Evil Forces in the World

Reflections on ''Evil Forces in the World,'' as well as occasional remarks concerning ''Good Forces in the World.''

Friday, April 05, 2002

Last night, at around 22:30, I went to an Indian restaurant I like very much, located by the corner of Calvert and Connecticut Avenue, which is a short walk from the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station. I usually order either the Rogan Josh or the Shahi Korma, but I instead ordered some sort of set menu item, which proved somewhat disappointing. Small portions. And small portions are a minor-league evil force; of course, it was filling, and I suppose I should be more reasonable. My eyes are sometimes bigger than my stomach.
Rushdie can be tiresome, as the peerless James Wood demonstrates in his devastating review of Fury, but when he's good, he's great. (I highly recommend Imaginary Homelands, though I take exception to such gems as "The New Empire within Britain," an utterly hysterical, if stylish, essay on racism under Thatcher.) Witness the following critical beatdown:

November 20, 1997,

I'm grateful to John le Carré for refreshing all our memories about exactly how pompous an ass he can be. He claims not to have joined in the attack against me but also states that "there is no law in life or nature that says great religions may be insulted with impunity."
A cursory examination of this lofty formulation reveals that (1) it takes the philistine, reductionist, radical Islamist line that The Satanic Verses was no more than an "insult," and (2) it suggests that anyone who displeases philistine, reductionist, radical Islamist folk loses his right to live in safety.
So, if John le Carré upsets Jews, all he needs to do is fill a page of The Guardian with his muddled bombast, but if I am accused of thought crimes, John le Carré will demand that I suppress my paperback edition. He says that he is more interested in safeguarding publishing staff than in my royalties. But it is precisely these people, my novel's publishers in some thirty countries, together with the staff of bookshops, who have most passionately supported and defended my right to publish. It is ignoble of le Carré to use them as an argument for censorship when they have so courageously stood up for freedom.
John le Carré is right to say that free speech isn't absolute. We have the freedoms we fight for, and we lose those we don't defend. I'd always thought George Smiley knew that. His creator appears to have forgotten.

Salman Rushdie
I am a shameless lover of action movies, and I am very enthusiastic about the latest installment of the Star Wars saga. Harry Knowles reports that it will be utterly brilliant: in his words, "I must say that I feel that this is by far the most entertaining Star Wars film to date," I kid you not. As some of you may know, I have an unfortunate theoretical crush (theoretical because it isn't, alas, grounded in any substantive interaction but rather on a combination of self-delusion, projection, and media-soaked madness, about which I, in fact, feel very bad in that it's sort of unfair to the object of said theoretical crush, though I'm sure she doesn't mind, being, after all, the object of literally millions of these theoretical crushes, if not quadrillions galaxy-wide; moreover, difficult as it may be to believe, I wouldn't be shocked if most of the crush-havers were way weirder and more unpleasant than yours truly: the occasionally charming, usually buffonish, and always strangely spelled Seann William Scott comes to mind; regardless, my "crush" remains at least moderately evil, if not intermediately evil), on one of the leads, who sure is "purty," to needlessly misspell a word in a naked attempt to shift attention from my inner shame. Wow. I am in an embarrassingly confessional mood.

Oh, but it gets worse.

Being moderately boobish, I spent a good part of the summer following my junior year in college in the throes of violent illness while providing research assistance, and visiting relatives, in Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh. During this period, and immediately before archipelagoes of irritated flesh spread across my skin like "an unstoppable rebel force," I often sat and watched my cousin play Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear, perhaps the raddest video game I've ever seen. And so my curiosity was piqued. I mean, I always knew who the man was and was intimately familiar with the genre, mainly because my father has always enjoyed spy novels of the John le Carré variety (can't say I like the man, particularly his views on, well, everything, from pharmaceuticals to the meaning of tolerance, but George Smiley was and remains an appealing character); yes, it isn't exactly high-brow, and that's precisely the fun of it. So there. So I decided to hunt down and purchase Tom Clancy novels for my cousin, then sixteen; we went to several stalls in a bazaar in Old Dhaka, which was quite an experience. My goodness: for those of you who've never left metropolitan North America or western Europe, I strongly advise you to do so, and I don't say this because it gives you a superior degree of wisdom or anything like that; rather, I, well, I don't know. It's difficult to imagine at times that Bangladesh, even urban Bangladesh, exists on the same planet as, say, Brooklyn, New York, the only home I've ever known, but then you see Tom Clancy novels, full of gung-ho Americanism at its best and worst, being sold in this Edwardian-era marketplace that, due to disrepair, looks positively ancient, and yet is literally teeming with human traffic. And it was very hot. But yes, I purchased a few, if I recall correctly, and guiltily read one when I was very sick, and, despite minor quibbles, I did find it pretty darn entertaining: very suspenseful, very thrilling.

When I learned that The Sum of All Fears, Clancy's notorious bestseller which featured the detonation of a terrorist nuclear device at the Super Bowl, was being made into a movie a few days ago, I decided I just had to read the novel. Keep in mind that I hadn't read any of his books since my brush with death two years ago. I entered the more-than-slightly yuppified bookstore near my old office and quickly, surreptitiously grabbed the book, afraid of detection by cute and snooty girls; as I approached the cash register, my fear of her bien pensant disdain (take this dreadful, under-researched piece in increasingly-shrill The New Statesman, for example) increased, and so I did the unimaginable: I purchased a copy of Harper's, which I find execrable as often as not (I do read it every now and again, and it isn't all bad, but I hate the idea of subsidizing of smug, overprivileged lightweights; that said, I'd be said if the magazine died out completely, mainly because I'm sentimental and my position is always, "let a thousand flowers bloom, as long as they don't steal our ad revenue"), thinking that it would transform disapproval into confusion. I know what you must be thinking: Why would she give a damn? She'd have no reason to give a damn, and she almost certainly didn't or wouldn't have under almost any imaginable circumstances. Was she cute, at least? That might justify such pitifully insecure and lame behavior. Well, no, not really. I didn't think so, at least. So there you have it, my secret shame. Totally evil. This happened a while ago.

I feel better now. Sorry Mr. C.! (The book was, incidentally, very entertaining.) But back to the central narrative thrust. I now have it on reasonably good authority that the movie version of The Sum of All Fears will ruthlessly kick ass. Good triumphs! Hurray! While they did take liberties, I'm looking forward to some semi-apocalyptic action on screen. Not in real life. That would be evil, and it's honestly no laughing matter.

I am, as I've said earlier on, moderately evil, but I'm working on it. This is a lifelong struggle. Bear with me.
As far as "iron triangles" go, I'm afraid I know very little; I do know the term is used to describe the dense web of connections, both formal and informal, between major corporations, bureaucracies, and the Liberal Democratic party (LDP) in modern Japan, and I gather it can encompass comparable ties in America's "military-industrial complex," bugaboo of the American, and indeed the international, far left. The only "iron triangle" I know intimately and well is that which binds my furious fists, deep inner rage, and innocent passersby, which join together in an orgy of unholy violence.

No, that is not true, and thank goodness for that. (Senseless violence directed against innocents, and indeed any violence directed against innocents or that predictably causes disproportionate harm to innocents, is most assuredly an evil force.) This happy circumstance is in large part due to the conversations I periodically have with my deep inner rage, during which I work hard to focus its energies against such evils as noise pollution, Ja Rule, etc.

Here are some fine, but evil, song lyrics from The Dead Kennedys, led by the always-charismatic, if often misguided, Jello Biafra:
Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now that we have the Neutron bomb
It's nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Away with excess enemy
But no less value to property
No sense in war but perfect sense at home…

The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight

Gonna
Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor…Tonight

Behold the sparkle of champagne
The crime rate's gone
Feel free again
O' life's a dream with you, Miss Lily White
Jane Fonda on the screen today
Convinced the liberals it's okay
So let's get dressed and dance away the night

While they…
Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor…Tonight


Now, I characterize these lyrics as evil for the following reason: the neutron bomb, mercilessly mocked by detractors as "the ultimate capitalist weapon," but this is, in fact, a gross misrepresentation. Consider the original purpose of the weapon:

The earliest bombs had used nuclear fission, splitting heavy atoms to release energy. Later bombs used nuclear fusion, which fused hydrogen atoms to release energy. Both designs produced tremendous blasts that could level whole cities, and left them uninhabitable for long periods because of lingering radiation.

Cohen's neutron bomb would use nuclear fusion, but in a different way. The detonation of a neutron bomb would still produce an explosion, but one much smaller than a standard nuclear weapon's. The main effect of a neutron bomb would be the release of high-energy neutrons that would take lives far beyond the blast area. The result: fewer buildings, cars, tanks, roads, highways and other structures destroyed.

And unlike standard nuclear bombs that leave long-term contamination of the soil and infrastructure, the neutron radiation quickly dissipates after the explosion.

For Cohen, the neutron bomb is the ultimate sane weapon. It kills humans, or as he puts it "the bad guys," but doesn't produce tremendous collateral damage on civilian populations and the infrastructure a civilian population needs to survive.

This meant, in Cohen's mind, that a conventional war could escalate without immediately leading to an all-out nuclear holocaust. If regular nuclear weapons were used across Europe, the radioactive fallout could turn the continent into a wasteland for decades. That wouldn't be the case if neutron bombs were used.


This hardly seems like an insane or malicious goal; in fact, it seems entirely laudable. Of course, one can plausibly argue that it makes a nuclear exchange less unthinkable, and in doing so is necessarily evil, but I don't find this convincing. What it does make unthinkable, or at least much less thinkable, is that a massive ground invasion of the central European plain could be accomplished without very high cost to the invaders. But misrepresentations led to misperceptions, which in turn led to the foolhardy decision to abandon deployment of a weapon that basically aimed to kill aggressors rather than victims. Curious that. And evil.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Dear Mr. Salam,

You called and I aswered.
While we're on the topic of contemporary soul vocalists, I would like to add Mary J. Blige to our list of Forces of Good. I've watched Ms. Blige's "VH1: Behind the Music" episode at least three times, and each time I am more delighted by this wonderful woman who's handled the ever-popular "Death of a Lifestyle" genre far better than the competition.

Also, brushing up for the FSE today, I learned about "iron triangles." A question for any of you working in Washington: do politicians really use this phrase? Or is it one of those things people don't really talk about?
Alica Keys on the American flag: “I see lies in that flag.”

Reihan Salam on Alicia Keys: "I see a bonehead."
These stories always depress me. What has driven parents to become this mercenary? Decrepit, violent, and indifferent public schools, presumably. On a related note, I urge you to consult this preliminary working paper (being preliminary, it is not to be quoted and the document requries Adobe Acrobat), from Harvard's Caroline Hoxby, my favorite as you know.
I'll never forget the day that Old Dirty Bastard (ODB) became Big Baby Jesus (BBJ). It was a warm Thursday evening. The MTV was on. Kurt Loder broke the news. I was sipping on a wine cooler. However, the day that Big Baby Jesus turned back into Old Dirty Bastard -- I haven't the foggiest what I was doing that day. Probably reading comic books. Anyway, I think we all remember when ODB got arrested for stealing sneakers from Lady Footlocker. It was the day that the music died, and I lost my innocence.
Two hip and intellectual South Asian men talking about Cornershop: force of good or evil? What if one is the inimitable writer of Intimacy? And what if the other is an edgy, leading post-colonial theorist? I wonder how these fellows do on the dating market. But to get back to the original question, when I was in college, those guys at the Sushi bar wearing all black who talked about Baudrillard in a high tone always annoyed me. But one thing is for sure: Cornershop is a damn funny band. See their EP "Lessons Learned From Rocky I-IV" for further inspection.
Though I hate to do it, I really must link to Nathan Rabin's review of the most recent ODB release, which is a fine example of Rabin's cutting wit, demonstrated time and again in his withering reviews of mediocre to horrendous hip-hop albums; my only problem with the man, on balance a force of good, is his slavish devotion to left-wing agit-prop hip-hop. I'm afraid I don't know of a more felicitous name for this decidedly uneven, and often infuriating, subgenre, best represented by The Coup, briefly notorious for the atrocious cover (irrespective of events, I should add) of Party Music, their most recent album, or campus favorites dead prez, authentic vegan Communists, and hard-working musicians, who've imparted such pearls of wisdom as the following: "They schools can't teach us shit / My people need freedom, we tryin to get all we can get / All my high school teachers can suck my ____ / Tellin' me white man lies, straight bullshit." Of course, both groups are talented, and I certainly don't want to be accused of Tipperism: I hardly think lectures are in order, but I do think it's unreasonable to characterize such lyrics as particularly sharp, clever, or insightful. What exactly is being said that is defensible or even slightly interesting? Or, for that matter, are the above readings shocking at least? Not to those of us with a passing familiarity with Marxism-Leninism or the intellectual contributions of the inimitable Leonard Jeffries. Then again, that could be exactly what is so admirable about dead prez: they've managed to introduce a kind of bowdlerized and appealing brand of Marxism-Leninism for the mythical American street -- which is to say, in reality, the universe of largely white middle-class adolescents and post-adolescents still in the orbit of selective residential liberal arts colleges and research universities -- complete with an entirely palatable, if slightly (and invitingly, "intriguingly") abrasive, Afrocentric sheen. And isn't that a cause worth celebrating? Remind me to put on my bloody party hat. A little stupid, a little irritating, certainly not very thought-provoking. The verdict is clear: evil. As for The Coup, they're certainly a little smarter, but they're hardly the hip-hop visionaries Rabin, and many others, believe them to be. Why exactly do we give musicians of all stripes, and hip-hop artists in particular, a pass for crass stupidity when they're articulate or betray even the slightest degree of intellectual curiosity, or, worse yet and more commonly, intellectual pretension? We certainly don't do that for, say, journalists, and nor should we. Let's call a spade a spade.
A fascinating figure: Charles Orde Wingate. Thanks to Jon Chait for the heads up. More to come.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Speaking of which, who has listened to the Craig David "7 Days" remix, featuring Mos Def (Mos) and Nate Dogg? It is "off the hook," as is the G. Dep remix of "Special Delivery," featuring Ghostface Killah, the only man who can convincingly rap about Somalians and Wallabees, Craig Mack, Keith Murray, and Redman. My goodness. The first video, featuring many packages and lollygagging women with vacant expressions, was innovative and profound, but there is nothing like the second video, featuring Ghostface with what appears to be a sculpture of a hawk on his arm. Bloody hell. I am befuddled. Incidentally, I am also befuddled by the new Hal Hartley flick, but in the "I'm mildly displeased as well as befuddled" vein, but I am a great admirer of Sarah Polley, despite her reported desire to lead Canada's socialist left. But I suppose it's better her than, say, Buzz Hargrove. Socialist or no, she is exceptionally charming and clearly very, very sharp. Brava, I say!

Sigh. Italians. Judging by the current demographic portrait, their population growth rate has fallen well below replacement level, which is distressing.
Season of Migration to the North is one of the best novels I've ever read. Thought-provoking, much like almost every Wesley Snipes movie, only more so. I read it for a class (and, in hindsight, a rather good class, though there were some administrative foibles: I was fortunate enough to have taken the class with a large number of very charming and attractive young women, but that was certainly not what made it a good class). It is of particular relevance now, I should think. A force for good, to be sure.
But you know what's even more evil? Cigarette-smoking monkeys and apes.
Doesn't Pataki's alliance with New York's labor unions, as described in this wonderful Observer piece, strike you as slightly sinister? In particular, the prominent role of public sector labor unions ought to be a matter of some concern. Mark Green, long derided as an unreconstructed Naderite (unfairly, I think, which is not to say that I can tolerate the man's arrogance or shortsightedness), was far less beholden to these backroom characters, the ones who've stymied virtually all reasonable and potentially effective school reforms, using "the children" as an excuse for rank opportunism of the worst, most fantastically disngenuous kind (e.g., saying that public school class size is the problem rather than, say, disruptive students, a tenuous claim debunked by Edward Lazear of Stanford and the much-maligned, sometimes justifiably, Hoover Institution, which conveniently means increasing the ranks of UFT/NEA members, and, worse yet, lambasting school choice programs as "untested" and fighting every last experiment to the death -- this Matthew Miller article is still one of the best articles on the subject, if a bit out of date, and then there is Caroline Hoxby's heart-stoppingly cool work on the subject). An endorsement, or even a potential endorsement, from the UFT is very bad news. Republicans against school choice: How utterly daring and original that Republicans would pander to the unfounded fears of upper-middle-class white suburbanites. What a refreshing break with orthodoxy. Good grief. Disappointing at the very least, and possibly even evil, but let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
What the hell is going on? More notes from a world gone mad, this time from Michelle Cottle of The New Republic:

Things didn't go quite that badly in the end. In the post-game wilding, pretty much the only thing to go up in flames were chunks of the tree out in front of the Smoothie King. Still, the spectacle was something to behold. Idiotic young men took turns climbing up into the branches--a good 15 feet off the street--and jumping up and down until the wood fell to the ground below, where a bonfire had been constructed. The metal barricades had been dismantled, and young, shirtless men brandished the pieces like trophies. (None, blessedly, ever went through a window.) The police backed off a few blocks from the bank (slowly, and under a rain of beer bottles) to let the students blow off some steam. Young men screamed, head-butted one another, and jockeyed for position in front of the news cameras. Carefully coiffed sorority chicks squealed, hugged one another other, climbed up on their boyfriends' shoulders, and repeatedly raised their snug T-shirts, as one delighted onlooker yelled, "We got boobies!"

It's times like this when I'm utterly convinced that the United States needs a strong hand, specifically my strong hand. Such shenanigans would not be tolerated under a Salam regime. If rioting hoodlums tried to tear apart my humble burg, or even a boisterous and big-headed burg, the retaliation would be swift and merciless. In Japan, I'm told, students "clean the rooms, halls, toilets, and yards of their own school."

Damn straight.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

While mulling over mythologies in light of Ms Levine's contribution, the following memory from my kindergarten days came careening back to me, and so you're in for another installment of

EVIL DIALOGUE, AUTHENTIC AND TRUE TO LIFE, YET SLIGHTLY FICTIONALIZED!
MOVIE THEATER ATTENDANT BEARING A STRIKING RESEMBLANCE TO LIONEL RITCHIE: [Holding a bag of cash.] La-dee-da.
ME: [Musing to myself: Ah, this gentleman appears to be giving away cash. How odd. But what fun!] Ahoy! [ME proceeds to grab a single dollar bill.]
MTABSRLR: Hey! [Slaps ME on wrist, literally.]
ME: What gives, mist-ah? [ME is mortified, his face reddened with shame.]

Since then, I've never stolen a damn thing. So let that be a listen to you. Stealing is evil, even if you're a gamine, doe-eyed starlet. Or, for that matter, even if you've gotten a raw deal in life, but I'm leaving aside conditions of extreme material deprivation and systematic social injustice.
Dear Reihan:
I advise you to begin a new category on your blog: a contemporary rethinking of Roland Barthe's Mythologies (1957). Way back when, the father of post-modernism came up with a wonderful collections of essays concerning modern myths such as: Einstein's Brain, Romans in Films, and the Face of Garbo. If you haven't read them I suggest you do so - as soon as possible!

Here are some contemporary myths to carry on Barthe's tradition. Feel free to add on.

Myth 1: Before and After pictures
Myth 2: The Political Lesbian
Myth 3: The Referigerator door as family canvas

(P.S. I think you should rename your your telluride link as tellu-reich.)


- Sanachka (aka Emmylou)
Pasteurization. Now that was an unambiguous force for good, unlike, say, Bob Kerrey. In this wonderful essay, he makes the following point, one I find blindingly obvious but, because so few do, worthy of note: that "the passage of time and the actions of the Communist government of Vietnam have proven to me we were fighting on the right side. In their harsh treatment of the Vietnamese people, in denying them medicine and essential consumer goods, and in persecuting religious practices, the Vietnamese Communists in the postwar years proved themselves to be--Communists.

The most eloquent comment on life under Ho Chi Minh's heirs was the flight of millions of Vietnamese who risked death on the high seas rather than live under that regime. If there was to be a trial to determine whether the Vietnam War was worth fighting, I would call the Boat People as my only witness.

Was the war worth the effort and sacrifice, or was it a mistake? Everyone touched by it must answer that question for himself. When I came home in 1969 and for many years afterward, I did not believe it was worth it. Today, with the passage of time and the experience of seeing both the benefits of freedom won by our sacrifice and the human destruction done by dictatorships, I believe the cause was just and the sacrifice not in vain.
"

That said, I was deeply disturbed by the brouhaha, or should I say non-brouhaha, some time ago over alleged atrocities in Vietnam committed by Kerrey or men under his command. Many on my side of the fence, i.e., those who believe as I do that the Vietnamese people were worth fighting for, to put it polemically, maintained that those who did not fight in Vietnam could not possibly understand and thus could not judge Kerrey's alleged behavior. This is a deeply stupid argument. It barely rises to the level of an argument at all. It's bien pensant relativism at its most insidious. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Americans serving in Vietnam, and the vast majority of Vietnamese serving in the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, did not commit human rights abuses, egregious or otherwise, in the course of discharging their duties, despite the ugly accusations of almost uniformly ill-informed partisans of anti-anti-Communism (and, for that matter, Communism). And so if abuses -- and, let's not mince words, atrocities -- were committed, the criminals in question should be brought to justice. But is Kerrey really guilty? I don't know. Hence the ambiguity.

And so, in this uncertain world, is anyone an unambiguous force for good? Yes, very much so: her name is Tina Fey, and she is almost as good as Saddam is bad. Consider her trenchant observations on the marked lack of diversity among Hugh Hefner's lady loves:

Come on, though - seven blondes? There's not a hot Asian woman you can throw in there? A light-skinned black woman? A deaf brunette? Something? Where's the diversity? When are we going to have a Hefner harem that looks like America? Am I really to believe that these women, each of them, offers you something unique?

Upon first hearing this, I found it side-splittingly hilarious, so much so that my sides literally split, which was excruciating. No, that is an exaggeration. But yes, it was very funny, and it has only grown more so with age. It is also not incidental or unimportant that Ms Fey is also indescribably beautiful; also, she is incomparably gorgeous. These characteristics frequently overlap.
Several months ago, I had an awful vision while watching a movie starring Vin Diesel, multiracial bad-ass of the moment. The movie addressed a pressing issue of the day, namely the struggles faced by Muslim penal colonists in outer space; on this particular barren world, the skies went dark for decades at a time, and only Mr Diesel could see unaided. And so he would see terrifying monsters, all of whom had psychedelic colors on screen while moving around an otherwise completely dark landscape. My terrifying vision was that Diesel would tell others that he saw monsters in the distance while in fact seeing the music video for "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles, the song which went as follows:

Video killed the radio star.
Video killed the radio star.

Monday, April 01, 2002

IMAGINED EVIL DIALOGUE, TOTALLY FABRICATED!
HUMAN: Boy, this sure is nice weather.
ROCK, WEARING A POLO SHIRT, WITH TWIGS FOR ARMS: [Silence.]
HUMAN: So, uh, do you like to read books?
ROCK: [Silence.]
HUMAN: I don't think this is going to work.
EVIL DIALOGUE, AUTHENTIC AND TRUE TO LIFE, YET SLIGHTLY FICTIONALIZED!
ME: I notice you're rocking the blue Sauconys, and I respect that. I've been wearing them since the 7th grade.
OTHER PERSON: Yeah, they're really cool.
ME: Yes, I've kicked many heads with my blue Sauconys. [Kicking motion.] That is all.
OTHER PERSON: Huh.
I have identified a new evil force. It is so evil it'll make your teeth fall out.

I was visiting the Seventeen web site --

First of all, I can explain. I am a great lover of teen magazines. Wait. That isn't quite the explanation I had in mind. Let's see. I enjoy reading teen magazines, in part because they offer useful insights into the thinking of the next generation. Yes, that's it. Much like the Star Trek franchise. I realize that this must seem spectacularly unsavory, but rest assured that I am the least unsavory character since the historical Jesus. No, that is a gross exaggeration, and unintentionally disrespectful. I was wracking my brain for respectable historical figures, and precious few come to mind, which tells you something. (This is odd.) Churchill comes to mind, but then there's Hitchens' hit piece in The Atlantic. (Interestingly enough, all of the political positions for which Churchill is often lambasted -- his steadfast defense of British imperialism, for example, as well as his advocacy of a serious intervention in the Russian Civil War to crush the Bolsheviks and his general hawkish lunacy, are exactly what I admire most about the man; had the Allies obliterated the Bolsheviks then, and it could easily have been done, we'd all be quite a bit better off, in my humble estimation -- see Ilya Somin's Stillborn Crusade.) But this is all a digression. Back to evil.

Ahem. This was, incidentally, my first and thus far only visit to Seventeen, so I think I'm entitled to a pass. Moving right along, I noticed an article on TV's The Gilmore Girls. I (guiltily) followed a link and, on an unidentified web page, I noticed a link to "Gilmore Girls fan fiction."

Now tell me, What on earth has gone wrong in the world? This is nothing compared to the atrocities committed on a near-daily basis by ruthless terrorists; the more mundane murdering and maiming that's plagued the world since Cain and Abel, metaphorically speaking; and the systematic starvation of millions, not to mention the petty indignities and cruelties of life on the margins both here and everywhere. That said, "Gilmore Girls fan fiction" is creepy.
I spent two hours last night listening to Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat." It's exact meaning still eludes me. The first time I heard the song was last spring on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. I, and a girl I was dating at the time, sat in her car for 3 and a half hours listening to a mix tape she made when was 14. These were good days apparently. As for the song, L. Cohen tells us that "in those days" it took him 30 minutes to decide whether he would wear a cap when walking outside, and another 15 to decide whether he would take it off when he came back inside. As for the mix tape, we went through 2 entire cycles, but the only other song I remember was an obscure Sebadoh love song that reminds me of being in middle school. "In those days" I rarely left my bedroom and read underground comic books all day. I didn't have a girlfriend back then, and thus no one to listen to mixtapes with. I suddenly have a strong desire to thank someone now. Sincerely, R Jean So.