Surreally Seducted: Damn You Salvador Dalí!

One monkey promoting the ceaseless propagation of useless crap on the internets since a long time ago.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

On growing up American...

I asked my mom last week whether she believed that parents were the problem with America. She criticized me for blaming parents for everything. What I really meant was whether parents were the problem with American schools. She agreed. But that's not the point of this.

I'm not an expert in sociology or education. In the 1950's and early 60's, it seems as though national pride and patriotism were riding at a high, or so it seems looking back on that time. Sure, there were fuckups (Bay of Pigs, atomic spy rings, and so forth), but there was a common enemy throughout the nation, and that "enemy" was in fact driving us to national excellence. If you wanted children to succeed, all you would have to do was tell them that it was a competition against the Soviets. The nation was challenged to succeed by its leaders.

Now, there is no common nation-state as an enemy. We "won" the cold war, but, as has been said everywhere else, the loss of a common enemy has really hurt the country. Which is rather ironic, as we were all sure that the fall of the Soviet Union would be the start of world peace and prosperity. Oops. Well, now we have our schools, most of which are failing the children miserably. Underfunded, underenjoyed, underperforming. I've discussed the underfunded part before, but I wanted to think about how to make schools perform better. First, get rid of the tests. Teach kids how to read. Encourage colleges to produce teachers. Expand Teach for America. Anyhow, more thoughts later. I suppose the big question is: "What's changed in education since 1950, 1960, 1970, and what can we do about it?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

In which the author pleads the case for payment...

As Tweedlegirl probably noticed last year, and as my family probably has noticed, I work much better and more focused when I am working for someone than when I am working for myself. For instance, my thesis. By all accounts, a disaster. I worked hard on it, yes, but it was too little too late. Also, the amount of oversight was probably what you would call absolutely nil. At the same time, I was working on a research project for a professor. The amount of work I did on that? Tre-frickin-mendous. Probably worked more hours on that than I actually billed. I even enjoyed it.

Another explanation? I was working on something that already had quite a bit of work done on it. Maybe I don't like starting things from scratch, or on anything where theres no guidance. Or maybe I just work harder when there is a direct benefit. I have a feeling that's not the case. I work just as hard for stuff my friends ask me to help out on as I do for work. I like being responsible for helping others, but not so much for helping myself.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Tipping and Toppling

A friend of mine sent me to this consulting group's website today.

My gut reaction? I wanted to vomit. My stomach tightened, my throat got dry, I think I even tasted bile. The idea is that someone pays $2000 or $3000 to these guys so that they can critique their applications to the top schools. The big problem? This harkens back to the early 1900's (and what its like today). Who is going to pay $3000? The same people who get their kids into the top preschools. The people who work at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Skadden Arps. The people who don't spend enough time with their kids to find out what they really want, but are willing to spend as much money so that their kids can be what they want. Plus, this says nothing that your kid will be successful, only that they will have someone who worked really hard and was smart read their college application.

This post was supposed to be about balance. I had the honor of sitting through a Jack Welch speech the other day, and while I disagree with him on many things, I do agree with him on one thing: balance. For each person, it's different. For me, balance could be working hard, playing golf, and being with Tweedlegirl as much as possible. She's first, golf is second-ish, and work shares second with golf. For someone else, recreation could be a distant second, work a first, and the significant other an even more distant third. Is their a better balance? I'd say yes, but that it depends on each situation.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Sleep in Perfect Blue Buildings

I've posted before about depression and art. But what of depression and living? For instance, over the past couple of days I've noticed how not depressed I've been of late. I have a great girl, a great job, my golf game is better than it's been in a long time, and things are going well overall. But still... still... sometimes it seems a part of me is missing. Not that I used to be depressed depressed (well sometimes, I suppose). Was it because I wanted people to feel sorry for me? I have no idea. Do I want to go back there? I don't know. Usually the depression was precipitated by some event. I don't want any of those events to occur right now. It's inevitable that some event at some point will set me back into a depressive state. But the other night I woke up in a cold sweat (ed.: corrected) thinking thoughts about a certain event that would set me back. These thoughts are incredibly thorough: the event is incredibly detailed, sometimes involves me directly, and extends into the future. Anyhow, this post, like every other post I've written, has lost its steam (as has by train of thought choo chooooooooo). Just noticing that some people can seem a little unhappy because they are happy. Weird, huh?

UPDATE: Thinking more about this, I remember wondering why I couldn't be happy all the time, and lamenting the fact that other people could while I couldn't. Now, when I'm happy all the time, I lament the fact that I'm happy all the time. That's funny.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Hill of shadows

As you leave town, you descend into the arms of the trees below. From the top of the hill, it looks like a valley of red-yellow-green clouds. It's downhill all the way, or at least that's how it feels. Two different sea-levels, both at the same altitude but one downhill of the other. Downhill to see your angel. Keep driving down.

The return is filled with dark. Fingers reach down from heaven. Dark fingers reach down into the lighter darkness of night. A million drops of sadness fall as you climb upwards back into the real world. You kneel in front of the alter and place your hands down in front of you. A heavy weight holds you down as you try to rise. You shut your eyes and pray to roll down hill.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

FEAR ME!!

Listening to NPR on the way home, there was some talk about the US, John Bolton (the president's pick for UN ambassador), and the place of the US in the world.

WE'RE A FUCKING SUPERPOWER. YOU WILL DO WHAT WE WANT. WHEN WE SAY JUMP, YOU WILL JUMP. YOU WILL NOT ASK HOW HIGH. YOU WILL JUMP AS HIGH AS YOU CAN, AND WHEN THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH, YOU WILL KNEEL, PROSTRATE BEFORE US, AND APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR SHORTCOMINGS.

But what is a superpower? According to The American Heritage Dictionary, a superpower is "A powerful and influential nation, especially a nuclear power that dominates its allies or client states in an international power bloc." Let's translate this into cynical English. A superpower is any nation that has devised the most technological way to kill the most people.

Funnily, or not so much, we think the ones with the most weapons are the ones who should get to decide the policy of the world. Tyranny of the majority and all that. Because God is on our side. It's nationalistic pride like this that got the Nazis into power. Under the current US policy, it would be impossible to charge anyone with war crimes. We haven't accepted the Hague Treaty.

WE'RE SOVEREIGN GODDAMMIT! WE CAN HANDLE OUR OWN. IF THE TIME CAME WHERE WE NEEDED TO CHARGE ONE OF OUR OWN WITH WAR CRIMES, WE'D INVESTIGATE IT TO THE FULLEST. WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' WORLD COMMUNITY! FUCK 'EM. WE GOT NUKES.

So, looking back, do you think the German's understood how far gone their leadership was during World War II? On the surface? Deep down, in those places we never speak about, do we think they knew then? Would we have trusted them to handle their own mess? Yeah, I didn't think so.

We're citizens of the US. At least some of us. However, we all inhabit the same planet. Blah blah blah. It sounds all earthy crunchy. And it's not very winning-oriented. There's a time to say fuck you to your competitors, and there's a time not to. But we're America, and you should fear us. Because we could blow you up. And then blow you up again. And then blow you up another time, just for good measure.

A Blister

"No one is allowed to be so proud To never reach out when they're giving up"

It's been a while since I've posted. Not for any fault of yours, reader, but for my own shortcomings of the mind, and the world's shortcoming of time. I have taken less than 7 hours of sleep for the last 9 days without any weekends. Right now, my brain is slightly fried. Creativity? Destoried. Lots of repititititition last week, so there isn't all that experience for me to build on. So hopefully I'll get some good thoughts to create this weekend.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Dis-similar

I'm at Disney right now, and I've realized something shocking. Shocking. Shocking I tell you.

I was in Vegas last year. I found it strangely depressing. Well not so strangely. Between the massive (obese?) scale of the whole thing, and the scores of people literally tied to slot machines.

Disney is Vegas, without the gambling. Instead of slot machines, you get people tied to children.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Matchbook

I lit a match. She glowered across the table. The match burnt my finger and I put it out in my water. I was silent. My fault for sure. Headlights and brakelights flickered like flames through the rain stained window as the sun tried to beat its way through the clouds.

"You haven't said a word all dinner. You haven't said anything all day. You haven't said anything all weekend. What the fuck is wrong with you?"
I remained silent. I wasn't going to play her mind games. Maybe I was a little drunk. But I hadn't been drunk all weekend. I lit a match, and dropped it in my water. God, the match smelled good. She had smelled good too when I met her. Now, she stank of everything everyone had been telling me. I finally forced words out of my mouth. I forced the conversation. We talked about the weather again. I lit another match. She forced a sad smile. She was dumping me, but I hated myself. I hadn't done anything. Had I? The self-loathing ate at my soul like a parasite. I catalogued the errors. Remember the Iliad? The pages of ships and armor and gruesome ways to die held nothing to the ways in which I measured myself. I lit a match every time I thought of something else. She got up from the table. I lit a match. She came back. I burned my finger. I tried to apologize. I tried to talk. I bit my tongue, lit a match, and put it out in the water. Our meal was supposed to be a welcome relief. The lights from the cars lit through the window like a disco ball reflected and refracted onto the cold bowl of cereal in front of me. The lights passed on. The sun had surely set by now. I reached for another match, but the book was empty so I tossed it away. We finished the rest of our meal in silence.

Days later, after she left and the power came back on, I found the matchbook on the floor under the window. Written in her girlish scrawl were the words "I'm sorry. I still love you."