Friday, December 23, 2005
Read about “one of the biggest slightly inconvenient events that [the Retropolitan] ever lived through.” And old women with little push carts.
In Praise of Those Wacky Nuns
Let us praise two great super-patriotic movies of the eighties (and one “what can happen when nuclear war goes wrong” movie of the 80’s). Let us remember Red Dawn, Rambo: First Blood II, and Road Warrior as the great artistic achievements that they were.
And let us praise three dopey nuns for reminding us of the greatness--three dopey nuns so stuck in the 80’s anti-nuclear movement that a few years ago they decided to do something naughty.
Their crime was to break into a nuclear silo installation by chopping their way through the facility’s chain link fence and then they “banged on a railing with a small hammer and spilled their own blood - collected in baby bottles - on the ground. That done, they prayed, sang and chanted for peace.” It came as a surprise that people got all cranky about nuns breaking into a nuclear facility (and seriously creeped out by that bit with the bottles of blood).
The nuns were charged and convicted of a number of crimes and were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The last of the nuns was released yesterday, reminding me of the whole, mildly humorous episode and a few of my favorite movies.
Of course, in progressive activist circles this is time for great celebration and the casting of angry glares at authority figures. Because they weren’t just breaking into a Federal military installation, they were doing God’s work (if by “God’s work” you mean “raising consciousness”, which is apparently a blanket excuse for all sorts of anti-social behavior like throwing cream pies at conservative leaders and speakers who dare to enter any campus “Throw Pie Zone").
When I read this, I had to wonder: when the hell did I miss the nuclear freakin’ war? Obviously I needed my consciousness raised about nuclear war because I totally missed the thing.
You wouldn’t think that would be possible.
And then I realized that it wasn’t just me. Everywhere I look people were completely not talking about nuclear weapons or nuclear war (except when they were getting nervous about North Korea or Iran getting their hands on some nuclear weapons and starting a nuclear war). They hadn’t even noticed (much) that there were nuclear weapons still hanging around and that with nuclear weapons came the possibility of nuclear war and that means nuclear winter devastating the planet as any good citizen knows.
I mean, jeez, it’s like The Day After and Mad Max had never happened. Wake up, America! Raise some consciousness, sisters!
Furthermore, the nuns want people to know that it’s not as if they were actually doing anything. Sure, they had to sort of snip their way through a fence and sure they brought a hammer with them, but they didn’t have the capacity to do any real damage. Which is, at least sort of, true: there was no way that this dim, blood-dribbling trio could have harmed the nuclear weapon. But the harm is in destruction of government property and the obstruction of a national defense facility.
Which things are illegal under American law, which sort of trumps the nuns’ claim that war and nuclear weapons violate the Codified Statutes of Life (or some such thing).
Still, according to this article, the nuns claim that what they did was “ symbolic and not sabotage"--kind of like that time I symbolically (and drunkenly) peed on the side of a building in downtown Denver. It wasn’t real urination, it was more a protest against the cruelty of my bladder.
But I’m guessing that if a Denver cop had happened along, I would still have gotten a ticket.
See, that’s the trouble with symbolically breaking into a nuclear facility, symbolically (and, yes, uselessly) hammering on a silo, and then symbolically spilling your own blood from a baby bottle: symbolic it may be, but it also gets you thrown in jail in a not-so symbolic way.
Don’t worry, though, these three haven’t been beaten down by the evil system. Not by a long shot. After Ardeth Platte, the last of the three to be released, takes a little break ("[W]aging peace takes an enormous effort. So I’m a bit weary.") from her personal blood bank, symbolic hammering, and general picketing duties, and after they’ve enjoyed their Christmas break ("[W]e have a marvelous Christmas banquet where everyone fixes the most precious foods they can make.” (And, in case you were wondering, I personally make a mean posole. I’m not sure I’d call it “precious”, since that’s just a little too Lord of the Rings to me, but it is mighty tasty.)) they’ll be back at the front lines of peace waging fun.
It’s a Christmas miracle: these nuns have taught us the true meaning of sanctimonious.
So, yeah, thanks.
I’m going to go rent some fun movies now…
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Speaking of Queensryche (Because We Were, You Know)
Okay, so late-80’s metal fans could all probably agree that Operation: Mindcrime was the best of the Ryche--everything after that was lame and everything before wasn’t as well developed. So, Mindcrime is their best (and anyone who disagrees with me is a fascist).
Now, what is the best song on the album?
It could be “Spreading the Disease” with its filth and anger, but the spoken word portion pushes perilously close to cheesy. It could be “Breaking the Silence” with Tate’s soaring vocals and angsty lyrics. But, no, there are better songs here. “Eyes of a Stranger” is probably the sentimental favorite, but I’m not fond of sentimental favorites, even if they are reminiscent of Pink Floyd in some ways.
It could be “I Don’t Believe in Love"--and if teen girls had anything to say about it, this would be the end of the list. Lucky for you, I’m a hypercritical old guy who realizes that the best song on any heavy metal album can’t be the ballad. Even if it’s a really good ballad and maybe not quite as ballad-y as something from posers like White Lion or Bon Jovi.
No, the way I see it, it comes down to “The Needle Lies” and “Speak"--which is to say, making a choice between these two is tough. “The Needle Lies” was my favorite for a long time. It was the fastest, hardest song on offer, and that beat still grabs my attention. In fact, if you walked into my office while I was listening to this one, you’d find me nodding along with the song, mumbling the words--sort of embarrassed--"carved my cure with the blade that left me in scars/ now every time I’m weak words scream from my arm.” Oh, yeah.
The vocals on “Speak” are better, though--in fact, some of the best that the album has to offer. The drums (with just the right hint of cowbell (heh)) and the guitar work are superb examples of the 80’s heavy metal aesthetic. But the lyrics dive down into some stereotypical “boy, don’t rich people suck since they control the country and rape the poor” kind of philosophy that is harder to overlook the older I get.
Which leaves me with “The Needle Lies” as the best song on Queensryche’s best album.
(Although, damned if the ten-minute epic “Suite Sister Mary” doesn’t just cry out for recognition.)
None of which explains why the country has gone batty over Bush having the NSA perform signal intelligence duites sans warrants. Until this last week, there seemed to be an accepted and rather liberal concept of the necessity of secretly collecting electronic intelligence in times of war. Presidents, with an obligation to provide for national security, have historically had quite a bit of leeway in deciding how to collect intelligence from “agents of a foreign power"--in fact, I would suspect that most Americans have always expected the President (any American President) to have secret programs for collecting signal intelligence from belligerent foreign powers (including terrorists) that have nothing to do with needing warrants.
I would go further and suggest that most Americans would see that as a reasonable activity and would understand the distinction between the need to gather warrants for criminal investigations but not for military and national security operations. Most Americans aren’t all Americans, I realize, and some dissent is to be expected.
But how many people are really surprised that an American President (following Sep. 11th) instituted a secret program to collect signal intelligence from suspected terrorists and their contacts? Not me.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I still think Apocalypto sounds like a comic book villain--and not a very well-named comicbook villain, at that. Seeing the trailer was enough to convince me that I want to see Mel Gibson’s latest, though.
Although it seems odd to me to give a Greek name to a movie about Mayans that will be acted by unknowns speaking Yucatec (one of a number of Mayan languages).
Things I Want to Think About
This Christmas season--busy with freelance work, work-related work, family and friends, and the still-unsolved shopping/wrapping/shipping problem that means some people on my list will be getting friendly post-Christmas Christmas presents--hasn’t left me much time to think. But if I had time, this is the stuff I would be thinking about.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Iraqi Security Forces
I’ve been a little negligent in linking Macomber’s articles since he’s been in Iraq. That comes from a little bit of bad timing, not from a lack of good articles on his part. His TAS article today is a good place to catch back up.
For anyone who supported the effort in Iraq, this kind of courage to fight in support of a fledgling government is heartening. For all that I respect and support our troops--for all that I admire their willingness to put themselves in danger for what are, in truth, abstract ideas like freedom--I can’t help but be at least as impressed with those Iraqis who have stood up and helped build a nation.
They are targeted more often, outfitted poorly, and not equipped with the kind of national identity that Americans have; yet they fight, they struggle, and put themselves in harm’s way because they believe that they are building a better country for themselves and their families.
And don’t forget to check out Shawn’s other articles. You can find them linked on his own blog, Return of the Primitive, where you can also donate to support his reporting and tell him what you think of his articles. (And, yes, “Operation Desert Shawn” still cracks me up.)
Monday, December 19, 2005
Late Night Recommendation
I’m working on a logo for a client and, as is my habit when working late at night, I put a movie in the DVD player. I always try to choose something that I’ve seen before--something that won’t distract me too much while I work, but that can occupy that part of my mind that likes noise and activity in the background.
Tonight I chose In Good Company. I think I’ve raved about this one before, but, just in case, here’s my what I have to say: in a quiet, modest way, this has to count as one of the best movies that I saw this year. The soundtrack is beautiful, the acting is superb, the direction is often subtle and honest, and the story is engrossing.
It isn’t the Revealed Universal Truth of Hollywood--so it doesn’t have to beat viewers with messages, preachy moments, or overly self-important pronouncements. It just slowly reveals a story that is touching and graceful and sweet.
Hollywood could use more like this one (and, yeah, less like King Kong).
A Couple Football Thoughts
A Beautiful Thought
My friend has left town and it’s back to regular posting for me (I consider last week to be sort of a self-declared blogging holiday). So, here’s a happy thought for you: I’ve said here before that I think Morgan Freeman is a fine actor, but apparently he shares some of my same beliefs. What he says here is, quite literally, almost a word-for-word capture of something that I’ve said before.
I like Morgan Freeman an awful lot right now.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Coming Back for the Funny
I’ll duck back into silence here in a moment, but my morning reading started with the Corner and was directed smartly over to the Huffington Post for this about Santa Claus:
I had to share.
PS- Read the comments. The people who don’t get it really don’t get it.
If you take my meaning.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
And Now for Something Completely Different
I’ve watched this video (click through) a number of times and had friends and co-workers watch it, too. We are all in agreement: burn him, he’s a witch.
PS- The first part is sort of pedestrian--cool, but you’ve seen it before. It’s the second part that raises eyebrows.
“Tookie” Williams and the Death Penalty (Updated)
"Tookie” Williams is dead. His request for clemency (and strange dual proclamation of both innocence and redemption--two ideas that don’t seem to go so well together). Having read Governor Schwarzenegger’s denial of clemency, I must give credit where it is due: he explained his position eloquently and persuasively. Honestly, given the facts of the case and the history of the more than two decades of appeals, I don’t believe that any governor would have been compelled to react differently.
Watching anti-death penalty protestors last night, I couldn’t help but think that they choose the worst possible way to support their own cause. They use simple slogans and quotes ("An eye for an eye leaves us all blind"), they choose to defend the indefensible (like Williams), and that will always leave the voting public at a distance.
When people hear about Williams brutality and callousness, when they look at the evidence that the prosecutors put forward, and when they think about the defenseless people that he killed, they aren’t inclined to be sympathetic. When they hear that he always claimed to be innocent and never once expressed sorrow for the victims, but claims to have undergone a religious awakening that left him a changed man, they wonder what kind of transformation he could have experienced. When they hear about his anti-gang writing, they wonder why LA is still so dangerous. Where is it in this man that they are supposed to find a reason for extraordinary forgiveness?
Defending guys like Williams will never win the debate. They’ll gain footing with conspiracy theorists and people who believe that any time a black man or woman is arrested it must have been racially motivated; but reasonable people will just wonder whey they should care.
I remain steadfastly opposed to the death penalty--but crying for “justice” for a guy like “Tookie” Williams just isn’t going to change many minds.
Update: This is how Tucker Carlson describes his feelings about the death penalty today.
There’s a lot to agree with in Carlson’s article--at least for a guy like me. There’s a little room left for disagreement, though: Carlson ends the article by saying “It can make you feel sorry even for people like Tookie Williams.” I have yet to find a shred of sorrow in me for Williams.
Monday, December 12, 2005
I just wrote, and deleted, two long posts discussing logo design (and the need for simplicity) and system navigation design (and catering to the complaints of the few). I then decided that this was just mindless complaining--a couple posts that wouldn’t do anyone any good.
But damn, I’m feeling frustrated today.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Volunteers to the Meme (Updated)
The Great and Heady Challenge of the Seven Sevens Meme of Life has been furthered by the following (not including Patrick and Rae who knew that they were immune and yet taunted the others evilly).
I expect the other infectibles to catch up with their civic blogging duties here in the next few days. Otherwise they will be shunned and mocked with all of the power of my mocking. And shunning.
Notes: Jed doesn’t count since he was the original carrier. David J doesn’t count because he’s, you know, me.
Update: Extra-Meme-ification from Shannon. Who can’t do cartwheels. Wuss.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
Seven: I’ve Been Memed
Bastard. I’d probably ignore him if it weren’t for his excellent taste in weaponry.
Since this is an extra long (there’s a “that’s what she said joke” lurking right at the surface, isn’t there?) meme, I put most of the answers below the fold. So there.
Seven things to do before I die
AFC West Stuff
In case you hadn’t noticed, Nathan does a pretty good job of rounding up the AFC West standings every week, and this week he’s done even better than usual. There’s always a little “homer” in his stuff, but this week is more balanced than you would expect from a die-hard Chiefs fan.
Observation: A Nation of Millionaires
My observation: people often joke about money not being worth the paper that it’s printed on. Here is an honest situation where the paper that the money is printed on being far more valuable than the “currency” it represents.
The unofficial exchange rate is one dollar US is worth a little over 74,147 Zimbabwe dollars. So, assuming you could find a place that actually had the paper that you wanted to buy (I’m guessing that’s not as easy as it may seem--just a guess, though), it would cost you just under US $4 per sheet at the official exchange rate to buy a sheet of paper.
The cost of that sheet of paper is merely ridiculous to us (where the median household income is around US $50,000 or well over Zim $3.7 billion dollars per year), but what is its meaning in a country where unemployment is estimated at 70%?
According to old (and, what could only be described in comparison to the current economy in Zimbabwe, overly optimistic) data, the gross national per capita income was only US $506 (which at the US Treasury quoted exchange rate of Zim $24150 per US dollar would mean a gross national per capita income of $12,219,900--but we’ll stick with the unofficial rate because this more official rate would only buy about a third of the sheets of paper) annually or about 127 sheets of paper.
Which actually brings me to a point or three:
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