Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Last week, I was ending a two week trip to Japan. As in previous vacations, I made a point of not being connected electronically to any device, except when I went online in the hotel lobby to email our daughter for about ten minutes a day. As news junkies, we did buy the English-language Japan Times almost daily, which covers the top three or four US/World headlines and major Japan news.

And it struck me once deprived of the devices was that this mania for Facebook, mySpace, Twitter, IM, games, iPhone, blogs, "unboxing" videos and other time-consuming tech tools have filled our days with so much digital entertainment that we've developed a very shallow, very narrow, very short-term capacity for absorbing large events. I am guilty as charged.

It may be that the digital distractions came first; or that the overwhelming quantity and complexity of news as we increasingly operate on a global stage are responsible for our retreat from engagement into digitalia.

Whatever the cause, the effect is that the worst things can take place and all we do is shrug, mouth some cynical remark, and go back to updating our profiles and sending snark.

The last few days in Japan, however, despite the typically frenetic pace of our sightseeing, the effect of all those distractions wore off. And I experienced a scary feeling that lasted for days.

People, we have reason to feel this way if we just stop for a moment. Just to remind you:

1. We are about to bomb a second middle east country, which could set Kurds, Turks, Russians, Pakistanis, Indians, Saudis, Israelis, Lebanese, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda upon each other and us.
2. The ice caps are melting much faster than anyone imagined.
3. Iraq is safer today because ethnic cleansing is almost complete.
4. GMO is rampant with potentially ruinous consequences for agriculture in the future.
5.Atlanta, Georgia might run out of water in less than 90 days.
6.Our Attorney General nominee knows water boarding is repugnant but doesn't know if it is illegal.
7. The dollar, and Americans' savings such as they are, are rapidly losing their value. (Remember Argentina in the, oh, last half of last century?)

Luckily, we have the holiday season starting to keep us spending and bingeing like there is no tomorrow.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Meat grinder shoes

My generation came of age during the rise of feminism, and one of the facets of traditional womanhood that it attacked was fashion. In particular, the dogma opposed high-heeled shoes. While they apparently make the foot and leg look seductive to males, for the wearer they misalign the spine, cause bunions and warp the foot in other ways, and result in insecure footing.

But if you thought stilettos were a bad idea, you ain't seen nothing. Can this crop of offensive shoe designs have any purpose at all except a misogynistic one? What's next, foot binding?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Unbearable Bleakness of Being

Is it the early rains? Being tired of lugging my painful foot around? I think it's the hangover from watching evil run amok in Ken Burns' "The War" combined with the malaise from reading The Bookseller of Kabul, yet another dispiriting account of what passes for life in Afghanistan.

Years ago, I saw the films Osama and Kandahar and experienced a bowel-shaking terror of the Taliban's evangelical Islam. These films' narratives centered on the female gender, and I could not help identifying with the characters.

There is no doubt that the Taliban, and other crusaders for fundamentalist Islam, stand for a travesty of everything human: free will, thought, feeling, artistic expression, the yearning for freedom and equality. Imagine a place where to laugh, dance or sing is suspect. Of course, if you are female in Afghanistan, chances are you will never have any reason to do any of those.

But women are just the ones who are in for the most brutal treatment, as a rule. The message I get when I ponder these pitiful states of being is that when history doesn't go your way, whoever you are, you are really screwed. Things may eventually improve for humankind in general, the brutal war or ruthless regime may end, but in the meantime individuals will suffer to no end.

This is an apocalyptic condition. And those who believe the end of time has a set date, need only read the daily news to see it has already arrived for many people.