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Politics is Intellectual Football (I’m a Confirmed Idiot #1)

Sometimes I have thoughts worth sharing, but I don’t share them because they are in various ways self-congratulatory.  If subtexts had vocal chords they might scream, “See!  Aren’t I great?”  Don’t get me wrong.  That’s a wonderful message which the world needs to hear.  It is just problematic when it is so obviously preached by me.  So sometimes I avoid ideas and messages worth sharing, things I believe in, that may help people, in the pursuit of looking like a nice guy.  But no longer!  I am starting a blog series called “I am a confirmed idiot.”  Basically, I am requiring myself to start any post containing obviously self-congratulatory subtext with a formulation in which I confess a unrelated humorously humiliating personal act.  This frees me to make my points with righteous passion, holding nothing back, for, as it says in Leviticus 27:35, “If you are humble for a moment, feast on the joy that comes from being full of yourself the rest of the time.”  Specifically, I will start these posts by saying, “I am a confirmed idiot.  After all, I once….” then I’ll tell of my stupidity, and I’ll end with “…however…”and then state my idea.  For example: 

I am a confirmed idiot.  After all, I once hit my friend in the head with a brick after excitedly bounding over to show her how high I could throw bricks.

However, unrelated to that, I do treat serious topics, like politics, the way that they should be treated, with marked levity.  Politics, for instance, is no fun unless you watch it like intellectual football, which I do, which is why I stay informed and will continue to stay informed.

I was talking to a friend today.  She’s smart, she cares about the world, and she wants nothing to do with politics because it is so depressing.  I feel like I talk to a friend like this once a week.

This is horrible.  We can’t be losing the attention of smart and loving people.  All we will have left are the angry, jaded, and unintelligent people.

Instead, we gotta make jokes and relish the clever games that politicians play.  We need it to be fun.

“But real lives are at stake,” they tell me.  “Exactly,” I respond, “that’s why we gotta enjoy the crap out of it.”

Alternatively, we can pay attention to non-depressings things that do not matter.  On Tuesday I had lunch with a fun group of African American ladies and a few of them got into a friendly and spirited discussion about the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons.  After some fightin’ words, and laughs, and more trash talk, I remained conspicuously silent.   Finally, I blurted it out, “I must confess.”  They stopped and stared as I paused and lowered my head, “I don’t watch football.”  They laughed their heads off.

Football is interesting.  There are personalities involved.  Sneak plays.  Talent.  Vanity.  Cleverness.  Aspirations.  Competitions.  Macho-ness.  Smackdowns.  Sometimes, when an enemy quarterback gets run over, you can’t help but bite your knuckles in delighted surprise.  Sometimes, a penalty gets called that you stand up from the couch to “boo,”  but when you see the instant replay close-up that shows your favorite lineman doing something very naughty, you also bite your knuckles in delighted surprise.

It’s a moment when my Honduran friend might rase his hand and say, “No [SNAP] he [SNAP] didn’t [SNAP]!”

Those ladies loved their football, even though football doesn’t matter.  What mattered is the entertainment value, and nobody is above that.

Fortunately, politics has all the drama of football, except it is more interesting because, obviously, something is at stake.  Like football, the smack-downs are usually obvious and well-reported.  For example, when Gingrich told Romney on last week’s ABC debate that the only reason he was not a career politician is that he lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994–good smackdown.  But here are two political plays that really made me bite my knuckles in glee (the best are always sneak plays):

Perhaps you saw it.  Last Tuesday, Newt Gingrich had a one-on-one debate with Jon Huntsman.  At first, Newt’s choice puzzled me.  Why would the frontrunner choose to elevate one of his opponents?  Ahhh… he wanted to elevate Huntsman because a Huntsman rise is likely to chip into Romney’s numbers rather than his own, and Romney is of course the bigger threat.  Did you see the new poll that came out today in New Hampshire?  Newt’s play picked up a couple of yards for him (and Huntsman).

Nice…I bit my knuckle with glee.

Perhaps you saw it.  Mitt Romney is running a TV spot in which he talks of debt reduction as a moral responsibility.  Ok.  No big deal, right?  Wait…am I crazy, or is this commercial really about Newt’s infidelity and two divorces?  (Note the happy couple at the end who have been married for an often mentioned 42 years.)  Without being negative, the ad turns personal morality into something which actually makes one better at fostering a good economy.

Oooh… well-played Mitt.  Well-played.

I am sure some of my readers will find these “sneak plays” depressing.  Some of those people might also be disgusted at me for how I find so much glee in them.  But I am more disgusted in their disgust than they are disgusted in me.  Enjoying the serious topic of politics as intellectual football is the only moral choice I know of that a loving and smart person is able to make.

So grab the popcorn, don your favorite candidate’s hat or over-priced t-shirt, gather some happy loud-mouth friends, and turn on the news.  The game never stops.


Personal Update

(This is what I was talking about but it is too soon in the election cycle.  But yeah, when I saw it I laughed out loud.  1 point for the Democrats.)

Due to the hectic nature of my life at the moment.  I will be hardly posting at all until the end of June when my temp job at Habitat for Humanity Intl. ends.  I’m doing that for 32+ hours a week while keeping my 3 main part-time jobs: personal training four days a week, teaching some guitar lessons, and my church job.  Its been strange being this busy and yet not that stressed.  All of my jobs I can pretty much leave at work.  But, it also means I have no time for blogging.  Rest assured, I am still listening to audiobooks.  Since we talked last I have finished a book on Ayn Rand, I listend to Huckleberry Finn (or the beginning of it), a lecture series on something that I forget at the moment, a book on corporate leadership that someone gave me at Habitat, and I am currently listening to The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.  So thoughts are coming, but there is no outlet.  So I’ll be back up and running come July, that is if I don’t explode before then.

Also, I need to address something I said in one of the subway interviews that seemed very sexist, but I guess I’ll have to do that later.

Also, Alicia is going to Rwanda in 2 weeks.  She’ll be gone 10 weeks!  On monday though a friend is coming to live with me for the summer.  For those who don’t know, he’s a buddy from Taiwan.

Also, the presentation at the National Trust Conference in October is for sure happening.  So I’ll see some of you in Buffalo then I hope.  We will be presenting on a theory of urban development and decline at the block level.


4th Grade Afghanistan Primer

According to my buddy, Professor Salim Yaqub, Afghanistan was in desperate shape in the mid 1990s in the wake of the 15 year war with the Soviets.  Famine, civil war, and undetonated landmines plagued the country.  War had become a way of life, even for children.

I’m a tutor these days and I have been teaching kids word problems: “Ben was going 15 mph for 3 hours.  How far did Ben go?”  Pretty boring.  But here is what an Afghanistan mathematics textbook for 4th graders said in the 1980s.  You have to admit, it’s quite practical.

1) The Mujahideen are on the path of God in an attack on a convoy of the interventionist Russians and Communists.  After most of the enemy are killed, 500 boxes of shells are siezed as booty.  If in every box there are 820 shells, how many shells are siezed as booty.

2) The speed of a Kalashinikov bullet is 500 meters per second.  If one Russian is at a distance of 3,200 meters from a Mujahid, and the Mujahid aims at the Russian’s forehead, calculate how long it will take for the bullet to hit the Russians forehead.

This primer was in use in parts of the country until 2000.