Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sterilizing History : Ward Churchill at The New School

By Nicholas Allanach

“It’s a great big white world, when we are drained of our colors” –Marilyn Manson

I’ve recently been trying to forget about the past and move on. I suppose we all sterilize “history” in some way? After all, why relive yesterday’s painful reminders that we’re wretched, worthless, vicious creatures? Why not wipe the slate clean? Start over on one big blank canvas. Create something new. The dilemma…what if someone has already painted on the canvas? What if another artist has already made their mark? Oftentimes, getting rid of history—like those pesky marks on a canvas—takes a lot of energy. Some may choose to paint around the image, others over it. Then there are those who, regrettably, lose all inspiration and violently bust the shit out of the painting. I guess some events push people to destroy things. Erase things like love, history, and people.

Ward Churchill is well versed in power’s propensity to violently destroy (as well as erase) things like history and people. As a scholar, Churchill has written on American Indian culture and is particularly concerned with the genocide inflicted on the indigenous people of North America by European settlers and the repression of such native peoples which continues to this day. Professor Churchill’s writings and lectures have made him a rather contentious and outspoken speaker; of course, much of this controversy is not spawned by his studying of the violent imperialist components of U.S. History (or perhaps it is?) but more so from reactions he has received (predominantly from the O-Reilly-Right) concerning an essay Professor Churchill wrote after 9/11, in which he compared those killed in the Trade Center and Pentagon as “little Eichmans.” Churchill claims those who stabilize and perpetuate the U.S. led technocratic empire—whether this support be direct or indirect—are “not innocent.”

Such statements are bound to pick at the scabs of those who’ve lost a loved one on 9/11, and for good reason –nobody likes to be called the bad guy. Of course those so enraged by Professor Churchill’s statements are likely blinded by their emotion. The point Churchill makes (for those willing to listen) is—whether we like it or not—all of our hands are stained with the blood of empire. “Truth isn’t always comfortable.” Accordingly, neither was the lecture Churchill delivered at The New School this week, but it was, nevertheless, true.

Ward Churchill’s lecture (sponsored by the Women of Color student committee) began with Professor Churchill’s initial reactions he had to the attacks of 9/11 and how these events were then subsequently framed by the media. Such machinery positioned words and images so that they would be remembered tomorrow as historical “truth”. Admittedly, such “truth” is not the same kind of truth Churchill describes as making one uncomfortable. In fact, this “truth” is usually the exact opposite –it is manufactured “truth” that selectively chooses to mention and/or frame an event so as to stabilize American interests. The problem of course with this machinery is that it deceives us and does so by aggressively covering its own tracks. Like erasing marks on a canvas, American power must maintain a certain image of itself (no matter how violently); it is no secret, the most effective way to sustain this image is through the media (and history).

The second half of Churchill’s lecture was a detailed blow-by-blow of American power and how this power is not now, nor has it ever been “innocent”. In fact, there could never be enough flags to soak up the blood spilt from the gruesome and deplorable acts meted out against people in service of our “innocent” interests. I’m not equipped to go over the many scenes of depravity that can be traced back through Vietnam, to the Jim Crow South, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the genocide of the Native American peoples. Of course, I’d like to assume people are aware of not only the commendable but also the vicious acts that make up the American narrative; unfortunately, they are not. In fact, more people would rather ignore such uncomfortable truths. Unlike your standard U.S. History textbook, Professor Churchill doesn’t shy away from these gruesome details and countless acts of violence that have constituted American empire (often confused with “our way if life”).

Certainly, any responsible scholar and/or teacher should never fear telling the good-news alongside the bad. When we ignore the lessons of history we’re doomed to repeat them. The only solution Churchill offers his students is to “hold oneself accountable.” Obviously, “holding oneself accountable” can happen on many levels of social action, but it is important to begin at the individual level by first asking and then admitting what has come before us to make this moment possible –no matter how bad it makes us feel. I know such statements will not rest or resolve our troubled conscience, but why should they? We are all guilty and nothing will ever change that, what can change is tomorrow and how we approach it. Ultimately, if we approach the future without first truthfully acknowledging our past, than the “spirits” from these unsettled moments will come back again and again like “chickens coming home to roost” or “spirits riding on the wings of a plane.” What is worse is that if such actions are never acknowledged than the illusion remains, history will—as Churchill notes—be forever sterilized and we will all be not only apathetic to our place in this history but in danger of having our own canvases wiped clean from it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Knives Out: Gordon Ramsay at The London

By Nicholas Allanach

I admit it, I’m no Frank Bruni; in fact, I'm a horrible cook and am only useful in the kitchen when washing dishes (a weakness I'm in the process of correcting). Needless to say, I love fine-dining and am a huge fan of Gordon Ramsay. Admittedly, I probably admire the man more for his shrewd and unforgiving management style than his food. But who cares? Besides, as I already mentioned, I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to food. Nevertheless, when my friend invited me out for lunch last Sunday to eat at Gordon Ramsay's newest (and perhaps most ambitious) venture, Gordon Ramsay at The London, I couldn't resist.

Many of us are already familiar with Chef Ramsay's relentless pursuit for perfection. Likely this image does not come from having the opportunity to eat at any of his nine restaurants, but because of Ramsay’s celebrity stature as the host of three reality television shows. Although some critics (such as fellow kitchen bad boy Anthony Bourdain) have cautioned that Ramsay's star power could potentially deter New York’s foodie elite from frequenting Gordon Ramsay. Bourdain writes, “Mostly liberal, moneyed New Yorkers, who like to think of themselves as world-weary, cynical and sophisticated, might not take a shine to a chef known mostly for appearing on a reality show.” Of course, for all the “moneyed” New Yorkers who won’t go to Gordon Ramsay their seats will likely be taken by those who’ll welcome the surprisingly affordable menu (in comparison to Ramsay’s pricier neighbors).

When dining at Gordon Ramsay, diners will have a choice of either sitting in the casual hip bar that offers small plate fare and seating for 70 or the more formal, and intimate, dining room with seating for 45. For larger events, Gordon Ramsay at The London will offer three private dining rooms for special event functions. Guests at The London Hotel will also be able to enjoy en-suite dining. Obviously, logistics alone (not to mention ruthless food critics) are shaping this project up to be a mammoth undertaking for Gordon Ramsay and his chef de cuisine Neil Ferguson (who has been with chef Ramsay since “the hard arse days” at Aubergine). Of course, the notoriously competitive Ramsay doesn’t seem to be too intimidated by the odds stacked against him. As he claims in a recent online interview, “I’m used to pressure, I’m useless without it.”

When I dined at Gordon Ramsay I did not see any of this pressure; of course, why would the diners see any back of the house intensity? We sat in the formal dining area which is (unfortunately) rather tacky and gave me the impression of sitting in one of the quickly thrown together dining room sets often seen on Ramsay’s "Hell’s Kitchen" television show on Fox. Of course, it’s obvious Ramsay is more concerned with his food and service then setting; however, there is nothing epic or intriguing about the overall layout. Even the staff in many ways bears the signature Ramsay look (as if they too just stepped from out of the television screen), the host was a young French man (of course) with slicked-back hair. The waiters and waitresses were all smartly dressed with tightly fitting suits and ties. There was even the inevitable “cow” (this time an overweight offish looking food runner, who Ramsay himself at one point reprimanded for “speaking too much with the customers”). Not surprisingly, chef Ramsay himself came out and made his rounds to welcome diners to his restaurant.

I’m not even going to try and criticize the food, but will at least tell you what I had to eat and my initial impressions of the dishes. To start, the kitchen brought out a complimentary cappuccino of white beans with grated truffle, which was delicious and a perfect warm-up after coming in from a blustery afternoon. For my starter I had the fillet of trout over braised potatoes, morel casserole and horseradish velonte; again, delicious and a perfect follow-up to the cappuccino soup. For my main course I had the rump of lamb, confit treviso, spiced tomato jam and golden raisins paired with a glass of Reisling. This dish was very flavorful; the spiced tomato jam with the delectable lamb slices was a delicious combination. Finally, I had the chocolate mousse with chestnut and caramel for dessert.

Despite the bland atmosphere, my meal was seasonable and delicious; moreover, it was great to actually catch a glimpse of the man himself in action. Whether Gordon Ramsay will make back the 6.5 million dollars of his own money he invested in this venture, is anyone’s guess. Of course, chef Ramsay is also gunning for another three Michelin stars and the approval of New York’s foodie elite. All worthy battles for a man who has never shied away from competition or challenge, if tough is what it takes to make it in New York, Ramsay will succeed. Admittedly, having an affordable fine dining experience from one of the world’s premier celebrity chefs won’t hurt.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My "New" New World

By Nicholas Allanach

Over the past few weeks, people have told me that feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness, commonly experienced while going through a divorce are similar to those one confronts when someone we love dies. I’m not sure I totally agree with this assessment; of course, I also don’t think I’d be able to say which I’d prefer over the other. After all, if someone dies, (assuming they don’t commit suicide) it’s not like they can control it; whereas with divorce someone has willfully decided—often against the wishes of their spouse—to call it quits. Thus, the “dumped” must accept they’re no longer the primary object of the other’s interests or affections. Such wounds certainly take time and energy to heal but ultimately, love (as Marilyn Manson sang) “burns its casualties.”

My efforts to reach out and regain the love I once shared with my wife failed. We’re done and only she holds the answers as to why (or at least I’d like to believe she knows the answers, but I have a suspicion she’s really lost right now). Past posts on this page reveal brief glimpses of the thoughts and feelings this experience has had on me, but this will be the last of such posts. Whereas, I’m certain there are still tears to be shed and questions that will need to be answered, I can now say, with all honesty –I’ve moved on. I’ve accepted my wife’s decision to end us (then again , I really never had any choice) and (despite my dreams for our future) I can only thank her for the new new world I now live in without her.

The adventures I wanted to have with my wife are gone, but the ones I now chart for myself have just begun. As I embark on this new journey there are still a few things I need to flesh-out before taking any wobbly first steps; after all, it would be foolish to assume the unsettled has been resolved, or that I do not still wish things could have been different. Inevitably, life and love doesn’t always conclude with neat and tidy resolutions; thus, I can only do my best to confront this recent complication with what little certainty I did retain during my adjustment.

My initial instincts were to never trust anyone again (or at least not at the level I did with my wife). After all, why trust if you’ve been burned so many times before? Of course, my overreaction was short-lived. I understand we must (despite how vulnerable it makes us) trust people, if we cannot be confident others are willing to stand beside us (because, ultimately, they too hope others will stand besides them) then all is lost. Certainly, there are people who take advantage of trust and when we fall victim to such abuse we can at least be thankful we’re no longer so naïve. Certainly, the world is a viscous and cruel place, but it is also one full of caring and reliant people. Accordingly, just because my wife damaged the trust between us and then decided she is incapable of holding herself at all accountable to life’s many challenges and responsibilities, does not mean the hundreds of other women I see everyday suffer this same disposition. In fact, despite my personal experience, I still strongly believe in trust and know I will find it again.

I thank my ex-wife for all the love and experience she let us share. I’m happy nothing can ever take back or change any of those days we spent together. Although she shut her eyes to the world I wanted to show her, mine remain wide-open to the one she revealed to me. She made me less rigid, more relaxed, and aware of my anxieties. She cultured my pallet to fine foods and wines. She loosened up my hips and put fire under my feet, so that I’m now confident enough to dance like any other fool on the dance floor. My wife showed me patience, humility, and in the end wisdom. I thank her for making me less naïve and even more honest then I was before, but not so closed off from this world that I will be incapable of loving again.

Am I alright? …Well, as alright as anyone can be when they’re heart has been cut out of their chest and kicked around on the floor. But ultimately, love “burns its casualties” and I welcome the immolation, as I also welcome my new new world. I only ask you to accept these burning wings.

Our clock stopped.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Complication II


By Nicholas Allanach

It hurts when people we trust and care about the most stab us in the back. Unfortunately, we’re often totally oblivious to the fact our loved ones, or best friends, are actually not here to support us but to destroy us instead. We definitely put our defenses down when we begin trusting people and are often so blind by love we’re unable to see who our real enemies are. Trust is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can certainly be a weakness that leaves us vulnerable to vicious attacks. Trust is also one of the few things holding the fabric of this fragile world together; moreover, it is also, paradoxically the one thing people take the most advantage of. Recently, one thing I have come to “trust” is that people can—as Modest Mouse sang—“easily, easily, fuck you over.”

This Halloween I packed up my wife’s belongings, took down all of our pictures, and removed my ring. It’s just too painful to look at images from what I believed were happier times; besides, they only remind me again and again of the amazing life we could have shared. I’ve been terribly depressed and angered by this unforeseen change in events, but know that ultimately, (after many tears and a few sore knuckles from punching the walls later) I will be a stronger and wiser person from this experience. I can only hope the same for my—working her way to be “X”—wife.

I’m not mad the woman I love is leaving me; I love her too much to be mad. I only regret she couldn’t recognize the love I wanted us to share. Perhaps it was difficult to see past all of my callous unsympathetic moments to understand I cared for her more than anything else? I’ve certainly not been a perfect person (neither has she), but I also realize that if anything is ever perfect, it’s usually dreadfully boring as well. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve tried to understand why she left. Perhaps she thinks I’m too cruel? Too intense? Maybe she believes I would one day hurt her, so she decided to instead hurt me first? Only she knows for sure and I really wish she’d tell me straight. What I do know is how I felt about her before she left and what I dreamed we’d share together.

A lot of people scoff at the thought of marriage, I know I did; after all, who is to say two people should ever have to be completely accountable to one another? Moreover, I was always afraid of marriage because I always saw the same result –Divorce. Admittedly, most of those who are cynical about such commitments have been hurt from such experiences themselves. Needless to say, I wasn’t, I was ready for commitment and a future with her. But I, like anyone, wanted to make absolutely sure. In fact, I’d been with my wife for almost six years and after many hints from her for “a ring”, I eventually asked her on top of Rockefeller Center to marry me. I was a bit nervous, but knew we were making the right decision when she said “yes.” I can honestly say I’d never been more-happy in my entire life. I suppose, it is a happiness I shared alone, I’d like to think not; but, well…who knows?

I know marriage can be tough and that it is not a commitment for the weak. I realized it meant giving my self to someone so much that I would need to be totally honest and dependable to that person. I was so prepared for this and wanted it more than anything else, because I love her so much. I guess she’s not ready for my love? I guess she wants to live a “simple life”, that she will one day, unfortunately, realize is actually far more complex than the one I dreamed we’d share.

Before she left, I held her close while she slept, almost like I needed to hang onto her as much as I could so as to enjoy those last moments we shared together for all they were worth. I remember petting her hair and looking down at her head as she lay on my chest. I noticed some roots from her graying hair that poked-out through her dye job and I tried then to imagine her hair as one day becoming all grey, I tried to see her skin as wrinkled and old: could I still love her? The answer is yes. In fact, this thought and realization made me love her even more. I saw this as her beauty as our beauty and our strength. I imagined us as old people and as best friends that could eventually look back onto a life of adventure, accomplishment, and love; one that may have not always been perfect, but one that was at least spent together with someone you trust and is your best friend through “better or worse.”

I guess it’s nice to dream. Unfortunately, reality tells us that trust is too fragile for this commitment and that anyone can “easily, easily, fuck you over.”

Thursday, October 26, 2006


By Nicholas Allanach

Life isn’t always logical. Oftentimes, people don’t make the best decisions; especially when you adore someone more than your own self. I suppose Bob Dylan was right when he said, “You can’t be wise and in love.” Of course, for sometime now I’ve wanted to believe Dylan is just a cynical old bastard; however, over this last horrible month of unexpected and painful rejection, coupled alongside hours of deep personal introspection –I’ve started to think Dylan is right: “You can’t be wise and in love.”

Back in the autumn of 1999, I was involved in one of those Sid & Nancy-esque relationships (not with the girl pictured, that's my wife). This relationship (before I met my wife) was one of those real fucked-up, cops-called-to-the-apartment-with-guns-drawn, cut-open chest, blood on the floor, showing up at my apartment in lingerie and a trench coat, viscous codependent scenes. Eventually, the girl who I thought was “the one” was actually nothing more than “the one” who wanted to turn my life into the inevitable Kurt Cobain shotgun to the head ending –“real horror show.” Fortunately, I wised up and left this girl for good. Unfortunately, getting to this point took some time and a lot of complication.

That Halloween, this girl and I were “on the outs.” We were no longer living together, our apartments were now ten miles apart, and I was trying to avoid all of her pleas for us to get back together. In a moment of weakness (or perhaps horniness), I decided to drive with her to her new apartment for a “visit.” After awhile, this visit inevitably turned into the usual sex-session and then fight. I decided I could not be with her anymore. I got wise (unfortunately, not until I busted a nut). I said, “I’m leaving” and began the ten-mile trek to my apartment in Portland.

While walking back to my place, she kept driving up alongside me, pleading with me to “get in the car.” Nevertheless, despite my exhaustion, my thirst, my hunger, and need for answers to this confusing situation, I kept my pace. Eventually, she realized it was no use and drove off without me. With each step I took, my mind began to feel rejuvenated and more confident of my decision to flee. I knew this journey would take me away from her and back to the sanity I wanted. Unfortunately, sanity was the last thing waiting for me when I got home.

She still had a key to my apartment, and while I was walking home, she drove her car ahead and let herself in. Accordingly, everything I’d worked for, and achieved up that point in life was gone. She tore up my paintings, broke my guitar in half and pushed the splintered neck through my amplifier, my computer and TV was smashed, my writing was torn up into little fragments all over the floor. In the bedroom, she had torn up the mattress with a knife, dumped KY lubricant all over my sheets, and—at some point during this insanity—wrote “Happy Halloween” in her own blood on the wall. Needless to say, the holiday has lost much of its childhood charm for me.

She was still in the apartment while I took in the seen. She stood there, shivering and weeping in the corner. A lesser man would have lashed out at her, screaming, and punching his way out of anger. I instead, said “I forgive you…now go.” She pleaded and apologized, begging to stay. I was mad and hurt. But I was now sure this girl was not “the one.” In fact, her actions had made it even easier for me to leave.
After she left, I began picking up all the broken pieces. I put everything neatly into trash bags and then lay alone on the cold floor of my empty apartment. Everything was gone. I vowed to never talk to her again. How could I ever be around someone who did this to me? Unfortunately, I was still unwise and “in love.”

Despite this obvious betrayal of trust and irrationally destructive behavior, I asked her to get back together with me one last time and invited her to come to New York City for the 2000 millennium celebration. Of course, part of my desperation at the time may have been attributed to the “end time/Y2K” anxiety, or maybe, that was just an excuse to not have to celebrate the evening alone, while my friend spent it with his longtime girlfriend.

While we were in New York, things went great: shopping, restaurants, and dancing. Until the night of the countdown: instead of celebrating with everyone else, she barricaded herself into a room and didn’t come out all night, despite my pleas. I’m still not entirely sure as to why. Nevertheless, I realized then, finally, she was not “the one.” She was a damaged and deranged, sick girl. If she could not exist with me here in the city I eventually planned to live in, then what future could we really have?

Our bus ride back to Portland was long and silent. Nothing could save us now. We were done. Of course, she kept calling, showing up at my work, pleading with me to get back together with her. Things “could change.” But I stood firm with my decision. Time is too short to be wasted on those not ready to live certainly and sanely with themselves, let alone with others. Eventually, the calls stopped and she ceased showing up at my work. I’ve heard from some people she’s not doing so well anymore, too bad. I’m now living in New York City, working, writing, and illustrating my dreams. Unwise decisions made while in love couldn’t take this away from me, and never will.

I do not reject love. In fact, love is (as another great rock & roll saint declared) “all you need.” Unfortunately, when we seek the validation of ourselves through an Other—through love—we run the risk of forgetting what kind of validation we were originally searching for in the first place. Ultimately, I found love again. It is a love I feel so strongly about because it validates everything I’ve always been looking for in a woman. Accordingly, my beautiful, caring, happy, talented, and amazing wife became “the one.”

Unfortunately, Bob Dylan’s quote is now rattling through my head despite this, (currently estranged) happiness: “You cannot be wise and in love.” Maybe it’s just because my wife and I are now suffering from our own complication? I guess I can only hope history does not repeat itself; because, after all, I may have been unwise with this girl before, and probably gave her way too many chances to regain what we shared; but never again. My patience is now short. Eventually, I will not call. I will not write. I will still dream—even as I walk away—but this time, wiser than before

Friday, September 22, 2006

The United Nations: Fix it, before it’s too late

By Nicholas Allanach

The 61st meeting of the United Nation’s General Assembly was likely one of the most contentious. Clearly reform is needed. However, it would be foolish to assume change should only happen to the UN alone; after all, action cannot be taken (such as sending a peacekeeping force to stop the Janjaweed initiated genocide in Darfur) if individual members of the body are unable to agree on ways—or more importantly, commit resources—to deal with such crises. Reform can only take place if members agree to build more bridges than they prefer to perpetually burn down.

The United Nations was established as a governing body to maintain peace and assure economic stability while encouraging cooperation amongst its diverse members. Unfortunately, this past week revealed how dangerously close this body is in becoming completely ineffectual. A scary thought, indeed; especially when considering the highly flammable geopolitical landscape that is either smoldering one week or exploding the next. Admittedly, no organization is perfect; moreover, to place all the weight of this very heavy world on the back of one system alone is bound to bring Atlas (no matter how strong) to his quivering knees. Thus, the real road to reform begins with the individual members themselves.

Secretary General Koffi Annan—in his farewell address to the Assembly—candidly explained that "an unjust world economy, world disorder, and widespread contempt for human rights and the rule of law…have not resolved, but [have] sharpened" during his tenor, which will, presumably, end on December 31st. Who will take over for Secretary Annan is anyone’s guess; nevertheless, whomever takes over for him should pay heed to his observation or else suffer the consequences of governing an inept and/or failed body.

Of course, it is not at all surpising to see the UN trying to hang on to some kind of legitimacy. After all, when the world is in such turmoil, why wouldn’t this same world’s voice and face suffer the same? Arguably, we can look back over the past half decade and see an increasly banal and cynical environment developing. Much of this cynicism could be a result of the bullying tactics of the United States, whose go-it-alone arrogance and deceiptful presentation to the security council before the lead up to war in Iraq has, in fact, created a climate of hypocrisy and suspicion. Why wouldn’t Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez give a raucous (and at times pertinent) assessment of the UN and its obvious pandering to US interests? If President Bush can get out front of this international body and assume his government deserves the right to have the last word in all instances, then why shouldn’t other members decide to call his bluf and become just as arrogant? Ahmadinejad may be a theocratic whack-job, but he makes a good point when asking, “If the US or the UK…commit aggression, occupation and violation of international law, which of the organs of the UN can take them to account?”

Like John Bolton’s hair-do, the UN desperately needs a make-over an dpart of this new look should be to consider the power the US holds over this body. Unfortunately, such change cannot take place until a certain amount of respectability is regained on the lecturn. It is not in anyone’s best interest to avoid or insult presidents and representatives of the UN (sorry John for ragging on your hair). When dialogue breaks down, violence is the inevitable result. Thus, if the UN and the individual members that make up its body are unable to begin speaking to eachother coherently, frankly, and respectfully, one can only expect larger disagreements –such as the very conflicts the UN was established to prevent.

A scary thought, indeed.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Jonathan Tasini - Changing the Course

By Nicholas Allanach

Nobody recognizes Jonathan Tasini as he enters Starbucks. Of course, why should they? After all, he’s not traveling with an entourage or security detail; in fact, the only thing connecting this Democratic Senatorial candidate to his small (mostly volunteer) staff is the Blackberry plugged into his ear, which he politely removes with a friendly smile before shaking my hand. “Sorry, I’m under the wire today. So let’s get right to it.”

Jonathan Tasini has reason to be busy. In fact, despite the lackluster response from the mocha latte sipping clientele’, he has recently acquired a great deal of attention from various progressive groups, such as the Village Independent Democrats, Brooklyn Democrats for Change, and Downtown Independent Democrats, to name a few. Naturally, Mr. Tasini hopes to move beyond party-politics by sending a resounding message (“vote for what you believe in” –troops out now) to anti-war voters seeking a candidate that speaks to their values. In fact, over the past six weeks, Tasini and his team have traveled across New York to spread the word while collecting close to 40,000 signatures from registered Democrats to get his name on the primary ticket. Accordingly, Tasini has put his, admittedly, long-shot campaign one-shot closer to his incumbent target, Hillary Clinton.

Unlike Senator Clinton, Tasini suffers no illusions about the war and indicates each day of this campaign that he can better represent the liberal base Clinton ignored when giving President Bush authorization to storm Iraq. Admittedly, Clinton has recently taken “responsibility for her vote.” But nevertheless, as Tasini notes, “this doesn’t mean she’s off the hook.” Tough words from a man who, at first glance, would seem to pose no threat to the Clinton juggernaut; however, if Tasini has the support he claims, then Clinton’s pro-war vote might not only complicate an easy re-election bid to the senate, but could also deter local support for a White House run in 2008.

If Hillary Clinton is a “stay the course” candidate then Jonathan Tasini is most certainly the “change the course” alternative; unfortunately, many voters will still choose Clinton, despite the fact most, as Tasini claims “can not say what policy position [of hers] they support.” Tasini admits “this campaign is really going to be a question of whether it’s about celebrity and name recognition…or, if we actually get to face the issues.” Some of the issues Tasini hopes to confront are the environment (he supports the Apollo Alliance), labor rights (is pro-union), health-care (“universal”, instead of “affordable”), and (of course) the war. Moreover, Tasini is not afraid to say he is “one-hundred-percent pro-choice” and that he also “supports same-sex marriage, period.”

Jonathan Tasini does not practice politics as usual. In fact, many of the positions he takes on hot-button issues will most certainly isolate him from traditional beltway backing. For instance, when asking Tasini how he would deal with terrorism and national security. He quickly responds, “Number one, we need to understand why people are angry at the United States, but must resist easy explanations like, ‘they hate our way of life’, because it has nothing to do with that; however, it does have much to do with the decisions our government makes around the world.” Moreover, instead of bolstering the usual “U.S. will stand beside Israel” rhetoric (as recently spouted by Senator Clinton at a rally outside the United Nations); Tasini opts for a more balanced (admittedly more risky) assessment of the crisis. He claims, “We must be honest and realize our one-sided policy has played a hand in provoking this recent conflict. In fact, I believe [in a] two-state solution that recognizes an independent Palestinian state.”

Idealism may be the driving force behind Tasini’s run; regrettably, such optimism appears to have no place in contemporary American politics. Too risky. Nevertheless, Tasini isn’t backing down and (unlike Senator Clinton) he refuses to sell his supporters out. Perhaps if Tasini were able to speak to more New Yorkers then he would be able to convince them that he is the best candidate for the job; after all, with Iraq (and now, much of the Middle East) descending daily into worse-case catastrophic scenarios, why should voters not “change the course?” Or, for that matter, rethink the limited framework of politics itself?

Perhaps it’s easier for voters to continue supporting the same greedy policies that increase corporate power, destroy the environment, and perpetuate war; because, they’re unable to imagine alternative solutions to such problems, or, maybe voters are just too lazy to make real change? It appears as though voters hold on to certain ideals that blind them from the truth. For instance, those who support Senator Clinton continue picturing her as the liberal she once was, yet fail to recognize how similar she now is to those (like the pharmaceutical corporations) she once fought so hard against.

Tasini’s position on the issues are common sense to anyone with a clear and socially aware conscience; however, there is something inherently apathetic, hypocritical, and downright evil about the American identity that chooses to ignore such solutions because they demand “changing the course” and honestly confronting the mistakes of our past. Fortunately, for the voter’s of New York, they have an opportunity this September to begin initiating such bold change by voting Tasini into the Senate.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Super Al Returns with An Inconvenient Truth

While watching An Inconvenient Truth, I thought of Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments; of course, Heston’s stone tablets seem archaic alongside Al Gore’s prophetic power-point presentation. Nevertheless, the Katrina age eco-gospel is here: thou shall not trivialize global warming! Thou shall not drive gas guzzling Hummers! Unfortunately, before we rejoice; all the good ideas, slick graphics, and corny jokes on this (soon to be extinct) planet will never wipe away our inconveniently timed eco-apocalypse. It’s too late, and judging by Mr. Gore’s somber face, he knows it. Undoubtedly, the most frightening aspect of Gore’s “Mr. Science” slide show is that irresponsible environmental habits have already pushed any thought of future survival on earth “off the chart.”

All life (yes, American life too) is in dire straits. But most frightening, is that even if we kick these dirty petrol/plastic habits, we’re probably already too far past that dreaded and proverbial “point of no return.” Depressing. But look, up in the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a…Super Al! Yes, he’s here to assure us not to be so fatalistic. We can change. But why bother? In fact, why not be i-pod apathetic? Let us (as Jim Morrison once bellowed) “get [ours] before the whole shit house goes up in flames.” Or not. After all, shouldn’t we at least give our horrible industrial addictions a worthy thrashing before they condemn all of humanity to its grave?

I agree with Al Gore, I think we can offset our waste. It’s not too late and I strongly believe that with international cooperation and (most importantly) world peace, we can stop this, seemingly, inevitable self-destruction. An Inconvenient Truth will not get an award for its mediocre and, oftentimes, irritating computer animation. Nor do I suspect Al Gore receiving recognition for his breakthrough performance. Of course, An Inconvenient Truth is not intended to be an edge of your seat thriller (even if it succeeds in scaring the hell out of us). Davis Guggenheim’s documentary is, meant to educate and provoke audiences into discussing this super-sized problem as well as to develop potential ways of redirecting these troubling trends. In this sense, An Inconvenient Truth succeeds and is definitely the most important movie of the year.

Unfortunately, backward socio-political ideologues—such as those who neglect to tabulate the true value of natural capital and, subsequently, abuse it—are preventing society from not only engaging in an honest discussion about global warming but actually believe it to be “fiction” (i.e. “the jurys still out on global warming”). As Mr. Gore jabs, “This is not so much a political issue, as it is a moral issue.” Unfortunately, such “moral issues” don’t speak so loudly to those more “morally” concerned with who can or cannot be legally married then, say, pay attention to the heavy concerns attached to waking up one morning in a Manhattan under 40 feet of sea water.

Hopefully, Gore’s sobering and stark analysis will serve as a wake-up call to those who ignorantly believe we can continue on such suicidal paths. The dangers of our industrial and commercial pollutants are obvious to the readers of New World. But to a larger Da Vinci Code watching audience? Well, I guess old habits are bad to break. However, if more people don’t start demanding and initiating real change then it’s going to take a whole lot more than Superman to save the day.

Friday, May 19, 2006

John McCain - Unwanted Guest

Commencement ceremonies tend to be boring and only worth their tedium when finally over. Fortunately, for The New School’s class of 2006, this year’s commencement is one charged with controversy and ripe with protest potential –how exciting. Admittedly, inviting conservative Senator John McCain to be keynote speaker and recipient of an honorary degree from this “liberal institution” has had much in provoking the peaked interest.

Of course, perhaps all this concern is for good reason? After all, the criticisms stacked up against Senator McCain certainly seem to outweigh any “personal legacy of integrity.” Accordingly, a significant number of students, faculty, and alumni (close to 600 according to an online petition) believe John McCain is an inappropriate choice as a commencement speaker because he doesn’t represent “The New School’s progressive tradition.” What then is it about the Senator’s record that makes him such a worthy target for the consistent barbs of liberally educated progressives? Obviously, McCain’s unabashed support for the ruinous war in Iraq, his illogical pro-life stance, and out-right bigoted rejection of same-sex marriage have done much in igniting the long burning embers of social activism of this “University in Exile.”

Thankfully, students and faculty are not being as hospitable to this unwanted guest as members from the school’s administration may prefer. Two weeks ago, three-dozen protesters stood outside of The New School’s building on Fifth Avenue in hopes of drawing attention to their cause. Responding to this protest, an online petition, and various letters from concerned students and alumni; New School President (and former Senator) Bob Kerrey stood firm with his decision to have Senator McCain as speaker. Kerrey believes, “McCain is one of the greatest and most influential moral and political figures of our age.” Agreed, but does McCain’s “moral” votes in the senate truly speak to the ideals of The New School? Kerrey thinks so; he argues, McCain’s “public service accomplishments are not only entirely consistent with [The New School’s] best traditions, but [that they] far out-weigh any disagreements we may have with his views on particular issues.”

Such disagreements will (assuming he sticks to the stump speech he has already delivered to Liberty and Columbia Universities) be brought up in McCain’s address. In fact, McCain acknowledges “we contend regularly and enthusiastically over many [such] questions.” Making friendly with his critics, McCain encourages his contesters to speak up and argues, “It is necessary that even in times of crisis, especially in times of crisis, we fight among ourselves for the things we believe in. It is not just our right, but our civic and moral obligation.”

Undoubtedly, John McCain will (hopefully) face a fair share of hecklers at today’s commencement, especially when reaffirming his decision for war in Iraq. Of course, he will at the same time acknowledge “war is an awful business.” Of course, such rhetoric is expected; after all, John McCain often presents himself as not-as-bad-as other conservatives. In fact, this could be one of the main reasons Senator McCain agreed to speak at Jerry Falwell’s highly conservative Liberty University one week ahead of his appearance at The New School. McCain, like many 2008 presidential contenders, presents himself as a moderate centrist (or in his case a “maverick”). Admittedly, McCain has done commendable work; however (war supporter aside), when considering his conservative voting record, McCain fails as a “maverick” when compared alongside his fiscally conservative / socially liberal, republican colleagues (i.e. Senator Olympia Snow of Maine).

In the end, The New School vs. McCain clash is about more than the war (not that those who supported the decision shouldn’t be held accountable) but does concern—as Brooklyn Rail editor, Theodore Hamm, recently wrote—“a school trying to preserve its identity, in a city that needs to do the same.” This identity Hamm is so concerned about protecting is the social and secular values associated with a tolerant and progressive New York. McCain can try to be a “maverick”, but no amount of smoke-and-mirrors will ever hide his conservatism, which is completely at odds with the education and values students at The New School have spent a lot of time and money to acquire.

I wonder if David Harowitz is paying any attention to this debate? After all, could this be an example of a liberal bias regarding academic freedoms or just plain democracy in action? In many respects, this is less about McCain being the unwanted guest than it is about Bob Kerrey’s lack of connection with the students he, presumably, represents. Bill Clinton once described John McCain and Bob Kerrey as men who have “nothing to hide or prove.” This will not be the case for their joint appearance addressing The New School’s graduating class. Whereas Mr. Kerrey will need to somehow allay the concerns of his student body, faculty, and administration; John McCain will attempt to prove he is, apparently, not as bad as all those “other” fundamentalists.

Who knows what will happen? After all, commencement is still a couple hours away. Nevertheless, there is one thing we can be sure of; this conservative “maverick” Senator will receive “an honorary degree from The New School” and the only thing the graduating class can do about it is at least find some comfort in knowing John McCain comes from the old school and that his archaic beliefs and irrational policy decisions are going the same way as the dinosaur –soon to be extinct. Admittedly, this will be a great photo-op for McCain ’08 advertising purposes. Fortunately, there will be a New School audience there as well, who can either choose to sit there and take it, or have something to say back. I say, speak up class of 2006! You’ve earned it; the time for change is now!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

...No Surprises Please

David Blaine has tested the limits of human endurance before: buried alive, frozen in a chunk of ice, and fasted for 44 days while suspended over the river Thames; unfortunately, Blaine failed to complete his most challenging stunt-holding his breath for nine minutes- last night in the plaza at Lincoln Center. Muret Gunel, the head of Blaine's medical team said, "He still feels today like he let people down." Indeed, but only because we do not like to see our own weaknesses and limitations reflected back to us live on network TV.

I know I wanted Blaine to succeed. For me, there was something beautifully poetic -perhaps even magical- about Blaine's attempt that only a strange and internal feeling can truly describe yet words often fail to achieve. It is that feeling one experiences when craning their neck to marvel at a skyscraper or when witnessing someone beat a sports record. During these moments the whole of humanity seems to take a great collective leap forward, as if one man's success somehow makes us all faster, stronger, and smarter. In a world so consumed with conflict, sparse natural resources, and advanced technologies (often difficult to comprehend, let alone navigate), our failures and challenges make us feel weak and broken; thus, it is inspirational to see a man challenge these limits of physical and mental endurance so as to try and take another leap. Blaine's attempt was for his mind to transcend the limits of his body and even matter itself. He failed.

Regardless, throughout the week Blaine spent underwater, he was visited by people daily and succeeded in showing them all something beautiful. The happiness he brought to these onlookers was magic in itself and we should comend him for this. Blaine was already an ideal before his stunt and will most certainly not let this failure deter him from more ambitous imaginings. I'd like to pretend the orginal record for holding breath underwater was 6 minutes and 30 seconds, so that Blaine's seven minutes would've been a success. Regretably this was not the case, Blaine instead only confirmed the limits of our collective human experience and that these limits are often there to teach us more about who we are, this, in its own sense, is true magic.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Still Humping The American Dream...

In 1971, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and his attorney, Oscar Zeta Acosta, drove to Las Vegas, Nevada where Thompson believed he could find “the American Dream.” Hunter had been mulling over the myth for years; letters to his agent, publisher (Random House), and various magazine editors reveal a man obsessed and oftentimes overwhelmed by this daunting project. Eventually, Sports Illustrated agreed to send Thompson to Nevada to cover “the mint 400 motorcycle race”; although the magazine never received its requested report, it did acquire a huge expense bill, which Thompson later acknowledged, might seem “unreasonable” but was “all in the interests of Journalistic Science.” Thirty years later, Thompson’s “savage journey to the Heart of the American Dream” still resonates. Regrettably, much from the good doctor’s Las Vegas assessment is, now, nothing more than a romantic, yet wonderfully poetic, picture of a time long ago.

Las Vegas has changed, and with it, Thompson’s original perception of “the American Dream.” Today, Hunter S. Thompson couldn’t cruise down Freemont Street. Vegas’s “Original Strip” is now blocked off from traffic and covered (like tree limbs overhead) with a large canopy of small pixilated lights. Six times nightly the sky over Freemont explodes into a bizarre and surreal light show that fully captures the true simulated essence of this hyper-city. Why is this here? Why is this happening? This does not make sense! The same street, Thompson once sped down while on an Ether binge, is today full of wandering tourists snapping cell-phone pictures of a neon cowgirl while sipping Starbucks’ lattes. Admittedly, Las Vegas has always been a hot-spot for tourists; however, Thompson could never have foreseen the super casino resorts, luxury hotels, and shopping malls that now line the “new” digitized strip.

Thompson describes “Circus-Circus [as] what the whole hep world would be doing on a Saturday night if the Nazi’s had won the war.” Today, Circus-Circus seems small, quaint, and almost out of place. More like some failed Disney-prototype than a fascist threat. No doubt, Circus-Circus will one day implode sending the whole wild, absurd, totally ridiculous casino up into the air as a smoking cloud of plastic and dust. From this void will tower yet another behemoth more audacious and monstrous than the last. Of course, Las Vegas is a place without history; buildings are not built to last -temporary structures for a disposable culture. Like cards tossed out onto the blackjack table, each building (and all the hollow beings packed inside) is only significant for that fleeting winning-moment, and then, the next hand is dealt. The “Reich” now controlling the strip is less concerned with circus antics and more with building and securing an empire of opulence and greed.

The colorful skyline of Las Vegas is speckled with large, moving cranes that are busy building forty-fifty story towers that will soon be inhabited by a populace of risk-taking gamblers and minimum wage workers. The extremely wealthy, soccer mom suburbanites and low-income trailer trash are all represented equally here “humping the American Dream.” Las Vegas is not blind to one’s economic standing; accordingly, hierarchical social structures are prevalent: “The High Rollers” section, penthouse suites, and five-star restaurants still manage to partition royalty from surfs. But wait, this is no monarchy, this is America! People here only need to “Dream, [they’ll become] the Big Winner somehow emerging from the last-minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino.” In America, anything can happen.

The Desert Inn, which Thompson described as “clearly a high-class refuge for Big Spenders” is gone. “Bob Hope’s turf” is now replaced by the new turf of capitalists Steve Wynn and Donald-Ivana (one word) Trump. Luxury giants like The Belagio, The Venetian, Wynn, and Trump International shed dark shadows down onto a vast landscape of urban sprawl and gated golfing communities. I couldn’t help but wonder what Thompson –or his knife wielding attorney for that matter—might’ve said to the jackbooted thugs who waved us into The Venetian. Would it have been something like “How dare you fuckers! As if we hadn’t already received enough heat from the swine at the airport?”

The nation of debt built on credit is developing a city where one is encouraged to waste money through play and chance. Funds are frivolously tossed onto the casino, as if one moment of fortune could somehow pull any individual up from their lifetime of failure. It isn’t surprising to see what has changed about Las Vegas and what has remained the same; after all, this is a town with no real history. Vegas must reaffirm the existence of the “winning moment” and all those heavy promises associated with it to make a huge profit. Vegas must also reaffirm this idea through the very winners and losers of its own architectural landscape. One side of the street competes with the other; each new building is just another attempt to outbid the last developer’s bet. Towers continue to stack up like chips on a roulette table. Go ahead, take a spin, and “get used to losing.”

Although much has changed, some things remain true about Hunter’s original trip. For instance, “with the right kind of eyes…you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, …[to] almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” Indeed. If Thompson went to Vegas to find the American Dream, he found it, but realized it was fleeting. That crest of the 60’s truly did break in the early 70’s; now, those same forces of freedom and democracy that struggle against the forces of ignorance and evil have been sold to the lowest bidder. Any hope for future change through some “freak power” revolution (as Thompson envisioned) has been replaced by the anxiety, fear, and general apathy associated with politics and social change as only a game. From this receded wave’s path appears a confused and scared people who can only dream those dreams designated to the casino resort or from an age (like the late 60’s) long gone.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A Technocratic Faith

Canon Magazine will be having a reading at the KGB Bar this evening. Below is the satiric gospel I plan to divulge while raising a pint there tonight.

More than a century has passed since Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “God is dead.” Nietzsche’s provocation suggests the traditional values and religious convictions of old Europe would one day vanish leaving humanity empty and nihilistic. Nietzsche’s warning has yet to ring true. God is, regrettably, very much alive. In fact, the immature esoteric fairy tales that animate Christianity, Catholicism, and Islam continue to burden us with their bigoted tantrums and careless convictions. Fortunately, Nietzsche’s declaration still has time to sound off. But when will this trumpet announce the curtain-call for all this religious nonsense? Perhaps the “end” –everyone seems so ready to die for –is already here? If so, let us rejoice and praise our salvation from these shackles! Let us bless this new technocratic faith!

Understandably, old habits will, be hard to break. Therefore, it is important to respect and acknowledge the apparent relevance of certain religious virtues. But relax, this will be easy; remember, one of the best aspects of our technocratic faith is that it allows us the opportunity to willfully create and control our own personally simulated environments. After all, one person’s heaven could just as easily be defined as another person’s hell. Why then shouldn’t we program our own utopias? How could we ever allow another person’s agenda the capacity to speak for our own?

The time has come to ignore the ignorant ramblings habitually spouted from the chapel pulpit. God is not somewhere else. God is already here and will soon be upgraded, and downloaded into our I-Pods, I-Macs, and Sprawl Marts. The saved are already plugged in. Those seeking deliverance from the old faith’s harsh judgments, will do everything in their power to meet the demands of this new digitally aesthetic ideal. Devout supplicants of the technocratic faith already walk among us. Look ye’ upon thy followers as they give alms to ATM machines, while others eagerly confess their sins, desires, and semblances to web cams and cell phone video screens. Alters of plastic, glass, and circuitry are dispersed throughout our living rooms, classrooms, and marketplaces, to totally integrate paradise into a unified whole. Accordingly, true technocratic believers will be assimilated into this interconnected body; of course, the New Kingdom will look nothing like “the Christ”.

Technocratic non-believers and neo-Luddites alike will shout “666! We’re damned by this mark of the beast! ...Your Apple computer is the Antichrist!” Be assured, the new digital divide won’t be bound by economics or cultural development; we will instead see a new war that shall pit old faiths against the new. At first, stubborn adherents to these ancient beliefs will react violently to this inevitable hi-tech evolution. Men, women, and children will sacrifice their own (and regrettably, others’) lives in erratic attempts to justify the legitimacy of their misguided delusions. Ultimately, even the most fundamental of followers will perceive the silliness of these illogical convictions. Extremists will eventually put down their guns, while fanatics shall cease their rebel rousing and awaken to a new world ripe with potential and brimming with peace and love.

However, before this glorious day of synthetic salvation arrives, there’ll be those who’ll try to test our technocratic faith. Do not be tempted! Renounce the criticisms of our prophet’s: Saint Bill Gates, Saint Buckminster Fuller, and Saint Blackberry. Some may say this world of technocratic abundance is not possible. Others will reject technology as being able to solve all our problems. But these pessimistic views are merely distractions. The dawn of the technocratic age is already here! Soon, waste, pollution, poverty, and ignorance will rust atop history’s mounting scrap heap. Of course, before we reach this pixilated promise land there are things we’ll need to consider first.

Is technocracy oppressive? After all, how shall we safeguard free speech, assure the right to assembly, and even personal thought if everyone is hooked-up to one omnipresent motherboard? Moreover, how will we alleviate the anxiety of entrepreneurs? Will strict environmental regulations, the slashing of wasteful profit margins and removal of illogical bottom-line ideals deter big business from investing in this future? Of course not, under the new technocracy, we will only be as free as we desire. Certainly, we’ll be obliged to simultaneously meet the demands of a fused system while maintaining our autonomy; but this will also be easy when we have the ability to develop infinite possibilities. In fact, our current language is inadequately equipped to even describe the new freedoms, emotions, and pleasures we’ll experience in this digital world. This shall also be the case for business, consider the economic advantages of such potential innovations. Anyone who resists these advancements is only fooling themselves.

Secondly, is our technocratic faith immoral? Well, the answer to this question will specifically depend on what one defines as being moral. If you consider altering the human body, mind, and consciousness, so as to advance its utmost potential, immoral, then yes, our technocratic faith is decadently depraved! However, morality is, for those of us ready to blast out of these old forms, just an anchor to progress and a total waste of time. So, let us discard the hypocritical values and ethical trash that have prevented us from achieving true salvation.

Finally, will technocracy cause us to lose some invaluable aspect of our human character? No. In fact, this technocrat salvation is part of our human character. We seek new frontiers, greater challenges, and fantastic possibilities. The only thing we’ll lose after embracing this technocratic faith is the age-old hang-ups and amusing mysticisms that have already bored our history to death. Let us be done with these uncertainties and apprehensions. A technocratic faith will totally revolutionize the backward thinking, harmful ideologies, and foolish fundamentalisms that have outlived their tired function once and for all. These faiths now (at the expense of ending this with another tired cliché’) – need “to pack up or shut up.”


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Rock

Crowning the entrance of 30 Rockefeller Center sits a concrete relief of Zeus over the inscription –“Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times”; on top of the god’s shoulders rest (like Atlas’s Globe) the immense 71-story GE Building, towering 872-feet into the sky while Zeus reaches down to those craning their necks below. Tourists and shoppers capture photos of their children, framed in front of a falling and gilded Prometheus. The deity smirks at smiling faces from graceful ice-skaters, unaffected by the violently flapping flags that outline this sunken plaza.

Beyond the carefree whims of these proud celebrants flashes the scrolling red letters of an NBC news wire…Five Dead in Car Bomb Attack…UK releases scathing environmental report…Such headlines don’t appear to affect those sipping lattes in Dean and Deluca or bustling in and out of one Gap to the next Banana Republic; after all, troubling events and fleeting words, eventually, blur together to become the same thing –unfortunate distractions.

Rockefeller Center isn’t my favorite place in New York; after all, I loathe the wasteful and religiously inspired holiday pageantry, its usually teeming with out-of-towners, and how can I ever forget the cold wind that blew through this blue concrete canyon on that remarkably red November 3rd, 2004? Moreover, I’ve always held a certain reservation for the Rockefeller’s treatment of Diego Rivera’s never-completed painting “Man at the Crossroads.” Nevertheless, despite its audacious idealism, incredible contradictions, and foreboding modern design; “the rock” remains one of Manhattan’s more inspiring landscapes.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Misguided Idealism

By Nicholas Allanach

Predictably, the President chose a more optimistic tone for the State of the Union this midterm election year than he has for previous evaluations. “Cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable energy alternatives” are a welcome (and surprising) proposition from this Texas-Oil-Man-and-Chief. Furthermore, both sides of Congress can (assuming a strategy exists) support “a clear plan for victory in Iraq.” Unfortunately, by choosing fantasy the President wasted another opportunity to realistically confront the nation’s problems.

Environmentalists could thank Bush for intervening in our “addiction to oil”; unfortunately, more will protest this as too little too late. After all, it’s easy for Bush to acknowledge “our” problem with a grin while Congress applauds him; however, it’s another to solve the crisis. How can one not scoff? Eight-hours earlier, Exxon-Mobil reported record-breaking earnings; furthermore, a “22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy” is a weak road to recovery from any “addiction.” Perhaps 22 percent is satisfying; unless it demarcates one’s job-approval rating (which I suspect Mr. Bush’s will soon plummet).

Addressing his critics, Bush recognized many see his aims as “misguided idealism.” Unfortunately, nothing the President said will discourage such disapproval. His evaluation offers false hope to the troubling realities of growing trade-deficits, exporting American jobs, and mounting resentment towards US foreign policy. Bush’s agenda is fiction not reality. Sadly, the American people suffer from these “misguided” ideals. To counteract such impracticality we can follow Harry Reid’s advice and recognize this is all “Bush doublespeak…whatever he said, think the opposite.”

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Working Class Hero

By Nicholas Allanach

When author Stephen King wrote his first best-selling book, Carrie, he worked as a janitor in a high school, lived in a trailer (which he could barely afford), and scraped together change for food and diapers for his newborn baby. King stayed up all night writing, fueled by the hope that one day he’d pull himself up from out of his destitute situation. Eventually, he did just that. This is the proverbial American Dream in action; it is yet another rags-to-riches fable that continues to inspire so many of us to hang-on to what little hope there is left in this miserable world. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Poverty affects people in different ways. Obviously, for every Stephen King who spent sleepless nights at the typewriter, there are countless others who take up a life of illegal activity to support themselves. While walking through my neighborhood (Spanish Harlem) I cannot help but sympathize with the conditions of the many poor people around me. Certainly, there are options for the young men I see standing on the corner everyday getting into fights, dealing drugs for cash, or selling candy bars on the train; however, one would need to convince themselves of a preposterous lie if they really believed these young men had the same opportunities as others in more beneficial situations.

Take myself for example, although I am working class (i.e. have had a job since I was fourteen and seem to be in a state of perpetual debt despite my forty-hour-plus-work-week) I have had many opportunities that others have not. I went to a private boarding school, made it into and out of college (successfully), and (if I’m ever really reduced to the dire straits of pinching pennies and worrying about eviction notices) I do have a father who (has also worked very hard in his life) to help me if I need it in an emergency. For these things I am fortunate.

Thus, this week New World would like to thank my father Ronald Allanach for bailing me out of this wretched month of bills, legal fees, and cold-hearted landlords. When I was young I used to think he was “cheap” (and perhaps he is a bit of a bargain shopper); however, I know that for all those times he chose to go without it was only to save up and be ready for all the bullshit financial problems this life inevitably throws at us.

I will never regret being working class. In fact, although it would be certainly nice to not worry about where I’m going to get money for a new Metro Card or what excuse I will need to come up with to tell my friends I can’t go out for a few pints because of a lack of cash. I’m proud I’ve had to work to get what I want and where I am. The American Dream is not a hand out. The dream doesn’t come true for the “care-free-kids” who’ve always had the money to do whatever they want. Make no mistake, freedom isn’t about doing everything you want; it’s about being able to afford to do everything you want. Nevertheless, one can appreciate this freedom all the more when they know they’ve earned every dime of it.