Monday, August 31, 2009

Less Famous Founding Father Quotes, part 2

"Don't get me wrong; I love being a founding father. I'm just sad I'll never get to hear Elton John sing 'Tiny Dancer'."-Alexander Hamilton

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Baby!

Abby, you know I'm not a religious man, but it's difficult for me to believe that two parts that fit as well as we do came together by accident. Thanks for nine wonderful years of marriage. Here's to many more!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What We Can Do

He was far from a perfect man.

There is a better version of ourselves that we can pursue. There are deeper meanings we can invent for our lives. There is nothing written (worth reading) that says that a person must never fall down or err, or speak the wrong words at the wrong time. We're allowed to fail. It's what we learn from that failure that matters.

Call whatever larger meaning you discover for yourself whatever you want to, but do it the respect of answering it honestly. "By their fruits you will know them". Whatever you think of Ted Kennedy personally, the words he spoke at his brother's eulogy make me want to the best version of myself I can be. Listen:

A few more thoughts:

Everyone will be mulling over Kennedy's legacy this week. We'll hear every opinion under the sun as to whether or not his policies were good or bad*, what kind of man he was, and how he fits into American history. It will all be very interesting. What interests me right now is something that occurred to me on the ride back from my sons' soccer practices tonight. Kennedy's story is a great example of the notion of redemption. Kennedy made many mistakes in his life, and inherited a significant family legacy. It wouldn't have been surprising if he had fallen into a certain kind of despair, wallowing in his own degeneracy and defeat, as other members of his family have done. But that's not what he did. Through a variety of tribulations, he seems to have learned from his mistakes and misfortunes, rolled up his sleeves, and went to work. He fought ferociously for what he believed in, but not in a way that belittled his opponents. He passed a significant amount of landmark legislation, much of which I agree with, and think made our country a better one.

The notion I'm taking away from Senator Kennedy's passing tonight is that redemption is possible, and that a life surrendered to higher notions is a life lived right, a life deserving of redemption.

*Kos has a good piece up about Kennedy that I agree with and recommend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Going After Glenn's Sponsors

Does anyone else think it's lame of the Daily Kos to target Glenn Beck’s sponsors? It seems weak to me, and it irritates me that it is working. If you want to challenge someone on ideas, great, go to battle. But going after an ideological opponent's well-being, or trying to shut them up by narrowing their platform makes me question the confidence you have in your own rationale. If Glenn Beck has demonstrated anything to us, it's that integrity is not a prerequisite to successful mob incitement.

American companies believe in making money, so they’ll respond to public pressure. If Glenn Beck goes away because of this (he won’t), It doesn’t mean you've won the argument. It means you’re better with the thumb-screw.

Personally, I’m thinking of boycotting any company that gives into the Kos’s bullying.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reverse Racism

The other day as I was driving to work I heard a caller to a local talk radio show refer to a particular black public figure as a 'reverse racist', and a wire was tripped in my mind.

The phrase 'reverse racism/reverse racist' is a silly meme that is often employed by white racists to describe racist actions perpetrated by (usually) black people. Usually, the so-called ‘reverse racist’ act is some kind of tame or ironic observation, often the so-called ‘reverse racist’ is somehow calling out some kind of institutional white racism, or has been embroiled in a controversy for standing up for themselves against such mechanisms. Sometimes, the ‘reverse racist’ is actually a racist, or has actually committed a racist act(and the offended white person, who is more desperate to call a black person out on racism because they feel that somehow the crimes of the white power structure throughout history have been piled heavy upon their shoulders. They feel that the insistence of our current society to ‘be nice’ and judge people ‘by the content of their character, not the color of their skin’ is somehow an undue burden). People who call out ‘reverse racism’ are the same people who can also be heard saying ‘I’m not racist, but…’. These people have black friends. When asked around black people who their favorite actor is, they may say ‘Denzel Washington’, or ‘Will Smith’, if they’re feeling ecumenical.

The problem at hand is, however, a linguistic one. Even if the label of ‘reverse racist’ is actually applied to a real racist (there are racist black people), the term ‘reverse racist’ is confusing. If a person is racist, they are racist. Wouldn't a 'reverse racist' be someone who goes out of their way to help a person of a different race, or to erase an existing racial barrier?

There’s something weird going on under the surface of the 'reverse racist' label. It seems to imply that racism originated with white people, and any other kind of racism is somehow reactionary racism, impure racism. In one sense, you could think of it as a preference by the claimant for David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar.

All people are subject to tribal urges, to a greater or lesser degree. Some folks have stronger, more malicious strains than others, with the focal point ranging anywhere from ideology to geography to race. If someone is being racist, feel free to acknowledge it. But please, try to respect your native language by not infusing it with unnecessary silliness (people who call out ‘reverse racists’ are often the same people who feel horribly oppressed at their being a Spanish option when they call customer service*).

If you are white and were offended by this post, let me ask you this: when a black person (public citizen or private) is acting in a ‘racist’ way, among your group of friends/families/associates, are you usually the first person to notice it? Just curious.

*On a (somewhat) unrelated note, aren’t you glad that the Brits are starting to stand up for their healthcare system? It’s about time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's The Other Guy Saying?

In an interview with Sean Hannity to promote his current book ‘God Is Not Great’, Christopher Hitchens was forced to observe, ‘You give me the awful impression, I hate to have to say it, of someone who hasn’t read the arguments against your own positions’.

And so it seems to be as well for a widening portion of our population. There are men and women who have made a living turning their ideological opponents into straw men, and then handing those straw men off to an enraged and unhappy herd for destruction ritual. This method of making a living has spread as larger and larger chunks of the American population seem to seek out confirmation of their own biases and suspicions, putting membership in some mythologized tribe above what is right (and even what is true).

Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot give you credit for hearing the arguments of your opponents as repeated by your favorite populist rage outlet. Liberals, is not a good place to read about what Rush Limbaugh is saying. Conservatives, Rush Limbaugh is not a good place to hear about the most recent piece of legislation being supported by the Obama administration. There are usually smart people on both sides of any issue (if indeed there are only two sides!) And Rush Limbaugh and are not among them. It’s not that they aren’t smart (they are), it’s just that they act in bad faith. They have a victory other than the spreading of raw truth in mind, and their particular success depends greatly on the degree of inflammation they can inspire in your heart.

There are thoughtful and honest people of all ideological stripes out there, but they’re often drowned out by the circus of louder and more entertaining voices. Whatever side you may hold on any number of issues may be the best position, but please, consider your sources before you take action, or open your mouth. The voice of Authority, be it that of a founding father or religious text, is not a sufficient buttress for an intelligent argument. The facts must be looked at. Contrary opinions must be examined in a fair way. There has to be discussion. We must understand in a larger sense, that we are human animals, and are subject to some very powerful reaction cues and genetic motivations. Above all, seek to understand yourself.

Whatever position you decide to take on any issue, remember to ask yourself what the other guy is saying, and to sincerely seek out the most reasonable iteration of that stance.

Your best mind does not lie in your gut, and there is no device as liable to affirm your own secret wishes and suspicions as prayer.

My friend Phil has more to say on the subject. See here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bob Inglis Should Be The Republican Face Of The Healthcare Debate

The people of South Carolina should be proud to have someone like Bob Inglis representing them. The Republican party needs to churn out some more leaders like this:

This guy should run for president.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Is This Your God?

So, my youngest son comes running into the kitchen this morning saying, 'Come here, daddy! Come with me! You've got to see this!', and I can hear my oldest son yelling from the bathroom, 'Seriously, Daddy! Check this out!'

I let my four year old lead me down the hallway to the bathroom. There's an excitement in the air. My little boy lets go of my hand and runs up to a strip of wallpaper that had been torn away a few days prior. He points to a black smudge on the wall and says, 'It's Jesus!'

My oldest says 'It is!' in enthusiastic assent. I squint and lean in. I see exactly what they're talking about. 'Huh. Wow. That does look like Jesus!' So I sent my wife a pic message of our little miracle. 'OMG!' she replied. 'It's Jerry Garcia!'

My son asked me if I thought it was really Jesus on our bathroom wall. 'Well,' I said, striking my best Ward Cleaver tone, 'It seems like a strange way for Jesus to make contact with us, don't you think?'

'So you don't think it's real?' my son asked.

'I don't.' I said. ' No. I think we just notice things that look like faces. Like those creepy faces I showed you in the wood panel in grandma's basement. It's part of our programming to notice patterns. Plus, remember that we just watched that episode of 'This American Life' where they were taking pictures of Jesus in the sun? And then we saw 'Henry Poole Was Here' a few weeks before? Your mind was primed to see something like this.' I also said something about evolution creating moths with wings that could fool predators into thinking they were large, threatening eyes. 'That makes sense.' he said. 'But why do the faces usually have a beard?'
I didn't have an answer for him at the moment*. I just said, 'hm. That's interesting. It does seem like the faces always have a beard.' I looked at my son, he looked at me, and we both shrugged our shoulders.

We'll be papering over Jesus by the week's end. I really don't like the idea of the good lord watching me while I use the toilet.

*I've since decided that the reason we hear more about Jesus and Lady Fatima appearing on Grilled cheese sandwiches and in water stains is probably because religious people are more likely to be on the look-out for signs, and are probably more subject to confirmation bias in that area. Also, who would report that Harold Lloyd had appeared in their oatmeal?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Possible Universes

Possible Universe # 1:

Edward was surprised to discover his shopping list had transformed into a suicide note.

Possible Universe # 2:

Edward was surprised to discover his shopping list had transformed into a manifesto for a revolution.

Possible Universe # 3:

Edward forgot to buy toilet paper while he was at the store. Now he'll have to go back.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Your eyes are buckets of love
That spill onto your shoulders.
You wear a white shirt that is now stained
Because love is red, and it has made you a mess.
You can’t read anymore,
Because your own story is always on your mind;
It’s the story of your love,
And how you planned to splosh it all around,
Filling every one of these rooms,
Washing us all in a comfort and attention
That is so delicate and beautiful,
So long as you know how to swim.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Medicine Cabinet Recommends

1.Top Ten State Fair Joys, by Garrison Keillor: Mr. Keillor reminds us why it is good to occassionally savor membership in the throng, the sea, the mass, the country club of humanity.

2. Over, by Dan Ames: A damn good poem.

3.Read Epictetusand become a better person.

4.Michael Pollantalks about the weed:

5. Steven Pinker says violence is declining.

6. Shouldn't you know who Frank Zappa is? It makes me sad when young people's cultural education seems to span entirely from their birth only to the present moment. Why is 'oh, it must be before my time?' an acceptable excuse for not knowing important information? Our bottom-line mentality is surely going to bite us bad some day.

7. Read Lodo Grdzak's most recent 5 part serial 'Staying Calm Amongst Big Dogs And Bitches'. Mr. Grdzak has a patience for the blog series that I do not possess.

8. Fred Hersch (brilliant pianist and Cincinnati native) lays it out with So In Love. Tell'em, Fred: