Saturday, April 9, 2011

Overheard at Barnes & Noble

"Let's get you a book, Mike."

"I don't wanna book!"

"We're getting you a book, Mike."

"I wanna game!"

"A book is just like a game."

"Then you play it!"

Monday, April 4, 2011

On the Mend

My mother is out of the hospital, finally, and in a skilled nursing facility, where she'll be for another week or so before returning home. The doctors don't see any reason why she won't make a full recovery in the long run and be as active as she was before, which for an 83-year-old was pretty active.

Thanks to all who provided prayers and just plain good thoughts. They're much appreciated, by all of us.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Praying for Norma Jean

A person can easily get caught up in the rush of work and how to juggle deadlines that conflict. And become focused on our "kinetic military action" in Libya, or the deficit, or Wisconsin. But all it takes is one late-night phone call saying that your 83-year-old mother is having emergency surgery halfway across the country, and your world narrows down to your own family, and nothing more.

She's out of surgery and stable, but hardly on the road to recovery, at least not yet. So for any readers so inclined, please pray for Norma Jean.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Got Nothing

Or at least, nothing but too much work on my desk and too many world events to keep up with.

And a dog that needs yet another walk. Back soon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Princess of the Universe" Filler!

Because this weekend is full of long-overdue time with my wife, Utopia has always been one of my favorite bands, and the post on Libya simply isn't ready yet...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Goldendoodle Filler!

Meet Eubie, a 4-month-old Goldendoodle and our own girl's new best friend:

Life is always better with dogs...

Friday, March 18, 2011

An Unserious Man in an Unserious Party

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) on the defunding of NPR:

A national debt that tops $14 trillion. A projected deficit of $1.6 trillion in the Obama administration's proposed budget for next year. A federal government currently borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends.

James O'Keefe and the politics or bias of NPR aside, we're well beyond the point where we can afford something that might be nice to do. Or that we might like to do. If this country is going to have any future at all, we need to cut the federal government back to the bare essentials. And those bare essentials do not include federal funding of NPR.

Or Click & Clack.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pop Quiz: Presidential Leadership Edition

Which of the following strong presidential responses to a pressing issue or crisis best exemplifies our current leadership?

A) Presidential response to the tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan:

B) Presidential response to the revolution in Libya, currently being crushed by forces loyal to Qaddafi:

C) Presidential response to the deficit, debt crisis, and lack of a federal budget:

Hint: At this point, I don't just miss George W. Bush. I'm actually starting to miss Jimmy Carter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Andrew Klavan: "Multiculturalism Explained"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Last 36 Hours in 3...2...1...


is the number of neighborhood dogs I've guided safely home after discovering them roaming free, with no tags or ID, because their owners left the gate either unlatched or wide open.


is the number of neighborhood "window watchers" who know me by sight, if not by name, from walking my own dog up and down these streets for four years yet still thought I was a criminal mastermind trying to burgle a house under cover of herding an escaped dog back into its yard.


is the number of people who thanked me.

Return to Normalcy

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Promote a Sci-Fi Extravaganza

Say what you will about anime and its live-action remakes, the cast of Space Battleship Yamato definitely know how to promote their blockbuster film:

Clearly, I need to watch more Japanese TV during my insomnia hours.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Eternal Question

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How Not to Spend a Saturday Morning

Is there anything better than spending two glorious hours on a Saturday morning trying to make a mew printer work properly? Especially when that printer is a replacement sent by the manufacturer because the original printer you bought from them turned out to be defective?

There is. And it's how I plan to spend my Saturday afternoon.

(WARNING: Foul-mouthed yet entirely appropriate rap music ahead...)

Friday, March 11, 2011

James Clapper: Qaddafi, Social Network Will Win

WASHINGTON -- In open testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Muammar Qaddafi would prevail in the Libyan civil war and The Social Network would win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

As in previous hearings, Clapper's comments provoked immediate controversy. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stated, "You just undercut every American diplomatic effort to convince a murderous dictator to step down, and you pulled the rug out from under every Libyan now risking his or her life for freedom. You do know this is an open hearing being broadcast throughout the world, right?"

Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) echoed Graham's criticism. "You're making it pretty hard for us to keep covering for you, Jim. And for God's sake, don't answer Lindsey's question."

It was Clapper's comments about the hit film The Social Network, however, that truly sparked the ire of Sen. Graham. A transcript of the relevant exchange follows:

GRAHAM: How can you not know the Oscars were given out almost two weeks ago?

CLAPPER: Senator, it is the consensus opinion of the national intelligence community that the 83rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony has not, in fact, taken place.

GRAHAM: So The King's Speech didn't really win Best Picture?

CLAPPER: Senator, our analysts feel that a mercy Oscar in a technical category is the likeliest outcome for that film.

When asked about this exchange, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated, "Vice President Biden has full faith and confidence in Director Clapper. Oh, wait. You were asking about the president. Let me get back to you."

Today's comments were not the first brush with controversy for Director Clapper. In February, he provoked a firestorm with his claim that the Muslim Brotherhood was a "largely secular" organization. A spokesperson for the National Intelligence Coordination Center later clarified that Clapper had meant to say the Brotherhood was a "largely spectacular" organization.

In related testimony during the Senate hearing today, Clapper revealed the U.S. intelligence community now believes that most members of the Muslim Brotherhood are not actual brothers. "Though some members may well be connected in a familial fashion," Clapper explained, "recent communication intercepts indicate the Muslim Brotherhood is actually an umbrella organization that includes many people, from many countries, who may or may not be related."

Current Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and rumored Clapper replacement Leon Panetta refused to comment on this story, explaining that he had not yet watched analysis of the hearing on CNN.

Shocking Photo: Arizona Now Requires Proof of Immigration Status for Eggs

Can you spot the undocumented egg?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

REPORT: U.S. Military Too White, Male; Michelle Rodriguez Named New Chair of Joint Chiefs

WASHINGTON -- Acting quickly on recommendations from a ground-breaking report that the top leadership of the U.S. military is too white, too male, and does not accurately reflect the diversity of America, the Obama administration today announced the appointment of actress Michelle Rodriguez as the new Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"This is a profoundly important issue," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "And quite frankly, after the whole Middle East thing, it's nice to get out in front of something for a change."

As with repeal of the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, the move has provoked rare criticism of civilian authority by uniformed members of the military. "Ms. Rodriguez is a brilliant young actress," said Gen. David Petraeus. "However, a three-week actor's boot camp hardly prepares someone to lead the finest fighting force this world has ever known." (UPDATE: See related article, "MoveOn.Org: David Petraeus, Two Thumbs Down!")

Experienced observers from outside the senior officer corps, however, disagree. "I applaud this visionary appointment," said Dirk DeSoto, executive director for Hollywood Veterans of Imaginary Conflicts. "For too long, America has mistakenly prepared to fight the last war. And as Michelle Rodriguez knows from Battle: Los Angeles, the next war won't be against rogue states or radical jihadists. It will be against alien invaders from beyond the stars. Or giant robots. But hopefully just aliens. Because of it's giant robots, we're screwed."

According to an anonymous White House source close to the decision-making process, the Rodriguez appointment was not without internal controversy as well. "Foxy Brown was a seminal film for the Obamas," the source revealed, "and the First Lady made a strong case for the positive message Pam Grier would send to the African-American tween community."

Others reportedly considered include Milla Jovovich, Scarlett Johansson, Jackie Chan, and Summer Glau.

Even with White House backing, however, Rodriguez faces an uphill battle for confirmation in the Senate. Appearing on Fox News, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) declared, "The American people know how much I love feisty women with big guns, but this appointment is nothing more than a cynical attempt by the Obama administration to recapture the Hispanic vote in 2012."

McCain's comments prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to counter, "Re-capture? What Hispanic in his right mind has ever voted Republican?"

Responding to these and other issues surrounding the appointment, new Defense Department spokesperson Chris Farley commented, "Remember when Michelle flew that helicopter thing in Avatar? That was awesome."

Current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen was unavailable for comment.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"She Don't Like Firefly"

Fortunately for me, my own lovely nerdy gamer wife is a Big Damn Browncoat.

Metaphorically speaking, of course...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Home Schooling Ingalls Family Wins Presidential Commencement Speech Challenge

WASHINGTON -- The White House announced today that the Ingalls family of Walnut Grove, Minnesota, are this year's winners of a graduation commencement address by President Barack Obama.

"We couldn't be more thrilled," said Charles "Pa" Ingalls, a family farmer and suspected Tea Party activist. "After hearing that only 68 schools in the entire nation had applied for this year's presidential graduation address, my wife and I encouraged our kids to throw their hats in the ring. Of course, we never thought they'd actually win!"

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also expressed surprise. "The essay by the Ingalls children really was just head and shoulders beyond anything we'd ever seen. Even Secretary of Education Duncan had no idea kids like this were still out there. They had paragraphs and everything."

Given continuing unrest involving unionized teachers in Wisconsin, however, political experts are divided on the implications of this announcement for President Obama's 2012 reelection bid.

"Politically, I just don't see the upside," said Joe Trippi, who ran Howard Dean's successful 2004 presidential campaign. "I mean, did you see them on the Today show? The father actually called one of his daughters 'half-pint.' How demeaning is that? The president should be calling out this abusive father, not rewarding him with a speech."

Robert "Bob" Shrum, who ran John Kerry's successful 2004 presidential campaign, disagreed. "IT'S A HOME RUN, BABY!!!" Shrum responded by e-mail. "THIS IS WHAT I CALL REACHING OUT TO THE CENTER!!!"

Among the president's core supporters, reaction was uniformly skeptical.

"President Obama has again betrayed those who put him in office," said noted education theorist William Ayers. "True education doesn't happen in the home, or a private school, or a charter school, or a magnet school. Research shows that true education only happens in a public school, or at a protest led by a teacher who called in sick."

Ayers is not alone in his views. The National Education Association has vowed to picket the Ingalls home during the president's backyard graduation address. Other organizations publicly committed to protesting the Ingalls ceremony include the American Federation of Teachers, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Westboro Baptist Church.

Reports that the Rev. Al Sharpton will lead a counter-graduation ceremony across the street were unconfirmed at press time.

What a True Grassroots Campaign Sign Looks Like

Not Even a Leap Year Could Make This Look Good

Remember the days when a several hundred billion dollars would be the deficit for an entire year? Now that's the deficit for a single month -- and the shortest month of the year at that:

The federal government posted its largest monthly deficit in history in February, a $223 billion shortfall that put a sharp point on the current fight on Capitol Hill about how deeply to cut this year’s spending.
I'd love to say that's the single most depressing thing I've read in a very long time. Unfortunately, the idea that cutting only $61 billion -- not even a third of our deficit for the shortest month of the year -- from our roughly $3.7 trillion federal budget is somehow "ideological, extremist, [and] reckless" clearly tops the quote above.

I'd also love to say that February's deficit, like the movie Kick-Ass, makes me feel like a geezer. After all, I can remember the days when the February numbers actually would have been the deficit for an entire year. You know, the days before "hope" and "change." Only those days weren't that long ago.

They just feel that way.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tyler Perry's "The President's Speech"

(H/T: I Hate The Media)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

REUTERS: Qaddafi Flees Libya, Replaces Steven Tyler on American Idol

TRIPOLI -- Fleeing armed rebels and unarmed protesters, Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi has accepted the international community's offer of exile in Hollywood, where he will appear as a judge on Season 11 of the hit television show American Idol.

"It's hard to keep a show fresh and unpredictable after 10 years on the air, so we're excited to have Col. Qaddafi as a judge next season," said Executive Producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz. "Qaddifi combines the wackiness of Steven Tyler and Paula Abdul with the tyrannic intensity of Simon Cowell. And his chemistry with Ryan Seacrest during the audition was unbelievable!"

Governments around the world uniformly praised the diplomatic breakthrough.

"The Libyan people gain their freedom from a murderous psychopath, and the American people gain another year of great television," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva. "This kind of win-win is the essence of smart diplomacy."

The recently struck deal, however, also breathes new life into lingering suspicions of a double standard in the Obama administration's handling of the revolutions in Libya and Egypt. Addressing this issue, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explained, "Hosni Mubarak is a 82-year-old autocrat with no knowledge of modern pop music, whereas Col. Qaddafi has paid for personal concerts by the likes of Mariah Carey, Beyonce, and Nelly Furtado. The two situations really couldn't be more different."

Republicans predictably criticized the new agreement.

"When America sheltered Nazi scientists after World War II, we at least got the Apollo moon program out of it," said Speaker of the House John Boehner. "What are we getting from Qaddafi? A better way to make some tone-deaf kid from Wichita cry?"

Potential presidential candidate Sarah Palin tweeted, "I guess Stalin had a scheduling conflict. And yes, I do know Stalin is dead." (UPDATE: See related article, "Chris Matthews: 'Why Is Sarah Palin Lying About Knowing Josef Stalin Is Dead?'")

At least one veteran television personality, speaking on condition of anonymity, also expressed confusion. "Steven Tyler's antics brought great ratings, but I guess he just became too unmanageable on the set," Kelsey Grammer told Reuters. "But why the State Department and the American Idol producers think a tyrant who bombed his own people will be any more reasonable is just beyond me."

Confronted with Grammer's anonymous comments, new State Department spokesperson Charlie Sheen responded, "Kelsey Grammer's mind cannot process how many bad-ass gnarly gnarlingtons are still out there. Even if Qaddafi flames out, we can keep filling a dictator's seat at that judges' table for decades, bro. I'm an F-18. Winning!"

Steven Tyler could not be reached for comment.

"Sheen Wars"

Is a warning really necessary? I mean, it is Charlie Sheen...

(H/T: The Other McCain)

On the Lack of Ketchup at My Local High-End Produce Market

"Did you find everything you were looking for, sir?"

"Everything except ketchup."

"We don't carry ketchup."

"You don't carry ketchup?"

"No, sir."

"How can you not carry ketchup?"

"We just don't."

"Not even some fancy organic ketchup?"

"No, sir."

"But you have five different kinds of premium mustard over there."

"We don't carry ketchup."

"Do you carry catsup?"

"Are you messing with me, sir?"

"No. Not at all. I'm just trying to understand how you can have five different kinds of mustard and all those other condiments but somehow not carry ketchup."

"We just don't carry it, sir."

"Even Trader Joe's has ketchup."

"We're not Trader Joe's."

"You have tomatoes?"

"Yes, sir."

"But no ketchup."

"No, sir."

"Seriously. How can you not carry ketchup?"

"I could get the manager, sir, and you could ask him."

"No. Thank you. That's all right. I'll just stop at Vons on my way home and get some there."

"That's what they all say, sir."

"I take it you've had this conversation before."

"You have no idea."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Behind the Scenes at MSNBC

(H/T: Michael Prescott)

Campaign Signs of the Times

If sheer density of campaign yard signs is any indication, Judy Nelson has her election to city council in the bag!

Even Doug Tessitor (the red, white, and blue sign in the lower left corner) has endorsed her.

UPDATE: Judy Nelson and Doug Tessitor have both been elected to city council. The insurgent with the true grassroots campaign sign will unfortunately not be joining them.

Just So There's No Confusion...

I am not the same Wesley M. as the Wesley M. who tweets as @Westwit.

I am not the same Wesley M. who posts reviews on yelp.

I am also not Wesley Messamore.

Just so there's no confusion.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pop Quiz: Dancing Protesters of Madison Edition

Which of the following groups of dancing protesters in Madison, Wisconsin, has the best shot at winning America's Best Dance Crew?

A) The Sweet Carolines:

B) The Napoleon Dynamites:

C) Goth Mary Poppins, Middle-Aged Vampire Mummer, and...well...I honestly have no frakkin' idea, but one of them has a broom:

Hint: Sorry, but none of the above stands a chance compared to the brothers of Alpha Delta Phi, who in this not entirely safe depending on where you work video prove that you don't need a Supreme Court decision to deal with the Westboro Baptist Church:

Senator Tom Harkin's Steak Marinade

Yes, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has his own steak marinade. And it's good!

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together. Marinate your steaks in the mixture for 2 to 3 hours in a sealed plastic bag or covered baking dish.
Senator Tom Harkin, bringing liberals and conservatives together through tasty, tasty meat!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

One Window and Two Dogs

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"A Unionized Teacher, a Tea Party Member, and a CEO Are Sitting at a Table..."

Current status of a friend on Facebook:

A unionized teacher, a Tea Party member, and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the Tea Party member and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie." Reposted - pass it on.
High-larious! But let's try this another way:
A unionized teacher, a Tea Party member, the CEO of a "green" corporation, and President Obama are sitting at a table. Excited at participating in our democratic process, the Tea Party member shares a plate with a dozen cookies that she'd baked for the meeting.

President Obama reaches across the table and takes 10 cookies. Then he looks at the CEO of the "green" corporation and says "Thanks for all your support on cap-and-trade, health reform, and the Stimulus. Here are seven cookies in bailouts, green-energy subsidies, Stimulus funds, and other 'investments' in our future. Even better, here's an extra special waiver cookie that exempts you from the new health reform law you just supported!"

President Obama then looks at the unionized teacher and says, "Thanks for all your hard work teaching our nation's children. Here's eight cookies, but only five actually go to your salary and your classroom. And I'll just keep one of the other three cookies, since it'll come right back to me as campaign contributions from your union anyway. But don't worry! When you retire, I promise you'll still get a big percentage of your usual yearly cookies, no matter how many cookies in all that means, guaranteed!"

Confused by his accounting, the Tea Party member scratches her head and asks, "President Obama, you just took 10 of my 12 cookies, but you gave away 16!"

Looking sternly at the Tea Party member, President Obama replies, "Your grandchildren better get busy baking then, shouldn't they?"
UPDATE: Mrs. Copious takes issue with the realism of President Obama snatching up 10 of the 12 cookies. I agree that's overstating the tax rate, but considering the original joke had the CEO taking 11 cookies, I thought having the president take only 10 was fair turnabout. Besides, 10 cookies made the rest of the math a lot easier to work out in my head, because as everyone knows, math is hard.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sexiest Doll Butt Ever

(Post title via Mrs. Copious, proving once again that I married the right woman.)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Overheard While Walking the Dog

COACH: I'm serious. I will make you do push ups if you miss another easy ball like that.

PLAYER: But you didn't hit it right to me.

COACH: Hit it right to you? Do you think the other team is going to hit the ball right where you want them to, just so you can stand there and wait for it to fall into your hands and not have to hustle?

PLAYER: They might if we ask them nicely.

COACH: Ask them nicely?! What [muffled cursing] kind of league do you think you're playing in here?!

Fun with Unintended Symbolism

Quote from current Associated Press news article ("Obama: Public employees should not be vilified"):

[President] Obama says he understands the fiscal challenges facing cash-strapped states and...everyone should be prepared "to give something up."
Photo currently accompanying this AP news article:

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In fairness, President Obama actually made those comments while wearing a standard suit-and-tie, as shown here. Somehow, though, I doubt that I'm the only person, seeing that picture next to that headline and that quote, who immediately thought, "Oh, you have got to be kidding me..."

Well played, Associated Press via Yahoo News! Well played, indeed!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Missing All the Fun

Yeah, I know, I'm missing all the blogging fun when it comes to the Middle East and Wisconsin. But when you're self-employed in a mostly feast-or-famine business, you need to focus on the feast when clients lay out a full spread on your table.

Now, if I can only stop all those fiskings and satires from popping into my mind while I don't have time to write them...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Because Astronomy Is Still Awesome

Friday, February 18, 2011

Still Alive...

...just overwhelmed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Because Astronomy Is Awesome

Yes, I know, the planets are spinning and the weather systems are moving in the wrong direction. But that just means this is clearly the Mirror Universe.

And you know what they do to nitpickers in the Mirror Universe...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

But I Have a Deadline!

I should be writing something about Egypt, or about the District Court in Florida declaring ObamaCare unconstitutional, or about any of the topics that "real" bloggers devour in a big honkin' blogswarm, but I have a deadline.

And then another.

And then yet another.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Married Conversation About Eating Chicken Feet

"Stop staring at your chicken foot and just eat it already."

"I can't help it. It's like I'm holding a little piece of Cthulhu between my chopsticks."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Also Spotted at the L.A. Art Walk



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union Speech 2011: The Lost Footage

And that about sums it up. Unfortunately.

(Video via Instapundit.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's Not Even a Choice Tonight

I have two options for how to spend this coming evening:

A) Watch President Obama's State of the Union address.

B) Go out for tasty BBQ with a friend from back east.

It's not even a choice at this point, because I think I could actually write the State of the Union speech myself. Highlights will include:

A) Calls to reduce spending, matched by calls to increase spending, or investment, or whatever the latest term is for money we don't have.

B) Calls for civility and bipartisanship, matched by sharp pokes in the eye to Republicans, conservatives, Tea Partiers, and generally everyone who disagrees with his policies.

C) A presidential shout-out to at least one good citizen, who will be sitting in the gallery next to the First Lady.

D) A rewriting of history. Again.

I'll see how close I was to the mark tomorrow night, when I sit down in front of the DVR with some leftover pulled pork.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Actually, I'm Only 28% Radical

At least, that's what the online quiz "Are You a Political Radical?" says:

You Are 28% Politically Radical
You've got a few unusual political ideas, but overall you're a pretty mainstream person. Chances are that you're turned off by both the radical right and looney left.
As The Unreligious Right notes, the quiz generally ignores foreign policy. Not that any online quiz shouldn't be taken a big grain of salt anyway.

Except for this one, of course:

Are You A Werewolf Or A Vampire?
Your Result: YOU'RE A WEREWOLF!!!

You like being outside, and you are more like a live wire at night. You crave you nights on the full moon so go out and howl like the animal you are. Look out for those Vampires even if they are your friends....they are going to be your worst enemy....soon.

Are You A Werewolf Or A Vampire?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

UPDATE: As of today, GenderAnalyzer considers this blog to be 74% manly. Hooray for (finally) mostly manly me!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spotted at the L.A. Art Walk

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The New Civility

Henceforth, all targets, crosshairs, and gunsights in political and/or activist advertising will include an obligatory -- and calming -- smiley-face to emphasize the peacefulness, civility, and social justice of that group's tactics and cause, especially when the target, crosshair, or gunsight is paired with a home address:

Any similarity between the smiley-face pictured above and the Wal-Mart logo is entirely coincidental, I'm sure.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Minnesota Death Star"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Yeah, What They Said...

What Victor Davis Hanson said:

Arguments that the liberal community is less prone to reckless speech, or has far less tolerance for those within it who use violent imagery and language than does the Right, are unconvincing. I don’t remember a Krugman column or a Sen. Patrick Leahy speech on the toxic Nicholson Baker novel, the Gabriel Range Bush assassination docudrama, the Chris Matthews CO2-pellet-in-the-face/blowing-up-of-the-“blimp” comments about Rush Limbaugh, the “I hate George Bush” embarrassment at The New Republic, Michael Moore’s preference for a red-state target on 9/11, or the Hitlerian/Brownshirt accusations voiced by the likes of Al Gore, John Glenn, Robert Byrd, George Soros, and so on. So why the disconnect? Politics for sure, but I think also the double standard has something to do with style, venue, and perceived class.

If a progressive imagines killing George Bush in a tony Knopf novel or a Toronto film festival documentary, or rambles on about why he finds his president an object of hatred in a New Republic essay, or muses in The Guardian (cf. Charles Brooker: “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?”), then we must certainly contextualize that hatred in a way that we do not in the crasser genres of commercial-laden talk radio, or an open-air demonstration placard. The novelist, the film-maker, the high-brow columnist, the professor can all dabble in haute couture calumny (cf. Garrison Keeler’s “Brownshirts in pinstripes”); the degree-less, up-from-the-bootstraps Beck, Hannity, or Limbaugh behind a mike cannot. What is at the most atypical, out of character, or in slightly bad taste for the former must be a window into the dark soul of the latter.

So when suave, sophisticated, and cool Barack Obama talks metaphorically of knives, guns, enemies, punishing, kicking ass, relegation to the back seat, get angry, getting in their face, hostage takers, trigger fingers, tearing up, etc. we are supposed to think of it quite differently than George Bush, the swaggering Texan, speaking of “dead or alive,” “smoke ’em out,” or “bring ’em on” — even if, empirically, one might find Obama’s confrontational expressions far more frequent and used far more in a domestic context against American political opponents than Bush’s Texanisms, which were spoken of radical Islamic terrorists.

In short, we are asked to believe that Sarah Palin’s use of crosshair symbols is confirmation that trigger-happy Alaskan yokels cling to their guns and incite violence, whereas sophisticated liberals, with their campaign maps replete with shooting targets on Republican districts are at most “edgy.”
And what Don Surber said, more colorfully:
The left wants us to be civil — after being so uncivil for a decade.

Bite me.
Yeah, what they said...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How to Spend a Sunday Morning

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why Kick-Ass Makes Me Feel Like a Geezer

Closer to "20 years ago" now than I care to admit, I was a struggling baby screenwriter in a meeting with people who were way beyond me in success and experience and connections. And I was digging in my heels over the idea of turning the villain of my script into the hero's mother, because then our climax would be a 25-year-old guy beating the living crap out of a middle-aged woman. I was certain any reviewer would crucify us and any audience would turn against us.

Closer to "20 years later" than I care to admit, I put Kick-Ass in the DVD player, sat down on the couch with my wife, and watched an 11-year-old girl ("Hit Girl") on a bloody, mass murdering rampage and a climax that featured a middle-aged thug beating the living crap out of the same 11-year-old girl.

Suddenly, that long-ago argument about where to draw the line seems downright quaint. And I have never felt so old.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Married Conversation at the L.A. Art Walk

"What did you think of the American flag with pictures of sheep all over it?"

"I found it endearingly adolescent in the unsubtle overtness of its social and political critique. And it made me hungry for lamb."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Currently on My Neighbors' Patio Wall

I think they may be trying to break their "How long can we leave the pumpkin out after Halloween?" record from last year...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Loughner Brought the Bloodshed, the New York Times Brings the Invective

I don't expect much from the New York Times, but I do expect better than their editorial board's entry into the "Stop the Climate of Hate!" grandstanding so many television pundits, politicians, enlightened bloggers, and even other New York Times columnists have been spouting since this weekend. So imagine my relatively minor surprise with our Newspaper of Record's editorial on the subject, "Bloodshed and Invective in Arizona":

She read the First Amendment on the House floor — including the guarantee of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” — and then flew home to Arizona to put those words into practice. But when Gabrielle Giffords tried to meet with her constituents in a Tucson parking lot on Saturday, she came face to face with an environment wholly at odds with that constitutional ideal, and she nearly paid for it with her life.
That's right. Congresswoman Giffords and the many other victims didn't encounter, to quote the Times' own words later in this same editorial, "one particular madman" in that parking lot. They encountered an "environment." And the debate about this "environment" is apparently over as well for the Times. So pay no attention to that "madman" and his history of death threats and "paranoid Internet ravings" when it comes to assigning blame for the wounded and dead in Tucson.
Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting Ms. Giffords, killing a federal judge and five other people, and wounding 13 others, appears to be mentally ill. His paranoid Internet ravings about government mind control place him well beyond usual ideological categories.
Note their careful phrasing: Loughner "appears to be mentally ill." After all, we wouldn't want to rush to judgment here, at least not about a man who just killed six people, "was a nihilist and love[d] causing chaos," and thought the government was practicing mind control through grammar -- even though this same editorial does in fact call him a "madman" later on. After all, a rush to judgment might create "a widespread squall of fear, anger, and intolerance" as well as hatred against the mentally ill. No, the Times saves that for people who protest the health reform law and the largest budget deficits in history, hold a different view on how to deal with illegal immigration, and use martial imagery and metaphors in political discourse (like the word "campaign".)

You know, the really dangerous people...
But he is very much a part of a widespread squall of fear, anger and intolerance that has produced violent threats against scores of politicians and infected the political mainstream with violent imagery. With easy and legal access to semiautomatic weapons like the one used in the parking lot, those already teetering on the edge of sanity can turn a threat into a nightmare.
Yes, Loughner bought the gun he used to kill those people legally. But does the Times really think that new laws restricting "easy and legal access to semiautomatic weapons" would have stopped Loughner from carrying out whatever paranoid fantasies he had? Because if someone who is "already teetering on the edge of sanity" and "part of a widespread squall of fear, anger, and intolerance" that has "infected the political mainstream with violent imagery" wants to kill a group of people, that person is going to find a way. And if he can't get hold of a gun legally, or illegally, he can always just drive an SUV into a crowd at 45 mph instead.

There's a real debate to be had about gun laws and how we handle mental illness. But the idea that new laws will prevent us from ever again having to deal with the aftermath of a madman who is hellbent on killing people isn't part of it. And if a few new laws really are the answer, then that "widespread squall" must actually be a light breeze for all the power it really has, even over someone like Loughner.
Last spring, Capitol security officials said threats against members of Congress had tripled over the previous year, almost all from opponents of health care reform. An effigy of Representative Frank Kratovil Jr., a Maryland Democrat, was hung from a gallows outside his district office. Ms. Giffords’s district office door was smashed after the health vote, possibly by a bullet.
To quote again the Times' own words from later in this same editorial, it would be "facile and mistaken to attribute" that hyperlink above to a deliberate effort by the Times to mischaracterize the facts in order to score cheap political points and, in the process, scare the crap out of people when it comes to those who disagree with the Times politically. But, quoting again, "it is legitimate" to click on that link and realize that the article doesn't actually use the word "tripled," though it does say threats have risen -- and focuses solely on threats from "opponents of health care reform" to Democrats in Congress. And why should the Newspaper of Record feel any need to note similar threats to, and even outright violence against, opponents of health reform?

Maybe the Times editors meant to copy and paste this link, which does in fact cite a "nearly threefold increase in recent months in the number of serious threats against members of Congress," and it does say that nearly all of them come from opponents of health reform. But that article also gave the actual numbers:

The lawmakers reported 42 threats in the first three months of this year, compared with 15 in the last three months of 2009, said Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer, who had information about threats involving both chambers.
So, in a nation of more than 300 million people, during what the Times considers a unparalleled "squall" of hatred and invective, we're talking 42 threats in three months. Versus 15.

That's right. A jump of 27 threats during the period in question. In a nation of more than 300 million people. During an unparalleled "squall" of hatred and invective.

Truly, America has never been more unhinged.
The federal judge who was killed, John Roll, had received hundreds of menacing phone calls and death threats, especially after he allowed a case to proceed against a rancher accused of assaulting 16 Mexicans as they tried to cross his land. This rage, stirred by talk-radio hosts, required marshals to give the judge and his family 24-hour protection for a month. Around the nation, threats to federal judges have soared for a decade.
Of course, we don't have any information that Loughner listened to conservative talk radio. Or that he was intentionally targeting John Roll in that parking lot. And we know that none of those other people who made those phone calls and death threats actually killed John Roll. But what does any of that matter? It's a climate of hate.

And while we're at, let's note how the Times characterizes that particular lawsuit as a "rancher accused of assaulting 16 Mexicans as they tried to cross his land." Let's note how the Times ignores the fact that these were 16 Mexicans crossing into this country illegally and that for the last 10 years, the rancher had dealt with illegal immigrants that have "tor[n] up water pumps, killed calves, destroyed fences and gates, stole trucks and broke into his home," even after he "installed a faucet on an 8,000-gallon water tank so the immigrants would stop damaging the tank to get water." Let's just make this a black-and-white issue about some rancher "assaulting" 16 people innocently "trying to cross his land" so we can then accuse talk radio of stirring up rage and death threats against the judge who allowed to go forward a lawsuit by those same 16 illegal immigrants seeking "$32 million in actual and punitive damages for civil rights violations, the infliction of emotional distress and other crimes" and then tie it all into the root cause of the Giffords shooting, which was an "environment" and not "one particular madman" looking to kill people.

Here's a thought: If the Times is really worried about people stirring up anger and even rage through mischaracterizations and misinformation, maybe it should start with itself.
It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.
Clearly, the Times missed all the protests and rhetoric during the entire Bush Administration, has never watched a single moment of television with the "stars" of MSNBC, and also thinks that "teabagger" is not really a derogatory sexual slur, that those who oppose President Obama's economic and health reform policies have never been demonized as racists, that those who who fully support the right of the Park51 developers to place their mosque so close to Ground Zero but feel someplace father away would be more appropriate have never been slurred as islamophobes, that anyone who draws a distinction between legal and illegal immigration has never been tarred as a xenophobe, and on and on and on.

Or maybe the Times doesn't see all of that as "exploiting the arguments of division" or "reaping political power by demonizing" those who disagree with them. They just see it as getting the facts straight.

And then they complain how the political discourse in this country isn't civil enough.
That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of “the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country.” Anti-immigrant sentiment in the state, firmly opposed by Ms. Giffords, has reached the point where Latino studies programs that advocate ethnic solidarity have actually been made illegal.
Because if there's one person who has truly distinguished himself since the shooting, it's Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.

And if there's any evidence that Jared Lee Loughner tried to kill Congresswoman Giffords because of her views about the curriculum at Arizona community colleges, I haven't seen it. I doubt the Times editorial board has, either. But why waste another chance to call for civility while linking those who might disagree with Times on, say, the Arizona ethnic studies as part of the root cause of the Giffords shooting, which again was an "environment" and not "one particular madman" looking to kill people.
Its gun laws are among the most lenient, allowing even a disturbed man like Mr. Loughner to buy a pistol and carry it concealed without a special permit. That was before the Tucson rampage. Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.
And the Times should lead the nation by acknowledging that this shooting was the act of, in their own words, "one particular madman," and not an act of "political violence" motivated by conservative or Tea Party rhetoric -- however much the Times (and others) apparently want the latter to be true.

UPDATE: Why write such a long piece not even 48 hours after explaining why I've avoided blogging about the Giffords shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, and calls to eliminate clip art and mean words from political discourse? Because I can only take being implicated in one particular madman's killing spree because of my political views so many times in less than a week.

UPDATE II: According to Zach Osler, a friend of Loughner:
He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right.
Case closed, New York Times.

UPDATE III: RightKlik compares and contrasts the typical Tea Party Conservative and Jared Lee Loughner and discovers the "Arizona Killer Fits Tea Party Profile Perfectly."

UPDATE IV: In response to President Obama's rebuke last night to those who have tried to blame this tragedy on the rhetoric and imagery of their political opponents, the New York Times' editorial board now has this to say:
It was important that Mr. Obama transcend the debate about whose partisanship has been excessive and whose words have sown the most division and dread. This page and many others have identified those voices and called on them to stop demonizing their political opponents. The president’s role in Tucson was to comfort and honor, and instill hope.
Even worse:
The president’s words were an important contrast to the ugliness that continues to swirl in some parts of the country. The accusation by Sarah Palin that “journalists and pundits” had committed a “blood libel” when they raised questions about overheated rhetoric was especially disturbing, given the grave meaning of that phrase in the history of the Jewish people.
Yes, how dare she defend herself against our baseless charges of blame for the Tucson shooting by using a phrase in it's modern, commonly understood meaning. I know, let's accuse her of being disturbingly insensitive to the Jewish people, too.

The New York Times is utterly incapable of shame.

UPDATE V: Ace of Spades and Verum Serum note some selective -- and self-serving -- editing of President Obama's words by the Times in their editorial response to his remarks.

UPDATE VI: Allahpundit notes the Times has quietly corrected their incorrect quotation of President Obama's remarks -- and how the fact that their unremarked correction actually changes the meaning of his remarks goes, well, unremarked...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Long-Rumored Alternate Ending to Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why I've Avoided Blogging About the Giffords Shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, and Calls to Eliminate Clip Art and Mean Words from Political Discourse

Because what can you really say that hasn't already been said elsewhere, and said repeatedly?

And how can you even begin to craft a satire about any aspect of this that doesn't plunge into bad taste by the third line?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Klaus Nomi Bonus Day: "Falling in Love Again"

Even with the strangeness and the tragedy, Klaus Nomi's life and music were so unique, so full of underlying joy and optimism, it seems wrong to end these posts with his death in 1983 from AIDS. After all, that's not what I think of when Nomi comes to mind, or when I listen to that almost inhuman voice.

More than anything, I think of a man on a stage, doing what he loved most, in just the way that he wanted, and having the time of his life.

Like this...

Klaus Nomi should be remembered for what he did and how he lived, not for how he died. And if there's one lesson I take away from Nomi's life, it's to be the person you really are, whoever -- or whatever -- that might be. And to live life not just on your own terms, but as if there's no tomorrow.

I've lost sight of that more than once in my life, including very recently. And of all the people who have reminded me about this lesson I'd somehow forgotten, Nomi has been one of the most unique. And definitely the most unexpected.

Klaus would appreciate that, I think.

Klaus Nomi (born Klaus Sperber)
January 24, 1944 -- August 6, 1983

More Filler!

Snowy, golden retriever filler!

Unfortunately, only one of those beauties is mine...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Klaus Nomi Week: "The Cold Song"

Throughout 1983, Nomi's health declined. "He'd sit in his apartment watching videos and photos of himself, saying 'Look at this, this is what I did -- now it's all gone,'" says Arias. "He went on a macrobiotic diet. He went on Interferon, which puffed him up like a rat, but nothing helped."

In the summer [Nomi] went back to [the] hospital and faced the fact that the doctors were powerless to help him.

"I had a dream that he'd recover his strength and go back on stage, but that he'd have to veil himself like the Phantom of the Opera. [Nomi] laughed, he liked that idea, and he actually seemed to be getting better for a while. That was on a Friday night. I was going to go and see him again on Saturday morning, but they called me and told me that Klaus had passed away in the night."

Nomi was one of the first public figures to die from AIDS...

-- Rupert Smith, "Klaus Nomi"


Lovely, lovely filler!

What, you would have rather had two Klaus Nomi posts in a row?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Klaus Nomi Week: With David Bowie

It's December 15, 1979, and every self-respecting American Bowie fan nervously anticipates his performance on that evening's Saturday Night Live. But when at last he makes his entrance, David himself is imprisoned in an inverted plastic triangle like some human Dairy lea, carried on by two similarly spikey freaks who, having planted him center stage, take up position as backing singers. One of them acts permanently startled -- but with a bleached white face and jagged Toblerone hair-do, who wouldn't? As Bowie launches into a radical treatment of "The Man Who Sold The World," the same three-pointed clown has the audacity to drown out the main man in a piercing, crystal-cracking squawk.

Bowie had chosen this occasion to give the world its first glimpse of the unquestionably peculiar Klaus Nomi, the man who brought 17th century opera to the discoes of early-Eighties New York... When not parading himself at the heart of New York's disco underground, Klaus could be found posing as a human mannequin in the window of Fiorucci's -- a Warhol-frequented, New Wave mecca of Day-Glo plastic party wear. Here, the undiscovered Nomi's destiny was but a customer away, a chance visit by Mr. Bowie resulting in an invitation to join him on that now notorious broadcast along with fellow Fiorucci fop Joey Arias -- a similarly precocious eyesore of space-age clothing and garish hair dye. On the strength of this invaluable patronage if nothing else, Nomi's performance earned him a deal with Bowie's own label, RCA, who in 1981 finally found the courage to issue Klaus' self-titled debut.

UPDATE: More Nomi/Bowie footage here and here.

My Morning Google Joy

At least for the moment, this photo I took back in the summer of 2009 is the very first image that appears on a Google Images search for Chris Carlson.

I still have no idea who Chris Carlson is, of course.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Klaus Nomi Week: "Lightning Strikes"

[Nomi's] vision was naive, quaint, almost foolish, but forceful in its purity and innocence. Even at his most wildly ridiculous ("Lightning Strikes") or quaveringly sublime (Purcell's "Death") there was an acknowledgment of impending apocalypse that lent it conviction. For Klaus, apocalypse was a metaphor for purification, and as the oddball optimist surrounded by cynical detachment and resignation, he dared to believe in a better world.

Klaus was a face - elfin and painted as a Kabuki robot. He was a style - a medieval interpretation of the 21st century via Berlin 1929. He was a voice, almost inhuman in range, from operatic soprano to Prussian general. He was a master performer - a master of theatrical gesture. Above all he was a visionary. He said the future is based on the needs of the artist, deciding how to live and living that way every minute. Klaus, the man from the future, lived that way in the present, and held out his hand saying, "Come with me. You can do it too."

Commentary Would Be Superfluous

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), at her final press conference as Speaker of the House:

Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go.
UPDATE: Oh, what the hell!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Klaus Nomi Week: "The Nomi Song"

Nomi's performance at Xenon on February 25, 1980 was fabulous. The oblivious dancing crowd was unaware there would be a show at all, and when their precious disco music suddenly stopped and a curtain rose on-stage, they hissed and booed. Klaus immediately entranced them with his genuine vocal abilities and self-created character -- and at the end of the forty-minute performance, disappeared into the vaporous stratosphere from which he came. Everyone screamed for an encore! First there was the dead silence of disbelief, then a cry of, "What was that?!" then a loud burst of applause.

Had he lived, the 80's surely would have been more noteworthy. The musical climate was perfect for what he had to offer.

-- Madeline Bocaro, "Klaus Nomi: Riding the New Wave"

Caption This

After his humble opening address to the 112th Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner began using his new gavel in earnest...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Klaus Nomi Week: On the NYC 10 O'Clock News

11 Things I've Learned from Tamron Hall and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

During an all-too-short lunch break today, I happened to catch part of Tamron Hall's interview with Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) on MSNBC. Though I was only able to watch a portion of it, those few moments were profoundly enlightening. Here are just 11 of the many things I learned:

1. The Republican majority that will control the U.S. House of Representatives starting tomorrow is talking like they are an actual majority that will control the U.S. House of Representatives starting tomorrow. Clearly, the Republicans have misread last November's election, in which, as President Obama explained shortly thereafter, the GOP's historic gains were simply the American people's way of saying they want everyone in Washington working together to make more electric cars.

2. Once Congress has passed a law, it's simply absurd to waste time and effort trying to repeal that law. After all, just look at "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

3. Hooray for ObamaCare!

4. ObamaCare will reduce the federal deficit, bring down the cost of health insurance and health care, and create jobs.

5. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is one of the few elected officials left who can still make Point 4 with a straight face.

6. Tamron Hall is one of the many journalists left who can hear an elected official make Point 4 and not respond with a challenging question.

7. Hooray for ObamaCare!

8. The Republican attempt to repeal ObamaCare is simply an effort to embarrass President Obama and the Democrats. After all, it's not like the Republicans just made historic electoral gains after campaigning on this very promise.

9. The Republican attempt to repeal ObamaCare is simply the Republicans taking their eye off job creation and the economy. Now truth be told, I doubted this one, at least until I realized that the cost of providing health benefits to employees has absolutely nothing to do with the cost to employers when creating or maintaining jobs. Because if it did, President Obama and the Democratic Congress certainly would have jammed through a massive and unread reform bill full of fuzzy budget math, burdensome new 1099 reporting requirements on small businesses, and other unintended economic consequences to address this very issue, which the Republicans would then campaign on repealing.

Hey, wait a minute...

10. Unlike Democrats, Republicans are hypocrites. For some reason.

11. Hooray for ObamaCare!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Klaus Nomi Week: "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix"

Toward the end of the show, the lights dimmed and the room was filled with a thundering musical ovation. The curtains opened and the spotlight fell on a strange, unearthly presence wearing a black gown, clear plastic cape, and white gloves. As the orchestral refrain from Saint-Saens' Samson and Delilah was played, this strange Wiemar version of Mickey Mouse began singing in an angelic voice. "I still get goose pimples when I think about it," remembers Joey Arias, who was in the audience that night. "Everyone became completely quiet until it was over."

In two short years, Nomi went from his position as a poor pastry chef to become New York's leading New Wave performer.

Spotted While Walking Miami

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Klaus Nomi Week: "After the Fall"

I have a vague memory of watching Klaus Nomi sing backup for David Bowie on Saturday Night Live, and I knew just enough to enjoy his animated resurrection on The Venture Bros. as a henchman to the Sovereign of the Guild of Calamitous Intent (also David Bowie), but I never really knew much about him until last night, when my wife and I watched Andrew Horn's amazing documentary The Nomi Song.

Profoundly strange yet sweet man. Opera singer and pastry chef, with a voice that could make you cry in awe of its range and talent yet also disturb the hell out of you, and for the same reasons. Songs you think shouldn't really work yet stay in your mind for days, and stage shows that leave you shaking your head even as you just can't look away.

Nomi was already gone by the time I was ready for him, but this week, I'm making up for lost time. And I'll probably still be catching myself humming "After the Fall" next week, too...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011: Pessimists in the Shadows

[First posted in 2009, this is my apparently now-traditional New Year's Day repost. Enjoy, fellow stupid optimists! -- Wesley M.]

As usual, James Lileks not only manages to post more regularly these last few weeks than I have but also to hit on something I've been thinking myself:

At a party tonight I had an odd, fleeting thought: India is moving troops to the Pakistan border to match their counterpart’s actions; there are earthquakes under Yellowstone which probably won’t trigger the caldera and blot the sun with a mantle of Satan's dandruff but you never know; Israel is engaged in a major operation against Cynthia McKinney, and most of the domestic news is horrible economic stats—people are buying less jewelry!—or tales of shameless corruption about a governor with a large amount of black hay on his head. Yet here we are, crowded in the kitchen, laughing and talking and watching the kids run around, clinking our glasses and urging the new year to Bring It On. We’re a resilient people.

Or, we’re just not paying attention.
True, my wife and I have spent a relatively quiet holiday season at home this year rather than clinking glasses with relatives and friends, but I know what he means. And I know that earlier in my life, I would have fallen into the we're just not paying attention camp.

It's a dark place, that camp, where nothing breaks through the clouds covering the future of the country (and the world), but it does have a certain appeal. Like being able to consider yourself smarter and more perceptive than all those annoying optimists, with their even-more-annoying comments about how we've gotten through worse before and it's really not as bad as all that today. Not to mention being able to feel more emotionally resilient, because you have the cojones to look the acne-scarred face of our bleak future straight in its bloodshot eyes.

It's all spinning out of control and going to hell, after all! Why can't those optimists just open their happy-ending eyes and see?!

They need us, damn it, we would think with pride. Because we're going to save the optimists from themselves.

Of course, over the last decade in particular, I've gone from being an utter pessimist to an unrepentant optimist. Maybe it's just getting older, or having seen the Cold War end and the Soviet Union fall, or finally picking up on all the small signs of hope I never gave enough credit to before, whether it's people half my age who already understand the lessons I took another 20 years of life to learn or editing peer-reviewed environmental study after peer-reviewed environmental study that have convinced me we are not facing imminent global catastrophe but are, in fact, making real progress. Not that I want to move to China and eat fish out of the Yangtze River, mind you, but I've lost my patience with Ten Years Left To Save The Planet! That kind of doomsday pessimism once gave me an emotional thrill like some weird sort of scientific bungee-jumping, but these days, heights just make me nervous.

My wife has had a parallel experience, which we discovered not long ago while watching the "Charlton Heston Apocalyptic Trilogy": Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Soylent Green. I think it was during Soylent Green that we realized we had both grown up on doomsayers, whether the Club of Rome and Paul Ehrlich or films that predicted the end of the world at somewhere around 10 years ago. And that not only had this totally colored our view of the world when we were growing up, it had created a filter that we'd carried through into our adult lives.

Of course, James Lileks hit on this once as well, and summed it up better than I could:
I am not susceptible to disaster scenarios. I do not believe we have ten years to prevent the inevitable collapse of civilization. As long as I can remember I have been fed end-times scenarios—death by ice, death by fire, death by famine, death by smothering from heaps of clambering humans scrabbling for purchase on an overpopulated world, death by full-scale nuclear exchange, death by unstoppable global AIDS, death by a two-degree rise in temperatures, death by radon, death by alar, death by inadvertent Audi acceleration, death by juju. Doesn’t mean we won’t die of juju. But somehow we survive. The only thing I take away is a vague wistful wonder what it would be like to live in an era when things were generally so bad that the futurists spent their time assuring us it would be better. Say what you will about the past, but at least they had a future. All I've ever had, according to the experts, is a grim narrow window of heedless ignorant bliss followed by a dystopian irradiated world characterized by scarcity, mutation, and quite possibly intelligent chimps. You have no future. Oh, and don’t smoke!


I’m a stupid optimist. Either the vehicle that takes me to the boneyard will get six miles per gallon of processed dinosaur, or it will run for ninety days on a milliliter of Sea-Monkey urine. Either way, all in all, we’ll make it.
Count me in with the stupid optimists. I expect great things in 2009, even with all the bad things I'm sure will also happen. And if 2009 disappoints me, I'll expect still greater things out of 2010, or 2011, or 2012.

Because even with all the problems we have today—and I'm not saying that we don't have problems—things are better than they were 20 years ago. And 20 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to bring myself to say that, though I can today. That alone tells me something.

It tells me that the pessimists need us, damn it, as I now think with pride. And that we're going to save the pessimists from themselves.