A friend of mine forwarded me a link to a piece on a guy we were both at University with. I vaguely recall the subject of the story, but am by no means friendly. This means that I can be A) objective and B) cunty about him without feeling all that bad.
Here’s the set-up: this nice, obviously smart Oxford graduate decides upon finishing up his degree to enlist. Off to basic training and whatever other officer rigamarole one does at Sandhurst, the tony cadet school, and then two tours, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Manages to stay alive, returns to England, quits the Army and writes a now very successful, warts and all, book about his experience. Would I sound cynical if this sounded like an extreme example of Adventure Book Proposal? There are all those people who live a year of silence/celibacy/eating-praying-and-loving and sell that shit into a book deal. Clever guy Hennessey must have flirted with the notion of this — he couldn’t have thought that his Oxford degree wouldn’t pay off in some way.
"I’m an OFFICER, far cleverer than the average soldier… of course, I can write a book about this. Just check off those two years trying to not get killed, hope that PTSD doesn’t set in during the creative process and be a made man! Sweet."
I find it offensively stupid that he would say he joined up because he couldn’t think of anything better to do. “‘I remember distinctly going away one Friday towards the end of the third year and coming back on the Monday and literally all my friends had a training contract to be a solicitor,” he recalls.’”
Come again? A sphincter says, what? You can’t think of anything to do ASIDE from being a lawyer OR a soldier in an unjust, illegal war? I think you may just have to think a little longer and harder. Take some time, possibly a year or two. No pressure.
But that would ruin his book proposal, right? So, off he goes to Basra and what does he find? That mostly war is a dull business.
“‘This was clearly the taxpayer-funded gap year I had to get out of my system, except instead of building schools we’re blowing up people.’ In any event, when he was sent out to Iraq, his company saw little action: ‘It was like being at a boxing match, watching from the sidelines, when you really want to be in the ring.’ This led to the founding of the titular Junior Officers’ Reading Club - which consisted of educated Grenadier Guards lounging in their boxer shorts, comparing notes on Clausewitz and Bret Easton Ellis.” People will write that this is mere honesty. The reasons young (mostly) men join up are money and adventure. I don’t really want to drag this particular discussion down the socio-economic road because while it’s not a dead end, it does actually force you to recognize that even with his Oxford Stamp of Approval, this young man is an idiot. Especially given that the war in Iraq was a rushed-into mess spurred on by fake intel and bullshit ideology. The Iraq war was created to bolster the American defense budgets and fill the coffers of Halliburton aka people like Dick Cheney. Because what every President needs to establish him in the firmament is to declare “Victory!” during war. Yeah, right. So to discuss the reasoning behind Hennessey’s decision would be to open a rat’s nest of self-delusion. A nice white, middle-class, Oxford educated guy does not need to go to war like, say, an 18 year old in the poorest section of Alabama does. Hennessey does his tour in Iraq, returns and then heads off to the less morally ambiguous territory of Afghanistan. He doesn’t feel so bad about killing those people because “You knew you were going into villages where teachers had been executed and girls who wanted to go to school had been beaten; and you were having a fight with the people who had done those executions and beatings, and if you won, there was a village where these things weren’t going to occur any more.”
That truly is audacious hope. At the moment, the United States is quickly realising that Afghanistan is an unwinnable quagmire. There is no winning there, no triumph or clearing Al Qaeda from the caves. This war is going to suck us dry, create more resentment and terrorists, and kill young men and women every day until we pull out, embarrassed to even have been there in the first place. It is fucked. And for this man to write a memoir recounting his “taxpayer-funded gap year” is astonishingly cynical, nasty and venal.
It strikes me that he knew all these things beforehand. He knew that he didn’t wish to be a career soldier, he knew that war — the Iraq war in particular — was morally ambiguous, and yet he went anyway. Chalk it up to the lies older generations tell young people about valor and patriotism that he just wanted to check for sure to see whether it really was a thrill. Oops, it’s not! But the truly incredible part of Hennessey’s story is what he’s doing now. Apres the successful book tour and victory lap, he’s at law school. Where he would have been four years ago and he wouldn’t have had to watch 12 of his 36-strong company perish; he wouldn’t have had to kill anyone; he wouldn’t have a book deal.
The argument for Pavement’s late game popularity surge is somewhat ironic — the band that never tried hard for success has become a permanent fixture. Most of this is due to Gen Xers getting older and indulging in a little sentimental attachment to the things/sounds of their youthful days. Nitsuh Abebe in NYMag concludes his very fine examination of Pavement’s sudden resurgence with this interesting observation:
"Pavement is being set up as exactly the kind of legendary band younger people love to reject — especially since that wry disaffection isn’t as useful anymore, what with there not being much of a monoculture to be suspicious of."
Perhaps it’s that I grew up in New York City, but I was taught to always be suspicious of the monoculture. Then again, most of the kids I went to school with have all become bankers and real estate developers. I’m going to assume they’re the ones pursuing the monoculture as active participants and creators. What I don’t quite understand is how Abebe can possibly believe there isn’t a monoculture?
There is always a monoculture, even if Pitchfork and Hype Machine put their collective nose to the grindstone and continually pluck 25 bands a day from obscurity. There isn’t a whiff of irony around the 30 Million Bieber-listening, Twilight-reading, Forever 21-wearing fangirls. Nor is there one around the guys who line up for their iPhone 4s two weeks in advance.
So what I think we’re all reminiscing about when we speak oh-so-reverently about Pavement is freedom from capitalism. 90s slackerdom was disengagement from the system. A band as shambolic and effortless as Pavement managing to resurrect their ephemeral charm ten years on is just plain surprising. Because usually that shit don’t age so well. But right now, when unemployment is still rising yet Goldman bonuses carry on crawling skyward, Pavement harkens back to a time when it was inconceivable that anyone would willingly sell their 24-year-old soul to an investment bank. There was quality ass-sitting to be done.
Every girl likes a compliment. Hey, everyone likes a compliment, but girls especially enjoy them. Recently, a gentleman told me I had “really cute dimples.” Another time, a friend told me she yearned for my “sexytimes hair.” Ok, so people don’t RUN when they see me, but these sorts of compliments don’t lift my spirits as high as they can go. They’re lovely to receive all right, but here’s the one that I recall when I want to feel A+.
“You give head like a pro.”
LIKE A PRO.
What woman DOESN’T want to hear how closely they resemble a hooker/porn star in mouth/tongue/throat at least? It really makes my soul sing to hear that, you know, if worse came to worse, and her day-job booted her to the curb, Mama could just stand there and kerb-crawl for real.
My question for gentlemen callers is how do YOU know what professional-grade head is? Your experience of pay-for-lay isn’t exactly something I wish to consider when you’re already in my bed. I’m going to have to burn these sheets now, aren’t I? And wash my mouth out with bleach. Just do a general suds and scrub down of my entire person and environment since you dunked your hitching post in the village well.
But still, the most perplexing thing about this is that this is viewed as a compliment, perhaps even a show of affection? Glad to know the skillz are there, however unseemly the panel of judges may be. It’s sort of like when you have a dinner party and someone says, “You could cook in a restaurant kitchen!”
I could, but it would strip the essential pleasure and choice out of a craft I enjoy.
And, more importantly, I couldn’t compete in the Sex Olympics.