The Ability to Be Bad Is The Ultimate Gender Equalizer.

“Women are only good because they never had a chance to be bad”.

I saw “The Counselor” the other day, a movie based on the screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, the same guy who wrote No Country for Old Men and this post is a result of my ruminations on one of the film’s character. Spoiler alert: Cameron Diaz’s scheming and ruthless character kills Brad Pitt in an especially gruesome and chilling manner. For money – the most mundane and age-old reason of all. Some will find my thoughts and conclusions controversial. But here goes.

Women’s entire world, even when they are inclined to delude themselves about having some sort of power, revolved around the world of men. It’s the world built by men, with the rules written by men, so even when we think that we can achieve some sort of power, all we do is just play, real hard, by men’s rules. Sometimes we succeed, but those exceptions only confirm the rule. The bitchiness and cruelty that those of us who decide to wager into the man’s world develop is the manifestation and the confirmation of the man’s world. All this “Lean In” feminism that you keep hearing about is just a manual on how to be able to function in a man’s world. (A long, but dissecting and revealing account of what’s behind this movement.)

The ultimate gender equalizer is the ability to do evil. That includes the power to fleece the fools, to take advantage of the weak, to wage wars. True equality between sexes will be achieved not when a woman acquires access to tools of power she’s been denied for millennia; it will be achieved when she learns to lay them down after she’s had a good run. Women, especially at all those ubiquitous women’s conferences, like to think and talk of themselves as being better than men: we are nurturing, cooperative, benevolent, etc., etc. After all that uplifting talk women really begin to believe that they are better than those brutal apes, men. What bullshit! Women are only good because they never had a chance to be bad. It’s a feel-good fairy tale that women have been telling themselves for thousands of years just to cope with their second-class status. If you don’t have the power to do real shit then your only outlet in life, your only point of consolation is to “be nice”. When you are good out of weakness it doesn’t count, because you have no choice; you don’t get to pick a path, it’s been picked for you. How do you know if you’re truly a better part of humanity if you haven’t been exposed to and tempted with, at least not on a scale that men were, real power? Women think they are better than men because women never held that kind of power in reality – the power to do shit, not just depend on others to do shit. It is only during the last century we began to slowly shed those misconceptions. But here’s the kicker: once we, women, receive access to it, we are no different, no better no worse than men. That is a true equality – the ability to do things, sometimes despicable things, and only then the ability to abstain from doing them. Men had plenty of time to purge themselves of the bad things they were doing, to contemplate about their bad behavior; after all they’ve been doing bad things for a millennia. Men have had “fat tails” for generations (to use the statistical bell curve illustration): there are plenty of criminals, murderers, and vagabonds on the left-hand side of the curve among men; there are also a lot of geniuses and heroes on the right-hand side. Women’s bell curve looks much narrower: we don’t have as many delinquents and hobos, but we also don’t have as many outstanding statesmen and thinkers. We are new to this.

It is naïve to think that we can circumvent such natural evolution. First we have to have our own Raskolnikovs, Mussolinis, and Joe McCarthys in our midst; only then we can produce our own Rousseaus, our own Voltaires, our own Churchills. Only then we can sit by the fire, sip cognac and contemplate, in earnest, on the depravity of a human soul and our struggle to overcome it. Because then we will have a true understanding. Then we will know what it takes to lay down the power voluntarily, to refuse to use it to your advantage.

Benevolence and kindness of a woman had always carried a different flavor than a benevolence of a man. When a man is benevolent he projects strength; when a woman is benevolent she only does what is expected of her. A man doesn’t have to be benevolent; if he chooses to be it will come from his strength. If a woman is benevolent, she’s merely doing it because she’s weak.

Whether you like it or not, Margaret Thatcher waging war over Falklands was an essential part of that progress. That’s why we have to welcome even such cunts and dimwits as Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin – it’s progress; a hundred years ago they would just be voiceless housewives or spinsters. Having those public figures is natural growing pains. We despise them, but their existence is necessary to make way for future groundbreaking female leaders.

To achieve true equality we have to be bad first. We have to be bad for the next 2000 years. We will have to become the corrupt politicians, we will have to fleece the populace, to start wars, to fuck things up. We have to purge it all out of our system, to inoculate ourselves, so that later, hundreds or thousands of years from now, we can, this time genuinely, magnanimously, and without any social expectations, be good, show mercy. Then, we shall be truly equal.

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Your most favorite 5-10 seconds of music.

A few days ago someone posed a question on Twitter: what’s you most favorite 5-10 seconds of any piece of music. I didn’t have to think long, few came immediately to mind.

1. Intro/Opening guitar riff on Money for Nothing, Dire Straits;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwDDswGsJ60

2. Jimmy Page’s entry on Bring it on Home (at 1:45) and almost immidiate follow by John Bonham (at 1:49)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihWhTvHVLAM

3. Opening riff for Travelling Riverside Blues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtEAp-Rybl0

On Old Men (Off Topic)

It’s quite easy to misinterpret the essay titled “On Old Men” as a piece on the older men. It is not. It is a peek at and a short ode to those 80 years and older, the Greatest Generation as Tom Brokaw, himself a soon-to-be member of that club, calls them.

Watching old men has long been a secret hobby of mine, sort of like bird-watching for some. Luckily I’m provided much opportunity to do just that when, bored and waiting for a good hand at the poker table, I’m surrounded by an ample pool of retirees. Unlike young jocks or pretty girls, old men are unaware that they are being watched, thus making the entire surveillance even more worthwhile as you will always catch a grandpa in his natural unselfconscious state. Saggy pants up to his chin, an almost universal absence of a rear, bended-knee gait propped up by oversized sneakers, an old-fashioned, square-shaped baseball cap with USMC or Korean War Vet logo, shaky hands deformed by arthritis. And a permanent sad smile. Life’s battles, victories and defeats are firmly behind him, nothing more to prove, no more skirts to chase, no more dicks to measure, he’s finally free to be himself. Not that he needs that freedom at this point, especially if the Mrs. has imprudently checked out earlier, condemning him to a quiet resignation to quotidian routines – his own meals to cook, his own shoes to tie and no one to talk to. Old age does something to men – it’s rarely that I meet an old man full of malice. Crankiness, yes, but not spite. Even when they are angry, they express it in a bygone-era terms that makes it sound almost charming, and not hard-hitting and offensive. Sort of like William F. Buckley’s “Stop calling me a crypto Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you stay plastered” variety. Such old-time, gentlemanly manner almost makes me uncomfortable to tell a dirty joke in their presence, which is rather odd, because clearly an old man would be the most qualified person in the room to appreciate it, as he has seen it all. Seen it all, and yet the most dirty word in his vocabulary is ‘goddamn’.

Sometimes they approach me for a talk, because when they catch me in my curious gaze, I can’t help but smile back in a way I smile when I see a puppy. Engaging an old man in a conversation that, more often than not, is a monologue about a bad poker hand or, once he got the ball rolling, his past life, the wife who passed away, the union job they used to have is always rewarding. The stories they have to tell, however trivial, rarely have other welcoming audience. Who would want to listen to an old fart? But I enjoy the uncharged, undertone-free exchange I can have with an old man. Even his clumsy attempts at flirting carry a hint of innocence, like that of a pre-adolescent boy.

The melancholy of seeing a lonely old grandpa dragging his feet through the park is always more penetrating than seeing a lonely grandma. I don’t know why. Perhaps because old ladies always form a little coterie – a generations-old tool to deal with the expected widowhood – and continue on living. Old men never form such a self-help club. Like a small child separated from his parents in a crowded and busy train station, old man is often lost when he suddenly finds himself alone in the waning years. Evolution did not equip them to deal with the old age, as they were not supposed to make it that far.

They come from the time of a mandated military service, the time of the important wars, they built the country we inherited. They know how to do the right thing, not the thing that pays off the most. Old men are capable of having a genuine expression of joy and grief, as the mechanisms that have enabled them to suppress it have worn off or became useless, or perhaps because the lives they lived did not require a fake façade. To me, witnessing an old man tearing up is one of the most arresting experiences to have, for he knows something I don’t, he has seen something I haven’t. It ain’t lost money his crying about.

I wonder if it’s just a matter of time that the current roster of self-absorbed meanies can metamorphose into those harmless and mellow senior citizens. I certainly hope that this is the case. But in the meantime, try the following exercise: next time you encounter an arrogant jerk, imagine him 40 years from now, quietly sitting on the park bench, a walker by his side, thinking to himself: “Kids these days.” You’ll never look at him the same way again.

Poker in Macau

The stories that I heard about the game in Macau made me salivate. “Imagine a table full of people with top pair disease” – one story went, referencing the hand in which a person who has a top pair will stay in the pot till the end and will pay you dearly. The stories turned out somewhat true, but one little nuance was omitted: Chinese are gamblers by nature and they have limitless pockets. (Don’t ask me how, US Treasuries don’t pay much these days). Because the amount of money in the pot, odds and the size of their stack is not the issue for them – poker in Macau is a pure gamble.

There are no structured limit games in Macau – only no limit. I think they have no notion of a limit game – if I was to tell them that such games exist they would probably laugh at it, what do you mean I can’t go all in? Who plays such a game? Another factor that unpleasantly surprised me is that they all smoke at the table. The stench was unbearable for me the first few days and I covered up my nose with the scarf. Then I got used to it.

 In the first few days I played at the Wynn and the Venetian. Because I was completely unaccustomed to the way the game is played there and because of a few unfortunate hands that I pushed all-in with I ended up in a deep hole. In AC and in Vegas the prudent way of playing for me is to be as tight as a virgin. I thought that the correct response to a super-loose game in Macau is to tighten up even more. I was wrong, but it took me 4 days and several grand to reexamine and adjust my game. In AC I fold suited connectors and pat myself on the back for the correct play, here I should have raised with them, especially in the position. Sure, Chinese will nonchalantly call your raise, but if you flop something good it will be completely undetected and then you come and collect.

 The next five days I spent at the Grand Lisboa Casino where incidentally they also had a tournament going. I haven’t had a single losing session there as I somehow got into the swing of things, which enabled me to dig out of the hole and even make some money that I ran away with. In the morning of the last day however, I decided to stop by the Wynn where I left my money earlier in a week and exorcise my demons. I succeeded with just a couple of good hands – that’s all you need in a no limit game. I keep making a distinction between limit and no limit because I’m a recent convert to a no-limit game. I don’t think I want to go back to limit – way too timid for my tastes.

 The level of looseness is unbelievable – nowhere have I seen such a reckless, cavalier game. One loose guy at my table kept going all in and losing, and kept reaching into his pocket again and again for a $10,000 chip. He raised every hand he was in, which means every time because no hand was bad for him.  

 Some of my most memorable hands:

 KQ suited – I would never allow myself such frivolity in any game on the American soil. But this was different. The previously described loose guy makes a big raise preflop as usual, and everybody folds to me. I had about $2500 in front of me and thought for a long time. Usually I’m rather quick to make a decision, but this time I took my time. He can raise with 5-7 for all I know. I figured it was very possible that just my king alone would play as I did not put him on pocket pair. So I pushed, hoping he would either fold or that I still had a better hand if he calls. He calls. The flop comes K, blank, blank to my relief. He said to have pocket 10s and mucked, showing only one. I doubled up. I know I rolled the dice with this hand, but it worked. I played the guy, not his cards. Some of my much stronger hands didn’t hold up in earlier game so it was a gamble. After such a hand I couldn’t resist the “squeezing the balls” gesture with both of my hands to the delight of locals at the table. I guess it’s international!

 The two painful hands I had that set me into a deep hole in the beginning – I flopped two top pair both times. And both times I had somebody with an ace call and catch an ace on the turn and paired board on the river – counterfeiting my two pair. Same thing two times, both times I was all-in! Going all-in rarely scares a guy with an ace, and it just so happens he catches it when I’m in a hand. Another time I slowplayed my KJ with KK4 on the flop, almost celebrating my certain victory, when it was the guy who slowplayed me with pocket 4s flopping a full house. When someone flops a set – you rarely have any idea or any recourse against it. It’s undetectable!

 But the most stunning hand I saw I didn’t participate in. The board on the river had no straits, no flushes, no pairs – nothing. One guy pushes all in with maybe $2-3K in front of him. The girl thinks for a while and calls. As she calls, the guy mucks his hand face down (!) and says something like “it’s yours”. The girl shows ace high (what a gutsy call in itself!) and the guy in panic reaches for his mucked cards, probably having folded a small pair, but it’s too late. He folded a winning hand without even showing it after pushing all in! Such reckless, stupid play!

 One time I got a pair of black pocket kings. A preflop raise of $600 comes to me, I make it $1200. There’s another guy left in the pot and he’s thinking and thinking. A few times he made a gesture as if to fold his cards, a few times he pretended he wants to go all in, asking me how many chips I have, looking at my reaction. Because he hesitates, I know my hand is the best. He obviously thinks I have AA, as I count my chips in a way that says I want him to call. The guy really takes his time as I’m becoming annoyed: he’s either indecisive or he’s acting – either way I don’t appreciate it, so I called time. Patience is not my virtue, besides I don’t appreciate the theatrics. Btw, acting is big in Macau. He shoves his entire stack. The first raiser wisely folds and I, of course, call. The flop comes A, rag, rag – all hearts. Remember, my kings are black, besides the ace made me very nervous. Since we’re both all-in we turn our cards over. He has the same hand I do – only reds! Thank God no ace, but he has a flush draw, which didn’t materialize to my relief. The guy who folded had QQ. So we split his money.

 All in all, Macau is a curious place to play, but poker is not the predominant game in the local casinos – they have much fewer tables than an average American casino and a poorer choice of games. They prefer baccarat and some unknown to me games involving dice. Like I said – they are gamblers.

My birthday party (offtopic)

The denouement of my birthday party the other day may have changed the cruel fate of two nice black guys.

The final chapter of the party took place in Soho House and consisted of 3 Russian girls and one nice Jewish guy at different stages of highness and drunkenness. I wasn’t as elevated as the rest, unfortunately, because I was anticipating, for several weeks now, the dreaded “peeing in the cup” procedure. Nonetheless our festive mood was hard to spoil and we made ourselves comfortable on the couch in the lounge area and ordered drinks. It was well past midnight and the place was getting empty. As such, the remaining parties, especially on neighboring couches were joining each other in the chit-chat. Two artsy-type black guys were sitting next to us, paying interest to our loud drunken chatter about things that should be best kept private. Natasha was explaining to Nathan what types of men she likes, heavy on detail. At this point all of us were speaking in mixed languages, waving arms, giggling at self-made crude jokes that seemed witty at the time and thinking that we were being discreet. The two black guys decided to make a move. “Are you Russian?” – one of them asked. I must say that that day we all looked like prime PETA targets, including all 3 of us wearing giant fur hats, which, given the setting, made us look not just Russian but cartoonish. “We’re going to Russia in a few weeks”. “We’re taking a train through Siberia” – added the other proudly. Natasha, high as a kite, and spotting the new audience turned around and began chatting with the guys. They looked happy and content.

A few minutes later I turned around to check on the situation on the neighboring couch and I must tell you, I saw the real life interpretation of Munch’s “Scream”. The two black guys looked as white as a sheet. Their jaws were agape, their eyes frozen in horror. At this point Natasha was standing and, using heavy gesticulation to drive the point home, in vivid details, in heavy accented English was describing to them how they are going to be raped on the Moskva – Vladivostok train. She wasn’t joking, she looked very concerned. “Two black guys, on a train for a week, in the middle of nowhere, are you out of your fucking mind?  You will be sitting in the compartment with some smelly drunken hicks eating fried chicken in a foil drinking vodka for breakfast and smoking 24/7 with no way out. For weeks! And that’s if you’re lucky. That is if the bandits don’t rob you and kick you out from the train in some deep Siberian forest and where they’ll find your thawed corpses in the spring, if at all. Sovsem ohueli? And, you know, black guys like yourself – you can become popular there, and not just with girls! And then they’ll never find you.” The more she talked the more she got into a groove and the more morbid her audience’s faces became.

Although the picture was a feast for the eyes, we had to stop the torture. The two guys just came here to have a drink, relax after a hard day’s work, chat, have a good time but inadvertently got themselves into some reality check. We said quick “Nice to meet you, have fun in Russia” to the guys, paid the bill and dragged Natasha to the elevator, where we bursted with laughter.

Somewhere the next day two black guys were cancelling their plane tickets to Moscow.

How to love Led Zeppelin

Do you love Led Zeppelin the way I love them?
I’ll teach you how to do it. Yes, you, Justin Bieber fans. And I’ll do it without even mentioning the you-know-what song.

Everything has been written and said about Led Zeppelin. I will not say anything new to the hard core fans of LZ that they don’t already know. The purpose of this article is to create a sort of an introduction or “reeducation LZ boot camp” for the young crowd that grew up listening to sanitized crap-pop of the late 2000s.

History changed its course the moment Jimmy Page tore into the first chords of “Good Times Bad Times” and Robert Plant declared with youthful certainty that “he was told what it means to be a man” and John Bonham (Bonzo) challenged Gods to a drum duel. The year was 1969.

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