Thursday, November 13, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wonder what next week will be like...
Till then, something to make us all realize that minor disasters can be pretty funny, as long as they happen to someone else:
http://view.break.com/593274 - Watch more free videos
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Be that as it may, my friend will probably end up voting for McCain, because he gets most of his news from right-wing talk radio, and because, over the years, he's accepted most of the Republican arguments without really looking at the difference between what they say and what they do.
After all, the party that ran on the promise of proposing an anti-abortion constitutional amendment had control of Congress and the White House for almost eight years, and somehow never managed to put that amendment on the front burner. The party that touts its fiscal responsibility has left our children with a crushing ten trillion dollar debt. The party that promotes its handling of military and foreign affairs sent our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters to die in Iraq without a clear plan to achieve "peace," or without a good reason for invading in the first place, and has made our country the enemy of human rights, and has destroyed our moral standing in the world. But none of that matters, because it's not what they do that's decisive, for the people who blindly support them, it's what they say. And it's what they say about the other guy that wins them elections -- because they're not afraid to use the Nazi "Big Lie" technique, having learned that people will believe anything if it fits with their prejudices.
Here's my response to the email my friend sent me:
Sadly, this is typical behavior for a party that's proven itself incapable of governing, bankrupt of ideas, and unwilling to face the consequences of thirty years of lying to the American people. They're reduced to making faces at their opponent, of exaggerating inconsequential issues, and in the process, they're attempting to confuse the voters into making yet another bad choice. As if on his worst day, doing the worst thing he's been accused of (and only accused of -- these anonymous emails are despicable, full of lies and innuendos that would make Joe McCarthy proud), Barrack Obama could be any more of a threat to our country than another four years of Republican misrule.
Really, aren't you tired of being played for a fool by people who hold you in contempt?
The Republicans are *not* on your side. They don't care one bit about you, about your family, about what you believe, or what you need. If they had their way, you and your family will be facing even worst economic news in the future than we are all facing now. Make no mistake: the situation our economy is in is a direct result of thirty years of free-market, anti-regulation, anti-government philosophy. This is the world Ronald Reagan, George Bush Senior and Junior, the Republicans in Congress, and their proud sponsors on Wall Street, have bequeathed us.
They know they've screwed up, they know that on the merits they don't have a case to make for another four years of mismanagement, corruption, stupidity, and malfeasance.
So, instead of fighting on the issues, they make up lies and distort the truth about their opponent.
Don't let them sucker you.
The very fact that they're raising this issue -- which was raised and dealt with ten months ago during the Democratic primary, and proven then to be a red herring -- is a clear sign they're desperate, and they're hoping that Lincoln can be proven right one more time. They're hoping to fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time.
I'm just hoping, for once, they can't fool all of the people all of the time.
It's 1932. Are you really going to cast a vote for Herbert Hoover?
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I've been thinking much the same thing lately, but rather than hash out my own take on what appear to be the Republicans' Last Days (ironic, ain't it?), I'll just pass this along, from the TPM blog and the commentator formerly known as NCSteve. (I tried to link to the blog entry but for some reason the page wouldn't allow it. Probably my technological incompetence at work.)
Is This the Beginning of the End for the Republican Party?
October 13, 2008, 7:50PM
Political parties are not immortal, even in this country.
The Federalists ceased to be a national party in 1800 and subsequently ceased being even a regional party with a national voice as a result of their opposition to the War of 1812. The lack of effective opposition after the Federalist Party's demise allowed simmering tensions within the Democratic Republican Party of Jefferson and Madison to come to a boil and it fissioned into the Jacksonian faction, which became today's Democratic Party, and everyone else. The remaining bits and pieces swirled around for a bit, forming minor parties and coalitions and within a fairly short time, these parties, along with the remnants of the Federalists,, coalesced into the Whigs.
The Whigs were hampered in developing a coherent ideology because doing so would have required them to confront the slavery issue head-on. Doing that, they knew, would have alienated voters in one region or the other. Instead, they stood for a vaguely defined nationalism that favored Congressional supremacy over the executive, programs of internal improvements, a protective tariff, and a slightly more "energetic" central government than that favored by the Democrats.
The Whigs were just credible enough of a threat to cause the Democrats to keep a lid on the tensions between those who were strongly in favor of slavery and those who were merely not against it. (In practice, in other words, the Whigs bore a surprising resemblance to the kind of barely credible threat that the Republicans dreamed of reducing the Democrats to the heady crazy days between the 2002 midterms and the Schiavo debacle.)
The Whigs' imperative need to avoid taking strong policy positions caused them to look to old war heroes for presidential candidates. Unfortunately, both of the heroes they managed to get elected quite promptly died in office. Between the lack of ideological vigor, the inability to get a strong personality elected President and the growing unavoidability of the slavery question, in the 1850s, the Whigs just unraveled. Their leaders either quit politics altogether or drifted into other new, fringier parties like the American a/k/a "Know Nothing" Party (think Lou Dobbs if he lived in antebellum America), the Anti-Masonic Party ("Against Secret Societies!"), and the the Free Soil Party (against the expansion of slavery into the west).
In 1848, the Whigs won their last presidential election. Their candidate, Gen. Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican American War, of course, promptly died. In 1852, the Whigs nominated Gen. Winfield Scott, hero of the War of 1812 and of the Mexican American War. Scott was resoundingly defeated by Franklin Pierce--not exactly a political superstar--and thereby managed to survive another ten years. By 1856, there wasn't anyone left in the Whig party of sufficient stature to merit a nomination. Their sad little convention that year nominated Millard Filmore, the head of the Know-Nothings, and went home, never to meet again.
Also in 1856, another little fringe party started and promptly began competing with the Free Soilers for former Whigs and anti-slavery Democrats. They called themselves Republicans. By 1860, the Democratic Party was also splitting in two, between the "not necessarily against slavery" and the "if you're not for it you're against it" factions, the Republicans swept up the remnants of the Whigs, the Free Soilers and--gingerly and with a certain amount of nose-holding--the Know-Nothings and won the election, their second.
If the Civil War had not followed, the split in the Democratic Party might well have become permanent and the party dissolved. As it happened, once slavery was abolished, northern and southern post-war Democrats found they could deal with one another once again. Since then, factions have hived off of the two major parties only to eventually rejoin the mother party or drift over to the opposition--the Bullmoose Party split off and rejoined the Republicans. The Dixiecrats split from the Demcorats, rejoined, split off again as the "American Party" of George Wallace, rejoined again and then their members answered the siren song of Richard Nixon's southern strategy. The LaRouchites -- okay, actually I've never known what the fuck those loons were all about or why, exactly, it was they nominally Democrats.
My point is that the persistence of the Democratic and Republican parties in the face of splits that previously would have been fatal has lent them an air of unquestioned permanence over the last century and a half. The Republicans may have fantasized about the end of the Democratic Party, but eventually they had to close up their skin mags, zip up and and let someone else use the stall. The Democrats survived and came roaring back from their low ebb following 9/11 just as the Republicans came back after Nixon's disgrace made many suspect they were washed up as a national party.
And despite that, I'm really wondering if we're seeing the last days of the Republican Party.
Most likely not. Almost certainly not. But consider the following. The main difference between a two party and multiparty system is that in a multiparty system, every ethnic group, every religion, every social and economic viewpoint, can have its own party with a rigid ideology and the coalition building occurs after the election. In a two party system, however, each party must be a coalition of competing interests, viewpoints and agendas in order to thrive. The Democrats have always been better at being a big tent and, in any case, ever since the segregationists abandoned the party, the agendas of the various groups within the party are rarely truly contradictory. There is tension, of course, between left and center, and,of course, there's our delightful penchant for turning primary contests into brutal cannibalistic rituals, but by and large we get along.
Republicans, however, have become a simmering kettle of mutually antagonistic interests. Libertarians vs. authoritarians. Anti-immigration activists vs. the people who employ the immigrants. Theocrats vs. the corporatists who want maximum freedom to cater to our most base desires. Isolationists vs. neocon militarists. And, of course, professionals and intellectuals (a few real, most psuedo) who want government by reason vs. the ignorant hateful rabble who want government from the gut.
The only thing that held them together was that they hated us and a common nearly patholocial fear that our policies would lead to social, economic and moral collapse. Now that their policies have led to social, economic and moral collapse, however, all those differences have boiled over and the stupid people appear to have won.
For decades, the Republicans have been more than happy to patronize to the bigots and haters, to the rabid anti-intellectuals, the xenophobes and the just generally stupid. Heretofore, they've used those people, but they never let them run the party. In recent years, however, they let the camel get its nose into the tent when they stopped just giving the theocrats their ear and, instead, gave them a seat at the table with the corporatists and the militarists. Meanwhile loud voices appeared in the media to feed the belligerent delusional ignoramus faction's insatiable appetite for stupidity--Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Coulter, Malkin, and on and on. And slowly but surely, as those people took control of the belligerent ignoramus faction, they found themselves in a position to give orders to Party rather than taking them. Increasingly, the agenda of the Republican Party was set not by the Bill Buckleys and George Wills and the Reagan alum. No, increasingly, the agenda was being written by the people who controlled the rabble: Limbaugh and O'Reilly and Hannity and the wingnut bloggers.
And now, the victory of the belligerant ignoramus faction is complete. They've found their champion in Sarah Palin, they develop and coordinate their ideology and worldview through unhinged emails and in the comments sections of the MSM's websites and, at last, the people who used to use these ignoramuses are recoiling in horror.
The list of defectors, people who can no longerstand to be associated with a party run by its pro-ignorance faction, grows by the day: George Will, David Brooks and Christopher Buckley. Lincoln Chaffee, Chuck Hagel and Susan Eisenhower. Wall Street has abandoned the Republicans, donating more to Democrats in the ratio of 2:1. As David Brooks noted recently, the Republicans have lost the professionals--doctors and lawyers, architects and accountants.
The belligerent delusional ignoramus faction still has the neocons on their side, of course. Bloody Bill Kristol and Rich Lowery are on board for the duration but that's hardly surprising. They're just better educated versions of the belligerent delusional ignoramuses who are calling the shots now, kindred spirits. That's not a plus for the Republicans.
If one thing should be clear to us, it is that a political party run by delusional ignoramuses cannot survive. If that premise is granted, I confess that I can see only two possible futures for the Republican Party as I write today. Either the professionals, the country clubbers, the elitists and the libertarians take advantage of the seismic defeat they're about to suffer as an excuse to stamp out the power of the belligerent delusional ignoramuses, or else the ignoramuses keep control and the Republican Party follows the the Whigs and the Federalists across the bridge to oblivion.
Maybe not. There's a lot more institutional infrastructure holding parties together these days; think tanks and donor networks, PACs and national congressional campaign committees. However, one other lesson of history is that when parties die, it can happen faster than anyone imagined--one election you're electing presidents and two election cycles later, the party doesn't even exist.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
One reason I haven't been posting lately -- other than the occasional YouTube-hosted wisecrack -- has to do with big changes in the Conway household. We're selling our house and buying another one, and if you don't think we've gone through some nail-biting during the past few weeks of financial crisis, you've been living on another planet, and part of me wishes I were with you.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Beware the wrath of a talk show host scorned.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Okay, apparently this was filmed to promote the handling of a Honda, but oddly it reminds me of the way Karen reacts to my driving...
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
This is why I despair:
"New polling shows that the presidential race has tightened since Sarah Palin delivered her vice presidential acceptance speech on Wednesday.
Both the Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking polls reported today that John McCain now narrowly trails Barack Obama.
Yesterday’s Gallup poll results of surveys conducted before the speech showed Obama with a 49 percent to 42 percent advantage over McCain. Today’s daily tracking poll showed that lead reduced to 48 percent to 44 percent.
On Tuesday, the poll reported Obama ahead 50 percent to 42 percent, the first time either candidate has reached the 50 percent marker.
While the Gallup shift from yesterday is not statistically significant, other surveys also appear to show public opinion moving toward the GOP following the party’s convention.
Rasmussen reported Friday that when "leaners” are included, Obama is ahead of McCain 48 percent to 46 percent. The same comparison on Thursday has Obama ahead by 5 percentage points.
Rasmussen also found that Palin’s favorable rating of 58 percent is now a point above that of both McCain and Obama. Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden is viewed favorably by 48 percent of those polled."
FIFTY-EIGHT F**KING PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE VIEW SARAH PALIN FAVORABLY???
Based on WHAT????
Her ability to read a speech from a TelePrompTer?
Her demonstrated inability to provide moral and practical guidance for her teenaged daughter? (Why don't we just make Lynn Spears president if that's a qualifier, for God's sake.)
Her contempt for the Alaskan legislature's investigation into her possible illegal activities as Governor?
This is what I wonder about those of my fellow Americans who think Sarah Palin is someone to be admired: as Frasier asked a drinking buddy in an immortal episode of "Cheers," "What color is the sky in your world, Cliff?"
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Not to wax nostalgic about "the way things used to be," but this recent opinion piece in the L.A. Times dovetails with some thoughts I've had lately about the difference between my twelve-year old daughter's experience of the world, and the way I experienced it at her age. Rachel is twelve, and she's never ridden her bike around our neighborhood by herself; she's never gone to the movies with a friend alone; she's never taken public transportation without an adult to supervise her; and she doesn't just "go outside and play." She is, in effect, a prisoner of her parents' fear of the world the way we think it is -- or rather, the way we've been taught to believe it is, by a news media that depends on creating fear to drive ratings, and by politicians who use fear to get votes.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
If the Bushies can't even convince a military jury they're doing the right thing when it comes to the prisoners at Guantanamo, how do they ever expect to convince the rest of the world? Think about this: Salim Hamdan is the first prisoner from Guantanamo to go to trial, which probably means the government thought its case against him was the strongest they have against any of the men held there. So if this is the best they've got, what does that say about the others Bush and his gang have held incommunicado for the past five years?
66 months for Osama Bin Laden's driver | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Whatever happened to the guy who ran for president in 2000? The red-meat Republican running around these days who's calling himself McCain sure doesn't sound like the same man who charmed us eight years ago. It's like he's forgotten who he was and what he said he stood for. The kindest spin I can put on that is, he must be getting old...
McCain Says Obama Plays Politics on Iraq - washingtonpost.com
The McCain-Latino disconnect - David Paul Kuhn - Politico.com
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
If I close my eyes and put myself in my personal Wayback Machine, I can still remember the smell of wet sand under the boardwalk -- the public changing room for those of us who day-tripped to Coney Island by bus and subway. I'm just old enough to remember Steeplechase Park, with its cast-iron horses running on a track around the windowed inside wall of the huge, warehouse-sized amusement hall. The big wooden slide shiny and slippery after decades of butt-polishing; the sloped, slowly-revolving dish big enough for a dozen kids and adults to tumble into each other, risking broken arms and sprained ankles and bloody noses; the big, rotating barrel that did its best to knock you to your knees; the fun house full of mirrors and tilting floors that guaranteed bumped foreheads and plenty of bruises.
Coney Island, when I knew it as a kid, invited you to try and kill yourself for fun. These days, when every freak accident at a safety-conscious Six Flags grabs a headline and a gloating two minutes of faked dismay on the evening news, it's hard to imagine that once upon a time, you didn't worry about getting hurt on a thrill ride -- you half expected it.
Ah, those were the days. Parachute rides with barely a seatbelt to hold you in. Roller coasters that threatened to throw you from your car with every rattling high-speed turn. People knew what they were getting into -- they knew these rides were risky, and that was part of the fun. At least, it was for me. But as my wife likes to point out, with a kindly, tolerant smile, I'm an idiot.
Santa Cruz is no Coney Island, of course; it has a roller coaster, built way back in 1924, and it's fun, but it's no Cyclone. It has a "Double Shot" free-fall tower ride, but it's no Parachute Jump. It has a boardwalk, but no under-the-boardwalk, all-too-public "changing room."
Still, it was just enough like that Coney Island of my mind* to evoke a pang of nostalgia for those innocent days of long ago.
Wet sand under the boardwalk (wet from what????), broken bones, bruises and bloody noses.
It doesn't get much better than that.
*With apologies to Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
A friend of mine and I saw "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" on Friday. Before I get into the meat of this post -- which is not, as you might expect, a review of "Hellboy II" -- I'll just say I enjoyed the movie, laughed at the funny parts, thrilled to the action, and sat in awe of the imagery and graphic design. I felt my eleven bucks was well-spent (we went to the Arclight, which is more expensive than some theaters locally, but has, in my opinion, a better film-going experience, tra la la).
Then we ran into another friend as we were leaving the movie, and the first words out of his mouth -- I'm not kidding, here -- were, "What a load of crap."
Now. Watching a movie is a subjective experience. It's an interaction between you and the filmmaker. He/she creates and presents, you absorb and respond. What you absorb and how you respond depends on your expectations, your attitude toward the filmmaker and the genre he or she is working in, the screenwriter's ability to construct a script, the technical competence of the production crew, the performance of the actors, and the director and/or producer's skill in managing it all. Every aspect of this experience -- from the production, to your observation of the results -- is dependent upon a subjective appraisal. There is no absolute, concrete reality, no definitive, absolute consensus. Every movie, no matter how good or how bad it's judged to be by the film-watching population at large, offers ample opportunity for dissenting views. There are people who think "Lawrence of Arabia" is overblown, colonialist bull-hockey. There are others who think "Plan Nine From Outer Space" is the finest American film since "Citizen Kane."
The French love Jerry Lewis.
But when you leave a film, and run into friends, and the first words out of your mouth are, "What a load of crap," you are not presenting your opinion as a personal, subjective appraisal of the moment, but as the definitive, absolute, real-world summation of an undeniable objective reality.
You're forestalling any honest discussion because you're defining the entire experience in objective terms. "What a load of crap" could just as easily have been "God could have made this movie, it's perfect." In effect you're stating that anyone who doesn't agree with your summation is literally out of touch with objective reality.
It ain't film criticism.
It isn't even a statement of honest opinion. (A more honest statement would have been, "I didn't really enjoy that much," or, "I was disappointed," or "I don't like movies that bombard you with visual imagery," or some other comment that accepts the idea that what you're asserting is your own personal view, and doesn't invalidate the views of anybody else.)
After that opening salvo there wasn't much to say. I could choose to agree with his opinion, or I could engage in a fruitless debate asserting my personal view as objective reality. I couldn't really discuss my experience of the film.
There was a time in my life when I would've jumped on that "debate" and done my best to tear down this friend's view of reality.
These days, I'd rather just admit I was disappointed by his reaction.
But that's my opinion.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
I was reading an article in Harper's Magazine today about The Magic Olympics, that reminded me of how much I enjoy watching a good magic trick, well-performed, and intriguingly presented. I first encountered real live professional magic more thant thirty years ago, during a visit to The Magic Castle in Hollywood, which to my mind remans the gold standard for practicioners of the craft. That's where I met the legendary Dai Vernon, the man who fooled Houdini. In any event this article made me recall what I love about magic when it's well-done. If you have any interest in the field, by all means, look up this article. It's a fun read.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
Ars Technica has a terrific article about the effect outsourcing customer support has on the "perceived value" of a company's goods to the average consumer:
Study: outsourcing can lead to plummeting customer loyalty
To sum up, the results aren't good. Who would'a thunk it? Apparently, when customers are shunted aside and treated like an irritating distraction to the important business of making money for overpaid executives and stock-price-obsessed stockholders, they tend to resent it, and their loyalty to the product in question and the company that makes it suffers considerable damage.
Why, I wonder, is this news? American business has been marching down this path to self-destruction for decades now, replacing the old business mantra that "customer is king" with a new mantra along the lines of, "the customer will take what we give him and like it or else." Is it surprising, really, this sort of contempt for consumer relations has a negative impact? Are corporate executives really so out of touch with the customers they purport to care about they can't begin to imagine how badly buyers feel when they're treated like crap?
Almost twenty years ago, I had an argument with a small business owner over the issue of office voice mail. I bemoaned the fact that more and more, when I called a company I was trying to do business with, I found myself routed through a rats maze of impenetrable and ultimately unhelpful voice mail options. "To reach technical support, press one; if your call concerns a new installation, press two; if you'd like to pay a bill, press three," and so on and so forth. Usually, what I wanted wasn't an option provided by the option tree. What I wanted was to speak with a real, live, helpful human being, who would point me toward another real, live, helpful human being who'd do his or her best to solve whatever problem prompted my call. Even twenty years ago, this was becoming increasingly difficult, and I suggested to my new friend that businesses did themselves harm by treating their customers, and would-be customers, like interchangeable cogs in a voice mail grinder.
"But it's really cost effective for us," he replied. "It saves us money and it keeps us from having to hire someone to deal with routine customer interaction. It's a great business tool."
Yeah, a great business tool for him. For anyone trying to reach him, or do business with his company, not so much. I couldn't seem to get this idea across. He kept repeating it was a money-saver, it was efficient, it weeded out unnecessary, routine customer interaction. But what if "routine interaction" had the potential to create new business? What if interacting with customers helped management respond to customer needs before problems arose? What if actually dealing with customers taught companies how to satisfy customers and build customer loyalty?
How can a robotic, dead-end voice mail option tree ever accomplish any of those basic business goals?
Obviously, it can't, and businesses that rely on automated customer interaction, and its vile evil stepchild, customer-service outsourcing, are reaping the contempt they sowed.
American business management has spent the last several decades doing everything it can to erode employee and customer loyalty in the blind pursuit of quarterly profit and increasing "shareholder value." But how does it create value for shareholders when you deny the value of the people working for you, as well as the customers who buy your product?
It makes no sense to me, but then, I didn't go to Harvard or Yale Business School, and I don't have an MBA.
And if you've got an MBA, who needs common sense?
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Karen, on the other hand, went from a sedan (BMW) to an SUV (first a Mercedes, later a Lexus) once Rachel started pre-school. Her reasoning made sense -- as a stay-at-home Mom, she sometimes had to carpool Rachel and her friends to play dates, birthday parties, outings, camp, and so on. An SUV made that easier -- there was room for the kids and the paraphernalia that went along with them: strollers, diaper bags, lunch boxes. She also felt safer in an SUV, though we both knew that was an illusion -- for one thing, SUVs have a higher center of gravity and are more likely to topple over in a high-speed turn (never mind why a Mom with several kids in a car would be making a tight high-speed turn).
Karen continued to drive her SUV till Rachel was in elementary school, and Karen went back to work full time. Then she switched back to a sedan (back to a Mercedes; we're German-car addicts in the Conway household), mostly because she was tired of filling up her gas-guzzler twice a week. She'd also started to feel there was something inherently wrong about driving a road-hogging monster. Smaller felt better. Before getting her sedan, she even toyed with the idea of buying a Mini Cooper (but once we realized I'd never get my legs inside, that idea went out the window). She still wants a Smart Car, but for now, she's happy with her E-350.
I bring this up because I want it understood that I get why people bought SUVs back in the 1990s and early 2000s. What I don't get is why they hung on to them for so long, and why they kept buying new ones, when the price of gas was slowly edging up, and it was clear to anyone with half a brain that these energy-eating, road- and parking lot-hogging monstrosities were an economic and ecological disaster waiting to happen. It shouldn't have taken a doubling of gas prices in the last year to make people see what a waste of money and space these things are.
But I guess we see what we want to see, and believe what we want to believe, evidence to the contrary be damned.
This rant brought to you courtesy of this article in today's New York Times.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
I found this on Boing Boing, one of my favorite websites. If this doesn't make you smile and feel happy for about four minutes or so, check your pulse.
For more information about Matt, check this website.
Monday, June 30, 2008
What can I say? I saw it this weekend with Karen and Rachel and some friends, and I loved it. The storytelling was smart and smooth, the character designs and animation were, as always, first class. Wall*E and Eva were as well developed as two non-speaking characters can be, and while I never quite choked up, the way I have at some other Pixar films ("Toy Story 2," all right?), I did feel a pang or two when things looked bleak for Wall*E near the end. All of which is to say, I had a good time.
Karen and Rachel, not so much.
Both of them thought it was just okay.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Anti-Paparazzi Sunglasses - video powered by Metacafe
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Admittedly, my tastes run more to trash than to tragedy -- I'd rather curl up with a Victorian middle-class angst potboiler by Anthony Trollope than a modern middle-class angst potboiler by John Updike -- but for the most part, I feel no guilt for enjoying a fast-paced thrill ride by James Rollins or a wry, formulaic piece of pulp by John D. MacDonald.
But, lately, I have been feeling just a tad guilty for the pleasure I've derived from reading a class of fiction that makes almost no attempt at achieving literary merit. It's the modern-day equivalent of mid-century pulp: fiction based on games and comic books, such as the Dragonlance novels of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman; the "legend of Drizzit" series by R.A. Salvatore; and the books based on comic book series, like The Ultimates and Justice League novels by various authors. Oh, yeah, I also enjoy the "Rogue Angel" series published by Gold Eagle, and, of course, the Mack Bolan and Executioner novels.
I make no apologies for enjoying this stuff -- though like I said, I feel a tad guilty -- because for the most part, these books are written professionally, by writers who clearly enjoy what they're doing, and who take it seriously enough to do the best job they can. As someone who made a living writing characters created by other writers (along with a number I created myself, of course), I can appreciate the love these folks have for the characters and worlds over which they've taken temporary custodianship. Quite a few of these authors began their careers writing these shared-world novels, and have gone on to make their mark with wholly original works of their own; yet most of them return, again and again, to the shared worlds that gave them their start. That tells me they write what they write not just to earn a living, but because they have a passion for the material.
What they turn out may not be great literature, but it's entertaining pulp, and sometimes that's just what I'm in the mood for.
If you're interested in checking out some of the best of the bunch, try some of these:
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Bush To Filipino President: "I Am Reminded Of The Great Talent Of The -- Of Our Philippine-Americans When I Eat Dinner At The White House" - Politics on The Huffington Post
Monday, June 23, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
... with a secret (till we get to the airport) trip to NY to see "Legally Blonde The Musical" with a friend of hers.
The things we do for our children.
I've been listening to Rachel play and replay the DVR'ed video of the
"Legally Blonde" Broadway musical for the better part of six months
now. It sets my teeth on edge and blurs my vision with a red haze.
My hands involuntarily clench into fists and with effort I stifle a
But I love my daughter and she loves this show, so with the help of
her friend's dad (who will be joining us, and whose idea this was), I
will take her to New York today, and we will see the show tomorrow,
and I will try not to pull out an Uzi and mow everyone down.
I am a good good father.
Happy Father's Day to me.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Monday, June 09, 2008
Thursday, June 05, 2008
When did this become such a big deal?
I mean, it's a big deal to me, of course -- my baby's getting older! But in a larger sociological sense, graduating from elementary school? That was big back when my granddad was a kid; an elementary school education was the highest level of education most folks got, if they got that much. For my father's generation, graduating from high school -- that was a big deal. For my generation, it was college (and to an extent, it still is). For my older daughter, a full education barely stops with a master degree. It seems with each generation the bar gets raised higher.
And at the same time, we celebrate smaller victories.
Maybe it's because of the stress we go through, those of us who send our kids to private school (and in California, I'm sad to say, if you want a decent education for your kid, private school is probably your best option). We worry about getting them into the best school, we bite our nails through the application process, we wait anxiously for the acceptance letters, we shudder at the size of the tuition bill. Sending a kid to private school is like sending them to college. It's expensive, it's stressful, but it's something you're glad you're able to do -- I feel a sense of pride that my daughter has done well at a school that isn't required to accept her and promote her and praise her, because that's the PC thing to do. Whatever honors Rachel has earned, she's earned, in competition with an amazing array of other well-qualified, hard-working young boys and girls.
Please understand, I'm not saying she's better than the kids who go to public schools. By no means. But the school she's attended for the last six years is better than the public school she would have attended otherwise.
We did try the public school system for Rachel's kindergarten, and it was a huge disappointment. A charter school, too, with heavy parental involvement, in a neighborhood where the parents could afford to devote a lot of time and energy to the PTA. Didn't make a damn bit of difference. The school sucked, and the teachers and administration knew it, and they didn't seem to care.
So maybe there is something to celebrate.
I'm proud of my little girl, and saddened too.
It's been an amazing six years. Can't wait to see what's next.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Much of the fun in playing World of Warcraft comes from interaction with other players -- especially interaction with other players in a guild (assuming you join one). But finding the right guild (and recognizing that it's the right guild for you) is tricky. At least, it's been tricky for me.
The first guild I joined, "Dark Guard" on the Lothar server, is no more, but through it, I met the nicest people I know in WoW. We became friends outside of WoW; our families met in the real world last summer at Blizzcon in Anaheim ( that's a picture of my daughter Rachel at the convention) and we're planning to meet up for a weekend with them this summer in Santa Cruz.
realm split last year, I went along. When that guild broke into two guilds, and one of them moved back to the Lothar server, I followed my friends in the new/old guild. When that guild collapsed and my friends joined a new guild, I joined too. But somewhere along the line... I just didn't feel part of the group anymore.
Hard to say why the new guild's not working for me -- even though it's made up of many folks from the older guilds, but my guess is, to use a cliche, "we've grown apart." The first guild I joined was loose and fun, small and friendly. The guild we merged with was larger and more focused on grouping for raids -- building larger teams to run the endgame content of pre-Burning Crusade instances like Molten Core. With the coming of Burning Crusade, and the split of the guild between two realms, the latest version of the guild seems even more focused on grouping for raids in the new zones of Outland. And even though I've tried to work up enthusiasm for it, the truth is, raiding just isn't my thing.
I'm not opposed to raiding -- I'd like to do some -- but I can't commit to a regular, multiple-nights-a-week raiding schedule. I'm just not that hardcore. I have a family, and we spend too little time doing things together as it is. So this latest incarnation of the guild I've belonged to since my main WoW toon was a level 20 Night Elf Hunter just isn't the guild for me anymore. And it's painful to admit it and leave, because I'll be leaving my friends. (Not in the real world, of course; just in the game.)
Like I said, finding the right guild is tricky. Sometimes, the guild that was right for you when you started playing isn't right for you after you've been playing for a while. Recognizing this can be difficult, especially when you've made friends with others in the group. But failing to recognize it can make playing the game far less fun; in fact, it can make playing the game feel like a chore and an obligation.
Which kinda defeats the purpose.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
The book was a young adult science-fiction novel by Paul Capon, "The End of the Tunnel." It's about four young kids who go on a caving trip together in England, get trapped in a cave by a landslide, and follow the cave deep under ground, encountering a forgotten civilization, before finally finding their way back to the surface -- through the Paris catacombs.
It was, as the kids say these days, a thorough mindf***.
I read this book once, when I was seven or eight years old, and it made such an impression I've retained scenes, characters, and images, for almost fifty years. For example: as the kids head out for their exploration, they pass a hole in the ground, where, for good luck, they drop a penny and listen to hear how long it takes to hit the bottom. It takes a looooong time. Later, once they're trapped under ground, they eventually come across the bottom of that hole -- and find a pile of coins lying under it, with the coins on the bottom of the pile dating back hundreds of years.
How cool is that?
I could go on, but all I really want to say is how much I loved that book, and how happy I was when I tracked down a copy of the original printing. It wasn't inexpensive, because the book has been out of print for five decades, and is something of a collector's item, but looking at a recent listing for it on Abebooks.com, I think I got off pretty cheap.
Any favorite books you remember vividly from childhood? Any you spent a lifetime tracking down?
Let me know.