Monday, February 27, 2006

Blogging Required

CBS News | Poll: Bush Ratings At All-Time Low

I'm interrupting my break for one moment because something very important has happened: I've come within one percentage point of being right. On October 7, I predicted that Bush's approval rating would drop to 33 percent or lower between then and the 2006 elections. Tonight, CBS reports that its latest poll data shows Bush's approval rating at 34 percent.

This is the first poll to put Bush in such a dire position, but with the American people actually paying attention to the whole port situation, it may not be the last...

See you in a week and a half.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Going Dark-o

Pistons Trade Darko Milicic to Magic

I've been contemplating this for a while, and the opportunity to craft such a silly headline clinched it. As the Pistons end their two-years-and-several-months experiment with Darko, I am not ending my own two-years-and-several-months experiment with blogging. But I am taking a break.

See, I have a new, busier job, and it's crunch time. And I'm taking a class that's quite rigorous. And there's a situation at home that has distracted me quite a bit from both of those things. And really, what do I have to talk about? Dick Cheney? Gay cowboys? Spelling bees?

But fear not. I will return to this when I return from San Francisco the second week of March, at which point I plan to revel in Brokeback Mountain's Oscar glory. In the meantime, I'll try to keep the books and CDs up to date on the sidebar. I'm already behind: I just finished The Commitment last night (highly recommended!), and I've already bought the new Belle and Sebastian album, The Life Pursuit, but neglected to start a list of 2006 CDs. I'll try to rectify that tomorrow, when I'm home from work enjoying my employer's kindness in giving each of us a day off for our birthdays.

Enjoy the time off!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Greetings from Dick

Col. Jessep Goes A-Hunting

Eugene Robinson concludes his column about Dick Cheney with this Valentine's Day poem, from him to all of us:

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Say something I don't like, And I'll shoot you, too.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Impartial Judge

F-U-R-I-O-U-S over spelling bee ruling

This story really resonates with me. Like the girl in the article, I was screwed out of a spelling bee in my youth. Prior to the grand screwing, which took place in fifth grade, I LOVED spelling bees. When I was eight, I ended up on the front page of the Daily Herald's Neighbor section because I beat all but two adults in an all-ages bee. I still remember the word I lost on: Distribution. And I still remember why: I was overconfident because my dad was a "Distribution Manager" at the time. I left out the first "t" as I raced through the word.

But in fifth grade, I had my ten-year-old heart broken by an assistant principal who I've never been able to forgive. I don't remember the word in question, but I remember this: He asked me to spell the plural form of a word, I did, and then he said, no, I asked you to spell the singular form of the word.

At that point there were two other people in the room, because we had reached the last two people in the contest. The other two people were the kid who won as a result of my "mistake"--and went on to win at the district level, too, I think--and that kid's mom. You can imagine which version of the word they said I had been asked to spell.

I've probably never been more outraged by an injustice in all my life. I was ten--I should have been cowed into agreement, or at least silence, by either the authority figure in the room or the fact that I was outnumbered. But I didn't give in. (If we had the argument today, I still wouldn't--I know I'm right about this.) I marched back to my fifth-grade class, told my teacher what had transpired--and turned back around to visit the principal. I waited in one of the visitor chairs, as if I were a parent waiting to meet with the principal about my child, and I told the principal what had happened and how upset I was.

Nothing came of any of this. There was no re-do. The "winner" was gracious enough, for a ten-year-old; he later told me I would have won at the district level if I had gone. But I never did well in a spelling bee again. I can remember, in fact, how little I cared the next year when the bee came around again. It was silly, really; I had come pretty close to winning the district as a third-grader, and there was no reason to believe I couldn't do it as a sixth-grader. But I had a mental block about spelling bees after that.

In the long run, that's not the worst of it. I also learned some lessons that maybe weren't so good that day, at least for a ten-year-old: Have your people in the room. (Those who went to college with me will recall an instance where this lesson came in handy.) Authority figures will screw you over. No one cares about justice. Being the best isn't enough--you've got to have someone there to defend you from those who would cheat to beat you.

So, to the girl in the article and her family, I say, sue the bastards. It may seem like an overreaction, but I know that this will stick in your craw for the rest of your life. Demand satisfaction.

Life Saver

Nurturing a community in the online world
Gay men and women embrace Internet as an equalizer and a bridge

I've talked before about how shows like Queer as Folk helped me get my footing as I came to grips with being gay. But if any one factor deserves the greatest credit for making that process possible, the Internet is surely it.

Before I had ever been online (in other words, before late 1996), the idea that I might be gay had occurred to plenty of people: kids in gym class, kids in gym class, and still more kids in gym class. And yes, I suppose it had occurred to me, too, but never for long; I assumed that everyone thought the best part of gym was changing before and after. Aren't the things we can make ourselves believe fun?

But the Internet quickly set me straight, so to speak. Confronted with a ready source for answers to questions I could never actually ask of another person, it became apparent rather rapidly that most freshman boys weren't having the same thoughts about their roommates that I was.

And yet I persisted for two more years, traumatizing at least three young women, including one, the last girl I ever kissed, who was definitely perplexed by the fact that I sat on her bed, in her empty dorm room in an empty dorm, and looked at her pictures of a recent trip out of the country with rapt attention. As she edged closer and closer to me, I never made a move.

How hard I tried to deny this aspect of myself! How long I toiled at an impossible task! What's horrifying is the realization that without the Internet, I might be toiling still. I might never have seen a porn video and noticed how undeniably my eye drifted toward the male in the encounter. I might never have read the stories of other people with similar experiences. I might never have understood that being gay didn't have to mean giving up everything I wanted for my future.

People talk about how kids growing up today come out sooner and have less fear about the process. They often attribute it to changes in society that have made it easier to come out and people who are more accepting. And that's certainly part of the story. But I think the Internet, so often derided for enabling teens to sneak into online worlds their parents cannot monitor or even understand, has enabled more gay teens to ponder the feelings they have in a private and honest way that simply wasn't widely available even ten years ago. And that can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Echoes of Wellstone

King eulogists jab Bush at funeral

Funeral for a leading activist on the left generates attacks on the politics of leaders on the right--where have I seen this before? Why do I sense that the article linked above will lead to a backlash by nightfall?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Great Minds

Unknown to Hit

I knew it!

The article above is an interview with Benjamin McKenzie, who in addition to starring in The O.C. made a movie, Junebug, that I plan to watch over the weekend. At the end of the interview, he's asked...well, here, see for yourself:
Did you ever watch the episode where Zack and Kelly got married?
I never saw that one. Did you think we'll end in a marriage, is that what you're getting at?

Yeah. Will Ryan pop the question to Marissa?
I've always pushed for the big marriage that the whole entire audience has always seen coming. Ryan and Seth walk down the aisle hand in hand.

That, my friends, is exactly how this show should end.

Happy Ending

rod 2.0:beta: Gay Taye

If you saw Crumbs last night, you'll know that the title of today's post is a play on something William Devane said--but didn't do. It was a gay old sitcom night, with the still-closeted Mitch (Fred Savage) trying--and failing--to be honest with his family on Crumbs, three of the Four Kings suspecting one of their roommates to be gay (he turned out to be something far worse: a Republican), and a moment on Will & Grace that fans of the show have hoped would come for eight years.

That's right: It looks like Will has finally found someone, and that someone (James, played by Taye Diggs) seems to feel the same way about him. Next week's big wedding episode, which they've been trumpeting for a month without saying who would wed, will likely feature Grace marrying James so he can stay in the country (he's Canadian).

And if that weren't enough good news, Johnny finally died on The O.C. Many a cheer went up throughout the land as he dropped off a rock ledge, grasping a nearly-empty bottle of tequila and seething with anger that Marissa had chosen Ryan over him. Maybe now the show can get back on track...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

On and On

YouTube - Brokeback to the Future

There appears to be no limit to the innovative spirit that Brokeback Mountain can inspire. The video linked above is hilarious. And it will make you see the Back to the Future trilogy in a whole new way.

Good News, Bad News

Filming to start on fifth Harry Potter saga

This thrills me, of course: I love the Harry Potter movies and every new one is an event. But one of the casting choices makes me sad. Imelda Staunton, previously the abortionist heroine of Vera Drake, will play Dolores Umbridge, who, while not the most evil creation of J.K. Rowling, is perhaps the most realistic of Harry's tormentors. I think everyone who has read Order of the Phoenix imagines Dolores as an amalgam of all the worst traits of all of their least favorite teachers. I don't want to impute those negative thoughts onto Imelda!

I shouldn't be so fearful; it's the first movie that I see starring someone that establishes them in my mind forever. For example, I have an irrational hatred of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and it's not because he keeps beating Heath Ledger out for best actor awards this year (though that isn't helping matters). The hatred stems, instead, from his role in The Talented Mr. Ripley, wherein he plays a swaggering rich American living in Italy and carousing with Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), tormenting poor Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) until Tom finally kills him by bludgeoning him with a marble statue. Every time I see Hoffman, I imagine him playing the piano in Tom's apartment, repeatedly hitting a very high note with his pinky finger. This makes it very hard for me to like him in other movies, though I've done my best to enjoy his roles in Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Almost Famous. (And yes, I know he made Boogie Nights before Ripley, but I saw Ripley first.)

Are there any actors for whom you carry an unreasoned, but powerful nonetheless, disdain?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Father and Son

'We Strive to Be a Compassionate, Decent, Hopeful Society'

Now that he's got the whole one-termer bugbear off his back, Bush the son seems to be looking to Bush the father for ideas. Just before he made his joke last night about how he and Bill Clinton--two of his father's favorite people, he said--were both turning 60 this year, W called for Congress to give him the line-item veto.

I thought that sounded familiar. There's a reason: his daddy wanted the same thing all the way back in his State of the Union in 1992. "Give me the same thing 43 Governors have, the line-item veto, and let me help you control spending," Bush the elder said back then. Clinton eventually got to use the thing, at which point the courts stepped in and pointed out that such a power violates the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against it, and since then one person on each side has departed, leaving things at 5-2 against with two unknowns. Even if we assume that Bush's real deal-breaker in looking for nominees was their fealty to the notion of unlimited presidential power, that still leaves us at 5-4 against, and I'm betting Breyer would find a reason to change his mind if necessary (he voted for the line-item veto, along with Scalia and O'Connor, in 1998) now that it would give Bush even more power than he's already grasping. Unless Stevens dies or retires, the line-item veto is a pipe dream.

Which leaves me wondering--why the hell did Bush bring it up? But I know, now: It's the same reason he just had to toss in a throwaway line about judges changing the definition of marriage (which he did less than sixty seconds after I noted that he hadn't brought it up yet this year). The line-item veto plea lets him pretend to be a fiscal conservative even as he approves bigger budgets and bigger deficits, essentially saying to one part of his coalition, "I am with you. It's this Congress that's out of control." Meanwhile, he tells another part of his coalition, "I am with you. We will stop those damned gays."

These two parts of his coalition probably didn't even notice the parts of the speech that weren't aiming right at their hearts. Ask a Wall Street Republican who watched the speech if Bush talked about gay marriage last night and he'd probably say no; it would have slipped right past him. But I bet he noticed the call for the line-item veto! And if you ask a Bible-Belter about gay marriage? Hoo-boy--he heard it, alright. That Bush, he just gets our issues! And did he notice the bit about the line-item veto? What's a line-item veto?