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Archive for February, 2012

Under the tent

From a speech given in 1944 at University of London. Find the author on your own if you wish.

The Inner Ring

My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it — this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment, and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings, then you may be quite sure of this: unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing — the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort, If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an “inner ringer.” I don’t say you’ll be a successful one; that’s as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in — one way or the other you will be that kind of man.

I have already made it fairly clear that I think it better for you not to be that kind of man. But you may have an open mind on the question. I will therefore suggest two reasons for thinking as I do.

It would be polite and charitable and, in view of your age, reasonable, too, to suppose that none of you is yet a scoundrel. On the other hand, by mere law of averages (I am saying nothing against free will) it is almost certain that at least two or three of you before you die will have become something very like scoundrels. There must be in this room the makings of at least that number of unscrupulous, treacherous, ruthless egotists. The choice is still before you, and I hope you will not take my hard words about your possible future characters as a token of disrespect to your present characters. And the prophecy I make is this: to nine out of ten of you the choice which could lead to scoundrelism will come, when it does come, in no very dramatic colours. Obviously bad men, obviously threatening or bribing, will almost certainly not appear. Over a drink or a cup of coffee, disguised as a triviality and sandwiched between two jokes, from the lips of a man or woman, whom you have recently been getting to know rather better and whom you hope to know better still — just at the moment when you are most anxious not to appear crude, or naif or a prig — the hint will come. It will be the hint of something which is not quite in accordance with the technical rules of fair play; something which the public, the ignorant, romantic public, would never understand; something which even the outsiders in your own profession are apt to make a fuss about, but something, says your new friend, which “we”– and at the word “we” you try not to blush for mere pleasure — something “we always do.” And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, ut simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face — that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face — turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage, and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel.

That is my first reason. Of all the passions the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.

My second reason is this: the torture allotted to the Danaids in the classical underworld, that of attempting to fill sieves with water, is the symbol not of one vice but of all vices. It is the very mark of a perverse desire that it seeks what is not to be had. The desire to be inside the invisible line illustrates this rule. As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel an onion; if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain.

This is surely very clear when you come to think of it. If you want to be made free of a certain circle for some wholesome reason — if, say, you want to join a musical society because you really like music — then there is a possibility of satisfaction. You may find yourself playing in a quartet and you may enjoy it. But if all you want is to be in the know, your pleasure will be short-lived. The circle cannot have from within the charm it had from the outside. By the very act of admitting you it has lost its magic. Once the first novelty is worn off, the members of this circle will be no more interesting than your old friends. Why should they be? You were not looking for virtue or kindness or loyalty or humour or learning or wit or any of the things that can be really enjoyed. You merely wanted to be “in.” And that is a pleasure that cannot last. As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another Ring. The rainbow’s end will still be ahead of you. The old Ring will now be only the drab background for your endeavour to enter the new one.

And you will always find them hard to enter, for a reason you very well know. You yourself, once you are in, want to make it hard for the next entrant, just as those who are already in made it hard for you. Naturally. In any wholesome group of people which holds together for a good purpose, the exclusions are in a sense accidental. Three or four people who are together for the sake of some piece of work exclude other because there is work only for so many or because the others can’t in fact do it. Your little musical group limits its numbers because the rooms they meet in are only so big. but your genuine Inner Ring exists for exclusion. There’d be no fun if there were no outsiders. The invisible line would have no meaning unless most people were on the wrong side of it. Exclusion is no accident; it is the essence.

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public, nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside, that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric, for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues, It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ringer can ever have it.

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“Since when has being cheap counted as ’empowerment’?…Hey, I’m all for getting in touch with the ‘inner goddess’ by pole dancing your way to a ‘new you’, but you can’t get lobster thermidore out of a can of tuna. Get a life.” ~ A Heartless Bitch named Lola

“That’s just bimbo talk.” ~ Pops

The above two quotes, which represent two of my new favorites (you knew I collected these things, yes?), are perfect examples of why I’m a traitor to my gender. At least in the modern telling of what counts as female empowerment. Because while I try not to judge women too harshly for getting in touch with their power and sexuality (or whatever. And, as an aside, putting it out there for the world to see? I mean come on — don’t you keep the most precious and powerful things you have protected? Or is that just me…?), often they are just bowing down to the latest fad that’s marketed with a pretty neon sign with an arrow that says “Feminism!” Bah. Think for yourselves ladies. Because let me be clear: lying to yourself about what’s acceptable if it runs counter to your own judgment and understanding of your physical uniqueness as a woman — regardless if it’s what everyone else in your group of Joneses thinks is acceptable — so you can get the goodies from a dude is pretty much just being the chick in the video below once you strip away all the “empowerment” rhetoric. And being that chick = lame. Even Eddie Murphy thinks so. Also, that above sentence…grammatically correct. Boom.

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Happy Birthday Pops! Love you like the little daddy’s girl I am.

Hola. Not too much to report today lovelies but I did have a fabulous conversation over the phone with my Pops this weekend and he reminded me of a few things I had forgotten and told me he was proud of me because he thinks that, although I’ve wasted a lot of my life not being a grown up about certain things (yikes), he believes I’m finally figuring some things out. So, alright man, cool. Pops is proud. Always a win.

One of the other areas of discussion between myself and the patriarch was the notion of libertarianism versus conservatism, something that is all the rage in the geeky, wonky work circles I occasionally find myself running through. So, Pops, I think, likes the style of the libertarian — as do I — but he said something that hadn’t occurred to me before and seemed fairly profound. “These people want all the freedoms but they don’t want to give over any currency to have them. They don’t want to pay for those freedoms. And the truth is that you can’t have anything without paying for it — you pay for what you get in one way or another.” Too true. It might sound overly capitalistic but it is a basic truth of life, this notion of sacrifice. I don’t think it requires your agreement to be true. Which is a whole other discussion that has theological and sociological implications that I don’t feel like going in to because I’m a little emotionally drained at the moment. Because we also spent some time talking about eugenics — because what with the whole Planned Parenthood/O-care birth control mandate/personhood legislation cropping up in the states, it’s beginning to rear it’s twisted little head. I’ve read some interesting pieces on the subject (most interesting here and here) and am fairly comfortable in saying that it is an idea of a flavor that is really creepy and ethically vacuous because 1.) this idea that we are somehow qualified to judge fitness is hilarious because as a race we screw up so much I’m inclined to just let some things be the purview of nature and 2.) I have a brother who blows the notion totally out of the water because his developmental problems were not genetically inherited and were only the result of the birthing process (lack of oxygen during birth. I’ve written about it before) and so…is he one we consider having slipped through the cracks (to use an uncomfortable image) and sterilize him? Anyone who doesn’t read that as a purely rhetorical question can kindly move the f*ck on. And, as an addendum, maybe you should always and forever keep your thoughts about engineering superiority to yourself if you know someone who has a loved one you might consider “unfit” or risk getting a swift kick to the head, either metaphorically or literally. Just really seriously sayin’. Also, my sister Juli posed a really interesting question in terms of how birth control (and probably by extension, abortion) is being framed in the public debate as “preventive care.” I mean look, Juli and I are both pretty strong women who aren’t exactly shrinking violets, but as she noted, rhetorically framing the issue of pregnancy as falling under a category that also includes regular check-ups for diseases, etc. might be subliminally suggesting that getting pregnant is as unwanted as prostate cancer or something. “I don’t see how that’s empowering women to suggest that their natural inclination toward sexuality could lead to this ‘disease’ of pregnancy.” Good point.

In any event, moving on from that unpleasantness because it should be moved on from — diversions for you.

Tremendous. He breaks a few notes but in general nails it. Hope it made you smile Ms. Huston.

The Trotter brought this back to me from a conference he attended this weekend. Love squared.

Hey, lookie what I got! Thanks landlord, for being awesome.

Our Legal Director over here where I work was on a panel organized by this group (Where he pwned everyone. True story.) and, by way of thanking him, they gave him a little magnetized gift. Behold, the super PAC name generator that currently lives on our refrigerator in the office. Can’t wait to use santa…

Finally, because I’ve been reminiscing so much lately and it’s appropriate, your music for today:

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I got kicked out of a bar once for throwing my gum at the bartender. He was ignoring me and trying to piss me off and, well, he did. Because I was in my early 20s and awesome. Yeah, I kinda sucked. So they literally bounced me. I mean, I didn’t get carried out thrashing around like a crazy person. They just asked me to leave, and so I did. And the folks with me at the time followed and, as they left, the bartender told a girl in my cohort: “You know, people judge you by your associations.” Man, I was devastated. Especially since that girl was kind of weird and had some major daddy issues and had a tendency to hook up with wannabe skinheads. We grew up together but we were never really friends. She was all into the shock factor you see and I never quite got that. It always seemed to me to be the flipside of the bubble-headed cheerleader who wore too much make-up and slept with every guy she could: gotta give em something sparkly or attention-grabbing to look at or talk about because there’s really not much there. Anyway, have never forgotten that and occasionally am reminded of it because I encounter another amateur provocateur and I flash back. What’s nice is that now, as a grown up, there are plenty of other people in the world who also recognize it as a silly game that they too stopped playing or even trying to understand when they grew up. When you’re young it can seem like everyone MUST play or risk ostracism. Because peer pressure is a bitch. Score one for adulthood. But it always amuses me when someone tries to drag me back to high school. Especially since the game is dependent upon the fact that the game is never discovered to be a game. (If that makes any sense…) Fortunately (?) for me, I was trained in my home by a f*cking Jedi Master in such things (Hey Mom) who also understood that, silly rabbit, trix are for kids — but it’s good to know when you’re the mark. Anyway, as an aside, it occurs to me that some people never stop playing, which is why I assume there are so many people in therapy trying to deal with their relationships, and why there are so many people bailing on their loved ones, and why there are so many kids trying to figure out if it’s their fault that mommy and daddy “just don’t love each other anymore.” It always reminds me of that play/movie Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. George and Martha like that game a lot. And their misery and alcohol binds them tight. When I was in my teens I thought this was actually a beautiful love story of sorts. Heh. Score two for adulthood.

Anyway, I had an interesting conversation yesterday about this and I always find it so fascinating when men take a strong stance in mandating that a woman have the choice of abortion (yes, I recognize the paradox). This particular man is generally a thoughtful and good person and I think what interested him particularly was this notion that the man plays a role in pregnancy as well. Which kind of opens up the whole “choice” issue in a new direction, doesn’t it? It was a long talk and much of it is necessarily private but the take-away for me came when I asked him if he were in this situation and was told by the woman that she wanted an abortion, and this was something he didn’t want and he did all he could to convince her otherwise and she still insisted, would he still say that the choice was hers alone? To my disappointment, he backtracked to the standard left-of-center position and said, “It’s absolutely her choice unless he cedes some part of his anatomy to her.” But hasn’t he already? I guess what I’m saying here is that we shouldn’t forget the guys in this debate. And I appreciate that this man reminded me of that.

That said, without taking a position on the subject — because this is one that’s pretty personal to me and you people just don’t need to know everything — ladies, being cavalier about pregnancy and easily bought and sold when it comes to the idea that you can just terminate a pregnancy without feeling or regard for the life growing inside you — even my challenger had to admit that life does indeed begin at conception. He just wasn’t willing to call it more important than the mother’s choice. Which is not an unreasonable thought process — gives rise to this kind of dude. If you can stomach the whole thing, feel free. But most relevant is the last entry titled “abortion.” Over 11,000 people like this site on Facebook. So, seriously, people, stop playing in to these douchebags. You make it harder for the whole world, man.

Also, sometimes it is about malice.

Here’s your Friday music straight from the skate rats I grew up with. Slam dance.

 

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It’s all about the love today. So I will give you some thoughts and diversions on that topic. I admit it — I love love. I’m silly for it, in all its forms. There’s no point in being cynical about it because the only way to understand it is to let it wash over you. The cynicism comes, I think, because we’ve been misinformed that it’s a good feeling, this act of love (and it is a verb. But you know that…). It’s not a good feeling. It rips you apart and breaks you. “All I ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya.” Leonard Cohen wrote that. Anyone who’s ever loved knows what he means there. So why can’t we hate this thing that destroys us — in some cases daily — and turns rational thought on its head to make idiots of us all?

Because the risk is always less than the reward. Always.

Saw this first thing in the morning and it made me happy. It’s called the Rosette Nebula. See? The reward always wins.

So, here are your diversions. Just a few of my favorite movie clips, a few songs (some old, some new) and proof that even scientists can’t escape the thing that would seem to run counter to control and logic. In fact, I would go so far as to say that much of our great work in this world as humans — in all endeavors — is inspired by love. Isn’t it wonderful.

From Practical Magic:

Young Sally: He will hear my call a mile away, he will whistle my favourite song, he can ride a pony backwards-
Young Gilly: What are you doing?
Young Sally: I’m summoning up a true love spell called amas veritas, he can flip pancakes in the air, he will be marvellously kind, and his favourite shape will be a star. And he’ll have one green eye, one blue.
Young Gilly: I thought you never wanted to fall in love.
Young Sally: That’s the point. The guy I dreamed up doesn’t exist, and if he doesn’t exist, I’ll never die of a broken heart.

Oh Edison, you old softie…

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!…of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless – of the cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here – that life exists, an identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.’ That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

Jack White, you get it my friend.

Sometimes it hurts.

Sometimes it works.

Sometimes it’s not about love at all, just about missing that stupid ape. (I want to dance to this song in the worst way…)

But always, there’s this:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

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Posting this from my go-to brunch spot Tonic while intermittently chatting with one of my new favorite people who has told me that he will be continuing to work here on Sundays. There was a hot minute when he thought he might be leaving and I was none too pleased. But he’s sticking around. And this is good because I walked in today to have some brunch and he was playing some old Whitney Huston, which is right and appropriate. Speaking of, I like to remember that the lady gave us this rather than what happened to her in her personal life. Also, he’s trying to fill me in on good dance spots because I’ve hit some good ones (Saint Ex, Napoleon, Habana Village) but am ready to explore more when Spring comes. In any event, this is a good place to write now that football is over because I can have a bloody mary and an omelet and just get my stuff worked out. Boom.

So many people have asked if I was down at CPAC when the protestors showed up. No, I was not. I left around 4 pm to go see a show that I think possibly made me a better person. The Fabulous Miss McClain and I had planned a month or so ago to be at Alvin Ailey so she saved me from the madness. And thank God for it because that’s not my scene at all. I don’t care for crowds much, even when everyone’s happy and on the same page. So, when people are spitting and red-faced I’d just as soon be somewhere else. Like here:

Ailey brings a smile.

I was totally fascinated by the lighting fixtures.

But I met the coach later for a cigar and a drink:

Stogies and politics

And he told me about his experiences and said it was all a bit silly and anti-climactic. (“Jeremy and I walked past McPherson Square after you left us Saturday and we saw some of the occupiers that were left…I think they were making s’mores…”) And then someone I know posted a photo from the Cupid’s Undie Run yesterday on Facebook and something occurred to me: while I had originally not given much thought to the notion of a few hundred kids using charity as an excuse to run around monuments in their underwear I think maybe I might be too quick in dismissing that. I still think it is largely an excuse — judging from said photo — to get half naked in below freezing temperatures and strut their business; but at the very least these kids are doing this for a demonstrable purpose. They are raising money for charity, and a good charity at that. And the Occupier-criers could totally use an infusion of that kind of thing. Both in silly spirit and in practical purpose. As an aside, I need to point out here that the whole Undie Run reminds me that someone I know who took issue with me once for watching my shadow as I danced on his patio — and called me out for my vanity — needs to check himself for supporting this kind of thing because, um, yeah. I mean, I can’t even look at myself in the mirror in dance class much less run around in my skivvies and let my picture be displayed all over the web. So you should apologize to me for that sometime. I’m sorry that I’m not as vain as you needed me to be in order to be right about your preconceptions. Wait…no I’m not. Again, just letting a long held vent come out…and it feels good my friends.

So, I managed to catch some of the big speeches at CPAC and then watch the rest via the magic little lightbox I carry around with me. And I think my favorite has to be Marco Rubio. Seriously, open your heads, give it a shot and devote 30 minutes to it. You may find yourselves surprised. Pay close attention to what he says about what other countries do and why that kind of thing actually drives people to our shores here in the good old U.S. of A. Couldn’t agree more. Does this man seem dangerous to you? I’m thrilled someone articulates this stuff in the manner Rubio does, with courage, humility, and humor.

Finally, the Coach and I got into an interesting discussion about the whole “contraception compromise that wasn’t.” He said that a friend of his who supports Obama made the comment after the compromise that amounted to something like: “That whoosh you hear is the sound of the air coming out of the ridiculous argument that Obama was waging a war against religious liberty.” Which prompted the Coach to remark that: “Yes, because Obama losing the argument means the argument never happened.” And this led us both to declare that cult mentality is weird as f*ck. I mean, the man can be wrong…

On that note, here’s one way he was, in a big way. Because let me tell you something about Catholics that you underestimated (and I speak with experience here): while it might seem difficult for someone like yourself to understand, Mr. President, given your penchant for soft adherence to great concepts, practicing Catholics take the observance of their faith and their religious principles seriously. And besides, who are we kidding, this really wasn’t about the separation of church and state at all. But I’ll let the great Mark Steyn explain what the real draw was for your Highness…

Okay, diversions: Avail yourselves of the information. Why is it when it’s actually appropriate to talk about race it’s the last thing mentioned? And if you’re confused just do a quick wiki search of Margaret Sanger. And then tell me again how poor old Planned Parenthood is suffering…

Music.

I just liked this article because harmonics is fascinating.

The History Channel is in here as we speak filming a segment on foods that changed the world and they’re rightly including Tonic’s tater tots. It’ll run in late Spring/early Summer. No, I will not be in it because I prefer not to be and instructed the cameraman as such. But I’ll link it when it airs…

Danced to this yesterday. And fell in love with life all over again.

Finally, currently drifting through the air…see why I come here?

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Check your assumptions

I got nothing today because my world requires my attention at the moment and so I have nothing to give to any of you. But let me just say this: you don’t know irony until you wander around the stodgy halls of CPAC 2012 and a former colleague of yours says, “I have a present for you…” and proceeds to point out Allen Covert, great friend to Adam Sandler and primary writer of one of the greatest stoner films of all time. Also, the dude’s pushing 50 and he is looking fine. Just sayin. In any event, because of that surprise, and because I’m so, so busy kids and I mean I’m starting to have mini breakdowns which is generally the sign that I need to take some time off or I’ll break from reality in a way that will leave me stranded in my mind…whoa. Sorry…let me back up…

Grandma’s Boy was hilarious and here’s Nick Swardson’s standup, because he was in it and I love him.

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