Friday, July 29, 2011

Way to Spliff It, Aberdeen

Wow. Kurt Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington has decided to not name a bridge after him because "because many on the city council were afraid that the memorial would glorify Cobain's drug use and suicide."

As if his life is completely defined by that tragedy, forget that he changed the world.

Or that some kid would cross that bridge some day, look up and read the dedication and think, "Hey! I think I'll do some heroin them come back and jump off!"

Seriously, has anyone EVER thought this way? Can you name one single person who would make, or has made, this kind of connection, obviously besides the parks board of Aberdeen?


I resist and resist putting up political posts because I'm so bad at articulating things; I just tend to rant. Nearly invariably, when I re-read them weeks later, I tend to roll my eyes at myself.

One of my college roommates was a decent cartoonist with a one-of-a-kind sense of humor. My favorite of his was a picture of a Catholic priest awash in sweat with a thought balloon hovering near him in the shape of a croissant, with the caption: "Father Murphy resists a thought croissant." We never know what thought Father Murphy is resisting, which makes it all the funnier, of course, because whatever you chose to project at the moment was probably more horrible than anything my buddy could've thought up. In the recusion section here are descriptions of more of his creations.

In context, though, political posts are the thought croissants I must resist.

I lost the battle today.


So Boener (whom I call Boner out of sheer spite and malice and because he's a dick - see I lose all subtlety on these posts) openly admitted that the Republicans actually want the chaos that would result from not raising the debt ceiling - which means they are perfectly happy to let a vast number of Americans - the very people they are supposed to serve - suffer greatly, just to make political hay, to force their insane economic policies (about which I think they're particularly deluded; I think Americans will reject them like a gut full of botulism, and they certainly won't work in reality because they never have). Finally, they believe they can put the blame on Obama and will certainly try as the election nears, which will get traction in the wingnut echo chamber of the Fox/Rush/Hannity cult (the best word for it anymore), but the rest of us still remember who's the actual culprit.

Here's the quote I pulled this from:
On the Laura Ingraham radio show Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged that "a lot" of Republican House members "believe that if we get past August the second and we have enough chaos, we could force the Senate and the White House to accept a balanced budget amendment."
Judas on a fucking Vespa, anyway.

I know you couldn't really pass an effective law regarding this, but it seems like it should be illegal to blatantly work against the public's interest, such as needlessly throwing America and the world into a depression for sheer cynical political reasons, and via a plan that simply fails if you run the math. (If you are of a like mind, most of Mario Piperni's posts are great fun.)

I have to say it again, it boggles my mind that these fucktards place winning elections (again I think they're assuming something that's just not true, but they believe it in their echo chamber) above the welfare of we the people. I mean, how fucking dare they?

And, if they had such a boner for a balanced budget amendment, why didn't they pursue it when they controlled things under Bush? The obvious answer is they really don't care about it in reality, they only pull it out as a cudgel whey they're not in power to stir things up.

I hope Obama takes the path Clinton suggested and just evoke the 14th amendment, which would set a nice precedent, and it would take away this particular shotgun that the wingnuts and teabaggers have pointed at America's head.


I'll leave you with a couple of cartoons to get the taste out of your mouth:

The inclusion of peas in this is just brilliant.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Harry Potter and other entertainments

Of course, saw the final Harry Potter movie, and it was nice to see the end.

Cathartic? No. The book was. Well, a couple of the iconic scenes were awesome to finally see, especially the final shot. It was a couple hours of fun and simple closure for someone who'd read the wondrous series.

Reports from fellow parents whose kids grew up with Potter are different, though. (Even those who read it first.) They report their kids talking back to the screen, physically reacting to some parts. It's very much a catharsis for them.

Cathartic for me lately was the Cohen brothers' update of True Grit. An impromptu movie party formed a couple weeks ago and someone had this from the Redbox. I was not enthused but it was on my to-watch list, so I settled in with a good brew and expected the tepid.

In my opinion, the Cohen brothers can be very hit-and-miss (Barton Fink anyone?), but when they're on, they're damned on. My wife really coined it, the script was Shakespearean in its scope and grandeur. As with Shakespeare, I laughed harder and much more often than I expected to, and in the end was unexpectedly moved. I'm reading the novel now to perform a mental diff (like most have with Harry Potter and LOTR). Stay tuned.

In my Ryan Reynolds movie fest, I've completed Chaos Theory. Thus far my theory is holding up, that Reynolds is one of those guys who is canny at picking good scripts. The movie was merely entertaining, but, as with The Nines, the premise was intriguing.

In most movies where things could be cleared up by allowing a character finish speaking (ala: "If you would just listen..!" "No! Be quiet! Not another word!"*), it feels like a cheat of too much of the plot hinges on the unrevealed information, but here it's actually part of the plot device, and the interruptions that stop the revelation are realistic. This is one of those movies that would have been a bit better with a defter director. Reynolds continues to impress me as an actor for all seasons. If you've got some time and get it from the library, this is a nice little flick. Stay tuned for the continuation of the Reynolds-fest.

*The Harry Potter movie has one of these, even. Thankfully, the character is allowed to speak, but just barely.

Recent articles about the new documentary Project Nim (which I can't freakin' wait to see) have all mentioned director James Marsh's Man on a Wire about French acrobat's Philippe Petit's walking on a high-wire between the Twin Towers during the 70s, so I fired that sucker up. It was eerie watching footage of the building of the towers because you see the iconic girder-esque outer shell being constructed, which evokes mental images of the same poking from the rubble on that fateful day.

While interesting, it wasn't as gripping as Errol Morris' docs are. Documentary fans will definitely want to see it, though.

Aside from the audacious task of stringing a wire between the two towers, the most jaw-dropping segment for me was Petit's reaction to his sudden international fame after he pulls the the feat off. It's not a spoiler that he makes it, because you see him as he looks now at the start of the show ("so he must've made it!"), but THIS IS A SPOILER:

[Select the blank area with your mouse to read it.]
Immediately after he is released from jail in New York, a random hottie from walks up to him and invites him back to her place for a celebratory fuck, which he jumps on. It's shocking because thus far we've seen much of the very tender relationship with Annie - his long-suffering, soul-mate girlfriend, who was there to watch the event, and was instrumental in pointing out to people on the street what was occurring a quarter of a mile up. He would not have been able to pull it off without her love and support. So his betrayal is shocking. Petit, in the current day, casually dismisses his transgression. Annie herself says that she, too, immediately realized that the event and his fame had changed everything, and says it was somewhat of a relief for her, too, that things were over, and what better way to mark a life change. Still, the heart has a way of repainting tragic events over with time using any hopeful colors it can find, but objective observers can still see the layers of hurt beneath.

Finally, my family tried to slog through the update of Arthur, the re-tread of the Dudley Moore classic. Meh. Not only is it crashingly boring, somehow, but the uber-wealth that Arthur takes for granted chafes in the current day. (The best line is in the preview: the lovely Jennifer Garner, while trying to chase Arthur down to hump him, becomes adhered to Arthur's floating magnetic bed due to metallic inserts in her sexy-time costume, and Arthur bends down to offer: "At least something in this room is attracted to you." Snirk snirk.)

Verdict: Potter fans should rejoice, and then sit down to a viewing of True Grit if they haven't already. Documentary fans should hit the high-wire while waiting for Nim.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Old Friends

Today my family went to the zoo whilst I sat at me desk and pondered how to describe the data relationships between people and the things they can be assigned in the system (oh, the glory of IT work). My wife and daughters send me pictures of their adventures throughout the day, letting me enjoy things vicariously.

Today, they sent me a particularly good one.

That's my lovely MPC1 on the far left, with her best buddy to her right. In the seat behind them is my wife's buddy, with her middle daughter on the left behind. In the seat behind them is my beautiful MPC2 in the hat, with wife's buddy's youngest daughter next to her.

As I was saving it off, I happened to open a folder with this picture of MPC1 and her best buddy as little daisy-pickers, as we called them when they were learning soccer as preschoolers, as they were more likely to sit down and pick flowers as go after the ball. They've been friends since they were both in diapers.

I just had to post these upon seeing the two pictures together and je refuse to have a facebook account, so here you are.
The Big TV

So, we have finally joined the modern age by getting a flat-screen, Hi-Def TV.

For way too long, they were way too expensive, and I just didn't see that much of an upgrade in picture quality. And certainly not thousands of dollars worth of picture quality. Recently they have dipped close to $500, which is more like it.

Plus, our old tube TV had developed this faint line that danced across the lower part of the screen. It wore on the soul.

It went down like this:
I was in Target, combing the clearance shelves, and happed upon a Blu-ray player with a built-in wireless connection for $75. When I called my wife to clear the purchase, as our family policy, she said she'd been to Walmart that day and had seen a big 47" TV (which she's been wanting for 3 years now) for $700. I was right by the TVs so wandered over and noticed they had the TV she was describing for about $500. She said, "I'll be right there." To which I responded, "We're buying a TV today?" She said, "Probably."

We get it home and the brackets they sold us to mount it on the wall were a foot too short. I call the bracket company because they implore you to call them in the instructions if you have any questions whatsoever. To my surprise, they answer, even though it's Friday night. I'm told I have a bracket that's been recalled, and I should return it and get the new one.

Off I go. I have to return it to Target, who doesn't have the new one, so I jet over to Walmart, who does. And it's cheaper. Yay.

Get home, and discover the mounting screws for the bracket are either too long or too short to work, including with the various spacers in the kit.

Off to Lowes where I spend at least a half hour deciding if I should get new screws, different spacers or whatnot. At home I discover the spacers I bought are one washer-width too short.

Off to a neighbor to sift through his can of loose screws and such, and he has only 3. Visit another neighbor, same drill, but now I have enough washers.

The bracket is mounted and now it's time to put the wall-mounting piece up. Much discussion and agonizing about correct height and getting it level. Everyone winces when we hear the boards in the wall creak and crack a little bit as I'm ratcheting in the monster screws. Hand becomes very tired.

The moment arrives, the wife and I hoist it up, and it clicks in beautifully. I spend about 20 minutes running cables, then sit with remote in hand (MPC1 was instructed to read the instructions and school us when the moment arrives), quivering slightly with anticipation and fatigue. It's 10:00 PM.


And this is what we see....

We sit there in silence at first. Then, for about 15 minutes, we explore the concept "how much does THIS suck?" Our daughter brings things to a close by remarking that we are now officially the Griswold family. Laughter breaks the spell, and we head off to bed.

We end up coming home with a bigger TV the next day.
I Like This

I'll admit that I've been a bit glum the last few months.

Contributing factors were a death in the family, friends with lots of troubles losing jobs and houses and spouses, acquaintances with terminal cancer, home town folks fighting floods and living in hotels, 'Merica's in a depression (let's just say it), and so on.* All that grey can tend to make the world seem darker than it is, kinda like the flip side of when you first fall in love or have a (healthy) baby when all the world seems technicolor and just right, also an illusion.

However, the clouds appear to be parting. I find I'm looking at the sunrise again on the way to work rather than just blasting to the office in a daze, and other of those "stop and smell the roses" kinds of things I've been neglecting.

It's a cliche, but it's often the little things that bring perspective.

Last week my wife and I spent the day at doctor's offices getting those little niggling things that add up in middle age diagnosed or (phew) dismissed. (Carpel tunnel for me! Whoo!) One of our fellow travelers in the afternoon waiting room was a sweet, ancient old lady who was so bent over her walker, at first glance your heart just broke for her. Observation proved there was still a very lively and happy person in that tiny weathered body. For example, when asked for her insurance cards, the flurry of activity to procure them showed no hesitation or confusion. It's amazing watching hands that gnarled pluck a 2" x 3" piece of plastic out of a tiny leather pocket.

As she was checking out (aided by her daughter I presume, who appeared to be in her 70s herself), she was delighted at the tissue dispenser which was a scrunched-up face with a huge irritated red nose, which was the point of dispensary. "Oh, I like this!" she said patting it on the head.

I don't know why, but her joy in that little thing made my whole day.

TLD: In a recent "Rolling Stone" issue Zach Galifianakis said that when he's blue, he hangs out at the park and talks to senior citizens, following advise from his parents. I flashed on that when the above happened. I think I might try it someday.

The next day, my wife and I finally decided spontaneously to join this century and get a new flat-screen TV (more on that in another post). As I waited for the girls to come back from some part of the store (buying something that big takes time and they went browsing to relieve the boredom), a pretty young mom who was about 7 months pregnant walked up to the drinking fountain with her darling little 2-year-old girl. She was just a shade too small to reach it, so mom picked her up and bent her over the taller fountain. "I like that one," she said in that little tiny angel voice they have at that age, pointing at the shorter fountain. Mom was slightly exasperated at that, but like everyone with those little little ones, it seems like a crime to not grant such a sweet and innocent request, and so mom bent her bulbous waist as much as she could and got the little moppet down to right level to take a drink. That made my whole day, again.

Those two simple statements of pleasure, the small joys, really resonated with me and reminded me how important it is to be open to those little glimpses of magic.

Then, last night I watched the documentary about the late, great Bill Hicks: American: The Bill Hicks Story. (So titled as it was produced by the BBC; Bill was huge in Britain.) It ended up being another entry in the "end of life" movie festival that my wife and I have unintentionally put together lately.** Like the others, it laced such a final and inherently tragic event in life with the renewal, hope, and release that is there. Hicks faced his end with grace and love. He didn't burden anyone unnecessarily, but made sure they got closure and felt loved.

Death has been weighing heavily on my wife and I, having dealt with it again recently in addition to facing the probable demise of elderly parents in the coming years (probably soon). The Bill Hicks story, along with the others, seemed to be a postcard from God, if you will, to remind us (at least me) that while life, and particularly death, sometimes seems out to get ya, there is much joy and fun to be had.

The trick is remembering to remember that, and to actively pursue joy. It's like marriage that way; it may seem like it should just naturally happen but in truth, you have to cultivate it if you want it to be good.

*Btw, in case you were wondering: happy to report my immediate family is doing great. God willing our good fortune will continue. Having a wonderful summer break. The teenager is turning heads (with me doing my best not to glare at the boys, was there myself once) and the little one got her first lessons in lighting fireworks this last 4th and was very good at lighting fuse and getting away.

**Our odd and unintentional little "end of life" movie festival:
The Suicide Tourist | Frontline - you can watch the whole thing online by following the link. Fair Warning: you see people really die.

You Don't Know Jack with Al Pacino channeling Jack Kevorkian

How to Die in Oregon.

American: The Bill Hicks Story