It’s already happening

Oh Canada! They’re coming to you to get married. Maybe, as Prof. Delong points out, the US will stop this via the WTO as an illegal wedding industry subsidy. Just think: $83 bucks to the state for each license, plus meals, hotels, liquor stores… it’s a welcome respite from SARS worries for the tourism trade, I’ll bet.

Beverly Package

I’ve gotten to know Montserrat station and Beverley, MA pretty well over the past few days, going out to Motorcycle Riding School to take the state-approved safety class. I failed it, which means I have to schlep my ass out there again some time in the next 14 days, pay an extra fifty bucks, and pass it this time, dammit, or else. The station is near a liquor store called Beverley Package, which I think would make a good name for a transsexual porn star.

I’m buying a 1991 Kawasaki Zephyr, which is a standard bike they don’t make any more. Smaller and sportier than the Vulcans and not as absurd as the Ninjas. Still a little larger than I need, but I’ll grow into it or die trying.

Friday Nights

By seven on a Friday night, the commuters have left the gym, exercising while waiting for traffic to clear, finishing their three days a week at five fifteen workouts. Weekday nights it’s still crowded at this hour, but not Fridays. The weekday crowd, I’m guessing, doesn’t regard exercise as a suitable prelude to weekend entertainment. Me, I’m waiting for my friends to get out of the X-Men movie before we head over to TC’s for PBR and bad selections on the jukebox.

The music on the Sports Club Network Radio tonight is dance and disco instead of the usual top-forty and alt-rock, and the treadmills and stairmasters are populated by breastless anorexic women and heavyset fortysomething guys. They seem to be punishing themselves for not having anything better to do. The weights, though, seem to be draped with overmuscled, underclothed men who gawk and stare and flirt. For a lot of them, it seems that the gym is the entertainment.

Home Again

Spent the weekend back home in Charlottesville, VA. The trees and grass and flowers had budded but most were still tinged with the gold of immature shoots. The clouds seemed to filter out all the blue light, as well, and the entire world was preternaturally green. I’d forgotten how much concrete and asphalt surrounds me up here.

We went out to visit my uncle and his new litter of puppies. Got one, two good pix of Mom with them, and one in which I manage to avoid looking too goofy. Plus a rival for the throne of silly captioning currently occupied by Melvin the Beagle. And of course one plain old incredibly cute puppy on incredibly green grass.

I should also note that David, shown here manicuring the dogs, has had significant success as both breeder and judge of bull terriers, and in addition runs a successful small business. He drives a Mini Cooper S, and is a charming and erudite conversationalist. Also, despite his shocking resemblance to the Molson Man, he is single.

Ick. Ick. Ick.

Been reading a review of a new history of the gulag. The review quotes a prison memoir of torture by exposure to mosquitos:

The mosquitoes crawled up our sleeves, under our trousers. One’s face would blow up from the bites. At the work site, we were brought lunch, and it happened that as you were eating your soup, the mosquitoes would fill up the bowl like buckwheat porridge. They filled up your eyes, your nose and throat, and the taste of them was sweet, like blood.

I used to read the Hellblazer comic from DC/Vertigo, and there was this one part of it that I remember clearly: the hero is investigating some evil and finds a junkie cowering in a bathtub in some squalid dive, shivering and sick from withdrawl. He says he feels like insects are crawling all over him, it’s all he can do not to try and tear them away. Only, he’s actually covered in insects.

Some suggest that Our Leader is a genuine American psycho. Seems to be a common comparison, partly due to Bush’s total lack of empathy, and partly due to the fact that it’s quite easy to offer up one or another mental illness to describe any harmful behavior. It’s what makes the DSM-IV such a good parlor game.

I want to start a rock band and call it Token Sucker.

I Do Solemnly Affirm

New Yorker article:

In the spring semester of my senior year of high school, my father got a call from the headmaster of the school I was about to graduate from. The headmaster said that he was expecting to speak soon with the admissions office at the single Ivy League college to which, on the headmaster?s advice, I had applied. He was wondering whether my father planned to attend a local cocktail-party fund-raiser for my school that Sunday. My father (rightly, in my opinion) hung up on him, and a few weeks later I received a rejection letter from the Ivy League college. This was my introduction to the meritocracy.

The phrase “affirmative action” is a slippery one, and its vague definition contributes to the difficulty of debate about it. If it means “lower standards for a particular group” then it has the potential to demean the achievements of individuals and crowd out otherwise qualified applicants. My personal ideal is that employers and recruiters make an extra effort to seek out qualified candidates that might not otherwise apply for a position in a job or a school. That, I think, is a positive action that one can take to improve diversity in educational institutions and workplaces. I don’t know if it would be enough, though.

In the workplace, it’s slightly less complex than the college admissions office, because there’s really only one question: can this person do this job? An employer doesn’t care what your excuse is. They don’t care what color your skin is, or where you’re from. They have a list of qualifications that you meet or don’t meet. At most, they’ll have a training program where you can demonstrate that you’re a quick learner and a good hire. But maybe not.

Schools have more luxuries, really. They can do things like make allowances for opportunity. Say, for example, Tom’s school had five AP classes and Bill’s only had two. We can see that both of them took advantage of all the AP classes that were available and both students work hard. Bill might be a great student who will excel given the chance. It’s impossible to tell in advance. And there are a million factors of difference between the two that you can’t quanitfy, all of which intevitably get tied up with the single overriding factor that shouldn’t matter: race.

Now, the “development admit” is more than just seeking out and asking rich kids to apply to your college. It’s every bit as serious as race-based affirmative action policies. It’s like “legacies,” where if your parents and grandparents went to the school they give you a bonus too, because people who have more than one generation at the same school give more and contribute to the culture of the school. These admissions policies are good for the school and good for all the other students. How else are you going to pay for those scholarships, that new science center, the security service that will walk you safely across campus after dark? Several universities in this country have gone from mediocre to top-twenty with the funds from development admissions policies.

Purely academic admission preferences are an impossible ideal anyway. Perhaps we should add money to the list of factors more clearly: poor students who haven’t had the opportunity to excel, and rich students who have had every opportunity to fuck up, can both get an extra weight.

Ethically shady? Well, yes. But few ethical decisions are truly black and white.

Home is Where the Hearth Is

Here’s a picture of the radiator in my apartment.

Sometimes when I was in therapy back in high school, I would stop talking and just stare at the floor. The doctor would wait a moment to see if I was coming back on my own before she asked “where’d you go?” I had a hard time explaining.

Daria was amazed once when she looked at me and noticed I was running through some hypothetical conversation in my head. “You’ve got a whole universe in there, don’t you?” It was a revelation to her about how my mind worked. She found it endearing, but I’m not sure what good she got out of it.

Last month I took her pictures off my wall and put them in my filing cabinet. Today I deleted the last two years of email. Ctrl-A select all, Ctrl-D delete, Ctrl-E expunge. If only the universe inside my head had keyboard shortcuts.

Where did I go? Hell, where am I now? How many times have I said to myself “I want to go home!” before realizing I’m at home, it’s just that I’m so completely alienated from the world around me that no place feels right. There’s no place like home. Nothing is homelike. Not even my inner world with its own little radiators painted institutional eggshell.