Saturday, December 20, 2008

wewitnessedtheapocalypse classic

I'm going to post some painful old diary entries here, from the days when my online diaries went by a series of other, long forgotten names.

[A face is closing in on your face!]
[What will you do?]

[Take evasive action]


[Submit to be kissed on the mouth?]


You turn your face just in time to prevent the oncoming lips from brushing up against your lips. The lips press harmlessly up against your cheek.

You are standing outside of the Astor Place train stop.

An Asian man in a blonde jacket coat is studying your face.


Your eyes remain fixed on a broken segment of sidewalk.


"Good night." says the Asian man.


You are already standing outside the subway.


As you start heading north toward the subway station, the Asian man continues walking alongside you.


"I'm going to the PATH train," he says.


You walk down the stairs to the platform. It's cold and bright and lonely. You return home on the train and spend the night haunted by what might have been.

********************GAME OVER***************************

Score: 0/250



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Morgenthau on Realism

Realism maintains that universal moral principles cannot be applied to the actions of states in their abstract universal formulation, but that they must be filtered through the concrete circumstances of time and place. The individual may say for himself: "Fiat justitia, pereat mundus (Let justice be done, even if the world perish)," but the state has no right to say so in the name of those who are in its care. Both individual and state must judge political action by universal moral principles, such as that of liberty. Yet while the individual has a moral right to sacrifice himself in defense of such a moral principle, the state has no right to let its moral disapprobation of the infringement of liberty get in the way of successful political action, itself inspired by the moral principle of national survival. There can be no political morality without prudence; that is, without consideration of the political consequences of seemingly moral action. Realism, then, considers prudence-the weighing of the consequences of alternative political actions-to be the supreme virtue in politics. Ethics in the abstract judges action by its conformity with the moral law; political ethics judges action by its political consequences. Classical and medieval philosophy knew this, and so did Lincoln when he said:

I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I went to see Lost in Translation at Cinema Village with a girl named Karen. Karen had inhumanly large, slightly distended, milky-blue eyes. Afterward, we walked to Union Square, and then to the Cedar Tavern on University Place. We agreed that the movie had been useless and that it fell into the second category of things that should be abhorred: there were things that deserved to be hated, and then there were the things so hateful that you had to hate anyone who liked them. I explained to her that the only way I could experience love for one thing was by hating other things, that the people I loved reminded me to hate others: they were a reminder of the way things could be, but weren't. I told her that all of the things that were really meant to happen between people had a way of happening, and by this I specified a special category of things that one could not do otherwise. I still believed in this category of thing, though I had not myself experienced it. The insinuation, and also the thought, was that this might be one of those things. She had caramel colored hair that always looked a bit fried, and was wearing a high-necked sweater. She was small and lemur-like, all eyes and hands, and had grown up in a farm in South Dakota. I told her that the Masters and Johnson survey had found that as many as 40 percent of all rural males had had sexual contact with an animal. I told her that I had a habit of losing my erection whenever a woman was on the verge of climax. I told her that I defied all of the stereotypes that were imposed on Asian males. I was not studious, for instance, and I could hold my liquor. There was only one way that I resembled other Asian men, and that was, of course, that I had a very small penis.

We had met in an apartment in what we were still then calling East Williamsburg, by the Morgan stop, and a a 5 am, we had danced to a Smiths LP. Later she would tell me that I had seemed at once bored and expectant. At that at hour, in our condition, it had seemed like, together, we had become the still point of the turning world. The sun was setting and it was early fall, and now the magic was gone. Later, she would tell me that I had seemed on that occasion, both bored and expectant, which seemed to me an unfair, and an unperceptive, account of my mood. Three months later, she was engaged to be married. The Cedar Tavern, established 1866, and once host to generations of total fakers who banded together and inscribed their names, simply by default, into the annals of our cultural history, is now a seven story luxury condominium.

Further commentary on: Game Theory

I genuinely liked the Game guys. I recommend the book without equivocation or disclaimer to anyone who is curious about it. It has the quality of being immediately, and continuously engrossing that not many books, serious or popular, possess. Anyone who starts it will finish it in two days after marathon reading sessions. It is one at one and the same time, one of those naked fragments of painful truth that popular culture is always producing -- like the show "To Catch A Predator," or the career of Britney Spears, or the candidacy of Sarah Palin -- and a reasonably intelligent, self-aware, and always ingratiating account of the things it stands for that knows how to draw its readers, even the ones inclined to despise it, into a temporary complicity with itself. I have made the analogy between the Game and the 9/11 Commission Report: they are non-literary texts that provide much of what we turn to literature to provide, often through an unintentional series of elisions of perspective that take on the quality of literature.

I told the Voice reporter who was asking me about my piece, and who wanted to know the extent to which my researches were confined to the theoretical, that I hadn't, in fact, applied any of the methods taught in the Game, but had instead, absorbed a "whole ethos of approaching life as one of manipulating others to do our will." I was kidding, or exaggerating, of course, but there was an element of truth to it.

The Rousseauist egalitarianism of television and the wide-eyed, sentimental idealism of our American youths -- steeped in ideals of innocence, and true sincerity, liberal perfectionism, bourgeois moralism, and unmediated love -- do not withstand the test of life. I discovered, at 30, the Maxims of La Rochefoucauld, and found in this jaded 17th century French aristocrat and Frondeur, a guide through the vicissitudes of life, and the hypocrises of people . I feel at home with him in a way that I do with only a few other writers:

He helped me to find bearable things that I hadn't been equipped to deal with about life in a place like New York. And in their own homespun, autodidactic, nerdy way, the Game shows people their own world as it is in a way that has palpable and immediate value to them. It also equips them to destroy themselves and become complicit in their own misshaping and the further misshaping of the world -- the difference between a critical and a positivist system-- so the book has to be read at the proper distance, but also with the right intellectual framework. That's what I was groping for in my Game piece.

Further commentary on: The Face of Seung Hui Cho

There didn't seem to be much to say about the Virginia Tech shootings. A mentally ill person went on a rampage, as mentally ill people will sometimes do. The independent variable was that he had such ready access to guns. You could talk about gun control, violence in popular culture, or the ways we have failed to provide for the care of the mentally ill. There was something to each of these points, but they all had a rehearsed, formulaic quality when you read about them. Any effort to yoke this thing to some larger agenda felt forced. There was, for instance, an extremely lame attempt by right wing bloggers to link "Ismail Ax" (a cryptic term that Cho had written) to Islamic terrorism. The temptation was to conclude that this was an essentially meaningless event, without any larger significance beyond itself.

It was my feeling that the event actually enacted something about the structure of American society -- something so apparent that no one could see it. Not something that could be read in terms of reform, or of moral outrage, but about the way it felt to confront a society of open opportunity, where your own actions determined your fate, and your own actions could make you, if you were an elegant, smiling, self-possessed, brilliant, handsome, but then also unthreatening, person with a preternaturally cool demeanor and a heart full of idealism tempered by wisdom and pragmatism, into the President of the United States, even if you had come from nowhere and had started as nobody; and it could also lead you, if you were a weak, wounded, stunted, sickly soul, into a position of total and unmitigated isolation, even though there were people whose job it was to care about you and care for you.

We celebrate winners, but a society conceived in these terms is premised on the existence of losers; people who try to make it but can't, people who don't have what it takes to earn a place for themselves; people who have earned their total exclusion from life as surely as others have earned their place at the center of it. Let us call them the untalented tenth. And since we aren't comfortable with this fact, we don't want to look at the losers, even if we know something about what those people felt and knew; especially because we do. To evoke some of this feeling, I found it necessary to go beyond the usual commentary and try to involve the reader in some of the internal turmoil of youth, particularly male youth, and to remind everyone of the aspects of Cho's predicament that are expressed all around us, every day of our lives. Cho wanted, above all, to be looked at and regarded as the things he was not: strong, manly, and capable; and he fantasized into existence a shadow life, fashioned out of the detritus of American popular culture, in which the same fantasies of the besieged self rising up to smite down a sea of enemies are in constant circulation. What desire is gratified by these images? And don't they arise from out of the matrix of our everyday lives? The experiment I attempted in this piece -- and its success or failure is for others to judge -- was to see if I could make that connection.

Friday, December 5, 2008

On torture in the Abu Dhabi National

Monday, December 1, 2008