Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Myopia and the Far Right

Note: Like most things, I wrote this a while ago, so it may seem dated. Sometimes, it is best to sit on one's anger, instead of blasting it immediately. RIP Rubio For President

What do you stand for?

It's a simple question, that encapsulates the entirety of your personal political platform. It is the question Rick Rubio has no answer for and the reason his entire party is doomed. Its constituents stand for something, whether that is of merit or not, matters little. Say what you will, but Ted Cruz has a specific platform, a specific message. Donald Trump has the "Fuck that guy", "Fuck you", and definitely "Fuck Those People" message on lock. A man who essentially is running a joke campaign is destroying the Republican establishment; perhaps because the runner-up is a scarier option and the third option is a vague establishment charming doofus (much like the President we elected in 2000).

So as a Republican, given three terrible to uninspiring choices, you have to ask what you stand for to pick among them. That doesn't help. They all hate women, or at least Rubio has to get on a stage and parrot that. (Trump loves women in a way, but his family is too easy to joke about) They all love guns, but who doesn't.* They all hate Obamacare and generally any policy that helps poor Americans, because poor Americans don't pay their bills. Except for taxes, the poor and Republicans hate those and especially the things they provide like education and roads. They especially hate immigrants despite two of the candidates having Hispanic surnames and the third is a notorious importer of wives.**

*gun violence victims, their families, honest, intelligent cops, unarmed African Americans

From the other side, it's obvious. One backs Trump or Cruz and watches the whole thing burn to the ground. I don't mean the United States. The only way either of those nimrods get elected is if women suddenly stop voting or stop being far more reasonable than men. Just like nominating Sarah Palin in 2008, the nominations would set the party back even farther by alienating the key demographics that are still rising in this country. Women, gone. Non-white males, gone. Moderate republicans, somewhere else.*

*These people may no longer exist, like the Yetis of American politics. I think they are "independents", or Democrats, the moderate ineffectual types like pretty much every Democrat in Congress

The Broad Brush

The key to Trump's success is his ability to keep the eyes on him by making several broad proposals that are either impossible to implement or hilariously unconstitutional. Deny entry to every Muslim. Check. Build a giant wall between the United States and Mexico. Check. "Make America Great Again"* Check. I Love Troops and using warfare as a means of creating peace. Check. Let's find a stock photo of someone he is appealing to here.

*Of course, these kids aren't of voting age. Wait, they are and they have kids of their own they raised to be just as fucking dumb. (Saddest thing about this photo is they got their wish and essentially segregated the world by insulating themselves from the rest of humanity. Then, blamed the empty cities for being unsafe.)

The term uneducated gets tossed around at the Trump supporters, as if intelligence is the primary qualifier to making good decisions. I'm an uneducated man, and I can tell the difference between being a decent person and just living for yourselves. The above policies are directed at a certain type of voter. This voter has a family, is most likely a good parent by most measures, is probably one of the hard-working poor that Democrats are known for fighting for, and is most likely living in a suburban or rural area. They hunt, which is a perfectly banal activity. They drive American cars to dirty jobs of hard labor. They drink American beers, owned by foreign companies, Most telling, if you talked to them about anything but politics, they would probably seem like the nicest people you ever met,

Myopia

Family is all that matters. One works hard to feed his kids, kids his wife had because that was her duty as prescribed in the scripture. He does not identify as poor, though he unmistakably is, he is a working class man, a sideways shot at his neighbors who can't find jobs or work white collar jobs that pay more. The racism is practical to him. Hispanics are taking working class jobs around him, African Americans do project their legitimate problems as the fault of the general white population He's never met an Asian or Muslim in real life, so they are all just the ones he sees on Fox News. Terrorists. Foreigners.

His father didn't have to deal with this America. His ancestors lived in a past free of African Americans protesting unfair treatment. Women were not fighting to be equals while maintaining the right to be a woman in control of their own bodies. Immigrants did not want to come here to escape warfare or poverty. There were never people who wanted equal opportunities to just love someone. His parents never asked for handouts, and will not receive them in the future because of government entitlement programs.

He lives in a house in a community that has had one murder in the past ten years. There hasn't been a (reported) rape (that went to trial) in that time. Not a single house invasion. Yet he holds his gun as if any of those things is imminent, It's an assault rifle because inaccurate bullet spray has never been known to kill the wrong person. He thinks his job is constantly under threat, despite the fact that no one wants that job. He worries about terrorism as if it's a larger problem than his neighbor cooking meth across the street.* He doesn't worry that forays into an endless quagmire of imperialist and religious violence will kill that nice boy down the street with no money or college prospects.**

*actually happened to me in a small town, not going for a stereotype there
**this too

That is the problem. The far right (and far left, to be honest) are playing short games. They want their situation to be better, but the truth is if you are in your thirties working a dead-end job with a family, that isn't getting better in your lifetime. Once you eliminate yourself and peers from the beneficiaries category, where does that lead us? We need more immigrants. We need more ideas, We need equality. More than anything, we need to fight for education just as hard as we fight for our guns. If you change the game, your children will not have to fight tooth and nail to feed their family. They won't have to be scared to walk the streets of any large city or small town. They won't have to go overseas to show how great America is, people will come like they did at the turn of the last century to marvel at it, cracks and all.

Right now, the Republican candidates want to play Americans for their fears. Why is there no one out there asking you what you are hopeful for rather than what you are afraid of? Why can't we look outside our own existence and first look to fix America's real problems? Or on a greater level, humanity's flaws.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

In a Land Without Opportunity, Bernie Sanders Becomes the Reluctant Choice

As a preface, I am a not a Bernie Sanders supporter. I have no horse in this race and most likely will never fully commit to a candidate, outside the final choice of this candidate is not Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. There are many ways I agree with Bernie Sanders though my pragmatism does not lend to being an idealist. I think you should be able to afford to go to college; Bernie thinks we should foot the bill. I think we should increase the tax burden on the 1%; Bernie almost wants to bury them. It goes on and on; he wants utopia and I just want something to happen that is remotely positive. He isn't even the best Presidential candidate on his party's slight ticket.

One can almost feel for Hillary Clinton, whose legacy at this point is almost doomed. She's always been too late and always opposed by men (a horribly misogynistic but key distinction) with clearer ideas of how they would run this country. Obama presented a vague but rosy picture. Sanders presents a clear, unwavering, and ludicrously impossible picture. Clinton does not flip-flop but rather saunters between concepts that she probably doesn't support. This at worst paints her as racist, and at best as someone actually able to deal with the impossible bargaining that is being President of the United States.

However, the train keeps a rolling for Bernie Sanders, and as long as the youth continues to show up, the pressure lies on Hillary's campaign. She can't point to primary wins in southern states (which are sure to follow) as consolation as Sanders continues to gain in the key states where Democrats recent domination has provided two easy election victories. The scary proposal that either Democrat winning has at a break even affect on women's issue as opposed to say whatever monster the Republicans conger up, is even more in her detriment. The history of electing a female president does not even come into play, not nearly as much as the right wing's universal hatred of the Clintons, which spreads into swing voting moderates far more than one would hope.

Personally, I think Clinton makes the better President. Many of the successes of the Obama administration are subtle, and I doubt Sanders has that ability. I imagine a Bernie Sanders presidency is going to be a lot of toddlers trying to pound squares into circle holes. Of course, the other toddlers may be biting each other, so maybe no one will notice. I think that socialism works on a small scale, but the problems of the United States do not compare with the problems of Denmark. One could say that the United States military is a albatross leading us to budgetary shipwreck; one might say that is the only lock on the door holding out global chaos. Others may say that college is too expensive; some may say who cares if the people we give it to for free waste it (stop looking at me, I can feel the anger). Some oppose health care for everyone, because they are monsters; others like me realize that getting proper care is just as expensive now, because people who gamble with human health and, in the end, lives are the real monsters.

So we get to the anger, which is the crux of the 2016 Election cycle. There are two angers. One is from a populace who feels disenfranchised. The Hispanics have claimed all of their low paying jobs. A black man is in the White House, a black man who they refuse to even give the basic courtesy that is due to the leader of what they call "the greatest country in the world." Gays can marry, women can still do whatever they please with their bodies, and their friends in blue are under constant threat of violence. This anger spawns Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, two men who are not dumb, and that should scare you even more. Countless spineless idiots have tried to counter this anger with half- assed reason (See Bush, Jeb). This anger is the sour note in your milk and the off-key singer in your church choir; they are the poison that courses through our veins and the cancer that will never fully leave our body.

The second anger is younger, quieter, and quite broad. It is the anger that elected Barack Obama. The youth that peacefully protested for Wall Street reforms and equality in Law Enforcement, but also the angry young people who want the whole thing to burn. This is not a call for violence, but rather a call for that change that Obama harped upon that isn't remotely realistic, but more and more necessary in an evolving America. These are people who realize that there is no middle class, rather that there are three levels: rich as fuck, getting by, and poor as fuck. They don't want a President who compromises, they want a gunslinger, and there are only two liberal gunslingers out there.

One is Elizabeth Warren, who unless a great tragedy occurs and a Trump or Cruz Republican slimes their way to victory, will most likely never be the Presidential nominee, due to age and her intelligence. The second is Bernie Sanders, who I would never have imagined to even be this close at this point in time. However, the tides seem to be in his favor, if his campaign can persuade the poor and young to vote in larger numbers. While the other candidates have much more solid bases, Sanders has the most growth potential. He's the only candidate sending a clear message and the only candidate who even pretends to court minorities' votes. (In the long game, Clinton probably realizes that this doesn't matter, because the Republican party is abhorrent to minorities, gays, and educated women, Also, Clinton has no need to court them; she is killing Bernie in these demographics at the moment, as the establishment Democratic candidate should.).

So the reality comes down to simple questions. Do you hate everything (gays, muslims, women, low-level drug offenders, clowns/Missouri legislators(interchangeable at this point))? Do you care about social issues which have no bearing on your life? Do you care about pedigree? Do you care about the ability of the President to work with opposition parties to enact change? Or do you feel like there is no way out of the hole America dug you? Maybe I'm getting by and you're getting by, but there are people being crushed under our boots and people stepping on us. It's not that I think we can do anything about it; at least, we should have the courage to fight for someone who wants to at least talk about it, and not just sweep us under the rug. Like it or not, Bernie Sanders might be the only one to look to.

Note to old people: "Killer" Mike is a hip-hop artist, not a murderer. It may be a reference to him killing on a mic, or is a better rap name that simply Mike. I don't know; I may be the whitest man alive excepting Bernie Sanders.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Dance and the Draw

I remember the first kitchen I worked in, in fact every kitchen I ever worked in perfectly. I assume most chefs have this burned into their minds, so much that we could go back there today and work even if time has changed some things. I've gone on one hiatus or another, but thirteen years later, I still find myself here with a knife and pen in my hands.

Funny enough, I have dreams about all of those kitchens, and they are never imagined the same. The kitchens of your dreams are cleaner, planned better, calmer. The kitchens of your nightmares are exactly as they are. They're grimy, small, noisy, and alive. Sometimes, you hear the printer spool in your sleep and sometimes you forget to fire something, but there is nothing major happening and it's the worst catastrophe that has ever occurred. It's odd to have demons that are so mundane, that you are the only person who's horror movie is an even-more tame version of the movie Chef. The reality of having a job that you both loathe and love with often equal passion is that permeates throughout your subconscious and thus you can't even sleep off the clock.

The Internet and television have had the interesting ability to record what seems to be a changing of the guard in the restaurant industry. Television has attempted to make being a chef glamorous, and succeeded in many ways. If it hasn't, why do people still go to culinary school? They also made us look like huge fucking assholes, which to be fair is not so much off the point. Newer programs have been more honest, because the chefs have made it that way. I may the only one who can look at Dan Barber's life and both love his ideas and see the misery that chef's lives are outside of the kitchen. This is even acknowledging how amazing I feel about my own job the majority of the time.

The Internet lately has been a mixed bag on the subject. There is a never ending cavalcade of food pictures, chef interviews, and stories about the evolution of cooking. Those aren't lying to you; it really is that cool to be an executive chef, work with new local products, and create new dishes. Most of those stories won't tell you how hard it is to be a the top of the pyramid. How little moments are what is noticed in the day-to-day slog of management and recruiting. The next wave of articles is bipolar and reflects on how the next rung down feels. Chefs are boisterously proud of their profession, and most of them would be happy if tomorrow was their last day in it. The articles will detail misery intricately, and then end with messages like, "that is what made us strong". Or they will simply be questions: where have all the chefs gone or why am I a chef?

This isn't going to be a diatribe about it, but I feel the best way to get back into to writing is to explain why I got out. The simple reasons are probably easily discerned, I had bouts of depression and most likely alcoholism, but that doesn't explain the professional choice. These are both common in chefs and writers, so it's hard to blame either for what I now deem self-dissatisfaction. I hate deadlines and I hate shop talk. These are the two most prevalent features of professional writing and restaurants. Writing about sports and politics, which are my two main interests past cooking, also boils down into the most cliched and simple conclusions. When history constantly repeats itself, it becomes easier to prognosticate and harder to develop new content. Seriously, read any of my Sporting Kansas City articles on SBNation, change the players names, and tell me if soccer has changed in three years. The same goes for me handicapping the Republican field in each election.

Cooking is different somehow. On appearance, it is a static and cyclical field, very much like fashion where the trends move slowly even in the modern age. The money in it is very old, even if the active participants are not. But a kitchen is an organic beast of its own, and the restaurant is never boring from a chef's perspective. On slow nights, the guests are cranky and picky and appreciative. On busy nights, they'll be joyous, drunk, and leave the restaurant with a Yelp review in mind. The chefs will be on point up until service and melt under pressure, or freak out and do just fine. They'll do things that you've never seen before, both on the positive and negative. There will be jokes that have no punchline, righteous anger that has no target, beautiful dishes that guests love, and dishes that confuse the hell out of people (in our case, dishes that have been around for decades in French cuisine). These are of course generalizations about working in a kitchen that everyone probably gets by now.

To be more personal, the same reasons I wish I was in shape to put on football pads and knock the crap out of somebody lives inside a chef. You do it to be the best at something, perhaps not just cooking. Maybe you managed the fuck out of that kitchen. Maybe that french top sparkled at the end of the night. It doesn't matter what your passion is. It's the closest anyone can get to the big leagues these days. It's endlessly demanding, incredibly physical, high pressure, and probably the most ludicrous physical environment, just from an outside temperature extreme and random dangers that you can find. It's a low paying, low rewards job, and most of us love it.

This is hard to explain to people who make six-figures to sit behind a desk and surf the Internet in between strategy meetings, emails, and the occasional problem solving. It's hard to explain to anyone with a different job that I find harder like being a mother, a good police officer or a nurse or doctor. It's even harder to explain to chefs who hate their jobs, yet keep coming in day after day to do it. I know because I was there: I walked in the door angry, I worked angry, and then I went to the bar angry. Yet I'll try, perhaps in vain.

There is a motion to it, a flow that you feel on the better days, that's hard to find anywhere. Love certainly eclipses the feeling, but love is on another plane that I'll have to explain in another post (or a book the way I write). It is a zen, so much that when I started working my current job and perhaps for as long as I have worked, there will be days where people constantly ask me if I'm okay. I don't speak when I'm focused, whether that focus is internal or external. If you are still reading, I assume you can see I'm not at a loss for words. In a perfect world, I would just wear headphones and completely ignore everyone, but I am not alone in this by any means. So sometimes I sing, and other times, I spin on my heels and make movements that are completely unnatural to other chefs. I use my knife strangely, and frankly cook in ways that I find completely worthless to new chefs. It is my dance, and it is probably one of the most terrifying things to a chef, and certainly the most fun I have professionally.

The draw that brings people here interests me. Some of us do it because we love food and we knew it was what we were meant to do. They went to culinary school, they bought the right books, and said their yes chefs. Some were told they had to make money or else by their lovely ladies. They stuck around because they love it, or because those lovely ladies found them some more mouths to feed. Some us just don't know why, but they're here. When people ask where the chefs are going, I tell them the money isn't there and the anger still is, because the food isn't getting worse and the fun can be found. Perhaps the draw just isn't that great anymore, but it's funny that if I were to be rich tomorrow due to some unforeseen instance, I'd probably find myself back here before long.

That's the draw of it and the flaw of it. There are no awards, cursory recognition, and not many thanks for the most of the work you do. Your body has aches and pains that no one your age should have, beautiful scars and mangled hands. There will be countless friends that pass on by, and casual annoyances that linger forever. The money will come someday if you work real hard, or it won't because it's the real world and hard work's reward is mostly spiritual. You'll look back on it fondly, with so many regrets, especially the anger. Every day, you want to stay in bed, especially at 6am on a weekend, but then you get there and the clouds fade. The sarcasm stays (because who are we kidding it's tough), but there aren't many jobs that you like better when you are there than when you hit the bar after. So you keep dancing and hope the music never stops, because you might be lost without it.
A photo posted by Ben Davis (@bmiked71) on
Life Lessons/Apologies:
1. Never work hungry. Hunger is the devil crawling inside your body's empty cavity. Meatballs are the best solution, but preferably those with pork in them. Pork is the solution to every life problem, except heart disease.*
*Not a proven fact, studies say death is preferable to a life without pork.
2. If you aren't having fun, stop what you are doing. This goes for work, relationships, and generally everything. Exceptions include parenting and breathing, never stop those.
3. Apologies to my girlfriend and family who are the only people who read these things and wish for them to continue. Apologies to anyone who was hooked after one sentence and continued to read as I meandered through many "feelings". Apologies to those looking for humor, I swear I've never been happier. I mean Donald Trump is the leading Republican Presidential candidate; the schadenfreude is going to be delicious.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

From a City of Ghosts to a City of Zombies

Chicago has always seemed the opposite of romantic. There's a reason they used it to shoot the newest Batman trilogy. Even in daytime, it seems to carry this perpetual gloom, as if the sun cannot penetrate the shadows of buildings and that's only when a constant cloud cover allows the sun to shine it's best. I walked and walked this weekend. Probably over forty miles of downtown Chicago. You see many of the flaws apparent. One observes an overly African American homeless population, and they're really homeless not the hustlers that parade the CWE every night that live a few doors down from me. Or sees a Jersey Shore knockoff being filmed outside Harpo Studios and assumes the world deserves to burn (perhaps that's harsh).

Yet Chicago has a heartbeat, and due in part to locals or tourists, it feels alive. The last time I went it was fifty degrees and raining, and it felt much like St. Louis. The streets were empty if more modern. The trains were empty, and the people were not to be found. I couldn't even find a decent bar, and ended up at the weirdest bar in the world hitting on Polish women. This time you could feel it. The pulse that should be in any crowd of people. The heat of amorous love, the kids tugging on their parents to give money to homeless people, people of all races, from many places coming together and doing so as one group.

To be fair, this is a modern city, and the problems have been pushed outwards so the poverty is less glaring. It is no different than St. Louis in that, as you can see when young black kids post signs on their park for white people to use it so it will get more funding. Yet the undercurrent is not as prominent, perhaps because a poor working class of white people still call the city home, whereas in Missouri they gravitate towards rural or exurban areas, specifically St. Charles county. But this isn't a treatise on the differences between the two cities, this was a personal journey.

I'm a lost soul, a man without a home in many senses, perhaps I'm trapped in the city I live in. Maybe no longer trapped by love, though I wish I were, but certainly trapped in the grips of a great job in an industry that does not pay higher wages in more expensive locales. Life is perhaps too mundane for me, too scheduled out, and I'm predictable in my comfort zone. I needed to get away and recharge my batteries, find my soul.  So I didn't do expensive touristy things in Chicago, I walked and I sat and thought.

What I found about myself was intriguing. I thought for hours on how I have failed everyone, whether it be romantically or in the simple act of friendship. My weird conundrum has always been that I am extremely giving in nature, and this in turn becomes a selfish gesture. I can go into examples but if you wish to hear a list of my shortcomings you will find them in no short supply in my past posts. However, I spent the rest of the time worrying about everyone else, for obvious reasons that will be rehashed in due time.

I like the ghostlike way the city drew me in. Everyone looks like someone I knew, sometimes like people I wish were there with me. There aren't exactly smiles; like a beautiful woman with and happy and lovely child who just wouldn't stop gazing at me with such a look of intrigue. Maybe because the smile which is ironed into my face is a contagion worth setting loose into this world, when so many people have no idea what happiness truly is. Yet there is a beat, there is life and there is hope.

Then, there is St. Louis. There is no beating heart when I get back, no higher brain function. There is an ever present bloodthirst and an indifference to the great inequity that leads to problems such as the Michael Brown shooting. This is not an indictment of the cop, nor the kid. This is not a Ferguson problem; though there are many problems that have been brewing there for years. This is an indictment of all of St. Louis. There is a failure of parents to educate, then a failure of schools to educate, and a failure of the area to find jobs and economic opportunity for young men and women. The young people then turn and vandalize the city, but only the poor parts of the city still perpetuating the cycle of black on black violence that is ingrained in the story of impoverished St. Louis.

There are my friends who are all lovely and smart people. They say their town in different, while reminiscing about a town that used to exist. They take pictures of good black people doing good things when they are black, or white people doing good things when they are white. They argue for the cops in a society that is further militarizing the police force, because the society is further militarized than any time before. I've met many cops and most are not racist, but I can tell you that they all are human and human beings are fallible. No, their job is not easy, but they aren't given mulligans either. No one has once said the word mistake here, as if the intent to kill makes it better. No one deserves an execution. Not the young man nor the cop who executed him. Innocent or not, he does not deserve to be thrown to a lynch mob, which none of these protesters realize is what they are.

All I ask of St. Louis is to take a deep breath and really look at their city. Where is the place where people of different races and backgrounds can coexist? There isn't one. I could argue as an entertainment district for the Loop, but on the north side sits impoverished crime ridden minority inhabited suburbs and to the south the loveliest of houses sparsely filled with white families. The newest construction there was not something to help the whole community but rather luxury apartments for rich kids attending Washington University, a school with only 6.8% African Americans in a county/city with 23.7% African American population.

This is not an argument for the despicable violence and nonsensical attitude the African American community has taken towards a very serious issue. Nor is it a condemnation of the white people trying to pretend that their city does not have a problem. It is just a plea. Be honest with yourselves, and instead of asking why such horrible events occur, let's look for ways to fix it. That's what brings me back here; it's a raw piece of clay ready to be molded into pottery, but it's not yin and yang. The clay needs to be molded together and stick together. I could move to Chicago, live in an area of my choice, and never care about what is happening to the city. Or I can be a white man living in a predominantly black neighborhood asking you why that is something for you to fear and showing how it's not.

That is the story for St. Louis. The stupidity will march on in this example and national news will paint both the police and the citizens in poor light, besmirching those few bright spots that do exist. People will cry for their city when it deserves no pity, cry for a young man they wrongly think is in a better place, cry for soldiers fighting their own citizens, but none will cry for change. They cry for justice, which is just as bad as murder, a Hammurabian myth that hurting another man will kill the pain. If only they would use their brains and hearts, perhaps the city would find it's heartbeat again and not amble blindly towards racial dissonance's inevitable failures.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Brothers

So I decided that I cannot handle sickness or death. I'm that asshole who thinks it's fine until the vitals stop kicking in, and decide after that point that we can save someone beyond medical hep. Yeah, that's me the guy that dreamed one day that his brother could live a normal life, which obviously will never be the case. Not that the doctors are to blame, but rather society as a whole give no fucks about my brother's plight. To me that's unacceptable, but I'm a worthless peon in the grand scheme of things.

I've thought about suicide. Not an easy thought or else I would obviously be dead. But a casual thought because my life isn't worth shit in the grand scheme of things, It always devolves into the idea that no one loves me, which is just pretentious and wrong. It probably is not helpful that i don't believe in God or at least believe in the Jewish God that hates every human being alive. Ryan probably never has.

Yet my brother lives on, he's not terrified of life as I am. In fact, he's a giant asshole about having to be in a hospital for two weeks. I love that about him, that oblivious notion that comes freely, as he hasn't spent the past years caring deeply for human beings who only regarded him with contempt. From that perspective, regarding your friends as your enemies must be fresh. I always imagined the people I treated well were happy with me, but in retrospect, I neglected them on the highest level. People love being disregarded, because people are idiots.

So here's a story of a bad brother, and a story that promulgated the sadness that is me today. I've learned that I am quite still the asshole , but I believe it's best for you to read why.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Top 23: A Look Back on Predictions and a Talk On Form

I did some depth charts back in 2012 for The Daily Wiz (now The Blue Testament, a fantastic site by the way that you should check out as the following myriad of links should imply.) It's always nice to see where our predictions in life lead. For instance, I am not a professional football player, engineer, husband, or dead. All of those predictions were duds. I am however much better at predicting football results and players career paths, because they are mostly predictable. There were however some injuries, new arrivals and hilarious reaches on my behalf for you all to laugh at while I admire my foresight.

Goalkeeper

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/5/3/2995866/us-depth-chart-goalkeeper

Nothing to see here. I actually got this spot on, because none of the young goalkeepers made any sort of moves in the past two years. Some regressed and Nick Rimando is still the most steady if sometimes unspectacular goalkeeper in MLS.

Right Back

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/5/10/3011260/us-depth-chart-right-back
If he an Lichaj are equal on form, expect Chandler to play due to familiarity at this point with Klinsmann.
This is a two-year old statement. I would still argue that Lichaj is our right back, but he exists in the Sacha Kljestanworld where he found a perfect place for him professionally, but not on the national team's radar. As for the other options, I obviously missed on Deandre Yedlin, but given his age and recent ascendence I'll skip the mea culpa. The other guys I talked about were nowhere near the 30 man roster. The exclusion of Brad Evans indicates that Klinsmann acknowledged that the premise of him facing Cristiano Ronaldo was harrowing. Though Evans found him to be lucky.


Center Back

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/5/30/3051638/us-depth-chart-center-back

There is no reason why he should be number one here except his skills haven't diminished as much as we expected and no one has emerged.
One man emerged, but the top two became irrelevant and As a Sporting KC fan, I could have never predicted how well this would have played out for Matt Besler, and how crucial he'd be to the entire team at this point. In fact, here is a huge mea culpa, I never even considered Besler because our depth seemed strong and I figured there would be leaps by the younger players listed. He is by far our number one center back, maybe not the overall footballer Geoff Cameron is but steadier and reliable. Omar Gonzalez is a ghost of his 2012 self, and Tim Ream is a forgotten man despite being Bolton's player of the year. The only positive is the improvement of Geoff Cameron, and I'll concede that I was a bit harsh on the team as a whole and his defensive ability.

Left Back

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/6/2/3058654/us-depth-chart-left-back

1. Fabian Johnson, 24, Hoffenheim (Germany), 26

If we have learned anything the past two games, this is the most important knowledge. Fabian Johnson is our left back for now and given his age probably through at least two World Cups and perhaps a third.. It's not just two games. He has been this good in every game he has played for us, whether in the midfield or at left back. In the modern game, fullbacks are very much two way players and Johnson gives us that. Not only did he make the run and service to get the US it's lone goal against Brazil, he was solid in defense and made up ground even when beaten. Also, don't worry about Timmy Chandler 2.0, he made his one time switch so he is a US player for life.
Holy, Damarcus Beasley!!! I got this one spot on after two matches, because of all the players on the team, Fabian Johnson has actually followed a traditional career trajectory. I'm a staunch Edgar Castillo as a left midfielder supporter, but Liga MX screwed all of the Mexican-American players over by constantly refusing to release them for national team duties. Never thought Beasley would be the old man on this roster, but it goes to show what fitness and reliability can do for you as an athlete.

Center Defensive Midfield

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/6/6/3066324/us-depth-chart-central-defensive-midfield

The commenters got this one right, and Maurice Edu's career stalled due to the demolishment of Rangers and his own poor decisions and Jones just chugged along. I just remembered Stuart Holden's knees and wept a little. That 2010-11 Holden alongside 2014 Bradley would be sick, but the fates didn't have that option. Many props are due to Kyle Beckerman, who still isn't sexy but I would call him Option 1(a) at the moment when we want a more disciplined midfielder to allow Bradley some room to roam.

Attacking Midfield

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/6/19/3097670/us-depth-chart-attacking-midfield

2. Graham Zusi, 25, Sporting Kansas City, 27

The success of Bradley and the implementation of essentially Sporting KC's system inverted has helped Graham Zusi more than any other player. The relentless pressure and set piece delivery make him an ideal Landon Donovan replacement, even if he's not ever at Donovan's peak level. The problem is he needs to learn to be a right winger/midfielder, because the midfield is congested.
I predicted Zusi taking Donovan's place, but I figured Donovan would play a role in the team. While their career arcs are strange, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are predictably the core of this squad. Benny Feilhaber is in the form of his life, but luckily for Sporting KC that wasn't noticed. I'll pat myself on the back for lauding on Mix Diskeruud while scolding my Freddy Adu love (which still exists in some way).

The Wings

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/8/1/3212924/us-depth-chart-left-and-right-midfield

3. DaMarcus Beasley, 30, Puebla (MEX), 32

He's undergoing a career revival in Mexico, and picking him would not be a mistake. However, he is the oldest man on this list, and has been always downgraded for his small stature. Nevertheless at this moment, it would be wise to pick him over our next phenom who right now might be at the nadir of his young career.
Brek Shea seems to be in a year on, year off mode. This was not the time for a year off. Josh Gatt is still young and an exciting prospect for 2018. The grand omission here was Alejandro Bedoya, whose move to Nantes has put him in the best position to occupy a wing across from Zusi in a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or a traditional 4-4-2 look . Joe Corona just missed out, and I feel the Liga MX problem may have contributed to this as well.

Forwards

So, I went dark and didn't write for a while (like these past seven months) and didn't post the forwards depth chart. Suffice to say the only one I would have got right was Jozy Altidore. I probably would have mentioned Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury, who were up and coming talents but both are out of the picture for 2014.

The Tough Choice is Usually the Right One

This is not a John Harkes/Captain America omission. That is where we should start. If the United States fails to advance out of their group, it is not going to be due to a lack of Landon Donovan. If we could have 2006 Landon Donovan or 2010 Landon Donovan, that would be nice, but the ravages of time and the demands of the modern game don't allow for such luxuries. Here we sit on the precipice of a World Cup with the most talented 23 man roster ever assembled. In four years, it will be more talented and it's probable that Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will join Donovan in ceding to the next generation. There are two complaints I hear, that Klinsmann took young players that won't play over players that can contribute now and that he took players that are worse than Landon Donovan. Let's address these:

1) John Anthony Brooks, Deandre Yedlin, Julian Green

These are the players that beat Donovan out that would be considered too green and too young. Each plays a position that the United States has been notoriously bad at times, and solid at other times. None are needed for this tournament, but each will be a big part of the next two World Cups. While I don't think they are playing for 2018 (see the next group), the idea of getting players used to the experience isn't a poor choice. It just happens that the United States talent pool is larger, so these players won't be on the field as a young Landon Donovan and Damarcus Beasley were 12 years ago.

2) Brad Davis and Chris Wondolowski

The United States has five players over 30 going to their first World Cup. These two were the ones who booted Landon from the 23 man roster. Brad Davis has three positives over Donovan. He's left footed and a left winger by nature. Chris Wondolowski brings Donovan's clutch scoring and one more positive he shares with Davis. They are both on form and at peak fitness. The odd accusation of the team's lack of fitness by Klinsmann struck a strange note as that had never been a criticism of the USMNT. However, if he were being more specific as to the fitness requirements he set forth, you may have seen this exclusion coming, due to Donovan's own admissions about his aging body.

I probably won't get any time off to see any of these games, but the World Cup draw set up some fantastic soccer and this group should be one of the best. Don't expect the United States to advance to the knockout stages, but don't be too surprised either.

Monday, October 7, 2013

America's Seven Deadly Sins

I am proud of the United States, but not proud to be American. At some point, our past must become our past and we must take a long look into the mirror. We were a nation built on greatness; our revolution will never be matched in terms of significance nor meaning. We began the great rise of democracy, revived it from the sands of time to a stage not seen since Julius Caesar took the people's power away.

Sure, we had our flaws. We almost lost the war after our bold declaration. It took us two tries to form our republic, and we still left a large moral question unanswered. Our pride almost cost us our fledgling nation, and we watched as our capital burned. Our greed earned us more land, but gave us more deep wounds as we forced the Native Americans out, to their deaths or worse to languish in poverty and stagnation for the duration of their lives. We split in two, and only decided that African-Americans were equals when coerced. The Gilded Age in essence is represented by our rise to world power, and the greed of our businessmen. We fought two World Wars, and suffered one depression, but to what means? We brought with it an age of fear, and no global stability.

Now, we sit on the precipice, at a period that will define our nation. We took a few steps forward, and equal steps backwards. The Earth is dying at our hands, an indefensible victim of our material needs. While our bigotry dissipates slightly on one hand, it springs anew elsewhere. We launch wars and install regimes, as if that is how we formed our democracy. Or perhaps, we believe all nations will respond just as well as the Japanese did after the Second World War. Yet at this moment, we are flawed but not yet without hope of redemption.

Lust

As we redefined the idea of Democracy, we too have redefined the idea of Lust. In the religious sense and in Dante, it is defined as excessive sexuality or love of others. Americans are not inherently lustful, and relatively still puritanical in their sexuality. Yet we define lust as something else, as intense desire. And what do we lust for more than anything? Power and wealth. Lust for an American can be their undoing. I always consider it the gateway sin, for it will always lead to other sins. Lust for money will precede envy. Lust for power will instigate wrath.

What have we done with our lust? Lust for oil led us to war, and led us to drive our SUVs to the pumps without regret. Lust for power gave us a puppet President with unscrupulous puppeteers. Fear of the traditional lust has led us to put our heads in the sand, while our other lustful thoughts bombard us inside. Nevertheless, we can learn to control ourselves, perhaps even learn to lust for better things. What was so wrong with our lust for love and for life? Why must we fill the void with power and wealth? If you can tell me that, we won't just fix America, we'll fix the world.

Gluttony

If you cannot see America as a land of gluttons, you must open your eyes. We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. In a sense, we are suffering an epidemic of a disease of the mind, as we keep eating our fill despite the consequences being obvious. Yet personal gluttony is only part of the problem, we also are gluttons as a whole. It can be argued that no nation has done more to destroy the Earth than we have, though China and India will try their best to catch up. We eat our double cheeseburgers with extra bacon and french fries, as a symbol of our lives. We built grand houses, and keep them constantly temperature controlled for the two people who rarely live in them. A presidential candidate's wife had eight houses, and for what, maybe a sin I'll touch on later.

Why can't we scale back? Why do you buy an SUV when you have no passengers to seat? Why do we eat nothing healthy, then get a diet soda? In a sense, we love our gluttony. And why shouldn't we? We're on top, and it just feels better to let it show. It amazes me how I can amaze a man from China just with my cooking. The degree of arrogance in how I eat is a uniquely Anglo trait, which we carried on from the powerful nation which preceded us. What happens when the rest rise up to our level? Can we stop our own gluttony form truly becoming an epidemic? 300 million gluttons is far less dangerous than one billion.

A study was released that by 2050, we will all be obese. While this is overly dramatic and neglects that genetics and energetic people will never allow this, it shows me two things: we are hopelessly doomed to succumb to this sin and that no one acknowledges that while we stuff our face with Big Macs and Super Sizes, people in our own cities are starving. Perhaps, our gluttony is a simple act of denial and the first step on the road to recovery...or not.

Greed

Greed and America are seemingly meshing into one term these days. Even the most philanthropic of Americans are consumed with greed at times. Bill Gates is a great philanthropist, but did it by crushing competition beneath a monopoly in the fastest rising sector of our economy. Same could be said for Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, and the other men who built the economic giant that is America. It is an essential requirement that all Americans that have everything should want more. A constant need to upgrade ourselves in a material sense leads us to take more than we've earned, or to risk that which is not our. We risk the money and lives of others for personal gain, as the current economic crisis can attest. Now, even our government risks in this way, risking our money on the men who destroyed our economy and risking our blood in wars for personal gain.

The Iraq Wars were the first instance of us using greed as a justification for full-scale warfare. (I say full-scale because I acknowledge our military and non-military interventions in Latin America for financial gains.) Others have done this before: the British for Queen and country, Hitler for land, Napolean for glory, Japan for material wealth, and now the United States for cheaper gasoline. Greed seems like the one that we can quell with ease, but will always linger in our hearts. It's much like Tolkien: the power of the ring evoked lust and greed in the weak hearts of men, but did not create such feelings. They were just brought to the forefront, and only the extremely content, the hobbits, could resist the temptation of wealth and power. Sorry for the slight intrusion of nerd-speak, but I find it an apt vision of our hearts.

Sloth

My sin is perhaps the one least obvious. From a biophysical standpoint, it partners well with gluttony, but I feel that metaphorically is the more apt choice. We are not a slothful nation. We place a premium upon work and the pitiful adjectives that accompany it. That man is a hard-worker, a team player. She gives herself to her job; he lives for his job. We hate to work, but we all strive to be employed and perhaps successful to satiate our other sins.

No, it is not work ethic that America lacks, but rather a cankerous apathy that rots away inside our politics and our morals. The famous quote goes the only thing necessary for evil to thrive is for good men to do nothing. The status-quo is inherently evil, as it stands in the way of progress. Yet our whole lives are based upon it. We elect the same morons over and over again, because we have no interest in the future of the United States (and to be arrogant, the world). We go to work day in day out and forget to strive for a greater world, because we need bread on the table. That is why sloth is such an insidious beast; it conquers you from within filling your soul with apathy and malaise.

We are a 20th Century nation in a 21st Century world. As advancements in technology occur, we should be improving. Technology makes almost everything easier, cheaper, and universal as the days pass. Yet obstinance has taken its place as the American sloth, as fools continue to do nothing to improve our lot while maintaining their own largess.

Pride

An apt sin for the current crisis. We watch congressmen bicker while the average man suffers, because they need to save face. It would be fair to blame the current governmental crisis on Republicans, as Pride is currently all that is stopping the government from resuming its normal inefficient, half-assed efforts to represent the American people. (Though one could argue this is a perfect representation of the American people.) That wouldn't be fair to the ineffectual asses opposing them, who are taking a certain glee in watching them destroy their own credibility and America's at the same time.

Pride is the subject of my first sentence, an odd juxtaposition of the American usage and our country's supposed devotion to Christian ideals. Pride is a dangerous beast. We have spent twelve years now mending our pride in Afghanistan, as our enemy resided across the border from there. The most dangerous predators are wounded ones, and America's pride is much like that. We fight day in and day out to save face in every manner of life. For what? What is wrong with shame, regret, losing, embarrassment? They are parts of life. Sure, ones you wish to go without, but parts of a whole. Pride just makes one foolish. No one is as proud of America as it is of itself.

Envy

Envy is a personal beast. We aren't jealous of non-Americans, or countries taken as entire entities. Our superiority complex forbids this sin from being dictated in policy. It is instead a root evil. Envy makes us hate our fellow man. We don't wish to see those poorer than us succeed, and those richer than us are obviously evil. Envy is the spirit of competition, but without the camaraderie or the progression. Envy is why the poor people in this country kill each other. Envy is why the rich people in this country hate the poor. Everyone has something that someone else wants. Everyone wants something that someone else has.

The crux of the American problem is money, but it's an oversimplification. Communism does not work simply because greed already exists and cannot be eliminated from the human spirit. Capitalism doesn't work, because envy naturally breeds paranoia. Mostly those of us set in our ways are terrified of those who wish to move upwards, envious of possibility. The upwardly mobile are envious of their prestige thinking wealth brings with it happiness that the purer soul seeks or power that the tarnished prefers. Most will find neither and their envy will continue to seek that at whatever costs are required.

Wrath

Had I tried writing this years ago as I did the first few, it probably would have been a long discourse on the military-industrial complex of the Bush administration. It would have been short-sighted and lacking in personal struggles with wrath. Wrath is tied naturally with warfare, but is given too physical a premise. Wrath may lead to murders, but actually wrath seems like a decent reason for killing someone rather than greed, pride, lust, or envy.

Wrath in itself is not a problem, but Americans seems to misdirect their wrath. We celebrate many men who have beaten or raped women, both results of internal failures of the psyche to control one's anger. The crazy ones shoot indiscriminately into crowds, while the sadistic ones plan to inflict their wrath on innocents in the most horrendous of ways. We love to pursue vendettas, love our revenge. Our punishments are capital, our watch is never ending. Wrath is an American's way of playing God, because God obviously failed. Wrath is a subtext of fear and fear is ever dominant in the minds of sheep.

Writer's Extremely Long Note:

This is an old draft. Perhaps as old as this blog. Hence the 2008-09 feel of the first half. It probably if finished promptly fit better as an essay as opposed to a blog post, but I'm not much for deadlines. I even miss the self-imposed ones.

This is a common theme, not only in my political writing, but in my day to day life. There is no such thing as perfection. Flaws can be beautiful and perhaps the sole benefit of aging is that many flaws take this liking over time. America, and humanity, is not on a parabola; this is not the beginning of the end. One could say that it is changing, but there is no real desire in other nations to usurp the American global position. For one thing, it's really fucking hard to be a world power. It's much easier to be China and send your middle class overseas, perhaps never to see them again. It easier to remain an insular and regional power. There are problems with the idea of America as it was after the Soviet Union's collapse, the lone sheriff to be dramatic, the world's apex nation to be precise.

The problems with American society do not rest with an ineffectual government nor are they resolved by implementing the strategies of either ends of the political spectrum. There is not a lack of compromise because of the positions, there is a lack of compromise because of the humans involved. There are components to human nature which are inherently worse in Americans because of their sense of entitlement. Moreso, because the dregs of society beleive in their entitlement. Whereas the sheeplike nature of other nations has led to them committing actual atrocities, the American people are fighting a proxy war on life.

Life isn't broken down into red and blue states. There are people who care about the human race, and there are people who care about themselves (which can be extended to nuclear families if necessary). Problem is people are really good at taking care of themselves. They are really poor not only at helping others, but doing so in an effective manner. There are many topics that people don't care about.* Getting health care to everyone is not about giving freebies out, it's about lessening the burden of the uninsured on the health care industry therefore making health care cheaper for everyone. When you improve the world, your lot is simultaneously improved.

*I, for instance, am very keen on environmentalism  but think global warming/climate change is a boulder that we should frankly be disinterested in. However, by creating an incentive for recycling or emphasizing the human factor of pollution (The same crazies that think shots are giving their kids autism, sure as hell will back you up when they find out pollution causes asthma rates to increase in children.), you can get people behind ideas that help solve the problem without them actually caring about the problem. 

I'm not good at many things. I procrastinate, I lose focus, and sometimes I have trouble articulating what I really should be saying, because my honesty sounds like bullshit to a cynic like me. However, I live by one rule, leave life in a better state than you found it. Money means nothing, pride means nothing, the after-life is nothing. 

The funny thing about these basic sins is how useful they can be. 

Lust is just unbridled passion, which in the context of requited love is delightful. 

Gluttony is just a yearning for excess; one can be a glutton for charity, or hugs or shelter animals. Or happiness, though many regard this as unseemly especially those who enjoy a "good cry" whatever the fuck that may be. 

Greed has led many to be philanthropic, once the greed was no longer their province. Greed is the bedrock of many innovation and many stolen innovations (looking at you Edison). 

Sloth is just necessary on some days. Relaxation is necessary, but only for body and mind. Never relax your morals or soul. (Unless...) 

Pride has become the go-to word for courage in the face of bigotry. Be proud of your every flaw and those things which aren't flaws that people's morals can't adjust to. Just don't let pride make you unmalleable, every human needs to adjust to the world or watch it leave you behind.

Envy has no use. Jealousy is the harsher version of the word. Don't wish the worst on your enemies or the best for your friends, and don't wish to trade places with anyone. Life gives everyone their burdens. My thought is: If you get the wrong luggage, you still end up with underwear. 

Wrath is inevitable. Just pick the right fights. Fight for justice or honor. Fight for your country, protect and serve. Run towards fights to stop them, run towards danger to save others. The flight instinct is just nature telling your wrath to calm down. Until I die, inevitably like the kid in Stand By Me, use wrath as a shield not a sword.

I apologize for the length, but this is me and unless by some degree I am famous, some things need context.