Confronted by mortality

From The Dance of Death by Hans HolbeinI was confronted by my own mortality this morning. I didn't wreck my car or motorcycle, nor was I otherwise physically injured. I woke up, got out of bed, went to the bathroom, and looked in the mirror.

And there it was. Death was staring me in the face. He didn't come as a tall spectre enrobed in black and carrying a scythe. Instead he chose to appear to me in a form less menacing, but no less final.

In the midst of my otherwise dirty brown locks was a lone grey hair. I'm used to the occasional red, blonde, or black hair, but this is my first grey one. At a mere 25 years of age, the grey hair has appeared.

Now this isn't the same as, say, being diagnosed with cancer or AIDS or being in a plane crash. That's death standing over you screaming. This was more like a wave and a glance that says, "We'll be seeing each other, maybe not real soon, but soon enough."

So I yanked the offending hair and took my shower. As I washed myself, I started thinking about what I had done with my life, what I am doing with my life, and what I want to accomplish before I shuffle off of this mortal coil. The answers are, for those interested, "A good bit, not enough, and a hell of a lot more," respectively.

Being in law school and holding down a job has me pretty much on auto-pilot, which is not a good place for me to be over the next three years of my life. People get cut down in their prime all the time, and I don't want to be caught off guard, with so much left to do.

When I checked my email this morning, I had a note from my father, who just last month had a malignant melanoma removed.

Did I tell you about your Aunt? She is going to Cleveland to get a valve job. She needs a repair job on a valve in her heart. She has been told that Cleveland is the best place to get this done. Since I will be in Oklahoma for the holiday weekend I will fly from Tulsa to Cleveland to be with her. Should be an interesting time. The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday.

You remember Joe? One of our mutual friends, you may have met him. Named Patrick. passed away Monday. he was 58. heart attack.

Makes you think

The Stoics believe that everything we have is borrowed from the logos, including our lives. We should focus on living virtuously and doing our duty to our fellow man and society. When the time comes to return this body to the logos, we should do so cheerfully, with the knowledge that we lived as we ought.

Death is not in our power, neither our own, nor that of those we love. All that is in our power is how we live.

Tempus fugit, memento mori.

Yours truly,
Mr. X


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A few links for those who need something to waste their time with.

This site has pretty much every video game ever, in a web-accessible version. Hat tip to Jeremy for finding it.

Ward Farnsworth's Predator at the Chessboard is a great resource for beginners looking to learn about chess tactics. Hat tip to Professor Volokh who recommended it.

And then there's always the old standby, Popcap, which has some of the best digital crack rock around.

Yours truly,
Mr. X



Observations from the weekend

It is with sincere apologies to those of you who can't get enough long and serious posts about international affairs that I present some observations from my weekend.

  • When running around Arlington in a toga, blitzed on wine, trading underwear with a strange woman will seem like a good idea. While panties can be quite comfortable and supportive, this is not as good an idea as it seems at the time.

  • Spending a Saturday afternoon at a family barbeque to welcome one's stepdad home from three months away is always a good idea.

  • Giving motorcycle rides to kids is a great feeling. Especially when one of them comes up to you afterward and says, "That was so cool! I'm going to tell everyone at school on Monday," and you can tell that you've pretty much made his week.

  • Lazy Sunday afternoons spent with pretty girls and peppered with scintillating conversation are great. As is the intense ab workout one gets from long stretches of laughing uncontrollably together.

  • Twisty roads like the Georgetown Pike are fun on a motorcycle, but more fun when they are not dark and unfamiliar. Fear of sudden death from careening over an embankment focuses the mind quite well.

  • Trying to find a building on the University of Maryland campus based on Mapquest directions is a fool's errand, especially late at night. However, running such an errand the night before my roommate's important TOEFL test should ensure that he does find the building the next morning, when it really matters.

That pretty much wraps up the weekend. Don't worry, I'll return to long-winded and heavily cited rantings about the state of the world sometime soon. Just not today.

Yours truly,
Mr. X


UPDATE: Photographic evidence here and here. Guess who's not going to be President...


But at least we didn't flush the Koran

According to a confidential Army report, interrogators brutally abused prisoners until they died at a prison camp in Afghanistan. The Guardian reports:

The New York Times carries a graphic account of Dilawar's torture and death. His legs were beaten so badly that he could not bend them to kneel, and he was chained for days by his wrists to the roof of his cell. When he asked for a drink of water during his final interrogation, one US interrogator punched a hole in a water bottle, handed it to Dilawar and tormented him as the water poured away before he could drink, according to an interpreter present at the time.

After the interrogation, guards chained Dilawar again to the roof of his cell, where he was found dead by a doctor several hours later, the paper reported.

This kind of behavior by U.S. troops makes me sick. If publishing accounts of atrocities is losing us the propaganda war, good. We're Americans dammit, not jihadis. There's no point in winning a war if you have to lose your soul to do it.

Yours truly,
Mr. X



America Is Awesome!

Myke's been ranting on again about how the Fourth Estate is really a Fifth Column treasonously aiding the 'enemy' in the War on Terror.

This latest round from the enemy 5th column we call our "free press" has got me thinking.

Also, in the entry previous, he remarks:

There's a difference between dissent and enemy propaganda. If you're going to work for the bad guys, pick up a rifle and wear your colors honestly.

Everybody's talking about the Newsweek story about flushing the Koran and the later retraction. Not everyone has gone to quite the hyperbolic excess that Myke does, but enough people have that David Brooks wrote a

column about it:

I look around the Web these days and find that Newsweek's retracted atrocity story has sent everybody into cloud-cuckoo-land. Every faction up and down the political spectrum has used the magazine's blunder as a chance to open fire on its favorite targets, turning this into a fevered hunting season for the straw men.

Dennis Prager has apparently been toking from the same glass pipe that Myke has:

Newsweek is directly responsible for the deaths of innocents and for damaging America. As a typical member of the American news media, Newsweek's primary loyalties are to profits and to its political-social agenda. We are very fortunate that in America, at least, we now have talk radio and the Internet – the mainstream news media are no longer Americans' only sources of news. Europe and the rest of the world still rely almost exclusively on news media for their understanding of the world, which is a major reason for their anti-Americanism.

Yep, good old talk radio, that bastion of reasoned and balanced news coverage. Seriously, WTF?

All of this spewing over a news story misses the point. As Brooks observes:

The rioters are the real enemy, not Newsweek and not the American soldiers serving as prison guards. Just to restore some proper perspective, let me quote a snippet from a sermon delivered by Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, which ran last weekend on the Palestinian Authority's official TV station:

"The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world - except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquillity under our rule because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews - even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew."

These are the extremists, the real enemy. Let's keep our eye on the ball.

If this shit keeps up, I just might join a jihad. Either that, or eventually just throw up my hands and declare, "America is Awesome!"

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...hashing in one hour...

UPDATE: Almost forgot, Tim West points out that some journalists are still dedicated to getting it right, even when that's unpopular.


Many Words

"He that uses many words for explaining any subject, doth, like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink." -John Ray, naturalist (1627-1705)

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...succinct today...


Mojo's Bootleg Shack

A friend of mine turned me on to Mojo's Bootleg Shack. Free Mojo Nixon bootlegs! How freaking awesome?

Remember what the Dead Milkmen say in "Punk Rock Girl":

We went to a shopping mall
And laughed at all the shoppers
And security guards trailed us to a record shop
We asked for Mojo Nixon
They said he don't work here
We said if you don't got Mojo Nixon then your store could use some fixin

The Casbah show from 2003 rawks. the official question for the Saturday blowout is now, "Are you drinking with me, Jesus?"

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...Elvis is everywhere...


Beware the Jihad!

Another entry in the mindless entertainment that punctuates my panic dept. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll has received a communique from a new terrorist group. In the interest of all of our safety, he has reprinted it. An excerpt:

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!

Sure, it may be just idle talk, but they're threatening some pretty scary stuff. Among their threats:

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

I think they mean it. Maybe Myke can do some research on this group and their mission. I'm too busy with studying right now.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...early warning guy...


Don't Stop Me Now

We interrupt this week of freaking the hell out about exams to bring you a twisted little Flash movie. Don't Stop Me Now is a surreal little adventure culminating in an awesome Vandals cover of an equally awesome Queen song.


Yours truly,
Mr. X

...back to writing...