that I had to discover that it is possible to concentrate on a woman in a kind of equal and interactive way. These are not proud admissions, and I did not come to this epiphany at a young age. But it gave me a very clear understanding, I think, of what matters to me and what doesn't.

What matters to me most in any human social relationship is that the other party leave me the fuck alone. I am not a libertarian in politics, I am a libertarian in sum, in total, in everything. I don't tell other people what to do, what to think, how to be, and I don't suffer other people to do these things to me. Or rather I do suffer until I can break free, and then I never, ever come back. I would chafe at a chain made from a spider's silk, and I simply cannot live among people who cannot let me live as I will. It's not even enough for someone to like me just-the-way-I-am: What if I should change? I won't live by sufferance, even if the sufferance consists of unlimited license. A license can be revoked, and I don't live by permission.

And that's the biggest component of why I don't ever get sick of her, the thing that makes me sick to death, eventually, with almost everyone else. She's free enough in her own soul to let me be free in mine. She's nowhere near as philosophically libertarian as I am. That doesn't matter. Unlike a vast host of philosophical libertarians I've known, she has the seemingly unique capacity of letting me live my own life unmolested.

There's more, more, more, but I think it all has more to do with her qualities of character than with her abstract credentials. She's very smart, with a very finely tuned rational mind, but so much more important than that, she's honest--unmasked, undisguised, non-manipulative, non-cloying. She is not ever trying to put something over on someone, and she is not ever trying to claim a grace she hasn't earned or escape a debt she owes.

Because there is nothing of deceit within her, there is a light in her eyes that illuminates her entire life. This is something I look for in everyone, and when it is absent, I am very wary. When a person has no life in his eyes, death abounds somewhere within. This is nothing more than corelation--or prejudice--and it might well be an irrational paranoia on my part, but it's a trusted guide to me by now. I don't share anything I value with people whose eyes are dead.

She's fun and fun-loving and much more open to new things than ever I am. Sometimes I feel like I let her down, which is doubly new to me--that I feel the need to live up to her, and that I actually care that I might disappoint her.

I believe almost nothing, certainly nothing of what people claim to take on faith, where she believes almost everything. There are dozens and dozens of doctrinal issues we disagree about, but none of them matters. First, because, like me, she is happy enough to manage her own mind and doesn't feel the need to assert control over anyone else's. And second because we are in complete agreement about everything that matters--honesty, integrity, character, and an elemental goodness, grace and beauty.

I talk to her all day, every day--face to face, cell phone to cell phone, mouth to ear. For hours in the car, for seconds on the phone, for a need to touch, a need to share, a need to be together, a wish to be connected, a desire never to be too far apart. Triumph calls and joke calls and time out of the day to meet at Starbucks for lattes and eye-talk. Where she is is home to me, and the fact is that I never had a home until I knew her.

You can read all about our tender coming together here. But the fact is that I'm a writer, and I can make anything painfully beautiful. If you wonder, wonder, wonder, wonder who, who wrote the book on love--it was me.

But the secret to love, I think, a secret I learned late enough in life to truly appreciate it, is not this set of characteristics or that flavor of doctrinal accord or this appearance or that achievement. The secret to love is to find someone you cannot bear to be away from for long, and who brings you a peace you know nowhere else. Love is not love--where it is not a substantial and enduring improvement over solitude. There is nothing to be found in characteristics or doctrine or appearance or credentials that will make you want to stay when you want nothing more than to get away. And none of those things matter, in the end, when you're with that one person you never yearn to escape.

Find that and the rest comes easy...

SplendorQuest: The Passion of Mel Gibson...

"I don't trust Gibson an iota." So says Andrew Sullivan in a scurrilous attack--not just on Mel Gibson but on the people who have united with him in this idiotic dust-up over The Passion of the Christ.

First, it's important to understand that the supposed controversy is an ADL fundraiser, much like Martha Burke's antics at Augusta National Golf Course last year. This time it's beneficial for both parties, so they both stand to gain by fanning the flames. Always, Juvenal insists, "Cui bono?"--"Who profits?"

But second, it is fruitful to acknowledge that Gibson isn't laying claim to an allegiance he has not earned. With films like Braveheart and We Were Soldiers, Mel Gibson speaks right at the audiences that the rest of Hollywood holds in such huge contempt. Not every work in the man's corpus is monumentally important, but none of them spits in the face of people who live by human values. If Fundamentalist Christians are lining up to see a movie that opens on the red-letter day of Craven Catholic Idolatry, it's because Gibson has already--always--met them more than half way.

The fact is, The Passion of the Christ is only political--right now--for those who are trying to make political capital out of it. The actual experience of the film will be excruciatingly (pun intended; look it up) Catholic, and yet it will exclude no one--not the Fundamentalists, not the Jews and most especially not our friends still enmired in the anti-human dogmas of the East. The actual political impact of the The Passion will be huge and enduring--this because portable DVD players can be purchased in bulk for less than $100 each. But this immediate imbroglio, on which the eternally gutless Sullivan seeks to hang his hat, will have blown over two weeks from today.

The most intelligent thing I have ever read on the internet, the beam amongst the motes, is Sarah Fitz-Claridge's observation that, "A refusal to take sides between right and wrong always entails siding with wrong against right." The story of the Nazarene is the story of Socrates--the story of the West: Each individual person has the moral right to stand for his truth against any mob, even unto death. The Christians gave the story a drama accessible to everyone, and St. Paul spread that story to everyone accessible to him. Whatever their faults, the early Christians were willing to stand up for the West when the Romans were too spent to do anything but side with wrong against right.

We are in much that same situation today, with the modern Christians being the only organized exponents of the West willing to stand up for right against wrong. Mel Gibson is their Paul, and gladly will they go forth and multiply, armed with the most amazingly accessible story of the West ever devised. This is the War on Terror, the one most people will miss because they're too busy watching the ever-more-irrelevant TV news, too busy divining portents from ever-more-irrelevant pundits like Sullivan.

The West is reason, not faith. But where reason cowers--spent, for the moment, like the fifth century Romans--faith aspires. Where the alleged advocates of reason have no answer to make to Islamism--no answer but quavering moral relativism, siding always with wrong against right--the Christians endure, stout of heart and ever emboldened by their faith. If you insist that they are only partly right, and only accidentally right at that, I will retort, "What an astoundingly happy accident for the West!"

And so I do trust Mel Gibson. His means, motives and ends are not mine, but I am very happy to have him fighting this battle for the West, this pitched political struggle so much larger than can ever be contained on a TV screen, so much larger than can ever be apprehended by a mind the size of Sullivan's. Telling the story of the West--by telling the story of Socrates--by telling the story of the Nazarene--is not the end of the War on Terror, it is only the beginning. But it is the true beginning of the real war.

That Gibson embodies that story--one man against the frenzied mob--in his quest to tell it is the perfect symmetry of True Art in Real Life. But that Gibson has the moral courage to side with right against wrong, to back that courage with his wealth, to withstand the onslaughts of that mob, and to lead those who share his convictions but might lack his boundless resolve--this is the Real Life that becomes the True Art of the West.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Anti-evolution asserts itself...

Understanding anti-evolution, step-by-step:

1. My wife Cathy has been feeding feral cats in our neighborhood, depriving them of the natural evolutionary process of starvation. Denying them, even, of the opportunity to prey on some other sucker. She did not try to adopt the feral cats, to her credit, first because we already have seven cats, and second because they're feral--which means skittish and really good at drawing blood.

2. One of the feral kittens, to get warm, climbed into the fan housing of my wife's car.

3. The next morning, Cathy thumped the stuffing out of that kitten while trying to start her car.

4. Greg, the strong, silent type, wrestled the ding-dong kitten out of the fan housing.

5. Greg, because he really, really likes having sex and wants to continue having sex, did not strangle the kitten, even though it was sliding right under death's door.

6. Instead, Cathy rushed the thumped-up kitten off to the vet.

7. The vet didn't kill the kitten either, even though he doesn't get to have sex with my wife.

8. Many weeks and many, many dollars later, the kitten was released from the veterinary hospital.

9. Because it is a feral kitten, completely unsocialized, my wife spent a lot more money on it on the way home from the vet.

10. Then she fell in love with it and gave it (her) a name: Nero Marquina.

11. Now we have eight cats.

12. Even so, the free food continues for the neighborhood feral cats, more and more of them every day...

Monday, February 16, 2004
Evolution asserts itself...

Arguably, the human mind in an anti-evolutionary device. In the wilds of nature, crippled antelope and deaf zebras are catfood, but human beings craft canes and tin-horn hearing aids just as soon as they rise above the subsistence level. As human economies rise, so do the amazing--and amazingly anti-survival-of-the-fittest--technologies they devise. And yet there lies within that kernel of human ingenuity the seed of its contrary, the invention of ingenious ways of ridding the species of those among us who should not survive to breed. Consider this article from the Scotsman:
A new craze for inhaling alcohol was today attacked by medical experts as a potential danger that could cause brain damage.

Drinks including vodka and absinthe can be “snorted” into the nose or inhaled into the mouth through a tube using a new device known as an Alcohol Without Liquid (AWOL) vaporiser.

Scientists estimate that the effects of the alcohol can be felt much quicker as it is directly absorbed through blood vessels in the nose or lungs – bypassing the stomach and liver.

Bristol bar Il Bordello became the first venue to offer its customers the device last week and owner Liz Lewitt said it had proved a hit with drinkers.

The inventor of the Awol machine, Dominic Simler, claims this method of consuming alcohol reduces the effects of a hangover and is calorie-free.

But alcohol experts described the device as “diabolical” and warned that inhaling alcohol could cause serious brain damage.

Professor Oliver James, head of clinical medical sciences at Newcastle University, said: “By snorting the alcohol it can go directly into the brain without being filtered by the liver.

“What is getting into your brain could be the equivalent of many times more than by drinking it.

“This will not only make you very drunk very quickly but is also likely to increase the risk of direct alcohol damage to the brain. This could do irreversible damage to nerves, lead to swelling and possibly lead to dementia in the long term.”
You might shake your head in awe at the stupidity of the people who would use this device, but what you are witnessing might be the birth of the perfect and permanent cure for stupidity...