July 04, 2006
Here's some good writing...

Here is an excerpt from a document written on July 2nd, 1776 by Thomas Jefferson and then slightly revised and endorsed by a collection of radical Americans at a clandestine meeting two days later. Mr. Jefferson was far from a perfect man or even a perfect leader, but the guy sure knew how to write:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence indeed, will dictate, that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Still resonates, does it not?

Posted by at 12:01 AM in the following Department(s): Tidbits III , Writing | Comments (0)
 July 07, 2006
Steal the air

Insomnia combined with a desire to turn off my brain rather than work from home tonight led me to watch an old movie on the VCR (yes, I’m kickin’ it old school) after everyone else went to bed. Pump Up the Volume is the story of a high school malcontent whose pirate radio show becomes the focal point in the clash between a (school) administration that knows What’s Good For You and the kids who just wanna get along.

The movie is a sentimental favorite of mine, despite its many flaws. It came out when I was still young enough to remember high school (and, as my previous post about high school attests, those memories were not of the fond sort); the main character was a cynical loner/outsider who was eloquent in some arenas and had troubles communicating in others (traits with which I identified); the medium of choice for the main character was radio (I was a jockey/news horse at WVBR-FM at the time); the movie’s school administration worked at odds with its mandate, although teachers were generally sympathetic (a la Bennett H.S.); and Samantha Mathis (female lead in the movie) reminded me pleasantly of someone I knew and liked. The fact that she took off her shirt in one scene didn’t hurt, either.

But yes, there were a few flaws. No need to catalog them here; they mostly concern the plot, the script, the editing, some odd directorial choices, etc.

At the end of the movie, there’s a climactic scene where the hero radio pirate is cornered by the FCC and the cops and all them mean nasty suits. Up until this point in the movie, Christian Slater played his role like Christopher Reeve played Superman(tm): as two roles inhabiting one character. There was mild mannered Mark Hunter and his superhero radio jockey alter ego, Hard Harry. In the final scene, Hard Harry is unmasked in public and, as he is being carted away by the Feds, he beseeches his audience to “Steal the air”; to set up their own radio shows on their own pirate radio stations and say whatever it is they have to say.

Even at the time the movie first came out, this didn’t strike me as a particularly stirring call to action. If everyone is spending their time broadcasting, to a very limited range, any old dumb thing that’s on their mind, then who ends up listening?

But tonight as I watch, I can’t help but think that Hard Harry’s dream has been realized. The medium is different: instead of a radio field crowded with pirate stations, we have the Internet. But Harry’s utopian vision of a world where anyone can broadcast whatever is on their mind to whoever might be out there to listen, well… we have that now. It’s called the blogosphere.

So where’s my revolution, man? Huh? Huh? HARRRRRRY!!! TALK HARRRRRD!

Posted by at 02:23 AM in the following Department(s): Books/Movies/Music | Comments (0)
 July 25, 2006
This week in Pop Culture

Every so often I like to mention my current pop culture pleasures. My work life having been so hectic of late, I don’t have much time to read these days, or see movies, or watch television (except late at night, after the kids are in bed, if, indeed, they ever go to bed), but there’s still an occasional opportunity to listen to music on the drive to and from the office. So, here’s a quick check of my pop culture pulse.

What I’m listening to:

A friend of mine recommended that I check out a group called The Ditty Bops. They have some videos posted on their website, and he recommended that I start with Wishful Thinking. After watching/listening to that one and the video shorts from their appearances on Conan O’Brien and Craig Ferguson, I decided to pick up their two CDs from a certain online retailer. Yowza. Great stuff. Both albums are produced by Mitchell Froom, who has also produced great albums by Suzanne Vega and Sheryl Crow and Soul Coughing, among others. The Ditty Bops have a great sound; an eclectic mix of ragtime and alt folk that works really well. Check them out.

The other album that’s been in heavy rotation in my car’s multi-disc player is Regina Spektor’s Begin to Hope. I saw her featured recently on Conan O’Brien, and her performance blew me away. Just her and her piano. This is a very experimental album and, like the Ditty Bops or Suzy V at her best, each of her songs is unique in tone, feel, and instrumentation. She’s an alt folkie with a piano instead of a guitar (and an ever-so-slight Russian accent). Highly recommended.

What I’m reading:

That great, big collection of Calvin & Hobbes that Santa gave me. Easy to read in short sessions, which is all I’ve been managing lately. I finished Stephen King’s Dark Tower cycle a few months ago, and haven’t read much fiction since then, whilst I’ve been digesting that seven-volume tome. My research for my next novel has brought me James Randi’s Flim Flam, and my father recently gave me Jamie Whyte’s Crimes Against Logic, both of which have been quite enjoyable reads.

When waiting for code to compile or otherwise finding a spare moment at my computer with a few minutes on my hands, I’ve been enjoying reading just about everything on Roger Ebert’s website. I’m going through a bit of withdrawal as there’s little new content there while Mr. Ebert recuperates from surgery. Ebert likes to assert that movies are not about what they are about, but rather they are about how they are about what they are about. Likewise, Ebert’s essays are not about the movies they are about, but rather, they are about how they are about the movies they are about. Ebert’s a sharp mind with a sharp pen; one of the more enjoyable essayists at work in the mainstream today.

What I’m watching:

No movies, nor any primetime TV. Paulette and I have been going through my Definitive Twilight Zone collection (this is the collection of all of Rod Serling’s original series, although I suppose I’ll eventually get to the revival versions of the Twilight Zone. Maybe.). We’re currently nearing the end of Season Three. I’m particularly enjoying the “extras” – interviews with Serling, or lectures that he gave at Ithaca College, that are included as part of the DVD package. Serling is a writer’s writer who believed that it is possible to produce quality work even for such a mainstream medium as television. It would appear that today’s attitudes against “popular art” is not particularly original.

I do manage to catch late night talk shows from time to time. My favorite line from a few months ago came from Conan O’Brien, when he had “Governor Schwarzenegger” as an interviewee via remote (actually, an actor’s mouth was superimposed on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s televised photo). In reference to the then upcoming release of “Jingle All the Way”, the Governor’s doppelganger said: “Give a man a Jingle, he’ll Jingle for the day. But teach a man to Jingle, he’ll Jingle All the Way!”

I still love that line, even after all these many months.

What I’m writing:

Just finished a dark fantasy (that's what they call horror these days, don't you know) short story that I’ll be submitting to an anthology soon; it's first short story I’ve finished in a long time. A few nights ago, Paulette took care of the kids so that I could have some writing time to myself. Wasn’t that nice of her? I used the time to finish a story that I’d been working on for months. When I got to the ending, I surprised myself with how the story resolved… and I liked it! Let’s hope the editor does, too.

Also, I've been given a request for a rewrite from an editor who liked a piece I submitted, so I'll be working on that this week.

Oh, and right this moment, I’m writing my blog entry. How “meta” is that?

Posted by at 02:09 AM in the following Department(s): Books/Movies/Music | Comments (0)

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