Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jackson Races the Cheetah Again

And once again, he loses. This video is a little bit better than the last one I posted. Seems I can't quite get enough of posting videos of Jackson racing the cheetah. There are, naturally, lots of photos from today's trip to the zoo; and, also naturally, I plan to post some of them to my photo site once I have them curated. (But then again, that's what I always say.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Best. Bumper Sticker. Ever. #5

So we’re heading home from the Central Library this afternoon and while going south down East Street, pull in behind this car with a bunch of bumper stickers on it—also a Kentucky license plate and an Avon advertisement tattooed to the back window (though neither of these things probably means anything at all); and one of those bumper stickers is:

The person—and Darwin as my witness, I swear I could not tell from that distance whether it was a man or a woman in the driver’s seat—had two opportunities to use their turn signals before we parted ways. The person managed to signal their turn from East Street to New York Street, but not their lane change somewhere between East and LaSalle. One out of two for a person who went to the trouble to apply a bumper sticker exhorting others to use their turn signals.

The person also had a Rand Paul for Senate sticker on the same bumper, along with a number of stickers alluding to tree hugging, dirt worshipping, and that sort of thing—so it’s possible that they might just have been a lunatic. (And yes, I suppose it does go without saying that anyone who supports any of the political Paul family would pretty much have to be batshit fucking crazy anyway.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Deep Thoughts #83

Another “amazing” achievement for Dario Franchitti: a third win at Indianapolis; and he coasted to all three of those wins under the yellow.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Color of Right

"Gravity and distance change the color of right." —Rush, "The Color of Right"

Yes, he may have come out—so to speak—and said it only because his Vice President couldn’t keep his yap shut (not that keeping his yap shut has ever been Joe Biden’s strong suit); but the fact remains that President Obama did state publicly that he believes that gays and lesbians should be able to marry. He could have backtracked it; he could have hedged his bets (which he sort of did, but not really); he could have distanced himself from it by saying that Vice President Biden had been expressing his own opinion, not the opinion of the Obama administration or anyone else in it; or he could easily have repeated the flaccid statements he has made in the past, leaning on the crutch of his religion in order to defend an indefensible position.

But the President did none of those things (except sort of hedge his bets—which is, like, totally unusual for a politican to do). He stood up and said what he thought, even though it’s still not an overwhelmingly popular position; and he did so just as his campaign for re-election is getting underway. Regardless of what you think of the guy personally or politically, I think it’s difficult to look at what he did and not admit that it’s a risky thing to do in an election year. I keep reading that most people in this fading republic support gay marriage, but that seems optimistic to me. Maybe it’s just that I’m seated here in Indiana, an overwhelmingly rural and ignorant state.

I don’t know if publicly supporting gay marriage helps the President in his bid for a second term or not. I seem daily to be getting more and more disillusioned with politics and politicians. Most politicians spend far too much time (and money) trying to get elected again, and not nearly enough time doing things that warrant their having been elected in the first place—never mind genuinely impressive things that are also the right thing to do.

Supporting gay marriage is absolutely the right thing to do. I completely agree with the Comment piece in last week’s issue of The New Yorker, which calls gay marriage an “historic inevitability.” I’m not sure whether it matters if President Obama made his public statement for political gain or not, because I’m not sure that there can be a wrong reason for doing the right thing. (I bet there probably is some technical argument for why, philosophically, it’s bad to do the right thing for the wrong reason—but that doesn’t change the inherent rightness of the thing in question.) Elections are an ugly, messy business in this fading republic; and they so often produce lies and distortions that serve no one but ignorant voters who can’t be bothered to pay attention to anything longer than a thirty-second television ad.

Even if it was only for political gain—and it most definitely was not only for political gain—then President Obama’s public statement on gay marriage is at least something good and right that came out of an election campaign. It’s not an attack on anyone else—just an expression of one man’s feelings. It’s strong, courageous leadership from an awfully good President.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Deep Thoughts #82

Three years’ worth of marching band in high school apparently is not enough to make up for what a disappointing, liberal piece of shit I am.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Deep Thoughts #81

Jeremiah Wright was not important four years ago, and he is not important now. It’s just another non-issue for rural simpletons to dry hump.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Path of the Beam, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Tilda

So I’m at a point in the writing where I have to write the section where the not-doing-so-well-in-his-classes college freshman goes to see the film Orlando so he can write a short paper about it and get some extra credit from his English professor. The scene is set up with the freshman showing up by himself at the Fine Arts building. There, he runs into a girl he has met only once or twice all semester (this is taking place right before Thanksgiving), and who has wound up screaming at him (for things that were not his fault) each time they have met. She apologizes to him for having been hotheaded with him before, he shrugs it off, and they go in to watch the film. When it’s over, the girl wants very much to go out for pie and talk about the movie.

I have not been looking forward to writing this section (and particularly this scene) because I don’t feel like I know the film well enough to convicingly write people who are talking about it like they have just seen it. I certainly don’t know it well enough to write the two-page paper on what the film was trying to say and what it meant to the student who saw it. That could probably be remedied, if I were to watch the film for a third time myself. Unfortunately, I don’t own a copy of it, and the library does not have one, either. (The library also does not have a copy of the Virginia Woolf novel the film was based on. The mind reels.) I was sort of hoping for instant gratification on this one. I can get it from Netflix, but the DVD would not arrive until Saturday.

I have a cheap copy of the novel, something I got from the clearance racks at Half Price Books to stem the tide between not owning that book at all and owning an edition that was actually worth owning; but I don’t want to just drop the other things I’m reading to spend that much time on a novel I’d be reading pretty much just so I could write one section of this story (leaving off the fact that reading Viriginia Woolf is its own reward). (Also, the section I’m writing is supposed to be about the film. Though I have seen it twice, I don’t know it well enough to be able to read the novel and separate what was in the film from what was not.) So long story short, that leaves cheating—at least for the next day or two, until I get the DVD from Netflix.

There are several different avenues one could take if one needs to get good information about a film without actually watching that film, but I’m not going to make an exhaustive list of them; this rambling bit of nonsense is short on point to begin with. More and more, I find myself consulting Roger Ebert when I want to read a small amount about a film. In addition to having a remarkable knowledge of and appreciation for film, Mr. Ebert is also a very good writer. Though Orlando came out before Al Gore invented the magical interwebs, I was hoping that someone might have gotten around to archiving the print review that Mr. Ebert would have written; and sure enough, when I Googled “roger ebert orlando,” I got his review at the top of the list. It begins with a short paragraph on the premise of the story, and the next paragraph is but a sentence, and would you believe that that sentence is:

“This is the kind of movie you want to talk about afterward.”

See? I was trying to write a section about two people sitting down over pie to talk about Orlando, and I wound up finding a review that describes it as just such a film—one that you want to sit down and talk about when it’s over. Now, vis à vis the cosmos, such a thing is utterly meaningless. But for me, there is a harmonic there. I did not choose Orlando as the film for the section I am writing because I thought it might be something you’d want to sit down and talk about afterward. I chose it because I actually did go see it when I was a freshman in college—and I didn’t understand it at all. All I knew for sure after I saw Orlando was that Billy Zane was awesome and that Tilda Swinton was an absolutely stunning nude.

However, the film stuck with me (though that says more about what I thought of my freshman year in college than it says about what I thought of Orlando), and I eventually developed an affection for Virginia Woolf, which has lasted over the years—due mostly to reading A Room of One’s Own later in college, and then seeing The Hours (which led, of course, to Mrs. Dalloway). I got back to Orlando a few years ago when I got it from Netflix, and I even started to write about it—but that post wound up in the vast wasteland that is my “Un-Posted” folder. I expected that I would get around to writing about it in a novel setting at some point—and it would appear that that point has arrived.

It’s a happy accident that Roger Ebert wrote what he wrote about Orlando, a sentence that was written nearly twenty years ago; and it is also entirely coincidental that I ran across that sentence at the time that I ran across it, and for the reason that I ran across it. (And do I feel a little bit good that my idea for situating the film in my story equates to something that Mr. Ebert thought was true about the film when he watched it? Yes. In a stupid little way, I do.) It’s a minor inspiration, but it’s an inspiration—a small sign that maybe I have finally landed on the Path of the Beam.

Deep Thoughts #80

The aspiring indie filmmaker who thinks Boogie Nights was a biopic should probably not be at the top of the list of people you want to hire.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Come On You Miner for Truth and Delusion, and Shine!

I read a hell of a lot of crap; and I don’t just mean that I read a large amount of material (though that is also true). A lot of what I read is crappy. Books of all different stripes, magazines, articles on the magic internets—even the occasional newspaper! But even given all the time that I spend reading, it’s pretty rare that I wind up reading anything that actually moves me. It’s even more surprising when what I read moves me to feel an emotion for a person I had always previously considered utterly repugnant. To borrow a phrase from the article I’m talking about, it was “utterly surreal” Wednesday afternoon when I read a Boston Review article by Bill Ayers and felt, at the end, a bizarre stab of pity for that most unlikely of souls—the late Andrew Breitbart.

At this point I am debating about whether to go into book report mode and summarize the article, in order to comply with my own loose interpretation of journalistic ethics; or whether I should just soldier on with how I responded to the article. (I do not know what it is about me that dictates whether or not I respond cynically to something. I only know that sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. A simple Google search for Andrew Breitbart, Bill Ayers, and dinner on Super Bowl Sunday, will turn up a Salon article, by Joan Walsh, that contains not a small amount of cnyicism at some of the things Mr. Ayers wrote in his article.)

I suppose I am less prone to respond cynically to the article by Mr. Ayers because I have read enough material in the Boston Review to know that they are not given to publishing writing that is sentimental just for the sake of being sentimental. The articles published in the magazine are thoughtful, challenging, dense, and often thought-provoking—though I think ultimately that they are aimed at very serious thinkers. I like to think of myself as a thoughtful and intelligent person, but I am not sure that I would call myself a very serious thinker. (If am a serious thinker, then I am certainly at least one or two notches below the kinds of thinkers at whom articles in the Boston Review are generally aimed.)

I also don’t think that Mr. Breitbart was the kind of person who would say or write something for public consumption if he was not sincere about it. I don’t think that I ever agreed with anything he said or any of the positions that he advocated, and I certainly did not care for his style of rabble rousing; but he revealed a human side in the comments he made during the radio interview after his dinner with Mr. Ayers. (It turns out that I am not going to go into book report mode, mostly because I hope that anyone who reads this will go ahead and click on the link to the Boston Review article and read what Mr. Ayers wrote and what Mr. Bretibart had to say about Mr. Ayers at the end.)

There is far too little constructive give and take in the arenas of politics and policy today. The men and women who hold elected office spend so much time trying to keep their jobs that they forget to do their jobs. (And if you think that sounds like something that Aaron Sorkin wrote, then you’re right.) Having a majority of seats in either house of Congress does not give either party the right to try to ram its agenda down the throat of the other party; and the other side of that coin is that the minority party doesn’t have the right to say no to everything, just because the other party says yes. Both sides have to stand up and demonstrate trust; both sides have to be willing to compromise; and both sides have to have the courage to go back to the people who elected them and convince them that what they are doing is the right thing to do.

If people like Bill Ayers and Andrew Breitbart can get together for dinner and come away from the evening thinking well of someone they might not have believed they could think well of, then surely other people who don’t necessarily agree with each other can do it, too. It sounds awfully idealistic, I know; and it’s almost certainly a pipe dream. (And, yes, maybe the whole thing was trumped up, too; but I don’t believe that.) But when so much of what we hear and read is full of dread and dour predictions, it makes the tiny signals of hope, that too many people miss because they’ve lost the will to look for them, shine the brighter.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Richard Lugar for Senate

In just a few short hours, I will be walking over to the third different polling place to which we have been assigned since we moved from our apartment in Southport to our house in Irvington. The election volunteer at the polling place will check my identification, per the discriminatory state law, and then ask whether I would like a ballot with the names of Republicans or Democrats on it. If I really had my druthers, I’d get a ballot with the names of liberals on it; but this is a stupid state filled with stupid people, and you’d have better luck getting an abortion performed on Easter by a lesbian Catholic priest than you would of finding enough Indiana liberals, in the same place at the same time, to get a game of euchre.

Ordinarily, I would ask for the Democrat ballot and then go about my business. Though I have made a handful of exceptions since becoming an informed person, I don’t vote for Republicans. There are roughly a gajillion reasons for this (an example of which would be that I am not in the Ku Klux Klan); and even when I make that rare exception and vote for a Republican, that person almost always winds up disappointing me. The only exception to this annoying wave of disappointment is Senator Richard Lugar, himself a rare politician who seems genuinely to be more concerned with getting things done and working and playing well with others than about fiery party rhetoric and saying “no” for the sake of saying “no.”

In a post-Tea Party world, however, such a standard operating procedure is not doing Senator Lugar any favors. The ultra-right-wing of the Republican party (motto: Redefining Batshit Fucking Crazy for the Internet Age! #homophobicracistoldwhitemen) has put State Treasurer Richard Mourdock up against Senator Lugar in the primary election. The Chicago Tribune reports that Mourdock is up 10 points in a poll conducted over the weekend before the primary election. The same newspaper quotes Mourdock, in a different article, as saying that, “The time for being collegial is past. It’s time for confrontation.”

(This, of course, makes one wonder at Mr. Mourdock’s powers of observation and analysis. If he has been watching the Republicans on the national stage since the inauguration of President Obama, and he has evaluted anything taking place in Washington as collegial, then Richard Mourdock is a retard. And yet people in Indiana are going to vote for this monkey, which once again reinforces the overwhelmingly obvious conclusion that Indiana is a stupid state populated by mostly stupid people, who will believe whatever they are told to believe by the puppet masters who control the completely context-free zone of television advertising.)

Unlike most of the humans in Congress, Senator Lugar has a long list of significant accomplishments, and a history of working and playing well with others. He co-sponsored the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would, more than any other solution offered by anyone anywhere on earth, help to solve the problem of illegal immigration. However, because it is not a xenophobic, racist solution, most Americans—especially gun-toting Republican lunatics in the border towns—are not in favor of it (if you can actually find someone who knows enough about it to discuss it). He has also worked tirelessly to reduce the stockpiles of nuclear weapons around the world; but that’s also a non-starter for a lot of people in the post-Tea Party world, because even though Senator Lugar is better known generally for having worked with former Senator Sam Nunn on nuclear stockpile reduction, he’s better known of late for having worked with former Senator Barack Obama on the same issue. That kind of thing does not sit well with the swastika coalition of the Republican Party.

Most of the time, career politicans—Senator Lugar is seeking his 7th term in the United States Senate, following eight years as mayor of Indianapolis—wind up getting complacent, with the quality of their work becoming subject to the law of diminishing returns; but Senator Lugar is the rare example of someone who has devoted his life to public service and whose work in that capacity merits the continuation of that service. A sclerotic Congress will have a hard time drumming up support for and passage of the DREAM Act. Such an institution does not just benefit from having someone like Senator Lugar in its ranks—it absolutely requires someone like him.

You need to be very wary of people who say that Senator Lugar is part of the problem in Washington. There is literally no factual basis for this assertion, and such an assertion is more than likely being uttered by a racist who hates Senator Lugar for having worked with then-Senator Obama. It is with this in mind that I will grit my teeth and ask for a Republican ballot at my (new) polling place here in an hour or so. The earth contains very few Republicans of any shred of value at all. Senator Richard Lugar is one of those rare people, and I support his continued service in the United States Senate.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Deep Thoughts #79 - May the Fourth Be With You

Amy and Jackson were actually watching a Star Wars movie when I got home from work last night—and Amy didn’t even know it was Star Wars Day.