Thursday, October 28, 2010

Group Therapy

John Boehner, Lady Gaga, Khloe Kardashian and LeBron James are seated together in a circle.

THERAPIST: Welcome to group therapy.  As the therapist, I'm here to guide you, but this is your time to entrust your peers to help you work through your issues.  OK, who would like to start us off?  OK, John, what's on your mind?

BOEHNER: What I think we need to do is talk about how this terrible economy is affecting people.

LADY GAGA: You're really orange.  If you tan any more you're going to be extra tasty crispy, dude!

KHLOE: OMG! I'm in sooo much pain!  I had a nipple firming this morning.

LEBRON: What the fuck is that?

KHLOE: It's when you get collagen injected into your nipple so that it stays hard.

LEBRON: Why would you want your nipple to be stayin' hard like that?

KHLOE: Duh! It totally looks like you're always aroused.  I'm so hoping Lamar will love it!

LEBRON: Oh, excuse me, guys.  There's gonna be a dude coming from ESPN.  He's just chillin' with me so that people can see LeBron James's sensitive side.

BOEHNER: LeBron - is it OK if I call you LeBron? What are you making, $10 million a year not counting endorsements?  Do you know how much youre taxes are going to go up once the Bush tax cuts expire?

LEBRON: So what are you sayin'?

BOEHNER: I'm saying that a Republican president would be better for LeBron James.

LEBRON: It would be better for LeBron James?

BOEHNER: Well, you'll be able to keep more of that "bling" you're getting from endorsements and the league.

LEBRON: Ummm. You don't get paid in" bling."  You use your money to buy bling.  But anyway, this is the first Black president.  I shot hoops with him the other day. [Pause]  But you say I pay less taxes under a Republican?

LADY GAGA: Shit! I just had had a vision.  I need to change one of my costumes.  I can't let my little monsters down!

[She begins singing]

I wanna lift your veil underneath the rocket fire.  Helmand! Oh Helmaaaand!  Twelve-year-old bride, you gotta run away.  Run away to me.

LEBRON: Hey guys.  Just wanted to let you know that my homies Chris and Dwayne are going to be swinging by in a bit.

KHLOE: OMG! I just figured out what I'm going to do for Lamar's birthday!  I'm going to get naked and let him eat sushi off me, just like they do in Japan. 

BOEHNER: Would that be cut roll or nigiri?

LADY GAGA: [Singing] Oh, run, run among the poppies.  Helmand! Oh Helmaaaand! Come to the 6'6" Arab man hiding in this cave.  I'm your only confidant.  Come to me.

LEBRON: My hands are kind of dry.  Does anyone have some Kiehl's hand salve?

KHLOE: [To LeBron] I loooove your loafers!  What are they made out of?

LEBRON: [To Khloe] Oh, these are crocodile, I think.

KHLOE: What's the difference between crocodile and alligator?

BOEHNER: I think we need to refocus and talk about all the illegal immigration going on in this country.

KHLOE: So, can you guys believe that someone wrote that I look like Ms. Piggy on my blog?  Ms. Fucking Piggy?  How cruel is that?

LEBRON: [To Khloe] That's just wrong, girl.  Just wrong. [Pauses] Hey, if you guys were with one sneaker company for a long time, but another sneaker company offered a little bit more, what would you do?

LADY GAGA: [Singing] Love me so gentle, love my kidneys back to life. Helmand!  Oh Helmaaaand!

BOEHNER: So I'm thinking of calling my new yacht Second Surge.  But, really we should be discussing how we're all going to be footing the bill for health care, while the rest of America gets a free pass.

LADY GAGA: [Stands up on her chair and sings] Do Do Do Do, only for.  Do Do Do Do only for you.  Baby can you feel it, Baby can you feel it?  Helmand! Oh Helmaaaand! I will lift your veil beneath the rocket fire. We will roast a lamb in the pyre.  Twelve-year-old-bride run away! Run away to me. Oh, I'll feed you some naan. We'll scream 'fuck the Taliban!"  Let's go far and hide.  I'll even let you drive.  Helmand!  Oh Helmaaaand!  Run among the poppies. I'm kneeling down on my knees.  Come to the 6'6" Arab man.  Tell me how far you ran. [Whispers]  I need you.  I feel you.  Hold me, baby.  Tell me we'll be safe.  Tell me you must hide with me. Love me so gentle, love my kidneys back to life. [Sings loudly]  Helmand!  Oh, Helmaaaand.

LEBRON: I just got a text from my boys.  Does anyone know if Ruth's Christ steakhouse is any good?

BOEHNER: One of the biggest problems in this country is stem cell research.  I think we should really have a discussion about it.

LEBRON [To Boehner] Isn't that when they take healthy cells from a embryo in a test tube and give them to another person to save their life?

BOEHNER: Uhhhhh.  Well, the issue is that embryo is a living thing.

KHLOE: But they don't, like, look like a fetus, do they?  You have to look at them under a microscope, don't you?

BOEHNER: Yes, but that's off topic.  The point is that these are living things.

LEBRON: But you're using them to save a human life though, right?

BOEHNER: Well, yes, that's often the case. But-

LADY GAGA: Oh! I wrote a paper on stem cell research once.  It's like 8 cells when the zygote becomes an embryo.  Stem cells are currently being used to treat many diseases that require the replacement of an organ or brain cells.

KHLOE: I so need to get my waxing done.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

All Too Far

All Too Far

Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly,
The Spiders from Mars.
He played it left hand, but made it too far,
Became the special man, then we were Ziggy's Band.

Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo
Like some cat from Japan, he could lick 'em by smiling
He could leave 'me to hang
Came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan.

So where were the spiders while the fly tried to break our balls
Just the beer light to guide us,
So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands ?

Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were Voodoo
The kids was just crass, he was the naz
With God given ass
He took it all too far but boy could he play guitar.

Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band

The US currently suffers from a crisis of identity.  Since the end of WWII existential threats from the Cold War resulted in the creation of a façade that does not reflect America’s true character.  In adopting the role of “Enforcer” the US seems to have lost sight of the principles that enabled it to enjoy the respect – almost veneration – of much of the world for developing the Marshall plan, taking a leadership position in the establishment of the United Nations and, of course, standing firm against the Soviet Republic.

 Throughout the post-WWII era, the US seems to have become so intent on projecting power it has blurred the lines over itself and its “Enforcer” alter ego.  America’s predicament is reminiscent of British rock legend David Bowie, who created a persona known to all as Ziggy Stardust.  Ziggy was based on a Bowie song of the same name, which appeared in the album entitled, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.”  Bowie began to perform as Ziggy and, in time, was unable to distinguish himself from Ziggy Stardust.  But Ziggy provided Bowie with the ultimate high as fans were so enamored of him, their adulation intensified into hysteria.  Bowie’s downfall was his consumption by this hysteria, so when Ziggy died, Bowie himself fell apart.

Like Bowie, the grandiosity stimulated by the US’s “Enforcer” role enabled it to feel powerful in the face of the Soviet threat. But the US’s reaction to its vulnerability caused it to take its duty as global policeman too far, leading to several foreign policy disasters during the Cold War.  As the bipolar conflict chilled in the 1950s, the US overwhelmed itself by focusing on short-term victories at the expense of producing fiercer long-term menaces.  The CIA overthrow of Iranian leader Mohammad Moseddegh, for instance, created the conditions for the 1979 Revolution and the ascension of Ayatollah Khomeini. 

With the ousting of governments in Iran, Guatemala and Chile, the US marginalized the opinions of its smaller, less powerful allies. Just as Ziggy had disregarded his band (The Spiders) the US became the “fly” that dominated the political goals of the western hemisphere.  Like the rest of Ziggy's band, there were no “spiders” to protect those countries that were coerced into supporting the US's policies.  And then, suddenly, in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.  Countries previously constrained by the impracticalities of Communism - China in particular - began to rise.  America’s economic and political dominance began to be challenged in a multipolar environment. 

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, America received the goodwill of leaders across the globe, both friendly and hostile.  Even Libyan autocrat Muammar Qaddafi said, “Irrespective of the conflict with America it is a human duty to show sympathy with the American people, and be with them at these horrifying and awesome events which are bound to awaken human conscience.”  But in launching a war against a benign Iraq, the US squandered much of the patronage it had received.  Melding into its “Enforcer” alter ego allowed the US to experience a front of virility that curtained its underlying impotence.  And just as Ziggy became the victim of the very fanaticism he created, the US began to suffer from the frenzy surrounding its own doppelganger. 

 The more the US has tried to exert its power against the “forces of evil,” the more it has made itself vulnerable to the very threat it seeks to quash.  Nuanced reports indicate that hundreds of well-trained soldiers from the Iraqi army are now rejoining Al-Queda.  Human rights abuses in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have fueled extremism in the Muslim world, as the hypocrisy of America as a defender of human rights has been exposed.  Recent Wikileaks documents describing torture of civilians in Iraq will exacerbate the situation.  Yet America continues to fuel itself on the fumes of the international exaltation it once enjoyed.

Like Ziggy, America has ignored the Spiders from Mars - the cadre of nations that were instrumental in enabling the US to become the sole surviving superpower.  While publicly agreeing to improvident US policies, they privately curse America.  Disgruntlement with the US is based on the fact that its foreign policy agenda is, oftentimes, detrimental to the community of nations.  The overarching concern of reluctant allies may be that the hubris of one can lead to the downfall of all.  Paradoxically, the “spiders” cannot go forth without the US.  They know that their prosperity requires concord with America.  Indeed, it would be contrary to a nation’s best interest to break from the US.  For The Spiders, going along with Ziggy, however exasperating, at least offered the fleeting chance that Ziggy would regain some sanity so that the group could be reborn.  

The Spiders were in a codependent relationship with Ziggy.  They couldn’t get through to him because he had simply “sucked up into his mind,” but at the same time could not leave him. In a similar way, many US allies contend its warmongering will only fuel the flames of Islamic extremism. The US is trying to keep the world enamored of it but, like Ziggy, the hysteria of its fans is fading.  To avoid the same fate the US must recognize its greatness does not stem from assuming some façade, but rather from embracing the principles of freedom, diplomacy and  multilateralism that have enabled it to be the great nation it has always been.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010



While living in the Boston’s affluent South End, a few years ago, I noticed that there existed a plethora of high-end bakeries, stores, and grooming shops that were not for people-but for dogs.  In fact, there were more doggie bakeries than there were people bakeries.  Strangely, these biscuit-making establishments seemed to be crowded from the time I hurried to New England Medical Center, until the evening when I returned exhausted, weighed down by my backpack full of physiology texts and three-ring binders.

Three months later, as I was struggling to comprehend the complexities of kidney function, I began to wax philosophical about the fashionable sweaters I saw donned by the incredibly well-groomed canines in my neighborhood.  “Why are these dogs wearing sweaters when it’s 50° F?  Don’t they have fur?"  I'm furless and I certainly wasn’t ready to wear my jacket yet.  Images of dogs dressed for tee time seemed to indicate that dogs were moving  up the evolutionary ladder.  Within days, however, I would see lawyers, wearing $1800 power suits, loosely gloved with inside-out plastic bags.  They would crouch just above dark red bricks lining the sidewalk to pick up the excrement of their beloved "buddy."

“What the hell?” I would ask myself.  I thought about what these dogs meant to their owners and, more importantly, what an alien would think if it landed in my neighborhood.  "What would it concur?"  Unfortunately I’d never be able to find out.  So I had to go on being the only person in the neighborhood (or perhaps all of North America) who felt this way.  Certainly the doggie clothing boutique owner didn’t share my sentiments.

And then one day, as I returned from a full day of classes, recitations and labs, it hit me. Dogs were not becoming more advanced.  On the contrary, humans were devolving.  "That's it," I thought. "Man has reached a point at which he has actually begun to move backwards."  Dogs were domesticated by man several thousand years ago to provide protection against  predators while he slept.  But at some point during the modern era, dog usurped man’s power and manipulated man into serving the canine species.  Why this has occurred is beyond my comprehension. Regardless, my theory is that, man has moved evolutionarily backward.  Does anyone rely on his golden retriever to warn him of a burglar?  Most likely, the (fully-grown) “puppy” would be the first to run and hide. 

Lest I be banished from the planet for not being a dog-lover, let me clarify my point of view: I think that people who own animals should treat them humanely, but not treat them as humans.  In fact, I have read veterinary studies that support this notion.  It simply isn’t good for the canine species, many studies contend, for pet dogs to be pampered in this manner.  Nevertheless, I strongly believe that dogs, and pets in general, should be well-fed, cleaned appropriately, and interacted with in a positive manner.  But the next time you see Wolfie exiting a doggie spa, munching on a $5 freshly-baked organic biscuit, I really hope you wonder, “Who’s the owner here?”