Theoretical Applications of Your Mom

29 10 2010

Your mom is so fat, Dora can’t explore her.


How Torts Can Make You Dolorous

29 10 2010

Studying the duty of owners or operators of property to various classes of people on their property–trespassers, licensees, and invitees, including social guests–I came across one subclass of trespassers, “tolerated intruders.” Man, that bummed me out. Just the phrase. A tolerated intruder is a person whom the owner of the property knows is trespassing but whom he allows to trespass through indifference. I was reminded of our neighbor in elementary school who used to let me and my sister cut through his backyard to get home quicker from school. We were “tolerated intruders.”

In an indifferent world, it is easy to come to feel like a tolerated intruder. In a world where we are powerless, lacking meaningful agency, object to carefree agents, how alienating to even just be. Better to be a true trespasser–an intruder, bursting with agency and purpose. But only the few can claim to be even that, much less to be an owner and operator. It is their world. I’m just a tolerated intruder. The moment I read that phrase, it felt devastatingly appropriate. I, who saltate along, a tolerated intruder.

This in turn reminded me of a poem–my second favorite poem–that I first read as a freshman in high school, at the same time I started reading The Selfish Gene. This was a bad combination for a sensitive and moody adolescent. That poem is by none other than the effervescent, happy-go-lucky author of The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane:

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”

Thanks Stephen.

It occurs to me that, at that same time, I would have just bought this record:

A smile on the lips, and a hole in the head.

O! Would Some Power the Giftie Give Us

28 10 2010

I am good. I am charming. I am kind, loving, attractive, tolerant, tall, talented, hilarious, respected, dear.
I am awful. I am cloying. I am indifferent, cruel, fat, hateful, average, mediocre, tedious, a joke, forgettable.

Would some power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us?

My favorite novel, Albert Camus’ The Fall, is unceasing and merciless in its critique of bourgeois society and the need–the insatiable hunger–to be seen in the appropriate way by others. Not to be, but be seen. In the era of social media personas, this has been brutally accelerated. People manage several personalities, innumerable groups and spheres of “friends” of varying qualitative distinctions.

In The Fall, which is written in a cruel second person narrative style, the protagonist–and antagonist–is a well-respected Parisian attorney, Clamence, who has cut his respectable moorings and spends his times in a trashy Amsterdam red-light district bar, pontificating. He addresses us–me–and lays out how he came to deny his bourgeois respectability and accept his venality. All of the events he cites are instances of feeling public shame or negative judgment. In particular–the story that stuck with me–is the story about how he tries to politely confront a man on a motorcycle who is holding up traffic. The man gets irritable and strikes Clamence, who doesn’t respond in kind before his attacker drives off. Clamence can’t shake it, even though,

If I had been the friend of truth and intelligence I claimed to be, what would that episode have mattered to me? It was already forgotten by those who had witnessed it.

In this one passage, Camus sums up so much of what tortures so many of us. Perhaps me in particular–but I think more of us than would care to admit it. Including, I am sure, my family, friends, lovers, who flit and purr and coo and feign, in the ugliest way, sincerity; here we all are, in different circumstances perhaps, but ultimately stewing about the meaningless enemy and the meaningless shame we suffered nowhere but in our own minds. Nearly always, those who shrug the most to the judgment of others are those who most see themselves solely through the eyes of others. Those who insist most on their carefree agency are typically most enslaved to an artificial construction of themselves presented to a world that is savagely, or mercifully, indifferent to their existence.

Oh, would some power the gift give us.
Read the rest of this entry »

Big Sister Advantage

25 10 2010

Locked in hug jail.

I’m 3 pop culture years older than my age. This is because I had a cool older sister. The advantages of a cool sister are many, but the first one I was aware of was my disproportionate pop culture reach. I knew about all types of things a year or two before many of my friends because I not only had a big sister, but because she was cool.

When my parents brought me home from the hospital on September 27th, 1981, they handed me to my big sister, almost three years old.

“Here,” they told her, “This is yours.”

From that day on, she acted like I belonged to her. She was very attentive to how my parents treated me, and she would demand things all the time. Most often, she’d call me into her room and tell me me to make her laugh because she was bored. Thinking I was her property also gave a her a sense of entitlement; once my parents walked in on her drinking my formula, with her finger in my mouth to keep me from crying. When I turned six, she asked me what my favorite color was. When I said it was red, she told me I had to change it because you had to change your favorite color every year on your birthday. This was after our mom asked me my favorite color so she could decorate the kitchen in that color for my party. Are you imaging sad, adorable baby Ramsin right now? Good, I was adorable.


But I had a deeper big sister advantage. Our parents came to the United States just a year before my sister was born. They came from a tumultuous Middle Eastern country, members of a persecuted ethnic and Christian minority with a recent, tragic past. They were well-educated, but America was about as foreign as a place could get for them. It was freedom, but it was also terrifying. The very freedom, in fact, could seem like a threat. Assyrians, like other immigrant groups, clustered together and tried to insulate their community from outside influence. Assyrian parents were terrified of their sons becoming gangbangers (or homosexuals) or their daughters getting raped, or pregnant–or, for that matter, getting a “bad reputation” and thus becoming unmarriagable.
Read the rest of this entry »

A Middle Ages Rebel Yell

16 10 2010

I love the poetry of this rebel document from 14th Century England. Peasant revolt leaders dispatched this letter to local rebels in other cities to give them instructions on how to proceed.

John Schep, sometime Saint Mary’s priest of York, and now of Colchester, greeteth well John Nameless, and John the Miller, and John Carter, and biddeth them that they beware of guile in borough, and stand together in God’s name, and biddeth Piers Plowman go to his work, and chastise well Hob the Robber, and take with you John Trueman, and all his fellows, and no more. And look sharp you to one-head and no more. John the Miller hath ground small, small, small; The King’s sone of heaven shall pay for all. Beware or ye be woe, Know your friend fro your foe, Have enough, and say ho! And do well and better, and flee sin, And seek peace and hold you therein, And pray for John Trueman and all his fellows.

Instructing husbandmen (and indicating a rebel leader known for that profession) to join with a well-known rebel priest, and with the various other classes of peasants–including the miller, the carters, and of course the many professionless (or nameless), and to remain anonymous. Don’t loot (“chastise well Hob the Robber”). Choose one leader amongst you all. We will kill the Archbishop (“The King’s sone of heaven shall pay for all.”) Incite people to direct their anger at their true oppressors (the barons, and the lawyers): “Know your friend fro your foe, Have enough, and say ho!” (But, also, identify friendlies through your war cries.)


He And She: A Creation Myth

15 10 2010

He and She had blown a tire, along a gravel backcountry road. In the deep lazy of a summer Sunday, and the tow would be an hour or more.

They’d left the city to come out here, where life couldn’t touch them. A hard week full of tough brushes with it. He and She held hands and ran away to the country, stopping first at the Fermi Lab particle accelerator.

“If we find the Higgs boson,” the tour guide had said, “We’ll know more about the origin of the universe.”

She kissed his cheek and He remembered the origin of the universe.

Their cell phones were almost dead. He and She leaned against her car, watched the corn rustle. He kissed her neck. She purred.

He and She tugged and gnawed. Passing cars honked and their passengers whistled.

He and She amongst the corn stalks now, just-so private. The husks scratched their cheeks. Dragonflys buzzed their ears. A mole ran over his foot. He and She kissed alone in Eden and there the Big Bang and again the Universe was created. The first Megayear, in just-created space, whizzed by. He and She alone in soft pink press of flesh, He smelling her neck, She biting his ear.

“Thank you for bringing me here,” She said.

“Thank you,” He answered, “For making everything.”

A butterfly augured well and several more, between the stalks, flitted and alighted on their hands.
“I like your jewelry,” She said.

He laughed. She smirked. Violence, or love, flashed in their eyes and they leaned against the densely grown stalks, strong enough to hold up their bodies. She pink. He weak.

He and She tugged and gnawed. Passing cars just passed.

“This was hard,” He said.
She pursed her lips. “It was.

“Will you move out here with me?”

He asked if they could keep a place in the city, too. She shrugged. He assented. Weak in the face of her suggestive powers.

He asked, “Will you wear overalls and catch frogs with your bare hands?”

“I’m the queen of the frogs,” She replied, and He laughed.

The Queen of everything.

He and She tugged and gnawed. The tow truck arrived to pull them back to town. He took a step out of the corn. She pulled him close for one last,

“Before,” she said with her eyes, “leaving Eden.”

March of the Morons: Brady on Evolution and Creation

6 10 2010

I have one question that I believe should be used to disqualify people from running for executive office. It is, “Do you accept the theory of evolution?” Anybody who says no should be disqualified. No, it’s not a religious test that would violate the Article VI prohibition. It’s a moron test. We could also ask, “Are you a moron?” but then we’d be less likely to get an honest response. This way we could actually root out the morons.

This has nothing to do with conservative/liberal, Democrat/Republican. Evolution is a fact–in fact, it’s more than a fact. It is a theory built upon literally millions of facts. Believe whatever other thing you want, but denying that evolution took place–maybe not exactly how science now conceives, but that it took place in some way–is absolutely no different than denying gravity. Newtonian physics got the mechanics of gravity wrong, but that didn’t make gravity itself wrong. If you think “the jury is out” on evolution, you’re not particularly bright, willfully ignorant, or poorly educated (which may not be your fault, but still–probably shouldn’t be elected to executive office).

Bill Brady thinks it’s okay to teach Creationism in schools. By doing so, he betrays his claim that he accepts “both” creationism and evolution. Accepting both as equivalent to be taught is like saying you accept “both” the theory of electromagnetism and fish are delicious. I don’t care about any of the rest of his politics. How can you vote for a person like that? Creationism in schools? Really? We want the US to create well-educated kids prepared to tackle the most significant problems of the future–not to mention stay on the cutting edge of science–and we’re going to allow school districts to teach Creationism? How stupid is this guy?

Apparently immensely.
Read the rest of this entry »