It’s been kind of hilarious – in a “completely tragic” sort of way – watching American news outlets dance around the term “civil war” when referring to Iraq. Finally, this week, both NBC and the LA Times pulled out the Civil War card and laid it on the table, which cued the usual temple-bursting and hand-wringing from our right-wing friends. To them, I guess, the mainstream usage of “civil war” meant it was truly over.
Never mind that anyone who had visited Iraq (and didn’t have an ax to grind) has been calling it a civil war for a long time, but I’m much more interested in how seriously we take our definitions. Somehow giving a name to something changes the very nature of it, Shakespeare to the contrary; that which we call a rose body lotion smells sweeter regardless of the ingredients.
You’ll see the same thing in scotch tastings – if you read the nose and flavor descriptions from the professionals beforehand, you can make almost anybody taste banana, coconut, oak chips, leather chairs and even motor oil in a 25-year-old Springbank single malt.
My own moment of definition came in 1989, and I’ve written about it on here before. This guy came up to me at Molly’s during the height of my Wednesday’s Child notoriety and said “People say you’re awesome for a few days, but then your charm fades really quickly, and then you’re not much fun.” Why on earth this guy said this to me I have no idea. It was his idea of an ice-breaker, I suppose – I had a lot of people coming up to me and saying a lot of crazy shit in those days – but goddamn if it hasn’t stuck with me.
In an effort to prove him wrong, this guy from 1989, I undertake bizarre endeavors. Stuff like throwing the Jartacular, trying never to lose friends, fighting for the best quip of the evening even though there are no more sophomores to impress, and even threatening to keep this blog interesting for five years. I’m not saying all of these are successful, but at least I’m in the game.
And so, what has been a particular definition that has hounded you? Something you’ve always been proud of, or struggled to outdistance?