Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Modest Proposal (with apologies to Jonathan Swift) -

In today's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof laments the precarious situation of women in Afghanistan, and worries what will happen to them when US forces leave. And suddenly the solution hit me:

Take the women and children when we leave!

Let's see how long the Taliban (any government) will last with NO FEMALES to do the grunt work and be the whipping-post. A century from now there would be no Taliban to worry about - they will find out the hard way how thoroughly they need women.

Women trapped in domestic abuse are advised to leave their abusers, but usually outside assistance is needed. Let us provide that assistance to a whole society suffering from domestic abuse.

Let the men do what they will - shoot each other till no one is left? Pillory anyone less devout than the one in charge? Whatever they want to do - it's a system with a limit: a time limit. Since not every man is disrespectful of women, let any man petition individually to reunite with his family, but before he can rejoin them, he must make a solemn oath to respect all persons - and having experienced the absence of women, he will have a better understanding of how important they are.

And imagine how much we'll save - we won't need to send young Americans over there to be damaged physically and psychically, we won't need to spend money we don't have on weapons - the Afghan women won't be the only ones better off!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New pair of Jeans

In which Marigold rhapsodizes about her new pair of Levi's Shrink-to-fit jeans - yes, they still make them! What's so great about them? They're snug without being tight.

The trick is to buy a pair the size that would fit you, of regular (preshrunk) jeans. Try them on, they'll feel almost a size too big. Perfect! Take them home, remove the tags, and before wearing them (who wants to wear oversized stiff jeans anyway?), wash them in HOT water, then throw them in a dryer on the hottest setting, and pull them out when they're ALMOST dry.

Put them on and marvel at how they FIT.

They're button-fly jeans, per the originals - but not just any button-fly jeans will work. You can buy them online or at a store, but make sure the label says Shrink-to-fit. Otherwise, you'll just have a pair of jeans you wish you'd bought a size smaller.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien
reviewed by NC Weil

This book has won many accolades, as short pieces and as a whole. It deserves them all. But I'm afraid to recommend it to my sons, who are in their twenties. Its juxtapositions of life and death, of ghoul humor and matter-of-fact insanity, are so raw, I fear my young men will fall in love with war.

In today's paper in 2010 there's a story about the 5th Stryker Brigade in Afghanistan - five soldiers are being tried for murder-for-sport and corpse desecration. In their cruelty I see the young men of this story - nineteen years old, just been drafted and dropped into Hell. They do callous things to survive, to differentiate themselves from the slaughter they must daily encounter. They do them to push back the fear that stalks every waking second and hunts them in their fitful sleep. They distance themselves from the meat they want not to be. By pushing each other to shows of indifference, and joking about what would otherwise make them incapable of what they are required to do, they survive - or die.

What is the worst death: to be flung in shreds into the treetops so your mates have to climb up and gather your fragments? To be sucked down in a flooded field of mud and shit in the driving rain, so your buddies have to foul themselves finding you, digging you out to send your corpse home? To be shot taking a piss on a lovely morning?

Or is it the death of your own self, your civilian carelessness and ease? Is it the pretty girl smuggled in by her boyfriend, who takes to war with an addict's intensity, joining the Green Berets so she can melt into the jungle and come back with human-body-part trophies, dead to ordinary life? Every story in this book could be made up. Every story is too real to be disbelieved.

It's about how we look at the world, how we draw the lines between ourselves and the emptiness surrounding our little sparks. By layering fact and experience, it's about how we can force death to a draw, play the game out longer, relish another morning of not being dead yet. Heartbeats and friends are all we have.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

House Hunting Blues

Will you hear traffic, or noise from a park?
Will you be safe walking home after daark?
They say it's location - you know that's true,
But other things are also going to matter to you:

To escape the stuff-trap, it's got to be small
Which means: be selective of what's on the wall.
But which will it be: forced air or steam heat?
Windows painted shut or a fresh air treat?

Is there garage space for a project or two,
Is that a working fireplace or only a flue?
Is there a patio? Garden space? Lawn?
How will it look when the flowers are gone?
Why is the landscaping concrete and rocks?
This house has character; that one's a box!