Tuesday, December 11, 2012

     That prison is ourselves that we have built,
     And, being so, its loneliness is just,
     And, being so, its loneliness endures.
     But, if another came,
                          What would we say?
     What can the blind say, given back their eyes?
     No, it must be as it has always been.
     We are all prisoners in that degree
     And will remain so, but I think I know
     This - God is not a jailor....

-Steven Vincent Benet, excerpt from John Brown's Body, Book 5

Lincoln really was a Hebraic saint, for the mid-century American modernists - a beau ideal for the Ugly American - not smart, not beautiful, not quick, but making a virtue of stubbornness and essential honesty. When did we lose our way? Was it when the Ugly American became a taunt and an accusation, rather than a quiet, self-effacing assertion of battered virtue? When the Quiet American replaced it in the hearts of the wise? When the educated and would-be elite spat scorn at the "middle-brow" staring back at them in the mirror?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

So much for hopes and dreams.  Turns out, they were "the ghosts in the burning city of our time..."

"This is for you who are to come, with Time,
And gaze upon our ruins with strange eyes."

Nightmares and Visitants really is a heartbreaking book.  He saw death on the march, saw the tens of millions that would suffer, would break, and die.  He's largely forgotten now, which is another sign of our decline and coming fall.

We will not be saved, because we don't deserve to be saved.  We have more wealth than any people to ever trod this earth, and less wisdom than ever.  We have more people in school, than ever, and they seem engaged in the destruction of understanding and knowledge. 

The country wants to be a child again.  A simple majority has chosen to vote themselves back into the womb.  But they've put the management of that vast national womb in the hands of a chaotic crowd of imbeciles, incompetents and, I fear, at least a few abortionists.
An angel came to me and stood by my bedside,
Remarking in a professorial-historical-economic and irritated voice,
"If the Romans had only invented a decent explosion-engine!
Not even the best, not even a Ford V-8
But, say, a Model T or even an early Napier,
They'd have built good enough roads for it (they knew how to build roads)
From Cape Wrath to Cape St. Vincent, Susa, Babylon and Moscow,
And the motorized legions never would have fallen,
And peace, in the shape of a giant eagle, would brood over the entire Western World! "
He changed his expression, looking now like a combination of Gilbert Murray, Hilaire Belloc and a dozen other scientists, writers, and prophets,
And continued, in angelic tones,
"If the Greeks had known how to cooperate, if there'd never been a Reformation,
If Sparta had not been Sparta, and the Church had been the Church of the saints,
The Argive peace like a free-blooming olive-tree, the peace of Christ (who loved peace) like a great, beautiful vine enwrapping the spinning earth!
Take it nearer home," he said.
'Take these Mayans and their star-clocks, their carvings and their great cities.
Who sacked them out of their cities, drowned the cities with a green jungle?
A plague? A change of climate? A queer migration?
Certainly they were skilful, certainly they created.
And, in Tenochtitlan, the dark obsidian knife and the smoking heart on the stone but a fair city,
And the Incas had it worked out beautifully till Pizarro smashed them.
The collectivist state was there, and the ladies very agreeable.
They lacked steel, alphabet and gunpowder and they had to get married when the government said so.
They also lacked unemployment and overproduction.
For that matter," he said, "take the Cro-Magnons,
The fellows with the big skulls, the handsome folk, the excellent scribers of mammoths,
Physical gods and yet with the sensitive brain (they drew the fine, running reindeer).
What stopped them? What kept us all from being Apollos and Aphrodites
Only with a new taste to the nectar,
The laughing gods, not the cruel, the gods of song, not of war?
Supposing Aurelius, Confucius, Napoleon, Plato, Gautama, Alexander—'
Just to take half a dozen—
Had ever realized and stabilized the full dream?
How long, O Lord God in the highest? How long, what now, perturbed spirit?"

He turned blue at the wingtips and disappeared as another angel approached me.
This one was quietly but appropriately dressed in cellophane, synthetic rubber and stainless steel,
But his mask was the blind mask of Arcs, snouted for gas-masks.
He was neither soldier, sailor, farmer, dictator nor munitions-manufacturer.
Nor did he have much conversation, except to say,
"You will not be saved by General Motors or the pre-fabricated house.
You will not be saved by dialectic materialism or the Lambeth Conference.
You will not be saved by Vitamin D or the expanding universe.
In fact, you will not be saved."
Then he showed his hand:
In his hand was a woven, wire basket, full of seeds, small metallic and shining like the seeds of portulaca;
Where he sowed them, the green vine withered, and the smoke and the armies sprang up.
"Nightmare, with Angels", Steven Vincent Benet 1935
We thought we were done with these things but we were wrong We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom. We thought the long train would run to the end of Time.
We thought the light would increase.
Now the long train stands derailed and the bandits loot it.
Now the boar and the asp have power in our time.
Now the night rolls back on the West and the night is solid.
Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon's teeth.
Our children know and suffer the armed men.
excerpt from "Litany for Dictatorships", Steven Vincent Benet, 1935.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

I woke to a dream of my whole neighborhood lined up outside the precinct, waiting for the doors to open.  They turned and asked me "where have you been?"

In this freakish, horribly nostalgic season of old miseries and old terrors, there are sad truths, and then there are persistent hopes.

In the pre-morning darkness, I believe in my neighbors. I believe that we haven't yet gone into that greater darkness which is behind the darkness.

I believe I see, in my mind's eye, that colored scrap of cloth above the scorched battlements, beginning to lift on the first faint breath of a predawn breeze.

Get out and vote.  Every damn last one of you all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Well, that was relatively mild, at least so far.  Doesn't look like any major flooding in the borough as of yet.  The business park lost its power for an hour or so yesterday afternoon, so the office is covered in heavy-duty power cords leading back to the generator power taps.  Technically we're closed, but what am I going to do, sit around the house and watch anime all day long?

Jason woke me up last night to ask if town was on fire, apparently there was some sort of dramatic reddish-purple glow in the skies to his west.  Ended up going out into the heart of the storm, got a bit soaked, best anyone could guess - Jason wasn't the only one to see the glow - is that one of the transformers down at the substation northwest of town must have exploded, but not in such a way as to bring down the power, at least not in town.

Other than the creeks being up and a lot of rain, not a lot of visible damage, at least between here and home.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Long day yesterday knocking on doors.  A bunch of different neighborhoods.  Patton Township is kind of odd, one set of blocks looks like rural Florida, the next Gaithersburg, Maryland, and the next Park Forest, which is ironic, because the neighborhood is about two miles from, well, Park Forest. ^_^

One thing I encountered, which I haven't seen before, is two townhouse developments with enclosed courtyards and the "front door" hidden behind closed gates.  Like a dozen or two dozen one-family gated communities.  Like gated communities for hostile, suspicious loners and misanthropes.  Your front door is your window on the world, on the rest of humanity.  Hiding it behind a six-and-a-half-foot-tall gate is just... secretive and repellant.  One guy invited me into his courtyard, and I swear to god, sat me down with a pair of axes buried in a stump sitting behind me.  Very unnerving, and he was one of the more welcoming denizens of those particular streets.

Bad morning, better afternoon, fairly good evening as far as the fruits of my local corner of the campaign.  Ended up talking to one retiree for twenty minutes, which was interesting and all, but I was trying to beat the sun for the end of that particular neighborhood's strike-list.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Heads up, the Romney campaign office in State College (205 E Beaver, first floor on the left as you come in the main entrance on Beaver) had Romney/Ryan yard signs as of Saturday evening.  I spent about twenty minutes putting together signs that evening while I was waiting for the office manager to get back from dinner.  They also had R/R bumper stickers, I grabbed one because I don't have a yard to put a sign in.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Shortly after Brazier died, Obama issued a statement saying of the man he had once helped put 15 poor families on the street in the dead of winter:

"There is no way that we can replace the gentle heart and boundless determination that Bishop Brazier brought to some of the most pressing challenges facing Chicago and our nation."

From this article "vetting" the sitting president.   It's astonishingly awful.  The next time someone calls Romney a heartless plutocrat, point this out to them.

How the hell did they get away with it?  I'm pretty sure anyone trying to do so in Pennsylvania would be sued up one wall of the courthouse and smeared down the other wall like a nasty outtake from the Exorcist.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

"The government is the only thing we all belong to."

Someone actually said that, put it in a video, and broadcast it at the Democratic National Convention, letting it go out over C-SPAN.  Intentionally.  That's horrible, sick.  That's a declaration of aspirational slavery, of willingness to be owned.

Man, I'm so glad I re-registered Republican when I bought a house in '09 and moved my residence.  I don't think I could take the shame of being a registered Democrat with that sort of thing being said in my name.


Friday, August 31, 2012

New mainstream media stylebook definition of "a lie": a Republican national candidate accurately and precisely describing an embarrassing fact or narrative of events which casts a Democratic national candidate in a negative light.

Also, based on the report on the radio on the drive in this morning?  "independent fact-checkers" should now be taken to read "captive re-tweeters of in-house Democratic campaign talking points".  It's very strange - the convention coverage on NPR in the evening isn't especially over-the-top aside from E.J. Dionne - but the morning news is pure Mouth of Sauron, Democratic party propaganda plain and simple.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I went to the Romney victory centre in State College this evening, to make a few calls and watch the convention on their C-Span link.  The calls didn't go so great - they're still knocking the bugs out of the hookup for the phone survey system, and I'm just terrible at the scripted phone calling system.  I'm just not a salesman, and I'm  not good at scripts.  More interestingly, there was a journalism professor who thought it meet to send her students into the victory centre to pester the volunteers on convention week & find the less well-coached, well-prepared volunteers in order to harass them into silly arguments.

After the phone system crashed in early-days bug teething - typical for this time of year - I heard the professor baiting the least-prepared and most-voluble volunteer into all sorts of silly statements.  He's young, and unprepared, and pugnacious, and silly as all hell.  So I intervened.  I made the argument for limited government, Hayekian or even Burkean limitations upon government policy swagger, and quoted A Man for All Seasons, which the professora either had never heard of, or was willing to let me go toddling over the edge of the precipice.  Admittedly, I let myself riff randomly on my old, personal theory about Obama being a physical and moral coward, but towards the end, I managed to touch on the idea that the democrats are too fond of absolutist abuse of "Imperial Presidency" renunciation of small-R republican checks and balances, talking about the Obama administration abuse of executive orders in re: the workfare cancellation and the DREAM Act enactment via executive order.  Since I had a copy of Remini's third volume of his long-ass Andrew Jackson biography, I talked about his tendency towards direct-democracy pretensions and how that turned into a species of tyranny despite his claims to constitutionality and adherence to classic Jeffersonian limited-government constitutional piety.

I \dunno if I changed any minds there.  Most of her students had already left by that point, the only one listening was the young girl who had interviewed me earlier, whom I hadn't given really any thing of value.  The hard-shell ideologue who had baited the youngblood fool into jabbering about gay marriage and birth out of wedlock seems to have left long before I started debating her professor.  Which is a shame, because these were all journalism students, except for the professor, and really, somebody should have burned into their psyche the understanding that baiting some random young fool into a response you were looking for is in no way a valid goal for honest, objective journalists.  The idea is to bring forth the basic ideas of the organization under investigation, not to torment the young and foolish until they provide a hook for  your partisan distortion of what you think they're about.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

We defy augury; there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come:  the readiness is all.

That damnable neurological experiment showing a gap between impulse and decision which was used to suggest that conscious will was an illusion, an artifact of will rather than the thing itself - another group has come forward with further experimentation and evidence suggesting that the predestinates were mistaking a sort of wilful carrying wave of varying intensity for the act of choice itself.  That further suggests what laymen have long known - certain people have a property of faster, more decisive action, and that quality of rapid, sharp decision is both dependent on state of mind, and an exhaustible resource, which after long periods of use, leaves an otherwise agile and forceful mind flacid and incapable of further emotional and mental effort.

Of course, I, wanting evidence of free will, am more likely to accept this presentation as it re-establishes a predicate which I find palatable.  But should I reject a finding because it squares with my prejudgment?


Saturday, July 21, 2012

So I went to see a matinee showing of The Dark Knight Rises, there was some talk about a mass shooting in Colorado on the radio, but I didn't hear until I got out of the showing that it had been in a midnight showing of the same damn movie.  That was... odd.

The movie was kind of a disappointment, BTW.  Much more like Batman Begins than Dark Knight - very much a movie of pieces, poorly digested chunks and scenes without any real integration or thematic consistency.  I don't know why Nolan finds the Ra's al-Ghul/League of Shadows storyline so engrossing, but it... just doesn't work.  At least not for me, but then, I react poorly to "all-powerful conspiracy" narratives, I tend to fear and respect chaos (the Shuler Joker) more than hidden order (the League of Shadows et al).  Mostly because I tend to think that man-directed hidden orders are inherently fragile and implausible.  Mafias don't produce terrorist political revolutionary conspiracies - political revolutionary conspiracies and terrorist cults degenerate into mafias and fissiparous criminal families.  Entropy only really works in one direction, and Eternal All-Encompassing Ideological Conspiracy is a violation of the second socio-political law of thermodynamics.

Also, the Miranda Tate character makes no sense.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Longmire is a pretty good cop show.  About a Wyoming sheriff in a county on the Montana border, lots of rural West politics, decent if not brilliant writing.  Nice to see Katie Sackhoff getting work, and Lou Diamond Phillips has gotten better with age.  They're going to have trouble after a season or so with believability, though - rural ranching counties just don't have that many murders compared to LA or New York.  It'll turn into a grittier version of Cabot Cove in short order, I fear.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

This report that H&R Block messed up their joke Bruce Wayne-vs-Peter Parker tax comparison by totally blowing the charitable-deduction rule -  you can't deduct more than 50% of your adjusted gross income with charitable contributions, you can only roll the excess over to later years - doesn't exactly fill me with confidence in their tax-preparation service.  I've been using their cheap online service for the last four years, since it's relatively quick - takes a long afternoon - and the results *looked* good.  But now I worry about what might happen if I get randomly audited and it turns out that their code is based on wild guesses instead of solid tax advice.  I've never understood the way the "Making America Work" deduction works in their online software, for instance - did they screw that up somehow? 

I don't have a complicated financial life - mortgage, single, not that many charitable contributions, local and state taxes, no real income outside of work, few medical expenses - so I'm not *seriously* worried.  But... concerned, maybe.  Does anyone else have a favored, cheap tax-preparation service?  I can't see actually hiring a CPA, I just don't have that sort of cash flow to justify it.

(BTW, I saw that gag tax ad on a comics webzine a couple weeks ago.  Laughed, didn't think much about it past that.  But there's a difference between a webgag and a for-real advertisement for tax preparation services.  Screw-ups are fine for the former, all good for a laugh - but if you're selling your expertise?  Argh.)

via the usual.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Jay Cost argues that Roberts was playing a long game in the tradition of John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, leveraging a decision in favor of the current administration in order to advance the long-term interests of the opposition party.  That would be more strikingly clever if John Marshall's political party, the embattled Federalists, hadn't been a dead letter inside of fifteen years after Marbury v. Madison.  Their shattered remnants eventually were absorbed by one of the Monroe-era factions of the other, dominant party, and most of their policy goals were left drying on the rack for decades afterwards.

In the long run, we are all dead.

(Sean Trende, whom Jay Cost used to work with, gets deeper into the history of Marbury v. Madison here
We had a storm blow through last night about quarter to three.  Glad I woke up, because I had my windows open upstairs, and the floors would have gotten (more) soaked.  Not only could I walk in the dark by the lightning flashes, I suspect I could have read by it, the strikes were so rapid and sustained.  Limbs were down all over town, but the cleanup crews were going gangbusters, and no roads were blocked on my way in to work.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.

Boy, Chief Justice Roberts really doesn't care about poor people, you know?  If they want to vote to burn down their own houses, he'll let 'em.  It's refreshingly anti-paternalistic, but also... kind of castle-in-the-sky.  Congress has become increasingly incapable of hacking through the tangled thickets of rank, over-grown legal code.  People had kind of hoped that the Court would help matters by cutting the Gordian Knot.  But the Chief Justice doesn't fancy himself an Alexander the Great, to take sword in hand and destroy the puzzle for us.

Anybody have a set of tweezers?
So, like everyone else with a political interest, I'm waiting on the expected Obamacare rulings today.  It's due sometime after 10 AM Eastern.  SCOTUSblog usually runs a live-chat during these sessions, I was hanging out there last Thursday and Monday for the last two of these sessions.

So, I went to the doctor the other day.  Relatively good news - nothing seriously wrong with me, I just have to change my diet.  No more eating like a college kid.  Sigh.  I've gotten fat again.

Update: Well, crap .   Looks like it was mostly sustained, 5-4.  They called BS on the "it's not a tax" thing.  But that was always happy horses**t, and everybody knew it. Only thing we got out of it was a talking point for the elections.  Between that and getting rid of the ACA monster, I would have preferred they killed the monster instead.  Politicians come and go, but the evil they do lives on after them.  This probably means that the ratchet has snapped into place, we'll never be rid of this remora.

Monday, April 30, 2012

I heard a lot of good reports for the Whedon/Mutant Enemy horror film the Cabin in the Woods recently, so I went out to catch the matinee.  I'm not normally a horror fan, and have completely avoided the recent trend in sadistic puzzle-torture-box franchises like Saw and Hostel and the like.  I don't even particularly enjoy your run-of-the-mill zombie-apocalypse flick, so perhaps I was being self-deluded in thinking this movie would be my sort of thing, but I've been fond of previous Mutant Enemy productions, and went in smiling.

I am not going to cater to anyone's highly sensitive NO SPOILERS sensibilities, for either the Cabin in the Woods or Tucker & Dale Vs Evil so please don't read further if that's a problem for you.

Anyways, I went in expecting something half-comedic, since that was the sales pitch that everybody was making.  I did *not* find it to be particularly funny, but then, nihilistic slaughter-porn about elder gods, evil bureaucracy, and metafictional commentary about slasher pictures probably shouldn't be funny to anyone with a functioning moral sense.  The Cabin in the Woods has a close didactic relationship with its contemporaneously filmed peer Inglourious Basterds, as both of them are essentially j'accuse diatribes against the target audience, with evil villains who watch satirically nasty filmatic depictions of abomination with sadistic enjoyment, so that when those paper villains are subsequently horribly destroyed by each film's nominal protagonists, the audience is primed to applaud their own condemnation-by-proxy, just punishment, and symbolic demolition.  The proper (and probably intended) response to both films is a combination of sickened revulsion and shame, a feeling that one has participated in something vile and degrading.  Both movies are in effect anti-spectacles, aimed at destroying the audience's emotional connection with the genres they are satirizing, namely, war spectaculars and slasher pictures.

Mind you, both films are spectacularly well-constructed, well-made, and highly polished - marvels of technical competence, especially in their screenwriting and script-doctoring aspects.  This emphasis on the Cabin in the Woods's supposed surprises and secrets is exaggerated, really.  The lack of any strong characters or emotional provision of connection to those characters leaves the audience with plenty of time to take in the fairly broad hints and suggestions which serve in place of explicit explanation of the premise.  It's pretty obvious from about ten-fifteen minutes into the movie that the story is one of ritual sacrifice, the details which are filled in afterwards are just that, details and justifications.  Instead of elder gods, those "downstairs" might as well be the actual viewing audience - it would have only made the movie just a hair more metafictional.

Some people have noted that the film sort of acts like a hard-R long episode of Buffy or Angel, with the nameless corporation running the ritual sacrifice acting as sort of a vicious blend of Buffy's Initiative and Angel's Wolfram & Hart.  The problem here is that the Initiative season was the weakest season of Buffy, unsatisfactory and overpoliticized, and I, at least, had as much of Wolfram & Hart from the Mutant Enemy crew as I ever cared to see.  Furthermore, the Cabin in the Woods acts as so much of a literal Bottle Show that there's no sense of how the events interact with a greater world.  So, when (SPOILER!) the surviving kids destroy the world, the movie almost gets you to celebrate; the script certainly acts like it wants you to buy-in to the conceit that "we've had our turn", so wipe out the world, sure, fine, kill everybody!  It only works because the kids are shown as having no family, no ties, no human life beyond their status as, well, status-seeking college grinds.

That leads into the next problem, which is the writers have built into the film this conceit that society is "sacrificing youth out of envy", that torture-porn slasher films are all about hatred of the young, vital, and beautiful, that somehow the inevitable demolition of Hollywood, music-industry, and other entertainment flash-in-the-pan celebrities are baked into the cake.  Now, this may be some sort of reflection of the creative industries themselves - there's been some ripping horrible stories of systemic child molestation, prostitution, and epic "using" coming out of that sector in the last three-four years or so - but it's a total non sequitur for describing the world in general.  Furthermore, given that the audience for slasher pictures are usually (or at least traditionally, among a segment of "geek culture" the youth-culture genres of their youth end up becoming increasingly creepy and age-inappropriate as they fail to let go of their expiring youth) teenagers and young adults.  Normally, these films don't cater to the middle-aged and elderly, you know?

But basically, my complaint about the movie is that it just made me sad, upset, and depressed.  I don't go to movies to feel bad, and I don't like movies that are trying to get me to agree with the thesis that "people suck and should be allowed to self-destruct".

That brings me around to a movie I also had heard some good buzz about, but which never made it to theaters in my section of the country, or came and went without me having noticed in time: Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil.  I used the "rental" feature on Amazon on Demand, and watched it yesterday afternoon as a palate-cleanser.  The evil murderous, bigoted hillbillies were presented without any real irony or sympathy in the Cabin in the Woods, they were just vicious, clownish animals used by the evil conspiracy to destroy the victim college kids, they had no moral agency of their own.  Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, on the other hand, is made from the view-point of a pair of clownish hillbillies, the Tucker and Dale of the title.  They, themselves, have bought their very own Cabin in the Woods, and they've just blown into the woods with a trailer and truckbed full of horribly dangerous sharp implements, planning on renovating that sucker into a nice "vacation house".

I've observed elsewhere that there are two species of TV police procedural, one made by creators who fear chaos and the world, and one made by creators who fear the devil and evil designs.  The latter is filled with wicked conspiracies of the rich and malign, like Castle;  the former features protagonists always struggling against a tide of petty evils and wickedness, marinating in a bubbling cauldron of stupidities, selfishness, and desires gone awry - shows like the Shield and The CloserThe Cabin in the Woods is very much an exemplar of a conspiracy show, a Manichaean fable of corporatist, bureaucratic demiurges building a wicked world in a bottle within they plan to destroy their children.  Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is a chaos story, wherein the innate craziness and emotions of the children are the problem, the threat.  The eventual antagonist of the latter movie is a Knight Templar gone horribly, horribly wrong.  He rants and raves about Evil, with an explicit "E", and his paranoias, stories about old murders, and seething hate for "hillbillies" - born out of his mother's survival of a previous massacre as a Final Girl - spark the second, accidental massacre.

In the Cabin in the Woods, the college kids are manipulated towards their bloody ends by a careful conspiracy of banal evil, a corporatist act of puppeteering.  The college kids of Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil are panicky, ignorant, and horribly, horribly careless.  They *are* the children running about in the rye field by the cliff in Salinger's evocative metaphor, bound to go charging blindly out over the abyss without some careful adult to catch them before they fall.  Or, at least, by a pair of dimwitted, amiable country boys just looking to help.

In the Cabin in the Woods, the college kids' stupidity is carefully crafted, created, and pr-ordained by evil intent - the monstrousness is so by corporatist agency.  In Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, their stupidity is innate, the result of kids being kids, addled by adrenaline, fear, paranoia, pot, and massive, comedic carelessness.  The hillbillies have their own faults, aggravated by too much alcohol, stupidity, and their own adrenalized outrage, but the kids are the drivers of the confrontation, and by and large kill themselves or each other.  In the end, the movie's incidents are described by the media as an inexplicable mass suicide, and to a certain extent, that's the truth.  Only one kid is saved from the cliff hidden in the rye, but at least she's saved.  It's the distinction which saves the movie, keeps it from being another sadistic exercise in torture, humanizes it.  As much as Shaun of the Dead, Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is a comedy in the end, a buddy picture, and something of a romance.  It isn't one-fifth as well-made as the Cabin in the Woods, and is full of plot holes and okay-sure-whatever arbitrary scripting, but at least the core emotion is marginally uplifting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

So, I've been very, very inactive.  Sorry.

Senatorial primaries today.  Rohrer has been getting on my last nerve, Smith just sends glossy mail, but the damnedest thing... Welch called me personally last  night, or at least, someone of about the right age and accent claiming to be Welch, so it must have been him.  I said I was worried if a US Senatorial candidate was calling individual, not especially active voters on Primary Eve, but he was the candidate which most closely matches my personal inclinations.  So...he's basically a Toomey guy, young, successful entrepreneur - runs some sort of med-tech manufacturer down in Chester - and is more than a little defensive about having been a Democrat in 2008.  I told him I agreed that the important part was campaigning for McCain in the General Election, which he did.

So, go out and vote Welch?  The other guys either aren't trying, or are kind of obnoxious.

Doing my due diligence on the convention delegates , I'm thinking Styn, Haas, and Corman for the delegates, and Settle, Flavin and Salmon for the alternates.  Maher for Auditor General, because his opponent seems to be simultaneously a dilettante *and* a banking lobbyist, which isn't what I'm looking for in a glorified Head Accountant for the Commonwealth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A technical exercise:
The dream repeating in every night
Dreaming emptily and lightly of darkness
Deeper and deeper until the waking light
Afloat like embered paper-scraps burning
Over warm and scented gusts of wind
Ends my restless and loveless waiting

Within, the dream-walls echo, waiting
Wherein, breathing, some fragment of night
Drawing the air into lungs this wind
Exhaling heatened, the air to the darkness
Unknowing embraced by that silent burning
Unseen in those long moments without light

Oh, how long are the hours between light and light
How often do I spend those dreaming nights waiting
The candles too dear to waste in burning
Away the looming unseeing walls of night
And the heatened chambers, even in darkness
Stifling without the charity of a chilling wind

And what would I do, in those nights without wind
If in that restless sleep of slender light
Those rustling dreadful legions of darkness
slipped past my opened window and candle, waiting
Tumbled lit into the curtain to bring the night
Into a sudden furious holocaust burning?

That harsh and solitary burning
Flicked into life by some wicked wind
Flame asunder this peaceful night
Kindled blankets combusted under flame-lit light
And burn away the flannel under which lies waiting
My unknown soul hiding in darkness?

Better then to lie alone in that darkness
And forebear this tempting candle's burning
Spend rather these nights in restless waiting
And lock the casement 'gainst a vagrant wind
In timid fear of careless wax-lit light
And dream alone of endless night

Hold, darkness - birth me a passionate wind!
Spark a slumbering ember into burning light!
And fire! Consummate this waiting night!

Reading a set of annotations on Bujold's A Civil Campaign, I found myself reading about sestinas, and decided to write one to understand the form a little better. Back when I was writing bad poetry, someone accused me of being a "formalist", although my actual knowledge of the traditional forms was appallingly slight. I figured I ought to try my hand at this at least once.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

I've started reading Caro's [four? - the first volume claims three, but you know how trilogies' waistlines expand once they sit down to the dinner table] volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. These two sentences, wrote about the Texas Hill Country, have to be the saddest things you can possibly say about agricultural land:
It was rich because it was virgin. And it could only be virgin once.

But then, how often can something like that be said of the land the southern smallfarmer encountered on their slow-motion pillage across the continent? They lacked science, and prudence, and made up for it with passion. And I don't like this business about homesteads not being subject to foreclosure or bankruptcy - this chapter is entitled "the Trap", but that little detail about Texas Homestead law just screams "trap" to me. You can't own something if you can't lose it, and you can't learn from your folly if you're protected from its consequences. I guess you can lose the land you bought in the normal course of events, but then, that means in a failure, you're left with forty or a hundred and fifty acres and an operation that requires three hundred or three thousand acres to actually turn a profit - depends on the local conditions, really.

Speaking of conditions, before this, I was reading Pietrusza's book on the 1948 elections, and while talking about farming agitation about prices, and Dewey's failure to answer those concerns, he points out that corn prices had dropped suddenly in 1947-8 from $2.50 a bushel to $1.60, or thereabouts. Current corn futures as of this moment is $6.58 a bushel. Think about that - the inflation-adjusted cost of a 1948 bushel of corn was ~$22. Admittedly they were also averaging 38 bushels to the acre instead of today's 168 or so, but damn, that's an expensive baseline for feedstock.