Archive for May, 2010

The opening of the quadrennial World Cup soccer tournament is two weeks away.

Many of my American readers probably don’t care all that much, and as such I would like to talk to you about why you should.

Imagine, if you will, a glorious sporting spectacle in which a man can run five miles regardless of weather or fatigue, in which skill can trump any amount of speed or strength, in which a free-kick can be taken with such accuracy as to put any football place-kicker to shame. A game in which players’ endurance is tested to the limit by the lack of timeouts and flags, other than a single half-time break – players whose sheer athleticism is superior to any baseball or football star you care to name.

And better yet, imagine a sport in which America is not actually universally acknowledged as the best team in the world – a sport in which American fans can experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and especially the tension of not knowing which will happen.

Imagine a sport in which watching some of the ladies who turn out to support Brazil is infinitely more pleasant than watching the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. Imagine a sport which ignites the passion of more people around the world than the New York Yankees or Pittsburgh Steelers ever will. A sporting event which billions of people would turn off the Super Bowl or the Olympics to watch.

There you have soccer, and its flagship event – the World Cup.

Does the U.S. team stand a chance of winning the World Cup this year? A very, very small one, most likely. But I would be willing to bet they make it to the last sixteen, maybe the last eight. If fortune smiles upon them, maybe further. This is a team which has recently beaten the European champions and World Cup favorites – in an exhibition game, admittedly, but nevertheless no small accomplishment.

Similarly, America’s very own DC United just beat AC Milan, an Italian team of phenomenal skill with over a century of stellar achievements to their name.

With enough encouragement and interest, there is no reason the American team couldn’t go from strength to strength and potentially win the World Cup within a decade or two. The one key ingredient they will need, however, is the unwavering support of the fans back home.

Soon I will be posting a few predictions and analyses of the first-round groups. For now, though… let’s get fired up for it.

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In a world filled with labor-saving technologies, home shopping, 24-hour news cycles and easy access to information, we like to think we have it pretty good. One thing which all of our advances have thus far failed to provide, however, is a sense of meaning. Of purpose.
We have become accustomed to the easy and the instantaneous, and yet the metanoia of our existence continues to elude us. Many people turn to religion (often to a fundamentalist degree) to fill this void in their lives, sometimes unsuccessfully. Others turn to advanced science or to prescription medication.
Others still – and indeed some of the same people – appear to have given up on a search for meaning and have instead replaced it with a search for sensation. We no longer experience the small blessings and joys of life the way we did before we understood the world outside. This, surely, is a big driver of our societal use of recreational drugs, of celebrity-worship, of breaking the law for thrills, and indeed of many of the stories we hear as the funny-yet-disturbing bits at the end of the TV news, where someone has been apprehended attempting to have coital relations with children, animals or household appliances. In the absence of meaning and purpose, we look for something into which we can put our collective dick.

Not this one.

So how can we rediscover the path toward meaning? Once again, as I so often have, I turn to the wisdom of America’s founding fathers, and their triad of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Happiness is not a momentary thrill, a passing sensation, but a lasting condition attainable by making a positive change in yourself, in another person, or in the world at large. As we better our own lives and those of our neighbors, we can rediscover that sense of purpose and meaning.

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Among the certain truths held to be self-evident by the founders of this country is the tenet that all men are created equal. While it took a little while to recognize that a minority skin color did not actually constitute being 40% less equal, and that a person’s gender did not automatically render them more or less qualified for certain tasks and duties, we pride ourselves on the level of equality we have achieved.

Unless, of course, one happens to be gay. Why is it that I fail to see any kind of distinction between this and other discriminatory ideology?

One of the biggest issues right now is the proposed repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. I support this repeal wholeheartedly, and favor the full integration of LGBT personnel into all levels of the military. Personally, I believe that a nation which prides itself on its diversity and its freedoms should be represented by military personnel with a similar respect for diversity and freedom.

Allow me to illuminate something for you here: placing a homosexual soldier in barracks with the rest of a platoon does not mean that the homosexual soldier is going to be desperately trying to get conjugal with the others. We are all capable of the same levels of discipline and restraint.

I would further venture to suggest that if a heterosexual soldier has a problem with serving in the same unit as a homosexual soldier, perhaps it is the heterosexual soldier who, by dint of his prejudice and bigotry, merits a dishonorable discharge.

The other big issue is of course gay marriage. I have ranted about this in the past on this blog, but some points are worth re-making. The objections to gay marriage have been almost exclusively religious in nature. It has been explicitly stated by the founders of this country that religion has no place in the governing of the land, and therefore in the making of its laws. Ultimately, who is harmed by the marriage of Adam and Steve? These are not people who would otherwise marry women and continue the great chain of life. However, their union can provide a stable family unit into which an orphaned child can be adopted and provided with care which would otherwise never come. Also, it should be noted that if you (a hypothetical heterosexual married person) honestly think that allowing the gay couple down the street to marry in any way cheapens or degrades the meaning of your own marriage, you should perhaps look to what weaknesses must lie within your own marriage to make it so susceptible to such cheapening.

We’re all people. Let’s all treat each other that way.

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Oh, my poor neglected blog.

So much has changed since my last post. A new job for me, a new school for L, a new government for Britain, a new ecological disaster for the United States.

I barely know where to begin.

On May 10th, I began working at a company named CallMiner, a software company whose product analyzes the content of recorded customer service phone calls in order to help clients identify problems and inefficiencies within their own organizations and thus better serve their customers in turn. It’s been an interesting learning curve, with a lot of laughs along the way.

We also enrolled L at Creative Minds Montessori School, which he LOVES. While we had felt that he was doing very well in terms of his intellectual development, he had few opportunities to develop social skills and interact with other kids. I cannot over-emphasize just how much he is learning each day.

The new government. Well, at the end of the day, we’ve replaced a bunch of bureaucrats who think they know what’s best for us all with another bunch of bureaucrats who think they know what’s best for us all. Their views conflict, and time will tell. While a hung Parliament is of little use to most people, I think the gains made recently by the third-largest of Britain’s political parties highlight the need for something a little different. The Liberal Democrats (despite the American connotations of the words) are a “centrist” party rather than being on either the “left” or “right” wings (and who was it, anyway, who determined the orientation of this ideological space?) – and I think many people are becoming sick of left-vs.-right wrangling, since it is reasonable to expect that more people are in the ideological center than out on the flanks. In time, perhaps, the electoral reform which the LibDems have long sought will result in their coming to power on their own, bringing a fresher perspective to the table. For now, though, it’s too soon to say much.

And the oil spill. Who, exactly, didn’t see this coming with the advent of deep-water rigs? There will always be corners cut, there will always be shoddy work, and as such there will always be accidents. It’s just that an accident occurring a mile under the water becomes rather hard to patch. There is little I can truly say about the ecological impact of millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf that hasn’t already been discussed by people far more qualified than I, but I fervently hope that this deb√Ęcle puts an end to that pukeworthy mantra “drill, baby, drill”.

Will there be more on these subjects? Undoubtedly.

Will it be now? Heck no. Let me get settled back into the blogosphere first.

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