November 01, 2006
Thanks to Brian Harriss who posted a count of how often the country went as Ohio went. (See the comments for my entry ...So Goes the Documentary.) As went Ohio, so went the nation all but twice in the twentieth century (and seven times in the 19th century). Yowsa.
See, now *that* is an interesting angle to use as the launching point for a documentary.
My other beef with the trailer for the documentary "...So Goes the Nation" is the fact that the various clips that were presumably taken from the movie show the Republicans as being all about strategy -- what is the best way to campaign so as to win -- while the Democrats were all about getting the right man in office. The impression this creates is not only false, it is unfair to both sides.
I say that the implication is false because in both my observation as an historian (and a former radio station news director) and as a participant in the political process (having attended rallies for both parties, and doorbelled for the party of my choice), *both* parties are *equally* attentive to the strategy of winning and are also equally believers that their own particular slate of candidates and planks (party platforms) are the better choice.
And the implication is unfair because it denies the Republicans any sense that they care about what they are doing (and believe me, they do care) and it makes the Democrats look like naiveniks (which, believe me, they are not).
The Democrats completely dominated both houses of the Congress for most of the modern political era (say, World War II and beyond), this past decade or so notwithstanding. To paint them as naive idealists whose heart is in the right place but, gee whiz, they just can't hold their own against those tough, smart, and heartless Republicans is, itself, a naive position to take. The Democrat Party Machine has been notorious for pulling strings, making and crushing careers, and even stealing a Presidential election.
This is my main beef with the trailer for this movie. It paints a picture of how the two parties approached the Presidential election in 2004 differently where, I believe, the two parties were rather the same. The movie may be more balanced than the trailer. I don't know.
Here's a thought that just occurred to me: Rush Limbaugh, after years of struggling, led a vanguard of conservative radio entertainers (infotainers?) that has continued to dominate the airwaves on the AM dial, despite several attempts by liberals to challenge. Liberals have found an equally compelling outlet in the form of movie documentaries, where conservative documentarians have likewise failed to successfully challenge.
With conservatives holding the older technology, and liberals holding the not-as-old technology, the battle for the moderates is being waged where? Newer technologies like the internet (in the form of blogs and viral videos)? Not-as-new technologies like cable news outlets? Way-old-school technologies like, well, the schools?
As goes hyperreality, so goes the nation.
November 14, 2006
...the system yet works.
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that the American system of government is the worst system around, except for all of the other ones out there.
Last week, voters in America turned up at the polls and turned out the majority party from the legislature, just as they did twelve years ago. Some good people who were working hard for their constituents found themselves without a seat when the music stopped playing, as happens every year at election time, but the national trend toward cleaning political house this year was both necessary and, on balance, good for us all.
As I've commented elsewhere, I'm very much a fan of the system of checks and balances built into our government. Last week, some checking and balancing was brought into play. Good for the Democrats. And good for the Republicans. Good for America.
I am under no illusion that the Democrats will prove any more far-sighted, beneficent, or prudent this time around than they did during their last legislative majority. But so what? It seems to me that both of the major parties in America have done their best work when they have had to negotiate the checks and balances posed by a healthy and well-matched adversary -- both within the legislature and in the other branches of government. Their victory reminds the Democrats that they are not the marginalized victims they've been despairing themselves of late to be; and their public spanking at the polls, I hope, will take the arrogant edge off the neo-con tail that has been wagging the Republican elephant these past several years.
On Election Eve this year, the future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, "The American people voted to restore integrity and honesty in Washington, D.C., and the Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history."
Good words. I like them. They remind me of what the Bush administration promised to do when they aimed to take the White House. Quoth Dick Cheney in August of 2000: "On the first hour of the first day, we will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office."
We all know where that led, and we all know that Pelosi has already endorsed a fellow for House Majority Leader who has a cloud hanging over his own reputation for ethics (Rep. Murtha, who has a decades-long trail of dubious ethics when it comes to awarding military contracts. Quoth the Associate Press: "Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a Democratic-leaning watchdog group, accused Pelosi of compromising her ethical standards by endorsing Murtha.")
So yes, I suspect it's politics as usual. And please do not misunderstand me: I abhor unethical behavior. But if the Democrats fail to live up to their lofty rhetoric on this occasion, as they and the Republicans have done so often in the past, we are at least left with this consolation:
Though imperfect, the system still works. Our nation may not be living up to its best potential, but we're still trying. We're still striving to move forward, to get closer to our ideal. The fact that our nation's checks and balances keep working bodes well for us all.
November 15, 2006
You a writer, or an avid reader of fiction? You dig story? You dig movies?
Stranger That Fiction is a writer's movie, and a pretty good one, at that. If you writes much, or reads much, I think you'll dig it.
Don't ask why. Don't ask what it's about. Just check it out, and get back to me later.
November 25, 2006
Tonight's top story on the local news: SNOW!
SNOW! SNOW has been spotted fifty miles away, mainly to the north and along the Canadian border in the higher elevations of the mountains.
One town just south of the Canadian border actually saw flurries on the interstate in the evening. SNOW ON THE INTERSTATE! AHHH!
Local news is a very funny thing in the Seattle area. The most-watched local news is a television station that, whenever possible, has the weather as its lead story for every broadcast. If it rains, it's newsworthy because, well, it's rain. If it doesn't rain, it's newsworthy because it didn't rain. Snow is cause for a special edition of the news (even though it snows here every winter; we live in a snow-capped mountain range, for crying out loud), as are thunderstorms, hail, sleet, warm temperatures, cold temperatures, el nino, la nina, the "pineapple express", high winds, low winds, no winds, and average winds.
I'm not making this up. This is the kind of thing that sounds too goofy to be true, and yet it amazes me how reliable it is.
When the Seattle Seahawks made it to the NFC Championship game last year (for those readers who don't follow football, this was the game to determine who would go to the Super Bowl), I was curious to see how they would work the weather into the lead story. And they did. On the night before the game, they talked about how the stadium was preparing for the game. The lead story was about how they had painted the grass with the "NFC Championship" logo and had to use special fans and tarps to enable the paint to dry despite a light drizzle.
Yes, that's right: the night before finding out if the Seahawks would go to the Super Bowl, the lead news story was not only about the weather, it was also about WATCHING PAINT DRY.
I'm sure Seattle is not the only town in the US where so little of note is happening that the weather is always the lead story. But what amazes me is that this is true even though Seattle's weather is so inescapably boring.
To paraphrase the allegedly Chinese curse: "may you live is mostly cloudy times, with occasional flurries along the Canadian border."
November 28, 2006
I don't have a department (category? room?) in this House of Cards named "irony", but if I did, that's where I'd have to file my entry for today:
I really dig this post by my writing buddy James Osborne. Among other things, it's about blogdeath. And the only thing worse than blogging about blogging is blogdeath. Or, perhaps, blogging about blogging about blogging about blogdeath.
Help! I'm trapped in an ironic loop!
November 30, 2006
The secret to success in comedy, according to Steve Martin, is
timing. Now, I've been meaning for years to remark upon Seattle's self-proclaimed number one television newscast and their penchant for always leading the news with something weather related. I first moved to the area sometime in -- oh, I don't know, 1995?
And I first started maintaining my blog (originally known as an "online journal", since the term "blog" hadn't yet been pimped at the time) a year or three after that. All the while, I've been kicking around the idea of pointing out this silly habit of the Seattle infotainers to lead off their alleged news broadcasts with talk about the weather.
And here it is, years later, and I finally get around to mocking these guys, and what happens? Their silly report about snow just south of Canada actually presages an actual weather emergency for the area. Okay, it's a minor weather emergency compared to many that I've been through (blizzards, cold snaps, tornados, etc.), but it's still relatively nasty. The entire Puget Sound area has been pretty much shut down for this entire week so far, and there have been a few weather-related fatalities.
While we were only hit with a dusting of snow both where I live and where I work, the hilly roads and the dearth of any kind of heavy equipment to clear the roads has left a treacherous ice field between home and office. That doesn't stop me, of course -- I grew up in Buffalo, NY, where winter driving is one long, controlled skid, and besides, my current vehicle is an All Wheel Drive minivan (I'm *so* Seattle Yuppie) -- but it nonetheless means I actually have to pay attention while I drive. And that's tres un-Seattle.
Luckily for me, everyone else is afraid of the weather, so they stay at home altogether. That means I get to skid my way down the ridge without having to worry too much that there'll be another car at the bottom to block my path. Whee!
The kids are already blase about the whole deal. Oh, sure, the first morning, they wanted to get out and play in the snow. But when Alex learned that there wasn't enough snow to even make so much as one lame snowball, he was pretty much done. Nolan seemed to enjoy the change in scenery, but otherwise didn't know what to make of it all.
But while the kids have put it all into perspective by getting on with their lives, I'm happy to report that the local news station of record has not been so enlightened. Every single news story for the past week has been weather-related, and every single forecast has warned us that "things are going to get worse before they get better."
How many ways can you say, "Major employers in Seattle have decided to close their campuses?" Or, "People who drive too fast on the ice are getting into accidents?"
Watch the local news and count the ways.
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