Archive for November, 2004

Power of Pride

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

Searching on “proud to be an American” in Google, I found 183,000 pages. Searching on “humble to be an American” I found 10.

Says a lot, doesn’t it? Maybe we’re 18,300 times more proud than we are humble

I’m thinking of getting some bumper stickers made that say “Humble to be an American.” Let me know if you want one.

Road Movie to Chi-Town, or This is Red America

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004

Pictures now in the new plog documenting my weekend road trip to Indiana and Chicago. I probably took more pictures of the rural Midwest just because the depths of its peculiarity seem to grow every time I’m up there. I saw a lot of “Adult Superstore” billboards and just as many “Pornography Hurts Everyone” signs. So that’s nice.

What I somehow failed to take more pictures of was the people, namely my hosts Craig and Jamie. Or Jamie’s adorable Mini-Me, Ella. I’m still trying to figure out how I neglected that. The depths of my confusion reach levels not seen since…well, November 3rd.

Credit Card Secrets

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004

Here are a couple of things that I did not know about credit card companies:

  1. If you have incurred a late fee, you can just call them and have them remove it.
  2. You can say “please remove me from all marketing lists” and they actually will. Which is particularly nice if you’re like me and you get a zillion “low-interest” checks in the mail.

These are just little options I had no idea were available to me.

Video Games as Existential Metaphors

Sunday, November 14th, 2004

I was thinking about Tetris recently and how it was the only video game I really enjoyed. I think the reason for my enthusiasm stemmed from the game’s elegant metaphor for existence: oddly shaped objects are constantly being thrown at you and you have to make them fit into the most solid, sensible patterns. If you don’t, they stack up quickly and overcome you.

This got me thinking about other video games, like Pac-Man. It has a vaguely materialist message: run through the maze of life and consume as much as you can. Avoid the spiritual beings. They only represent death.

Donkey Kong’s message is one of corporate ambition. Climb the ladder, avoid everything the guy on top throws at you, and you can make it to the top, where you’ll live happily ever after.

Are there any abstract video games anymore? Or games that invent their own reality? Everything I see these days is variations on virtual reality themes of combat, racing, and movies.

Anatomy of a Spin

Thursday, November 11th, 2004

This is a perfect example of how the US political system works, and why it’s performing so poorly:

Fact: The popular vote in the 2004 Presidential Election was 59,459,765 for Bush, 55,949,407 for Kerry.
Republican meaning: Bush won the most votes in US history.
Democrat meaning: Bush won by the slimmest margin of any incumbent president in US history.

Each side will interpret raw data in whichever light is most positive to their side. Republicans will tend to deal in absolute truths (the Most Ever), while Democrats will more often choose relative truths (Compared to Previous Margins).

This is just one example out of thousands that are presented to us every day. It’s a variation on the glass is half full versus the glass is half empty. Depending on the situation, each side will choose to focus on whichever interpretation suits them at the time. Had the election been the reverse, each side’s analysis would change.

And Another Thing

Friday, November 5th, 2004

I just realized the most troubling aspect of the entry below is that the room fell silent until someone changed the subject. The problem is not Bush’s idiocy, it’s that no one calls him on it. In a room full of yes-men, nobody is going to challenge him. What if the Swedish Army had made a good anchor in the West Bank? What if Bush had made an important decision based on that kind of incompetence? I would imagine he already has many times over, but that’s just me, the liberal critic. What if the only reason we went to Iraq was because Bush thought Saddam was a threat but nobody really questioned him, or at least if they did it wouldn’t alter his resolve?

It’s easy to dismiss the example as “ha ha, Bush is silly,” but he’s basing critical world decisions on his own lack of knowledge and no one is correcting him. I’m more afraid of him than I have ever been.

Also, on this red-letter date in the history of science, November 5th, 1955: Dr. Emmett Brown developed his theory time travel.

It's Mourning in America

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

More fun excerpts from Ron Suskind’s “Without a Doubt“:

…Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

“I don’t know why you’re talking about Sweden,” Bush said. “They’re the neutral one. They don’t have an army.”

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: “Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They’re the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.” Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. “No, no, it’s Sweden that has no army.”

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. “You were right,” he said, with bonhomie. “Sweden does have an army.”

AAAIIGHH! This is what you’ve wrought, America! This is the man you chose! Are you happy now?!

Four More Years of Ennui

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

Some thoughts on the single most surreal election victory in US history:

1. I’ve been saying for years that the further away you go from urban areas, the further back in time you go. For example, in Harrison there are still sack boys who bag your groceries and carry them to your car for you. This just isn’t done anymore in big cities. Also, Harrison is a haven for white power organizations which are getting harder to find these days. For better or worse, rural = past, and urban = future and somewhere in between is the present day. While watching the election results last night, I was struck by the fact that nearly all urban areas tended to vote Democrat and nearly all rural areas vote Republican. Now, I don’t want to sound elitist, and it should be noted that I come from a very small town, but the division of stupidity in this country clearly weighs heavily on the side of rural. To make a broad generalization (but one that I would wager is demographically sound), the Republican Party is the party of the rural and the rich, and that’s a powerful combination because the latter can so easily manipulate the former. Factor in the “don’t switch horses in midstream” school of foreign policy, and there’s your Bush win.

2. The Electoral College is still a sham. People who live in a state surrounded by people who disagree with them are essentially wasting their vote. Whether you are a liberal in Arkansas or a conservative in New York, you are disenfranchised by the Electoral College.

3. This nonsense about waiting for Ohio’s provisional votes is ludicrous. Oh how I prayed that Kerry would win the electoral vote and not the popular vote, just so I could watch everyone who trumpeted the virtues of the Electoral College four years ago change their tune.

4. H.L. Mencken said “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it, good and hard.”

5. I don’t know if I can take four more years of angst, anti-science, environmental rape, no-bid contracts, lowered standards, higher body counts, cynical manipulation of facts, shouting smug punditry, neoconservative empire-building.

6. As usual, Mark Morford says it better than I.

Another Full Weekend

Monday, November 1st, 2004

I forgot to mention the new plog.

Friday night I met my new cousin, Scott. He’s 32, lives in Conway, and is married with 3 kids. He’s working on a master’s degree in history at UCA.

Scott was put up for adoption by my aunt Cindy when he was born. He grew up in Cabot mostly. He never thought much about tracking down his real mother, although her knew her name. A few months ago, he saw her name in a UCA donor list (her alma mater as well as his). He’s a lot like his mom – big Democrat, and an impatient driver who attempts to school other motorists in proper technique (must be in the blood).

Anyway, we had a birthday party for him at aunt Cindy’s house. He and his wife have the same birthday. There were two cakes – one for them, and one for Scott’s “first” birthday. He has two daughters and a son, and they’re all adorable. They are so much like the rest of us, I can’t even tell you. DNA does make a difference. Since Cindy has five siblings I had to make Scott a chart. Hopefully he’ll be able to make it to a McCorkindale Thanksgiving or Christmas to meet the remainder of us weirdos. So far the only blood he has met are his mom, his half-sister Clara, uncle Barry, my brother and I.

The weekend also featured a reunion of the Harrison gang over at Brian’s house. Mostly we all ate meals, watched Stephen perform, and wandered aimlessly through town. Then we watched Mallrats and Goonies and drank. It’s really our little version of the American Dream.

Oh, and here are Brian’s pictures from our trip to Scott, Arkansas.