Monday, December 24, 2012

Now Maybe?

Can we please talk about this now?  Like, an adult discussion?

What bothers me most about this recent spate is that these disturbed individuals (who are nonetheless given access to an instrument that is nothing short of a key to the life and death of their neighbors) are taking their vengeance on strangers and innocents.

Your boss fires you so you kill him, that I get--as wrong as it is, obviously.  Your boss fires you so you shoot up a grocery store or whatever?  Sorry, you've completely lost me.

And going so far as to set a trap for people who not only have done you no harm but are actively trying to help you?  As a final statement to a world you've given up're doing it so wrong it makes me wish your awful, confused, too short life had been shorter and even worse.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Picking Through The (Delicious) Ashes

This article detailing the failings of the Romney campaign leading up to the 2012 election is, to me, like french fries wrapped in strips of bacon that were cooked in grease heated by Hendrix licks.

Yet, in the midst of all the Romney staffers' squinting guiltily in the bright glare of 20/20 hindsight--"we should have highlighted his character! we should have spent more on our ground game! oh, oh!"--one thing that people seem to have forgotten is...Romney was a terrible nominee for the current Republican Party.

Let's revisit the two biggies.  First, Romney's a Mormon, a religion which, up until they knew they were stuck with him, most Republicans considered about as Christian as the Branch Davidians.  In a party that is, if not built on, at least leaning drunkenly for support on, the Christianist factions at work in the modern U.S., this is a problem.

Second, not only was he the governor of a blue state (not a firing offense in and of itself) but his signature achievement, the health care law, had to be forgotten--Orwell-style--lest it remind the base that Romney paved the way for the Affordable Care Act, the legislative achievement of Obama's that made Republican's froth at the mouth because it achievement...of Obama's.  Having your own nominee exude faint whiffs of the very thing that sends your peeps into an irrational, inchoate rage is not--pardon the expression--starting in the black.

So, you strip away Romney's faith and his signature achievement in public service, and all you're left with is a rich white guy.  And while this alone is apparently enough to make you the standard-bearer of the modern Republican Party, it is no longer enough, thankfully, to make you the leader of the free world.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I Feel Fine

Today was the apocalypse...again.  This time, the doomsday warnings came dressed as jaguars, rather than sporting yarmulkes, because the end of the world is nothing if not multicultural.

Yet, while the earth still turns, heedless of the now two times it was supposed to keel over and call it quits (third time's the charm?), and the tug of time draws us ever forward despite the deep grooves our kicking heels have left in the floor behind us, my inner philosopher and hobby aphorist is compelled to reflect sagely that every day is the end of the world as we know it.

Deep, man.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Guns Chasten Speech"

This NYT opinion is the most clearly stated rebuttal of the rhetoric flying around that we are free because of our guns.  This never made much sense to me; it didn't strike me as wrong, per se, just superfluous to the debate.  Well, it turns out I just needed a guiding hand from Mr. DeBrabander: we are free in spite of our guns.

The idea that a populace armed with civilian (or even sub-military grade) weaponry could stave off the most powerful military in all of history has always seemed...farfetched to me.  And not just to me.  Someone else was feeling demotivated:

But back to free speech and the limits placed on it by public carry permits.  It reminds me of a lunch I once had with an old friend.  He's of Italian stock, and had friends who had gone into organized crime.  He himself is a writer, but he still carried around some of that "old neighborhood" swagger.  For whatever reason, we found ourselves discussing RICO prosecutors, and how they must view the mafia as a bunch of thugs.  After conceding that they are indeed thugs, a cloud of pride crossed my friend's face.  "Yeah," he said dismissively, "but those lawyers wouldn't say that if a guido was standing right behind them."  No, they probably wouldn't--anymore than anyone else would--because they know that chances are they'd end up as the red sauce on top of some kid's spaghetti-all-covered-with-cheese.  

And that is the exact effect that guns have on our discourse too.  The fact that said guido is indeed a thug does not change based on his proximity to a prosecutor's turned back.  What changes is the prosecutor's willingness to openly state the truth when confronted with violent consequences.  He has been silenced by an implied threat.  The same way he likely would be if someone he had a dispute with were carrying a gun.

The NRA likes to say that an armed society is a polite society.  But that's just a polite way of saying a self-censored society.  These are not the same thing.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Yes, This Would Clearly Work...

There are suggestions now flying around that we prevent future school shootings by arming the teachers.  These suggestions, naturally, are coming from the same people who can't trust teachers not to turn their neckless little darlings into raging atheist polygamist pinko tax lovers.

My attempt to tease apart the tangle of cognitive dissonance on display here never made it past incoherent blubbering, but this person managed to say what needs to be said:

So I’m a teacher. According to conservative orthodoxy, I’m a parasite on the public’s dime who is only interested in indoctrinating the precious children of America into communism or atheism or whatever. I can’t be trusted to have any control over the curriculum I teach. I can’t be trusted to fairly and impartially evaluate my students, let alone my colleagues. I can’t be trusted to have collective bargaining rights. I can’t be trusted to have an objective view of governmental policy when it comes to my own profession.
But they’ll trust me to keep a gun in a room filled with children.
Even the cynicism-producing neurons of my prefrontal cortex can’t wrap themselves around this kind of stupid bullshit.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Will We Ever Talk About This?

There's been a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.  An elementary school.

Of course, if only we as a society weren't so anti-gun (snort) and had allowed those children to pack heat then none of this would have happened, amirite?

Also, too, fuck you, Jay Carney.  Now is exactly when we should talk about these things.

UPDATE:  It turns out that the perennial blossom of potted douche standing proudly on the front porch of right blogistan, Instapundit, accidentally beat me to my punchline by almost an hour.  You think you can make this up, but the gun nuts prove you can't.

Also, too, there seems to be some fellow feeling about telling Jay Carney to fuck off.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Night Of Bond-ing

I saw Skyfall tonight.  It was a decent installment--not quite as intelligent as Daniel Craig's last two Bond movies, but enjoyable nonetheless.  A few spoilers, er, thoughts:

--I continue to enjoy the opening montages wherein the main plot points of the film are set out, if one knows how to decode them.  For instance, there are the images of stone arches which forecast the fight in the sewer, the Chinese dragons which intimate Bond's fateful trip to Macau, and the storm of slowly descending, flaming sperm which clearly presage his tryst with a former Macanese sex slave.

--I appreciate that the villain's motivation had nothing to do with conquering the world.  I maintain that that was the most satisfying part of Casino Royale (where Le Chifre's prime concern is market manipulation and avoiding the edge of an African warlord's machete) and the least satisfying part of the otherwise compelling Quantum of Solace.  The world is too big, too abstract, which makes seeking to possess it not menacing but campy.  That's why it's so often used in conjunction with comic book baddies; comic books trade in melodrama.  This is not a suitable row to hoe for any franchise looking to call itself "gritty."

--That said, may we please place a moratorium post-haste on the villain being a former agent/teammate/co-worker/squash partner of the good guy(s)?  It's not just that someone else has already done this angle better, it's that another Bond movie has already done this angle better.  See: Pierce Brosnan, Goldeneye.  I mean, c'mon people, it's not like you're lifting something from the George Lazenby era; Goldeneye was out barely thirteen years ago.

--And speaking of moratoriums, let's throw a heavy rug over the trope that the villain, while supposedly languishing in the hero's clutches, actually "meant to get caught! omg!!!1!!"  Let's especially consign to the Dustbin of Anemic Writerly Devices using one of the good guys to blurt this aloud while turning in place amid the bodies of nameless guards and the general bedlam surrounding the villain's escape.  This gimmick was the weakest point of the otherwise masterful Dark Knight Returns, and if Heath Ledger's Joker couldn't make it a believable-sounding plan then you can't either.

--Thanks to the final scene, we finally have an answer to Bond's dysfunctional relationships with women: while giving Vesper Lynd clear pride of place in his overflowing gynecic menagerie, 007's ain true love has apparently only ever been M.  At least, she's the only woman he has ever shed an actual tear for.  (His reconciliation to the idea that Vesper's affection was indeed real, and not another spy game, is the terse statement "Congratulations, you were right...about Vesper" uttered almost monotone to M at the end of Quantum.  No waterworks there.)  Dunno about you, but I'd also suffer from a myriad of psychosexual maladjustments if Dame Judi Dench was my paragon of the feminine.

--Sadly, it seems my favorite fan theory, that "James Bond" is actually a code name given to successive agents over the course of the last 50 years, is false.  The grave markers at Bond's auld Scottish home clearly give his family name as "Bond," and I highly doubt the parental units buried beneath were a full 1/5th of their era's double-0 branch.  This revelation was both surprising and sad, especially since Javier Bardem's character makes a point of forcing the issue, with his insistence that M call him by his real name, not his MI6 moniker.  Having "Bond" as a code name answered so much and so nicely, as far as continuity goes; it's a shame to see it discarded.  Besides, isn't it dangerous for an assassin to be handing out his real name?  I know mom and pop are pushing up thistles, but surely there are other loved ones and acquaintances that would be put in danger by the practice?

--Lastly, I mentioned above that this go-round is "not quite as intelligent" as the last two Craig installments.  Casino and Quantum were both defined by Bond's coldblooded devotion to his given mission; he either bent the people around him to the ends of this mission or he discharged them (and often a bullet at the same time).  Skyfall doesn't have this same kind of rigor.  For example, in the previous two movies, Bond's choice of lovers was strategic, i.e., the seductions moved him closer to his goal.  (Vesper Lynd was interesting in that she fell outside the pattern, which made their relationship seem to be genuinely emotional.)  The sexual conquests in Skyfall (three in the first 45 minutes, no less!) are, rather, perfunctory: here's a beautiful woman in the same room as James frickin' Bond, what d'you think is gonna happen (bwoh-chicka-bwoh-bwoh)?  Me, I prefer my Bond to be a calculating killer who just happens to be on the side of the angels over a James Bond who's basically a kind of AXE Body Spray in a special edition MI6 bottle.

That said, it was a nice ride, especially on an iMax screen.  Go see!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

An American (Taliban)'s Heritage

A story from a few days out is that entirely-sane-why-are-you-asking Sen. Jim DeMint (R--Seriously-quit-asking) is leaving the Senate to be a high muckety-muck at the Heritage Foundation.  There seems to be much hullabaloo on the right about whether this new non-governmental mucketiness is good or bad for the conservative movement.  I have no idea about that, since I think anything short of an anti-psychotic administered forcefully to the buttocks of the Republican party strikes me as bad for the conservative movement.

However,  this bit in The New Yorker jumped out at me (via Balloon Juice):

Last year, he indicated that his belief in small government is rooted in the theory that there is a fixed and limited amount of space that can be occupied by the government and the deity combined.  The size of the public sector and the size of the Almighty are inversely proportional to each other.  It's an iron law, a zero-sum game: "I've said it often and I believe it--the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets."

This is the succinct summation of what motivates the American theocratic movement (or the "American Taliban", as the DailyKos so pithily sneers): unless God is the driving force of government, government is the enemy of God.

I understand the current speculation that DeMint is off to Heritage to level up to the role of Republican kingmaker, and maybe that will prove to be more dangerous in the long run to our secular government, but for the short term, not having such a fundamentally un-American voice on the floor of our Senate can be nothing but a relief.

And on a side note, He's not much of an Almighty if he can be shrunk as easily as a cotton shirt by the mundane proceedings of a representative democracy, is He?  If I were a religious nut, I'd devote a smidge of hullabaloo to that little theological pickle first.