Counting Presents, Pt. 6
One last look at my first blogging phase, 2003-07:
I think Beltway Dems really believe that the only way to beat Republicans anymore is to give the GOP enough rope to hang itself with, and not seriously fight for anything -- unless perhaps if all Democrats have their back, as with Social Security. It worked in '06 and it almost worked in '04; I'm not saying it's the best way to go necessarily, but I can see where the suits who run things look to '04 and '06 as evidence that supports staying the DLC course.
It's going to take a little while to develop Dems who've come of age in this recent netroots era, people who are not as tainted by Dem losses of the past as the current group of Dem power brokers. Unfortunately if we keep electing authoritarian Republican types, there'll be corporate counterforces that may well keep the "new progressives" from ever realizing their potential.
Dems might win in '08, but I'm more aware than I was as a younger man as to what limited amount will have been won. Because I suspect that the most impactful difference anymore between Dems and Repubs is that Democrats represent a slow descent into virtual serfdom for the have-nots, and Republicans (if they get their way) represent a quick descent.
If this is indeed true, then as a man without a third party and one who can no longer trust the Dem leadership to have my back over the long haul, then of course I prefer the slow descent -- which hopefully features enough petit bourgeois distractions and painkillers that I can look back and say I at least tasted some pleasure along the way.
Perhaps the only thing I can wager on as a free progressive anymore, is that corporations may support me in my desire for slow descent, keeping the pendulum from swinging too far Republican during my lifetime, as long as I remain a useful consumer, supporting the larger power game with my tax dollars and material purchases and my lack of any real resistance.
(Brad) Bird's work on Ratatouille is so visually assured, so classically comical in the best traditions of Chaplin, Keaton and Looney Tunes, that you wonder if he or Pixar can do any wrong. The plot, about an anthropomorphic rat wanting to be a top-notch French chef, may seem a bit slight, and not particularly ground-breaking as cartoon scenarios go. Also, what message there is (don't let your bias against the artist blind you to the value of his creation) seems practically avant-garde by Disney/Pixar standards. But Pixar is simply money in the bank, folks: it has never devolved into anything like hackwork (although Cars came close at points), and after several years of box-office success, that counts as plenty special.
I had some hope that the (Simpsons) movie would transcend the level of cliche that, due to nearly 20 years of prime-time repetition, has infected the all-too-familiar Simpsons archetypes, particularly those of Homer and Bart.
Well, I laughed, and fairly often. Ned Flanders remains a hoot (using his kind of okily-dokily descriptive language here), and the Simpsons' trek to Alaska -- escaping to there after becoming pariahs in Springfield -- had some of the movie's best bits, including a government employee welcoming the family to the state by giving them a thousand dollars, so that residents will "let us destroy the environment.” The way Harry Shearer's character said Here's a thousand dollars just made me crack up. Government buying off the rubes -- now that's the kind of subversive entertainment I love about The Simpsons at its best.
The movie centers around the US government (led by President Arnold Schwarzenegger, natch) putting the town of Springfield (with an environment contaminated due Homer's carelessness, natch) under a huge protective bubble that puts the town's residents under permanent quarantine. Watching The Simpsons over the years, one notices over time that, eventually, everything happens in Springfield: all the big events and big playas make a stop there. So making Springfield its own hermetically-sealed world has a certain in-joke irony that I suppose the creators of the film were aware of.
The trouble with the quarantine idea is, it reminded me why The Simpsons isn't must-see TV for me anymore. The claustrophobia one feels in quarantined Springfield is similar to the one I generally feel watching the TV show these days, as the whole "world as Springfield" idea has devolved into cliche. In addition, the grand satiric idea of The Simpsons -- comically exposing the absurdities and ironies of a land of rubes -- has a certain datedness to it as well. The stupidity of America has had some disastrous consequences in this new millennium, and I just don't find teh stupid as funny a topic as it used to be.
(Michael Bay) makes movies like directors of 30-second commercials make ads, with everything annoyingly broad and cartoon-like, and designed for maximum pandering.
With Transformers, Bay takes the vast majority of the big robot scenes and waits until the movie is nearly two-thirds over to show them. And what do we get while we're waiting? A lot of stupid subplot and backstory surrounding Shia La Boeuf's "teenage outcast" character and Jon Voight's Secretary of Defense, who apparently is the real pants in the government, while the Decider he works under is reduced to a Ho Ho-loving cartoon who appears only in a brief cameo voiced off-camera. (Oh, that George W. is sure dumb! How funny!)
When the robots finally get to strut their stuff, the CGI, while competent, isn't knock-your-socks off enough to justify the travesty of Bay's painfully hacky plot games.
In the world of Oregon sports teams, a fan is conditioned to fear chokes in crunch time. It's happened a lot over the years, and one must conclude that the Oregon sports psyche is generally a fragile thing. But Nike founder Phil Knight, a Duck alum, has pumped millions of support into UO athletics, and that's helped transform the state's sports mentality somewhat, at least on the collegiate level. It's been refreshing to see.
The song is based on the 1962 LA Dodgers, the subject of one of the first sports stories my dad shared with me when I was a kid. He remembered following the team when we lived in SoCal at the time (me being born during that season) and seeing the Dodgers choke away a big lead at the end of the year, before losing a three-game playoff to the SF Giants for the National League pennant.
It's sad, because in a sane country, one not dominated by corporate, conservative-enabling news media and corrupt and/or spineless politicians, Gore's (Nobel) honors would make it more likely for him to win the presidency. But we don't live in such a country, and I think Gore -- who's talked in recent years about no longer having the stomach for the extreme rough and tumble of electoral politics -- knows this.
(Nick Lowe) had a charming conversational tone with the audience, talking about how he used to have a home in Cornwall in south of England. He said that normally this would be the time of the show where a map would come down behind him, and he could point to Cornwall on the map, but "the truck" wasn't able to get the map to the show. His Cornwall place, he said, was originally intended as a hideout to write songs at. He said he ended up not writing many songs there, but having plenty of good times getting drunk with his friends.
Now that he has a wife and kid, he told the audience, things like the house in Cornwall and "the Mercedes-Benz" have gone away. He had the audience in the palm of his hand at this point, and he gave a wistful sigh of remembrance for all the past wild times. He said he likes to do one of those sighs per show.
I consider what might happen should I lose my current job. Is the competition for jobs so great now that many who apply are very qualified? Or is it something else, like my, shall we say, advanced age compared to other applicants? Or my lack of upward mobility in past jobs -- do they judge me on not having supervisory experience, even if the position itself is not a supervisor job?
It's the not knowing, the forced guesswork, that bugs me the most. If I at least got an interview, I might get a better clue as to what they want and what I might lack.
All I can say is, as annoying as my current customer service job can be, it may well be as good as I'm going to get in that field. Someday I may be forced to get a job in another field -- maybe even requiring job training -- and that would not be easy. In future jobs I may ultimately have to accept a pay cut, or worse.
Ugh. And meanwhile, there'll always be people who say, just bring out that Inner Salesman, Greg! Sell, sell, sell! Smile, smile, smile! Coffee's for closers!
Adams was a high school borne of 1960s intellectual adventurism. It was an open and liberal-minded campus, with "schools within a school" that served the individual education needs of students.
During the school's early years there were problems in integrating with the community, and in seeming too politically radical to both Portland school administrators and parents in the Adams neighborhood. When I arrived there as a freshman in 1976-77, a lot of the sense of liberal experimentalism had died down, but there was still enough for me to personally find refreshing. If you came there to learn responsibly, the teachers treated you pretty much like an adult, and gave you a solid base of knowledge to work from.
There's not been a school before or since where I flourished more, and I even got to be a central figure in what was probably Adams' last politically radical moment, in 1979: I wrote an editorial in the school newspaper wondering why the Portland Rose Festival, to that point, had never chosen a black Rose Festival queen.
The editorial drew written condemnation from the Festival, but the Adams staff voted to stand by what I wrote. The controversy was covered by The Oregonian newspaper and local TV newscasts in June '79; the next year, the city's first African-American Rose Festival queen was chosen. It was tempting to take some credit, but really I'll never be able to say for sure how much influence that I, or the then-emerging "Black United Front" activist movement in the city, had on the choice. In any event, those were heady times.
The team's quest for a quality center to complete what was, most seasons, a solid nucleus of players, led them to take a chance in the 1984 draft and choose center Sam Bowie over guard Michael Jordan. As I've mentioned before, people don't really get when they mention how foolish Portland supposedly was to pass on Jordan in favor of Bowie, that even if the Blazers had drafted MJ, he wouldn't have been nearly as good a fit in Portland with that team (featuring Clyde Drexler, who Jordan might've battled for the mantle of team leader) and that coach (Jack Ramsay, who might've dared to -- gasp! -- not right away make Jordan the center of the offense) as he was with Chicago. With Da Bulls he could be Da Man fairly soon, and he played on what for him must've been a more appealing big-city stage. He'd have likely given Portland three or four seasons at most, then would've been off to a bigger market and fatter contract.
On the way home, I wished I'd asked (Schulz's widow) about something I'd learned about Schulz that day that impressed me: his apparent love of classic country music. I found this out while upstairs at the museum, inspecting what is said to be a very accurate recreation of Sparky's work studio as it was when he announced his retirement in late 1999. It featured all the necessary art materials, plus a nice-sized library of collected books, numerous photos of family and friends, and an autographed basketball from Julius Erving underneath the big drawing board.
On a shelf near one corner of the recreated studio was a turntable and what must've been Sparky's workplace record collection. Along with some classical and jazz, he had records by Buck Owens and Lefty Frizzell, as well as the soundtrack to the Stephen Sondheim musical Company. In a 1995 documentary I saw part of in the museum theatre, he mentioned that he sometimes liked listening to Hank Williams Sr. records.
Oh well, we'll always have Stonehenge...
I thought Depp actually regained some acting mojo in the third film that he'd lost somewhat in the second, as other characters established themselves, for better or worse. Whether intentionally or not, the filmmakers allow Depp to indulge more of the surreal drug-influenced side of his persona that enabled him to portray his friend Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. (Message: Drugs are bad, kids, but Johnny Depp acid visions are money in the bank.)
At an open-air mall on Kauai, we were watching a group of women and girls doing hula dances, followed by them placing leis on various spectators. The smallest dancer was a tiny girl about the same size as Andrew (who was 4-1/2 at the time) and she discovered she didn't have a lei. So she went back to the dressing room or wherever to get one; as she came out with the lei, she ran right into Andrew, and without a word put the lei around his neck. Cutest damn thing you ever saw.
(Steve Gilliard) maintained a healthy dialogue between himself and his readers in his comments sections, directly and passionately replying to issues raised. As the recipient of a few of those replies, I always greatly respected this aspect of his blogging, even when I didn't fully agree with his opinion. It was important to him that lefty blog commenters expose themselves to critical commentary; he must've known that the elitist, protective bubbles created by and for the odious MSM pundits are a big part of the problem today, and he didn't want Left Blogistan becoming nothing but a clique-y hangout for those reluctant to go beyond preaching to the choir.