July 05, 2010
Why this liberal doesn't love the Second Amendment

Also on the Daily Kos. This diary began as a comment to Angry Mouse's front page diary on the Daily Kos about the Second Amendment, but since it ended up being nearly a thousand words long, I decided to make a full diary out of it. It ended up on the rec list, over 400 comments at last count.

:::

I was born in the US and have lived in Germany for the past 24 years, and although many Americans don't like to hear it, it remains an enduring truth: the proliferation of guns and prevalence of gun violence in the United States is appalling, tragic, breaks my heart as an American, and is utterly out of line with just about all of the Western democracies that we consider comparable to ours. No American, certainly no liberal, should be willing to stand for it a moment longer. Certainly it's possible to do a lot about that without changing anything about the 2nd Amendment, but if repealing the Amendment is what it takes, it wouldn't bother me in the slightest.

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March 07, 2010
Process Over Principle

I'm afraid I don't have much of anything original to add to this, but these two paragraphs in today's NYT op-ed by Frank Rich are worth quoting (and the whole thing's worth a read):

Obama prides himself on not being ideological or partisan — of following, as he put it in his first prime-time presidential press conference, a “pragmatic agenda.” But pragmatism is about process, not principle. Pragmatism is hardly a rallying cry for a nation in this much distress, and it’s not a credible or attainable goal in a Washington as dysfunctional as the one Americans watch in real time on cable. Yes, the Bush administration was incompetent, but we need more than a brilliant mediator, manager or technocrat to move us beyond the wreckage it left behind. To galvanize the nation, Obama needs to articulate a substantive belief system that’s built from his bedrock convictions. His presidency cannot be about the cool equanimity and intellectual command of his management style.

That he hasn’t done so can be attributed to his ingrained distrust of appearing partisan or, worse, a knee-jerk “liberal.” That is admirable in intellectual theory, but without a powerful vision to knit together his vision of America’s future, he comes off as a doctrinaire Democrat anyway. His domestic policies, whether on climate change or health care or regulatory reform, are reduced to items on a standard liberal wish list. If F.D.R. or Reagan could distill, coin and convey a credo “nonideological” enough to serve as an umbrella for all their goals and to attract lasting majority coalitions of disparate American constituencies, so can this gifted president.


During the first half of last year, Obama had an extraordinary opportunity to articulate the moral case for his causes, creating public pressure on the opposition not to stand in the way of his goals, and defining the broadest ambitions as the starting point of negotiations. Instead, he gave away concessions, before negotiations ever began, that a recalcitrant opposition has pocketed while stonewalling him on everything anyway, recognizing that he won't make them pay any political price for it. Maybe he can still recapture that moment, I'm not so sure if it's possible any more, but first and foremost, he'll have to want to lead that way in the first place.

February 18, 2010
Love is Like the Summer

Summer is the most beautiful season -- I think so, as many people do, but not everyone agrees. Summer is liberating and exhilarating, a time of warmth and long days, when all of nature is alive and welcoming, freeing us from the shelter of our homes and from thick bundles of sweaters and jackets and boots. It's a time of green grass and blue skies, days at the beach and nights under the stars, sensual and passionate, the heat on our skin felt all the way into our hearts.

Summer days can be blazing, blinding, overwhelming. It's prudent to protect yourself, with screen for the skin, a cover for your head, shade for the eyes, and maybe an extra layer of clothing after all. Sometimes it's necessary to seek out the shade, and some days you're better off just staying inside, avoiding the unbearable light and heat altogether.

Some summers can kill you.

Once in a while, a summer is a an extraordinary gift, with months of perfect days that never seem to end, lasting longer than anyone expected. Other summers are mediocre, and a few of them are frustrating disappointments, filled up with days of rain and overcast skies and mild temperatures, and too few redeeming days of sunshine scattered between them, ending abruptly when the chill of autumn arrives much too soon, so that we are left wondering whether the season was ever really there at all.

Summer is transient. We see the signs of its inevitable passing slowly but surely building up around us, the coolness in the air, the shortening days, nature's gradual retreat into dormancy. We bulk up and brace ourselves for the long season of darkness and cold. Winter is more oppressive and harder to survive. But it has its own kind of beauty, the quiet elegance of stillness and solitude.

Not everything about love is like the summer. The seasons are predictable -- we never know exactly when they will begin and end, but we know that they come and go once every year.

February 12, 2010
Cease, Desist and Cut That Out

People are always talking about cease and desist letters, but why do these things go to all the trouble to demand that you cease AND desist? What if you cease, but decline to desist? Could you get in trouble if you desist, but pass up on the ceasing?

By way of contrast, it makes perfect sense to tell someone not to "fold, spindle or mutilate" something. Folding is not the same as spindling, nor is it the same as mutilating; and you can spindle a thing without mutilating it, just as you could mutilate it without spindling it. Folding, spindling and mutilating are three different things, so if you don't want someone to do any of them, you have to tell them not to do all three.

A demand to both cease and desist implies that they're two different things, and you're demanding them not to do either one (ask your friendly neighborhood linguist about the Gricean maxim of quantity). Otherwise it's just a waste of words. To be sure, it only takes a second to say "cease and desist", but think of all the accumulated loss of productivity in all of the lawyer's offices all over the world, dictating and typing more than is necessary. Think of all the printer toner wasted printing out three words, when one would have been enough. In these difficult economic times, every little bit of extra efficiency makes a difference.

I'm troubled by the thought that I could get one of these things, and sincerely attempt to comply, but unwittingly fail because of some unfathomably subtle legal distinction between ceasing and desisting. A Kafkaesque nightmare scenario comes to mind -- cops and lawyers hammering on the door, the cops slapping on the cuffs while the lawyer cackles, "You CEASED but you didn't DESIST, SUCKAH!"

February 11, 2010
It's the Kitsch that Binds Us, and Sets Us Apart

So last night I was over at SureShot's, and somewhere in the middle of the conversation, I'm still not sure why, he started singing out "Manchmal möchte ich so gern mit Dir ...". In an almost solemn voice, suitable for a musical. "You know that, don't you?", he said, "that Roland Kaiser feeling?"

Um, I didn't know what the hell he was talking about.

"Komm", he said, exasperated at my Ami cluelessness, "you've lived here all this time."

The song was apparently a Schlager. Germans just love their Schlager (the word is presumably related to "hit"), popular music from German artists with German lyrics, with something of a 70's flair -- many of the popular numbers really are from that era, although they're still making them to this day. Kitsch is a German word, and Schlager form the Platonic ideal of Kitsch; an explosion, a fountainhead, a tsunami of schmaltziness. I'm certain that this is the music they play over the loudspeakers of Hell -- how could there be a worse psychological torture than having to listen to this stuff through all of eternity? And yet, I rarely see Germans getting more animated and loose than when the Schlager are playing. There are places around the Reeperbahn in Hamburg with jukeboxes fully loaded with the stuff, blasting out one after another all night long, while everyone in the place bursts out joyfully singing along, and I look around feeling bewildered and stupid. Every year, the weekend-long Schlagermove is one of the biggest parties in Hamburg (so much that they have three of them planned just for this year), complete with a parade of floats down the Reeperbahn, sort of a self-consciously lowbrow answer to the Love Parade. Everyone there is decked out in garish, hippy-ish outfits, the more outlandish, and the more outrageous the color contrasts, the better. I've had a great time when I've been there, but when everyone is singing along with the Schlager, I have to grin and move my lips as if I know what I'm doing.

I started typing at SureShot's laptop. "No, no," he said, knowing what I was up to, "no Roland Kaiser, not now, please ..." But he asked for it.



(It's about a guy imagining telling his neighbor that he has the hots for her, but he can't risk going through with it. "You'll lose your husband, and I'll lose my friend ...", cue the ominous minor chord.)

I've been in Germany for going on my 24th year now, and SureShot was amazed that I didn't know the first thing about Roland Kaiser, or most other Schlagersänger for that matter. To be sure, I'm now versed in German cultural references I never could have imagined 24 years ago, but you have to grow up with this stuff, or else it might as well be from Mars. "I grew up in America," I told him, "let me show you the kind of thing I know and you've never heard of," and started tapping at his laptop again.

Read more »

February 10, 2010
Gifts from Chucky P

It was back in September 2007 when I got an electrifying message from SureShot -- Chuck Palahniuk, author of the novel Fight Club, which is best known for the film with Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter and Meat Loaf, would be appearing at Uebel & Gefährlich for a reading of his book Rant (which was just coming out at the time).

Count me among the legions of fans who think of "Fight Club" as a life-changer, high on my list of favorite films of all time. I have a standing challenge to SureShot that he hit me as hard as he can -- so far, we've both been too chicken to go through with it, but one of these days, if I manage to get him pissed off enough ... And like many other fans, I was turned on to Chuck's writing by the film. There was no way I was going to miss the reading, this would be a brush with greatness.

Chuck Palahniuk at the reading of "Rant" in Übel & Gefährlich, October 2007

The reading featured a man and a woman reading excerpts of the German translation of "Rant", and Chuck himself read a chapter in his native Upper Northwest accent. The best part of the evening, though, was the Q&A session -- all you had to do was get him going with a good question, and he would run with it, telling fantastic, hilarious stories. He wanted to encourage questions -- audiences in Hamburg tend to be very reserved -- so he promised that anyone who spoke up would get an envelope with an address, which you could send in, and he would send you a little something sometime later. He didn't elaborate. But that was good enough for me, I thrusted up my arm like an eager Arnold Horshack.

"Rant" is structured as a fictional oral history, told as quotations from various characters, and some of the quotations are attributed to the "Field Notes of Green Taylor Simms", which was not explained at the reading. So I asked Chuck what that was all about, hoping I would get him started on another good story. But it seemed that the question bored him; he gave a flat, matter-of-fact answer, and that was that. I was a little chastened, but I got the envelope, which was addressed to his agency in New York. I stuck in a note, saying that if I could wish for anything, it would be for an autograph with the dedication "Dear Geoff, I want you to hit me as hard as you can, Chuck", and mailed it in the next day.

The week after Christmas, a package arrived, and what a box of surprises I found inside.

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February 08, 2010
Goodbye, Cruel Sun

On January 27th, the Oracle Corporation completed the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, my former employer.

The history of Sun's high ride and demise, and the continuing story of the newly-merged Oracle's fortunes, will occupy the minds of the IT industry and its pundits for a long time to come. I could easily go on and on about it, but that's not what I want to talk about here. Instead, I think that something should be pointed out about the way it all ended. It's another example of a phenomenon that's been covered extensively in political circles, and present in the public mind ever since the Wall Street collapse -- grotesquely extravagant compensation and golden parachutes for executives whose performance, on objective terms, can only be viewed as failure, compared to the burdens borne by laid-off rank-and-file employees who were far less responsible for the company's woes. What does this tell us about the Reaganist dogma of an unencumbered free market that currently has a powerful grip on the minds of almost everyone in the US ruling class? The circumstances of my own departure from Sun, under the laws and standards of a "socialist" European state, have something to say about that.

Read more »

January 28, 2010
BITTE KAUFT MIR DAS AB!

Heute Werbung. In eigener Sache.

Kuckt es euch an und kauft es mir ab, bitte:

http://www.quoka.de/searchresult.cfm?CUSTOMERDISP=15586174

Passend zu meinem Lieblingssatz aus Fight Club:
Je mehr du besitzt, um so mehr nimmt es Besitz von dir.

Und ebenfalls passend zum Film:
Die meisten Möbel sind von Ikea!

Danke für diese guten Taten,

Tyler aka Sureshot


December 31, 2009
The Zero Years

There seems to be a growing consensus around the Internet that the decade that is coming to a close today was one of the worst in memory, even the "worst decade ever", on a variety of measures, from politics to economics. I can hardly disagree with that, and from a personal perspective, I can add that for me it was quite easily the worst decade of my life. I remember that when we entered 2000, many people were wondering what the new decade should be called -- it's easy enough to talk about the Nineties and the Eighties, but what do we call the 00's? This was when we started hearing expressions like the Aughts and the Naughts and the "Naughty Aughties". But it was already clear to me a few years ago that these were the Zero Years -- just one great big Zero, right from the start. I don't want to go into details, but let's just say that, starting just in time in 2000, this decade took me on a journey to some of the worst places I've ever been, and never want to go to again, my own personal Zero.

If this all sounds a little too depressing for your taste, go on over the jump, because things are looking up.

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December 03, 2009
ICH BIN FREI

ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI ICH BIN FREI
ICH BIN FREI

FLIEG, SCHMETTERLING, LOS JETZT
DU BIST FREI

November 24, 2009
Sarah and the Buckeye Blockheads

Oh dear. Sarah Palin was at a book signing outside a Border's bookstore in my beloved hometown, and the interviewer asks people attending about their political views. What follows is a display of blaring knuckleheadedness that wrenches the stomach. It's a parade of nincompoops so profoundly clueless that they lack any awareness of their cluelessness.



I wish I could say I'm amazed, but I can't. The fact is that I've known a lot of people like this from back home, and I frankly don't know what can be done to get them to come to their senses. I'm immensely proud to be a Buckeye, especially last Saturday, but it's things like this that leave me embarrassed and close to despair.

(From NewLeftMedia, h/t Matt Yglesias via Ramou)

November 20, 2009
The Temple

It was about two years ago, not long after SureShot started sleeping on the couch in my living room when his marriage broke up once and for all. He had found someone new, we'll call her N., back at his hometown, way off in the deep dark south of Germany, even though he thought he had turned away from home forever. And it was good, very good, he couldn't stop raving about her. It was giving him a new lease on life just when everything seemed desolate and cruel. At the time, neither one of us knew whether it would be just a romance on the rebound, a flight to comfort while the rest of his world was crashing down around him, a way to feel like a geiler Typ again, rather than a failure at everything that mattered. If that's what it was, I told him, then it made sense, it was just what he needed. But he could already tell that the relationship might have staying power, and he was willing to do what he could to make it last (and it has). I let him keep talking, egged him on, told him to soak himself up in it, take his shot at good luck and run with it.

One night he was telling me about his last visit with N., showing me pictures on his mobile that were getting increasingly racy. "You won't believe what she was doing," he gushed, "listen to this ...", and I started to recognize which way this was going. He was gathering momentum, pretty soon nothing be able to stop him.

"Whoa, whoa," I broke in, "wait a minute, don't tell me everything you're doing with your girlfriend!"

He looked back at me skeptically. "Why? We know we can trust each other. Why does there have to be something we can't talk about? Does there have to be something sacred?"

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November 17, 2009
HALLO, NACHMITTAG.

HAST DU ZEIT, MIR EIN PAAR FRAGEN ÜBER DAS LEBEN ZU BEANTWORTEN?

WIE GEHT DAS MIT DER LEIDENSCHAFT?
WAS BRAUCHT MAN FÜR EINE POSITIVE LEBENSEINSTELLUNG?
WIE ENTSTEHT MUT?

WELCHE FARBE HAT ANGST UND WIE KANN ICH SIE UNSICHTBAR MACHEN?
WOHER KOMMT DER MENSCH UND WOHIN GEHT ER AM ENDE?
WIE FÜHLT SICH PERSÖNLICHER ERFOLG AN?
WANN WAR EIN LEBEN LEBENSWERT?
WO FINDE ICH, WAS ICH SUCHE?

ICH BIN BEREIT, NACHMITTAG.
AUF SENDUNG.
WENN DU ANTWORTEN FÜR MICH HAST, GIB MIR BITTE EIN ZEICHEN.
ICH BIN DORT, WO ICH IMMER BIN.
IM GEIST. IM BAUCH.
IM MOMENT ZUHAUSE.

DANKE, NACHMITTAG.

November 02, 2009
On This Special Occasion ...

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!


My birthday present back to everyone else

November 01, 2009
In Which Your Author Extemporises Mellifluously While Gallivanting Through the Tenses

This is embarrassing. It's embarrassing because as I read through these "rules", I can think of examples of my own writing in which I have "fulfilled" almost every one of them.

(h/t Plutonium Page)