I Just Finished – The Free Thoughts Podcast – Washington’s Five Tricks

So this is a bit political, though not “I hate the giant orange / I hate the scary hag” political. I listen to this podcast regularly. It’s produced by libertarianism.org and the Cato Institute, and I always find it informative and thought-provoking. I don’t always agree with everything I hear, which is a good thing, but, when I listen, I feel I’m listening to highly intelligent, highly educated people talking about things that actually matter. And by “things that actually matter” I mean pretty much nothing that most people are bringing into current political discourse. Russian collusion? Yeah, I believe it may have happened. I also believe it, or things like it, have been happening for a long time. If they upset you, stop voting for candidates who are involved with them.

Most people won’t do that. So they’ve chosen to live with this idiocy, and I’m not really interested in hearing them wallow in it. Continue reading

It’s Just Football! (Isn’t it?)

All right, I said I was just going to do short reviews until I was ready to release pieces of a bigger project. Said bigger project is at 8,000 words, and I’m still mulling it over. But this only-reviews thing just ran headlong into the thing that everyone seems to be talking about: football players standing, not standing, kneeling, hiding in the locker room, etc, during the playing of the National Anthem.

So I feel moved to say, “It’s just football!

Isn’t it?

No, it isn’t, and I know that. It’s not just a game, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry which is part of America’s civil religion. That’s not me being sarcastic, either. There is a recognized civil religion in this country, and pro football games are one of its sacred rituals. So, for a lot of us, those who would fail to behave as per accepted norms during one of the religious observances which are key to that ritual–i.e. those who are unwilling to stand for the National Anthem–are heretics.

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I Just Finished – The Handmaid’s Tale

This book came out my sophomore year in college, a time when I was both voraciously devouring science fiction, and still considered myself a bleeding-heart liberal. I mean, I had just voted for the extremely uninspiring Walter Mondale! Still, something about the book discouraged me from reading it. Maybe it was the fact that, though it was in the SF section of the (excellent!) UMCP Bookstore, it seemed to want to be ‘literary,’ and I have always distrusted pretentiousness. Science fiction was so often condemned for not being ‘literary’ that I didn’t want any truck with the other camp.

Or maybe it was that the clearly feminist theme was not something I wanted to dive into, given that I was in classes with a lot of budding third-wave feminists, and they were beginning to make me uncomfortable. I had certainly had my first encounter with the works of Andrea Dworkin by that time, and my response to them was, “Ew! Hate much?” (Okay, no, in 1985 no one talked that way. Still…)

But my wife likes the TV show on Hulu, and so the book landed in our shared audible queue. So I gave it a listen and I’m glad I did. It’s an honest book, and a thoughtful one. If deals in misogyny and religious fundamentalism, but doesn’t beat the reader in the face with either. It shows how members of an oppressed class can become their own worst enemies, enabling the oppressors. It has nice touches of humanity and well-developed characters, and it ultimately shows that, if one class is denied freedom, freedom is lacking for everyone. An important message.

Will I watch the TV show now? Hmmm… Anybody both read the book and watched the show?

I Just Finished – Superman (2016) #27

Two months ago, in honor of July 4th, Peter J. Tomasi, one of my favorite comics writers, together with Patrick Gleason, offered up a two-part Superman story called “Declaration.” Lois, Clark and their son, Jon, take a tour of the United States to visit historic sites. On this trip, they meet the Dowd family, who, for 154 years, have celebrated the birthday of Thomas Dowd, their ancestor, at Gettysburg. Thomas died in a military hospital and his body was never recovered. The story brought tears to my eyes, and not only because Tomasi and Gleason told it so well.

You see, I have a Thomas who fought in the Civil War. His name was Thomas Rathbone, and he too died in a military hospital. He was my great, great grandfather. His body, too, was never returned home. Over a century later, some of his descendants journeyed to Ashland, VA, to place a marker on a mass grave where we think he was buried.

The fictional Thomas Dowd fought for the Union army. The very real Thomas Rathbone fought for the Confederacy.

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I’ve been off in my corner

The boys are in my corner, at any rate.

Really. I’ve been hiding in a corner for all of 2017. You’ve barely heard from me at all, unless we had specific business to transact, or a family event to attend together.

Well, I’m coming out of my corner. Some. A little ways, maybe.

I want to tell you why I’ve been in hiding, but I don’t want to say too much.

I don’t really consider this vague-booking. Vague-booking is making a statement on Facebook (or, I guess, other social media) that grabs people’s attention, but doesn’t tell them what the hell you’re actually talking about. “I’m really upset with you. You know who you are. I think you suck.” That’s vague-booking.

Well, first, this is my blog, so I think that disqualifies my somewhat cryptic content. Second, I’m not hiding information from anyone because I want to taunt them, or because I’m trying to be mysterious. It’s just that I’ve gone through a hell of a lot in the past few months. A lot of it was painful. I’m not ready to talk about it in public. I may never be ready to talk about it in public.

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A Different Kind of “Bully!” – Hillary, Teddy and the Quest for Leadership

23158392405_d3e3b60cb8_o teddy_laughingSo the story goes like this:

  • Donald Trump is the Anti-Christ. If he is elected, America is over.
  • Hillary Clinton is the only other option. If you do not vote for Hillary, America is over.

I do not agree with either of these points, but, for a few hundred words, let’s live in a world where they are gospel truth, divinely revealed, handed down from the mount, and, of course, thoroughly fact-checked and proved bullshit-free.

While it astounds me that American citizens would complacently accept such a reality (addressed in my post here), it is the narrative for about half of us, it seems.

So I have to ask, if Hillary Clinton really is the competent candidate I’m told she is; if the Democratic Party really is the friend to The People that it claims to be; if Trump’s nomination really is proof that the GOP has lost cohesion and isn’t going to be with us in any form we recognize…

Then why isn’t our one candidate trying to adapt and make herself more palatable to the entire electorate? Why run an adaptation of Bernie Sanders’s socialist-inspired platform, munged with W. Bush’s imperialist agenda, at such a time? Why make extremism our only option?

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Check Your Premises, Not Your Privilege

I try to keep an open mind about different world views. That just seems reasonable to me. Like the five blind men and the elephant, we each see a different piece of the truth. It would be a bit silly for me to stand here, screaming “I have scientific proof that an elephant is just like a snake!” while I hold its trunk and you hold its ear, and neither of us sees the whole animal. It would be just awful if I then added that you are evil and a threat to our society because you were part of the “elephant-is-like-a-carpet” set, and thus a snake-denier.

Yet that’s just the kind of thing that’s happening right now in the United States, as a loudmouth, a gold digger and a senile idealist walk into a primary. (God, I wish that was the opening to a joke! If it is, the joke is on the American people.) People are just being nasty to each other.

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I F___ing HATE Political Memes!

I hate political memes. Hate them with a fiery passion. A person’s political philosophy is, or should be, too complex to fit into a few words crammed onto a photograph. If a person’s philosophy is not too complex to do so, then I would submit that they need to delay participating in civil society until they’ve learned a bit more about the world and how it works.

That said, I can think of two philosophies that fit in a meme that are valid: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “And ye harm none, do as ye will.”

I don’t see either of those being posted on Facebook, though.

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Never Fear, Failure is HERE!

fearfailureLast week, while walking on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, I saw a shirt that gave me pause. It said, “Fear Failure.”

Fear Failure? Yep. Apparently it’s an Adidas campaign. It puzzled me about as much as did the word “Adidas” when it started appearing on peoples’ shirts. I thought it meant something. (It’s just a portmanteau of the company founder’s name, Adolf Dassler.)

Sorry, Adidas, but… Fear Failure? I consider that an asinine — and particularly American — sentiment, ironic that the shirt is marketed by a German company. Doubly ironic, because the young gentleman wearing the shirt was clearly Asian, and was speaking a non-English language to his friend as they passed. The shirt was bright green and yellow, as I recall, and I assumed from the font and design that it was geared toward athletes of some stripe — possibly even surfers. Though why surfers should fear failure I’ll never know. Continue reading

Words Overheard in a Restaurant

The words came at me suddenly, from over my shoulder…

“I hate Muslims!”

“Well, of course. And they’re all going to hell, because their religion is satanic. They worship a false god.”

“What about the Jews? And let’s not forget Mormons…”

So I was at dinner with my family, an evening out that was to be followed by a movie, and I heard this conversation going on behind me. I’d known that this was a group of Christian gentlemen, because they’d begun their dinner with prayer. I hadn’t heard most of their conversation at that point, except for the word “libertarian,” which always jumps out at me. Most people don’t use it. Those that do usually have very strong opinions about libertarians, one way or the other. Of those who both use it and have strong opinions, only a fraction probably know what it means. Continue reading