Archive for December, 2009

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theodore rex

December 23, 2009

i’ve briefly touched before on my ideas of imperfect heros and striving towards something better. well, this morning i was reading an interesting post on TR over at EofAW and it brought my mind around to that again. The whole post is worth reading, but here’s the clinch, the final paragraph:

With such an established trinity, what need for a fourth figure? If we can see elements of the godly in each of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, what can we do with the rather thoroughly earthly Roosevelt? But perhaps that is the point. Alongside gods humanity also has a place, and a man who did so much to make daily life in America a little better, and to create the expectation that daily life in America must be better, belongs there.

although when i play the Favorite President game i usually choose Grover Cleveland, TR runs a close second. it’s fun to be glib about him and point out that he was basically the most bad ass president our country has ever seen (sorry, george), but that can also obscure his actual accomplishments. he wasn’t perfect–far from it–but he was a man who carved his own way through life, a progressive republican who broke up trusts and pushed for a variety of social improvements. a man who eventually split with the republicans and created his own Bull Moose Party (best name for a political party EVER, btw). TR was an aristocrat who fought for the common man, an avid hunter who created the National Park Service.

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i have thoughts

December 20, 2009

but i can’t yet sort them out in my head. in the meantime, go read this interview with david simon.

DS: Whereas a guy who accepts the economic cards that have been dealt to him by postindustrial America and just sits there on his porch and says, “Well, I’m not necessary…” In a way, that’s far more brutal than addiction and death, but we don’t get that. From our perch, from our middle-class or upper-middle-class perch, from the policymakers’ perch, things like “Just Say No” sound relevant.

VM: Yeah, that was a very effective campaign.
DS: It draws on the morality that we can easily acquire and utilize—

VM: And it also assumes that everyone has the same set of choices.
DS: Right. Like, “What the fuck was I supposed to say yes to, motherfucker?”

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adventures in vocabulary

December 16, 2009

i just learned a new word, weltschmerz:

Pronunciation: \ˈvelt-ˌshmerts\

Function: noun

Etymology: German, from Welt world + Schmerz pain

Date: 1864

1 : mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state
2 : a mood of sentimental sadness

more on the background of the word:

Weltschmerz (from the German, meaning world-pain or world-weariness) is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. … It is also used to denote the feeling of sadness when thinking about the evils of the world—compare empathytheodicy. … The modern meaning of Weltschmerz in the German language is the psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that someone’s own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstances. Weltschmerz in this meaning can cause depressionresignation and escapism, and can become a mental problem (compare to Hikikomori). 

gotta love the germans. a compound word for everything, and for everything a compound word (the best, of course, being vergangenheitsbewältigung).

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more. better.

December 14, 2009
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christmas awesomeness

December 14, 2009

previously, i discussed my holiday rituals and my love of the über-cheesy 80s holiday classic, “do they know it’s christmas?”

today, gawker brings me the 2009 hipster update of said song, and it is awesome:

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limbo

December 13, 2009

Occasional reviews meets existential crisis: over-identifying with Alfred Lubrano’s Limbo (Wiley, 2004).

Quick summary: Limbo is about a largely-hidden segment of American society: blue collar children who grow up to be white collar adults, and all the ups and downs that come with living in between classes. It’s a pretty good book, and I found that I identified with it in many ways. There are certainly flaws: for one thing, it’s written by a journalist and aimed at a general audience, so by necessity it isn’t as detailed or analytical as I would like. Lubrano also tends to be too broad in his class definitions, and I frequently wonder where, exactly, he draws the line between “middle class” and “upper class.” His subject pool also limits his argument somewhat: most of the people he interviewed are from the East Coast, most of them attended elite Ivy League schools, most of them went on to hold high-ranking positions, and most of them are from the baby boom generation. I wonder how his argument holds up for younger “straddlers,” as he calls them (us, really), for those from the West Coast, for those who didn’t become professors or high level executives but instead became a part of the more “regular” middle class.

But aside from these general criticisms, I find his argument compelling, not least because there are very few books out there that look at class in this way. For a variety of reasons, class isn’t really discussed in our culture, and it’s difficult to talk about how it feels to be in between classes, especially since, like any other group, the middle class tends to overlook its own privilege. Most people don’t realize what they have; they don’t realize how much others have to struggle to attain things that simply came to them. This is something I’ve been thinking about more and more lately, and reading Limbo helped me to frame the ideas I’ve had swirling around in my head, helped give me a language to explain the way that class functions in my own life.

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i have a question

December 11, 2009

what the hell does “drunk as a goat” mean?