Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

Archive for May, 2014

Corollary Wanted

Posted by middlerage on May 30, 2014

So Ed Snowden is back in the news with an exclusive interview given to Brian Williams and NBC. I didn’t watch but I read some transcripted moments. This guy is a high school dropout? Sheesh, he defended his actions with an eloquence statesmen can only dream they had. Anyway, also this month, Frontline (PBS) aired a two-part documentary about the NSA’s domestic spying (mostly) and Ed Snowden (a little). It is called United States of Secrets and Part One aired May 13th while Part Two aired May 20th. However it is is also available for streaming. I didn’t watch. Then I did, thanks to the Fatman…

I had seen it was coming up on TV listings, and I was like, “I should watch that,” but I didn’t because who wants to make themselves miserable and angry when they could be watching re-runs of Friends? So I blew it off, but then Fatman discussed it on Facebook and I said “I need to make myself watch.”

There is far too much in the program to discuss on a brief blog post, but one take away I did want to mention is the astonishing condescension of the Intelligence Directors leading this spying on the American Citizenry. General Hayden, who ran the NSA under Bush II, just kept talking to the audience like we were little children and basically saying, “Hey, I can respect the constitution and the Fourth Amendment, but you’re gonna have another 9-11. Just tell me what you want, princess.” OMG.

The Fatman always signs his emails with the famous Ben Franklin quote: Those who would give up essential freedom to purchase a little security deserve neither. As I was watching United States of Secrets, I couldn’t help thinking of another quote (by George Santayana): Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.

I wonder if we need a corollary: Those who disregard the wisdom of history (alá Ben Franklin) are dooming us all (alá Santayana). High level government officials seem to be astonishingly immune to wisdom.

And the chattering guvmint officials who keep calling Snowden a traitor just bring out the “middlerage” in me. I kept buying the official talking points that the NSA was “only” scraping off meta data (bad enough) and “only” collecting info on US citizens when one half of the communication was foreign. Turns out the guvmint is lying on both accounts. They are listening to everything you and I do. All the time. Watch the doc. I link it below.


Posted in Politicks, Privacy Issues | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

I Wanna New Drug

Posted by middlerage on May 21, 2014

The thing about our big sapiens brain is that it likes to feel woozy. Since time immemorial we’ve been inventing things to take us on a magic carpet ride to see Lucy’s sky diamonds. It comes with the territory. It’s part of the equation: consciousness = gettin fucked up.

But i’ve been thinkin… why are we so limiting in the experience. I wanna feel something different. I wanna feel weird in a different organ.

For instance, the stomach.

In Eastern cultures the belly plays a huge philosophical role. Zen or Siddhartha or somebody was always spouting off about the belly. Think about the last time you took a shot of straight vodka, and before the buzz kicked in – how did your belly feel? Wasn’t there a wonderful, warm sense of radiation emanating from your middle?

I’d definitely pay for a drug that had nothing to do with fucking up my brain, but only worked on my belly. Imagine sitting on your sunny deck right now, and you’ve popped a couple of “belly pills” and this awesome sense of tingly well-being was enveloping your guts.

Wouldn’t that be cool?

Or how about a drug that only worked on the bottoms of your feet? Can you imagine warm tingling setting your soles on fire? Like getting a foot massage from a hundred cat tongues?

I’d buy that.

Glaxo Pfizer Zeneca get crackin’! We’ll only have a two year window before the DEA frowns on our happy belly and throws us in the hoosegow with violent offenders who smoke nutmeg for a brain buzz – sheesh, that mind altering stuff is so yesterday.

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Thinking About Books – The Count of Monte Cristo

Posted by middlerage on May 16, 2014

Recently I was looking for something to read and I began perusing my bookshelves for something that might be entertaining. Like anybody’s shelves, mine are filled with entertainment books I’ve already read, or non-fiction, good-fer-yer-brain books which I need to read, but are avoiding like the veggies on a party platter. It is rare to find something I haven’t read already, which isn’t usually a problem because I love to reread books. However, nothing was appealing and I really need to make a run to Goodwill because a whole lotta these I’m done rereading. Then I stumbled across Alexander Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo, which I’ve never read despite it being one of those favorite classics of middle school English teachers – “Gee class, Classics can be fun!”

I don’t know where it came from (not likely I bought it on purpose in an airport or a B&N). There’s a good, but unprovable, chance it was purchased for a college humanities course. Maybe by a friend who passed it down to us or left it in a beach house. But we own it, and I grabbed it and read it.

So I have a few cavils/observations.

First, though, let me say it is good, and I recommend it. I won’t be an iconoclast and defy 100 years of English teachers. It’s a classic. Nevertheless it ain’t no Tale of Two Cities, Middlemarch, or Moby Dick. It’s  not  a swashbuckler. It’s not the Three Musketeers, and that may  be due to my own erroneous presumption. The part about a romantic prisoner digging his way out of a prison is only a quarter of the story. Most of the book is a lot of more like Jane Eyre than it is The Three Musketeers. (I should note that Dumas also wrote Musketeers.)

It is a tale of revenge (quiet, non-swashbuckling revenge), but it sure is convenient when you just so happen to befriend a Merlin-like fellow prisoner who trains you to Einstein-like levels of knowledge while helping you chisel your way out of prison. Revenge is also much easier when said friend dies and leaves you a map to enough treasure to make you the Bill Gates of Europe. Now that you  are a wealthy, prison-trained genius, you can use hedge fund speculation to ruin the folks who put you away.

And if that isn’t easy enough, invoke the “mysteries of the orient” to invent potions that will make people seem dead – for days(!) – without actually killing them. (Or causing irreversible brain damage.) Suspension of disbelief on the part of readers is required, but hey, it makes for a great a tale.

But enough cavilling. It was enjoyable and I’m not sorry I read it. Best quote from the book? – “He was one of those calculating men who are born with a pen behind their ear and an ink pot in place of a heart.” (This to describe one of the villains who sent the count away to prison).

One good thing about the  book is it got me interested in the Napoleonic era (I had mistakenly thought it was more 1600-1700s rather than 1800s). In fact, the protagonist is sent to prison after being falsely accused as a Bonapartist.  My interest piqued, I went to the library for a biography on Napoleon. I mean, we all know about Hitler, and Churchill, and maybe Stalin (a little); we know about Washington, and Jefferson, Martin Luther King (both), and Shakespeare. But why aren’t we taught more about the major European emperor of the 1800s? So I picked up Napoleon: A Political Life by Stephen Englund, only because it was the only biography my local branch had. I’d much prefer Napoleon: an Ass Kickin Warmonger Frog and the Comeback King. But that seemingly wasn’t available.

I’ve only read 71 of its 474 pages and I won’t be finishing it because it is so gawd awful pretentious. I honestly love when a book makes me read with a dictionary by my side, but there is an ill-defined gray line between scholarly elucidation and useless pretentiousness.

Here is the passage that did me in:

[…] This regret was a velleity at best, and more probably an instance of disingenuousness, but the fact is, there was something of the Robespierre in Napoleon, and vice versa. One of the cleverest observers of the French scene, Germaine du Staël, saw beneath ideological appearances to observe the State’s Man (if not the statesman) in Robespierre and in Napoleon. Just after the 18 Brumaire coup d’Etat , she looked at the new First Consul and called him, “Robespierre à Cheval.”

No translations for our intrepid reader and “velleity”? Even this blog’s spellchecker doesn’t recognize that word. In case you care, velleity means a slight wish, while Brumaire is a month invented by the French Republic. And that last phrase is just saying Napoleon was Robespierre on a horse.

Okay, so I did, in fact, learn a lot from that one passage. But I’m still takin’ the book back. I want to learn, not get bogged down.

Posted in Thinking 'bout Books | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

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