Friday, June 29, 2007

Elections Have Consequences, Supreme Court-Style

Charvakan has always been of the opinion that the Supreme Court, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't really matter all that much. "Let them overturn Roe v. Wade," he's said. "The Republicans would run out of issues and the Democrats would win in a landslide." That may be true on the merits or not, but the question of the Supreme Court's importance is a separate matter. It literally makes or breaks the law. The idea that the makeup of the court isn't important is like thinking it doesn't matter if you have a blind umpire working the World Series. Even if Congress is swinging a hot bat, all it takes is a few dumb calls to ruin the whole thing.

To whit, among other decisions: the recent call on affirmative action in schools. I'm not a scholar on the issue by any means, and I can't speak knowingly about the legal and historial precedents at work here. But the result is objectively reactionary and regressive -- essentially returning us to a time before Brown v. Board of Education -- and it's no coincidence that the 5-4 vote came with the help of Bush's two Supreme Court picks. The Washington Monthly blog points out that of the recent spate of rulings (all 5-4, all conservative victories), Roberts has written three opinions and Alito the other two. And in a bit of understatement, it calls the rulings "one of those elections-have-consequences moments."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Case of Emotion

I don't know how many of you saw "Anchorman," but the title of this post is not really used in the same sense as Will Ferrell's "glass case of emotion" line. I just kind of like the symmetry, is all.

Anyway, two Friday nights ago now, the 15th, I had an existential episode I thought I'd share. I'm not sure why I haven't updated the blog much lately, other than a general lack of extraordinary things to say. Waiting to find out if the Washington Monthly has made its decision isn't a very deep well of anecdote. However, all the same occasionally something interesting happens to all of us, and this story is replete with different characters and an epiphany. It did unfortunately stem from booze. It was very real all the same.

Here is the gist: Stephanie was out with some friends from work that night while I was separately at a friend from work's house for dinner. Stephanie et al were having a "staff retreat" that was really an excuse for the bigwigs to pick up a three-day bar tab. In the end I'm not sure it even brought anyone closer together, at least not to upper management, although it sounded like fun. Anyway, I was over at a friend's watching The Big Easy, probably one of the best bad movies ever made, and eating Cajun food for effect (and because, at least at The New Orleans Cafe in Adams Morgan, it is delicious), and working my way through a bottle of $20 French wine I had originally bought for three, thinking Steph would be arriving shortly and my friend would be interested. As is sometimes the case, I had to improvise by drinking it all myself because... we'll call him Al. Al wasn't interested and Stephanie was nowhere to be found. So I drank it all myself. It went down with my jambalaya very nicely.

After the movie ended and Stephanie remained indisposed at a cocktail lounge somewhere, I was unceremoniously shown the door and left to my own devices. This will mean less to some than to others, but I walked from 17th and U St. to Dupont Circle -- here is a decent map -- to wander the aisles at Kramerbooks while I waited for Stephanie's head to clear and for her to call me again. I was a little disoriented all the way there, which ended up being a longer route than necessary, for one thing (see how I didn't need to go all the way to Massachussetts?) , and yet seemed not to take any time at all. When I arrived, I kept dropping things, especially books and once my cell phone, but I mostly sat down and behaved myself and pretended to be considering some children's book about elephants while I waited waited waited for my drunk missing girlfriend to let me know what was up. I eventually gave up on this plan when it became obvious it wasn't working and headed for the actual circle, which has a large fountain in the middle and a lot of picnic tables where patzers play chess, sometimes well into the evening. I have played there myself. My record is an even .500, but that's another story.

Imagine a fountain, at night, while you're somewhat drunk, with dark figures sitting here and there on the rim or on benches nearby, and then lie down on your back on the rim yourself and try to clear your head by letting the fountain splash you. Add a thirtyish black woman with a good, plaintive singing voice sitting at your feet with a guitar sharing her sad love songs. Then a teenage couple at your head murmuring to each other. Then try to figure out how you got there in the first place, why you went to that bookstore, why you left, where your girlfriend could be and what time it is. But then don't really bother with any of that and notice that single star you can see through the clouds. Kind of let the singing and the darkness and the sound of the water fill up your head. Keep looking at the star and suddenly feel, for no particular reason, that you haven't really cried, not for any reason, in maybe five years. You kind of start to wonder about that, and then your mind drifts to all the other stars out there, and because you're not entirely in control of your thoughts, and the night sky is on your mind, your head starts running wild with visions of what's going on in the universe: galaxies literally colliding with each other, huge gaseous clouds drifting through forgotten solar systems, stars exploding at the very moment you're looking up into the sky that we won't know about for thousands of years. And then, in a second bizarre mental leap, jump to thinking about how small and ridiculous -- how really, truly small and comically (that's comically) unimportant -- you are in the scope of all of that, in the length and breadth of infinite creation, in a cosmos of impossible and ever-growing size, a borderless expanse of black holes and time-bending supernovas and giant comets tailing through space so far away we will never see them. Let that sink in while you're not really in control of your faculties.

Then, to put you over the edge, in a further leap of mental gymnastics, think about all the poor and wretched people on this planet who -- your mind tells you in a strange moment of clarity -- do not ever think this way because they cannot or do not have the luxury or have not been told how. People whose needs could so easily be met if things worked differently.

Then the woman's singing, at the most felicitous moment, reaches a point where you cannot hold back your crying any longer. Although you are not in any formal sense religious, you cannot help but feel you have seen through to something that you know will not last. You are moved beyond your capacity to rationalize: you put your hands together, because your brain is reacting purely on impulse, and you cry and cry and say "Oh god, oh god, oh god," over and over. You realize, somewhere in the remaining conscious, clear-headed portion of your brain, that you look to everyone like you are on drugs or are at least suffering from withdrawal, probably from some exotic toad serum. But because the feeling persists that you've hit the cosmic nail on the head, and because you don't really care about anything else, you keep crying and muttering for five minutes. Maybe six. It's not an epic, drawn-out affair. But it lasts as long as it needs to.

Then, when you've collected yourself, you wonder what happened and whether it will happen again. You want to tell your girlfriend about it. But when you catch up with her, a scant ten minutes after you've composed yourself, she is too drunk and giddy to understand your story. So you go home and sleep it off.

In the morning, somehow, everything has returned to normal and for a while you feel disappointed. But you realize, if you lived every moment of every day thinking about the size of the universe, you'd be committed to a mental hospital.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

photo dump

These are just from around the yard. Bigger pics would just show how much work I have to do.

See the bee? If not, click on the pic to get a bigger version.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hobart Smith

I have a confession to make -- I am a passionate aficionado of roots music, and as such I think all music aficionados should be aware of (and should appreciate) Hobart Smith. He was one of the great old time fiddlers, and it's hard to appreciate his virtuosity (or his contribution to music) without hearing him.

Have fun, and look for more of his stuff.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Anyone not following this scandal

Is missing the true depravity of the current administration. The extent to which the current administration is willing to use its prosecutorial power to advance its political ends is unrivaled by any U.S. administration in the past 100 years, and possibly ever. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo (and his crack staff) have all the details, and it would be presumptious (not to mention duplicative) for me to repeat it.

Latest details here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Where The Eff Has Lapplander Been?

I often e-mail myself links to stories that I want to subsequently post on the blog, but my mailbox is now so full of so many outdated little nuggets that I'm going to scrap the whole enterprise for now and just tell a few stories that may or may not make you grin. You have no idea what a relief this is.

To begin: The Washington Monthly, where I had a stint as a proofreader when I first got to town, is hiring a new staff reporter/editor and I am applying. I already called one of the people I "know" there -- the one who sort of brought me on board in the first place -- and I hope to have some exciting news soon. Of course there are no guarantees, but I can't help thinking it must help a LITTLE that they all know me already.

To continue: Pirates of the Caribbean is a huge mess, as you've probably heard by now. What isn't a mess, and what you must see if you get the chance, is Once, a very well-told story about a street musician in Dublin making friends with a girl who hears him playing and what happens in their lives, especially him trying to better himself and her trying to help him. It's one of those things you can't explain succinctly without cliches, but I remember one review saying it "will reinvent the movie musical genre," which would be the truth if only more people would pay attention. All the music in the movie is part of the story and is blended seamlessly in with what is happening. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Also surprisingly good is Knocked Up, which I invite you to learn more about at your leisure. Every fear you could fear about it being crass or trite -- all wrong.

Moving further: I've been writing scripts for a sitcom my friend and I are trying to develop the last several months. This has taken up many of my weekends. Unfortunately, I have it from a trusted critic that my plots have lacked a little needed structure. I haven't decided what to do with this, at least not entirely, but I think the scripts might go on the back burner for a while. I've been thinking and thinking I should start a new novel I've been planning. If there's anything you should do when you hear your plots are too loose, it's start a much bigger project with more plots to handle. There's no time like the present, right? It's not like I can go to plot camp and come back ready for battle. If someone told Hemingway his plots were loose, he probably would have slugged a whiskey, shot an elephant and written The Sun Also Rises just to prove them wrong. We are very different people, Hemingway and I, and The Sun Also Rises has a very loose plot, but I can at least tangentially learn from his mythical example. I will not discuss this novel of mine unless it goes well. Then you might hear a few hints. I've always wanted to be a writer, as many of you probably know, and I've tried a few times before (in college, when most people just are not ready to write a novel), so I feel good about this new project. A lot of the spadework has already been done in my head.

An aside: My new yet older-model camera is working fantastically. There were several weekends when it ruined my and Stephanie's day because it would jam or something, and then I'd get hot with it, and then I'd be in a sour mood because it kept happening for no apparent reason and I like taking pictures. Anyway, that's all over now. It's a film camera, so don't expect a ton of photoblogging, but maybe there's a way to transfer a particularly good roll to CD or something. I'd like to be able to share a few that I think are especially good. I don't think DC has its official photo chronicler yet. Maybe I could step into those shoes.

Further along: Tomorrow my friends and I are planning to go to a wine tasting out in the countryside. Twenty dollars all you can "taste." More after that develops.

And at the moment: Stephanie volunteered for an event at work this morning, so I'm here in the room listening to new music. Please see these lyrics and set them to an upbeat Irish rock setting to have some idea of what my mind is reeling from.

Look, I spared you any mention of current events! You might not be so lucky next time...