Friday, November 9

Mixed feelings

On my afternoon walk, I heard some howling, a raw, screeching voice that I couldn't make sense of. 

As I listened, I finally made sense of it. 

Someone was screaming for food, change, a cry at how they were hungry. It didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason, just screeching at everyone who passed by a busy streetcorner. 

I'm not just how I feel about all of that. It's...weird.

Friday, November 2

Dear everyone who likes the Walking Dead

There is nothing, ever, to ask about this show. No grand conversations to be had about it.

There are no surprises. There is no hope. Everyone dies.

Some will also go crazy. They will die. Some will have guns or swords. They will die. Some will have sex and there might even be babies. They will die. There will be moments where the group finds a 'safe' place. It will end and people will die. Some will die to the living. Some will die to hordes of dead. Some will die to diseases that are conquered so long as you have thing like plumbing and basic first aid but those are gone so they will die. 

This is why I quit reading the comic and why I don't care about the TV show and why this isn't a spoiler for anyone following the show or the comic.There is no escape, no event at the end that makes it all OK, none of that. There is no, zero, nothing at all in the way of tension. There will be no surprises. Everyone. Will. Die. 

Now that you know that, you can just enjoy! There are no questions to be asked, no conversations to be had about Jim Bob and his Jimbobbery, or how much more effective a katana is over a .44 or any of that! Everyone will die so you can relax and watch them enact entropy in front of your eyes. You know how it ends. 

Now quit fucking talking about it. 

Monday, October 29

Home again

This visit to Spokane was...weird. It was the first time in 15 years where I felt as though I really didn't like that city anymore. 

It was grim and decrepit; neglected might be the best word for the state of so much of the city. What wasn't neglected was cookie-cutter new, houses all built from the same mold, making them extra creepy in that 'One of Us' way. 

There was also the presence of a whole lot more Jesus on display and, because of the election, a fuckton of Republican signage. 

It made me feel a bit sad. I knew Spokane wasn't the most progressive of cities but I never felt depressed about that state until I went back this year. 

I think I'd be a lot angrier and listen to a whole lot more heavy metal, should I have never moved away. I don't know what I make of that but...I don't see it as a positive.

Friday, October 19


I dreamt I was lost. Then I remembered that it was a dream and dream me has a GPS.

That was pretty rad.

Tuesday, October 16

I know it's weird

But I feel sorry for Paul Ryan, just a bit.

He had this opportunity to talk to Americans who weren't like him. Very few people are as candid as the poor. I can only imagine what they talked about but maybe he got a little picture into that life, something that might spark some compassion in him.

And who knows exactly how this little stop at a soup kitchen was supposed to go or could have gone. Maybe somewhere in the back of his mind as he's scrubbing a pot that was, reportedly, already clean he's thinking: what's gone wrong with things? I'm a decent person and I want to help people. Why does everyone seem to be so riled against me?

Or maybe not. Maybe he's just thinking: I need to make sure I look good for the cameras. 

Hard to say. Certainly, he's using this moment to forward his political career and if he fucks up the non-profit status of that kitchen then I hope he does all he can to amend that. 

But I just have to wonder.

Tuesday, October 9

Max Payne 3

It's good. It's also the second strongest case of cognitive dissonance I've dealt with in videogames this year.

Essentially, Max Payne says: Do you like noir? Drunks? Gallows humor? Dead women? THEN HAVE WE GOT SOMETHING FOR YOU!

The whole game is played through this visual patina of alcohol haze and I like that but it's not reflected anywhere else. You still shoot grenades out of the air, shootdodge (bullet time) through environments killing 4+ dudes at a time, etc. The superhero elements are not really diminished.

It's weird, having every other scene with Max essentially tell you what a fuckup he is but by god he can kill every last motherfucker in the room. Despite being hammered.

The only real complaint I have about MP3 is the complaint I have with any game of this type: Let's build an incredibly tense shooter on rails! Then, let's force players to get off the rails to find clues and special weapon drops, breaking the tension and any sort of immersion, because they need to find these other cool things.

Why do that? There must be a better way, mechanically, to integrate the elements of uncovering the conspiracy and getting better weapons than having the player stop everything they were doing that was fun, in order to run around and look for shiny gold pieces or scraps of paper. 

Sunday, October 7

Oysters, bitch.

What I learned on the internet today (#1): An adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. That's pretty impressive right? Not to mention functional and pragmatic.
[The oyster] accepts algae and detritus in one end — and through this beautiful, glamorous set of stomach organs, out the other end comes cleaner water.”

Thursday, September 20

Driver:SF and Spec Ops: The Line

Finished Driver SF and found it to be quite enjoyable. Lighthearted, well written, funny, good characters, goofy enough that the endgame didn't bother me, ridiculous as it was. It's fun and I almost wish I could've spent more time there but I was getting burnt out on everything and the music started to drive me crazy. I need to turn the radio off in these games.

Also played Spec Ops: The Line and when I traded it in, the people at Gamestop said something to the effect of: There have been a lot of mixed reviews from customers.

What I told them was this: it's hard to like; but if you got something out of Apocalypse Now or Jacob's Ladder or liked Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness then you should play this game. It's got something to say, and it especially strong in it's critique of 'super realistic' modern warfare FPS, and it should be played for that reason alone: It has something to say.

It's not always fun. As a matter of fact, it was frequently not fun, it was very weird to play this game and have the violence I was inflicting be accompanied with horrific moaning and the option to execute enemies that were writhing on the ground in pain and posing no threat to me, along with hallucinatory experiences and things just generally becoming more and more fucked up.

However, having something to say is important and I think people should play Spec Ops because it will, if nothing else, give them something to chew on for a little while. 

Tuesday, September 11

Why I Am Avoiding Facebook Today

Two, which are two too many, "Remember 9/11" posts.

You know what I'd like to see? All of those people remember what the United States did to cause 9/11, then recall every fucked up thing we allowed to happen, from the loss of our civil liberties to the rapid undermining of our economy due to war, to the utterly pointless loss of life and the havoc imposed on the survivors because of the GWOT, torture, and overall evil that was engaged in since that date. 

Because I'm pretty sure all those people are remembering is how they got hurt. Convenient when it comes to forgetting how we slit the throats of other people. 

Monday, September 10

Dear Joss Whedon

Avengers 2 is going to end with Captain America being tossed the Tesseract or the Infinity Gauntlet, in all likelihood by Thor or Iron Man but maybe even Quasar, and saving the day. I know this, you know this. It's really the only way that movie finishes out.

Please hire me. I only eat moderately and I really don't distinguish between right and wrong very well. 

Monday, August 13

Mass Effect 3 ending

I finally finished ME3 and have gotten to see what all the fuss over the ending was about. I played the unimproved ending because I wanted to get a taste for it and...I found it to be choppy. Characters popped in, or events happened post climactic choice that didn't connect with where I had last known they were at. The discussion I had with the Catalyst lacked exposition and I didn't really feel like this was as well fleshed out as it should have been. I knew the choices mattered but the weight of those choices wasn't really presented very well, I thought.

I read Film Critic Hulk's review of the ending though and I have to agree with him on many points: the game's story isn't there to answer your questions about how or why the Universe came to light. The story is there to remind us that we have been fighting wars like this for a very, very long time and the 'best' ending is one that strongly suggests that evolution is the best way forward, to the next cycle. 

I also watched the 'Extended Cut' endings (excepting the one I chose: I have another character to play and will likely pick the same choice so it will be interesting to see how things shift) and found those to be very, very illuminating. Suddenly there were conversation choices that hadn't appeared when I had played through and plot points to help the end sequences connect together. The drawback is that now the endings seem to have a little too much explanation after the fact and not quite enough before so again, players make the choice 'blind.' 

This may be intentional and if so, it feels a little weird for the series. Choices, especially big ones, were always given context so they could be meaningful. To have information dumped after the fact is realistic (we don't know the consequences until we make the choice) it's opposition to previous actions in the series can be a cause for discomfort. Plus, they don't really tell you anything: The Universe keeps going and you can count on shit getting weird again.

However, I am finding that I appreciate the stories and endings that tell me a bit less. I am thinking of the Dark Tower series which ends much the same way: everything starts over, except this time, Roland knows more. The Matrix trilogy does this too: Reboot but with a chance for peace.

Because what else can you do? Human history has been recorded for a long time and we still have the same stories being told to us about love, death, dishonor, greed, and courage. Why is that? 

I have to conclude it is because human beings are still working similar patterns. Not the same. I cannot conclude that it's the same: our behavior has changed over the centuries. But close enough, maybe so close, that it is difficult to distinguish between the cycles. Eventually, those cycles are going to change: either for the better or those cycles for humans, at least, will be eliminated.

What else can you say when you confront God, you know? What is God going to say to you?

"This is the best I could do. Now you have a chance to fix it: what is your choice?"
And the best ending has you starting over but evolved. The other three endings all lead back to where you start: either a fractured galaxy will evolve, or a united galaxy against a creepy overlord who just has 'your best interests at heart' or, in the added secret ending: You lose and the Reaper cycle starts all over.

How could anyone do better? To give the audience a simple victory would be to spit on all the complexity that Bioware had been working on for years! To insist on losing would be a terrible crime against an audience that was rooting for and cheering and hoping that this could be their generation's Star Wars. You cannot betray your audience in such a manner: That's one of the unbreakable rules.

So you have to take the difficult way out, which is to say: You got here, now start again. Good luck.

Not sure what else people could've asked for.

That said: All the complaints about the plot points not sticking together in the endgame, that I feel is dead on and I'm glad they addressed it. Also, the Earth sequence was savagely difficult for me and I'd had my galactic readiness up to 100%. I cannot imagine how frustrating it would have been if I had not done that. (Although I probably did not choose the best team so that's my bad. Even so, it was punishingly difficult.)
And that is that.

Wednesday, July 25

I like my words

I was told recently in an internet discussion:

"You sure do use a lot of words to say you don't like my tone."

That is correct. I do. Because telling you that you're an asshole (which you are being) is not something that furthers a discussion (which I would prefer to have.) 

And since the internet is pretty much forever, telling you that you're an asshole better be the right thing to do. 

Monday, July 16

Happy Birthday, wherever you are

It's been a couple years and I do miss you and the energy you brought to my life. I miss my friend. I wish things were different and I certainly feel sometimes like I was used; the beacon that showed what was not quite right in your life, cast aside once you were done. 

I also know you just disappeared one day and that stings too. Even now, even after everyone is bored of that story and this hurt, even me. 

But you know what? Part of the reason I have the life I have now is because of you. It's a good life. I miss you and I hope that someday we can be friends but even if not: I hope you have a Happy Birthday, because I love you and that's how I want to be towards the people I care about.

Wednesday, June 13

Japandroids alone

My sweetie got sick and so she couldn't attend the Japandroids show with me, but I'd already bought a ticket. There's no backsies these days but I figured; Hey no problem. Someone will want to come with!

Nope. Couldn't find anyone. This actually made me a little sad. Why don't I know enough people that someone would want to come with me to a rock show for free? (Or maybe buy me a beer but I wasn't going to ask.) What is wrong with my social abilities? Something has to be.

So I get to the show and I picked up my tickets and then said to the woman at the counter: hey, my girl got sick and I couldn't find someone to take this ticket: Could you give it to the next person who needs one? And she said she would. I got down to the venue and I was still feeling a little gloomy.

Writing is a salve in these situations so I started to write a little but then, the first act came on. And Cadence Weapon: Alright. His voice was a touch buried in the mix: I could only hear his lyrics when he was shouting but I think I'll check him out. So everything started off pretty good.

Barely enough time for a beer later and the Japandroids were out.

Someday, my knees are going to refuse and my ankle will swell a bit much, my back will holler about standing for so long. My arms just won't be able to protect me from the jostling of the crowd. My poor, abused, headbanger neck will scream at me: just be fuckin' thankful I can keep this 5 pound meatbag ON you dick!

But not today. And a great rock show can cure what ails you.

Friday, May 25

In response to the last email my Grandmother sent

Grandma; Next time you want to get a hold of me, you'll have to call. I don't want to deal with having to delete, disprove, or hash out every single little lie that you forward. I have asked, over and over and OVER that you stop sending me these kinds of emails. To actually talk to me, say hello, ask how I am doing, have a conversation. And you don't. So I am taking the next step: I am routing all email that you send to me to the trash. I will not see it, ever again. I'm done with being polite with you or tolerant of you and I'm tired of complaining about it. So I'm just going to ignore your email from here on out. love

Monday, May 7

Social failings

I lamented to some friends that I couldn't get laid in Mass Effect 2. I just couldn't play the characters in such a way that was mentally consistent with my imaginings AND hook up with someone. So all that was going to change in Mass Effect 3, right? Totally going to get it on. I am going to be devious instead, because fuck it: I saved the galaxy. Nookie deserved. Nope. Hit on the one lesbian of the crew, make it all awkward. My real life is supposed to contain the awkward situations, thank you very much.

Thursday, April 26

Videogame update

So, I played Outland and thought it was pretty good. Until I got to the last section and got a big ol' dose of FUCK THIS. There was a moment that I realized I wasn't having any fun and the previous skills I'd acquired didn't seem to matters. So I quit, never to bother with it again. Bummer, because the artistic style was great, the controls were tight and there was a great deal to be said for it. But when I got to the end it felt like a bulletshitstorm and not a pattern I could defeat. I also finished Uncharted 3 and it did, from a gameplay perspective, what it was supposed to do very well. The story, however, feel on its face. Three times, the main character is asked: "Is what you're doing worth it?" Because it's shown that Drake is willing to ignore friends and lovers in pursuit of treasure. And it never seems to get any deeper than that. He's not on a mad quest to know who he is, he's not desperate to prove himself, or redeem his soul or avenge his friends. Nope. He just wants shiny shit to sell and nobody seems to get fed up with that. And that sucks a lot of the soul out of the game for me and I just don't know that I want to play any more of Drake's adventures. Now I'm knee deep in Mass Effect 3 and hip deep in Borderlands.

Wednesday, March 21

The last ten years

More than most decades, this was the one where I had to deal with heartbreak.

The break of a dream that I didn't know how to plant. The break of a career I didn't understand how to develop. The break of days and nights lost to women whom I couldn't understand no matter how desperately I tried.

But I learned I still love to write, dream or no dream, how to evaluate work better, so I don't get stuck in the same loop and understanding myself better, so the women aren't as confusing.

I have good friends and there is beer and a kick ass girlfriend and things don't suck. Mostly.

So yeah, that's cool.

Letter sent 3.21.12

Dear Mr. President,
I hope you’re well. As always, if you can’t reply, that’s fine: I prefer nothing over a form letter. To whomever may be reading this because it’s their job, I thank you for your time, especially on this one.

Sir, I’m about to turn 40. As is the tradition in our culture, birthdays are often times of reflection and ideas and I’d like to, instead of talking to you about what seems to be going wrong, what America could do.

While reading The American Soul by Jacob Needleman, I’ve come across a very interesting idea; America is a country about big ideas. Big ideas rooted in a core that says that all human beings are created equally and we should treat them as such.

I’m sure I don’t have to articulate our failings as a country along those lines to you. But I do want to suggest that this is something we are missing in our country; the big idea. So I figured I’d talk about a few big ideas I’ve had, and at the end ask us: Why not?

Big idea: Americans deserve better government.
We really do. You know it, I know it: everyone knows it. But how do we get there? I have three ideas here: first make government more transparent.

Mr. President, you have been one of the worst offenders in this category, foiling FOIA requests and going after whistleblowers with more fervor than your predecessor. But one way to get people involved is for them to understand how things work and to be able to speak out fearlessly when they feel something is wrong. But how will our citizens know something is awry unless they are given information from those who comprehend how it works and are able to point to those accountable?

So I call upon you to make good on your promises of a more transparent government. We deserve it.

Second: Make November 4th a national holiday. If voting really is important, give us the day off to do it. (Plus, it gives the citizens a little bonus. Who couldn’t use some extra time off or, time and a half for working on such an important day?)

Third: institute mandatory sunset dates.
This is a huge step. If policies like the PATRIOT Act have mandated sunset dates, then they have to be revisited or let to go away. If certain farm subsidies, say for corn, were sunset in order to subsidize farmers making under $250,000 a year, for example, that might improve the agricultural backbone of this country. Plus; of the corn growers of America aren’t successful by now, they won’t ever be.

If the management of organizations; the Fed, the CIA, the FDA, the SEC had to resign after say 15 years-long enough to master it and make recommendations to the next group but without the security of a lifetime appointment-then perhaps the new blood would help refresh agencies with men and women who have ideas that can help change things. But not change things so much that we eliminate critical services nor find ourselves perpetually at the mercy of those who would distain government’s role in important matters.

Big idea: Americans need a common experience.
It is, by now, blatantly apparent to anyone paying attention to our discourse that Americans just don’t work together like they used to. The idea of America and being an American just isn’t quite enough: we need to have a common experience, an action that causes us all to, as was said in the movie Heartbreak Ridge “Eat a little of the same dirt.”

So I suggest making a mandatory civil service, for every unmarried American, to serve between the ages of 18 and 20. This service can be avoided by enlisting in the military, if one so chooses. The point is; by bringing young people from different walks of life together and giving them tasks where they have to rely on one another, there is an opportunity for Americans to actually see and experience different points of view.

We have a technology that allows us to share our experiences but we lack a common experience to share! This is one reason that cooperative politics have declined so much since the 1980’s, I believe: the statesmen who were once often bound together due to the draft, have moved on from public life, leaving those who have never had to step outside their own circle of experience.

As an added bonus, this would give young people an opportunity to see the country, to network, and to mature a little bit before entering college or trade school or whatever path of higher learning they might choose.

Big idea: Americans deserve equal access.
There is a rapidly decaying system of infrastructure in America, Mr. President. Roads and bridges in decline, a water and sewer system just waiting to implode and, just as importantly, a realm of information that is only available through technology, access to which hasn’t been updated in decades. But just as important as access to transportation and clean water, so is our access to the realm of the internet.

I am not suggesting that the government merely give away internet access to people or companies. Just as the government does not give away cars for people to use the roads with, nor sinks for people to run water through.

Let us rebuild; making the country more efficient, using new technologies to replace the roads, pipelines and wires that service us, to make this country a better place that allows for people to have the opportunities they need to make a life in this country.

And when we build for access, let us remember the importance of safety, not just in our physical world but in our online interactions. Let’s be a country that protects the privacy of our citizens online. It allows us to entertain unapproved or ‘dangerous’ thought and this is one of our greatest strengths as a nation. Protect it.

Big idea: America wants to be a beacon to the world.
Our standing internationally comes from two places, as I see it: our culture and the policies our government chooses to follow.

Our society has allowed us to develop a culture that is everywhere, that nearly every country is influenced by and takes part of: the movies, the videogames, the television, the books, sporting events and the music all flow out. Much less of the world’s culture flows in. That’s a good thing.

Now please, get the government to stop wrecking that. Two not so simple things that would probably go a long, long way.

First: we end the drug war. It’s been shown to affect poor Americans, and especially black Americans, disproportionally and is a mostly a way for law enforcement to make money, while our 4th Amendment rights are eroded.

Ending this war not only gives us money to invest in access and schools, it would probably go a long way for improving our relations with countries to the North and South of us, in addition to ending some of the most horrific violence I’ve ever heard of in Mexico. It would give the US a reason to stop fighting wars over opium and start providing humanitarian aid to those who need it.

It would end what has been forty years of failed policy. I think we would all agree, that’s more failure than anyone should have to stand.

Second: we cease giving military aid and backing to Israel.

Mr. President, the nation of Israel is not special. At the moment, I’d even go so far as to say they are acting like the spoiled little kid who acts like a bully, because they know their big brother will beat up anyone who tries to stop them. They are just as complicit in the evils of war as any other party involved in that area and until we stop supporting them unconditionally and start being more evenhanded to everyone in the region, a huge part of the world will hate us and rightly so, because we are being unfair, and being unfair is just an Unamerican value, sir.

If we value justice, we cannot be unjust.

We will have to make apologies. We will have to work harder than ever to talk to and create peaceful circumstances.

But it can be done. The question is; are we willing to do it? I hope so and it will have to start with you saying: no more will America support this failure.

Big idea: America needs to be the best country.

Mr. President, our country started off in a very unique way; we started off as an idea. All men are created equal and bestowed rights merely because they exist.

And as we’ve grown up, that idea has been something that has been allowed to do what it wasn’t, 200 years ago: encompass all the people of this nation and provide us with more ideas. It has been allowed to grow, to evolve beyond the limitations of the men who created it! That. Is. Amazing. By any view of the world that is just jaw dropping.

We have survived and thrived, I believe, because we had the best idea(s) and we allowed people to pursue those ideas, even ideas that were unpopular. Every time we have expanded upon the ability of the people to expose themselves to new ideas, our country has prospered in so many ways: from the abolition of slavery, to the rights of women, the GI Bill, allowing more men and women to go to college, the great society, to the civil rights movement, the Americans with Disabilities Act, even through today, with the use of the internet to expose more ideas and support the rights of gay and lesbians across the country, those ideas of freedom and dignity and access, have been what has brought men and women from across the world to live here. We never had the smartest race, we brought in the smartest people.

We need those ideas again. We need to support ideas again.

Mr. President, we need educated people, more than we ever have before.

And by educated, I don’t merely mean universities. I mean trade schools, community colleges, high schools. Anywhere an American goes to learn something about the world around him or her. Ideas need to become a priority for us again, because we can create our future out of them.

But we have to support the realm of ideas, the place where we dream something new! Take the money from the drug war, from the incarceration of millions, and put it into schools and teachers and programs that support the endeavors of Americans to be more to the world than just consumers.

We were founded on ideas. Let’s love them too.

A new shape to our ideas are coming, Mr. President, involving how we interact with each other. I want you to help us get at the forefront of it.

I got to try the L’Agent Orange from Cascade Brewing. Sour ale kept in Makers Mark barrels. Pretty amazing, though you’ll have to come to Portland to get it, sir.


Monday, March 5

The third decade

I got laid a lot.

Of course there was much more to it than that, but...I got laid a lot.

I also learned how to drink, learned how to be social in a group, how to navigate situations where I was a stranger. I did this in a manner that allowed me to see a chunk of the world that many people do not and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I realized that being mean was leaving me lonely and unhappy, so I decided to do something different. Being kind has worked much better, though it has taken me a little while to get there.

I was a less than good boyfriend. A chunk of that decade as about learning to be a better one.

As a matter of fact, I think a great deal of that decade could be described as the one where I tried to improve everything, one way or another. It didn't always work but it certainly kept my mind open, at least in a personal way.

Professionally...that's another beast.

Thursday, March 1

The second decade

This is the decade where I learned to be mean.

I don't entirely blame myself for this: my examples were poor, I was being mistreated in school, things were very, very difficult. It's certainly possible I could've become a kind person at that time in spite of it all but it was unlikely.

And so I wasn't. It was partly a way to keep people from humiliating me, partly a way to filter out who could be or wasn't my friend. It also put me in touch with my own darkness, or certainly brought it out, which is something I have to admit, I needed in order to understand myself better.

But I was not kind and I have a few regrets as a result.

I learned a bit about how to treat women, who had previously baffled me: like I would a man, was my decision. I learned that didn't always work out but it wasn't a bad place to start. I even ended up dating one, for the first time and what I learned from that could be its own short stage drama. So let's not go there.

I also learned how to tell a joke, how to find comradery in the trenches of shitty jobs, tell stories that people might want to hear, read books that let me know there was a more interesting world out there than I knew and probably most significantly, I learned about heavy metal.

Man, did I love heavy metal. Still do-it's one of those threads that wind through my life, even now, nearly twenty five years later. I still love heavy metal.

I'm not entirely sure what that says about me, except that when I love something I tend to love it for a long time. My favorite color is still green. Most of the few friends I've had I still have: there aren't many but they're still around, is the point.

That's pretty lucky.

Monday, February 27

Letter sent 2.27

Dear Mr. President,
Lately I have been finishing off Stephen Erikson’s Malazan series of books. I prefer to read while taking the bus to work, since books still seem to be one of the best ways to really engage in a story and it allows me to tune out the daily commute. I have no idea when someone in your position might get reading like that done; one of the biggest drawbacks to being in charge has got to be having to rely on other people giving you information when you used to get your own. The Malazan books are a high fantasy series (sword and sorcery) that, as it approaches its conclusion, has an undercurrent theme of the decline of an empire.

For example:
“The more civilized a nation, the more conformed its population, until that civilization's last age arrives, when the multiplicity wages war with conformity. The former grows ever wilder, ever more dysfunctional in its extremities; whilst the latter seeks to increase its measure of control, until such efforts acquire diabolical tyranny.”-Duiker, Toll the Hounds

It is difficult, as an American, to not read passages like this as though they are a commentary on my own country. I never thought we, of all countries, would have an empire but the signs are too great to ignore. Which is mostly an aside, really: the situation is what it is.

It does seem, however, that the battle is between the have and the have nots. I seem to read daily about how corporations are getting their way because they have the money to walk the halls of power, while individuals find themselves increasingly marginalized and, as a result, behaving in less and less appropriate manners. An easy example of this would be the recent SOPA and PIPA acts; things that were so blatant in their attempts to suppress “piracy” that they actively overstepped the rule of law, yet were being seriously considered, seriously enough, anyway, for massive protests to be required in order to put a stop to them. Of course that isn’t the end of it, so what it demonstrates to me is how much effort is spent to increase or insist upon control.

A very similar argument could be waged against the drug war: we have lost it under any rational metric. However, instead of changing the policies of failure, a change that has shown demonstrable improvement in Portugal, we continue to fund increased surveillance and bigger prisons.

Why else would we do that, except to ensure control against a society that is increasingly insisting upon their rights?

And who benefits from having all these people jailed? Who benefits from ensuring that the authorities know what kinds of thoughts we are interested in?

This is the question I find myself asking over and over: Who benefits from this? Who benefits from curbing our rights so, to extending copyright beyond what it should be, to concentrating money at the top, starving schools for funding and imprisoning our citizens?

The answers seem to keep coming back to large corporations.

If, as you said in the last State of the Union, you believe that government should only do for people what they cannot do for themselves and no more, then why should our government assist any corporation that is successful? Corporate subsidies, laws dangerously slanted to their advantage, no-bid contracts: how is this not stepping into do something for these entities that they should be able to handle on their own?

They are dangerously close to creating a tyranny of the minority and what I need from my government is to protect me from that. Or at least level the playing field so that, as a nation of laws, I can expect those laws to apply in a just manner.

I think you also missed a golden opportunity in the State of the Union, sir. You said that you would sign a bill banning insider trading tomorrow, if it was sent to you. Which is great! However, there was an opportunity for you to tell the people of the country to motivate our representatives and it went by, lost. There was a chance to talk to us and I’m thinking you need to take it, sometime. The State of the Union was critical for Congress when television didn’t exist but now it’s a moment when everyone is watching and I believe you have a chance to challenge Americans to continue to do something great.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got for now. Other big ideas will come next time, I’m sure. My beer recommendation is Deschutes’ Red Chair NWPA (northwest pale ale—just a fancy name for a solid IPA) and I’ve just started reading Jacob Needleman’s American Soul. I’m about ten pages in and I’m thinking everyone should read it.

As always, I hope we get to have a discussion of some kind, someday but if not, that’s alright. Best to you and yours.


Thursday, February 23

The first ten years

It's not easy to recall what I learned when I was very young and everything gets put through a filter; time makes some things seem not as bad or less awesome. But I don't want to approach it that way, too much: the things I loved I loved. The things that were bad, not so much-even if now, it doesn't seem so.

I want to focus on the positive but I almost feel like that would be doing myself a disservice. I learned things and they weren't all good.

I learned that I would be mocked for loving something people didn't understand much about (in my case, dinosaurs and space exploration.) I learned that I didn't want to be different but I was; my clothes, my glasses, my interests. I learned to be exclusive, because I was afraid of being teased by newcomers and I didn't take teasing well at all from anyone, especially people close to me. I learned that being smart didn't seem to matter to anyone else but my parents.

I learned to hate work. I remember my parents bought me a 'Slave Boy' t-shirt because of my complaints. I think I took it pretty well, all things considered. I wore it, at least.

I learned that going to people in charge was no way to ensure that your problem would be taken care of. That one hurt, quite a bit.

I think I learned a lot of things that would make me sad, later and mean, too. But there were some important and good things too.

I learned the good guys didn't always win and that bothered me. They should. Being right matters-though at the time, I thought that being right meant getting your way.

I learned that you stand by your friends; the promise you make to them matters, because I didn't like it when someone broke a promise to me.

I learned that thunderstorms, light sabers and giant lizards with teeth were cool, that maybe the monsters weren't all bad. I learned to ride a bike. I learned I like to walk around and see the city. Wintergreen was tastier than spearmint. That there was something about girls that I couldn't figure out but I liked-or at least wanted to like. They scared the hell out of me. Women, not so much; they at least talked to me about things I could understand-or let me talk about things I understood.

I learned to build spaceships from Legos and Tinker Toys. I learned to tell stories and draw maps and all that mattered was that things were cool.

I learned to read and to love stories. I'm sure I'm missing more but there are three more decades to go and only so much time.

Thursday, January 26

Letter sent 1.26.12

Dear President Obama,
I hope your holidays were enjoyable! I’m writing this too soon to tell you about mine though but I have high hopes that things will be fine.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the saying “The good is the enemy of the great”?

That’s what I’ve been thinking about, when pondering some of the issues facing our country. Mostly, sad to say, how we as a nation seem to be settling for good and what good is defined as seems to be sliding towards the negative, wherever it can slide.

When I read about how your Justice Department fails to go after the people who broke (or likely broke) laws governing Wall Street so that our financial markets remain secure, or how people or corporations who were brought to trial were imposed paltry fines, I feel like we have merely accepted what is good, instead of what is great.

My brain drug up that saying, “The good is the enemy of the great”, after watching a piece on 60 Minutes, the one asking why nobody was being prosecuted for corruption on Wall Street, as a result of the housing crisis. During that broadcast, a woman charged with following up on reports of corruption at Countrywide said that she was told by a broker (I’m paraphrasing here) “I’m not paid by the quality of the mortgages I bring in.” That statement alone says much about what we are OK with as Americans, now.

It took about two days before I remembered a report I read on food in this country and why farmers are reluctant to switch to practices that are less harmful to the planet and provide better tasting food but will give them a lower yield. Again, I’ll have to paraphrase: “I am not paid by the quality of the tomato, but by how many tons I ship.”

On a personal level, I see this all the time: people ordering Pabst Blue Ribbon at a pub instead of an excellent microbrew, when the difference can be as little as seventy-five cents because they want more, not better.

Mr. President, if I want volume I’ll listen to Metallica. The 80’s stuff: I can’t stand anything done between 1990 and 2002.

In great societies, justice is something that comes to everyone, regardless of their station in life. Is pursued with appropriate vigor and more importantly, is celebrated. A society that recognizes and settles for the powerful doing what they want, regardless of the rules, is one that has settled for the good.

Neither of us is foolish enough to believe that the powerful will never find themselves in situations where they are untouched by the consequences of the law but to use that as an excuse to do nothing misses the entire point of having a society where one of the defining characteristics is that everyone is equal under the law, entirely because they are NOT equal (and in some cases cannot be equal) in many other places.
Yet here we are as a nation, in a situation where Americans don’t think that they are getting treated fairly in comparison to the wealthy. In many cases, they can demonstrate how this is true, pointing to situations both social and legal where a wealthy person had power they should not have. The proof is right there in front of their eyes and most are not in a position to change this.

To extend this to the farming world; the groceries I am able to purchase that are made with corn subsidies are significantly cheaper. I can get more of that food, but they are terrible for me in volume. Every respected study demonstrates this. Yet what is emphasized is more, instead of the quality of the food and the ability to feed ourselves as a nation and beyond, into the future.

Now, I don’t know how to address that mindset, precisely, but I do know that the consequences of relentless greed in our country have been more than adequately demonstrated and because we have decided to accept the good instead of strive for the great, those people who instigated this set of circumstances are not investigated nor prosecuted. That fact eats at us, as though we are being fed unhealthy food, especially when we see that your Administration has gone after government whistleblowers with a vengeance or that people responsible for our current woes as a nation, especially fiscally, are being put in positions of power in the government.

I don’t know how we become great until we expect greatness and that expectation has to come from the top as well as the bottom, Mr. President. I think we can be great; give us the circumstances to do so.

In the meantime, if you haven’t had a chance to try Sam Adams’ Mighty Oak ale, I recommend it. Solid malty brew with a hint of vanilla. I just don’t want to end on a down note, you know?


P.S. Nice State of the Union address. Maybe I’ll talk about that next time.

Tuesday, January 3

Welcome to the internet

Read this bit and some of the subsequent thread.

I have to say: this is why mob justice is frightening-it simply does not know when to quit. Dude was an asshole, dude deserved to be fired from his job.

But so many people didn't want to leave it there and so they end up threatening a wife and child. How is that OK?

You want the power of making right wrongs, bros, then you have to know when your right becomes a wrong.

Just sayin'.