Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Heart's Blood

Your heart is not just a bloody pump.
Otherwise, there wouldn't be heart ache
and heart burn. Broken hearted
hearts on fire.
The heart of the matter,
or, them what don't have no heart at all!

When they cracked me open
and put me on a heart machine,
they pumped me full of someone else's blood,
gifted me a void.
I lost most of my short-term memories.
But not you. Never you!

Sometimes I call numbers somehow
stuck in my mind. I get people I don't know.
Hear alarm clocks going off
from far away. Black holes in my life,
They are, I'm sure, carried in the corpuscles
of my blood: Mysterious strangers.

So, I know what's mine is mine
But there's someone else out there,
their heart pumping: Carrying my cells.
The burden of my lost memories
Straining sorrowfully at their atom heart
Foot tapping to a funk beat I alone hear.

—Ivor Irwin

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Macular Degenerate or Is Arséne Wenger Legally Blind?

Arsenal coach Arséne Wenger takes a loss to Manchester United badly!

Many of you don’t like Arséne Wenger. Being the big-hearted, forbearing person that I am, and admiring his dexterity with the English language, which is far superior to my own, although I can’t say I ‘like’ him, I can definitely say I admire Wenger's gift for making Arsenal into the greatest Selling Club in the world. There’s that and his rigid adherence to a fast, pretty, short-passing mechanized style of play that reminds everybody of the style he taught the guys who make FIFA Soccer for PlayStation and XBox360. Until Arséne, the notion of ‘walking the ball into the net’ was a joke. Now it’s taken seriously. No one can walk the ball into the net with the same willful panache as Arséne’s Arsenal artistes.

Fluent in five languages, Wenger is a man who insists he has "no other hobbies." Perhaps a vacation may be due. During the two press conferences before the game on Saturday, August 29 against Manchester United, the Arsenal boss twice alluded to a E.U.F.A. 'Witch-hunt' after his striker, Eduardo, was charged with diving during a Champions League victory over Glasgow Celtic and was, subsequently, suspended from two E.C.C. games.

"I find it a complete disgrace and unacceptable," the Alsatian barked. "It singles out a player to be a cheat and that is not acceptable. I believe you can debate whether it is a penalty or not, but this charge implies there was intent and a desire to cheat the referee. Having seen the pictures again, nothing is conclusive. It is a Witch-hunt."

By 'pictures', I believe Wenger means that he looked again and again at the same video most of the rest of us saw. If Eduardo, who made no contact with any other player before throwing himself to the ground as if a bullet had felled him, was moved by some divine force of nature, only his coach knows exactly where this force comes from. One is certainly left bamboozled enough by what Wenger actually saw to wonder if the F.A. might, instead of insulting Wenger with the aforementioned suggestion that he ought to take a break, simply send him on a trip to the optometrist's office.

Beaten on Saturday by a disappointingly anemic Manchester United side, despite the predictions of a preponderance of opinion among the pundits, ex-players and the press, Wenger was too big a man to claim that the linesman was wrong when he called Robin Van Persie’s last second goal offside. Instead, Arséne went on a rant about Manchester United playing 'anti-football.' Wenger also babbled out various bellicose insults in the direction of referee Mike Dean for letting United "repeatedly foul" his side.

"I have seen a player make 20 fouls without getting a yellow card. You don't need me to tell you who, but their player gets away without a yellow card. It's quite amazing," stormed Wenger. When someone in the press corps mentioned that his players had received six yellow cards of their own versus United's three, Wenger moved on to a new questioner. In truth, it's the usual case of Wengeresque deja vu again. Indeed, after a very similar 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford in 2004, his players having been issued nine yellow cards and an F.A. fine, Wenger's only defense was to attack the referee and to try to steer the discussion in a new direction. Martin Samuel and Kevin McKenna, two of Britain's more conscientious football reporters persisted with their questioning about the Gooners' predilection for petty fouls, but, in each stated example, Wenger insisted he hadn't seen any of them. Not a one.

"How is it you expect me to comment on something I clearly did not see," he insisted with a Gallic shrug

Darren Fletcher's "20 fouls" having gone unpunished, Wenger used this excuse of "persistent fouls" against his pure, naïve charges to twist the argument around toward the new subject of diving. This after E.U.F.A.'s decision to ban his star striker Eduardo from two games after he was caught diving and then simulating an injury by the referee in a Champions League win over Glasgow Celtic on the previous Wednesday. Indeed, another Arsenal player, Emmanuel Eboue, was cautioned for diving against United, although, obviously, it goes without saying that Wenger insisted he had not seen it. Both United and Celtic, Wenger repeated, "directly targeted my players."

To be sure, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher were tackling Denilson, Eboue and Sagna hard and conceded a number of dangerous free kicks. These fouls were witnessed by Wenger. "I don't know (why they went unpunished). You should ask the referees. I don't know." To an unbiased eye, this kind of hard-tackling, no-quarter football is what the game is really all about. To Wenger, however, his macular faculties constantly being, as we say in England, "on the blink," contact in general and tackles against his players in particular, must genuinely seem crude and brutal.

For fairness' sake, I tried to find an entry on 'temporary blindness' in both the Yahoo Health Encyclopedia and on the web site of the American Optometric association. There was nothing. Anyone with vision worse than 20/200 which cannot be corrected with corrective lenses can be considered legally blind.

According to the A.O.A. "A legally blind person with vision of 20/200 has to be as close as 20 feet to identify objects that people with normal vision can spot from 200 feet. So a legally blind person needs a distance of two feet to spot the letters on a standard eye chart that is 20 feet away. Legal blindness is very common in older people because eyesight tends to worsen with time and age. Approximately 135 out of every 1,000 people over the age of 65 are considered legally blind. Only about 10% of legally blind people read Braille. A much smaller percentage use white canes or guide dogs."

Many of you will insist that I am biased or insane, but I honestly believe that Arséne Wenger is a macular degenerate. It's quite logical to believe that he's legally blind, or, at best for him, although not necessarily our beloved game, often—very often! —temporarily blind.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On President Obama’s Speaking to Our Kids

To be sure, the obnoxious Right’s relentless hissy-fit about President Obama’s school chit-chat is mean-spirited and cynical. Still, there is a point in reasoning that all political and religious leadership ought to be kept out of the public school classroom. In this case, the imperial presidency rears its ugly head and I want to decapitate it.

I grew up in England, where public school is actually private school. Public school there meant corporal punishment, starched uniforms, polished shoes and the absolute intimidation of the student body by teachers. Please don’t ask me to explain why. I am still recovering from the beatings I took like a champ and the kind of learning by rote that still allows me to remember Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ now and forever. I do know, however, that the President “has that lean and hungry look.” Anyway, I digress, once, when I was in the common folks’ primary school, our local M.P. came to visit us in the classroom. All I remember about him was that he wore a bow-tie and had a waxed handlebar moustache. In a prissy upper-class voice, he told us all to study hard and stay in school in the most blah, anodyne way. Yawn! Later, four years later, in an attempt to reach into our addled adolescent brains and communicate concepts beyond rote and fear, the Manchester board of education brought in Willie.

Willie’s visit came courtesy of Her Majesty’s Pleasure at Strangeways Prison. About 5’3” with a thick Glasgow Gorbals accent and brilliant blue eyes, he rolled up his sleeves and showed off his tattoos and track marks. Then he rolled his trousers up to the knee and showed off the collapsed veins and tracks all down his calves and feet, even between his toes. This interested us very much. He told us about his service years during World War Two and how he got addicted to painkillers when he was a medic serving with Montgomery in the Western Desert. Finally, he did a Q and A. We asked him what seemed like logical questions to ask a junkie. What was better? White or brown eych? Did he like Methodone? Then he told us about using Preparation H to shrink the kind of scabbed-over wounds and collapsed veins you get from shooting up. Naturally, we knew plenty already about his 'shock' subject matter. So, when talk turned to hints about the do's and don'ts of shooting up between the toes, and, when all other veins fail, in the eye socket, the teacher suddenly got a case of cold feet and prevailed upon Willie's minder to interrupt. At that point Willie's rhetoric turned into the usual usual: Stay in school, work hard, respect and obey your parents and teachers, never challenge authority, and, always, always always remember that dope is for dopes.

“Dinna grow up tae be like me, lads,” Willie said. “He-ruin is thay road tae hell!”

I doubt that I would have ever become a true dope fiend anyway, but, as I remember Willie so vividly, I think the school board was wise.

I’ve been living in the United States for 32 years. England, however, never leaves me. The aftermath of the Philby/Blunt affair and the endless sectarian strife in Northern Ireland lead me to mistrust all authority figures. As with popes, pastors, rabbis, litigators, physicians and politicians in general, I deeply object to the automatic elevation of senators, five-star generals, rich folks and presidents in general to the role of “trusted moral leader.” Consequently, I deeply, humbly wish President Obama and all his advisors and successors will reject and eschew that role, instead of attempting to further the narcissistic, narcotic vanity that is the awful notion of the Imperial Presidency. This was one of the reasons I enjoyed the eight years of the Clinton presidency. You knew he was a hustler. A clever good-ol'-bwoy on the make! Liking Bill Clinton always seemed to be beside the point. He was a first-rate C.E.O., although I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

Let’s face it, after Nancy Reagan’s 'Just Say No!' rants and Dubya’s bizarre predilection for abstinence-only ‘education,’ American parents ought to be mistrustful and skeptical about any notion which posits that our children’s behavior can and ought to be influenced by a presidential speech. Unfortunately, there's a small group of folks out there which thinks the notion of the bully pulpit is a reasonable one. Me: I just think that the time the President of the United States' speech takes up would be far better occupied in learning mathematics. Whether the dose of ra-ra is overtly political and self-serving or not, the truth is that President Obama’s speech will be focused around the idea that he’s a role model and life adviser. This is problematic. Is the presidency, in and of itself, presumed to confer his or her superior status as a moral role model, including chats with kids meant to influence their life choices? The Big Macher, Father-in-Chief role is mine in my house. My son doesn’t need another one: I’m it!!!

To me it’s creepy if the president uses kids as shills or props, while he tries ever so hard to convince their parents of the sincerity of his educational policies. Consequently, if Obama starts to do this annually, one suspects his successors will carry on his neo-first-day-of-school policy into perpetuity. Couldn’t we all prevent ourselves from embracing trouble if we kept our ideological obsessions away from our children until they’ve had years more of educational opportunity to figure out their political priorities for themselves? If you can't bring in Willie, why bother?