I'm excited. I just bought the Collector's DVD Gift Box Set of the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. That's a mouthful, I know. But here's what it has: a longer (can you imagine?) two-disc version of the movie, two discs of documentaries (making the movie, about the book, about the cast, etc), and a fifth disc from National Geographic (a documentary about Tolkien and the influences on his writing). Man, oh man, I can't wait to start checking it out. Oh, yeah, the box set also includes one free adult ticket to see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which opens 18 December. Who's going to be there opening day? I'm excited.
I plan to treat myself to at least one of the discs on Sunday as a treat for finishing grading my students' term papers. Of course, that means I have to finish grading them first (I'm one third of the way through reading them). I wish grading papers was easier; I wish more people knew how to write well. One of my red pens already ran out of ink. Seriously.
Know what? My niece, Novali, is very smart. She's only 18 months old and is walking and talking. She knows most of her body parts and can point to them: boca (mouth), orejas (ears), nariz (nose), ojos (eyes), pelo (hair), patas (feet), manos (hands). She says lots of other things, too. She understands English and Spanish, but most of her vocabulary is Spanish. Notable exceptions include: cookie, bye-bye and I love ...
Thanksgiving dinner was nice. We ate ready-made Amish food my mom bought at Meijer. It was the traditional meal w/o the fuss. Later, relatives came by for coffee. It was nice to see everyone again. I'm happy to report that there was no football watching during my family thanksgiving.
Afterwards, we drove by an old abandoned juvenile home that was supposedly haunted. Andy wanted to stop and knock on the door. It was eerily quiet, w/ lights on inside but no furniture to be seen in any of the windows. The front door had no doorknob. Eerie. So we drove up the long circular drive and let Andy out; he went up to the door, knocked, and raced back to the car (as I started pulling away to scare him a little). It was pretty fun.
I'm in Holland w/ my brother, Sam. Tamara and Novali just arrived. Novali's hair is finally starting to grow, but in a very weird pattern. She has enough hair on the top to make a comb-over and enough around her neck to giver her a mullet. She looks goofy, but still cute.
Tomorrow we drive out to Saginaw for Thanksgiving. It'll be nice to visit the rest of the family, though I'll probably spend most of the time grading papers.
I'm also going to try to cook at least one meal while at home. But I'm having trouble finding the ingredients. Sam took me grocery shopping a bit earlier here in Holland. The grocery store was miserable. I had to have someone help me find some garbanzo beans (two workers had never heard of it), and no one had ever heard of Tahini sauce. I barely found some tofu (after lots of hunting around). Miserable. I hope I can find some better selection in Saginaw (though I doubt it). It's times like this that I remember just how pampered I am. I sort of just assumed other people eat organic or vegan foods. But, seriously, how can a grocery store have three aisles of meat and no Tahini sauce?
I just got back from lunch w/ Aparna. Ah, it's so nice to talk to an old grad school chum from the old cohort. It really is. We met at Campus Kitchen again and just talked about how little work both of us are getting done on our dissertations, how we don't know what we're going to do w/ our lives after we finish. You know, the usual cheery conversation of overducated academia. But it really was a good time.
Right now Annie is taking a nap and no ammount of pulling on her ears seems to wake her up. I should take a nap, too. I'm pooped.
A tip to you moviegoers out there: Don't take babies to see movies. I went to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets w/ Danielle and there was at least one baby in the audience. This is not the first time I've had to sit through a movie w/ babies crying and fussing. What's the point of taking babies to see movies? It's just plain rude.
Prior to the movie, Danielle hosted a dinner party for her friends from the Kalamazoo Gazette (where she works). The food was good; the wine was very good.
The new episode of The Simpson's was amazing. I wonder if anyone else is noticing what seems like a trend: the re-introduction of old characters into the new plot. This week marked the return of Stampy, Bart's pet elephant from Season 5 (the elephant was also referenced a few seasons ago, but I can't remember when).
Another oddity I noticed today. While taking a break from my dissertation work (honest, I am getting work done) I stumbled through the Sci-Fi Channel to watch Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. I saw previews for two odd movies: The 13th Warrior and Braveheart. Don't get me wrong, both of these are fine movies. But are they sci-fi movies? I think you know the answer.
Oh, yeah. We got the first real snow in Kalamazoo Sunday afternoon. It's still snowing and sticking to the ground. Winter is here.
I'm making progress on my dissertation draft. I'm up to 22 pages (double-spaced) and should hit at least 30 soon. Of course, it'll need major editing and revision before I can turn it in as a "rough draft". But at least my first chapter is starting to look like something. Now I'm taking a break, before I go home to cook myself lunch.
Last night I saw Fritz Lang's Metropolis. It wasn't quite what I expected. First of all, I want to address the issue that one movie-goer used as a snide remark: this was one of Hitler's favorite films. Fritz Lang left Europe due to Nazi persecution (most of his films were banned) and came to live in the US. So, no, Fritz Lang was not a Nazi.
I realize that it's a product of its time (it was filmed in 1925-1926). And it did have some really good camera angles, beautifully constructed sets, and amazing choreography. Still, the plot was a bit over-the-top and took forever to get some rather simple points across. Of course, the inter-war period was a period of great socio-political unrest. The film is obviously a product of that fearful balance between rising bolshevism and oppressive capitalism.
That said, I was somewhat disappointed by the film. It's the first science fiction film. And it's influence on movies like Blade Runner, Total Recall, and even Logan's Run (that's right, I said Logan's Run) are evident. They paint the future as a stark dystopia where technology (machines, industry) have a role in oppressing the people. But the greatest science fiction films emphasize the story over the technology. My fault w/ Metropolis isn't that it's dated (that would be unfair), but rather that it seemed to over-emphasize the set, the sheer spectacle of it as being sci-fi and, in the end, lost the chance to really grapple w/ serious social, economic, and political issues. Too bad.
On a sad note, there are only thirteen almost-complete copies of the movie around. Only about three quarters of the original negative exist along w/ some other film material. The Little Theater was lucky to obtain one before many major markets (take that Detroit!). Unfortunately, our copy had some broken sprocket holes causing several minutes of film to be lost. So now there are only twelve copies. Sad.
I'm at the Fourth Coast, working on my dissertation ... and I decided to have one more go at trying to get online. A few nights ago I discovered that Tetsuo (my iBook) was picking up two distinct wireless signals. I tried everything I could think of to get online w/ either of them. Nothing. One is definitely a closed node (it belongs to the Kalamazoo Area Math and Sciences Center). I have no idea who the other belongs to, but it's a Linksys system. Well ... I just got onto the Linksys node and am posting this log from the Fourth Coast. I feel a little like a pirate. Oh, and it's a heavy bandwidth connection ... that means fast, fast, fast.
So, Dan, Caleb, Mark, and all you wireless hipsters out there ... I'm sure you can get online here, too. Kalamazoo gets better every day.
I forgot to post that the prestigious Pratt Institute accepted Ali to its School of Information and Library Science master's program. That means she gets to move to New York City, which is (in my opinion) the best city in the world and far superior to anything the West Coast can provide.
I saw The Believer Thursday night. It was a special one-night-only showing that included bringing the movie's editor, Lee Percy (who is, apparently, a Kalamazoo native) to speak about the technical elements of editing the movie. No offense to Lee Percy, but I didn't stick around for the post-movie Q & A.
The movie, however, was quite interesting. And a few things jumped out at me. I've been thinking about comments from Bay Jo regarding anti-semitism. There is a brief, fleeting part in the movie where a reporter asks a character about Hitler and "other high ranking Nazis" having been Jews. First of all, I think that whether Hitler was or was not a Jew is irrelevant. But the question itself (and, let's be honest, it comes up frequently enough in speculation) lends itself to blaming Jews for Nazism, the Holocaust, and perhaps even anti-semitism in general.
Then I thought, wait, the whole movie is about a young Jewish man who becomes a Nazi. And the movie seemed to somehow suggest that, perhaps, the Jewish upbringing of this particular young man helped to lead him into being a skinhead anti-semite. Now, I don't think the movie was deliberately trying to argue that anti-semitism is the fault of Jews. But ... is that a possible implication of the movie? How often do we subconsciously blame Jews for the racism and bigotry they experience? It really made me wonder.
Two other things that struck me in the movie were the absolute absurdity of racism and the blind eye society gives to it. First, the main characters are never really able to articulate a reason to hate Jews. "We hate them because we hate them" is one final conclusion. But that's just a tautology, not an argument at all. It's perfectly absurd. The movie points that out several times (or, at least, let's the viewer see it).
Second, many other side characters in the movie do nothing. The opening scene shows a skinhead deliberately hunting a young Jewish boy and harrasing him on the subway (he shortly later assaults him in the street). Why doesn't anyone say or do anything? It's so obvious what's going on. A hate crime. But the other subway passangers do nothing.
Fundamentally, I think that a big problem w/ racism and anti-semitism -- and fascism in particular -- is that so many people do nothing to prevent it. Why is that? Aren't we morally obligated to stand up for fundamental principles of human rights? If we let things like that happen, aren't we really just saying that it's OK? When you hear a racist remark in the grocery store and do nothing (or worse, laugh), aren't you just saying, essentially, that you found nothing wrong w/ that statement?
I try to challenge myself to always oppose fascism whenever and anywhere I see it. The irony of this whole thing is that shortly after the movie, I went to Up & Under to discuss the movie w/ some people from my class. About an hour into the discussion, a guy I've seen around before came into the bar. I recognize him because, about two years ago, I called him out at the Fourth Coast for being an anti-semite fascist. I was sitting next to him at the bar (I was w/ my friend Kevin, discussing Russian history and other subjects) an this guy interjected. We got to talking, and in the course of 30 minutes it was clear this guy had Nazi sympathies. So I called him out on it, challenged him, and pressed with arguments and counter-arguments until he finally left. I asked some people behind the bar about him and they basically just shrugged it off. Why are so many supposedly liberal, open-minded people not willing to just plain confront and challenge fascists?
After the radio show, Bay Jo, Franta, and Sarah went out to Perkin's. We talked about love and selfishness and virtues. I won't re-hash the conversation ... but I thought I'd post the following excerpt:
Selfishness entails: (a) a hierarchy of values set by the standard of one's self-interest, and (b) the refusal to sacrifice a higher value to a lower one or to a nonvalue.
A genuinely selfish man knows that only reason can determine what is, in fact, to his self-interest, that to pursue contradictions or attempt to act in defiance of the facts of reality is self-destructive--and self-destruction is not to his self-interest. "To think, is to man's self-interest; to suspend his consciousness, is not. To choose his goals in the full context of his knowledge, his values and his life, is to man's self-interest; to act on the impulse of the moment, without regard for his long-range context, is not. To exist as a productive being, is to man's self-interest; to attempt to exist as a parasite, is not. To seek the life proper to his nature, is to man's self-interest; to seek to live as an animal, is not."
Because a genuinely selfish man chooses his goals by the guidance of reason--and because the interests of rational men do not clash--other men may often benefit from his actions. But the benefit of other men is not his primary purpose or goal; his own benefit is his primary purpose and the conscious goal directing his actions.
To make his principle fully clear, let us consider an extreme example of an action which, in fact, is selfish, but which conventionally might be called self-sacrificial: a man's willingness to die to save the life of the woman he loves. In what way would such a man be the beneficiary of his action?
The answer is given in Atlas Shrugged--in the scene when Galt, knowing he is about to be arrested, tells Dagny: "If they get the slightest suspicion of what we are to each other, they will have you on a torture rack--I mean, physical torture--before my eyes, in less than a week. I am not going to wait for that. At the first mention of a threat to you, I will kill myself and stop them right there. ... I don't have to tell you that if I do it, it won't be an act of self-sacrifice. I do not care to live on their terms. I do not care to obey them and I do not care to see you enduring a drawn-out murder. There will be no values for me to seek after that--and I do not care to exist without values." If a man loves a woman so much that he does not wish to survive her death, if life can have nothing more to offer him at that price, then his dying to save her is not a sacrifice.
The same principle applies to a man, caught in a dictatorship, who willingly risks death to achieve freedom. To call his act "self-sacrifice," one would have to assume that he preferred to live as a slave. The selfishness of a man who is willing to die, if necessary, fighting for his freedom, lies in the fact that he is unwilling to go on living in a world where he is no longer able to act on his own judgement--that is, a world where human conditions of existence are no longer possible for him.
The selfishness or unselfishness of an action is to be determined objectively: it is not determined by the feelings of the person who acts. Just as feelings are not a tool of cognition, so they are not a criteria in ethics.
From Nathaniel Branden, "Isn't Everyone Selfish?" In Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, pp.67-68.
Check out 89.1FM tonight at 7pm. I'm appearing as a guest (again) on Plan B. The topic is the "dating scene" in Kalamazoo. Franta and I went to Bourbon Street (yes, Bourbon Street) to see if we could pick up club girls. Well, apparently it's much harder than you think. I didn't get a phone number; I didn't get a drink thrown in my face either. Mostly, we just wandered the club interviewing groups of girls about how they liked being picked up and whatnot. Tune in to Plan B to find out all about it.
I've gotten quite a few comments about my Christmas boycott. Some are perplexed by what seems like a strong anti-capitalism stance. Don't worry, I'm still an Objectivist. Let me explain further:
Capitalism is about freedom of choice. We should be free to purchase the things we want and need of our free volition. But the use of propaganda in media advertising reduces our ability to choose intelligently. Social pressures are brought to bear on what products we "need" or "want". Most advertising has little or nothing to do w/ straight-forward objective facts. Pepsi will quench your thirst just as well as Coke, or Snapple, or water. Neither guarantees that you'll enjoy bungee jumping from the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
True capitalism is hampered by economic pressures brought forward by corporations that benefit from unfair trade practices (Nike) or that enjoy government subsidies (General Motors). Corporate welfare and the protection of looters has limited our ability to formulate free choices.
Nevertheless, we still have the power to vote w/ our wallet. It's the most powerful way a person can vote. I won't tr to convince the government to support organic foods or vegetarianism. I purchase organic products and vegetarian foods from local producers. I exercise my choice in the products I purchase. I support laws against child labor and unfair practices because these are essential to prevent looter capitalism (as opposed to true capitalism). But I can also be conscious of what shoes, clothes, and other products I purchase. No corporation, however evil, can stay in business if people don't buy its products. It's that simple.
My boycott of Christmas is not anti-capitalist. But it is a rejection of cheap trinkets in exchange for higher values. I am trading in a lesser product for a greater one. I'd rather spend time and energy w/ those I love. I'd rather say no to a society that pressures me into shopping for things I don't want (do I really need new Santa decorations every year?). I'd rather say "No!" to corporations that try to sell me happiness based on the latest fleeting trend when their marketing people have no idea what true values are or what the real meaning of money is.
I finally applied for a library card from the Kalamazoo Public Library. It was actually the first time I was ever in the building. I was impressed; so many computers and a nice architectural design/layout for the building. No wonder it was awarded the National Library of the Year.
Here are some of the highlights of my new KPL membership. My card came w/ a $1 credit for the copy machines. They have over 15,000 audiovisual materials I can check out, small study rooms, and even rooms for yoga classes. Also, I can check on my account from their computer system. Pretty swanky all around.
Sunday draws to a close. I had dinner tonight w/ Danielle; we had a great time. She brought over a nice, subtle California Zinfandel. I cooked penne rigate w/ tahini sauce, garbanzo beans w/ sesame and curry, and potatoes in a tomato curry sauce. Yum.
We watched the incredibly bizarre and genius new Simpson's episode. I hope other people noticed that the character of Governor Mary Bailey was brought back after twelve years. We went for a walk up to East Hall after the show. The night was brisk, but we enjoyed nice conversation and a smoke.
Now I'm back home, watching cheezy (but oh so enjoyable) sci-fi on FOX. My brothers and I are huge sci-fi junkies. I'm glad for the new seasons of Stargate SG-1 and Starship Andromeda. Too bad that Earth: Final Conflict became really lame and weird last season. Vampire mutant alien species? It was good enough before w/ just the Taelons and Jaridians. Anyhow, SG-1 has gotten really good lately.
I saw Bowling for Columbine again last night. This time, I was struck more by the view of American racism in the movie. I usually just let it go, but I read an interesting article today in the Christian Science Monitor about the stark racism in Detroit. I also remember that Saginaw, where I wasted my adolescence, is one of the most segregated cities in the US.
I know this sounds corny, but I really do believe that most white Americans really have no idea about what racism really feels like. A few characters in the movie, when talking about the difference between the US and Canada, point out that they (as minorities) just feel better in Canada. One man said that it was like a lowering of pressure ("it just feels lighter"). It's so true. I feel like an outsider almost everywhere in the US. And I blend in easily; I look white.
But I've been places w/ my father. He looks very Hispanic (or at least, foreign). I notice immediately how he's treated differently most places he goes. It's downright embarrasing and insulting. It's usually in little comments or subtle things. They way they speak to him in a louder, slower tone than they otherwise would. The little questions such as: "well, you're Hispanic, what do you think about this?" The way they congratulate my dad for being an accountant and having a "good" job. It sounds stupid, but you really can't understand if you're white.
I've been called a "spic" to my face. I've been told to "go back to where I come from." Growing up in Saginaw, I was in fist fights in elementary and middle school because of my ethnicity. I've heard stupid burrito jokes, ethnic slurs, and more. But usually its just so subtle. Yet always enough to give me the impression that I don't belong here; I'm not supposed to be here.
I think that's why I've always liked interacting w/ foreigners. Europeans, Latin Americans, foreigners in general are so much more relaxed and open to people. We don't ignore our identities. But they're never treated as novelty items. Look at how ethnicities are marketed in the US. I guess I should feel lucky, right now, Latin music is the new fad (so I'm supposed to be an expert on Salsa). But it's never genuine.
A commnent by J. Edmund comes to mind. He was asked what the food was like in London. He didn't have a real answer; English food had been mixed w/ Indian food to such an extent that he was no longer sure what food was English and what was Indian (curried shephard's pie, for example). Compare that to the US. Here, ethnic food is ethnic food. They are segregated in the grocery store aisles. Chinese or Mexican restaurants serve their food; "American" restaurants don't serve "ethnic" food.
The harsh reality is that we do live in such a segregated country. Well-meaning liberals who are incesantly worried about sounding political correct, but don't personally interact with people of color. How many black friends do you have? Do you go out to the movies w/ them?
Saturday, Saturday. Another pretty lazy day. The agenda for today includes: laundry, apartment cleaning, grocery shopping. I also hope to get another page or two written for my dissertation co-chairs. I want to have more than a 12-15 well-written pages for them before Thanksgiving break.
I just took the What kind of Volkswagen are you? quiz. No matter how hard I try, I keep finding out that I'm a classic VW beetle. And I so much wanted to be a Karmann Ghia!
Marci's BFA art show is tonight. I'm going at 5:30pm w/ Dr. Hauptmann. It should be tons of fun. I really like Marci's art. She builds these sort of bridge-like structures.
I helped w/ some mathematical equations for her art show. She was building arches and needed to know how to calculate part of the circumference of a circle. I used trigonometric algebra to find the degree of the missing angle (with which we could then find the proportion of the length of the arc in question). But we needed to know the sine (or was it cosine?) of the angle. I didn't have a scientific calculator w/ me, so I called Andy for advice. His first question was "do you have a slide rule?" We're such math nerds.
I'm more and more disappointed w/ the holiday season(s). Don't get me wrong, I like Christmas and Thanksgiving, food w/ family and friends, and receiving presents. But it's gotten too carried away. Seriously.
Things have gotten so surreal; I'm unable to remember when holidays happen. Just a few days after Halloween, Santa Claus, marchings bands, and other assorted nonsense came through Kalamazoo's Christmas parade. Giant candy canes and Santa statues adorn Bronson Park. Hometown America is slowly turning into a giant megamall. Did we skip Thanksgiving?
I'm trying to convince everyone I know to avoid shopping the day after Thanksgiving. This is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year as Americans rush out like Lemmings on a mad dash that lasts until Christmas Eve. Did you catch that: It's the busiest shopping day of the year. And the fact that it is the busiest, most crowded, and reckless shopping crowd of the year as actually used as an incentive to shop that day. All this for a religious holiday? No, thank you. Screw the economy. I'd rather stay home, turn off the television, relax, and enjoy my time w/ family and friends. Last year I didn't shop at all that day; not even on the internet.
I'm w/ Adbusters on this one. I'm going to boycott Christmas. Everyone out there who knows me, this is a notice that I'm not asking for anything for Christmas (except maybe homemade cookies!). Sure, I'd love some new music CDs, a DVD player, or warm new sweater. But do I really need these things? No. Christmas is about giving; so please give to charities or organizations you support. This year, I'm giving people things I made for them, special things I will do for (or with them), or donations, in their names, to their favorite charities (let me know what they are).
Or support local charity groups of your choice (food kitchen, animal rescue, homeless shelter, etc.). Or you can choose to shop wisely. Buy things from locally owned businesses, from business that use fair-trade practices, etc.
Last night, I learned that Gillian is braver than I am. Sixty Stories was playing, and the audience was pretty lame (the front of the stage was empty). About halfway through the set, Gillian finished working behind the bar and asked why I wasn't up front. She decided to lead me up there; it was great, we rocked out (just the two of us) to Sixty Stories. I wish more people had come to see the band. Instead, the place was filled w/ high school punk rockers who only wanted to see their friends' band. Oh, well. I was in high school once.
I just took the What obscure animal are you? test. I'm a Sugar Glider: I'm a sociable fellow and I love to explore, and learn. I'm very curious and am always asking questions. Many things fascinate me!
I stopped in Retro on the way to The Space and saw a beautiful Svegards chair for only $30. I have to check my finances. If I can afford it (and I will try to find a way), I'll go back tomorrow and get it. It was so comfortable; it'd make a great office desk chair. I'm sure it would really help my back to sit in a good chair again.
What else is new? Oh, Sixty Stories (from Canada) plays tonight at The Space. Two local bands open for them. But who cares?! I really liked Sixty Stories last time they came around; they're one of the top three bands that've played here (the others are Manplanet and Poster Children). All the scenesters are excited about tonight's show.
Last night, my brother Andy called me. We spoke on the phone in Spanish, which was great. His Spanish has really gotten better; at first I thought maybe it was a long-distance call from one of my uncles or cousins or friends from Bolivia. We're making Christmas plans, since our parents will be in Bolivia during the holiday and our other brother, Sam, will be spending it w/ Novali. I think we're gonna hang out in Chicago. That'd be so much fun. I'm excited; I've never had a crazy adventure, just Andy and I.
There was a horrible editorial in the Western Herald today. The author compared congressmen visiting Baghdad (and stating publicly that they opposed military action) with Charles Lindbergh's support for the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s. A downright ridiculous analogy. Of course, I sent a reply; I hope they print it. Here it is:
I want to take the opportunity to respond to Michael Wright's irresponsible editorial "American protesters should remain in U.S." (12 November 2002). I specifically want to take issue with Wright's analogy between Lindbergh's support for the Nazi regime and current anti-war protesters.
First, let me state that I actually support military action in Iraq (if the benefits of the action outweigh the costs). There are powerful liberal reasons to support such a military action. I will not point them out here; that is not the point of my letter.
My problem with Wright's article is that he lumps current anti-war protests -- specifically those that protest American policies while overseas -- with Linbergh's Nazi tendencies. Such a link is blatantly unfair. Linbergh was a Nazi sympathizer; he opposed US military action in Europe because he condoned and supported Nazi policies. I think you will find that most opponents of war on Iraq do not support Hussein, his Ba'ath Party, or his policies. What they oppose is war.
Wright clearly points out that Americans have the right to express their opinion. Clearly, he understands basic free speech issues. But he wants to limit our free speech to "in-house". Apparently, Americans can only express their opinions about issues when on American soil. Otherwise, he argues, "feel free to remain" where you are. Are tourists, then, not allowed to express political opinions contrary to their government's official position while visiting friends in Australia, Italy, or Brazil? That's an implication of Wright's argument.
By lumping Representatives Bonior, Thompson, and McDermott with Lindbergh, he makes it seem as if these American politicians went to Baghdad to support Hussein and endorse his administration. I'm sure Wright is well aware that Bonior, Thompson, and McDermott oppose Hussein's use of chemical weapons, his policies towards his neighbors, and much of what his regime has done.
But there's a more pressing problem. He opposed US congressmen speaking against war while in Iraq. But, aren't they part of our government? These congressmen didn't visit Baghdad as "protesters"; they were on a diplomatic mission from our government. They represented the "carrot" juxtaposed to the "stick" of military action.
Wright clearly seems to miss the point of our competitive democratic government. Our government, unlike Iraq's, does not speak in a single unified voice. There is dissent. Congress and the president do not always see eye to eye. Wright seems to suggest that our government should follow Bush in lockstep formation. He is the commander-in-chief after all; congressmen should take their orders quietly.
I can understand Wright's frustration with opponents to war with Iraq. There are, after all, compelling reasons for war. But freedom of speech, which Wright himself acknowledges as a "sacred" right, implies with it the duty to listen to and respect the opinions of those who dissent from your view. Just as there are compelling reasons to go to war with Iraq, there are equally compelling reasons not to go to war. It's not unpatriotic to oppose war. It is, however, unpatriotic to accept war just because our president wants one. That's downright un-American. Only in countries like Iraq are you expected to support any foreign policy your leader dictates.
I took two web surveys today. The RealAge survey told me that I'm 28 years old (I'm actually 27). I don't eat enough fish, vitamins, or do enough exercise. I should also avoid hanging out in coffee shops where I'm exposed to second-hand smoke.
I also took the Purrsonality Test and found out that I'm an Abyssynian cat. Whatever that means.
Yet another coffee shop in Kalamazoo. I walked down to Ali Baba's for a falafel sandwich and discovered a new cyber café, Imagineinet, going in across the street on the Walking Mall. The place opens sometime next week; they have mostly Macs (yes!) and wireless internet. I'm going to apply for a small, part time job (like 10 hours a week). I know how to make coffee drinks and I'm pretty handy w/ a Mac. I'll see what it's like once they open.
Bay Jo cut my hair last night. I look much better now. Thanks!
Today, I essentially took the day off. I let myself sleep in past noon (though I did wake up at 8am to feed my cats, of course). I prepared for tomorrow's class and updated my gradebook. That's about it.
I went down to the post office to ship my recently-sold Palm Pilot, which I sold on eBay. The post office was closed for Veteran's Day, so I went to The Space to box it up and prepare it for shipping tomorrow. I'll miss the little guy, but I haven't really used the m505 for months now. I'd rather have the $185.
I really just want to relax, cook a nice meal, and finish cleaning my apartment. Yesterday I got through the kitchen and dining room (including moping). Today I want to organize the living room, clean the bathroom, and make some headway on organizing my bedroom. It's about time my apartment look more civilized; it's an embarrasing mess. Oh, and I also have to fold my laundry and steam press the dress shirt I wore Friday (it's a paper poplin fabric that's tough to iron the wrinkles out of).
Bay Jo is coming over to my apartment sometime tonight to cut my hair. I'm trying to grow my hair out a bit, but it's too bushy in the back (I don't want a mullet) and around the ears. I hope she does a good job.
I saw Lovely & Amazing today. It was pretty good. Very subtly, it makes the audience realize that so many adults are, essentially, just children. Are we a nation of children?
The Elkhart kids also came up again to ride w/ us around Kalamazoo. In the end, about a dozen of us rode through the Oakland-Winchell Neighborhood. That's one of my favorite places to ride mopeds. Quiet, winding roads under canopies of broad, leafy trees. Although not much more than a mile from downtown Kalamazoo, the area's so wooded that dozens of deer live in the neighborhood.
Later, we rode up to East Hall, which provides a great vantage point for viewing the Vine Neighborhood and beyond into downtown. From there, we raced back in time to see the first new Simpson's episode in a long time.
What else is new? Oh, yes, my cats now have a weblog.
I just finished eating curried rice noodles w/ bean curds and tofu from Rice Kitchen. Man, it was delicious. Now I'm learning to play Byzantine chess while working yet another shift at The Space. It's essentially chess played on a circular board and in two directions at once. It's fun, but really hard.
Dan and Jake just installed a video arcade game (Street Fighter) at The Space. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It just seems like a bad idea; I don't want my coffee house turning into a seedy arcade parlor.
Also, I've decided not to work at The Space anymore, at least not for a while. My decision essentially revolves around the stolen bag of money from my shift a few nights ago. I shouldn't have to pay it back. If this were a real job (you know, like where they pay their employees) I wouldn't have to pay the money back. I volunteered to do so, but only to clear my name. The bottom line is: someone who was here after my shift, someone who works here, someone I know and should be able to trust probably took the money. It didn't just disappear. That makes me mad.
If I'm going to be treated poorly, have a lot asked of me, and make about $1-2 an hour (my tips), then I'm not going to volunteer anymore. The owners are paid a salary (I think about $500 a month). And the place is now doing enough business to merit employee salaries. I volunteered to help out and to make a little extra cash besides. But I really don't like the way I'm being treated, especially w/ the current situation. I'll work one last shift next week, then I'm taking a break for a while. I'll probably still hang out there, but not as often as I used to.
Last night I went to Club Soda and saw The Black Heart Procession. It was a great show. They play a saw (yes, a saw for cutting wood played w/ a violin bow string) and an electric slide dulcimer. Their musical craftsmanship is so refined; their music is so sad and beautiful. I'm really glad I went.
The opening performer, Tara Jane O'Neil was also amazing. It was a mixture of folk, country, and tech. But what a refined guitar player. Wow. I didn't care much for the second band, The Cherry Valance. They were like a bad parody of a 70s guitar band.
Most of the people I knew that went dressed up. It's fun to dress up sometimes. I felt totally hip and sophisticated. I wore a full black gabardine suit, black shirt, and a varieted striped tie to accent. I looked very sharp.
Last night, I watched Bowling for Columbine, a documentary film by Michael Moore. Wow. The movie has some very funny moments; it also had moments were I just wanted to cry. First of all, it makes me really wish I didn't live in Michigan. I mean, living in Michigan is bad enough most of the time. Now the rest of the world will see how truly horrible it is. That said, let me comment on the movie.
I recognize Michael Moore is biased; I appreciate his candor. Still, he raises some interesting points. Why do we have more homicides each year than in Canada (or any other advanced industrial state). Canada has more unemployment. Canada has lots and lots of guns. So why do we have so much freakin' violent crime? Why do we have Columbine shootings? How does a six year old boy from Flint kill a six yearl old girl w/ a handgun?
I was glad to see some great questions about the hypocrisy of our national policies and our concern w/ kids and violence. Why do we blame rock music or video games for violence in society? Why not the fact that we have a powerful military that kills lots of people all the time, all over the world. Remember Allende in Chile? How about Arbenz in Guatemala? Remember Vietnam? The day before Columbine, we dropped bombs and blew up a hospital in Kosovo.
Pay special attention to the interview w/ Marylin Manson. Here's his statement on Columbine (as published in Rolling Stone); you shouldn't discuss Marylin Manson unless you've read it. Say what you will (I don't personally like his music), the man is articulate, well read, and insightful. It's more than I could say about many other "important" people. After all, he cancelled several concerts after Columbine out of respect for the community. The NRA had a mass rally in Denver (Columbine High School is in the Denver area) ten days after the killings. The NRA also had a rally in Flint a few days after that killing.
Another set of great comments relate to racism's role in our society. We're such a highly segregated, racist society. I feel it often enough. If I looked more "Hispanic" I'd probably feel it even more. But even so, I feel it in the air most of the time, like a pressure bearing down on me. I've said this before: I only really breathe when I'm outside the US. I felt safer (and more welcomed) in the poorest, slummiest neighborhood in San Salvador than in most parts of the US. Weird.
Anyhow, I don't know what else to add. Here's the trailer for the movie. If you have any chance at all: Go see this movie!
On a lark, I did a search on Google for the school where J. Edmund Dahl teaches in London. Here it is: Slough Grammar School. It has a pretty neat little website; be sure to check out the interactive tour.
Current music:Mazzy Star, So Tonight That I Might See.
I'm so screwed. Seriously. I forgot to take the shift bag (the bag that has the money from the cash register for a work shift) upstairs after I finished my volunteer shift at The Space. Now the bag is missing. This comes at a really bad time. I'm pretty broke; I can't afford to have to replace an entire shift's worth of money. But it's my fault; it was my responsibility to take the money upstairs and through the little slot.
Damn! And I just sat and hung out at The Space for a good two hours after my shift, too. I don't think anyone took the money. But it's nowhere to be found. Nowhere. I've been volunteering so much at The Space lately in order to make extra money, but now I'm stuck owing more than I would make in about 4-5 weeks of shifts. My tip average is only about $15 per shift ... you do the math.
If any of you owe me money and are reading this ... please pay me promptly. I'm screwed.
Well, I just finished voting. I walked in the rain about half a mile to my polling precinct (I'm not sure why I couldn't vote at the school across the street from me). This Michigan campaign was awful. I can't support any of the welfare liberals that campaigned; I can't bring myself to support the terrible ultra-conservative Republicans who opposed them.
Some of them, especially Tom George, went extremely negative. I received a Halloween-themed ad w/ jack-o-lanterns and these crazy blood-font personal attacks on his opponent, Ed LaForge. Seriously, it looked like an ad for either a Halloween party or perhaps some crazy slasher flick. The ad backfired on me; I just hope the psycho jackass who ran that campaign loses. It was a horrible campaign all around.
So, in the end, I voted only for Green Party candidates. Oh, on one occasion there was no Green Party candidate, so I voted for the Libertarian candidate. I can't remember what position it was, but it was last on the ballot.
On a separate note ... There's a not-so-flattering drawing of Annie, my beloved cat, in the newest Spacelog. For those of you that don't know, The Space maintains a public journal floating around in which people post thoughts or drawings. Most of it's childish, to be sure. But someone ran across the doodle and pointed it out to me. Here it is for your enjoyment (notice that my cat is depicted as larger than a zeppelin ballon):
Life is better. Alison and I are friends again. See, things are so simple when you're just plain honest and upfront. We exchanged a few emails. Then she called me and we talked for over a half hour on the phone and worked things out. I'm still not going out to California for Thanksgiving; I'll spend it in Michigan w/ family and friends (and to work at The Space and on my dissertation). But at least it looks like Ali and I will still be friends, which is a good thing.
I got back really late last night from Cincinnati for a moped rally hosted by The Bombardment Society. I had a great time; I think everyone else that went had a good time, too. Let's see ... There was riding around the greater Cincinnati area (which is very scenic). We rode through Mount Adams, Newport, and Covington. The bridges over the Ohio River are amazing, all of them. Then there was karaoke, which was a blast. It was a long long trip, but it was worth it.
Now I'm back in Kzoo trying to wrap up some sort of a draft for my dissertation co-chairs. It'll get done; don't worry. I got my WMU transcript today, so I'm pretty set for my SSRC (Social Science Research Council) grant application. We'll see how that goes; keep your fingers crossed.
Oh, my brother updated Novali's website (Novali is my niece, his daughter). You should check it out.
I've just hit upon an ethical dilemma. Hum. There's a pretty cute girl working at the Fourth Coast; I've sort of had a crush on her for a while. Now that it's November, it's officially been three months since Alison and I broke up (early August). Although it was one of those (supposedly) sophisticated break-ups, it was still clearly a break-up. So my "three month" dating rule applies. We were, after all, allowed to date other people.
So the dilemma is this ... should I consider my three month rule to start early August? Or in early October (the last time I visited Alison)? Or in late October (when our break up became more "permanent")? Also, since I'll be leaving for Bolivia in May (or even January), and perhaps not returning to Kalamazoo (I certainly have little reason to), should I even begin to pursue any feminine entanglements? This is, of course, assuming that she (the cute barrista from Fourth Coast) even has a reciprocal crush or interest in me. What to do?
Oh, well. At the very least I know that I'll be hanging out at the Fourth Coast more frequently.
Well, I'm about halfway through my first of two back-to-back shifts working at The Space today (that's 11 hours slinging coffee). Even though it's just a volunteer job, I get to keep my tips. Lord knows I need the money right about now. I'm also hoping to wrap up a presentable draft of part of the first chapter of my dissertation (amen for wireless internet). We'll see how that goes. I have to get this draft written ASAP. I'm going down to Cincinatti tomorrow w/ a lot of my Moped Army friends for a moped rally. Too bad it's going to be cold as Viking hell. Oh, well.
Unfortunately, I'm going to miss most of the Art Hop going on today in Kalamazoo. It means I'll miss Dan's new clay exhibit. I've seen him work on it over the past month; I'd like to see how it came together. That'll be up at Water Street Coffee Joint, only a block away. Maybe I'll get a chance to run over there for a few mintues. But I'll miss most of the art; and this is supposed to be the biggest Art Hop of the year. Sigh.