My Boy Chris Hayes

Chris Hayes was fantastic today. He discusses how Paul Ryan’s biography betrays his philosophy. He also notes the hypocrisy of Ayn Rand and other conservative icons, but puts it in context. “It’s not hypocrisy that bothers me so much as the ridiculous self-serving selective vision of those who have benefited from personal privilege, social connection, family name, and yes, the welfare state, constantly hectoring others to sink or swim on their own and taking determined effective steps to destroy policies that give other folks some of the same cushion they had. That’s a problem much bigger than Paul Ryan.” Watch:

Later in the show, Michael Hastings gets in an argument about Julian Assange with pretend reasonable but really fucktard conservative Josh Barro. Barro makes the argument that the government should be able to keep secrets because of its diplomatic needs. But Hastings destroys the argument by pointing out that it isn’t the press’s job to support the government’s diplomatic missions. What Barro is saying crosses the line from conservative to fascist. I’m not sure if he realizes it. Watch it, it’s great:

David Rakoff

David RakoffDavid Rakoff died last week on 9 August 2012. He was 47 with a long history of cancer. Today, This American Life did a show dedicated to him. I always really liked him. Listening to him you could tell that he wasn’t terribly comfortable in his skin. This I understand.

At the end of the program, This American Life replayed “Wedding Toast” from its Frenemies episode. They describe it, “David Rakoff demonstrates—in rhyme—how to make a wedding toast for people you never wanted to see married in the first place.”

The whole poem is about a guy expected to perform the toast at the wedding of a couple with whom he has a complicated relationship. (It can be found on the Ceremony Ceremony Blog.) He has been hurt past the point where he considers them friends, but he doesn’t want to cause a scene or look bad himself. The poem continues:

“Hmm, Josh, well, Patricia, a few family and friends,
I’ll say a few words, if you will, before everything ends.

You’ve promised to honor, to love and obey,
We’ve quaffed our champagne and been cleansed by sorbet,

All in endorsement of your hers and hisdom,
So now let me add my two cents worth of wisdom.

I was racking my brain, sitting here at this table,
Until I remembered this suitable fable,

That gets at a truth, though it may well distort us.
So here with the Tale of the Scorpion and Tortoise.

The Scorpion was hamstrung, his tail all aquiver,
Just how would he manage to get cross the river,

‘Why, the water’s so deep’ he observed with a sigh,
Which pricked at the ears of a tortoise nearby.

‘Well, why don’t you swim?’ asked the slow-moving fellow,
‘Unless you’re afraid, I mean what are you yellow?’

‘It isn’t a matter of fear or of whim’, said the scorpion,
‘But that I don’t know how to swim’

‘Ah, I didn’t mean to be glib when I said that,
I figured you were an amphibian’

‘No offense taken’ the Scorpion replied,
‘But how bout you help me to reach the far side?

You swim like a dream, and you have what I lack,
What’s say you take me across on your back?’

‘I’m really not sure that’s the best thing to do’
Said the Tortoise, ‘Now that I see that it’s you.

You’ve a less than ideal reputation preceding,
There’s talk of your victims all poisoned and bleeding.

You’re the Scorpion, and how can I say this, but well,
I just don’t feel safe with you riding my shell.’

The Scorpion replied, ‘What would killing you prove?
We’d both drown, so tell me, how would it behoove me,

To basically die at my very own hand,
When all I desire is to be on dry land.’

The Tortoise considered the Scorpions defense.
When he gave it some thought it made perfect sense.

The niggling voice in his mind he ignored,
And he swam to the bank and called out, ‘Climb aboard’.

But just a few moments from when they set sail,
the Scorpion lashed out with his venomous tail.

The Tortoise too late, understood that he’d blundered,
when he felt his flesh stabbed and his carapace sundered.

As he fought for life he said, ‘Tell me why
You have done this, for now we will surely both die!’

‘I don’t know!’, cried the Scorpion,
‘You never should trust a creature like me, because poison I must.

I’d claim some remorse or at least some compunction,
But I just can’t help it, my form is my function!

You thought I’d behave like my cousin the crab,
But unlike him, it is but my nature to stab.

The Tortoise expired with one final quiver,
And then both of them sank, swallowed up by the river.

The Tortoise was wrong to ignore all his doubts,
because in the end friends, our natures will out.”

Nathan paused, cleared his throat, took a sip of his drink,
He needed these extra few seconds to think.

The room had gone frosty, the tension was growing,
Folks wondered precisely where Nathan was going.

The prospects of skirting fiasco seemed dim,
But what he said next surprised even him.

“So, what can we learn from their watery ends?
Is there some lesson on how to be friends?

I think what it means is that central to living
A life that is good, is a life that’s forgiving.

We’re creatures of contact. Regardless of whether
We kiss or we wound, still we must come together.

Though it may spell destruction, we still ask for more,
Since it beats staying dry, but so lonely on shore.

So, we make ourselves open, while knowing full well
Its essentially saying, ‘Please, come pierce my shell.'”

Silence doesn’t paint the depth of quiet in that room.
There was no clinking stemwear toasting to the bride and groom.

You could have heard a pedal as it landed on the floor.
And in that stillness Nathan turned, and walked right out the door.

David Rakoff always seemed a gentle soul. If he does not deserve to rest in peace, no one does.

Funny Tombstones

A friend sent me to a humorous tombstone. It is supposed to be Russell J. Larsen, although I’ve found a few different ones said to be his:

Five Rules for Men to Follow for a Happy Life:

  1. It’s important to have a woman who helps at home, cooks from time to time, cleans up, and has a job.
  2. It’s important to have a woman who can make you laugh.
  3. It’s important to have a woman who you can trust, and doesn’t lie to you.
  4. It’s important to have a woman who is good in bed, and likes to be with you.
  5. It’s very, very important that these four women do not know each other or you could end up dead like me.

There are whole lists of humorous tombstones. Andrea first told me about this one:

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I find these all amusing, but equally, disturbing. Why would someone want to put a joke on his tombstone? I can understand telling people, “On my tombstone, there’s gonna be just two words, ‘Fuck you’!” That could be fun; all your friends would giggle and think you deliciously evil. But to actually do it? That makes no sense.

Perhaps you have to believe in God or that you will become a ghost so you can float over your tombstone and chortle over the effect your wit has on the mourners. But for someone like me, who may believe in God but most definitely doesn’t believe in a life beyond this one, it all seems pointless. I only make jokes for two reasons: to make myself laugh and to make other people laugh. It won’t make me happy for people to laugh at my wit once my wit is kaput.