Entries from February 2008 ↓

I’m Older Than Michelle Obama, and I’m Not Proud of America Yet.

I’m not proud, because a) I take Proverbs 16:18′s counsel (“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall”) to be flawless, and b) I try not to cultivate feelings about abstractions.

This even though, according to my calculations, I’m exactly six weeks older than Michelle Obama. Because I’ve had an adult life just a bit longer than she has, you’d think I would have had time to develop some form of her pride by now.

Let’s do a week-in-review-style wrap-up on what she said last week in Madison WI, on Monday, February 18:

“What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something — for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I’ve seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues, and it’s made me proud.”

Now, she also spoke in Milwaukee, earlier that day. In that speech, she said:

“For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am proud of my country, because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.”

Note the absence of the word really, above, in the earlier speech: proud vs. really proud. (Some have made a point of her later inclusion of that adverb, during her second, Madison speech.)

Here’s a link to a clip comparing the two.

What to make of this?

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Ocean’s Infinity

Gulf Stream going past the East CoastThinking about the kind of power we might one day derive from the movement of open water has me amped. This is from an Associated Press article, “Oceans eyed as new energy source,” running Feb. 14:

Just 15 miles off Florida’s coast, the world’s most powerful sustained ocean current — the mighty Gulf Stream — rushes by at nearly 8.5 billion gallons per second. And it never stops.

To scientists, it represents a tantalizing possibility: a new, plentiful and uninterrupted source of clean energy.

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Silent But Deadly

Clarence ThomasThe Associated Press reports Clarence Thomas’s ongoing and unchallenged record of judicial mime. From that piece:

Two years and 142 cases have passed since Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last spoke up at oral arguments. It is a period of unbroken silence that contrasts with the rest of the court’s unceasing inquiries.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says he’d like to be known as the “listening justice.”

Hardly a case goes by without eight justices peppering lawyers with questions. Oral arguments offer justices the chance to resolve nagging doubts about a case, probe its weaknesses or make a point to their colleagues.

Left, right and center, the justices ask and they ask and they ask. Sometimes they debate each other, leaving the lawyer at the podium helpless to jump in. “I think you’re handling these questions very well,” Chief Justice John Roberts quipped to a lawyer recently in the midst of one such exchange.

Leaning back in his leather chair, often looking up at the ceiling, Thomas takes it all in, but he never joins in.

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Work NSFW: A List of Obsolete Skills

Changing the ribbon on a typewriter. Operating an overhead projector.Typesetter PASCAL-TurboPASCAL. Looking up a business in the Yellow Pages. Mounting photographic slides in slide mounts. Specializing in the distribution, marketing, sales, and repair of HD-DVD players.

If you’re reading my blog at work, and your job is doing any of these, you might wanna just keep reading my blog.

Doin’ ‘Em Doggystyle

Dog LoveI came across these stats a week ago:

In 2005, the U.S.-led Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria made a financial commitment to attacking those diseases in Uganda. The grant package’s worth totaled $367 million.

In 2008, according to the National Retail Federation, Valentine’s Day spending on U.S. pets was expected to reach $367 million.

We Shall Not Overcome

I’ll leave it to others to dissect the implications of this Feb. 8 note from NAACP chair Julian Bond to DNC head Howard Dean. In it, Bond uses “the strongest possible terms” to urge delegate representation for Black voters in Florida and Michigan at the Democratic National Convention.Julian Bond Feb. 8 letter

Of course, I deeply respect Bond’s immense legacy and record in civil rights.

But without casting aspersions on him, shouldn’t a person who has faced as many obstacles and dilemmas as Bond be able to spell “aspersions,” “obstacles,” and “dilemma,” not to mention “Michigan”?

I Finally Get Why My Wife Hates TV/Movie Car Chases.

The new Knight Rider aired Sunday evening, updating the original David Hasselhoff ’80sKITT TV show for the year 2000, while retaining the original premise. You remember: Michael Knight—here, Mike Tracer (Ooo!)—equipped with an ultra-advanced talking automobile as his primary weapon, roams the highways and byways, fighting crime.

Oh, to be a 14-year-old boy, again.

There’s a rhythm to hour-long, episodic television that’s always been there, I’m sure, but that, for some reason, I really started noticing while watching Grey’s Anatomy. It goes as follows:

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Samurais, Punks, and Gunslingers

Thank you! people at Funimation for sending me copies of the Afro Samurai and Desert Punk boxed sets. Both animes take place in a futuristic Japan, but only one, it seems, involves a gun-wielding ne’er-do-well with Nadine Jansen-esque breasts. (The character’s name is Junko, “Vixen of the Desert.”)Come and get it….

I’m eagerly looking forward to checking both out. But what I also want for Christmas is another season of Gunslinger Girl, the 2003 series about a quintet of Italian, prepubescent children, each near death, who are rescued, their histories erased, and their bodies revived cybernetically, so that they can become skilled assassins; a clique of little La Femme Nikitas.

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Why Am I Writing A Blog?

I first learned about blogging with the release of We’ve Got Blog: How0738207411.jpg Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture (Perseus) in 2002. I’ve resisted doing a blog at least since then.

Why? The biggest obstacle for me, conceptually, was the idea of writing for free. As a working journalist with 20 years of practice, I felt no more comfortable with unpaid writing than, say, a taxi driver might feel giving several hours of daily rides, for nothing.

Another fact was blogging’s promise of new audiences. With bylines in VIBE, The Village Voice, The Source, Billboard, The New York Daily News, and other media; by doing occasional TV appearances; and through producing a weekly radio show, NONFICTION (WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM, Fridays at 2 pm), I didn’t feel particularly hungry for readers or listeners, as an unpublished or self-published writer might.

But I soon realized that blogging was rapidly growing and becoming more influential. I began to see that bloggers were modifying the coverage of mainstream media, and serving as an alternate voice to the establishment viewpoint—the so-called “Rathergate” furor being a prime example of this.

When I looked closer, I also understood that I was already doing a lot of writing for free. I was doing it in internet forums, in lengthy e-mails to friends, in comments on various sites, etc. (Sometimes, it was pretty good writing, too!)

Neither of these realizations was enough to make me want to blog, though. It was only when I directly connected the opportunity blogging presented to developing aspects of my work life—four, to be precise—that I decided to make the leap. (Perhaps you’ve reached similar conclusions about your own output, whether you’re a writer, or not.)

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