Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Lost in Translation lost on America

I just saw Lost in Translation over the weekend and loved it. I thought it was a beautiful film, both in its visuals and its story. Two lost souls that somehow manage to connect in a foreign world. It resonated. I felt it. (There's a tangential thought in there that maybe I'll get to later.) Anyway, I really enjoyed it and I can't really get it out of my head.

So July hasn't seen it yet and we were talking about taking in a movie, but I thought I'd pop on over to Amazon and see how the price compares to the 'Co (not too bad it would seem), and was shocked when I started reading down the Customer reviews.

"Boring." "Pointless." "No redeeming qualities." "Complete farse[sic]."

Did these people watch the same movie? Well, yes, even though some of the details were occasionally off. ("scenery of Hong Kong?" uh, and that would be whiskey, not vodka) But those are only minor points. I realize that part of why I enjoyed the movie is that I could feel with the characters -- I thought that's what it did so well. What the actors did; what the film did. And I guess there were a lot of people out there that just didn't get it. Which leads me to two possible conclusions neither of which is particularly heartening (ignoring the one reviewer that takes the elitist "measure of intelligence" point of view):

  1. The movie resonates because I've experienced the same feelings of loneliness and being lost that the characters are going through, but apparently that isn't that common. So once again, I've found another litmus test that highlights how outside the mainstream I am. (although I guess that argument doesn't hold much water since the film is getting significant positive critical review. But then again, critics themselves have been criticized for not truly representing mainstream America.)
  2. Much of America is emotionally dead inside. They may have experienced similar feelings at one time or another, but it was much easier to just ignore it, mask it or take it out on somebody else than it was to just feel it or understand it. And that ability to connect with how other people think and feel is gone.

I guess the fact that some people didn't like this movie shouldn't bother me so much, except that it serves as a reminder that there are many people in this country that just don't see the world in the same way I do. And even that shouldn't be a big deal, except the part where they see it in a way that says that other people aren't as important as they are.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

First signs of Spring

14Feb04 18Feb04

This is the second winter that this maple seedling has survived. About two weeks ago, I thought I had killed it for good, but I suspect I had the same feeling around this time last year. Actually, checking the photo archives indicates that it didn't bud until the beginning of March last year. Perhaps that's a good sign that we'll have a real Spring this year.

It's also interesting to note that it doesn't seems to want to bud-out at the top, but rather at the same lower joint that it started from last year. Maybe I shouldn't have snipped the top off last year after all...

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

fun with numbers...

An article in the Washington Post that I read over lunch (and I won't comment on the article itself, since I'm sure you can guess my reaction if you've read some of my other posts on the subject) ends with this:

A Feb. 5-8 poll by the National Annenberg Election Survey asked: "Would you favor or oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying that no state can allow two men to marry each other or two women to marry each other?" Of the 814 adults surveyed, 49 percent opposed an amendment, while 42 percent favored it.

That was a reversal of an Annenberg poll a few days earlier that asked, "Would you favor or oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow marriage only between a man and a woman?" With that wording, 59 percent were in favor and 33 percent were opposed.
Which says to me, that along with the 10% of the population that is supposedly gay (and I won't provide a link to a source for that number since everything I could find on the subject seems to be biased to one side or another) and the four-out-of-five dentists surveyed that prefer sugarless gum for their patients that chew gum, it would appear that 16-17% of Americans (that's about one in six) couldn't reason their way out of a paper bag. They may mean well perhaps, but some of those higher order processing skills seem to have gone missing. But hey, at least they're trying to be good. More or less. (well, maybe more less than more, if you follow me.) Anyway, that leaves us with a nice round 42% of the population being bigots. I suppose I'm actually being a bit optimistic (the numbers are something of a swag) since the pro-amendment folks (see, I'm not even lowering myself to calling them the anti-freedom-back-to-the-dark-ages supporters) probably didn't have to think too hard to figure out what their opinion was.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

I always thought that Jerry Springer was just some asshole who had an awful (but hugely popular) television show. I had heard that he was once a mayor somewhere in the Midwest, but I never really gave it a second thought. That is, until today, where he showed up in a segment of This American Life.

I was looking online for a story someone had mentioned last night at dinner. Something about rented storage space... but Jerry Springer's name caught my eye and I had to check it out. (I never did find that piece on storage space) The show was called "Leaving the Fold" (FYI, that's a Real Audio link) and is about "people abandoning the life they've made for themselves, for an uncertain future somewhere else." The segment about Springer talks about his original career in politics and how he transitioned to the Jerry Springer show that we all know today. Much of it made me sad, really-- because it paints a picture of a good man, with good ideas and a good heart, who had the potential to do great things, and ended up--here. I kept thinking to myself, "what a waste." And yet the segment seemed to give me hope (for me? for him?). To finish on an up-note. The show to him is just his current gig: it pays the bills, "just a way to eat." But it sounds like it leaves him empty and he's now ready to try again to make a difference in the world.

It's heartening. Yet, perhaps not surprisingly, I feel a sense of betrayal in myself. "How could you support someone like that?" He represented the worst in television; he brought out the worst in people. Am I that desperate for someone to say what I want to hear?

Well, to be honest -- yes, I am. But I think it goes beyond that. I like him not because "he seems like a guy I'd like to hang out with at a bar and have a few drinks" (Not that I'd ever have wanted to do that with W), but because what he says resonates with me. It makes sense.

He didn't run in the U.S. Senatorial race in Ohio last year because he was/is still under contract to produce the show. (check out these excerpts from an interview with him on CNN. I particularly like the way he indirectly criticizes the interviewer -- and news media in general -- in response to a fairly holier-than-thou comment from the interviewer) But almost certainly he'll make a run the next time around.

July was listening from the other room and thought he should run for President. Yeah. Definitely. Too bad he can't, having immigrated to the U.S. when he was 5. But hey, the next senatorial race will be 2006. Go Jerry!

Friday, February 06, 2004

"How about I give you the finger... and you stop f'ing with the Constitution?"

So the Governor (along with house speaker Thomas Finneran) is supporting a state constitutional amendment to "define marriage as a union between a man and a woman." In other words, prohibit same-sex marriage. I've mentioned it before. And now it looks like it's also going to be coming up at the Federal level as well. Anyway, I started composing a letter. And while doing some additional research, I came across an article which put me over the edge. Basically, it describes an editorial that Gov. Romney wrote in the Wall Street Journal which urges other states to use the constitutional process to ban gay marriages. I've been pretty upset about this issue since it reemerged in the news with the latest Supreme Judicial Court opinion, but on reading the article, I totally lost it. Perhaps ill-advisedly, I called up the office of the Governor and ranted unintelligibly for about a minute. (For the ambitious folks, the number is 617.725.4005)

I actually subscribed to WSJ online just to read it. It was well written. I also found it deeply troubling. And scary.

It generally reads quite fair and reasoned. But it suffers from the same accusations of "judicial tyranny" that I've heard regarding some of the recent Supreme Court rulings. It's interesting to note that ALL of the sources of this rhetoric that I can find appear to be Republican or Convervative Advocacy groups. (see for yourself) He claims that the judiciary is silencing the voice of the people. Funny, I thought it was protecting my voice from the majority. The other part that fails is his argument that opposite-sex marriage==stable society. From the editorial: "That benefits are given to married couples and not to singles or gay couples has nothing to do with discrimination; it has everything to do with building a stable new generation and nation." Bullshit. It has everything to do with discrimination. And prejudice. Strong families can contribute to a stable society. That includes mixed race, mixed religion and same-sex. I'll buy that marriage can strengthen a family, but a marriage and a family are not synonymous. I think in math terms, you could say that their properties are neither commutative nor associative. Denying the right to marriage only adds additional hurdles to legitimize a family in others' eyes because it denies rights while at the same time codifying ideas that breed bigotry and prejudice.

So why bother to say all this, since I've probably said it before, and I've already established that nobody reads this blog? So I can say this: write a letter to Governor Romney. Write to your state representative. Write to Congress. Write to the President. (Yeah, I know, it's mostly pointless. But I keep hoping that with enough personal letters, maybe he'll catch some kind of clue.) And maybe just one more person will get involved. And maybe it's just one more person that we need to turn the tide.

Ok, so I just heard W's announcement regarding the appointment of the bi-partisan commission. It's still not supposed to deliver an conclusions until March of next year. But what really struck me, is that he *still* can't pronounce "nuclear" ...and he stumbled twice on the word "proliferation."

I've been having a lot of trouble concentrating at work recently. And both July and I are having trouble falling asleep at night.


There's just too much badness going on in the world right now. It's not the threat of terrorism or fear of an attack from a foreign nation, it's what's going on here at home that's keeping me awake at night.

I wonder if I'm just being silly. It is really that bad? I suppose that's what I thought when Bush first took office back in 2001. How bad could it really be? I didn't agree with any of his policies when he was campaigning, but it's just one politician versus another. The true variation in impact on everyday life is close to nil, right? And yet, from the get-go, I'd wake up in the morning and hear something on the radio that would really worry me. Or anger me. Or scare me. Every day. And it wasn't just the same old news being rehashed and overanalyzed ad infinitum by the commentators, it was always something new, another policy, another public comment, another scandal.

The current turmoil is being caused by the recent landmark ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The ruling itself is a good thing. "For no rational reason the marriage laws of the Commonwealth discriminate against a defined class; no amount of tinkering with language will eradicate that stain..." No, the problem is the response to it. Both the Massachusetts Governor and House Speaker are opposed to gay marriage and are pushing for a constitutional amendment to explicitly exclude same-sex couples. A constitutional amendment to discriminate. The response from Washington is the same -- the White House is advocating the passage of a constitutional amendment at the Federal level.

Many use the argument that the courts have overstepped their bounds. "Judicial Tyranny" they call it. I'm aghast when I hear that. As some, but clearly not enough, point out, the purpose of the judiciary is to protect the rights of the individual from the tyranny of the majority. But I guess some people forget that, either never having been on the outside, or perhaps desperate to never be left out again.

Anyway, that's just the big one. There's also a new chapter in the CBS/censorship controversy. Apparently, there's a new ad being developed to sell the new Medicare bill that seems to amount to nothing more than new election year propaganda. Moveon.org is trying to get another call-in campaign going to highlight CBS' hypocricy, but it's interesting to note that I can't find a single news article on it. More indication of media bias or the first symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia? I did find the original article about the ad itself. But here are Moveon's own words about it:

Dear MoveOn member,

We didn't think the hypocrisy at CBS headquarters could get any worse. But it just did.

As you know, CBS refused to run MoveOn Voter Fund's "Child's Pay" ad -- perhaps the most tasteful and uncontroversial advocacy ad in history -- during the Super Bowl. CBS executives claimed they had a blanket policy against all so-called "issue" ads.

Yesterday, we learned that the network plans to broadcast an ad promoting the Bush Medicare prescription drug law. This is part of a $13 million taxpayer-financed TV campaign to take the heat off the White House for pushing through a drug plan that benefits drug companies and insurance companies more than Medicare recipients.

The White House ad features the tagline "Same Medicare. More Benefits." But a report by Consumers Union last month said that most people covered by Medicare will wind up spending more for prescription drugs, as a result of the provisions in the law which favor drug companies. According to the Washington Post, the campaign is intended "to counteract Democratic criticism that changes to the (Medicare) program will harm older Americans."

You can read about the questionable politics behind the ad itself here. Yep. Oh yeah, and then there's the hand-picked commission to investigate the intelligence on Iraq, reporting back well after the November elections? (Here's a Reuters article) Which doesn't even begin to address the whole thing with the Patriot Act's erosion of rights to privacy, fiscal irresponsibility and pandering to business interests. (Oh wait, I just covered that, sorry.) "Uniter not a divider?" Liar, lair, pants on fire. And what ever happened to that investigation into questionable behavior on the part of John Ashcroft? (briefly mentioned here)

Y'know, I never followed politics that much. Sure, I've voted in the national elections, but it's otherwise been pretty much a quiet buzz that's flown under the radar. But it's pretty hard to ignore. I see flashes of George Orwell everywhere. Maybe we really are headed towards Armageddon (and most of those links just reinforce how bad things really are -- mostly in their prejudice and bigotry)... and saying it makes it that much worse. Because it's not even like I'm joking about it anymore.


There's more. There's always more. But I really gotta get to work.