Friday, October 3, 2008

Who's That Happy Girl?

Octavia turns one next Thursday; don't forget to wish her a happy first birthday -- she'll never have another first birthday, folks. :)

Why is this girl so darn happy?

Satisfaction -- Writer's Poke #119

For Writers:

"You're never satisfied," my wife tells me, and I know that she's right. But is that a bad thing? If I were easily satisfied, I might still be working in a factory, or I might still be an adjunct instructor in Illinois, or I might still be a full-time instructor in South Carolina. The point is, whenever I've felt unsatisfied, I've tried to do something about it.

But when do the feelings of dissatisfaction end? For some people, never. Some of us were raised to believe that "good" in the enemy of "great," and if we're not striving for perfection, then there's something wrong with us. This is a tough lesson to discard. And for me, just being satisfied with who I am and where I am in life is one of the most difficult problems I deal with on a daily basis.

Part of it is this: I don't want to live a "satisfactory" life. To me, that smacks of living a cliche. But how to avoid being trapped in the cliche is the rub. At 35, I have the wife, the kid, the mortgage. I have the career. And I've worked hard to get where I'm at. So why do I sometimes feel unsatisfied? Why do I feel such a strong urge to be different? To live a life unlike everyone else's my age? How can I avoid living through the regimented stages of an average existence?

Is there such thing as "age appropriate" satisfaction?

"As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death." -- William Shakespeare

Palin vs. Biden -- Draw (by Repetition)

After last night's debates, I was left wondering: why even have debates?

Palin admitted early on that she wasn't planning to address the questions asked by the moderator; instead, her strategy was simply to vomit out all the talking points that she had memorized at McCain's ranch.

And it's probably a good thing she did that, of course. When she was interviewed by Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, she got herself in trouble when she didn't stick to her talking points (i.e. when she had to come up with an original thought on her own).

If you compare Biden's answers with Palin's, it's pretty clear that Biden knew a lot more. Biden, I'd betcha (to use Palin talk), didn't have to prep or study for the debate. He already knew the issues, and he clearly knew what he was talking about. Palin, on the other hand, didn't express a deep understanding of the issues. However, Palin does have an ideology, and she stuck to that ideology, but what use is having an ideology if you don't know why you believe what you believe?

This always gets me. For example, Palin can say that she thinks some issues are better handled at the state level. That's a pretty standard Republican position, but ask her why. I betcha she won't be able to explain the logic behind it.

Biden underperformed last night, but before the debate, that's what all the advice givers and pundits suggested that he needed to do. After all, a draw in the debate wouldn't be the end of the world for Team Obama. That said, I was very glad to see Biden attack the maverick label. McCain and Palin mavericks? Please. Perhaps the only real maverick in American politics today is Jesse Ventura. Palin is a pretty standard conservative, and whatever McCain was, he can no longer claim maverick status. He's a pretty standard old fart (I mean Republican) himself these days.

So in the final analysis, Palin came into the debate with a much weaker position; both sides, in my mind, played for a draw, and a draw is what resulted.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin: Telegenic but Clueless

Have you read John Updike's "A&P"? It's a short story, and the narrator asks what pretty girls have for brains -- perhaps just a fly buzzing around in a jar.

Personally, I don't think Palin is stupid, but based on the limited number of interviews she's granted over the past couple of weeks, it's painfully evident that political issues aren't her forte. And that's unfortunate; since she somehow got elected governor of a state, and was "tapped" by McCain to be VP, you'd expect her to know something about political issues...

Most of you have probably seen her response to Katie Couric's question about supreme court decisions, other than Roe v. Wade, that she disagrees with. Amazingly, she cannot come up with a single case.

I look for patterns. It might even be excuseable for her just to be off for one question, or even one interview, but let's look at the pattern:

1. Charley Gibson asked her about the Bush Doctrine, and she had no idea what that was.

2. Katie Couric asked her to name one thing McCain has done in the past 25 years that she supports, and she couldn't name one(!).

3. Katie Couric asked her what magazines and newspapers she read to stay informed, and she couldn't name one(!). (I honestly wonder: Is she able to read?)

What will happen at tonight's debate? Get your beer and popcorn ready!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Clarity and Audience

I'm sure this cartoon was designed with science fiction in mind, but it also is a pretty good attack on James Joyce.

Question: If a book is written by an author for his own amusement (i.e. Joyce, Pynchon, most post-modernists), can it ever really be considered "good"? When is it okay to break the rule of clarity in fiction?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Space in 2D (not to scale)


Fun image... if you're at all interested in feeling small.

Click the image for a view that you can actually read, or click the link for this image and a lot more funny stuff.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Do We End the Iraq War? (And Other Rhetorical Questions)

On May 1, 2003, President Bush declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq. Americans have short memories, and no balls. Most Americans don't even realize there are two American wars going on right now. How sad.

Okay, I'll admit that I supported the invasion of Iraq. At the time, I doubted the line of bull the government was telling us, but I supported the removal of Hussein for his past offences. Who cared if we were punishing him 15 years too late, or under false pretenses? But by 2003, it became clear that our declared mission was over. Even Bush said so. And yet, we're still there 5 years later.

If we even talk about leaving Iraq, Sean Hannity questions our patriotism, and says that we are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. So I have some questions:

1. How will we ever know when the mission is over, when it was declared over five years ago?

2. Who do we expect will "surrender" to U.S. forces? We're not fighting an army. We're fighting an ideology, and how do you ever defeat an ideology with an army?

3. If it's so important to be in Iraq to protect America, why don't we have the same commitment to protect America from off-shore drilling, oil dependency, nuclear energy, kids that can't read and write, and the Wall Street fat cats?

4. Russia invades Georgia for a few days, and the U.S. is outraged. And yet, we stick around in Iraq for 6+ years. What's the difference, other than we're America, so we can do whatever we want?

5. In the first presidential debate, Obama noted that he was a friend to the American veterans. McCain just smirked at that, claiming that he knew the veterans best, and that he would take care of his veteran friends.

Okay, veterans get free health care from the government, right? How many veterans are there? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 24.9 million veterans.

First, how does anyone "know" 25 million people?

Second, why is government health care good for 25 million veterans and not for the other 275 million Americans?? (Note: Of the 275 million, only 40 million are uninsured.)

6. In the first presidential debate, McCain smirked at Obama when Obama said that he would hunt down and kill Osama Bin Laden and cross the Pakistani border if he had to... To that McCain said, "You don't say that [you'll cross a country's sovereign border]; you just do it."

First, since when do we think we have the right to cross the borders of other countries without their consent?

Second, since when do we have the right to kill anyone in cold blood without any kind of trial, even Bin Laden? Bin Laden may or may not be the most evil person in the world, but I have a real problem with the idea that we think we can just kill him, whether he's on the battlefield or not; apparently all the world is now a battlefield. That's scary.

I know it's a bit of a drag to leave comments, but if you have any thoughts or feedback, I'd love to read what you have to say.