Kats (wildrider) wrote,

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I Guess Things Happen That Way

I hate that "how smart are you?" meme... I can't get better than 21/25 (about 77%). Of course, it does go to prove that I'm not as smart as all the people I hang out with. It's just out in the "real world," with the common folk, that I seem like Einstein. I *know* I'm not that smart - I can't even figure out what I'm getting wrong (although I'm assuming the "prime number" one is one of them, since I have no clue about prime numbers). I'm not even sure why I stress about such pointless things, but I do.

I realized something the other day, as I plotted and planned out my story contest entries for the coming year and trying to figure out how to get to a Phoenix Writer's meeting (they meet on Tuesday, which is not a good night for going out when you're addicted to television), and I realized something - the reason I never pushed myself as a writer while I was working on EQ fanfic or working for RSI writing in their world was that I had an audience. Deprived of that audience, I now WANT to market myself, because in my egotistical artist's heart, I want people to read what I write. I went through the "for myself/for a few friends" part - now I want money. As well as someone, anyone, to like my imaginary people and their world as much as I do.

If a football game is rigidly timed to 60 minutes, why do they take 3 hours to broadcast?

Yesterday we did the labor-intensive work of making fresh-fish sushi (sashimi), with sides of lettuce wraps. Lots of food and lots of work, and it explains exactly why sushi costs so much. My inside-out rolls were tasty, but kept falling apart. The rest of the rolls did all right. Barb's lettuce wraps were delicious. At least everything tasted good (really, really good). We watched a British indie film called "Kinky Boots," which was a lot of fun, and of course I had to spin "Groundhog Day."

Op-Ed Columnist
Under Bush’s Pillow

Published: February 4, 2007

Dick Cheney as Lord Voldemort?

A reader named Melissa S. e-mailed to say that she explains Iraq policy to her 8-year-old son in terms of Harry Potter characters: “Dick Cheney is Lord Voldemort. George W. Bush is Peter Pettigrew.” Don Rumsfeld is Lucius Malfoy, while Cornelius Fudge represents administration supporters who deny that anything is wrong. And, she concludes, “Daily Prophet reporter Rita Skeeter is Fox News.”

That was one of the 400 comments from readers offering literary or historical parallels to the Bush administration and Iraq. One of the most commonly cited was Xenophon’s ancient warning, in “Anabasis,” of how much easier it is to get into a Middle Eastern war than out.

As a reader named John H. summarized “Anabasis”: “Ten thousand Greek mercenaries march from Greece to Iran to effect regime change (unseat one emperor and establish his younger brother). They win the first few battles (cakewalk, mission accomplished) but then the younger brother is killed.”

So the invaders found themselves without an effective prime minister to hand power to, yet they were stuck deep inside enemy territory. Xenophon’s subtext is how the slog of war corrodes soldiers and allows them to do terrible things. Xenophon is particularly pained when recounting a massacre that was the Haditha of its day.

The readers who sent in comments were responding to a column I wrote last month arguing that President Bush is inadvertently a fine education president, because he breathes new life into the classics. Thucydides’ account of the failed “surge” in the Sicilian expedition 2,400 years ago is newly relevant, and “Moby Dick” is interesting reading today as a bracing warning of the dangers of an obsessive adventure that casts aside all rules. (You can submit your own favorite literary or historical parallel at nytimes.com/ontheground.)

Perhaps I’m cherry-picking from the classics to support my own opposition to a “surge” in Iraq. In writing this column, I wondered what classics Mr. Bush’s supporters would cite to argue for his strategy. Shakespeare’s “Henry V”? “Hamlet”?

Yet frankly, it’s difficult to find great literature that encourages rulers to invade foreign lands, to escalate when battles go badly, to scorn critics, to be cocksure of themselves in the face of adversity. The themes of the classics tend to be the opposite.

Literature and history invariably counsel doubt and skepticism — even when you think you see Desdemona’s infidelity with your own eyes, you don’t; even when your advisers are telling you “it’s a slam-dunk,” it’s not. The classics have an overwhelmingly cautionary bias, operating as a check on any impulsive rush to war.

Perhaps that is because, as Foreign Policy argues in its most recent issue, humans have an ingrained psychological tilt to hawkishness. In many ways, the authors note, human decision-making tends to err in ways that magnify conflict and make it difficult to climb down from confrontation.

My hunch is that the classics resonate in part because they are an antidote to that human frailty; literature has generated so many warnings about hubris in part to save us from ourselves.

Eastern classics have that same purpose of trying to tame and restrain us. The central theme of Chinese philosophy is the need for moderation, and Sun Tzu’s famous “Art of War” advises generals on how to win without fighting. (Sun Tzu and Julius Caesar alike also appreciated the diplomatic benefits of treating enemy prisoners well; they would be appalled by Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.)

So Mr. Bush should resolve that for every hour he spends with Mr. Cheney, he will spend another curled up with classical authors like Sophocles. “Antigone,” for example, tells of King Creon, a good man who wants the best for his people — and yet ignores public opinion, refuses to admit error, goes double or nothing with his bets, and is slow to adapt to changing circumstance.

Creon’s son pleads with his father to be less rigid. The trees that bend survive the seasons, he notes, while those that are inflexible are blown over and destroyed.

Americans today yearn for the same kind of wise leadership that the ancient Greeks did: someone with the wisdom to adjust course, to acknowledge error, to listen to critics, to show compassion as well as strength, to discern moral nuance as well as moral clarity. Alexander the Great used to sleep with the “Iliad” under his pillow; maybe Mr. Bush should try “Antigone.”

Oh, and for Mrs. Bush? How about Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata”?

Now I'm doing a little writing, actually making progress on Book III.

I want pizza.

I did not make my goal of cleaning the bathroom. Oh, I vacuumed up the drifts of cat hair from the baseboards, and I did wash the mold out of the drainer (which is an exciting job, I tell ya), but I did not scrub the floor. On the other hand, I DID clean up behind my desk so we could hang new drapes in here, so something was accomplished anyway. I had taken down the old curtains to wash them and discovered the backs were so faded after years of morning sun hitting them - and they were hand-made to begin with - that we went to Tuesday Morning to see if there were good ones, and there were these, with a nice pattern, lined, full drapes, for only $50.00. I'm pleased with them. I also found some very nice Passion Fruit-flavored white tea, which I'm sipping at now. It's quite nice.
Tags: food, goals, television, writing
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