The Age of Assholery

Smarter people than me have attempted to define just what is meant when you call someone an asshole. To me it’s not just single-minded self-centeredness and lack of consideration, it’s the pride that’s taken in it, the expectation, nay, demand that you be celebrated for your unswerving pursuit of whatever it is you want to be doing that day, that you and you alone embody perfect alignment of what you want and some Higher Purpose.

It’s not like assholes are anything new, of course, but it’s now, more than in centuries past, that they’re not just ascendant, but increasingly impossible to unseat, with new and more powerful tools to consolidate power or escape consequences. Everybody and everything has a constituency, and as long as you’re making them happy and they’re buttressing whatever you’re doing, no condemnation or punishment really deters you, it’s just the next talking point in the shouting match. It just proves you right and incites some idiot to do whatever the next awful thing they can justify to themselves is.

This is the sort of world where nobody is surprised by awfulness anymore, not really, not long enough to outlast the first day or so of tweets and wall-to-wall news coverage. Before long, some asshole who went and shot 23 kids has given the assholes who want to have guns all the time and everywhere momentum, not a death blow, because the assholes who want that shouted about it louder and better than the assholes like me who want to take everyone’s guns away.

The sort of world where assholes can go burn down a town of 2,000 people to make their point that their god is the best god because he considers barbarism preferable to girls learning math. And that nothing can be done about those assholes because that country exports too much oil, and that we sapped our will to do things like that ten years ago when we were assholes about going after someone who probably wasn’t the most important asshole out there.

It’s this destabilization, this feedback loop of assholery that’s most dispiriting about it. The evidence that the low road just fucking works better is sort of compelling. Spying on people with all means available and blowing them up with cheap killer robots is pretty darned great. Using the fuckload of money you already have to fix elections, then fix the laws so you can permanently be rich and permanently install like-minded assholes in government works really well.

And the engineer in me can’t argue with what works, with what the system clearly bears out. Money, guns, and ruthlessness win. They win every time and in so doing, they sow the seeds of domination. Money ensures that even after the trauma of the Great Recession, it’s but a handful of years before the reins are loosed on the people that caused it, because they have the money to buy permission to make gobs more instead of merely a lot more. The people with the guns and the willingness to point them at people get to seize a town in the name of their religion or whatever, because they’re enough of an asshole to be willing to express their disgruntlement in a way that makes it everyone else’s problem.

You could equally say that the problem is meekness. The meekness of liberals in general and Obama as an embodiment of it, to naively offer to hear both sides of the argument, to hang onto the expectation that the other side will argue in good faith and that both need consensus to declare victory. Assholes from the lunatics in Congress to the maniacs who shoot children (note that i do not make an equivalency between the expression of their assholery, only their common attitude towards anyone with a differing opinion, which is, in short, “fuck ’em”) walk all over us because we are not willing to buy enough congressmen to get universal pre-K, or coverage for pre-existing conditions, nor are we willing to shoot people for the right to have a boring day at a boring job in a small town and go to some church or mosque of our choosing. Our simple, reasonable needs are stakes that nobody’s willing to take prisoners over, figuratively or literally.

It’s no surprise, then, that people with unreasonable desires achieve them through unreasonable means, and then try to convince everybody it was otherwise after the fact.

So is that it? Sometimes it feels like it, like for every ebb and flow, the trend sure feels like they’re winning. That they have to win, and will evermore. Like global warming, sure there’s a cold winter or a 2008 here and there, but overall, things just keep getting hotter and you wake up one day to find committees on science populated entirely by people who are hostile to it.

Soon we’ll all be assholes.

Five fucking times

At least this time i’m not in a car heading back from RFK with the fresh taste of heartbreak to distract me when i’m not even driving. Seriously i’d like to pull all the Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins fans over here to have a talk about what this feels like because if you weren’t a Sox fan in 2003, you have no fucking clue.

This was kind of the golden moment. The chance for our Revolution to lift one of the last early MLS Cups. You know those old Super Bowls in grainy color with Namath before he was a sexual-harassing old drunk, the early days of the league we all pat ourselves on the back for lifting up on our own middle-class driving-to-foxboro-every-week shoulders. This is one of three we probably should have hoisted. Before the league gets out of our middle-class ‘the-players-make-as-much-as-i-do’ era when they still reply to us on twitter and can walk through Whole Foods with a nod, not a mob. Cherish this, MLS fans, for our reward for building the league will be to have it taken from us, and it can be no other way.

It was there, a mere inch or two below Teal Bunbury’s aim, from Lee Nguyen’s last feed, a dagger suddenly appearing at the vaunted Galaxy’s throat. The momentum was on our guys’ side, as was the possession. But as i fretted, a full half our backline had their mind on something other than defense, and even though Wellesley’s own Chris Tierney scored the equalizer, he also played the winner onside. He’s not a left back, never has been, speaking as someone who plays the position 40 times a year, he was switched off at a bad time and a great player made it pay.

other than that, i think you probably have to give the penalty for lee nguyen earlier. juninho could have played it clean, but he didn’t. he ran him over, all body, no ball, you have to call the pk. different game.

so proud of all our guys, though. chuck d. coming back hungry against impossible odds, teal bunbury pwning people after being counted out, patrick mullins, earning time, teal bunbury, an inch away, lee nguyen, tantalizing us with the prospect of what he can do when people are marking dempseys and altidores, aj soares, an inspiration to beleaguered centerbacks everywhere, and jermaine jones: trade los angeles for boston, i promise we are your kind of people. and scott caldwell and chris tierney and charlie davies and diego fagundez and jay heaps, new england is so, so proud of you.

for someone who loves soccer and baseball, now march is really the best time of year. cold nights with the revolution at gillette, neck and neck with those hideous nights in the bleachers at fenway.

can’t wait.

Player Ratings from MLS Cup 2014:

Bobby Shuttleworth: 5: Next year is big for him. He either needs to grow into Matt Reis’ shoes or move on (down). Fact: Matt Reis would have sent this to penalties. Shave your head. Become immortal.

Farrell: 5: Abused today, but rebounded quietly in the second half. Out of position forward of the play. José’s probably not going anywhere so it’s an interesting question what to do with Andrew.

Soares 5.5: Can’t claim impartiality here, as i identify too much with AJ’s need to clean up other peoples’ fuckups. He’s done a super job, but with him pushed up to cut shit out, with Goncalves as the daddy CB and Farrell pushed up too far on offense, this was bound to be trouble.

Goncalves 6: He fucked up, but he cleaned up his fuckups so well today that he’s far from the problem. Enjoy winter in Cambridge, José, and if i see you in a bar, i will still buy you all the beers.

Tierney 6.5 Not there for defense; not fast enough nor motivated enough, but damn if that goal didn’t embody everything that our revolution stand for. You are an excellent masshole, Chris Tierney.

Teal Bunbury: 6 You were so close to being the big damn hero. We would like to see you in the Dedham Whole Foods next year.

Scott Caldwell: Kyle Beckerman’s not immortal. Lie in wait.

jermaine jones: America loves you, but only revs fans can admit it now. who gives a shit where you come from, but you embody everything that is american about soccer and we are pleased to have you here. Visit Boston when it is nice out, pls, i will personally sell you on it.

Lee Nguyen: Don’t leave us for Southampton or Fulham, because on our day, the Revolution are a better team and Jürgen will see you just fine here because you have eaten José Torres’ sandwich. Make Bob Kraft pay you.

Kelyn Rowe: Next year is your terrifying year, where you and Lee split the goals, yes?

Charlie Davies: We are all behind you, and this is all our shoulders shoving you to score against MEX in a couple years, right?

Patrick Mullins: Any game a 4-4-2 is penciled in, you cause the opposition to shit their pants, right?

Diego Fagundez: Motivated? We wanted you to be the hero, but we still know you have it in you. Trust your mom to feed you good.

Jay Heaps: Proud.

The Punching-Bag In Chief

After the midterm elections, i can’t help but think that Barack Obama’s presidency has has turned into the end of The Dark Knight. We always figured he’d be our hero, the guy who was going to fix everything.

Maybe, to borrow the too-on-the-nose phrase from the movie, he’s the hero we need right now. Think about what he’s done, and then think about what he’s put up with.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that any Democrat was going to be vilified in this day and age in the face of the Republican scream machine. Perhaps it was inevitable that any black President was going to invite overt and subconscious racism, bile, the worst of us. Maybe the combination was too irresistible a target.

But we’ve never seen this before, have we? The man can do no right, it seems. In a world that’s never been grayer, every single thing he does is black, black, black. Every single thing, a bad idea done badly with bad intentions, and nothing short of it.

No wonder he looks like hell. Because no one told him he was signing up to be the punching bag, the target, the man to take the punishment. We believed in Harvey Dent, and we badly wish he could be him. So does he, one might assume. But he’s not. He woke up one day and found out he had to be Batman. At the end of the movie, i mean. Chewed by dogs, chased by cops, and vilified by the people he sacrificed everything to help.

It’s depressing for me to watch, but imagine how he feels. It’s a hell of a thing to live through all this abuse for the staggering achievement of things being less-worse, but who knows, maybe less-worse all we can hope for anymore.

Work: Educational Programming Robot

In 2014, while working freelance at Boston Device Development in Newton, i helped KinderLab Robotics design, launch, and produce their KIBO robotic learning toy, a recent winner of a Parents’ Choice Magazine gold award.

KIBO was redesigned from the wheels up from a proof-of-concept prototype, to be a durable, playful toy that evokes the indestructible wooden toys of yore (while packed with electronics), while still sticking to a cost that schools and educators and parents can afford. With a simple, yet easily understood modular architecture, kids can build the robot with sophisticated sensors and sweet-looking artwork and then use special wooden blocks to feed it its marching orders and send it off to do their bidding. Or better still, figure out why it might’ve done something else.

deluxekit_contents_straight

IMG_6033

IMG_6377

kibo_iso

disclaimer: the owners of the work depicted herein have no association whatsoever with the rest of this website.

To all the little people

While listening to the wide array of bad news this morning, i looked up at a 757 banking above me, a Delta plane. The airline where i have most of my frequent-flier miles, who nevertheless ‘fixed’ their frequent-flier program so the likes of me are unable to get status anymore. Fixed it so you have to spend a minimum amount of money, fixed it so the people in the suits don’t have to accidentally sit next to me in my frayed jeans in first class once every few years. Seems like it’s somewhat emblematic of what animates nights like last night.

Nights like last night are for those guys who walk up and buy first-class tickets, those guys in the black Escalades that run red lights and park wherever the fuck they want, the guys who have to decide what $50-entree restaurant to have dinner at each night.

Because the derangement of the modern Republican party is mostly attributable to those people. Oh, we can carp all you want about how denying science doesn’t make sense, how austerity doesn’t make sense when the economy needs a shot in the arm, how ignoring infrastructure doesn’t make sense, how starting wars doesn’t make sense. Because they do make sense, but only for those people in the front rows and the black cars. Ignoring climate change, declining to tax businesses, cheaping out on long-term investment, and finding uses for an expensive military all work out well for that tiny group of people.

It’s never going to make sense to me, because it doesn’t help me and feels like it’s just some haphazard collection of bad policy. It’s not like none of us know this narrative, it’s not like i’m saying anything that’s unrevealed, but we forget about it; with every new dramatic twist in each thread of the story, we forget about the overarching plotline. It’s not a conspiracy against public transit, or science, or the environment, or people on welfare, or women and minorities, it’s a conspiracy for rich old white men.

The real innovation is that they’ve managed to package it up (garnished with some social conservatism for those of you who are still into that) and feed it to enough of America as if it’s something that does any of us some good. And it’s hugely successful. Government is (incompetent | evil), the oceans aren’t rising, war comes with no costs, and if the guy in the suit got rich, so can you.

In all the victory speeches, remember that not a word of it, not a single falling balloon or fluttering bit of confetti, none of it’s for us.

Some photos, in minimal context:

One thing to celebrate

The white-hot glare

i Am Waiting For Your Apology

You heard me, Charlie Baker. Before i would even consider voting for you, absent my disagreement with your assertion that things here in Massachusetts need so much fixing and that ‘one-party-rule’ has been so terrible for us. Oh no, the probation department! Throw all the bums out! And replace them with bums who are dedicated to the elimination of departments instead.

Where was i?

Even if i didn’t hate the mistaken and cynical things that you stand for (not to mention your cynical campaign), Charlie Baker, i need you to apologize just for being a Republican.

That’s right, dammit, the R beside your name is enough for me to dismiss you outright. Not because i’m wedded to the Democrats, remember i’m rather left of them. No, it’s because the Party of Lincoln is ruined for a generation. Ruined by people who are not you, to be sure, but don’t you owe better to the people of Massachusetts? If you really think that your ideas are better, give them a chance to win by disavowing what’s left of that party.

Because by not doing so (and by taking their money and support), that tells me that you’re okay with the stupidity of George W. Bush, the recklessness of Ted Cruz, the ignorance of Todd Akin, the shrill partisanship of Darrell Issa, the stubborn mendacity of Mitch McConnell. People who have done nothing short of breaking our government.

While i disagree with you, and think you’re wrong for the job, i don’t lump you in with them. But you do.

Who’s going to be the first reasonable conservative to demand better of his party? Obviously, i won’t vote for him, either, but at least i’d respect him.

But until then, all Republicans can fuck directly off.