December 25, 2006

Isn’t it wonderful? I’m going to jail!

Filed under: Film and Video, General Me, Get your motor runnin' — tomemos @ 1:48 pm

Some notes on Christmas ’06:

 *We watched It’s a Wonderful Life last night.  I hadn’t seen it in years (except for the 30-second bunnies version), so I remembered hardly any of the essential details. It’s a good movie, despite some strange editing errors, and the ending is genuinely moving. However, there was a hilariously dated part near the end (spoiler warning, I guess). George Bailey is wandering around Pottersville, discovering one alternate-reality horror after another – his brother is dead, the downtown is a center of sin and misery, the place is called Pottersville – all because he’s never been born. Then, finally, he comes upon the final straw, the awful revelation that sends him racing back to the bridge to beg for his life back: his wife is unmarried at 35! And she’s a librarian! And she wears glasses!

I mean, when George asks Clarence “where’s my wife? Where’s Mary?” and Clarence doesn’t want to tell him, I sort of assumed that she was a prostitute or a burlesque dancer or something. But no, she’s just an old maid with her hair in a bun. And why would George’s absence make her wear glasses, anyway? Maybe it’s related to being a librarian, because reading is super-bad for women’s vision.

*I’ve come full circle from the Christmas ideal, where people give you things you like so you can save your money for things you need. The problem is that the adults in my life have no connection to things I like; it feels weird to ask my parents for albums they’ve never heard of, let alone the video games that they thought I was going to outgrow eventually. So the best Christmas presents I get these days are practical gifts – clothes, reference books – that let me save my money for toys. That culminated in my best present so far this year: a new set of hubcaps for my car, whose wheels have been naked (and gradually rusting) for as long as I’ve owned it. I was outside putting them on, hearing the neighborhood kids yell their favorite presents to each other: “I got the new iPod!” “I got an XBox 360!” Meanwhile there I was, hammering on my Christmas present, making an old car new.

*Finally, James Brown died. I was stunned; I had no idea he was 73, and even then he’s been such an icon for my entire life that it’s impossible to imagine him dead. Down here in Yorba Linda, I found out online; he died too late for the newspaper, and it occurred to me that my parents (who don’t get online very often) wouldn’t have heard. I planned to tell them during my “Merry Christmas” call, but I couldn’t do it. You can’t interrupt a gift-giving session with news like that.


December 7, 2006

Did you want a five-minute argument, or the full half-hour?

Filed under: Laws and Sausages — tomemos @ 2:10 pm

From Introduction to Republican Logic, Sixth Edition (New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2006):

U.S. environmental regulators are considering removing lead, a heavy metal linked to learning problems in children, from a list of regulated pollutants because past rules have greatly reduced levels of the toxin.


The EPA said that from 1980 to 2005 the national annual lead concentrations have dropped more than 90 percent. Lead levels in air have mostly fallen because it was banned as a gasoline additive starting in the 1970s.

Just so we’re all on the same page here, the EPA is considering unregulating lead because the regulation has been so effective.

I guess the delicate balance must be preserved. How will future generations look at us if we let them grow up in a world with insufficient lead in the air?

(thanks to Sadly, No!)

December 3, 2006

This concept of “wuv” confuses and enrages us

Filed under: Film and Video — tomemos @ 7:25 pm

Eww. Netflix has changed the “Recommendations” link to “Movies You’ll [heart].”

Like, a picture of a heart.


That is all.

December 2, 2006

It’s back, it’s way back, it hit a guy in the back

Filed under: Blogs Themselves, Game of Base, Laws and Sausages, The Old Dirty War — tomemos @ 5:08 am

Happy December! I have a post in mind about my wacky travel adventures, but it’s really late right now. So instead I will link to two blog posts I read recently that I think are absolute home runs. One of them, funnily enough, is about baseball.

To begin with the non-baseball one: please, go read this post by Glenn Greenwald on New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Read it, read it, read it. You should particularly read it if, like me:

1) you opposed the war from the beginning,
2) you felt, during the lead-up to war, betrayed by the supposedly liberal media’s failure to report calmly and objectively about the merits of the administration’s plans and claims,
3) you have felt, over the last two years, increasingly frustrated that no one will acknowledge that being anti-war was the sensible position from the beginning, and that therefore those who opposed the war have more credibility than those who supported it.

Greenwald shows that the media establishment has worked like gangbusters to suggest that, even though the war had gone to hell—who knew that Bush would screw it up?—they were right to support it, and that no matter what it’s still unrealistic to leave. The whole thing is great, but here’s a part that felt particularly true to me:

It is not merely the case that having been pro-war doesn’t count as a strike against anyone. That is accurate. But far worse, the opposite is also true. It is still the case in Establishment Washington that having been pro-war in the first place is a pre-requisite to being considered a “responsible, serious” foreign policy analyst. And having been anti-war from the start is the hallmark of someone unserious. The pro-war Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are serious national security Democrats but Russ Feingold, Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha are the kind of laughable losers whom Democrats need to repudiate.

This is not just about me and other war opponents getting in our “I told you so” (though it’s that, too; given that it was only a year after 9/11, we were sticking our neck out; I particularly remember taking the Metrolink into New York and hearing two firemen talking about how protesters had a “short memory”). It’s about who in the government and in the media we trust to lead our country, and how. What’s driven me crazy, as the war has become not just a disaster but an acknowledged disaster, is that the myth of universal support for the war, perpetuated by the Bush administration (“Everyone thought there were weapons!”) has not only been blithely accepted; it’s been actively encouraged, by those who supported the war and don’t want to admit they were wrong. Those of us who did oppose it—well, whatever, we were a bunch of hippies and intifada-lovers who would have opposed any war.

What I love about Greenwald’s article is that he absolutely nails something I had never been able to put my finger on before: why discussions of how the Democrats need to be (or at least appear) “serious about national security” drive me absolutely bonkers. As used in these debates, “serious” means “hawkish” (or “subservient to the ruling party”): the implication is that those who don’t want war are pie-in-the-sky idealists who while those who do want it don’t really want it, they just know what has to be done and by gum they are going to roll up their sleeves and do it. (Hence the hawk’s eternal riposte: “Well, what’s your solution?”) Now, it has transpired that the real delusional ones, the ones who believed that Iraq could be turned into Luxembourg with moxie and a small invasion force, were leading America into a catastrophe—which millions of people already knew—and yet there is still this idea that the pundits were right to be wrong, and that whether politicians voted to send America to its worst foreign policy blunder ever is irrelevant to whether they should still be trusted with American money and lives. When we wonder why we always forget the lessons of history, we usually chalk it up to a simple failure of memory. That’s part of it, but there’s always an active aspect of it: in order to learn a lesson, someone has to admit they were wrong, and power and influence is always much more interested in covering its ass.

* * *

Now, to baseball: I’ve been waiting for the right time to link to Fire Joe Morgan, and though it might seem strange that that time would come in the dead of the offseason, the bad sports journalism that the site skewers is always around. Unlike most of the “Fire Public Figure” sites, FJM has a more general mission (actually, they say they don’t really care about getting Joe Morgan fired): to insist on the reasonable use of statistics and empiricism to assess baseball players, rather than mumbo-jumbo about heart, character, hustle, and all of that. Any sports fan is familiar with the proliferation of cliches in sports writing—hey, it’s hard to write about 162 games in a unique and interesting way—but even I have been amazed at some of the soft and hokey (and, in other cases, derisive and mean) writing that they find, and invariably destroy. Here’s my favorite quote from the post that finally got me to give the link, a roast of Wallace Matthews’s “Meditations on Jeter” (Matthews’s text in bold:

I know, the MVP is not supposed to be a lifetime achievement award, but it’s not supposed to be a stats competition, either.

Amen. Stats can’t capture Jeter’s essence. He’s more than a ballplayer. If you wanted to describe the most beautiful songbird in the world singing a Mozart sonata to an innocent child, would you use numbers to do so?

Go back and look through the archives, if it’s your kind of thing. It’s like MST3K for sports nerds.

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