06 December 2004

The film!

Tending the coals.


James, Liz, and Kentaro holding palaver (and the pipe).

Through the Looking Glass

This event was brought to you by the numbers 39 (as in % of registered RSVPers who ‘turned out’) and 1209, letters G, O, P, Vegas, Baby, Vegas, and Hookah-Shisha.com. We started promptly at 10PM CST.

“…at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

`Who are you?' said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, `I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'

`What do you mean by that?' said the Caterpillar sternly. `Explain yourself!'

`I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir' said Alice, `because I'm not myself, you see.'

`I don't see,' said the Caterpillar.

`I'm afraid I can't put it more clearly,' Alice replied very politely, `for I can't understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.'

`It isn't,' said the Caterpillar.

`Well, perhaps you haven't found it so yet,' said Alice; `but when you have to turn into a chrysalis--you will some day, you know--and then after that into a butterfly, I should think you'll feel it a little queer, won't you?'

`Not a bit,' said the Caterpillar.

`Well, perhaps your feelings may be different,' said Alice; `all I know is, it would feel very queer to me.'

`You!' said the Caterpillar contemptuously. `Who are you?'

Which brought them back again to the beginning of the conversation. Alice felt a little irritated at the Caterpillar's making such very short remarks, and she drew herself up and said, very gravely, `I think, you ought to tell me who you are, first.'

`Why?' said the Caterpillar.”

With apologies to Lewis Carroll…Tonight we watched a video, “A Legacy of Empowerment: African-Americans and the Republican Party,” and it, too, made very short remarks. The gist of those remarks was that the Party of Lincoln was the first to attempt to redress the discrimination and persecution Blacks have faced in the United States, and that the GOP’s views of self-reliance and morality were “infinity” with the Black community. It also argued that the Democrats are taking the Black vote for granted. The Caterpillar, however, never told Alice who he was – i.e., in its current stage of metamorphosis, what does the Caterpillar do to earn the Black vote? So, it was left to eminent MEETinDCers Kentaro, Parag, Liz, James, and Chris to examine this question in greater depth.

James met his own Caterpillar, which explains the origins of our humble event:

The day after the election James was walking in the L'Enfant metro station when he passed a middle-age Caucasian male with a "W'04" sticker prominently displayed on the side of his travel bag.

In an irreverent fashion seemingly unbeknownst to the gentleman, James quipped "Congratulations! You won!"

At which point the man engaged James and replied "Thank you. Which side did you vote for?"

"On the side of our country," James responded but unable to keep character confessed "I have to be honest with you. I just don't get Republican domestic policy."

A surreal moment presented itself and with an unanticipated yet eerily scripted gesture, the gentleman reached into his travel bag and handed James the tape “A Legacy of Empowerment: African-Americans and the Republican Party.” His name wasn't Robert Paulson but John L. Martin, a political appointee working for the Office of Personnel Management who had returned from Jacksonville, FL recruiting Southern Blacks for the GOP. Banter was exchanged, Mr. Martin gave James his business card and requested that James watch the video, email him with his thoughts and Mr. Martin parted saying "God bless you." Indeed, God blessed MEETin for the foundation was laid for this event.

Interesting facets of the video included the demure, saucy Katherine Harris engaging in a little Monday Morning Quarterbacking vis a vis the alleged improprieties of the Florida vote in 2000 (when Ms. Harris was both impartial FL Secretary of State, and state chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign). And the not unreasonable assertion that “Republicans are the nicest, warmest people I’ve met,” with accompanying footage of…Dick Cheney!

The video aside, more Blacks voted for George W. Bush this year (according to the CNN.com exit poll there was "a 6% increase in Black votes for Bush in 2004 compared to 2000"). What were the reasons for this? Is it even appropriate to speak of Blacks as a monolithic group? Needless to say our conversation ran the gamut, particularly so as the beer and margaritas flowed, the hookah haze descended, and BET was turned on around 3AM.

Chris suggested that one reason might have been the high profile of the issue of gay marriage, and the hubbub surrounding the anti-gay marriage referendums in 11 states. Many commentators have argued that the visibility of this issue led to a heavy turnout among socially conservative Americans. Given that many Blacks are rather conservative on social issues, perhaps the prominence of the gay marriage issue led to a great number aligning themselves with Bush. Here, Chris was merely mooting an idea he had heard before. When conversation died down, and he didn’t have access to the pipe, Chris could be heard murmuring, “Vegas, baby, Vegas!”

But what of morality? Is this limited solely to issues of individual behavior? What of societal problems such as entrenched poverty? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an individual adult (with no children) was only poor if he/she made under $9,393 per annum. That seems a rather low amount to get by on. Overall, 12.5% of the U.S. population fell below the ‘poverty’ threshold (which varies depending on household/family size) in 2003. The video took a bootstrap tack, considering the New Deal the beginning of handouts and, therefore, dependency in the Black community.

Another topic of interest was that of identity. Parag spoke about his experiences a decade hence, when he first arrived in the United States. He expected that, as a minority in this country, he would be considered a kindred spirit by Blacks. Parag did not find that to be the case, though. It seemed that the perspective of a newly arrival did not meet with the experiences of a minority group long entrenched in this country.

James put aside his catheter and commented further on this, looking at the Barack Obama phenomenon. The child of a Kenyan father and white American mother, Obama was raised in the U.S. by his mother. James questioned the wisdom of the media, and the Democratic Party, anointing this callow Senator-elect as our (and especially the Democrats’) “Great Black Hope.” Can one person, with a unique upbringing, really be counted on to represent a diverse group of people that increasingly includes immigrants and people of mixed race (in Obama’s case, he is invariably considered Black)? It seems a bit simplistic to assume as much.

Kentaro “Shisha” Yamamoto, in addition to expertly attending to the coals, mentioned that perhaps America is beginning to move away from political affiliation based on race, and towards class. As America’s upper echelons become more diverse, surely it behooves self-interested people at the top to vote for parties that will best address their economic priorities? As inequality acts increasingly through economic status, and less through the rubric of race, party affiliations will do likewise. Perhaps the 2004 result is a sign of this shift.

Yet, there are voters who confound self-interest, and even enlightened self-interest. While in Florida canvassing, Liz encountered many Americans who were entrenched in their voting choices, and largely because of one issue – be it abortion, gay marriage, foreign policy, etc.

As always, one can look to cable TV and movies to provide further answers on questions of politics and race relations. While enjoying the apple tobacco, we were treated to an eerily evocative treatment of foreign policy: “O Lord, bless this holy hand grenade, that with it Thou mayst blow Thine enemies into tiny bits, in Thy mercy.”

On CNN, while Bush’s own Project Mayhem continues to rout, or abet, chaos overseas, we learnt of a fallen anarchist. His name is R.P. …Roderick Paige.

Onwards to BET, where we listened to some beats laid down by Shisha, um Swisha, House and the Original Rude Bwoy, Mighty Casey. Casey waxed philosophical on racial harmony:

“Don’t tell Minister Farrakhan // He don’t want to know what’s goin’ on…”

Finally, as the clock struck 4, Evangelical Hour began on BET. Could this be the tipping point that is turning America’s youth (Vote or Die!) towards the GOP. His name is Robert Tilton!

Thanks to all who came. Thanks to James for bringing the hookah. Thanks to Dave C. for calling in after not making it. Thanks to Missy who tried gallantly to get a cab out to NE to join us. Suggestions for future hookah flavours, accompanying drinks, and surreal videos are encouraged. Next time, all!

“Republicans are the nicest, warmest people I’ve met”

An endorsement the GOP was not quick to tout.

03 December 2004

His name is Robert Tilton!


His name is Roderick Paige.

Terrorism is the killer rabbit of our time.

The new flagbearer?

The saucy guarantor of suffrage!

Alice and the Caterpillar

A few words on the Dark Tower series...

My last two kickball match summaries borrow liberally from the final book of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. I really haven't read much of King's horror novellas, but enjoyed the Dark Tower immensely.

King's work is in turn inspired by other sources - a poem by Robert Browning, Arthurian legend, Tolkien, Westerns, and so on. A number of his one-shot books are tied to worlds of the Dark Tower series.

King started the series in 1970/1, and the last of the seven books was published a couple of months ago. I started reading the first book, The Gunslinger (which opens, "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed), in 1998, when it was given to me by a young man named Jay when I was in Barcelona. I highly recommend them.

The Dark Tower and the field of roses.

Stephen King's Dark Tower series

The gunslinger

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed

Final Score: Project Mayhem 2, Screwballs 0

This match took place on October 13, 2004, the first round of the playoffs. We lost the following week to the eventual champion My Other Left Foot. Oh, and the Screwballs wore black t-shirts.

Never Mind the Bollocks

Ka is a wheel. This was confirmed when it turned out that the Crimson King, the raving red goblin referee of the preceding week, was a member of the Screwballs, whose card we drew in the first round of the playoffs.

Early in our quest we had met the, ahem, seasoned Screwballs, falling 7-2. Since then, though, Project Mayhem had learned much, and the Screwballs’ joints were tightening up with the onset of Fall. We had reached the field of roses at the edge of the Tower, and we were ready to face the Crimson King and her can-toi.

Dandelo, their pitcher, was there, but we heeded the warnings of the lost, and remembered the faces of our fathers. Dandelo’s first gambit came in the pre-game ritual, during which he attempted to junk the time-honoured Royal Division tradition of rock-paper-scissors. He bitched loudly that the Screwballs only do coin tosses. The rulebook backed up the Balls on this one (Rule 3.06 does indeed state that the "Head Referee shall flip a coin to determine which team gets to chose whether they bat or play the field to start the 1st inning.) 39th opted for rock anyway (given Washington’s presence on Mt. Rushmore) and, though it fell tails, the Screwballs elected to field first.

The Referee, Jon, announced at the beginning of the match that the strike zone would be wide, and high. This led to many bouncy bunts, and consequently a lower score. The gunslingers of Project Mayhem opened with a two run first inning, and a defensive battle ensued.

The Balls’ next complaint regarded the Mayhemers’ starting pitcher, Charlie. They insisted that Charlie was not a registered Kickball player (confirmation number VANE67320182, for those keeping score at home). The Screwballs’ delusions, coming in the same week as the Death of Superman (this time Doomsday was not to blame), really brought home the fact that we need to tackle Alzheimer’s any way we can.

No matter. Charlie’s pitches unfurled truly, and on a couple of occasions the Screwballs were struck out. Most of Charlie’s other pitches ended up bouncing softly into the hands of our able fielders. Of course, with the liberal, though consistently called, strike zone, Project Mayhem had trouble adding runs of its own.

Come the bottom of the 5th, and Project Mayhem was still holding its 2-0 lead. With 2 outs, the Screws’ first base dodderer Travis came to the plate. One more bouncy pitch and Charlie cradled the winning out in his gentle arms – the Screwballs were vanquished.

Though defanged, the Balls still had plenty of bark, and spent the next few minutes bitching out Jon the Ref. True, his strike zone was wider than 5th Base’s Third Basemen’s legs, but it was announced beforehand and consistent throughout. What prompts such competitive ire in the Screwballs? Judging by their weathered faces, they may have already passed the time of transference. One can easily imagine Dandelo hurling invective during his child’s football/baseball/American football game. The only problem? By now his spawn have moved beyond high school, and perhaps even intramural sports at college, leaving only kickball as his last chance for redemption.

Off to the Inch, where Project Mayhem found themselves facing Playing the Field, who had taken the forfeit rather than meet us on Field B several weeks ago. But Ka is a wheel…Playing the Field took a 3-1 lead but Project Mayhem rallied in spite of long odds, winning three straight to give the Field the spanking they had long eluded. This may seem trifling, but Project Mayhem was heretofore winless in flip-cup, despite many attempts. Dharma can only hope that her Sox succeed in their rally.

And who joined our ka-tet, but none other than Ref Jon! Ka is a wheel.

And what of the Screwballs? A few of their younger members were at the Inch, but the older denizens had long since headed off. The reason, of course: the debate was on, and the Bollocks feared that, in addition to taking victory from them on the field, the nubile young Project Mayhemers would soon be stealing away their Social Security checks if privatization comes to fruition. Only time will tell.

As for the following week’s match with MOLF, we can offer only these thoughts:

David:Goliath::Project Mayhem:MOLF

Like David’s slingshot, Charlie’s Orizas will fly true. The rest is in Ka’s hands. We have entered the field of roses and beyond that we shall find either the Dark Tower or the clearing at the end of the path.

P.S. There is no such rule as 3.06 or any required coin flip.