Monthly Archives: October 2008

wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything

10/16/08

Okay, everybody – I’m on the north shore of Prince Edward Island on a very weak internet connection. And since we’ll have to be a little more prudent this year, you must answer this CODE WORD question with a little more seriousness this season: what are you going to be for Halloween? And if you’re not dressing up, WHY THE HELL NOT?

people who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble is

10/14/08

We’re off to one of my favorite places in the world: The Island That’s Also a Smile, the Place What Got Ice Cream on Anne of Green Gables’ Nose, or as I call it, “The Place So Much Better than New Brunswick”… Prince Edward Island, CANADA!

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Tessa and I actually spent our honeymoon in two places: Monhegan Island, Maine and then up the coast to PEI, where we had such a good time that we came back for the incipient Zap Your PRAM conference that October. Five years later, the same fine folks are having the conference once more, and despite being three thousand miles farther away, we had to go.

I dunno, I think it’s important for two reasons: one, you can’t reduce everyone in your circle of friendship to the virtual. A cabal that exists entirely on email or Facebook is a cabal that will disintegrate without proper buttressing, and we totally dig our PEIers.

Secondly (yes I know that’s not a word), there is something to be said for taking a seemingly-strange trip to an island far flung on the other side of the continent, to talk about esoteric subjects you may not entirely understand, about a future that hasn’t happened yet. The last time this conference got together in 2003, the discussion touched on how we’ll store information, where blogs were headed, the ethereal quality of data, what the virtual world means to normal people, and the history of what’s to come – and if I recall correctly, we got a lot of stuff right.

But my reasons to go are a little more goo-goo-ga-ga than that. To me, if you’re someone who relies on creativity for a living – and that goes for more of you than you might think – you have to put yourself in the way of bizarre ideas. You have to be blindsided, slightly, by subject matter you’d never find or seek on your own volition. It may not always work, but just dipping your head into the cold, bracing water of other peoples’ obsessions can occasionally give you something you didn’t even know you needed.

Off to Montreal tonight!

if they don’t win it’s a shame

10/13/08

Let’s use today for some positive reinforcement, shall we? The following people on the home team should be commended for their recent behavior:

My sister Michelle – Not that she’d ever tell you this, but Michelle basically erased clean and rewrote the rules of reviving the Arts in an entire California valley. After taking on a system that never quite worked and turning Napa into a powerhouse arts community, I can’t imagine her not being hired to do the same thing in some other town/city in dire need. Click on the picture (courtesy of the Napa Valley Register) below for the newspaper article:

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My brother Steve – A few miles south of Michelle, Steve is in the other valley – the “Silicon” one – and is constantly in the news saving historic Moffett Field Airport and the old Hangar One, which needs to be re-skinned by the Navy. If left to their own devices, the Navy would leave the un-husked frame of the hangar out like a giant set of desiccated dinosaur bones, and let’s just say that won’t happen on my brother’s watch. Click on Steve’s airplane below for the newspaper article (cached by Google, since the Palo Alto Daily News website is a disaster):

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My old roommate Greg Humphreys – Lordy knows I’ve sung the praises of Greggy Homefries for years on this blog, but he has finally gone solo from both bands, and released a gorgeous, pastoral album of his guitar home-cookin’. Greg has now become one of the old bluesmen he once revered, and lets it shine on “Trunk Songs”. Click here to download the album from iTunes, and click on the picture below (of Greg with Lucy on his 41st birthday) for the excellent News & Observer story:

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Our old friends Bliss and Nell – Bliss Broyard’s book One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life–A Story of Race and Family Secrets just came out on paperback, and Nell Casey’s collection An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Family will do so on December 2nd. Both are intensely wonderful works of non-fiction; the first is Bliss’ story of her father, the famed New York critic who had a deathbed secret… and the latter is Nell’s collection of essays written by people on the brink of mortality and those who take care of them.

Click on the top pic of Tessa and Nell (with brood) to get “Inheritance” and the bottom pic of Tessa with Lulu and Bliss’ lovely daughter Esme for “One Drop”.

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Our most excellent neighbor David Petrarca – We don’t see much of Uncle David these days, despite his living twenty feet above us, and here’s why: he’s the new Executive Producer of “Eli Stone”, which is premiering tonight (Wednesday) at 10pm. Check your local listings, but let me tell you this: I’ve seen some dailies of the musical numbers, and they are stunners.

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And in the comments, please nominate others who deserve recognition, both large and small!

norman conquest

10/12/08

In our ongoing series of differing voices over the next few weeks, here’s my brother Kent!

***

I am older than most of the people who read this blog. For the record, 51 years old.

This (obviously) has not conferred much in the way of wisdom upon me. But it does mean that I was around for a lot of history that most of you learned about second hand.

The first Presidential election I voted in was 1976. Before that, I followed the elections with growing interest as they came along. I remember the 1964 election, when I was 7 years old, mostly because there was an impromptu plebiscite on the playground in Bloomington Indiana: those for Johnson pushed one way on a Merry-Go-Round, those for Goldwater pushed the other. Johnson won, and the rest is history.

In 1968, I went door to door with a friend of mine in our neighborhood with pamphlets for Eugene McCarthy. I don’t remember who set that up, or if I did it more than once, but it is the point where I became something more than a passive participant in Politics.

1968 was one of those weird years — some kids in my Elementary School were sent home for wearing Peace Sign buttons, and I was yelled at in the bakery near my school by the counter lady for carrying a copy of “The Autobiography Of Malcolm X.” The police were beating up kids, the crazies were assassinating Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and an unrepentant racist, George Wallace, took away enough Democratic votes to give Nixon the Presidency.

Which is preface to saying this: This year may be even weirder. On the one hand, an African-American man has a good chance of becoming President. On the other we have the Republican Party in the midst of a full-scale implosion.

The McCain campaign’s strategy at this point has devolved into a full on racist smear campaign, based entirely on distortions and far-fetched guilt by association. McCain and Palin have been inciting the ugliest, most ignorant faction of their party to the edge of violence. In a town hall meeting, McCain has to defend Barack Obama as a decent family man that people should not be afraid of. Here’s a guy who has spent the last week on mean, groundless character assassination as his only strategy. Then, he has to contradict that strategy in order to maintain the merest shred of self-respect. And then his faithful supporters boo him for it.

The icing on the cake, though, is his running mate being found in a report commissioned by the overwhelmingly Republican Alaskan Legislature to have abused the power of her office. The campaign is forced to issue a rebuttal to this report that is a transparently, brazenly mendacious. I’m having to go to the Thesaurus for this little essay, just so I don’t keep using the word ‘lies’ over and over.

A few weeks ago, when McCain had a narrow lead in the national polls, the talking heads on television had a consensus that the McCain campaign was succeeding in framing the election as a referendum on Obama, to Obama’s detriment. Now the script is flipped — this campaign is about two things: the stunning, unprecedented collapse of the world economy and its effects in the US, and how the McCain campaign has devolved into something sickening and ugly.

Mark my words — you’re living through the one that will be the benchmark of insane election seasons for the rest of your life. In some ways this is 1968 all over again; a polarized electorate, a troubled economy and an unpopular war. I don’t even want to say the other thing I’m afraid 2008 and 1968 might have in common — I just hope that it doesn’t come to pass.

Oh, and if you want another parallel: McCain keeps saying “I know how to find Bin Laden. I know how to fix the economy” without being willing to actually say how he will do these things. In another parallel with 1968, Nixon said he had a plan for ending the Vietnam War, one that he wouldn’t talk about. Later in his memoirs, Nixon denied ever having such a plan. Which leads me, as a student of history, to suspect that when McCain claims to know how to do something, but won’t say how, he’s just making shit up.

***

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above: Kent and Lucy Kent, Xmas 2005; below: August 2008

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witch burns, film at 11

10/9/08

At this point, John McCain, Sarah Palin and the cretinous Republican anal pustules that enable their endless vitriol need to fucking stop. Right now. Ever since Palin’s effluvious post-convention “bounce” evaporated, their behavior has been cowardly, unhinged, and deeply un-American. Someone has to sit them down and tell them to FUCK OFF for the good of the country.

I’m all for a good political catfight if the exchange of ideas – however heated it might be – ends up helping the country make an informed decision. But the McPain campaign is indulging in the kind of hate-filled, not-even-bothering-to-be-subtle rhetoric that might turn their wingnut base into an orgy of ecstatic rage, but makes the rest of the country want to take a shower. A high tide raises all ships, but conversely, a campaign like McCain’s drags all of us into the festering pit of despair.

Barack Obama has, for most intents and purposes, won this election. Only two things can stop it now: the unthinkable, and mass voter registration purges across the country. In past contests, candidates facing an seemingly-inevitable loss have gone down gracefully – think Bob Dole in 1996, Mondale in 1984. Not McCain and Palin, however. They are the retreating Huns who lose the battle, but want to make sure they leave blankets infected with smallpox strewn across the countryside.

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from your friends in West Plains, MO

Their ugliness is everywhere, from Cindy McCain’s shrill bullshit to Sarah Palin’s constant assertion that Obama is no better than a terrorist. And their rallies have become breeding grounds for the worst kind of knuckle-dragging fuckwads this side of a Klan rally. There are lots of videos out there, but this one really encapsulates their ugly, bigoted, snarl delivered behind fucked-up teeth. These are the motherfuckers who cut you off on the freeway, and then give you the finger as they speed home to beat their kids.

Am I a classist? I suppose so, I don’t really care. This brand of American is wholly reprehensible – they’re not just embarrassing for conservatives, they’re embarrassing for all of us. Being poor, misinformed or desperate does NOT excuse ANY OF US from the tenets of basic human decency. Just as rich people are not allowed to buy their way out of morality, poor people don’t get an exemption for their hate.

But all of this ugliness belies a vastly more sinister undercurrent; McCain and Palin are working their devoted followers into an unrepentantly dangerous lather. By freely using the word “terrorist” (by themselves and from audience members), tolerating shouts of “kill him!” at their rallies, and delivering utterly racist soundbites about Obama “diminishing the prestige of the United States presidency”, they are inspiring the worst people in America to the kind of fury that begets lone gunmen and ragtag basement militias.

If you think I’m overreacting, try asking some of the older blog readers here, the ones that remember things I don’t, about the summer of 1968, or November 1963. We’ve got a black man about to be President, and his rivals, knowing full well they are about to lose, are purposely riling up their thugs for revenge, whether it’s this month or at some point in the next few years. Even if you think the threat is remote, the behavior of the Republican ticket is close to irresponsibly criminal.

I was talking to someone who had a great idea: if Barack Obama is elected, Sarah Palin should be forced to be on his secret service detail for all public events. That way she can truly know what it is to be the wolf and not the chopper pilot, and doggone it, it might not be so fucking funny anymore.

purple farts of freedom

10/8/08

Man, I frickin’ KNEW it was a matter of time before this happened. Crochety old-school longtime blog readers may remember the time I got detained and held overnight in jail at the Homeland Security checkpoint in Houlton, Maine. Don’t remember it? Go here and read it, it’s pretty goddamn good.

Anyway, since you’re not going to read it, in 2003 I got stopped when trying to re-enter the United States because, well, I don’t know. My hair is silly, and let’s face it: when I go on a road trip, I don’t keep an immaculate car. They ransacked my stuff, found a vial of baby powder that I use for my hoop shoes, and we were off to the races. Suffice to say I was there for another 16 hours and had to write an essay to a group of these numbskulls in order to prove I wasn’t a terrorist.

Fast forward to now, where the exact same Homeland Security dudes at the exact same checkpoint in Houlton, Maine detained a woman in her Prius because she had this sketch in her notebook:

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She’s a professor at Fordham University, and was removed from her vehicle because the Homeland Security personnel thought she was “an industrial spy and copyright infringer.” However, as you might have guessed from even a casual glance at the sketch, it was an artistic rendering of a crochet art project. CROCHET!

The goons only found the picture because the professor’s passport had foreign country stamps on it, which apparently merited a full car search. You know, because people who don’t stay put in America are dangerous.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the merits of “playing the game” in this country, whether that game was “your job” or “the Starbucks line” or “the airport X-ray machine”. I’m here to tell you that the game is meaningless to these Homeland Security cops; they are your arbitrary plaything, and short of abject supplication, there’s nothing you can do to help yourself out. “I am both judge and jury to you right now,” one of the buzzcut-pated sargeants told me, and they all seemed delighted in their exclusionary club of We Can Do Anything We Want.

I can understand why they stopped me – you know, I’m a guy, I had pharmaceuticals for kidney stones, and until I was about 32, cops just fucking pissed me off. But I saw then how dimwitted they were becoming with their exclusionary power, and it was only a matter of time before they stopped someone for having dangerously suspect crochet.

troll’s is now h-e-double hockey sticks

10/7/08

In the run-up to the election, I’m going to have a few guest writers come on here and help stir up critical thinking, vituperative rants and hopefully some really bad puns. And in doing so, there will be some folks on here with whom I’ve had tremendous differences of opinion, but it’s still great (to me, anyway) to see them writing without the constraints of the comments section.

If you have a particular topic in mind, please gimme a holler, wontchya?

The person who proffered the idea was the legendary “Dean From Bub’s and Troll’s”, who will be the first guest writer to put himself out there, and will take any and all questions you have for him about the conservative side of the aisle. And so here we go:

****

Dear beloved xtcian’ers:

As many of you know, I am one of the conservative lurkers on this blog. But, my allegiance to Ian pre-dates ideology and stems more from my days in the Pit, Polk Place, the Dean Dome, Kenan Stadium, He’s Not Here, etc. Hell, believe it or not, I dated a girl in 1992 who told me that her older sister was dating that guy Ian Williams from Wednesday’s Child. If true, I hope Ian’s relationship with the older sister ended better than mine with the younger sister. [Ian – if you’re curious, send me an email.].

Recently, Ian has been on a roll with “Hate Republicans Week.” After one of the particularly hateful days of comments, I sent him an email regarding how he and I are polar opposites politically, but I am sure he and I could enjoy a Chicken, Egg & Cheese together at Time-Out without fisticuffs. [In my vision, we’re sharing a meal there circa 1990 – Billy’s glory years]. I am willing to hazard a guess that everyone that reads or comments on xtcian.com is above-average intelligence. If so, why is the dialogue so hateful?

There are things that spew from the mouths of many commenters that would never be said to the other readers’ faces. Did our parents truly fail us? Are we not able to discuss public policy issues without name-calling and hate? My mother taught me that the only people that use profanity and name-calling are the ones that are not smart enough to properly express themselves. Granted, when you see me play tennis, you’ll notice that I did not entirely buy her notion.

I digress. I insisted to Ian in my email that it is possible to have a civil discussion. I also insisted that it is possible for one side of the aisle to state their position in a rational manner such that the opposing folks, if intellectually honest, will admit that they understand my position, but courteously disagree with it. Both candidates are campaigning that they want to change Washington and work towards consensus, but the ONLY topic that can be happily discussed among us xtcian’ers is that dook sucks. You can always count on a good ol’-fashioned “dook sucks” to restore order to the Force.

After a few emails back and forth, Ian invited me to dive head first into the arena of ideas, to pick a spicy topic, to explain my conservative position, and to invite everyone to put their cup of vitriol down for the day so we can lower our collective blood pressure. So, if I am putting myself out there for hate-mongering, I figured I should start at the top . . . ABORTION. I do not pretend to believe that my position on abortion represents the formal plank of the GOP. I only hope to shed some light on a possible conservative alternative.

I do not know when life begins. Hell, I am not even sure when life stops. I do not know when a fetus is viable. There are days when I am not viable, but my wife swears it happens to every guy. These are issues that I do not think that mere mortals can ever reach consensus. As such, am I pro-life? Maybe. Am I pro-choice? Maybe. I am a liger – half tiger and half lion – hear me roar.

My opposition to Roe v. Wade largely stems from the principles of federalism and judicial activism. Unfortunately, “judicial activism” has become a code word for any Judge that does not agree with you. Judicial activism is actually a term meant to describe an appellate Court that makes law, instead of assessing law. An appellate Court’s job is to decide whether the government acted constitutionally and their opinions can typically be summarized in 1 word. Their job is NOT to say yes or no, and then re-write the law to fit their standards. That is the job of the (typically) legislative branch. And it is certainly not the judicial branch’s job to unilaterally create an entirely new paradigm.

At my esteemed Wake Forest School of Law (’95), I learned that there are many egregious examples of judicial activism from both ends of the political spectrum. One startling example was the famous Miranda case. All of us have watched enough TV to know the Miranda warnings by heart: “You have the right to remain silent . . .” In the Miranda case, the Court was asked whether the incredibly extensive interrogation conducted by the cops was too intrusive and whether the evidence gained by said interrogation should be struck.

The underlying facts of the case were not disputed and the Court’s issue was largely a yes or no issue. The case was fact-specific. Nonetheless, the Court took it upon itself to huddle in some darkened room and draft a set of word-by-word warnings that every law enforcement officer in the entire country must start using when apprehending any defendant. Although it is likely a good idea for such Miranda warnings to exist, the way the warnings came about was an example of a Court overstepping the case that was actually before it.

Back to abortion. I would like Roe to be overturned on similar principles. Without getting into a contentious recitation of the underlying facts, the main legal issue before the Court was whether Texas’ laws regarding abortion were unfair to Jane Roe. The Court took it upon itself to create an entirely new paradigm that involved viability, late-term, short-term, blahblahblah. If a person is vehemently pro-choice, Roe may be a beloved outcome, but it was not a good day intellectually for the Court.

I know that these two examples may not be the best examples because the outcomes were not inherently distasteful. But, imagine the following: the next time an affirmative action goes to the Supreme Court, the Court not only strikes the race-based portion of all college applications, but states that any minority admitted into any university with less than the university’s average SAT must enroll in remedial English and Math. Such a decision would be ludicrous. So, do not get bogged down in whether Miranda and Roe were agreeable. Blatant judicial activism is dangerous to both sides of the political spectrum.

Back to abortion. If Roe were overturned, abortion does not become instantaneously illegal. The issue would then descend to each individual state for the respective state to decide. There are certainly states that would place more restrictions on abortion than some other states, but I doubt there are any states that would absolutely ban all abortions or any states that would permit it without any restrictions whatsoever. Viva la difference!

Yes, I know that some folks might find it unseemly to have different laws in different states throughout the country. Such a system is called . . . federalism! There are innumerable issues that have been resolved via federalism: voting eligibility, illegal immigrants’ access to public universities, driving licenses, Workers’ Comp, and on and on. These are all important issues and, for the most part, federalism works. Is it a perfect system? Nope. Is the current system broken? Yep.

The current landscape is never going to improve via absolutists. The spirit of compromise and intellectual honesty must prevail for the sake of the country. With that in mind, I hope the bomb-throwers from both sides will bite their forked tongues, take a breath, and read my position again before dispensing the usual knee-jerk dose of vitriol. If you have any nice questions regarding my position that you’d like me to address, post them as a comment and I’ll try to reply. Because, in the words of John Lennon, all that I am sayin’ is to give [it] a chance.

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sooth, you say

10/6/08

Horizon Air at the Santa Rosa Airport shut down its ticket booth and electronic boarding pass machine ten minutes early today, then left the terminal to board the airplane, and then took off… leaving me and two other passengers completely stranded. I wrote a note to the airline telling them TO FUCK OFF AND I WOULD TELL EVERYONE I KNEW ABOUT WHAT A SHITHOLE LEMONADE STAND OF AN AIRPORT THEY WERE RUNNING.

I have a meeting today, as well as another oral surgery appointment, so I had to rent a car and drive the almost-nine hours to Los Angeles. So you don’t get a real blog from me aujourd’hui, but you get to throw your hat into this particular ring:

Predict, as of today (one month out), the winner of the presidential election and the electoral votes that winner will have. Use your most accurate gut instinct, not what you want to have happen. Winner gets a small glass snifter of some of my oldest single malt.

doggone you betchya

10/2/08

Let’s stick with the obvious today: what did you think of the VP debates? I’ll throw in my predictable brand of self-righteous wailing: Palin has no right to be on stage with Joe Biden debating questions about the future of our country. Period, end of story. That we’re forced to endure her vapid, senseless bullshit is testament that we live in unprecedented times. Frankly, I don’t know how you conservatives can stand carrying water for her – at least us progressives know when to throw our own people under the frickin’ bus.

Anyway, in terms of bizarre-world debate merit, S. Palin actually screwed up: by not going out there and shitting the bed, she actually raised her own bar enough to slide under it. In other words, once the audience (including the millions watching) understood she was not going to actually explode, they relaxed enough to take the debate on its own merits rather than a freakshow – and that was a contest she was never going to win.

Frankly, short of Biden urinating on himself or using the “n” word, I’m not sure how Palin could have won this debate. She just doesn’t have the skill set, despite CIA-like crunch-time training for the event. Greg Paulus could study defense, run 10 miles a day, bulk up and do pectoral deck-flys for three years, but he’s not stopping Danny from going to the rack.