Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I Continue To Suck

Yeah, I know, it really is beginning to look as though I have to rethink this whole "keeping a blog" thing, if this is how I'm going to be about it. Blogs are like sharks, in that overused simile: they either move forward, or die. Mine seems to be sinking, largely as a result of distraction--I have this symposium in Berkeley this weekend and I don't like to travel, since travelling, especially by plane, means handing control of your life over to people who hate you because their jobs have crushed their spirits by forcing them to deal with the public all day, and I don't like Berkeley much (which is no slur against the place itself--I think it's perfectly cool to dislike a city or a country or what have you--so long as you don't live there. The number of people I've had to listen to over my life who b*tch about L.A. is just ridiculous, and those of us who rather like the place all have the same impulse, which is to deliver a quick, painful cuff to the head and say "Then, leave, you whiny f***! If everybody who b*tched about L.A. would just leave, the city would suddenly be traffic-free and friendly and easy-going, like it was back in the 70s. The fact that L.A. 'sucks' is your fault, you malcontent a**hole! So leave, and solve your problem and ours!" Similarly, I think I should be allowed to dislike Berkeley--which frankly seems designed to make you feel bad about yourself for not being poor, politically angry, and dressed in various forms of hemp--so long as I don't inflict my p*ssing and moaning on those who rather like it there.) Bottom line: I don't want to do this, and I gotta. Dammit.

I am still thinking about the abortion thing, though. Mostly I'm planning on trying to explain why I'm 'pro-choice'--if only because 'pro-choice' actually comes close to describing the political position of the group who claims that title. 'Pro-life' does not. I mean, isn't everybody--suicides and homicidal maniacs and repulsive goths excepted--'pro-life'? And what does 'the culture of life' mean? Isn't all culture predicated on the existence of life? And the claim that 'abortion is murder' is catchy, but completely erronious--"murder" is a legal term, not a moral one, defined as "the unlawful taking of a human life." "Unlawful." Not "evil," which is what the slogan is intended to convey. Better to call abortion "butchery" or "monstrous"--or heck, "evil." But murder it ain't, just as it ain't 'genocide,' since no 'race' or ethnic group is the target of abortion. Etymologically, I think the folks who want abortion to be legal win out over those who don't. But that's really neither here nor there. It's a question of conflicting moralities, isn't it? The morality of the mind versus the morality of the soul. Which is a tough choice. I mean, I'm a rationalist--I believe that erring on the side of objective certainty is almost always better than erring on the side of 'faith'--'the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen' (Heb. 11:1)--but it's tough, as I say. The fact is, for all the hypocrites on the side of those who oppose abortion ("I had my abortion, and now I don't want you to have one, since, you know, I won't have to worry about getting pregnant again!" "I'm a man, and therefore completely immune to pregnancy, and I therefore have no problem condemning it out of hand!") there are those on the 'choice' side who treat it with cavalier indifference, retroactive birth-control and nothing more. And to be cavalier about reproduction--well, that unnerves me a bit. I believe women should have the choice, but I believe that with every choice comes the responsibility of making that choice carefully, thoughtfully. "Life" in and of itself is not precious, really--but it's the only means we have to exist, and existence matters. So to cheapen existence by treating abortion with affectless libertinism--I don't know, that's a problem for me. But then, I'm a guy, so what the hell do I know?

As you can see, I'm not entirely cogent yet on the subject. More ruminations will follow.

After I get back from (G*d-dammit!) Berkeley...Oh, and I should probably have something to say about the last Star Wars movie, but that'll have to wait until I actually see the damn thing. As I've said before: miles to go before I sleep...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you're entirely correct in saying that the flight crew and cabin attendants working the flight that you will be on have had their individual and collective spirits crushed as a result of having to deal with you and all the other passengers. Does it really make a difference what your job is because isn't it the mere fact that one has to work at all that winds up crushing your spirit?

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't help but think that your feelings toward Berkeley are a little outmoded. The majority of Berkeley's occupants are quite well-off--I think the median household income is close to $50K--and there's a huge food/art/theater culture to support that wealthier population. Political activism has died down to the faintest of trickles--I've seen more enthusiastic political demonstrations in south Orange County, for Christ's sake--and the hemp-wearing bohemianism that put Berkeley on the map is considered by the majority of Berkeley occupants to be an old, tired, and irritatingly obsolete stereotype that the rest of the population seems determined to perpetuate. Perhaps the problem is that your experience in Berkeley has only been confined to the areas around the campus itself? If so, I can understand how you've gotten that impression, but that small area can hardly be expected to define an entire city, just as the wealthy Beverly Hills neighborhoods are a poor and incomplete representation of Los Angeles.

You have to forgive me--I'm rather defensive of my home base, as it were.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Yr. Hmbl. & Obdt. said...

In response to the first response/question, I would argue that people in the travel service industry (ticket counter agents, gate agents, flight attendants) have their spirits crushed MUCH more than others who simply have to get up and pound it out five days a week because these people not only have to deal with 'the public'--which anyone in food service or retail will tell you is bad enough--but they have to deal with 'the public' when said public is at its worst. Travel is stressful; people feel harried and helpless and (given the cost) entitled and inclined to blame any inconvenience on anyone readily at hand. People in airports are often the worst versions of themselves (I know I am), and these are the people that the travel service industry must, well, serve. And so I'd argue that they have their spirits crushed to a much greater, more consistent extent than those of us who don't work under such hostile conditions.

As for the second post--I wasn't actually claiming that Living, Breathing Activism was the source of the, shall we say, communal quality that I find so distasteful. No, you're right, the Berkeley of the '60s is largely dead--and probably a good thing too. But its odor--pun only slightly unintended--lingers on. Yes, it's worst closest to campus, and yes, further away things get cleaner and shinier. But there's no getting away from the too-serious self-righteousness that exudes from that university. I didn't mean to suggest that Berkeley is a wasteland--it's actually much more 'cultural' than, say, Westwood, Palo Alto, and whatever the hell you want to call the surrounding area of UC Irvine. But it's still a place where the homeless people are agressive and mean, and which wouldn't exist if not for the 'industry' of the university to which I so object. Which, once again, is why I'm not there. Well, that and they wouldn't touch me with a thirty-foot pole (made out of recycled wood products, of course)--so maybe I'm just jealous and pathetic. Yeah, I can see that being the reason. Never mind, then.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heard of these cavalier abortionettes you speak of, but I have never met a woman who did not agonize over that decision. It was difficult in 1939 when my grandmother realized she didn't want give up college to marry her high school boyfriend. It was difficult in 1979 when my mother discovered she was pregnant after she'd been given prescription narcotics. It's difficult because every woman knows that if she lets that embryo grow it will become a person, and that's an amazing and frightening and wonderful thing.

Still, there is anatomically very little difference between a 1-month human embryo and a tadpole. They both have a heartbeat and the ability to wiggle. Western religion says that one has a soul and the other does not. Eastern religion says they both have souls. From a secular perspective life is precious, but there are sometimes good reasons for ending it. If it has to be that way, the sooner the better.


12:08 AM  

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