Saturday, September 30, 2006

The young Bob Shane - a shock

I'm watching The Kingston Trio Story: Wherever We May Go" on our local PBS station. It's an excellent documentary, but I had quite a shock watching the films of the early trio performing. The young Bob Shane looks just like the young George W. Bush.

Damn, that's disturbing.

I grew up on the Kingston Trio's music, from the cradle on. My parents, when they were newly married, could only afford a single record album, and that's who they bought. Many decades later, Mom and I had the wonderful pleasure of going on an Alaskan cruise with the Kingston Trio, the Limelighters, and many folk music fans. And the music sounded just the same; it was amazing. (The cruise ended on Sep 10th, 2001...there went the world I used to know.)

I've had a fairly peripatetic life. A good life, but one that lends itself to poignant nostalgia late at night. In one of those moods, it occurred to me that their music was just about the only constant, the only thread that stretched through all the years. They created the soundtrack for my life, in a way. So I dug around on the 'net, found their email address, and wrote them a letter telling them so, and thanking them. I got a personal reply from Bob (who was always my favorite Trio member).

So it's hell now to watch him years ago and see Bush...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cultural changes as boomers age

Some brilliant marketing genius has realized that aging issues will now be the next big opportunity. Instead of artificial holidays created around jobs and roles*, now we're getting things like Menopause Awareness Month. Because we just noticed???

And what are those cards going to look like? I can picture one with Maxine..."They think it's global warming...(flip)'s really just all of us having hot flashes at the same time."

  • National Boss Day
  • National Doctors Day
  • National Nurses Day
  • Administrative Professionals Day
  • National Clergy Appreciation Day
  • World Teacher Day
  • Neighbors Day (in Ohio, but "growing nationally in popularity"
  • ...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Geez, dead already?

I'd hate to think my faint praise resulted in the first casualty of the new fall shows...but the coincidence cannot be overlooked.

Friday, September 22, 2006

New fall shows: Happy Hour

I think Amanda (Beth Lacke) is a younger, more vulnerable version of Will and Grace's Karen (Megan Mullally). This is not a bad thing. Amanda is the most compelling character on Fox's Happy Hour.

Running a close second is Larry (Lex Medlin), who is skillfully revealing the depths of a two-dimensional role.

They both make me laugh. I'm not too sure about the rest of the cast or the show itself, but I find Amanda and Larry oddly compelling. I'll keep watching Happy Hour, for now...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

New fall shows: Men In Trees

Two of my favorite shows are Friends and ER -- both of which I didn't begin following until they'd been on for several seasons. In an effort to find new favorites without waiting several years to see how they do, I'm watching nearly a dozen new shows this fall from the pilot on. (Although that tactic did burn me last fall, when Threshold disappeared without warning.)

My first review, after a whole two episodes, is Men In Trees, which I'm sure was pitched as "picture Six Days and Seven Nights in Alaska". Fortunately, I adored Six Days and Seven Nights, particularly Anne Heche's character, Marin, and since she's playing the same character in Men In Trees...

But it works. She softens the edges of the Manhattan-based celeb-author just enough to be likable. The characters of Elmo are quirky enough to be interesting and earthbound enough to be plausible. The role of Annie (Emily Bergl) is especially challenging -- be an absolutely nutso stalker-style fan without being scary. (Her meeting with Patrick when they realize they 'met' previously in online chat is charming.)

I pretty much like everyone in Elmo already. Who could resist the gallantry of an entire town insisting they'd all slept with Marin...?

Monday, September 18, 2006

To Maher Arar

I'm sorry.

We were wrong to do that to you.

There is no excuse.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

MTV's Video Music Awards

I watched the 2006 VMA show today (Tivo) and enjoyed it much more than I expected to. (Possibly due to Tivo...I FF'd through the acceptance speeches.) Somebody at MTV did an amazing job with the graphics that accompanied the presentation of the nominees -- I especially liked the anatomical charting overlay in the dance category.

Still, the high point of the show, for me, was four guys and eight treadmills live.

Like a million others, I had voted on MTV's site in various categories. It's fun to register an opinion, but how did they come up with the nominees? In each category, I could think of several more deserving who weren't even allowed to compete.

Plus I'm still not reconciled to MTV Overdrive's recent (poor) redesign and the loss of customized playlists.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Broder's overlooked possibility

Amidst David Broder's rant against the changes to the Democratic primary calendar, he brings out the likely problem:

In the early primaries, eight or 10 people may be vying. What is most needed is time -- and a place -- for them to be carefully examined.

Historically, New Hampshire has fulfilled that responsibility. Voters there -- in both parties and especially among the numerous independents who also vote in the primary -- take their role seriously. They turn up at town meetings and they ask probing questions. So do the interviewers at local papers and broadcast stations. So do high school students.

New Hampshire voters don't need -- or particularly want -- guidance from Iowa, and frequently they ignore the Iowa results. But they are stuck with Iowa. Now, thanks to the Democrats, they may be stuck with Nevada as well, and crowded from behind by South Carolina.

...but manages to overlook that, apparently, the rest of the party is dissatisfied with the results they've gotten by relying on New Hampshire.

Bless Keith Olbermann

We listened to recordings of "great speeches of history" in school. And they were very historical, since there was nothing in our present that ever equalled any of them. I never expected to hear one in my lifetime.

Mr. Olbermann proved my expectations wrong.

The transcript:

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack. Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

We end the countdown where we began, our #1 story. with a special comment on Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday. It demands the deep analysis - and the sober contemplation - of every American. For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence - indeed, the loyalty - of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land; Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants - our employees - with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; And not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as "his" troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq. It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile… it is right - and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For, in their time, there was another government faced with true peril - with a growing evil - powerful and remorseless. That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the secret information. It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s - questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone to England. It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords. It knew that the hard evidence it had received, which contradicted it’s own policies, it’s own conclusions - it’s own omniscience - needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth. Most relevant of all - it "knew" that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile - at best morally or intellectually confused. That critic’s name… was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History - and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England - had taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty - and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts. Thus did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy excepting the fact that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute and exclusive in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis. It is the modern version of the government… of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient Ones. That about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely. And as such, all voices count - not just his. Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience - about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago - about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago - about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago - we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their omniscience as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to flu vaccine shortages, to the entire "Fog of Fear" which continues to envelope this nation - he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies, have - inadvertently or intentionally - profited and benefited, both personally, and politically. And yet he can stand up in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes.

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused… the United States of America? –

The confusion we - as its citizens - must now address, is stark and forbidding. But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note - with hope in your heart - that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light and we can too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this Administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought. –

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a "new type of fascism." As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that - though probably not in the way he thought he meant it. This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed. –

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute… I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow. But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed, "confused" or "immoral."

Thus forgive me for reading Murrow in full: "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," he said, in 1954. "We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear - one, of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of un-reason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men; Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were - for the moment - unpopular."

And so, good night, and good luck.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Remodeling: meeting with the contractor

Everyone will tell you that you have to get multiple bids. Why did I decide to only talk to one contractor?

Because of the ugly tale of the downstairs bathroom that I hinted at before.

Even now, I hate remembering the details of that project, but the end result was that when the contractor vanished with thousands of dollars and materials with the job half-done (and the half-done was piss-poorly done), J.W. came to my rescue. I know he's ethical, reliable, and does good work. That's worth more than gambling any money I might save with someone else, when it means risking a repeat of my previous experience.

So we only met with J.W. We told him our ideas, he told us his, and basically we're going to gut the downstairs (except that bathroom! and except for the load-bearing walls) and build it all back better than new.

To the tune of $85,000...