Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Deep Thoughts #102

But then I nail a reasonably solid fake tweet and I feel a little bit better. Patricia Lockwood’s fake sext tweets make me feel better, too.

Deep Thoughts #101

I am currently reading a crappy novel with bad writing, and it’s making me question every sentence of my own. Am I that much of a hack, too?

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Pledge of the Independents

The Abbey Bookshop, in Paris, has launched some kind of Facebook campaign to encourage folks not to buy books from Amazon or any of its lackeys, due in part to the ongoing tussle between Amazon and Hachette. (Just Google "Amazon Hachette," and you'll be up to speed in about 0.36 seconds.) I don't support Facebook, or the way it assimilates people into its collective (especially when those people go about indiscriminately sharing unsourced information just because it sounds good), but every now and then you have to make this kind of exception. So I am sharing a link to the Abbey Bookshop's Facebook page for the Pledge of the Independents.

Amazon's goal of creating a commercial monopoly on goods and (increasingly) services has come to fruition in no small part because they cut their teeth selling books on the magic internets (and culling so much information from their books customers that they very quickly learned how to sell pretty much everything to pretty much everyone) and because they are willing to sell just about anything at a loss, as long as it means that they keep assimilating customers who don't care about anything except how cheap they can get whatever they want. (Walmart does the exact same thing, but with the added bonus of depressing wages in the communities where they plant their discount megachurches.)

Now that Amazon's shareholders have finally begun to bristle at the no-profits business model, Amazon has responded by squeezing yet another of its suppliers, Hachette Book Group. Most of the time when this happens, the supplier in question starts crying and tries to say no, but then is forced by Amazon to take another bump of X, shut the fuck up, and spread its legs. Hachette is putting up something of a fight, and it's starting to feel like they're building some momentum.

I'm not in book buying mode at the moment, but I have made the decision to buy what books I choose to buy from the local indie stores. We're not so fortunate here in Indianapolis to have a great independent bookstore like Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Company, but Indy Reads Books and Bookmamas are not bad - and they can get you any new title that you need. Amazon needs to be made aware that its business practices are unacceptable, and that's why I'm sharing a Facebook link. (And no, the irony is not lost on me that I am sharing information about the shady business practices of one giant internet company by using the product of another giant internet company.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's Coming Right For Us!

This is a quick video of Jackson zipping down the brick-lined sidewalk next to the Kirkwood Observatory in Bloomington. I got two videos very similar to this one a few weeks ago when we were in Bloomington; but my timing was all wrong, and the videos were way too long. I tried to edit the better one, but wound up with a clip that took up twice the disk space of the original, despite being about 80% shorter. So...when we stopped in Bloomington this afternoon, on our way back from Mammoth Cave National Park, I was fortunate enough to get the same basic video, in a shorter, more compact version.

To wit:


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Deep Thoughts #100 - Special Topical Right-Wing Fearmongering Edition

Hang on…you mean conservative wing-nuts are using entrapment and manipulation to scare people about yet another social issue they get wrong?

Friday, June 06, 2014

Seven Come Eleven and She Could Be Mine

Unfortunately, I forgot to get a picture of Jackson in the morning before school yesterday, and Amy had her two-hour choir jamboree that was already in progress when I got back from work at another mainstream cinema - and that left the unwrapping of the present we got him as my only opportunity to get a birthday picture of him for the ol' blog. Our house throws light oddly, and I'm still taking pictures with a point-and-shoot my brother-in-law brought home from the desert about a decade ago - which is a long way around saying that the selection ain't optimal.

Nevertheless, the streak remains intact for at least one more year - and Amy and I find ourselves the parents of a 7-year-old. I still can't quite get my head around that.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I've Been Kidnapped By a Guatemalan Banana Monkey!

I wish I had taken a picture of the driveway leading down from the main street to the gate of the River House, the donated apartment house/complex where we stayed in Panajachel. That driveway was very steep, with standing water near the bottom; and when the vans delivering us from the airport in Guatemala City pulled up in front of the River House, we could see, even in the gathering dark, that it stood behind a gated wall, part of which was topped with razor wire. It wasn’t the first wall topped with razor wire I had seen that day, though the others had been in Guatemala City, which I had both read and been told was quite a bit rougher than most of the rest of the country—and yet there we were, arriving to stay at a place surrounded by a wall partially topped with razor wire. Not that there was anything to be done about it – the drivers were already unloading our luggage from the racks on top of the vans, and one of our trip coordinators was opening the door in the gate to let us into the compound. (I never quite stopped thinking about it that way.) And even though it was dark by that time, it was still obvious, if not quite as dramatic, that what lay outside the gate of the River House was much different than what lay inside, which was this:

That was our first glimpse of what the next week, in part, was going to be like for us in Guatemala; but I had a hard time shaking some of the things I had seen on our way to Panajachel. There was all of that razor wire I mentioned a moment ago, topping the walls of not a few buildings (and other compounds—there’s that word again) we saw on the road from the airport in Guatemala City. Some of those buildings were abandoned and crumbling, and some of them had rebar jutting up along the edges and corners of the roofs. We were told that the reason for the exposed rebar was so that if money were ever raised to finish the building in question, the contractor would have an idea of where to begin the work again, so that the building would retain roughly the same kind of structure it had had at the beginning of the project. There is no system of credit in Guatemala, at least as compared to the United States. If a construction project runs out of money, they just stop where they’re at.

People in Guatemala get by with much less than we do in the United States, but it’s difficult to appreciate the truth of that idea unless you see it for yourself; and once you’ve seen it, it’s hard to shake it. We saw and did a lot of amazing things—and I’m not much for using the word amazing in that kind of context, for pretty much the same reason Sam doesn’t like to say “I love you” in the film Ghost—in our short time in Guatemala; but there was also much that we saw that brought the truth of what it means to live among the middle class in the United States into sharp relief. This is the room where the students we worked on the basketball/soccer court for go to school every day:

They attend school for five hours a day, and public education in Guatemala, especially for the least well off people in the rural communities, generally stops at sixth grade. One morning, we stopped at Nueva Esperanza, a community that had been created for people displaced by Hurricane Stan. There, we were able to see the results of a previous project that Mission Guatemala had completed—a kitchen with cinder-block stoves, seen here being used by a group of women who are making tortillas by hand (in traditional Mayan dress):

You may not think it looks like much, especially compared to what you probably have at home; but it was a major upgrade over what they had before, which was this:

I cannot properly convey the spirit of so many of the people we met during our time in Guatemala. I’m sure they’re not all happy-go-lucky, and maybe many of them put on their bravest faces for us because we were easy marks who were eager to spend money on souvenirs; but there is a warmth and kindness to these people that cannot but alter your estimation of what constitutes a full life, a life well lived.

And yet it already seems far away. We’ve been back for a little over three weeks now, and it was all too easy to slip back into my routine. It would have been very easy to sit back and write a series of posts about everything we got to see and do while we were there, everything our position of relative privilege bought us, to post pictures of mountains, volcanoes, art, the surprisingly touristy streets of downtown Pana; but I couldn’t just look away from what was difficult to see. A lot of the pictures I took in Guatemala are of scenes that would not necessarily strike one as picture-worthy. I wanted to be sure I would be able to remember everything, and what all of it meant to me, because I knew it would fade once I returned home.

I know I won’t forget the six-person tuk-tuk ride, or stepping into a brothel half by mistake, or the Spanish guitar at Circus Bar the last night we were there, or what one of the guys in the group looked like wearing the traditional Mayan skirt his wife had bought for herself, or the way a little boy named Brandon Omar (all of seven years old) ran up to me and gave me a hug out of the clear blue sky the day we stopped in Nueva Esperanza, or the guy who tried to sell me marijuana (“Weed cheap!”), or the beautifully simmered black beans and handmade tortillas and fried plantains that we seemed to eat a little bit of every day we were there. I’ll write about the touristy stuff and post those pictures later. It was the less touristy stuff we saw and did that often made the biggest impression, and absolutely made me want to redouble my efforts to “live simply, so that others may simply live.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Deep Thoughts #99

Has anyone ever thought it a good idea to read A People’s History of the United States concurrently with any part of In Search of Lost Time?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Deep Thoughts #98

Finally, that smug wiseacre who won nearly $300,000 by playing the board the wrong way lost when his Daily Double strategy backfired on him.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Toothless Snow-Eater and the Giant Sledding Hill!

This past Sunday, Amy bribed Jackson with the promise of letting him tackle the Sledding Hill at Fort Harrison if he promised first to go cheerfully on a walk with us. It's a fairly respectable system she has developed for getting him to do things we want him to do that he doesn't necessarily want to do himself. He was very excited when we got into the park and he could see the Sledding Hill from where we parked the car. We walked most of the 2.5-mile loop around the Duck Pond and Delaware Lake on the Harrison Trace trail, and I was able to get quite a lot of pictures of the snow-covered landscape - as well as a number of Jackson the Snow Eater.

And then once we were done with the trail, we came back to the sledding hill and let Jackson go to town. He walked his little sled all the way to the top of the hill five times and came whooshing back down. The first time was the best for sheer reaction, but I did not get a video of that one. The second one might have been more exciting, though, because he wound up shooting right toward me when he got to the bottom.


I posted a few more pictures on my photo page.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Brian Bosma is a Coward

The dishonorable speaker of Indiana's House of Representatives, Brian Bosma, has voiced the possibility of replacing members of the House Judiciary Committee who may not vote the way he wants them to vote on the legislative abortion known as HJR-3, the Indiana Discrimination Amendment. This would be the second shameful act of cowardice by the House with respect to this bill - the first being to rename it from HJR-6, in order to confuse stupid Hoosiers.

The good folks at Freedom Indiana have another convenient e-mail form you can use to write to Herr Bosma and tell him what a coward he is.

Also, anyone who votes for this bill should be voted out of office at the earliest opportunity, for abuse of power and dereliction of duty. The proper role of government is to protect rights, not to take them away. The state of Indiana would be permanently damaged if this bill were to pass, which makes passing it - and voting for it - an act of treason. If, Darwin help us, this bill makes it to the ballot in November, any Hoosier voting for it would also be guilty of an act of treason.

That's a lot to have on your conscience for something the U.S. Supreme Court is eventually going to overturn anyway, don't you think?