Another one bites the dust

15 03 2014

I am an extremely lazy television viewer.

Not in the sense of not moving from the t.v. my external monitor, but in that I’d rather watch old shows over and over again than deal with the uncertainty of new shows. I watch to unwind, not get wound up.

There’s nothing wrong with such inertial sensibilities, at least as regards t.v. (and, it must be said, movies), but it does tend toward staleness. Thus, the only way to expand the comfortable old choices is to watch some new stuff.

Eureka worked out; Fringe did not. I’ve liked most of Waking the Dead, at least what’s available on Netflix, but it does seem like it headed toward MI-5 kill-everyone melodramatic cynicism. (Wallender is all right, tho’ a bit predictably dreary; don’t know that I’ll be revisiting that one, tho’ I may watch new episodes.)  And I’ve got some ‘new’ shows in my queue— Battlestar Galatica, Orange is the New Black, Top of the Lake, and a coupla’ other Brit-drams—which I’ll get to. Eventually.

Oh, and Leverage? Big enthusiastic fist-bumps for Leverage! Yes, formulaic and cartoonish, plot-wise, but since the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and the characters are witty and human and weird, well, big enthusiastic fist-bumps for Leverage!

So, anyway, another new show I was watching was Agents of SHIELD. I thought Thor was dumb, haven’t been interested in Iron Man/Captain America/The Hulk, zipped through an awful lot of the Avengers, and I have never been nor am I now a Marvel or DC Comic geek. (I only know about that distinction because of what I’ve read on TNC’s blog.) Still, sci-fi, strange tech: I could be up for it.

And so I watched. Some episodes I liked, some I didn’t, but I wasn’t so bothered as to stop watching. It was kind of mediocre, but I wasn’t so invested in the Marvel world that any plot problems really bothered me. It was slow in bringing everything together, but what the hell.

Well now I’m at to-hell-with-it. No, it wasn’t the poisonously oblique plot lines or the rushed intensity of the characters relationships to one another.

It was the beatings. The torture.

I’m not generally bothered by onscreen violence, and there isn’t overly-much in AoS—the expected battles of good-vs-bad guys—nor its it terribly graphic. That’s fine.

What’s not fine is the good guys beating the shit out of people they have in custody and having that be okay.

A few episodes ago Good-Guy Ward got the information he needed from a perp by threatening to have him sucked out of the plane.

This was not a problem for any of the other Good Guys.

In a more recent episode, another suspect was beaten (the Good Gal beating him was only stopped because she was needed elsewhere), then threatened with having his tongue pulled out and sundry other torments by yet more Good Guys.

Again, not a problem for the Good Guys. Which pretty much makes them not-Good Guys.

(I keep hitting the wrong key and typing “Good Goys”. Which, I guess, most of them are. Goys, I mean. Definitely not Good.)

This wouldn’t be a problem for me if this were all somehow to demonstrate the shadiness of the Good Guys and the moral peril involved in trying to be Good while sometimes doing not-Good. But that’s not how it’s set up: we’re supposed to cheer how bad-ass our Good Guys are.

Fuck that.

The Clairvoyant is bad because she (and, c’mon, she’s gotta be a she) engages in the crudest form of ends-justifying-the-means consequentialism. SHIELD has put the earth in danger and thus can’t be relied upon; someone else is gonna do what’s gotta be done to protect the joint.

Which makes her different how, exactly, from the Good Guys? Why shouldn’t I take her side?

Screw ’em all; I’m done.

So now I have space for another show. Maybe Friday Night Lights? Or how about Breaking Bad? At least we know (almost) everyone on that show is bad, right?





She sits by the hour maintaining her hair

11 03 2014

This should have been an omen.

You gonna get your head shaved? The Astor Place Hair man asked, in response to my request for a cut.

Ha ha, no. I don’t have the head-shape for it, I said, running my hand over my short-but-needed-a-trim hair.

I waited a bit, looking over the photos of famous people taped to the walls and doors, until the chair just behind and to the side of the reception desk opened up.

Just a trim, I said, but I like short bangs.

Ha ha, okay, said the cut-man. I make you see your face again. I grin-maced, took off my glasses, and settled in, waiting for him to wet down my head and ask what specifically I wanted done.

Never happened. Instead, he got out the electric razor and attacked my head.

Okay, not my head, but the hair on my head. I watched it drift down in alarmingly large patches.

You had lot of hair, said the cut-man.

I did not have a lot of hair.

No point in stopping him now. Bzzt bzzt bzzt. Thick squares of hair falling everywhere.

Now shorn, he decides it’s time for the water bottle. Now I use scissors.

Oh, now you use the scissors. When there’s nothing left to cut. Snip snip snip. Then back with the razor, bzzt bzzt bzzt. Then snip snip snip.

By this time I was telling myself It’s only hair, it’ll grow. And Hey, you always have to tell them to be aggressive, so. . . .  

Not a problem this time.

Now I see your face! the cut-man said, delighted.

There was no reason for such delight: I don’t have that great a face.

After my last cut, I said Holy moley, my hair has never been this short. Compared to this cut, that one left me looking like Rapunzel.

I’d say it’s butch, if I were at all butch-looking, which I am not. It’s just. . . very very, very very, very short. Very. Short.

Good news? It’ll be quite awhile before I need another cut. In the meantime: It’s only hair. It’ll grow.





Bound by the beauty

10 03 2014

It is shit like this that makes me, a fan of science, want to smash every fucking machine I see and go live in a cave.

What, exactly, smashes me so?

Not that mathematicians find some equations beautiful and others ugly.

Not the attempt by neurologists to look at brains looking at beautiful and ugly equations.

Not fMRI machines.

No. All of that is fine.

What is not fine is the presumption that functional magnetic resonance imaging studies—and neurologists—will be able to settle the age-old question of What Is Beauty.

I’m not exaggerating. These researchers, after having read a book on beauty, conclude the experience combines pleasure, reward, and hedonic states. “Whether one can ever experience beauty without at the same time experiencing a sense of pleasure and/or reward is doubtful.”

I don’t do the philosophy of aesthetics, so I’m hardly in a position to take on this particular definition of beauty, but when I say of Golijov’s Ainadamar that It makes me cry and I hate crying but it’s so beautiful how can I not listen to it . . . I don’t think I’m misunderstanding beauty.

These guys need to watch Moonstruck, is what I’m saying.





Doctor doctor

8 03 2014

Psst, Ben Carson, I gotta tip fer ya:

If you don’t want people thinking you’re equating “Obamacare” to slavery, homosexuality to bestiality, and a liberalizing culture to Nazi Germany, then, maaayyybe you shouldn’t, y’know, compare “Obamacare” to slavery, homosexuality to bestiality, and a liberalizing culture to Nazi Germany.

Just a thought.





Nevermind

8 03 2014

I wrote a terrible post yesterday: it veered off at the outset and I never quite wrangled it back in line.

Usually when that I happens I think Ah, what the hell and post it anyway. This time, I didn’t.

I’m learning. Slowly, but I’m learning.

Do allow me to lift the one thing that was good from that spiked post—and it was only good because it wasn’t mine:

I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.

-Elizabeth I





Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’

5 03 2014

It’s too soon for Barack Obama to say “fuck it”.

I know it’s too soon for Obama to say “fuck it”—midterm elections and all that—but is it too much to ask that he stiff-arms any Republican whinging about his “weakness” on Ukraine, and directs his press secretary to laugh at any and all questions regarding that whinging?

Yes, yes, there is a role for Congress to play in foreign policy, and Republicans have the right, even duty, to criticize the president if they think he’s going awry, but if these motherfuckers can’t be bothered to come up with anything better than Obama sux! , then fuck ’em.

And if it’s too soon for that, then an eye roll will do.





Free free, set them free

3 03 2014

I’ve banged on and on and on on the necessity of one law for all. Not this time.

In the interest of not repeating myself on purpose (I do enough of it by accident), I’m not going to outline yet again why broad religious exemptions from laws of general applicability are a bad idea, and simply jump to the conclusion: Religious institutions and their affiliates which hire and treat/educate/work with solely their fellow co-religionists? Fine: clear First Amendment exemption. Places of general accommodation? Nuh-uh.

Anyway, these proposed laws based on “sincerely-held religious beliefs” seem like a very bad idea for a very basic reason: who the hell is to determine what is a “sincerely held religious belief” and how is it to be determined?

Courts generally don’t want to have to deal with this, not least because they don’t want to be in the position of having a government body determining what is a religion, much less sincerely held beliefs about them. Yes, there are cases in which this occurs—conscientious objectors from the draft, IRS tax-exempt status, rights of prisoners—but beyond that, not so much.

More to the point, if I sue you for denial of service and you claim a s.h.r.b. defense, then my attorney is going to question you about your beliefs, how consistent you are in their application, your level of knowledge about your religion, and on an on. State legislators might think they’re handing you a get-out-of-court-free card, but if you get that card due solely to the sincerity of your belief, well then, that gives me incentive to challenge both the sincerity and the belief.

If you are in any way inconsistent—which is to say, human—it’s just possible that a jury of your peers will find that you don’t, in fact, believe what you say you believe. And even if you win, you and your beliefs will in the process have come under sustained official scrutiny.

It’s tough to see how that in any way advances the cause of religious liberty.





Through these fields of destruction

2 03 2014

I know zip about Ukraine & Crimea; this will not prevent me from having opinions about Ukraine & Crimea.

(Look ma! I’m pundit-ing!)

Anyway, the one thought that does keep popping up in me noggin is that Putin’s push in Crimea is a sign of weakness, not strength.

Soldiers, guns, tanks: these are artifacts of failure (of diplomacy, of cunning, of imagination); their use signals a breakdown, not a triumph.





Money for nothing

1 03 2014

Let us compare two votes, shall we?

One authorizes war; another authorizes benefits* for veterans of war. How well do these votes match up?

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL, voted in favor of the Iraq War; Senator Jeff Sessions voted against benefits for veterans of war.

Senator Richard Shelby, R-Al, voted in favor of war; Senator Shelby voted against benefits

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, voted in favor of war; Senator Murkowski did not vote on benefits.

Representative Jeff Flake, R-AZ, voted in favor of war; Senator Flake voted against benefits.

Senator John McCain, R-AZ, voted in favor of war; Senator McCain voted against benefits.

Representative John Boozman, R-AR voted in favor of war; Senator Boozman voted against benefits.

Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, voted in favor of war; Senator Nelson did not vote on benefits.

Representative Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, voted in favor of war; Senator Chambliss voted against benefits.

Representative John Isakson, R-GA, voted in favor of war; Senator Isakson voted against benefits.

Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID, voted in favor of war; Senator Crapo voted against benefits.

Representative Mark Kirk, R-IL, voted in favor of war; Senator Kirk voted against benefits.

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA, voted in favor of war; Senator Grassley voted against benefits.

Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS, voted in favor of war; Senator Roberts voted against benefits.

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY, voted in favor of war; Senator McConnell voted against benefits.

Representative David Vitter, R-LA, voted in favor of war; Senator Vitter voted against benefits.

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME, voted in favor of war; Senator Collins voted against benefits.

Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS, voted in favor of war; Senator Cochran voted against benefits.

Representative Roger Wicker, R-MS, voted in favor of war; Senator Wicker did not vote on benefits.

Representative Roy Blunt, R-MO, voted in favor of war; Senator Blunt voted against benefits.

Representative Richard Burr, R-NC, voted in favor of war; Senator Burr voted against benefits.

Representative Rob Portman, R-OH, voted in favor of war; Senator Portman voted against benefits.

Senator Jim Inhofe, R-OK, voted in favor of war; Senator Inhofe voted against benefits.

Representative Pat Toomey, R-PA, voted in favor of war; Senator Toomey voted against benefits.

Representative Lindsay Graham, R-SC, voted in favor of war; Senator Graham voted against benefits.

Representative John Thune, R-SD, voted in favor of war; Senator Thune voted against benefits.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT, voted in favor of war; Senator Hatch voted against benefits.

Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY, voted in favor of war; Senator Enzi voted against benefits.

Those who voted for the war and for benefits:

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA
  • Senator Thomas Carper, D-DE
  • Representative/Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS
  • Senator Mary Landrieu, D-LA
  • Representative/Senator Ed Markey, D-MA
  • Senator Harry Reid, D-NV
  • Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY
  • Senator Tim Johnson, D-SD
  • Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA
  • Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-WV

Those who voted against the war and for benefits:

  • Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA
  • Representative/Senator Mark Udall, D-CO
  • Senator Benjamin Cardin, D-MD
  • Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD
  • Senator Carl Levin, D-MI
  • Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-MI
  • Representative/Senator Bob Menéndez, D-NJ
  • Representative/Senator Tom Udall, D-NM
  • Representative/Senator Sherrod Brown, D-OH
  • Senator Ron Wyden, D-OR
  • Senator John Reed, D-RI
  • Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT
  • Representative/Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT (sponsor of benefits bill S.1982)
  • Senator Patty Murray, D-WA
  • Representative/Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-WI

If you don’t want to pay for the consequences of war, then DON’T VOTE FOR WAR.

And, goddammit, if we do go to war, then you pay to take care of those who fought the war.

Even soldiers in a stupid, shitty, pointless war deserve care.

*Technically, this was a cloture vote (requiring 60 votes to succeed), which is to say, a vote to stop a filibuster; voting yes on cloture would end debate and allow a majority vote on the legislation to proceed. The vote failed, 56-41.

~~~

According to Alan Fram of the Associated Press,

Republicans criticized how most of Sanders’ bill was paid for — with unspent money from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the winding down of American military involvement in Afghanistan. The GOP says those are not real savings because no one expected those dollars to be spent as those wars ended.

I’d go back and see how many of these. . . statesmen voted in favor of war-time tax cuts, but I really don’t have the heart.