thoughts on libya

so after being killed and captured a total of 47 times in the span of 12 hours because every armchair politico and journalism school failure wanted to be first to break the news, which only ended up causing a massive pandemic of false alarms, there is finally some certainty that the old colonel is no longer in control of the country he's strongarmed for the last 42 years. now we can procede to play a hilarious game of where's waldo as nobody knows where the fuck he is.

i'm no fan of gaddafi. i think he's a complete asshole. but there is no way i am convinced that removing him from libya is suddenly going to transform libya into some progressive human rights haven that follows the rule of law and respects fundamental human rights. we saw the toppling of saddam in iraq, and the removal of the taliban in afghanistan, the regime change in egypt, and countless other examples in modern history. cutting the head off the dragon doesn't result in shit changing. people just end up partying for a few days, and then it all goes back to the way it was, or as is most often the case, things end up being worse.

the problem with 'regime change' is that it's become completely meaningless in the modern context. the leader may change, but the underlying infrasture, the power base, the culture, social values, belief systems, et al, remains the same. gaddafi held libya at his mercy with an iron fist, but let's not be delusional and think it was only him. he had a large supporting cast. we saw the same thing happen in egypt -- mubarak is finally gone, and there was much rejoicing, but the arab spring has continued into an arab summer as people sobered up and realised that the changes promised were not delivered because mubarak's heir apparents weren't really all that different -- i mean, how could they be? these are the same men who were raised in the same culture that that mubarak fostered.

it's easy to replace a leader, but it takes generations to change culture, especially when it has been so deeply embedded into a nation's institutions for so long, making it a remarkably stubborn beast of burden, and will take years of forward-thinking people to make sure things don't revert back to the way it was. when the dust settles in libya, we'll see how much resolve the rebels have when the clear target of gaddafi is gone, and a much more esoteric vision of a progressive libya is the next challenge. modern history has shown that the leader was only a mini-boss, and culture is the final boss.


religion & power

i have a good amount of downtime here at work. especially in the last stretch of the afternoon. i can usually get almost all my assigned tasks down a little bit after lunch. my supervisor is an awesomely lazy guy who knows that giving me more work is more work for him, so i'm given a lot of free reign.

most of the time, i just end up reading newspapers, my twitter feed, and facebook. usually, i end up getting caught up with what's going on in american politics, especially now that we're in the throes of pre-election attention-whoring by potential GOP candidates. michele bachmann and rick perry are my two favourite sources of entertainment, with an occasional dash of rick santorum (who just offered an incredible solution for affordable healthcare: lower your mobile bill - http://t.co/Zxyhuhh), and of course, for dessert, a sprinkle of obama's painfully ineffectual term in office thusfar.

now that rick perry's ridiculous 'prayer rally' is over with -- which happened while a hundred thousand impoverished texans were lined up trying to get free school supplies, of which a vast majority got turned away because they got 5x more people than they expected (http://bit.ly/n40cjV) -- i'm wondering if it's just my cynicism, or do people actually genuinely believe that prayer can actually solve real problems in the real world?

i've never been a particularly religious guy. i was raised catholic, and did all the proper catholic things up until i was around 12 years old and decided i hated the smell of old people and being told i'm probably going to go to hell because everything that seemed fun also happened to make god want to smite you. my parents were surprisingly abiding about my journey toward religious independence (it probably had to do with the my dad's buddhist influence wearing down my mom's conservative catholic beliefs).

i remember distinctly praying from time to time for things that i really wanted. god was not so much some omniscient deity as a kind of parallel entity akin to santa claus for me. but i don't remember at any point -- even at that age -- being entirely convinced that praying would ever work for anything, ever. mostly because god kept shutting me down every time i asked him for video games.

it's hard for me to think that politicians like rick perry & michele bachmann (among others) believe prayer works as a force for change. my cynicism tells me it's just a ploy driven by a populistic need to rally the evangelical right. the religious right in america has grown unbelievably powerful in the decade and a half since i've started paying attention to politics. it almost feels like the movement started off as an inside joke that has since spiraled out of control.

i understand that religion can be a very powerful force in one's personal life, but when that religious beliefs starts fucking around with people's lives, i can't help but worry about what this might lead to. it seems like 'prayer' has become an actual, real, tangible policy choice by a growing number of politicians and their supporters. instead of actual healthcare reform, they suggest prayer. instead of poverty reduction, pray. instead of stopping famine, pray instead. and we all know what happens, from countless examples in history, when people in power think they have been put there by god...

i try to be tolerant and open-minded about religion, and i'm sorry it has come to this, but please do some actual work, and most importantly, fuck your prayers.


ad infinitum

i think i have always been a little bit in love with her. i should have told her that. i should have told her a lot of things, but i think this was the one thing that could have changed how things worked out between us. i remember feeling that eventually there would be this perfect moment to lay it all down at her feet.

before i knew it, we both grew up, and all that time i had been saving stopped feeling so inexhaustible, stopped being this immutable thing that would always be there when i needed it. as the story goes, that perfect moment never came. looking back, i'm not sure it was ever on its way.

if she read this now, i am sure she would call me an idiot for believing such a moment could possibly exist. she would tell me that everything always runs its course eventually because time can only move in one direction. so regardless of how much faith i put in grand theories of relativity, when it comes to a girl like her, i am pretty sure 'not enough' is the most anyone is ever allowed to have.

in its own brutally unsatisfying way, this leaves things open to the possibility that maybe, one day, she and i might pick up where we left off because i was told once that two points of any given circle are always bound by the forces of nature to converge again and again and again ad infinitum.

however, i have found that when time runs its course, it seems only cynicism disguised as sentimentality remains, and i am unconvinced these equations will ever resolve such a broken geometry.


moving on & growing up.

now that natatie portman has gotten herself knocked up with an illegitimate child, i think it's time that i get past this relationship i've had with her over the years because she's only been a source of consistent disappointment for as long as i've known her.

i'd like to take a moment to declare my new greatest celebrity crush for now and the foreseeable future: olivia wilde.


why can't obama stand up for anything?

with the debt limit finally going to the vote, i can't think of any significant piece of legislation that has passed in the last three years that obama can call his own.

i've had this creeping feeling that he has drank so heavily from his cup of "reaching across the aisle", that he's willing to sell out his base just to get anything "done" -- especially with his health care bill that got watered down to 'obamacare', a shadow of its former self that completely erased any snifflings of a public option.

now with this debt limit deal does almost nothing for the people who need it, and much of it will be determined later in later congressional hearings.

while i am completely sure that this whole 'debt limit' talk has only been a big deal because a (black) democrat is running the country (it was raised 8 times under bush (2000-2008), and a whopping 14 times under reagan, all with pretty much zero press coverage), i just don't understand the long-term viability of obama's administration. it just seems every compromise he's made is just another step towards catastrophic failure come election time next year.

every compromise he's made will come back to bite him in the ass, from both the left and the right. the right will expose all the failures of said legislation (stimulus package, health care, the way the wars were handled), and the left will talk about how they really haven't benefited from anything he's done (and they are right to say so).

he seems to have not learned that 'compromise' in american politics generally lends itself to pissing off both sides of the political spectrum because both will say they did not get a big enough piece of the pie. thus, he is in extreme danger of alienating his base. even his most ardent supporters in the "liberal" media have questioned whether or not he even has a pair of balls to stand up for anything he said during his campaign.

it's pretty sad that a country like the united states, with its diverse culture of ideas, has absolutely zero viable progressive alternatives. unless he actually starts flexing some muscle, i get the feeling that obama's only supporters come 2012 will be because his party affliation does not say 'republican' beside his name, and that's a shitty reason to vote for anyone.



she asked for an explanation. it was the hardest i had to think for a long time. she made it worse by sitting there, being patient. of all the things should could have done — screamed, cried, throw a punch — she did her worst with a slow, measured, muted question. ‘why?’

a long time ago, i listened to a lecture about the universe. it was about its history and its future, and its state of increasing and accelerated expansion. it was about supernovae, stellar remnants, and near-invisible particles called neutrinos. it explained why the sky is dark at night, and how billions and billons and billions of years from now, every star in the night sky fades into the black, and that the natural imperative of an expanding universe is a journey towards utter oblivion. cold nothingness. infinite emptiness. all evidence that we were ever here and did anything that ever mattered would be irreparably destroyed.

physicists call this entropy.

i remember vividly the bemusement i felt as i sat on that stone slab, looking up at her as she sat on the hood of the car with her arms folded across her. i almost laughed out loud, thinking how ridiculous i’d sound trying to preface my answer to her question with a story about the unstoppable and wholly nihilistic fate of the universe that eventually will turn everything to nothing. but it was all i had, and even knowing i had the unbreakable clockwork of thermodynamics on my side, she deserved more.

they always deserve more, these ones.

it can’t help make you wonder what kind of guy you are to throw something like this away. but you don’t think about it that way when that pretty face is staring right at you, wide-eyed, alerting you that her bullshit detector on its most sensitive setting, waiting to hear something that won’t make her feel like she’s just wasted a good chunk of her life for a deadbeat who can’t answer a simple one word question.

no, all you can think about in moments like these is how to say something that won’t make you feel like a complete asshole when that final word leaves your mouth and vibrates off the inside of her ear canal. ‘i’m sorry,’ is all you can say because you can’t win in a universe that’s determined to break everything.

then you wait.

and you hope.

and you discover she is the one girl you meet in your life that does transcend all the known laws of an unforgiving cosmos because she is your very own big bang, proving that sometimes, when certain conditions are met, something can come from nothing.


a decent explanation

i'm not sure what compelled me to call her. i had been thinking about her for days now. something about the combination of stifling boredom i feel when i'm not given enough work to do on hot summer days with too many hours, surrounded by the bustle of people i should know but don't, told me i could not be alone, not today, not right now. out of the hundred or so numbers in my phone, most of which i'll never call again, something told me it had to be her. mostly because i knew she could never say no to me. her heart was always as big as the universe, and even after all these years, that was something that would never change.

we met in a tiny coffee shop on bank street, a relic in a part of the city that was almost entirely consumed by gentrification, where rising office towers cast dark shadows over the small windows. we sat in a corner booth, on sofas with worn but neatly mended upholstery. in an age where restaurant furniture was designed to get you out of your chair in fifteen minutes, the way i sunk into that cushioned seat was a welcomed change, like i was being invited to stay.

she sat across from me with her hands clasped together, smiling. her eyes were brighter than supernova. the right side of her collar was upturned, a victim of the fierce hug i had given her as she stepped off the number 1 bus. her squeal of delight still rung in my ear. it had been a while since someone was so happy to see me. i almost forgot how amazing it was to feel that from someone again. the lone waitress interrupted our staring contest.

she ordered green tea. i said the same. she raised an eyebrow.

'i've started drinking it,' i told her.

her eyes were asking for an explanation, but there wasn't any. soon, we began arguing over when was the 'last time'. she guessed it was at least three years. i offered four, but she shook her head adamantly. she explained it could not have been four years because we still had a class together then. she threatened to pull out her laptop and forage through her gmail.

'you kept all of those?' i asked, incredulous.

'they keep themselves,' she replied matter-of-factly. 'google deletes nothing!'

'ever go back and read them??'

'i forgot all about them until just now.'

she held her cup delicately in both hands, almost as if it were a small child. thin wisps of steam rose as she sipped quietly, all the while never taking her eyes off of me. i eyed her back suspiciously.

'why did you call me?' she asked first. 'don't get me wrong, i'm happy to hear from you, but it just feels so sudden.'

i told her i had been thinking about her for a few days now. i told her i had just moved back to the city a couple months ago, back to a city i grew up in, but over the years, has since outgrown me, and i needed someone to remind me where i came from, that i hadn't been completely left behind. more importantly, she was one of the few people i knew who still had the same number.

'more importantly, i wanted to see if you were still pretty.'


'not bad,' i paused for dramatic effect, 'i guess.'

she grinned and pretended to take offence. 'glad to see you're still a jerk.'

after a while i told her how i ruined something good. 'really unbelievably good.' i paused to rehearse the story in my head. 'i met this girl. actually, before i met her, i woke up one day, and realized i was completely miserable. i hated my job. i hated where my life was going. then i met her. i met this incredible girl at the worst possible time, and when i decided i needed to get my shit together, i cut her out. it wasn't a concious decision. one day of neglect led to another. before i knew it, six months had passed. it was surgical, precise, cold turkey. i just stopped.'

'you were always good at that,' she said. 'so why didn't you call her instead of me?'

'i did,' i told her. 'i tried to explain myself. fix things. we're talking again, but i don't think things will go back to the way they used to be.'

'of course they don't. you don't pull that kind of shit to someone you care about.'

'i told her before it all started that i have a bad habit of closing up. she said she remembered, but never thought i'd do it to her. i felt like a complete asshole.'

'you are a complete asshole.'

i explained that i always operated under the assumption that when you meet someone, especially when you think it's the right one, there was this biological imperative that you would naturally make the changes necessary to make things work out. 'it's not that i lose interest. i don't know. it seems like such a cop out to say i have commitment issues-'

'which you do,' she interjected.

'but even when i know i have a good going, i always find a way to royally fuck things up.'

she shrugged and tilted her head. i braced myself for her four year degree in psychology to pour over me like a southeast asian monsoon, but she was surprisingly economical. 'i don't know when it was, but when we were dating, i started feeling that we weren't going to last very long. it wasn't your fault, and i know it definitely wasn't mine, but you never came across to me as the kind of guy who can stick around in one place -- and i don't mean physically -- for very long. you need someone to fill in the empty spaces of your life, and when those spaces close up, that someone gets squeezed out.'

i gave it some thought. 'so not only am i a complete asshole, i'm a selfish prick too.'

'pretty much,' she said, almost giggling.


portrait of a girl

sunlight streaming through the bay window and accented her hair, hints of golden strands swam through a river of chestnut locks. the mop of her ponytail slung haphazardly over her shoulder as she settled more deeply into the chair, her head propped up against the palm of her hand. the remote control rested atop her thigh. her slender fingers rapped lightly against the buttons. reflections of light bounced off of the silver thumb ring with the slightest motion of her hand, a keen counterpart to the golden cross that slung down around her neck.

she sat on the recliner with her feet tucked underneath her. how such a sitting position could be comfortable, i'll never know. i told her that the lever at the side of the chair extended the foot rest.

'i know how to work a chair,' she replied dismissively, too deeply immersed in the serial-killing comforts of dexter on the television to entertain further queries on anatomical configurations.

during the commercial, i got up. she tilted her head and looked up at me as i stretched out, swinging my arms back and forth. her eyes were hazel from a distance, but up close, they were green on the outside that faded into a reddish-brown, with flecks of gold, like photographs of cosmic supernova in science textbooks. her eyes narrowed as i walked past her. her hand continued to pet the remote, as if it were a cat on her lap. she could have passed for a criminal mastermind of an era gone by.

'where are you going?' she asked.

'coffee,' i said when i reached the kitchen.

when i sat back down, she stretched her arm toward me, fingers flittering.


'make your own.'

she frowned.

i rolled my eyes.

'just a sip.'

the corners of her mouth betrayed a grin. her eyes twinkled. she was lying. i handed her the mug anyway.

she sank back into the safety of her seat. this time with her knees up against her chest as she held the mug in both of her hands, purposely making loud slurping sounds as she drank my coffee. she traded calculated, suspicious looks between the television and me.

letting out a deep sigh, i stood up again to get another coffee. she grabbed my wrist as i walked by. i stopped and looked back down at her. she handed back my coffee and smiled.

'thanks,' i said surprised.

'it needs more sugar.'

i raised my eyebrow.

she pointed at the kitchen. 'that way.'


i wish i could do better by you ’cause that’s what you deserve.

you can never love anyone enough. your love cannot fix anything, nor does it start the healing process. love does not stop time; it barely even manages to slow it down -- and often times, this is not enough. love will not help anyone see the good in you. you cannot love someone into apologizing, backing down, or compromising. love does not uncover the details because it lives in the empty spaces between. love will do its best to convince you otherwise though, but trust me: you can never love anyone enough. they have to love you.

but love tends to be a packrat -- collecting things that long should have been tossed away. it will make you see things, hear things, understand things that have no basis in reality, leaving it up to you to tell the difference. it will make you beg. it will make you listen to really awful songs and write down terrible things on crumpled restaurant napkins. it can make you sacrifice. it will, undoubtedly, ruin a good movie and make a bad one oscar-worthy. it can also make you give up your self-respect, and once you lose that, you have lost everything. love is your one-way street toward oblivion. that is, unless they love you back. otherwise it is nothing more than a series of events that you once lived through.

with that said, you should be careful with what you are willing to give up -- the human condition appears to be keen on forcing you to make the most agonizing decisions at the worst possible time. geneticists call it the self-destruct gene, a chemical reaction consisting of equal parts passage of time and giving up too much, that transforms love into resentment. like one-way streets, you might reach a dead end, and if not, you certainly cannot turn back. so in your pursuits, be careful with what you think you are willing to go without. as is often the case with hindsight, you may have made some terrible mistakes.

familiarity and sentimentality have a tendency to fade into nothing more than journal entries filed away in dusty memory banks, occasionally retrieved only with the right song lyric. the truth is, most things in this life will to break in their own time. the pieces all shatter with a noisy crash and scatter with a reckless abandon at your feet. sometimes it is better to replace broken things than invest the time and effort in putting the pieces back together. but mostly it is because love lives in the empty spaces, and sometimes, some of those broken parts may have fallen through the cracks already. in the end, you may find everything disastrously unrecognizable when you think you have it all put back together.

bubblegum crisis

we sat on a stone picnic table in the park. i twirled a long stem rose between my fingers. she let out a deep breath. i nudged her with my knee. she pushed it away. i nudged her again. she snatched the flower out of my hand. with a quick snap, the petals exploded over my head. i felt the broken end of the stem scrape against my cheek.

'i paid $9 for that.'

she scowled and raised her hand again. i winced. she tossed the broken branch behind her. she smirked and looked away. relaxing, i stretched out my leg and dug out a pack of gum.


with a thumb and forefinger, she deftly picked out a piece without touching my hand.

i could almost hear her teeth grinding as she chewed.

'hey,' she said suddenly.

i looked at her. she flicked the empty, crumpled wrapper at my forehead.

'you have so many redeeming qualities,' i mumbled under my breath.

'shut up,' she replied and pushed me away. she sniffed. a quiet pop of her gum followed, as she turned away and leaned back on her elbows.

i shrugged and fished out my own piece of gum. as i was about to pop it in my mouth, her hand flashed out like zeus's thunderbolt and smacked it away. the gum flew across the air and bounced a few times before coming to rest in a bed of gravel some distance away.

i hissed. 'god damn you!'

she snapped her gum in response.

my shoulders slumped as i stared at the off-white rectangular object in the distance. when i turned to look at her, something like a triumphant grin was beginning to form at the corner of her lips while she examined my reaction. she turned away before i could see it fully develop.

i jumped off the table and faced her. i leaned forward. her eyes got big. she leaned back. every inch closer by me was matched by an inch further by her until she was almost lying flat on the table.

'you kiss me, i scream,' she warned.

i blinked. she narrowed her eyes.


i straightened up, turned and walked towards my lost gum. i bent over and picked it up. i held it up to the lamplight and examined it thoroughly.

'you're not going to eat that are you?' she asked, horrified.

i rubbed it as clean as i could with my shirt.

'you chew gum. you don't eat it. stupid.' i emphasized that last part as i popped it into my mouth.

her face contorted. she clicked her teeth and shook her head.

i placed my hands on my hips and chewed like a champion, as she looked on in clear astonishment of my victory.

she stepped off the table and walked toward me. my arms tensed, readying myself for more violence. as she reached me, she looked up and burst out laughing. without missing a stride, she sidestepped me and continued toward the parking lot.

'you are so stupid!' she said, still laughing, shaking her head.

i pivoted in disbelief.

'what?' i followed behind her. 'what the hell was all that?'

'just seeing if there was anything you felt guilty about and needed to confess,' she replied over her shoulder.

'that is so evil,' i stopped to yell. i pulled out the pack of gum and launched it at her. it sailed to the left of her head.

'you're lucky that missed,' she said without turning.