Sunday, January 30, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
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
At least, that's what the online quiz "Are You a Political Radical?" says:
You Are 28% Politically RadicalAs 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.
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.
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
Thursday, January 20, 2011
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
Monday, January 17, 2011
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.And what Don Surber said, more colorfully:
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.”
The left wants us to be civil — after being so uncivil for a decade.Yeah, what they said...
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
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.
January 24, 1944 -- August 6, 1983
Saturday, January 8, 2011
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...
Lovely, lovely filler!
What, you would have rather had two Klaus Nomi posts in a row?
Friday, January 7, 2011
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.
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
[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."
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
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.
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
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
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.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
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
[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.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.
Or, we’re just not paying attention.
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!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.
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.
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.