Archive for January, 2010

Tiny Review, Terrible Movie: 2012

A great big dread-filled NOOOOOOOO !!!! to anyone thinking of watching 2012. I watched it due to the famous Cusack Sentimentality Quotient, which of course affects all people of my age group who watched One Crazy Summer back in the 80’s. And really, even though he didn’t do a bad job with his lines or anything, you can only polish a turd just so much.

It was just horrible: overly long, common-sense-challenged, & boring when it wasn’t absolutely overdramatic. It was your typical Roland Emmerich movie, turned up to 11. I see no further avenues of action for Mr Emmerich here, so perhaps simply for that reason alone weshould rejoice for the making of 2012.  Once you’ve done the end of the world as an action movie director… not much left to do, is there?

Interestingly, I discovered that one can only see so many hundreds of people die horribly before one just goes a little numb. But apparently one CAN ignore many hundreds of plot holes and still release a movie expecting it to succeed.  (And I believe it did do fairly well, so great job, way to lower the bar, Hollywood. And that is saying something, as the bar cannot get any lower without a shovel and a mighty patient ditch digger.)

I remember watching Independence Day at the theater when it came out, and it was the same experience, basically, only without Will Smith for charisma, Bill Pullman for gravitas, and Randy Quaid for comic relief. If anyone is thinking of watching it, I won’t say don’t bother, because what do I know, right?, but I will just remind you that you can never have those 150 minutes of your life back.

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Another sad day for Democrats.

Well, what can I say that hasn’t been said already?  Coakley lost an election that was basically a bulletproof win, simply because she thought it was.  (And possibly also because she sucks.)  How is that for irony?

This is unquestionably a pretty bad day for Team Demmy. Thankfully, I live in a very conservative area, in which several people know of my liberal leanings, and as a result I heartily welcome being beaten about the face and neck rhetorically by my conservative overlords.

What is the lesson that the people in power need to take away from this? The sadness of it is that there is no new lesson, save the old Molly Ivins standby that “you have to dance with them what brung you” (I say it here as almost a dirge), by which I mean that if you field a shitty candidate, how can you expect anything but the same kind of end result?

Even though Brown is very likely a less than optimal sort of guy from where I stand, at least it can be said that he was no slouch. Healthcare MIGHT be dead as result of this; it may not. I can’t say I was too excited about it anyway, but surely the people in Washington can see clearly now that NOT getting it passed is only going to make things stronger for the opposition? Can we at last agree, both the John Coles and the Jane Hamshers of the left, that what we really need right now is some solidarity in the party? It’s hard to believe that hard-left activism come 2012 is going to win anything but yet another righteous, but pointless, loss. I know we Democrats are famous for that but it’s time to do what the GOP does so well: concentrate on the contest as a contest, viewing the win as an end in itself. It is shallow, I know. But I think it’s going to be crucial, as is the complete and utter abandonment of any pretense of bipartisanship. That ship has sailed and sunk already.

Can anyone tell that I am rehearsing for what I am going to say at work tomorrow? Such concessions have to seem natural, dammit.

A reply and an uncertain smile.

So, I’m still considering replying with what I had spent so much time on.   Here it is:

”The disillusionment on the Internet is becoming increasingly repetitive – the country’s backbone is waking up.  Will they listen?  Or do we have to embrace the radicals she mentions?”

I’m not entirely sure who “they” is supposed to represent, though I see the overall gist of it clearly enough.

That’s an interesting letter, [name removed].  I got this from a family member as well, and for some reason it was rather thought provoking to me, though not in the way you both had probably hoped.  I do so hate to disagree with people I so obviously admire, but then if it were an impossible to do so, perhaps I wouldn’t even be able to speak to my own father, who to me is completely wrongheaded, smart and loveable, but in the end a bit of a dittohead from Goodoleboyville.   To him I am probably a bit of a godless Communist, despite being neither an atheist nor a Communist (though I admit to being too secular and too liberal for his standards).  But then, we can work on cars together, we both love action movies and sci-fi novels for the same reasons, and we can even talk about our political differences without throwing punches.  So what if he reads Robert Heinlein and I prefer Stephen Baxter.  But anyway, I read the anonymous preface to this little letter taking the email world by storm, which was highlighted above the letter itself, and can only say: kids in the Bible Belt say the darndest things! Yeah, I’m not really from around here and it shows, sometimes.

One small but potent argument to this letter is obvious: Where was this lady when Medicare Part D was passed? Where were the people shouting “Get your ***damned government hands off my Medicare!” when Bush was talking up converting everything over into Health Savings Accounts?  Where was she or others of her ilk when we funded two wars (one of which – Iraq – was planned for as a contingency several years in advance, and so really should have had a better plan both for funding and for realistic expectation of outcome) both of which were set into motion with a ChinaBank credit card and by the end of which had very nearly doubled the national debt, before Barry Obama had even set foot in the door? But she presumes to lecture the AARP, the single biggest populist lobby in Washington, about fiscal responsibility (which, interestingly enough, was initially founded only to be useful as an extended advertisement for the nascent health insurance industry of the 1950’s).   Bold move, lady friend, though a little presumptuous.  I would take these Beck/Palin/Tea Party activists a LOT more seriously if I felt like they had any philosophical consistency.

No, I do not lean as far to the right as most of my Southern friends, to their eternal consternation and my eternal mischievous delight, but I know all I have to do is look at one chart to see that, really, there is no need to lean in either direction when it comes to noting the decrease in our financial security:

source

Everyone gets blame here.  No-one is spared, least of all the average American, who cares little about politics and much about American Idol.  I won’t go into that here, though it merits an awful lot of braintime on its own.  But when it comes to our current economic dilemma, to my mind the biggest cause of it rests not with risky homebuyers or risky lending policy, but in the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era safety valve separating the financial world from the banking world, which was enthusiastically rolled back through legislation by a Republican congressional majority and happily executed by a Democratic president ten years ago.  The now infamous collateralized debt obligations begun by Citibank and other institutions are directly descended from its repeal, and if you follow any major economist writing today (including Alan Greenspan, who presided over their creation) none of them are very sure that the drama they created is really fully contained.   It only took ten years to bring the pain, after more than 60 years of success with its use.  One might rightfully ask these people if they can ever be rich enough for their own satisfaction, as sector lobbyists are fighting tooth and nail to prevent Glass-Steagall from getting re-enacted.  I recognize the right for these movers and shakers to make their money: I know if I had that sort of all-consuming ambition (and I thank God that I do not), it would be important to me too.  But at this point it would take Jesus himself coming down from heaven to say “No, really man, CDOs are okay.  The key is good management!” before I ever trusted those guys again.  (And I’d probably ask his reasoning before I let it drop.)

In reference to the vague mention of socialism in the letter, one is always free to agree or disagree with the tenets of socialism as a societal engine, and there is a valid argument to make about the limits of effectiveness that any social safety net can provide for people on the skids, but this lady has said nothing to lead me to believe that she even knows what the word means.  There is simply no “there” there, as they say.  Socialism is not an on/off switch, it is simply a question of degree. Road-building is socialism. Nation-building certainly is, and both parties have been doing plenty of that since WWII. From firefighting to Medicare to corporate farm and energy subsidies: isn’t it really just any policy which allocates tax dollars to the application of works for the “public good”?  A pretty general idea that doesn’t automatically put one in mind of Chairman Mao.

Anyway. I’m a fiscal policy small-c conservative, a social policy liberal, a foreign policy minimalist.  In the early 80’s, I could have happily been a Republican or a Democrat. Now I can be neither, and how messed up is that?  The lady in this letter is right in that there is certainly a constituency in this country that has grievances enough to complain about, but it’s not the Right: it’s the centrists.  Because the center is no longer considered a tenable stance. Moderation is now thought of simply as equivocation.  Compromise is weakness.  If that trend-line continues, the smarmy hints that this lady made to armed revolution are going to come back and bite her on the butt.  Look, let’s say that she is right, her secret dreams come true and The Great Reclamation of Apple-Pie America From The Undercover Muslim And Yet Somehow Also Black Liberation Theologian Barack Obama happens in 2011.  She is going to find out that her side isn’t so big after all, because I believe the great majority of people who think about these things at all agree that both the far left and the far right are equally obsessed with being correct, in a world where “correct thought” is constantly pimp-slapped to submission by harsh reality.  No, this next civil war, if it were to happen, won’t have two sides, it will have three and the third (and by far biggest) side will win simply by attrition, assuming the Chinese don’t just decide to call us out on our long-term debt, ruin our currency exchange rate and destroy us through the wonders of economic consequence, along with the rest of the Western nations we love to criticize.  But going to all this trouble for some stupid ideology is obscene in my view, because ideologies are not and never were meant to be taken as “right” or “wrong”, because ideology is not a teleological basis for any sort of accurate model of reality: it’s just people trying to drive a square peg (our worldview) into a round hole (our puny understanding of the world around us), and is only helpful for the purposes of debate.  Any anthropologist worth their weight in pottery shards can tell you that human beings on the whole are just not very good at making organizations of more than a few hundred people work in any meaningful and lasting way: disease vectors increase by several orders of magnitude as population increases; economics becomes completely opaque and mysterious (as we’ve seen, the Wall Street Masters of the Universe who were supposed to be keeping our economy going really had no useful knowledge for the prevention of the latest disaster, even though some of their own regulatory guys saw it coming since early 2007); finally, you’ve got the fact that the human brain (for all of its great potential), is really only capable of making a few dozen friends at a time on an emotional level. You only have to look at the dozens and dozens of factions of Baptists that exist in the South to see that: if anything I’m saying is true, certainly it seems to be true that humans are happiest when at odds with each other, no matter how trivial the argument.  If the Baptists can’t even hold an effective quorum on whether or not dancing or secular music is an allowable form of self-expression, why does anyone think that placing faith in one political ideology versus another is going to lead to anything but tears?

That’s why, to my mind at least, the best thing a “patriot” can do is to try and participate less in this fun but ultimately mindless bickering between the two parties and try his best to get rid of the two-party system altogether.  There is no constitutional precedent which mandates a two party system, it’s just grown up out of nothing, from tradition perhaps, or in the interests of the consolidation of power.  In Thomas Jefferson’s time there were dozens of parties on the fringe and five or six at any one time in Congress.  If we could get back to that, it would do more to make our leaders honest than K-Street reform and campaign finance reform put together, because then the moderates would have more control by far than the purists.  Making things happen more slowly through checks and balances in Washington is always a good thing, whether you are an advocate for the fair tax or socialized medicine or the next war against [insert tribe here].

I’m not going to go far into the anti-immigration argument.  It’s touchy.  Myself, I’m only three generations removed from the unskilled Polish immigrants who came here (legally, though immigration law was not so straightforward back then) to work because of the encroaching Nazi threat.  My ancestors happened to be whiter than some, which perhaps made it easier for them to assimilate our hodge-podge of a culture which was itself cobbled together from previous immigrant settlers, but more importantly, they came at a time when the doors to America were thrown wide open because as it was in the midst of the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, America was actively fighting against under-population for a long time.  Things are different now in many ways, and I’m not arguing against that reality. I AM saying that some “compassionate conservatism” would be in order here at the very least: no one is coming over here from over there with the intention of wrecking the country. Sure, you might have your occasional bum or terrorist (or the ever-elusive terrorist bum), but I dare you to try and find a way to keep those guys out that actually works.  It just cannot be done, the country is too big and border is naturally too porous. No, by and large, the illegals are just coming for the same reasons my own family did: because the hand they’ve been dealt currently stinks, and because they heard this place might increase the odds.

end

FWD: Just when I think I’m out, they keep pulling me back in!

I received this in my email today from a guy I work for, a sort of second boss in a way, a person I also proudly call “friend”.  Receiving this has in no way changed that status, by the way, but it was, well, surprising to me that he thought I would be interested in it.

Copy/pasted to me as follows:

Subject: AARP

I  find this very interesting reading, so let’s keep it going if you agree.  It only takes a few days on the Internet and this will have reached 75% of the public in the U.S.A.   Seniors need to stand up for what is right, not what the politicians want or big Corporations want.

The disillusionment on the Internet is becoming increasingly repetitive – the country’s backbone is waking up.  Will they listen?  Or do we have to embrace the radicals she mentions?

This was sent to Mr. Rand who is the Executive Director of AARP.

THIS LADY NOT ONLY HAS A GRASP OF ‘THE SITUATION’ BUT AN INCREDIBLE COMMAND OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE!

Dear Mr. Rand,

Recently you sent us a letter encouraging us to renew our lapsed membership in AARP by the requested date. I know it is not what you were looking for, but this is the most honest response I can give you. Our gap in coverage is merely a microscopic symptom of the real problem, a deepening lack of faith.

While we have proudly maintained our membership for several years and have long admired the AARP goals and principles, regrettably, we can no longer endorse it’s abdication of our values. Your letter specifically stated that we can count on AARP to speak up for our rights, yet the voice we hear is not ours. Your offer of being kept up to date on important issues through DIVIDED WE FAIL presents neither an impartial view nor the one we have come to embrace. We do believe that when two parties agree all the time on everything presented to them, one is probably not necessary. But, when the opinions and long term goals are diametrically opposed, the divorce is imminent. This is the philosophy which spawned our 200 years of government.

Once upon a time, we looked forward to being part of the senior demographic. We also looked to AARP to provide certain benefits and give our voice a power we could not possibly hope to achieve on our own. AARP gave us a sense of belonging which we no longer enjoy. The Socialist politics practiced by the Obama administration and empowered by AARP serves only to raise the blood pressure my medical insurance strives to contain. Clearly a conflict of interest there!

We do not understand the AARP posture, feel greatly betrayed by the guiding forces that we expected to map out our senior years and leave your ranks with a great sense of regret. We mitigate that disappointment with the relief of knowing that we are not contributing to the problem anymore by renewing our membership. There are numerous other organizations which offer discounts without threatening our way of life or offending our sensibilities.

This Presidential Administration scares the living daylights out of us. Not just for ourselves, but for our proud and bloodstained heritage. But even more importantly for our children and grandchildren. Washington has rendered Soylent Green a prophetic cautionary tale rather than a nonfiction scare tactic. I have never in my life endorsed any militant or radical groups, yet now I find myself listening to them. I don’t have to agree with them to appreciate the fear which birthed their existence. Their borderline insanity presents little more than a balance to the voice of the Socialist mindset in power. Perhaps I became American by a great stroke of luck in some cosmic uterine lottery, but in my adulthood I CHOOSE to embrace it and nurture the freedoms it represents as well as the responsibilities it requires.

Your website generously offers us the opportunity to receive all communication in Spanish. ARE YOU KIDDING??? Someone has broken into our ‘house’, invaded our home without our invitation or consent. The President has insisted we keep the perpetrator in comfort and learn the perp language so we can communicate our reluctant welcome to them.

I DON’T choose to welcome them.

I DON’T choose to support them.

I DON’T choose to educate them.

I DON’T choose to medicate them, pay for their food or clothing.

American home invaders get arrested.

Please explain to me why foreign lawbreakers can enjoy privileges on American soil that Americans do not get?

Why do some immigrants have to play the game to be welcomed and others only have to break & enter to be welcomed?

We travel for a living. Walt hauls horses all over this great country, averaging over 10,000 miles a month when he is out there. He meets more people than a politician on caffeine overdose. Of all the many good folks he enjoyed on this last 10,000 miles, this trip yielded only ONE supporter of the current administration. One of us is out of touch with mainstream America . Since our poll is conducted without funding, I have more faith in it than one which is power driven.

We have decided to forward this to everyone on our mailing list, and will encourage them to do the same. With several hundred in my address book, I have every faith that the eventual exponential factor will make a credible statement to you.

I am disappointed as hell.
I am scared as hell.

I am MAD as hell, and I’m NOT gonna take it anymore!

Walt & Cyndy
Miller Farms Equine Transport

So, what does one say to that kind of viewpoint, when one has a worldview that doesn’t really match it?  I’ll tell you what he does: he constructs over the period of about five hours, a carefully worded reply, and then chickens out and doesn’t send it.  At least, I don’t think I should send it.  But is that right?  I’m thinking.  My reply is next, so see what you think.

Tiny Review, Epic Movie: The Road

Well I just finished watching The Road.

It was bleak. A sad thing happened at the end and it made me cry. I mean, I’ve gotten teary-eyed at movies before but this was just an atrocious festival of woe.  I felt on the edge of some kind of horrible breakdown at one particular point.  So, it was emotionally very effective, in other words.

In the end, I feel better having watched it, there was a lot of great imagery (if your favorite color is grey, this is your movie) although, just like I felt when I read the book, the very end was just too much fairyland nonsense for me to buy. As much as I want to believe that things happened the way they did in the last five minutes, I just can’t get there.  I feel almost as if the ending was made the way it was just so people wouldn’t actually kill themselves over this book, I mean in really real life.

So, bleak, yes, but still worth watching, if one has the stomach for it.  I’m not sure everyone does.

My wife, who pretty much refuses by default to watch this movie (just as she refused to read the book on the grounds that it would probably kill her), has asked me before why I like this genre (post-apocalypse) and although it’s not something I’ve thought very much about, I guess I probably like it because it reminds me of the triviality of my own problems. So for those of us in the need for some perspective in trying times, The Road may be the movie of the year.

And also, Viggo Mortensen is my hero and if I were a woman, I would gladly have his children, apocalypse or no apocalypse.

Something Something and Auld Lang Syne

& so tonight comes baby new year, maybe yours can be a happy one, as can mine, although i think mine threw up on the carpet when he walked in the door, so i’m looking at it as at a startled deer would look at me, unbelieving and scared: the egg timer of the universe is rolling over again already.  friends do not let friends drunk-blog, but tonight precludes all possibility of proper thinking, the holiday being what is, and the rules can thus be ignored for a night.

i should be happy, my wife has a job after way too long waiting.  nonetheless i feel melancholy, ambivalent at best, because things are about to change.  jeannie is going to work again, and therefore i am going back to school.  the degree i should have gotten ten years ago is now upon me. five years ago, i was willing but not able, now it is the opposite.  in this life we never quite know what the best choice is, do we?  the most important thing i’ve learned in the past five years is just to do SOMETHING, dammit.

so anyway, do something, and i’ll do the same: in ten or twenty years time we’ll see how it all turned out.


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Currently Reading:

Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame - Charles Bukowski

Currently Listening:

Mr. Bungle - California

Why, yes, I am cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.

You lika de juice????