Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Two More Reasons not to Visit Atlanta

Out of the many thousands of reasons not to visit Atlanta, two more emerged this week. I would particularly recommend that college students make a point of enrolling elsewhere.

My advice: if you've never been to Atlanta, don't bother. Take it from someone who spent forty years of his life there.

Update: Another day, another college student shooting, only this time, the college student shot and killed one of his would be attackers (oh, sweet justice). Would that he had killed them both. This all occurred in College Park, a suburb south of the city. For those not from Atlanta, if you must send your kids to school in "the Big A," for God's sake, don't set them up in College Park. There are no colleges in, around, or near, College Park. A misnomer, much like Peachtree Street (no peaches).

And yes, full disclosure (as the journalists so annoyingly say) I not only grew up in Atlanta, but went to college there as well (Ga Tech). But nobody ever shot me, and I never shot anybody either. Salad days.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Up Next: Exhalation Tax

If you drop in here from time to time, you may have noticed that I haven't posted much recently. Part of this has been a matter of time (my wife returned to work in the fall), part the normal lethargy or apathy or whatever it is that plagues us, but part of it is also that I sort of fell into a discussion group on economic and political matters with some old friends in Atlanta, one of whom has an architectural practice, another of whom recently reached the breaking point and quit his job as a quite successful institutional stock broker (I don't think he'll have to worry about money for a while), and the third of which is a recently retired engineering professor, who also holds a PhD in physics, and who is father to the first two.

My participation in these discussions, I realized this morning, has siphoned off whatever (admittedly meager) initiative I had for posting here. So, rather than redoubling my efforts, I've decided simply to post some of my emailed comments to them here. I'll no doubt alter them editorially here and there to protect anonymity or enhance clarity. I happened to fire off to them the following this morning:

Well, this should help, since, as we all know, we're in imminent danger of drowning in rising seas.

I think something along the following lines would cut through a lot of the bullshit on this issue. I'm not an expert on global warming, nor are 99.999999999999999999999% of the people who comment with such assurance on this issue, including more than a few scientists.

Let's put it this way, if Al Gore is right, and global warming, or if you prefer the more current phraseology "climate change" (since the data suggest that the climate may now be cooling) . . . anyway, if this phenomenon is a) the near apocalyptic threat that it is made out to be, and is b) man-made (or if you prefer, "human made," although "human" is actually an adjective), and is c) most specifically the result of economic activity, then what we should all be praying for is a) a global economic collapse that b) lasts as a long as possible, and is as severe as possible, and that c) ultimately results in a winnowing of the human infestation plaguing our ecosystem.

Are our prayers being answered?

In other words, I'm still waiting for some politician to point out the "inconvenient truth" that we're lucky to be undergoing the current economic crisis, that unemployment is now a good thing, widespread business failures are an even better thing, and that the outbreak of several desperate, genocidal, large-scale wars might be just what the planet ordered. Now that's a guy I could vote for, simply on the grounds that he'd have to have balls the size of two geographically correct globes.

You might also enjoy this.

ps: I also bought a motor scooter recently, which has occupied my attention. See, I am trying to save the planet after all.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Idle Hands . .

Spring Break begins today, a Saturday. A blessed relief?

Saturday took me away from the shop, away from the Scherzhauserfeld Project, and back into a state of melancholy. Even before I had left the project, silence had fallen upon it, broken only by the rattle of crockery and cutlery to be heard through the windows, a silence that meant one thing: it is Saturday, nobody is at work, people are lying around in their apartments on their sofas or their beds, not knowing what to do with their free time. The afternoon silence lasted until three, when they began to quarrel, and then some of them would rush out of their houses and into the open air, very often swearing and screaming, desperation written all over their faces. I always felt that Saturday afternoon was a dangerous time for everyone. The mood of desperation, to which most of the inhabitants fell victim to the most alarming extent, resulted from dissatisfaction with themselves and with everything and everybody, as well as from the sudden awareness that they were being exploited and that their lives were entirely pointless. Most people are used to their work, to some kind of regular occupation; and when work stops they momentarily lose their sense of purpose and succumb to a state of morbid despair. This is as true of the individual as it is of the mass. They imagine that they are recouping their energy, but in reality they find themselves in a vacuum, and this drives them half-demented. The result is that on Saturday afternoons they get the maddest ideas and everything they attempt turns out unsatisfactorily. They start moving furniture around--wardrobes and chests of drawers, tables and armchairs, even their beds. They take their clothes out on their balconies to brush them, and they clean their shoes as if they had suddenly gone mad. The women get up on the window-sills, and the men go down to the cellar and stir up the dust with their brooms. Whole families take it into their heads that they must tidy up their living quarters, and so they fall upon the contents of their apartments and try to make order, but they succeed only in creating disorder in their minds. Or else they take to their beds and nurse their ailments, taking refuge in their diseases, permanent diseases which they become aware of again on Saturday afternoons when work is over. The doctors know all about this and are more in demand on Saturday afternoons than at any other time. When work stops, the diseases start; there are sudden pains, the well-known Saturday headache, the Saturday afternoon palpitations, fainting fits, outbreaks of fury. The diseases are suppressed and assuaged during the week by working or being occupied in some way. On Saturday afternoon, they make themselves felt again, and the sufferer is at once thrown off balance. And if he has stopped work at midday and become aware soon afterwards of his true situation, which is in every case a hopeless situation, no matter who he is, what he is, or where he is, he has to admit to himself that he is unhappy, even if to others he pretends the opposite. The fact that there are a few happy people who are not thrown off balance by Saturday only proves the rule. Fundamentally Saturday is a day people fear even more than Sunday, for on Saturday they know that Sunday is still to come, and Sunday is the most terrible day of all; but Sunday is followed by Monday, a working day, and this makes it endurable. Saturday is frightful, Sunday is terrible, and Monday brings release. To pretend that this is not so is malevolent and stupid.

--Thomas Bernhard, Gathering Evidence

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Unsettling

Once, long ago, very long ago, it was with a sense of joy that I sat down at my desk to write. Next, it was merely with a certain pleasure. Later, it was with indifference, out of habit and even with a sort of boredom. Later still, when I was writing dozens of pages of a journal devoted to the arguments I had with my former friends who were becoming Fascists or Nazis or Iron Guards, I would sit down at my desk despite a certain reluctance. Today, the thought that I've got to write fills me with sheer horror. Today, when I begin to write, there stirs within me an even keener and more intolerable awareness of the tragedy, the danger, the universal anguish, and I long to escape, to divert my mind, to forget it all.
--Eugene Ionesco, Fragments of a Journal

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Naked Light of Sunday

As the shadows lengthen to the solstice, we take our comforts - and our excitements - where they may be found. Last Saturday, I watched one of the best college football games I've ever seen. Amid the sleet and rain of a "winter-mix" as the meteorologists term it, Missouri and Kansas went all out for a full four quarters. Kansas, the underdog, playing with a banged up roster, including their quarterback, who could barely lift his arm at the beginning of the week, took the lead early and held it through most of the game. Missouri, playing with their own share of injured starters, manging to fight their way back into the game, then take the lead on a series of gut plays. The final six and a half minutes featured four touchdowns, each of which resulted in a change of lead. Missouri lost on the last play of the game, a 53 yard field goal attempt. As the cliche-mongers have it, it was a shame that one team had to lose.

The Atlanta Falcons, who some predicted wouldn't win a game this season, are now 8 - 4 under a new coach, Mike Smith, and led by a new quarterback, Matt Ryan, who has to be the frontrunner for rookie of the year. What a difference one season makes, leaving behind the debacle of Vick, Harrington, and Pettrino.

And for those of you old enough to remember the 70s era Pittsburg Steelers, this may bring back some memories.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Volunteers of America


"When you choose to serve -- whether it's your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood -- you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans. That's why it's called the American dream."

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

1. Does it not seem ironic that voluntary service, which so embodies the "fundamental American ideal," is about to be made mandatory, evidently under the rubric of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?"

2.Do you not suppose that service in the newly-formed Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, Veterans Corps, and Classroom Corps might involve some measure of political indoctrination, along with the doing of good deeds? Is not the requirement that one serve in such organizations itself a form of political indoctrination, as it implies that one's talents, energies, and ambitions are owed to, and owned by, the state?

3. Do you not suspect that a current or future administration might channel "volunteers" into such organizations as will serve the interests and/or political priorities of that administration?

4. Do you not wonder on what grounds, constitutionally, the Federal Government may assume the power to "require" students, or anyone else, to engage in "community service?"

5. Does it not seem preferable that private citizens, rather than the Federal Government, decide which types of charitable or state organizations, if any, they shall contribute their time and effort to?

6. Are you not curious as to what may happen to skeptical or reluctant citizens wishing to opt out of such "service?" Will they then be opting out of a high school or college education as well?

7. Do you not wonder in what ways retirees will be "encouraged" to join the volunteer ranks?

8. Does it not seem significant that these "volunteer" programs are to begin with middle and high school students, who cannot vote, and college students, a demographic particularly predisposed to "faith" in the president-elect?

9. Does it not seem an irony of historical proportions that -- while involuntary servitude under private landownders is taken to be America's "original sin" -- our nation's first African-American president plans to institute a program of involuntary servitude, only this time under the authority of the state?

10. Do you not wonder if somehow, somewhere, Orwell is smiling, not with pleasure, but recognition?

"Hey now its time for you and me
Got a revolution got to revolution
Come on now were marching to the sea
Got a revolution got to revolution
Who will take it from you
We will and who are we
We are volunteers of america"

-Jefferson Airplane

Addendum: In the past twenty-four hours, Obama's website has changed the wording of this post to read, "Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free."

Here is a screenshot of the CHANGE.GOV post in its original form.