Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dear Potential Employer,

I am a slightly strange person in seek of employment. I would like to help the world become a marginally more hopeful place. You see, I have such love of life that I am moved to ask for your help lest it be ground to nothingness in service to some machine. Such a loss would certainly be a personal tragedy for myself, but we all have those, and I would not ask for help if I thought it was merely a personal concern. But I believe that our primary obligation as human beings is to fulfill our destiny – that is, to give our gifts to the world – for by giving our humanness to the world, the world becomes more human. And my gift is to give the gift of that knowledge itself.

Though it may be naïve, I am writing a letter that says what I actually have to give rather than doing as I should and marketing myself as an employable commodity. I might help people struggle to understand the gifts they have to give, as I have struggled to understand mine. I might show the alternative to each individual's illusion of containment and limitation. I might resuscitate imaginations. I might teach how to think of a new way to do something in a way that is just a little better for everybody. Just as now, by writing this letter, I am trying a new way to do something so that the doing of it might strengthen rather than degrade my ability to live in myself as I am. And every strong individual in America is a fulfillment of our destiny as a nation.

Yours in Excruciating Seriousness,
Ishai Buchbinder

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NC Missive April 5

It was my birthday two days ago, and the radiant happiness of the way people treat you on your birthday has mellowed to the need to write. So here I am, living life. “Twenty-four and there’s so much more.” Never Start a Quotation before introducing it, or at least giving it the appropriate context. I even miss school, and the red scratch marks my mechanically extracted essays would come home bearing (in retrospect my thesis, which consisted of an endlessly receding system of footnotes, was my envious aping of the professor’s raking claws = I can rip my shit up faster than you = the reaction of angry artist).
Plant a garden, Rent a house, Try for stardom, Bike the routes.
That’s how it’s supposed to be anyway.

Eat the pig. Pet the dog. Kill the rat, Forget the frog.
I watched Charlotte’s Web a couple weeks ago. It was wonderful. Our neighbours dumped a whole bag of mothballs next to our fence, and the wind blows their fumes all over our pure lives. It’s all carcinogenic and shit. And Greta the Weiner Dog could eat one (they were rolling under our fence), and die. *With Guilt I Realize I Has Never Met These Neighbours* “There’s poison in the air in the air boys! Put on your g- g- g- g- g- gas mmmaaaaa-s-ammma-masks!” (Name the origin of the quote, win a prize!)

People broke, People lie, People smoke, People die.
I watched Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. What a Truth movie. “We’re dealing with people who don’t think we’re human! They’re animals!” The worse off one is, the more attached one is to the illusion that sustains the image, feeling, and reality of being worse off (but the inverse is not the case.).

In short, in fine, things are going "swimmingly." I never had enough body fat to make swimming very easy, though. Perhaps things are going "ramblingly." I've always been a rambler.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Personal History of Dreaming

I wrote this profound thing at work about dreams and reality. Sometimes dreams are realer than reality, which makes reality feel dreamlike, which leads us to do the types of things we do to try and wake up. It was longer and more elaborate, but I lost the piece of paper.

My identity came from a dream. Before I was born I came to my father in a dream and told him to name me Ishaiyahu. He spared me the yahu. The dream world is not constrained by the social pressures of the waking world.

I was born with the caul over my head after 72 hours of labour. I was doing just fine thankyouverymuch.

When I was a kid and I realized I was dreaming, I would find a stick. There was always one of the about the size of an oldstyle policeman's truncheon lying on the ground right next to me. I would take this stick, and hit myself on the head, not so hard as to render myself unconscious - because that would just put me in another level of dream I would have to escape - but hard enough to shatter my dream reality. As soon as I did this the landscape would start tearing apart, falling towards the sky. I was not immune to this reversal of gravity, and as I fell upwards I would find a corrugated tin tunnel in the sky. It was just wide enough for me to crawl through. On the other side was my bed. I would crawl into my bed, and into my body, and then I would wake up. This made me think my bed was awesome. I did this almost every night for years. When I had a nice dream, I would postpone hitting myself on the head and go do fun things. But then if the world started flooding or some demon appeared, I would just hit myself on the head.

On the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of Jose Bautista

This may sound like gibberish if you don't know an embarrassing amount about baseball, but don't sweat it. Just close your brain and pretend you're listening to a lyrical foreign language.

There's a joke:
A particular place in the world is suffering a catastrophic flood. In that place there is a religious man. As the flood waters rise, a boat comes by and they throw him a lifesaver. But he declines their help, saying, "God will save me." The flood waters rise, and the man is forced to the second floor of his house. Another boat, another lifesaver, another professing of faith in God. Finally, the man is on the roof, and a helicopter comes and lowers a rope. Over a megaphone they tell him to climb aboard. "No thank you. My faith in God is unshakeable. He will save me." The helicopterians feel disbelief, but there is no time for dilly dallying. Left alone, the religious man drowns. Pissed off, he gets to heaven and storms to God's throne. "Hey God! What the hell! I had faith in you; why didn't you save me?"

"I sent two boats and a helicopter. What more do you want?"

I am so relieved this deal happened. The worst case scenario is that Bautista is bad, the team wastes money, and everyone feels a little awkward. Even that is only really bad if that money is significantly stunting the teams ability to make other moves, which may or may not be the case. If the Blue Jays fall flat on their faces over the next couple years, then a bad contract isn't actually as bad, since they would have to rebuild anyways.

Now here are some of the numerous reasons this is a good deal:
If they had brought Bautista back on an arbitration deal, regardless of who won, then if he was having another amazing (or even very good) year, then it would become "a distraction" and he would probably be able to get Jayson Werth money (that's twice as much as the Jays paid). The only way to "win" with a one year deal when there was a possibility of extending a player is if that player is bad.
As has been said before: you need stellar players to win! If the knock on Bautista is that he is risky because he only has one stellar season, therefore we should consider turning him into prospects in one way or another is like trying to take over Asia at the beginning of the game. POOR RISK ASSESSMENT! Prospects are riskier than players who have had super success.
Jose Bautista is our lifeboat (here's hoping that Edwin Encarnacion becomes a helicopter). Take the damn thing! In order to win you need to be lucky and good, and part of being good is being able to see and capitalize on luck. How often does a bench player have a superstar level season? In order to acquire a player like Joey Bats (including the risk of failure to repeat high-level performance) on the open market, the Blue Jays would have had to spend more money. In order to acquire him on the trade market, they would have had to surrender assets.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Public Monologues: Begonias

The following monologue was written when I was in school in Halifax. It is meant to be performed in public, preferably on the #1 Bus Westbound on Spring Garden to Coburg, ending at the stop near King’s. The bus speeds vary depending on lights, traffic, and construction, but this monologue is approximately two and a half minutes long, which is about the time it takes the bus to get from Robie to King’s. All it takes is a cell phone, bravery, and enough nuance to start straight and ratchet up the absurdity at a slow rate so that your audience is left on the fence. Running to a flowerbed afterwards gets bonus points. The numbers in brackets are the time, in seconds, that you must allow “North” to speak before saying you next line.

YOU: Hi, North? Yep it’s…do you have call display? Great so you know it’s me. (3) It would’ve cost extra to get my name blocked, I didn’t want to pay man, money’s tight these days, knowwadImean? (1) Hell, I wouldn’t have joined you on this crazy idea if I didn’t need money. And this way you can see it’s me without me having to say my name out loud in a bus full of people. Some of them might get wise, want to be heroes, knowwadImean? (8) No I didn’t say your name man, of course I wouldn’t do that, at least not in a bus full of people. (6) North, (2) North, (1) NORTH! Just listen to me man. (2) Yeah well of course I said you name there I was trying to get your attention and you were talking so I said your name. (2) Okay North, I won’t do it again. (2) Okay, okay, I won’t do it again, I swear. (4) Right, right, so you want to know about the, the…thing. The thing is in the box in the bunker. (1) That means that I buried it in a coffin, North. (3) Well it deserves the respect knowwadImean, it’s all torn apart and all. If you were in fourteen parts you would want a proper burial. (3) I can’t tell you where I buried it man. Because it’s your name, I can’t say your name. (1) That’s right, I buried it on the “your name” side of Gruboc St. (2) It’s Coburg backwards man, read the protocol. (3) What? (1) No, no, no, no. You said the North side, North. (1) No, man you said North. (1) South? Are you sure? (2) I did read the protocol! (3) Well I couldn’t find the lawn so I just put it in a flowerbed. (4) No man, just begonias, no one will miss them. (2) I’m almost there, I can just get off and fix it. So, how is the doublebanger working out? (1) Doppelganger, doppelganger. (8) For real? They didn’t suspect? (3) I know! To think the real hamster is in fourteen bits on the wrong side of the street in a flowerbed! I gotta go, this is my stop.

Interview with Dana Powell

Golly Gosh Gee! I'm a celebrity! Someone asked me for an interview. Here it is:

February 14, 2011 (yup, Valentine’s day…)

In this week of interviewing I tried to get an international perspective on climate change. Canada technically counts. My boyfriend, Ishai, is originally from Toronto. He has his BA in Contemporary Studies. He composts, bikes, and recycles here…all actions that were easier when he lived in Toronto or Halifax.

Dana: So what do you think about climate change?
Ishai: Until something happens it seems impossible, and then it seems like it was always possible. Life is difficult and complicated enough on an individual scale that it is very difficult to care about or minister to the horrible things we’re doing that have not yet had a horrible effect.

Dana: What’s it like dating an environmental scientist who studies climate change?
Ishai: It’s a bit like recycling. In that it’s an easy, even pleasurable thing to do that provides moral currency far greater than the effort required.

Dana: What’s it like being a Canadian in the southeast US, in terms of the environment?
Ishai: It’s like going back in time with the intention of awing the pharaoh with the fact that the earth is round, only to realize that I am the weirdo from the future, and there’s way more Egyptians than there are of me, and they’re all likely to glance at each other and thus gain reassurance that the world is indeed flat.

Dana: It sounds like you don’t see Americans as paying much attention to climate change now. Do you think there would be a way to awe them with any sort of comprehensive mitigation plan in the next, say, 10 years, given that economists say it will be much cheaper to do something sooner rather than later?
Ishai: The economic impact of the 10 plagues was devastating, but the pharaoh wasn’t awed by God’s plan until his own son’s blood was on his hands. We humans, it seems, have lost the ability to conceptualize and act upon future pain. The American dogma of individual freedom makes it especially hard to act towards the good of the collective, nevermind the good of the future collective. If something is going to be done to mitigate climate change before it becomes explicitly painful, then it is going to be the work of future-minded individuals in power.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2010 Sports Writing Part 7: Ricky Williams

Ricky Williams is a religious soul. He came to this world in search of something. He found it first in football and second in marijuana. A player of sublime talent, Ricky won the Heisman Trophy in 1998 when he led the nation in rushing yards for the University of Texas Longhorns. He was drafted fifth overall by the New Orleans Saints who were not so good in those days. They still had a city however. Ricky was good at football, but the NFL was in the business of presenting America with its steroided, airbrushed reflection, and Ricky insisted on smoking weed. It must not be easy being a religious man put in the place of a god, and the wacky tabaccy provided a brief release from this world of illusion. He went somewhere when he played football. He went somewhere when he smoked weed. Ricky retired. Ricky returned. Ricky was banned. Ricky did yoga. Ricky played football in Canada. Ricky went unto the mountain and there he prayed. Now Ricky plays on the Miami Dolphins for football czar Bill Parcells, himself a god. They share an understanding. And Ricky knows that, wherever the true god is or isn’t, Ricky was put on this earth to play football. But there is, nestled deep within, a ragged festering wound where Ricky has betrayed himself; because, role model or not, Ricky Williams was put on this earth to smoke weed.

2010 Sports Writing Part 6: Baseball

In the late nineties, baseball entered its ‘Steroids Era.’ For the next ten years (at least) players would inject themselves with tissue building hormones to increase the equilibrium level of sustainable muscle mass in their bodies. Wooden bats, pigskin balls, and faux pastoral ballparks that were built for Michelangelo’s properly proportioned athlete became lighter and smaller in the shadow of the new colossuses. Statistics geeks, drunk on the history crunching comparisons made possible by baseball’s encyclopedic records, were dismayed to find that 70 Home Runs by a man with a stovepipe for a neck were perhaps of a different order than poor, balding, Roger Maris’ 61. When rumours began to crystallize into confession, Congress held an inquiry, the tenor of which was, “Woe is us, America has been betrayed by its role models.”

Break it down!:

Boys are going to think that manliness is big muscles, just like girls learn that womanliness is having a waist that can fit in the aforementioned stovepipe. Boys grow muscles, larger and larger, penis enlargement, the man whose arms exploded, man wins and crushes. Kiss her with big, fat, muscular, man lips. This is baseball. An eternal present where the batter gets bigger and bigger, the pitcher’s arm more and more maximized until his tendon snaps. Go to Alabama, visit the hallowed Dr. James Andrews, come back with a dead man’s elbow, pitch some more you oblivious android. Roy Halladay was traded to the Phillies, and he was happy. They come from the farm, a smaller town, with fewer seats and less equality – the journeyman knowing they will need a real career soon, the punk-ass shit-for-brains bullies who could never play a team sport that involved thinking like a team, and the star-crossed kids who have yet to be spoiled by their career-ending injury or eight figure contract. They are weeded, they grow. Bigger towns, almost cities, one hundred thousand populations, some of which come to the bigger ballpark. Still on a bus, but the future is friendly. Then you’re there, and fuck shit, happy to be here help the team one hundred and ten fucking percent. Who wouldn’t use steroids? It is American.

2010 Sports Writing Part 5: Jake Plummer

You don’t hear much about Jake Plummer anymore. He walked away from football to play handball and farm.

2010 Sports Writing Part 4: Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods had sex with women who were other than his wife. They had big boobs. Tiger employed a celebrity pimp whose job was to offer a free weekend vacation to big breasted hotties in whatever location happened to host a golf tournament that weekend. They would end up at the same VIP party as Tiger, and who wouldn’t want to have sex with Tiger Woods? When Tiger pumped his fist after another victorious Sunday, his grin held the true glow of the alpha male; in one weekend he conquered the males and fucked the females. What a fine Tiger. But this Tiger got his power from an unfair world. We paid him a billion dollars a year to bask in his image of razor sharp success, and surrounded the truth of that success – the ruthless, animal, survival of the fittest – with the trappings of the life of our defeated culture. Tiger was the Ubermensch and we loved him for it, but we gave him a wife and kids to make him look more like pathetic us.

2010 Sports Writing Part 3: Uniforms

The Charlotte Bobcats changed their uniforms at the start of the 2009-2010 season. Instead of the orange road unis they had sported previously, the Bobcats adopted a pinstriped slate blue with checkered sidebars (in honour of North Carolina’s NASCAR addiction). The tragedy of this switch is not in the aesthetic of the new uniform – the effect is surprisingly pleasing, given the conceptual clutter – but in the loss of an orange team. After the neon craze of the eighties, professional sports uniforms have slowly regressed towards a ‘tasteful’ mean. All games are, at a fundamental level, red vs. blue, and any orange, purple, green, or pink teams feel left out. They seem like teams that came later and took the leftovers, and every team must present itself as a possible protagonist. Professional sports hope to cultivate fans who would never choose to play the outsider.

2010 Sports Writing Part 2: Gilbert Arenas

When Gilbert Arenas brought his four guns to work, he made perhaps the most expensive mistake involving firearms by a private citizen, ever. Gilbert, or “Agent Zero” as people called him back when he was exciting and good, had 80 million dollars left over four years of contract. Eighty million dollars to wobble around on reconstructed knees, throw up last minute shots, all the while preening and posturing with the knowledge that he met the man and took his money. The Washington Wizards, Gilbert’s unfortunately named employer, were doomed to mediocrity by Gilbert’s contract. They paid superstar money to a man with magic knees that went “pop” at the smell of ink on contract. But I want to commend Gilbert for meeting the man, taking his money, and making him look like a fool. Now let's just hope that the man doesn't find an excuse to not give Gilbert his booty.

2010 Sports Writing Part 1: Human Sacrifice

In professional sports, athletes trade their physical gifts for a lot of money. The grueling schedules these athletes play to create the revenue to pay their salary inevitably takes a toll on their bodies. The perils of football have been particularly well documented recently – the repetitive head trauma involved in being an offensive lineman, for example, makes raging, demented fifty-year-old infants out of our most statuesque giants – but can be found across all of the big four (NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL). Hockey players get concussed and lose their teeth, baseball players have messed up hormones and snap their tendons, and basketball players eventually blow out their knees. It alleviates the pain caused by the suspicion that I am wasting my valuable life force by living.

2010 Sports Writing Introduction

I wrote the following entries in January and February of 2010. I spend more time thinking about sports then I should, and occasionally I like to write about them. These are kind of all over the map - I was trying to be a little intuitive and I'm not sure it worked as desired - but I thought I might as well publish them here because they aren't doing me any good just sitting on my computer. Plus, the way sports work, the passage of a year has rendered some of them outdated.