Thursday, December 6, 2007

New Era - Old Era

When pundits blab. When bloggers blog. When columnists spew. It's all just words. It's just jargon. It's just giving people what they want.

This is My Word At Large. I give people what they need to hear. This is my word.

I don't normally watch the military channel. I don't really think of myself as a very aggressive person. But, yesterday, I Tivo'ed a show on that channel that blew my mind. I was, quite frankly, stunned. The episode carefully depicted to the gruesomest details the fight for the Atoll islands in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

That was a war you could get behind. A war you could talk to your friends, parents, brothers, minister about. It felt right to the bone.

It made you sink into the back of your seat with an angry, nauseous knot in your stomach. Believe me you didn't change the channel during the commercials, you didn't even move.

This Iraq war. I'm not so sure I could say the same thing. Sure, I think there are good reasons to be there. But, to be honest, there are a lot of bad ones too. It's a huge question.

That's exactly the point though. A war should be vital. You should feel it pulsing through your veins. It should not be debated or half-hearted.

Perhaps this is a silly proposition, but I believe a war should make for the most enthralling programming every conceived because it should be unconditionally burned in the back of our minds. It should grip us in the same way that those Spartans felt standing at Thermopylae staring at the invading Persian masses.

As for me, I might just flip on the Military Channel again tonight.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Confucian Confusion

I've been back for about a day now. It feels great to be back in the swing of things. And to be back in a place with a New York Times subscription.

Brooks wrote a pretty serious column today calling out the meritocracy of China for what it is: a Dictatorship of Talent. Children are raised to be machines. They are groomed from the beginning to memorize and work efficiently. They are Confucians without a doubt.

So, people like Lou Dobbs are probably out there pounding their fists on tables denouncing everything we do here in America. How can we compete, they refrain. Like little parrot monkeys, all they can think to do is repeat each other.

Well, let's think about this. I was raised and schooled in rural Rhode Island. Did I sometimes skip school and forget assignments? You betcha! Was I a good student? Sure. But, what it came down to wasn't how many numbers of pi I could memorize but how well I could survive in a changing, global economy. Believe me.

And, when I was vying for a prestigious hedge fund consultant position some years ago do you think they asked me the capital of Nepal? No. They wanted to know if I could think on my feet, if I could play with the team but also make some all star moves. And, I could.

And, where did I learn that? Not at school. I learned that playing ball. At first as a kid, and then later on in the farm leagues. I learned all that hanging out with friends just watching a movie. Those were important lessons you can't get from a book or an audio cassette.

That was my life. And things worked out fine. Just fine.

Here's Brooks' take: "But in the back of your mind you wonder: Perhaps it’s simply impossible for a top-down memorization-based elite to organize a flexible, innovative information economy, no matter how brilliant its members are."

Exactly, I've been wondering that all along.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Brief History of Trains, Travelling

Mom and dad are in good hands. They miss the old house but as far as I'm concerned this move is the most interesting thing that's happened to them in years.

Anyways, I left West Kingston this morning on the Amtrak. Actually, I should say that I am leaving West Kingston at this very moment, hurdling down century old railroad tracks in a aluminum capsule. I am munching on roasted almonds, which my mother bought and roasted for me, and doing my daily morning blog routine. I should be in Camden in about 3 hours but believe me I'm not fretting. I feel just fine. Just fine.

So long as the train stays its course and I can keep levelheaded, which I hope I can, it will be like I never left my flat. Sure, it was great seeing my parents and having them see me, but my point is that I can move so fast on this train without ever lifting a finger.

Just think about that. I was here. I was there. People always moving. People plugging in. All along the way.

I realized last night that I hadn't addressed Brooks' most recent column and the furor its incited. I happen to be of the opinion that things have been blown greatly out of proportion and I think that his arguments were taken out of context.

The main idea here is that we are secure in our place in the world economy. I agree. The cultivation worldwide of liberalized economies and expansive economic institutions, such as the WTO and IMF, will pay off. Indeed, Japan and Germany owe their success to the US without a doubt. This is an identical situation. We have an interest in seeing other economies blossom. It is of course in our interest.

Look: our economy might be headed towards a sight hiccup but the world no longer exclusively depends on our telling it what to do. The kids have grown up, moved out and gotten laid. The factories are still gonna churn out enough copies of Shrek III to keep baby bobo happy. So, we all just need to calm down.

As far as the controversy goes, Brooks has weathered many. He is a tough, reasonable guy and I think that logic is on his. And logic will always work out.

And, as usual, the kids are screaming, the pundits are screaming, things are what they are, and Brooks is just trying to figure things out.

Excuse me for being sensible.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Bobo and A New, Old America

I'm sitting here in rural Rhode Island with my aging parents. Their spirits are well but it seems that my father has a relatively bad case of gingivitis. His gums look awful. But, that's just the thing.

Here are two country folk who would have been severely disabled by now during any other time in history and here they are just sitting at the table with me.

Medical care is state of the art, even for these folks and that is thanks to the forces and depths of global economic change. That gingivitis of my father. It's being looked at by dental techs who were trained at some local, chain strip mall dental tech training academy. They are I'm sure working on his case diligently and they are of course well trained. It's a fairly advanced infection but I'm, of course, confident that he wil be fine.

And I do hope that things work out well. Lord knows that my health has been less than ideal ever since being on the road for all those years with the Pawtucket Sox. Those were crazy years. So, let's just say that I have an interest in having those dental techs well paid and well taken care of.

As for my mom. She's well. I'm kind of worried about her jaw. Could be a low-level arthritis or something to that effect. But, that is to say that I'm not so worried. Dental care, medical care, health care are all important and I think they are here to stay. Just so long as we can keep things rolling.

About Benjamin

I was located outside of Berlin in a small enclave, which was really quite nice. I lived in a two bedroom flat above a kneipe, which is German for bar. I had a membership to the New York Times Select service, which gave me access to the columnists and the archives. I am a big fan of David Brooks.