Post Hokum Ergo Propter Hokum

The original phrase, in Latin, is post hoc, ergo propter hoc which, directly translated means “after, therefore because of”. It’s a warning against a mistake in logic and conclusion that many people—myself included—have made, do make, will continue to make. A more accessible translation for the warning is: just because one event happened before a second event does not mean it caused the second event.

For example, just because we’re here to wonder about the existence of a god does not mean that a god must have created us. I suppose it’s entirely possible, but as you know, I’m a bigger fan of invisible pink unicorns.

Most of us look at the universe in terms of cause and effect, which is fine for most things, just as Euclidean geometry works for most local phenomenon. Beyond that, mapping Euclidean concepts (a point, a line, a plane) onto something like a globe will bake your noodle. A straight line becomes an arc, flat land is really a spherical cap. The wheels come off the wagon pretty quickly.

The same is true with cause and effect: look what it does to politicians! Do they resemble any of the everyday humanity in any of their behavior, their speeches? Maybe that’s why W. was so popular: he aped the ordinary, fooling enough people. He never was real human, just a boy in his daddy’s bubble.

But I digress.

So the translation of this entry’s title is a bastardized one: After bullshit, therefore because of bullshit; put another way, the bullshit of the past is not necessarily the cause of the bullshit of the present.

Bullshit I know. I’ve had an email account since my freshman year at Carnegie Mellon, which means come this August I will have been doing email for 24 years. So I know how to handle myself online versus onlife. CMU’s campus wasn’t that large; if you hurled invectives at someone in email, chances were good that you’d run into them in a class or on the quad or in the Kiltie Cafe.

So you learn pretty quickly that email is just another way of conducting yourself with other human beings. The web happened too quickly, was too far-flung. Many people never learned that one shouldn’t really accept the mantle of anonymity, much less use the anonymity as a shield behind which they can fly arrows to everyone and expect no return-fire (mostly? metaphors do mix).

You end up with the Dog’s Knot. Or you end up with cracker-ass-crazy Texans calling everyone a bigot by using bigoted statements. You end up with invented personalities. You end up with imbuing mental disorders with a trait they priorly lacked: contagiousness. You pull people into alternate realities. But Cookie Man, you say, doesn’t a movie do the same thing?

Well, sure it does, but the houselights come up at the end of the flick, or the DVD returns to the droning of the DVD main menu’s music. No such luck in an ongoing portrayal online.

Martians have invaded from the North, and we’re all gullible enough to run from our radios in a mass panic in the streets.

There was a blogger deception last year that everyone talked about, but no one would expose! What’s up with that? Even close friends of mine wouldn’t give me the URL to the offending blogger, even as they blogged about how awful it felt to be deceived!

I’m in the same position right now. And unless any of you all can give me a solid reason for not going public with a solid demonstration of deception, it’ll happen soon. Very soon.

So…anyone? Anyone?

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Truth Will Out

Riddle me this: what do a churlish, racist, self-involved recent transplant to San Francisco and a collective intelligence from the Great White North have in common?

I call it the fight and flight. Or hit and run. Or a “you suck” followed by fingers in ears with a “LALALALALAIamNotListening!”

What do you call someone whom you ask, “may I use your email in a public forum?” who answers “no you may not” when he’s already used your own email content in his own public forum?

What do you call someone who calls homeless people “put together with dirt and grime” but claims he has no hostility towards them? Or who bitches about the Cantonese women on buses too crowded together who he’s sure will “give him SARS”?

What do you call someone who says “I love it when people send in nasty comments, but are too chicken to post their email for a reply” and then posts comments to your own blog with a false email address hurling all kinds of ad hominem insults at you?

What do you call someone who deletes all your comments, then uses out-of-context pull-quotes from them in subsequent blog entries?

What do you call someone who has said he’s been an EMT, a European Rugby Player, a policeman, a grad student, almost got on Flight 93, is Canadian but was born in Hawaii because in the few moments of a layover he was born on that American soil and so has dual citizenship, has a father who not only won consecutive Gold medals in the 200m in 1968 and 1972 but also set an Olympic time record in the process, who lives in San Francisco, who chronicles his own life and exploits all over the world, but when it comes to posting new pictures of himself, claims “I don’t want people stealing my identity”?

What do you call it when people who claim to be blunt and candid and no-nonsense, and who pride themselves on being immune to bullshit by going right to the source, turn around and believe some hearsay overheard at a bar thousands of miles away, reported by people they never met in person, without first challenging the one who was overheard in the first place, then accuses that person (me) obliquely and without reference?

And what do you call it when challenged on all that, the response is, “I’ve let it go already, and if you have any class, you’ll drop it as well”?

I call it subterfuge. Concealment. A feint. A distraction.

I call it bent. I call it “’kel’ domage”.

I call it cowardice.

This isn’t just drama. This is dramalamadingdong.

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Goodbye, Cafe Commons

I sit here at my usual table, in the usual seat. A worn, wooden paneled wall is on my right. I face the door.

The walls are barer than usual, paintings one by one disappearing throughout the last couple of weeks as Soonae and Jong slowly dismantle the Best Place That Ever Was.

Today is the last day for this place, Cafe Commons, while my tunnel vision is here, focused on the virtual page which fills with words even as the Cafe empties itself of its identity. Maudlin, I know, but melodrama protects me from tomorrow, when I won’t be here. When the cafe won’t be here.

Soonae and Jong will still be here, in the City. And I am close enough to them that though our contact may end up less frequent, the time spent will be of longer duration and better quality. “I love you both,” I wrote on the matte of surrounding a picture intended for all comers to sign. “You are my family.” There’s no shame in admitting things that are true, no matter the context, no matter who will see it and wonder at its veracity.

I know it’s true and so do Soonae and Jong, and that’s all that matters.

It’s difficult to pick my head up and look around. There’s a somberness and solemnity that flows near the feet, like hollywood fog or witches’ brew. So as long as you keep your head up, at the smiles that are forced (but not in a bad way), you can imagine that now goes on forever.

I focus on the good; Soonae and Jong have been logging 87-hour weeks (each!) and so I am looking forward to their being able to slow down and rest. They’ll have so much more opportunity for enjoying their lives instead of running this cafe all the time.

So I’ll miss Cafe Commons, but a place is just a place. It’s the people that count. And to me, Soonae and Jong count more than almost anyone.

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A Few Good Mendicants

I just watched the Aaron Sorkin opus, A Few Good Men.

Besides the famous line uttered by Jack Nicholson’s character, “You can’t handle the truth!” and the disturbing evidence that Tom Cruise can, in fact, act, there’s a startling bit of turnabout that’s more energy redirection than force-met-with-force.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say the lynchpin of the entire play/screenplay—and not just the trial contained therein—is simply this: those people who are so sure and so convinced that the world works just as they see it are begging to tell you about their own extraordinary behavior along those lines.

Like a villian in a melodrama “monologues” right before he’s destroyed, there are those drama queens, narcissists, control freaks and other shallow slips of humanity out there that are dying to get it all out and tell you why they’re always right and disagreement isn’t just a difference of opinion, it’s just Plain Wrong.

As Shakespeare wrote: “happy are they that hear their detractions and can put them to mending”. Early on I was taught that being wrong wasn’t bad, but not learning from it was.

In certain martial arts the mindful student will remember that often the key to success is to use one’s opponent’s own energies against him.

It’s a theme I won’t soon forget.

More Shakespeare: “In practise let us put it presently.”

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The Upside of Being Alone

I’m not burying the lead (as I’m so famous for doing) when I say up front that the downside to breaking up with someone you love is significant and unalterable. Some think that throwing yourself into a new relationship is a cure-all, or throwing yourself at, on or under everything with a penis and a pulse is the way to moving on, but not for me. I have to face it all head on, let it pass over and through me, and just stand up to and, well, stand it. Endure it.

Otherwise, you live in fear of being attacked from behind by what you left behind. Or rather, what refused to be left behind no matter how much you tried to ignore it.

The Native Americans (judeo-christian-godless as they were) knew the value and purpose of serenity. As do I, after all that’s happened in my life thus far. Death has a lesson, if you’re human enough to be open to the learning.

It is with that class of in vivo academics on my C.V. that I turn to the positive aspects of being alone. While the downside is a massive and monolithic singleton, the upsides are a happy multitude of lilting and lovely things, sips of nectar from an unexpected blossom in that part of the wood where flowering trees are plentiful.

Today, my Babycakes is visiting the City with her son, Sean. I’m at Cafe Commons, the place that has been sometimes more of a home to me than the house I’ve lived in, just up the hill, for nearly thirteen years. It is as well-situated as a man could ever ask for.

Despite the embarrassment of riches of people in my life like Judy, like Jerry, Fred, the DogPoet, Davids M. & B., PamPam, James, Jennie-Jennie, Michael, Derek, Bubba, Steve, JP, the Rhino, and, especially, my family back East, it does well to remember those with whom I no longer are beholden to associate with, or at least stay my tongue around (sorry for the dangles).

For just as free with the love and positivity I am with those I love, when you’re single you can be as blunt and disarming as your own judgement tells you is appropriate, with those you would never have otherwise abided. And appropriateness for me requires the bluntness to be constructive and the harshness of the lessons conveyed to be without compromise.

I’m quite good at thinking on my feet while still not shooting from the hip. (And other bodypart idioms as well!)

So I look forward to candor unfettered. It’s one of those sips of nectar that may bring lessons. Lessons for myself as well.

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Requiem for a Sociopath

A Pall upon a Baker’s Will.
A death-bringing shade on an English Shore
Shadowcasting across the world.
Safety suffers for the journey.

An Old World Disease come to New World Land.
Charm and oddly-compelling dyscrasia
Circumvents the skeptical
And Followers chase the Leader.

The propulsion of a wagging tail
Motion towards with no control.
Damn the future, full speed ahead
“What you need you can only find here.”

Hansel and Gretel’s Sin was not Gluttony,
But rather in leading breadcrumb addicts to
A Predator’s Kiss.

But there are always new addicts, always new lands.
The English know: they mapped the world.
A card of Green is all it takes
To infect the distance.

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The Liberally Cowardly Media

One of the Conservatives’ favorite bromides is yapping about the “Liberal Media”. You must understand that this is only an effective rallying cry because of the a priori repetition of variations on the notion that Liberal is not only bad, but is instead identical to Evil. Yes, that Evil. The Pure One. The Absolute One. Even uttering “liberal” without godblessing yourself is cause to fear for your soul.

So when someone like Stephen Colbert not only calls the Emerperor naked to his face but also takes his spineless courtiers to task for not even bothering to investigate the possibility that there’s a nudity coverup, what’s a True Believer to do?

I don’t know…I still support the right to choose whatever worldview salves one’s own fear of one’s own mortality. But for the rest of us? I say, pop some popcorn, sit back and watch the circus.

And for those of you less heartless than that, less into that kind of godenfreude, just be sure to keep your hands at a safe distance from so many gyrations and so many grinding gears as you reach out to these people.

It used to be if you didn’t like the message, you shot the messenger. These days, it’s not easy enough again yet to get away with murder, so you satisfy yourself by discrediting the messenger, and then in turn, the message.

But if the message is loud and clear and uttered with candor and directness to the point that it nags at your very Faith, how to avoid the crisis? By focusing on the idea of general appropriateness and trying to fabricate the notion of good will that you just spent the last 20 years sucking dry.

So the biggest argument out there turns into “it was supposed to be a fun and safe evening! and Colbert was out of line!”.

If that was true, wouldn’t W and Laura be even more at fault for giving Colbert such an icy reception after his bit was done? Politesse is such tricky business.

What I like best about the Colbert performance is that he finally exposes the media, not by stating so, but by forcing a reaction that aligns the crazy-ass Rightwingers with the media on the very same side.

What did the NY Times write about Correspondents’ Dinner? They wrote about a faux ventriloquist act with a “Bush Dummy”, acknowledging neither the irony nor the redundancy in that phrase.

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