Thursday, November 28, 2013

Of Food and Pain


I was at the Chinese Buffet the other day when I realized that it was a scene reminiscent of hell.

Multitudes of people gobbling up obscene amounts of cheap meat, a baby crying in the background (as if fearing that it too will soon be chopped up and served) and to top it off there is an audiobook about the early days of Nazi Germany playing in my headphones.

My finances, being as perilous as they are, I have been going there because with the tip and the drink, I get three meals a day serves in a single sitting for ten dollars. And yet, on account of my mental health, this cannot go on.

I must return to Wendy's where I would get 4 six piece nuggets and 3 Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers for the same price.

This fast-food feast unencumbered by existential pain and a crying child.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tower of Song


I'm sort of like Leonard Cohen; without the women, the class or the brilliance to shape words into song... for now at least, I am deficient. But work will be done and one day....

I love this man and you must love him as well.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ivan's Crucible

There are two major struggles in my life. One is a persistent depression I had since adolescence. The other is a struggle to keep my fucking android phone from automatically downloading Google+.

Ever since I uninstalled that monstrosity, I constantly catch that bastard trying to sneak Google+ back into my life.

No!

My social life is hardly sufficient for one platform.

Some things just aren't meant to be. A communist utopia in Eastern Europe, a large soda ban in NY, a successful competitor to facebook.

Just let it go.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Big Boy Prophecy


"Big boy" was a nickname given to Chris Christie by George W. Bush, Christie's political godfather who started Christie's current winning streak by appointing him U.S. Attorney in 2001.

From my current perch, it is likely that big boy will be the next president of the United States.

The biggest obstacle to his rise to power has been proclaimed to be his uncertain relationship with the far right of his party. And although this segment of the Republican party is the loudest one, its not automatically the most numerous or politically powerful.

If we look at the past few Republican candidates for president -Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush- we can clearly see that only a minority of them were a favorite of the right wing.

Of these five men who led the GOP since Reagan, only Bush Jr. could be considered a darling of the far right when he started. Some -including Mitt Romney and John McCain- were positively despised by these on the right and yet they still won the primaries.

Chris Christie also has the almost universal support among the east coast business elites, giving him a powerful war chest. In a likely scenario, Christie will face a splintered conservative opposition in the primary who will divide the Tea Party vote among themselves, leaving Christie with a plurality. That contest could only be upended by Ted Cruz, if all on the far right unite behind him, but I still believe that a plurality of Republicans will still vote for the most electable candidate, one thing that Ted Cruz definitely isn't.

The strongest wind in Christ Christie's back will be a simple belief of the independent voter that after two terms of a Democratic president it will be high time to elect a Republican. The same spirit of a party switch helped George W. Bush in 2000 (although he ultimately lost the popular vote).

Its also true that there is essentially only one sure way to win the presidency of the United States, and that route is to position yourself as a Washington outsider who will bring change to the dysfunctional and partisan capital.

Everyone from FDR and Reagan to George W. Bush and Barack Obama have used this method. And Chris Christie is a clear favorite with the communications skills and a bipartisan record to employ this strategy. Unlike Mitt Romney, who got elected as a Republican in a blue state, Christie not only won the first election but also succeeded in being re-elected with a huge margin without posing as a liberal Republican or passing a major healthcare law as Romney did in Massachusetts.

His most likely opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton is the quintessential insider. And as a loyal soldier in Obama's administration it will be very awkward to create enough distance from him to win over the independents eager for a change.

Clinton's major strength and Christie's major weakness will be foreign policy. Its one thing for Christie to lambaste a Democratic state senator as "numb-nuts" but many voters will be uncomfortable with that approach in foreign affairs. But ultimately, presidential elections are not decided on foreign policy.

The two most successful presidents in the twentieth century whose terms in office redefine the political landscape in their wake, were Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Both of whom had a unique communication skill. They were able to speak to their audiences in an uncannily intimate style, as if chatting with an old friend, they were able to reduce complexity with false familiarity.

Chris Christie has this skill and I would be surprised not to see him as an American president in my lifetime.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Family Feud


Usually anonymous comments at the end of a news stories are something I am drawn to out of some sense of sadomasochism because they tend to equate various politicians I support with twentieth century dictators or worse.

But this one comment has sort of redeemed my faith in this form of expression.

Story: Liz Cheney was criticized by her married gay sister for opposing gay marriage in her race for Senate in Wyoming.

Comment: So I'm guessing things are going to be really tense at the Cheney bunker this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to Begin a Day


Good words. I often see the sun rise but unfortunately only because I have been up the whole night. Much work needs to be done by this lazy Buddhist practitioner.

Crusading into Nothingness


I've recently been watching BBC documentaries on the early Christian church with its suppression of alternative gospels as well as a series on the crusades.

I have to say that this litany of bloodshed and suppression, of ancient forgotten wars with their forgotten heroes, massacres and victims has left me mentally exhausted and nauseated.

While the history of Buddhism is not a bloodless one it is nevertheless largely free of mass killings and wars in the name of faith. Without any chauvinism, I am happy to be a Buddhist.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Buffet Muse


I was dining at a Chinese buffet today when an overweight woman from a neighboring table walked over and unceremoniously tossed a plastic card literally in front of my face.

She did this without saying a word or even making eye contact. The card turned out be a Starbucks gift-card for an iTunes song of the week. The giant headphones around my ears suggested to the woman that this Chinese buffet patron was receptive to a gift of song. The song that I later downloaded begins with “Oh, oh, oh... I... I was a city boy...” its by Bruno Mars and the title is “If I knew.” Its not a bad song for what it is. The singer regrets his wild past, wishing he could give his lost innocence to his new love.

Normally, I don't listen to this kind of music, but the strange way it entered my life made me want to dissect “If I knew” for some deeper meaning. I found none. When the woman got up from the table to leave, we exchanged nods. This is when I noticed that she sported a solid (mustache-less) goatee. The goatee was a little strange but overall I was happy with the experience.

(Originally written in January of 2013)

A Man at Peace



Friday, November 8, 2013

Art of War



British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously declared Russia to be "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

Perhaps this conclusion was reached after observing some Russian playground art.

***
Link: http://www.adme.ru/vdohnovenie-919705/zhkh-art-581405/

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Humane Society Blues



Today was the conclusion of my volunteer class at the Humane Society.

For the past 5 weeks, I have spent 4 hours each Thursday learning about pets and animal shelter policies in the company of teenage girls and other animal lovers. I received my diploma, volunteer ID and an official tshirt.

The two events that stick out from this educational journey are the time I walked into to the bathroom during the break to discover an elderly woman sitting on the toilet... a strange and unexpected experience for both of us (I guess this will teach her to lock the door next time) and the moment when I learned that over 70% of cats have feline herpes.

(Originally written in May 2013)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy


Crack Magic



Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s approval rating rose slightly after Police Chief Bill Blair confirmed the existence of a video in which Ford appears to smoke crack cocaine and make homophobic and racist remarks, according to a poll taken Thursday night by Forum Research.

The poll found that 44 per cent of voters approve of the job Rob Ford is doing as mayor, while an Oct. 28 poll found that just 39 per cent approved.

“That may sound counterintuitive. It could be a sampling, margin-of-error thing, or it could be just some sympathy,” said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research. “If you saw him during that media scrum yesterday, it might have generated some sympathy.”

Source: Toronto Star
***

Ah, yes, there is nothing else in politics like the old crack popularity bump.

I'm sure the Toronto voters are looking at a glass half full, I mean he could be doing something worse... oh wait, never mind.

With Obama's popularity at record low right now, it might be the time to whip out that crack pipe to get a little headway in the polls.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Love and Freedom in the World of Dew


You won't see too many inspirational quotes on this blog, but this one is good.

Its especially pertinent in the context of my life. I always think about one Seattle girl. Her distant image reincarnates in my mind like the Kennedy assassination in the thoughts of a conspiracy theorist.

Its really shocking to me how much mental pain some irrational urge to connect can cause me. I'm not like an alcoholic who denies the irrationality of his affliction. No, I can shout about the absurdity of it all on top of the tallest hill in Ohio.

And yet this conscious recognition brings little comfort. Emotional pain is not like a broken command in a computer language of ones and zeros that rationality can override.

Her last email to me contained three words, "let me be."

Creating an avalanche of heartache for me and also a running gag with my best friend who often interrupts our conversations with, "hey Ivan, I got three words for you..."

Since she doesn't want to hear from me, my only contribution to her freedom is total silence. And yet this equation leaves little freedom to its master.

I only wish that the Karmic forces trapping my mind can find another beautiful, self-destructive being to latch on to. If nothing else, it would bring change.

***

A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

~Issa

The Open Shirt Guy



Its a redundant quality of our age for people to cultivate petty hatreds.

Making minute observations about social customs and listing little things that you dislike has started in the 1990 and with the Seinfeld sitcom serving as the Old Testament of this particular creed.

Now countless comedians and writers make a living out of this crap. There is a small economy feeding people with this observational comedy.

I don't claim to be immune to trends in society. Although I try to be outsider -in the end- I am still an animal in this post-modern stable whether I like it or not.

So forgive me for making some animal noises and rant a little about "the open shirt guy."

I watch a lot of documentaries, I probably have seen all the decent political documentaries that came out in the past twenty years. But I don't limit myself to politics.

If you watch enough documentaries you will inevitably stumble on "the open shirt guy."

"The open shirt guy" is always a white guy and usually an expert on something.

But this honky has a dilemma; you see, he doesn't want you to think of him as a total square.

Thus in order to delineate his white ass from the mores of bourgeois society, he will do something special for you. He will show some skin.

So as you listen to him speak in complete, erudite sentences about the life of some musician, you will also be granted a peek at his pasty, hairless chest.

Man, I fucking hate it.

I could see this dude in front of the mirror, preparing for the interview. Unbuttoning his shirt just to the right place for your viewing pleasure.

The problem here is that the guy doing it IS a total square and with this task he forces us to stare his self-delusion straight at its pasty core.

The thing is that you are not a "wild and crazy guy" but you function in a cultural environment where it is a cherished ideal.

You want to show you are on the edge? Wear all black, wear a leather coat, tattoo your forehead, pierce your fucking nose. Do something else other than unbutton your shirt. Because that is the most square thing you can possibly do.

By being "the open shirt guy" you make yourself the worst kind of a square. The square who doesn't realize that he is one. The clueless square with a goofy open shirt.

Now the picture I attached is someone who has earned the right to have an open shirt.

Greg Scarpa was a mafia hitman who -as he was dying of aids and with an ankle bracelet attached to his body- went out of his house in a rage after a local drug dealer disrespected his son and started blasting. Scarpa got an eye shot out in the process.

Scarpa was "a wild and crazy guy."

I don't fetishize gangsters but although Greg Scarpa has an unbuttoned shirt, the one thing he isn't is "the open shirt guy."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Human Resource



Here is my online dating profile in its full glory. It works as literature but fails miserably in its purported goal of attracting human contact. I seldom visit the website or initiate contact but recently I updated my pictures and decided to preserve my profile's contents here.

***

Self-summery:

Greetings, woman.

Take everything I write below with a grain of salt.

I am a liar. But you're a bigger liar than I am. And you know it.

Like parallel parking, internet dating is not something I like to do (and I am as shitty at internet dating as I am at parallel parking), but, after being thru with college, there are only so many ways to meet people. (This is a horrible, shitty way to meet people, but it presents opportunities. )

So feel free to lazily glance over my profile and make superficial judgments about my worth as a human being.

I'm a twenty-something guy. I graduated from Ohio State with a Political Science degree, went to Seattle for two years and then came back here because of a strange personal calamity.

Now I'm here scheming to get back to the West Coast. I feel more at home there. Ohio is nice in many ways, but my life here reminds me of being in a coma thus I am eager to leave.

I'm also a Russian, I'm sorry I may look like a nice WASP in my pictures, but I come from a country that is associated in people's minds with alcoholism, crime, dictatorship and prostitution. These associations are unfair and capture only one side of the Russian reality. Its certainly there but should't define a whole people.

I've lived in America since I've been twelve, I have a slight Russian accent, I don't wear Adidas tracksuits and carry a Vodka-filled flask. But a Cold War residue of Russophobia might linger in you're heart. And if it does. I don't know... go fuck yourself.

It's ridiculous to write words and post pictures of yourself in an attempt to get people to like you on a website. I hate the whole process, much of what I read on here is so corny and pointless.

As I wrote in a message to a girl in here, "Any idea of self people have about themselves is an illusion. Online dating is making yourself into a product. So its creating a lie on top of the illusion." That's why my attitude is what it is.

(my name on that website is "Zen" hence the paragraph below)

Don't worry. I'm not an angry person, not as angry as this profile can make me sound. Just tired of the bullshit. I am Zen, in a sense of a Zen master who hits his lethargic pupil. Though I don't believe in violence or hitting people. I don't even believe in using the word "pupil." And I would most likely change my username on here if the website didn't charge money for that privilege.

What I’m doing with my life

Important things and not so important things

I’m really good at

I'm good at catching things when they fall.

The first things people usually notice about me

People notice my height. I'm tall.

Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food

Blue Velvet is my favorite movie. I love how that film weaves together the banality of life with evil and misery. Its a really original film.

***

"So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I'm very sorry, baby, doesn't look like me at all
I'm standing by the window where the light is strong
Ah they don't let a woman kill you
Not in the Tower of Song"

Leonard Cohen

The six things I could never do without

1) the vague presence of empathy in the world
2) freedom to make changes in my life (not being stuck)
3) Buddhism
4) intelligent people who try to be genuine (intelligent people who are not genuine are the scum of the earth)
5) ability to learn new things
6) the theoretical possibility of romantic love

I spend a lot of time thinking about

"Form is emptiness and emptiness is form."

On a typical Friday night I am

...having sex with your mother.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit

One time I gave a beggar $20, he looked up at me immediately and asked, "Got a cigarette?"

***

At this point this whole profile is sort of a joke.

You should message me if

...you're easy on the eye and don't think in linear ways.

Heard It Through The Grapevine


Something about a dog...



During the 2012 campaign, former President Bill Clinton was amazed that President Barack Obama seemed to be catching break after break, while GOP nominee Mitt Romney seemed to stumble constantly.

"He's luckier than a dog with two dicks," Clinton would often tell his pals, according to the new book "Double Down" by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.

Source: HuffPo
****

Thanks, bubba.

Now I need years of therapy to get that image out of my mind.