Friday, November 07, 2003

Dear Sister Andrea,

Its not too late yet.. that ill-informed comment about Confederate flags on pickups might yet sink Dean's ship, not to mention his too-carefully worded apology which lead to rumors it wasn't an apology. And Amy's favorite Edwards might be the one to sink a good many nails in his coffin, though I have many doubts about Edwards as a strong candidate anyway (Waaaay too far out of the beltway.. the man's trial lawyer history alone makes businesses less than eager to lend a helping greenback) . I am still hoping Dean doesn't get himself too far out front: as I told you a few days ago, then man will only be able to carry states above the maple syrup belt, no matter what his scores are in the caucuses and so forth.

Democracy at Work, My Friends

I just sent an message to the Michigan House of Representatives via online comment form. Here is what I had to say:

Please oppose house bill 5029 allowing Mourning Dove hunting. This is a complete waste of dove lives when there is an overabundance of deer to shoot. Get a clue.

Hopefully, someone in Lansing will find this enlightening. Otherwise, I might have to go up there with a clue-by-four.

Things You Wish You Had Never Been Told

I had a forward from my father today, which I read, because I trust my father to send something that's worth reading. Apparently Condoleeza Rice is a millionaire(Yes I know, I am SO out of the loop). The 'poorest' millionaire in the Bush cabinet, she has a Chevron oil tanker named after her. I don't think anyone would name their dog after me, let alone their oil tanker.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Iris, your plan for Democrats 2004 is very nice... except that I think it's already too late. At first I very much liked the idea of a President Clark, although my enthusiasm began to wane when I realized that he's a waffler like everyone else. Nevertheless, Clark entered the race horribly tardily, and he certainly didn't hit the ground running. Now, after the first week's excitement faded, and the campaign manager had to be replaced, and we discovered that Clark wasn't actually a registered Democrat until the last month, and found out how he equivocated on Iraq, Wesley Clark seems far less interesting than he did as the dark horse.

The reason to vote for General Clark is his marketability in the general election, not his stands on the issues. You're right, Iris, he'd be, in some peculiar sense, an Arnold candidate. (If one can describe as an "Arnold candidate" a man who was West Point valedictorian, Rhodes Scholar, former Supreme Commander of NATO, and has never been suspected of groping random women...) At this horrid moment in time, when the left has every right to be howlingly furious over the way our country is behaving, the issues do seem important, at least to us. Because many Democratic primary voters, especially now, do care about the political stances of our prospective nominees, the left will come out in force for Howard Dean... and after Iowa and New Hampshire, where Dean will flatten the remaining contestants like a baker with a thousand-pound rolling pin, Clark's best hope will be the vice presidential nomination.

At which point, we may all be doomed. As much as I love the idea of a President Dean, I passionately loathe the thought of a second term for Dubya.

By the way, since I am on the mailing list of for Dean, I got an email ballot asking me to vote on whether or not Dean should drop campaign matching grants and try to make back the money himself. I think I'm going to vote to drop the matching grants. I figure that either Dean will make back enough money that a general election against Bush will at least be feasible, or he won't make the money and will crash and burn by the primaries, at which point some other Democratic candidate will have a chance. Does anyone see problems with my strategy, before I send my vote out?

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I want to be Naomi Chana.

The Baraita blogger writes,

If I were going to have Harry Potter banned, it would not be for the witchcraft. Or for the questionable ethics of the magical world in general. Or for killing off a character I liked in the last book. Or even for the excessive adverbs. No, I believe that the most offensive thing about the Harry Potter books, far and away, is the way History of Magic is taught at Hogwarts. There's no chance of my being objective about this: not only am I a teacher, but given my professional training there's only one Hogwarts class outside of Muggle Studies that I'd have a prayer of teaching -- and I'd begin by pointing out that European witch burnings mostly took place in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not the fourteenth, no matter what it says in Chamber of Secrets.

I'm so glad someone other than me noticed the witch burning problem (which, by the way, is mentioned inPrisoner of Azkaban, not Chamber of Secrets). Rowling's treatment of the Middle Ages did make my brain hurt several times...

PLAN FOR 2004: Stop the Infighting, and get drunk. Then Stragedize.

I was just over at Amygdala reading back a few days, perhaps longer, when I came upon the Liberal on Liberal violence I've been seeing more and more often these days, as tempers rise over the complete idiocy that is our White House. Like the underclass in the inner-city, pent up rage tends not to explode out at the perceived cause of our pain and misery (though many woe-fully overtaxed conservatives will tell you otherwise), but towards one another.

But perhaps this is due to the fact that most liberals pride themselves as intellectuals, able to look at both sides, to be a devil's advocate. Suddenly, though, we have a very hard time understanding what the other side is.. How could you POSSIBLY consider it a good idea to throw 87 billion at Iraq, but fail to fund the programs in that country that are actually working? How did you ever think that drilling in the Arctic was a good idea? I mean these are really large land mines in the path towards liberal and conservative togetherness. But then Liberals throw mines in their own path, demanding to know why all of us aren't screaming for a withdrawal from Iraq.

Um, like, because that would be stupid, Duh!?

Liberals stuck on The War with Iraq, be it getting in or getting out, are like guppies stuck in the intake pipe of the fish tank. They are swimming frantically, fighting for their life, and yet getting absolutely nowhere, and making themselves look really irrational to all the other fish in the tank. This is a country where a Democrat owns a company that doesn't feel comfortable showing a fictional, perhaps even critical (horror~!) account of Reagan's presidency. There is no way on this Lord's green (though rapidly browning) earth that anyone is going to listen to WMD trivia. No one cares that we could have been able to see centrifuges being built in Iraq, and that there was no reason to go to war. We went to war. We're there right now. The fact that our pres can't doing anything better than press his hand to his chest and feel the 'pain' of families who lost their young men and women to rocket attacks and ambushes is at issue here. No one gives a rat's ass about #$#$^ centrifuges.

Don't look back, look forward, my friends. Better yet, look West. Look at California. Look at Arnold.

Now look at the Democratic candidates for president. Use your beer goggles, ladies!
That's right.. see the tall one over there, with the tan and the military uniform? If you can pin some hot tail on the donkey, you have a shot at redeeming the sad mess that is Iraq.

But, but, but.. NO, No buts.. BUTTS! Learn from Kennedy. The guy really wasn't that much of a genius, but he was hot, his wife was hot, and he had a great speach-writer. Now we have Arnold.. We need to quit whining and start thinking.. Think Lite!

The key is to make Clark as enticing as the our Austrian Blockbuster out West, to people on all sides of th aisle. I think he has potential. He's moderate. He worked for both parties. Quit thinking of this as a bad thing. Make sure he stays away from donuts. Have him bench-press a few supporter's kids. Get him a better speach-writer.

That's right, quit with that substance crap. We need something more solid than a great health care plan: we need some muscles. Good policy comes easily to us, we know this. We made the clean air and clean water act, before Bush quit enforcing it. People loved those! But people just don't get up in the morning thinking about the clean air act. They get up thinking about mundane things like work, food, and maybe sex. Housewives and mothers who would normally be motivated to fight the president's terrible school policies, can't help but write into Time about how cute he looked in his flight suit. Men.. well I can't really speak for men, but it seems they support him at least until they find someone who's not a wimp, but does a better job.

I am not saying dumb down: this is not an issue of intelligence. I'm saying take a look at this from an anthropological level: we are whole people, we are not just our left brain. Leadership is not just good policy. As you can see, people can follow bad policy if they think they have a good leader who's just been given a lousy four years of office to work with.

Think about it. Better yet, get drunk and watch The Princess Bride and then think about it.

Busy Weekend, Part Tri

On Sunday, I was blessed with the opportunity to see the Kirov Ballet perform The Bayadére. By no small stretch of the imagination, this was a truly gorgeous ballet, with the most amazing set designs, and richly decorated costumes. I don't know how they transported it all to the states, and then moved from city to city. And the dancing was.. just beautiful.

I can't help gushing. Its so rare that a ballet company in the US can even come close to the precision and capability of the Russian companies. Most US companies focus on a sort of mixed bag of both contemporary and classical styles, and while they do admirable work, the Kirov ballet wins the competition for most athletic by leaps and bounds, literally.

Yum. If you ever get the chance to see the Kirov Ballet, don't hesitate to do so. My only advice is to see an evening performance if you can. I went to the final Sunday afternoon performance which was people with small children, and coughers.. So many Coughers!!! People who go to the evening performances usually have more respect for the art happening on stage (and their fellow audience members) and suck on cough drops. And there are fewer children. Much as I love them, they can't see a damn thing from an adult sized seat unless you stick them on the aisle. And they can't sit through a performance than borders on three hours. Take them to the Nutcracker, take them to a modern performance even. But not an honest to goodness Ballet.

The Elegant Universe

Hey, anyone else watching Nova lately?

Anyone else wondering if Brian Greene is single?

Nothing like a hot physicist to ignite my interest in the intricate workings of molecular and interstellar forces...

Yarg. I really love this historic tale construction kit, but the stupid thing keeps eating my story!!

It was a really good story too, entitled, "Nuns in Peril" and it was twenty one scenes long.. the computer only saved the first seven parts. I wish I could have downloaded it. :(

It involved throwing animals out of towers. Hee hee.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Busy Weekend, Part Deux

On Saturday Night, I attended Pioneer High School's splendiferous (did you know that was a word?) production of Les Misérables. Based on the book by Victor Hugo, Le Mis is a show I have never seen before, though I have heard the music on CD. I hadn't really been impressed with the music (lots of whiny voices in my book), but I ended up really enjoying this production. First of all, my little brother was second trumpet in the pit, so I really couldn't complain too much about the music. What really blew me away was the beautiful voices the leads all had, and the amazing amount of work had gone into set design, which was strikingly similar to the real off broadway show.

Valjean was played by a bear of a Junior who literally carried around the guy playing Javert for a good chunk of the second act. The two, Marius, Eponine and Cozette were beautifully mic-ed, so we could actually hear them. And they could all sing. Really sing. Clay Aiken-type singing capabilities. We had some good vocalists back in my day, but the sheer number of good vocalists in this production made watching the who two hour plus spectacle enjoyable.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

A Very Busy Weekend, Part One

This weekend I attended three shows: A play, a musical, and a ballet. I don't think I've been this cultured since I attended Interlochen Arts Camp. After working at a Library children's halloween parade/party (I was the blue fairy in the bridesmaid dress with wings and a tiara handing out candy in the garden) I came home feeling pretty blue about not having a real party to go to. Thankfully my town is full of interesting events, and so I had a choice of trying to see Boris Godunov or the Suzanne Farrell Ballet Company. My neighbor was going to see Godunov, so I chose to attend it with her and her husband.

As you can see from the review linked above, it was a tale of politics, regicide, and sex, which makes for a good show. The first fifteen minutes were a bit odd, being nothing but a long liturgical reading and chants by men dressed as Russian Orthodox clergy(none of which was supertitled) but the best scene by far took place near a fountain. The imposter of prince Dimitri, Gregory(who looks like a young, charismatic and kinda hot version of Putin) is romancing the power-hungry princess of Lithuania if I remember correctly. In a fit of passionate jealousy (she keeps saying she loves Prince Dimitri, and our imposter's feeling a bit piqued that she doesn't love him) the poor boy tells the princess he's nothing but a poor, parentless renegade monk. She's pissed to be sure, and a power struggle ensues that is more exciting and sexy than a pure seduction scene could ever be. Gregory almost seems to win, telling her no one would believe her if she tried to unmask him, and making it clear that he would forget all about her when he took Moscow with his growing army. Marina lures him back with visions of a romp in the fountain, but after getting him sopping wet, she crawls out of the poolin the hole in the stage, picks up her billowy dress which psuedo-Dimitri had so painstakenly removed only minutes before, and tells him to call her when he has the crown of Russia on his head, and not a moment sooner. Our hero (or anti-hero, however you choose to see it) looks stupified for a second, then brilliantly recovers himself, mockingly bowing to the audience on both sides (we were seated in bleechers, the play was set on a raised platform in a basketball court or something) and explaining Marina's behavior to us.

"She's a snake. Snaaaake." Of course, he does exactly what she asks.

The whole thing was very "Russian," thought the director was British. All the male political figures smoked on stage, slapped their hands against things, lifted political foes off the ground or strangled them with their ties. The physicality of the characters was very different from how men acted in Henry V, where power was all about standing still and radiating a sort of throbbing vocal intensity. But here, men curl into bearish creatures, glowering, howling, shouting and growling in gutteral Russian.

Of course violence doesn't stop at tie-strangulation. In one scene Gregory almost burns a hole in a POW's head with his cigarette (I told you he wasn't really a hero), but no one gasps in shock or turns away in horror. The violence exhibited in this play almost feels 'cultural.' Nobody called the shocking portrayal of murder of children in Medea a demonstration of Irish cultural views of homocide. I think the director were trying to demonstrate a "culture of tyranny", but we were too busy seeing the Russian in everything (I was particularly caught up in the wonderful traditional dancing Gregory did in one scene.. that guy was really talented).

What I picked of from the play was that the Russian public, in Pushkin's view, was malleable and easily swayed towards the melodramatic. For the sake of a dream of a Russia returned to the 'rightful rule' they would ignore that invasion of their land by a bunch of Polish and Cossacks who raid villages and create misery and mayhem. The public admired and loved Ivan the Terrible, even though he had been a murderous fiend in life. The point was that people were very 'surface' oriented, and never saw the bigger picture. At the same time leaders like Boris and Gregory, both brought to power by personality cults, cannot create lasting dynasties. Even as Boris loses power and Gregory gained it, it seems clear that Gregory's reign cannot be long-lived.

Thanks to Chris Lafferty of Leesburg for my favorite Style Invitational entry of the day:

Edison said genius was 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. What is a better formula?

One percent inspiration and 99 percent graduate assistants slaving away in indentured servitude.

You know you've been studying obscure literatures too long when...

you find yourself considering how the song "Birdhouse in your Soul" by They Might Be Giants is a late representation of a medieval motif in which the soul is constructed as an allegorical building, usually a temple, cloister or abbey.