Friday, November 24, 2006

I think it's about time.

After three years of unabated bloodshed in Iraq, the idea of now leaving the place to the dogs, if such an expression is even suitable, no longer sounds so bad. Although I've longed believed the invasion to be almost completely unjustifiable and, like everyone else, ill planed, I at least took solace in the idea that America, at very least, was helping the Shia, a once marginalized, if not persecuted, people. Well, things have changed. Through the Mahadi Army, many Shia have proven that they can be just as brutal. By no means, then, is it in America's interest to mediate a war between two religious sects hell-bent on each other's demise.

I think it's about time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


"Playing things too safe is a popular way to fail. Dying is another."

Why is that when raw talent and tragedy collide, a seductive story is almost always born? Think about it—Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain. The list is long. But somewhere wedged between Jimmy Hendricks and Jeff Buckley is Elliott Smith (who’s incidentally quoted above). For those who don’t know, Smith was a singer/songwriter who came into the national spotlight after composing most of the songs on the "Good Will Hunting" soundtrack in 1997.

Now I'm not going to lie, when it comes to Elliott Smith, I'm a little late to the party. (When he died in ’03, I only vaguely knew of him.) But I don't care. This is music that deserves an audience. Many of his melodies are Beatlesquely tinged and his lyrics are visceral. Hell, in each song Smith swims to the bottom of his emotional pool, grabs something lying on its floor and then returns to the surface with it, for all of us to see. His lyrics wind up reading like this:

"It’s 2:45 in the morning, and I’m putting myself on warning.” Or, "I'm burning every bridge that I've crossed to find a beautiful place to get lost."

Aren't those heartbreakingly elegant? Again, I won’t lie—knowing that Smith killed himself colors my take on these lyrics. They’re of course freighted with doom. But, in some strange way, isn’t that what makes them great? Isn’t that why we like these dead rock stars, or why tragedy allures us? It reminds us how delicate and ephemeral life is. How blessed—and sometimes tortured—we all are. What could be more seductive?

Here’s a Smith line that’s played on repeat in my mind for the past week or so. Enjoy.

"Nobody broke your heart/you broke your own, ’cause you can’t finish what you start.”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Hard-to-Define Absence

It’s funny. Proud as I may be of my native-New Yorker status, and proud as I am to have a deep knowledge of the city, I feel no more of a kinship to the Ground Zero site than, say, a tourist from New Zealand. Though I pass Ground Zero on my way to work each day, and have perfect view of it from my office’s window, I feel nothing but a sad astonishment (which is probably what any true American feels when he or she thinks to that day). The only way to have a real kinship with the site, I believe, is to have been directly affected by Sept. 11. Did you get soot on your face? Did your loved one never make it home? Did your life’s work vanish in seconds? If the answer is yes to any of the above, then you can claim the site as yours, for better or probably worse. I was safe at college that morning and feel almost dirty when pondering how the absence of the Towers makes me feel, even as a New Yorker

The bigger question: do any of us ever have the right to comment on anything in which we've played no part or on pain we've never felt?