Friday, February 22, 2008

Let's Informing!

We're almost to the end of February already. Time flies, does it not? (I don't see what having fun has to do with it. Why would anybody say that?)

Suffice to say, I'm busy as ever. The grad school application process is stressful, particularly when looking for Creative Writing MFA programs that haven't passed their admissions deadlines yet. This is what comes of spending the latter half of 2007 focused on finally graduating, rather than hammering away at grad school applications. Nose to the grindstone - soon to look hilarious or disfigured - possibly both. I'm not sure how many schools would offer January admissions either, frankly. But at this rate, I'm going to have to play the realist soon and face the likelihood of not escaping from here until 2009 already. Not a pleasant feeling, considering that my two main goals for 2008 have been to get out of here for grad school and to get my first novel published. At the rate I'm going, not even a quarter of the way into the year, I'm going to likely have to give up on the former already and see what I have a chance at next year - which I hope like hell doesn't mean not starting grad school till August 2009. I feel like a basket case even thinking about staying down here in the south that much longer, trapped as I'm used to feeling. And knowing my luck, I may not be able to accomplish the latter this year either, hellbent as I am on pulling it off, I have to be a realist at the same time. Just thinking about it is disheartening, and deeply depressing, the year already feeling like it could be a complete bust at the rate it's going. I'm certainly not holding my breath that this book'll somehow kill the unrequited part of my whole unrequited love situation anyway. I've never had that kind of luck. But enough of my personal prattling.

My life is lonely and depressing, and I'm just one man - at least, I was the last time I counted. In the grand scheme of things, like most, my existence is insignificant. But out there in the rest of the world? Big News is happening. Being your resident Internet Snarkmeister, it's my job to inform you of what's happened in recent weeks, and happening now - you know, in case you forgot. You do stay on top of the news, don't you?

Just a few days ago now, Fidel Castro stepped down as president of Cuba, ending many decades of rule by one of the few dictators in the world notably deserving of one particular point of praise - he had a legendary beard. Was it forged in the fires of Mt. Doom? Or perhaps bestowed upon him by some lady from some lake? We may never know. He's handed off power to his brother, Raul Castro, to effectively continue his policies and legacy, with all the good and bad they entail for the Cuban people. Though for a few minutes, Americans got their hopes up as Bush said he hoped Castro's retirement would lead to free and fair elections for the Cuban people. (An ironic statement both from Bush, and in Cuba's relatively close proximity to Florida, where Bush historically stole the 2000 election.) Will Raul live up to his brother's epic facial hair? Probably not. Will American foreign policy be given a more open-minded approach so that we may finally end this trade embargo - which failed to cripple the country like we hoped, and has only hurt the people, making us look like real asses again - and work with the Cuban people again? Probably not. Will we even stop trying to paint Cuba as a destitute hellhole when the rest of the world gives them some modicum of national dignity in the least? Probably not. Presto change-o, everything's the same.

Skylab Part II: Gone Hollywood
We all remember when everyone was afraid of being hit by falling chunks of Skylab back in the 1980s, right? Right. Let's pretend I'm not too young to remember that. In fact, let's say I was flattened by a piece of it - a space toilet or something. I need to be able to blame the bad jokes I make in here on something. Anyway, a US spy satellite - because we know that nothing improves foreign relations quite like openly spying on them, the voyeuristic nation we are - recently began a similar descent. And it carried a toxic fuel. (I can smell the Michael Bay movie deal already.) Naturally, we're now prepared for situations like this thanks to modern Hollywood "masterpieces" like Armageddon and Deep Impact, which told us deeply inspirational and valuable tales of going into space to solve all our problems through the use of explosives. Taking the all-important cue, Bush had the Navy shoot down said satellite with a missile. The debris hasn't landed yet, though it's been since confirmed to be a successful hit. But we all know that whenever that missile was fired, someone uttered a bad one-liner. This is something that should fill us all with a deep sense of national shame. Especially seeing as we don't really know whether blowing it up will prevent anyone from being hurt or killed anyway. But if we didn't blow that up, in proper American manner, we'd be looking for something else to blow up instead. (Probably the moon.) Without our explosions, we're nothing. As we are after our explosions. From nothing to nothing. So goes the American journey.

Those Independence Blues
Also just days ago, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. America has recognized their legitimacy as an independent nation, and is now dealing with the blowback from our support, including the torching of the US embassy in Belgrade. Serbia is opposing this move, while not threatening to use military force - Russia, on the other hand, is willing to use force if that's what it takes. Bosnia has said they would declare their independence as well, if Kosovo managed to pull this off. And this whole situation raises even further questions in regards to Palestine, Tibet, and Quebec. At this point, it's impossible to say what will happen and what would be the best outcome in the end - as world politics, especially in seeking the birth of new nations, are never a simple issue - but it's safe to say that this new imbroglio may be enough to successfully keep the Bush administration from lying their way into war with Iran, as they've been pushing for in the last year, just to leave the next administration with an even more daunting shitstorm on their hands, to put it eloquently as possible when it comes to war.

Strike While the Jokes are Stale!
On February 13th, the Writer's Guild of America finally ended their near three and a half month strike, upon reaching a deal with the companies. It wasn't exactly a 100% successful strike for labor activists to cheer on - writers still aren't getting a scaled cut of the profits on online content, though they will be given a nice sum for having their work used online, at least - but they didn't come away empty-handed either. And in the end, strikes tend to largely be a matter of compromise anyway, so it certainly didn't end in failure. Of course, many shows - like Heroes, Chuck, and Pushing Daisies - won't be back until this fall now. And it's hard to say if the Scrubs series finale will even get aired on NBC now, rather than simply going straight to DVD and syndication later this year. A shame, if that's the case. But now that the studios and companies are back to cracking the whip, it'll be interesting to observe the repercussions of the strike for the remainder of the year.

There's Nothing Funny About This One
So, how 'bout that US military, huh? Everyone serving in the military sure is a great military hero, am I right? In fact, donning that uniform makes you a better person than everybody else by default, and there's nothing unhealthy about the way we obsess over glorifying our crazy militarization in this country. The true heart of the US industry belongs - and should always lie - in the military industrial complex. Make love, not war, you say? What are you, some kinda commie? Yeah, there's no denying that I'm not a part of this national love affair we've been having with the military, soldiers, and warfare. We love to excessively glorify it all when we haven't taken part in a single war where we're strongly identifiable as the "good guys" since World War II, when we certainly committed our fair share of atrocities back then too. Our hands aren't clean. But rather than own up to our own mistakes - maybe even learning from them as so not to repeat them - we like to look back and whitewash our past. We were great heroes! Ignore what we did to Japan, the brutality of the firebombing and the longstanding cultural damage rooted in the nuclear bombs. Ignore Dresden too! We could've won in Vietnam - even though it wasn't our war to get involved in to begin with - if we'd just kept killing farmers and bombing Cambodia! There's nothing we can't solve with enough firepower! Yes, my problems with the military and our culture's happy obsession with it are numerous. But this time, I'm focusing on another simple story. We keep fucking up in Okinawa. For all the discipline we're supposed to be training our soldiers to have (And yes, it was a marine in this case, but it's more fun to refer to all who serve in the military as soldiers - which technically isn't inaccurate - since no amount of discipline keeps some people from getting snippy and self-righteous about which branch they serve in. Of course, this isn't all soldiers. Openly anti-military as I am, I don't think for a second that they're all awful people or anything of the sort - it's as far from black and white a matter as anything else.), we can't seem to stop causing trouble in Okinawa. We've watched our soldiers go to prison before for raping local girls - and in this case, it looks like yet another rape has occurred. I've got nothing but sympathy for the poor girl, her family, and the people of Okinawa in general. Looking back in the news, there's always been one string of troubling incidents after the next happening there over the decades, with some of our guys at the center. (And in this day and age, this shouldn't be overly surprising, considering the disturbingly high rate of incidence of sexual abuse our enlisted women experience these days. You'd think all the discipline of the military could stand to include respecting women by now.) In many regards though, it ultimately raises the question of how much longer the Japanese people are going to put up with this. Our relations with them tend to vary, and decades of incidents like these sure as hell aren't helping.

Not-So-Hip to be Conservative
To conclude on a more humorous note, with both parties narrowing their options, their frontrunners clear, the Republicans are facing particular difficulties in getting even basic support in widespread culture - making it further apparent that after 8 years of Bush, they don't really have a shot in hell in November, short of a rigged election. Previously, John "We'll stay in Iraq another 100 years if we have to!" McCain had been playing John Mellencamp's "Our Country" as his campaign song. Mellencamp, like most of America, is nowhere near on the same page as McCain politically, and had him stop using his song. Meanwhile, Mike "I will amend the Constitution to god's law" Huckabee has faced criticism from the Boston band leader for performing "More Than a Feeling" without permission. Ever the self-righteous ass, Huckabee has gone on to claim that he's helped Boston's record sales. (Which is a questionable statement at best - everyone knows that Huckabee's fundamentalist support base rejects anything even remotely melodic as the work of Beelzebub.) Then going back to McCain, he's not even hip enough to get ABBA on his side. (And he apparently had some trouble with the Rocky soundtrack as well.) In the end, if there's anything to be taken away from this, it's probably that if a musician or group has talent, it'd be a cold day in hell before they'd support the Republican party. ... So, I guess this means we can look forward to future campaigns with a John Ashcroft "Let the Eagle Soar" theme, huh?

Feeling more informed? What do you mean you're worried you have a brain tumor now?



That growth looks benign. I don't care if it has a face and it's punctuating our exchange with amazing wisecracks. This was a good entry, dammit.


Adrienne Manson said...

Your writings are very good. Hope you meet your goals of being published.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed. I appreciate the support, as well. I'm doing what I can to pursue that goal, at least, and it's always nice to hear a kind word or two.