Saturday, November 22, 2008

Smothers Brothers: best of season 3 dvd

Tonight I put on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The Best of Season 3. I was about 9 when these episodes were on the air, so I vaguely remembered the show. (Although I grew up listening to their albums, so I know most of their routines and songs by heart.)

I watched about six episodes. There were some interesting moments -- until George Carlin spoke, I didn't believe that young man was really him! -- and great music. But, much of the comedy sketches were...off-putting.

(A major aside: off-putting is in the dictionary, "Tending to disconcert or repel", but doesn't it seem like an odd construction? Like a Yoda phrase.)

Back to the comedy. Much of it was really heavy-handed. Those were dark and ugly times in our country, and the sketches were battles in the war against the darkness and ugliness. But it really became too much for me after awhile.

And I think it may be because of Obama. I think maybe this election has induced just enough cautious optimism that I want to leave the past in the past for a change.

Still, I'm happy that Tommy finally received his Emmy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Change.gov, the blog

So far, much of what's been posted on Change.gov is the press-release type of update. But today's entry reads like an actual living (interesting) blog:

President-elect Barack Obama visited Manny's Cafeteria and Deli in Chicago today to pick up two cherry pies and three corned beef sandwiches -- including one for himself and one for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.


President-elect Obama ordered his sandwich on rye bread with mustard.

Don't ask why that tickles me -- it just does.

Do you know your myths?

Michael Turner delighted me this morning with his comment to the blog post End of the beginning, which links to a Reuters article in which someone states, "Even though the Fed has done everything it possibly could to support the banks it seems like they are rolling a rock up a hill."

Mr. Turner subtly highlights the sad state of cultural literacy indicated by the speaker referring to the punishment of Sisyphus without actually mentioning Sisyphus. In his comment, he offers a number of other statements that allude to mythology yet avoid clear references (that might confuse those who know nothing of mythology). See if you can match up the mythological figure with Mr. Turner's descriptions:

  • "Treasury, in opening a massive liquidity conduit last year, was diverting a river in the hope that it would clean a lot of horseshit out of a huge stables."
  • "Phil Gramm et al., in deregulating the banking sector, opened up this box that held a whole lot of bad things on wings that then flew out all over the world, plaguing everyone."
  • "If Ben Bernanke applies the wisdom accumulated from his deep study of the Great Depression, and somehow saves the day, the way he saves it will leave him so hated by certain Powers That Be that they will chain him to side of that mountain down which that rock rolled and smashed those stables (which then got swept away in splinters in that river). And he will lie there, struggling, helpless, in agony, as his ever-regenerating liver is torn in perpetuity by flying Republican attack monkeys."

Did you get them all?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

About gay marriage

I don't have a dog in this fight. Personally, I feel a vague discomfort that government/society is at all involved in defining personal relationships, however I acknowledge that there are a myriad of economic and legal issues, particularly in the areas of children and property, that require some form of regulation.

So be it, specific forms of personal relationships incur contractual obligations that must be legislated.

That given, I see no valid reason why two men or two women shouldn't be able to incur those same obligations. As this protestor neatly prints on her sign, "Against gay marriage? Then don't have one"**. Makes sense to me.

But being unencumbered by structural dogma, I also see no valid reason why the contract should be restricted to two parties. Heinlein certainly made good arguments for more than two adults in a familial relationship.

I know this stance angers those who are fighting for gay marriage, because it appears to play into the slippery slope fears of their opponents (who do argue that a reason to oppose gay marriage is that it could lead to polygamy) (they also argue that it could lead to bestiality, which is a ridiculous misapplication of logic). However, if we can cast off historical precedent in western culture by substituting gender in the traditionally accepted marital relationship, what argument can there be against substituting number as well? Personally, I think both would be good things.

(Anyway, it's not like group marriages would be recognized anytime soon -- culture would have to change first, as it has over several decades with homosexuality being brought out into the open. Unfortunately, the sole model publically acknowledged at this time involves creepy old men, females who are too young, and cult-like environments. Not what I have in mind.)

**That statement reflects my view on another sticky issue: against abortion? Then don't have one.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"24" and torture

I adore 24. Watching it isn't a pleasant or soothing experience, but the questions it raises fascinate me. Season 4 and Season 5 particularly, because of the way they highlighted the role of the president through Charles Logan. One of his first "presidential" lines was an outraged "You did that without asking me?" I watch Logan and listen to his claims of omnipotence and, even scarier, the blind deference exhibited by other characters and the cowed submission of the rest -- and I wonder, does anyone really buy all that? (But I'm afraid in reality some do.)

Not the point of my post, however. I come not to praise 24, but to condemn it for its pervasive use of torture.

I think the way the show is initially presented cushions the impact, lulls us into an uneasy acceptance of alleged necessity. When you watch one hour a week over a TV season, a single scene in a single episode isn't overwhelming. And they do an excellent job (usually) of providing a context that permits excusal of the excesses.

That's not how I watch the show. I watch it on DVD, episode after episode, through the entire "day", and season by season up to the present. And viewed in that way, it's clear that, too often, the pretext for torture is unreasonable, inadequate, and morally wrong. Even the "ticking bomb" frameworks often fail to justify the actions CTU takes.

Sometimes, they torture the right person and get the magic clue to proceed to the next scene. And it's those "successes" that has the unfortunate result of convincing us, the audience, that torture is morally neutral and that it can be "right" in some situations.

The characters themselves never question the ethics of torture. The only character that I recall who sort of challenged it was Audrey in Season 4, but I think she was more upset at it being done (1) in front of her, (2) to her husband and brother, (3) by her boyfriend. Not so much against torture itself. And Daddy made it alright with "It's a dirty job but someone has to do it, so don't hold it against him."

It's a dirty job because it is wrong. Torture is wrong. Torture is never right, even for "the greater good".

I'll still watch 24. But I repeat: torture is wrong.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Election night with the Obamas

Another one of those elegant touches that the Obama campaign so frequently produces: behind-the-scenes photos on flickr, documenting election night. Try the slide show.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

G1 phone: alarm clock

My old phone died (the display) and when I went in to the T-Mobile store to browse, I talked myself into the G1. (I confess, PacMan was the irresistable feature, although the ShopSavvy and map features were also compelling.) But the handbook is lacking. So, as I figure out the little things that aren't mentioned in the book, I'm going to post them.

I use my cell phone for my alarm clock. The G1 offers three separate alarm settings. You can set the time, the sound, whether to vibrate, and which days to repeat the alarm, for three configurations. My question was - does it have a snooze? Yes, it does. When the alarm goes off, two buttons appear on the screen: Snooze and Dismiss. It will snooze for 10 minutes.