“Let’s move this table out of the way,” Kevin said. He rolled over in his hospital bed and shoved the rolling table aside, while I scooted my chair closer.
I held up my iPhone so both of us could see the screen. I poked and prodded and showed Kevin a little trick; setting Spotlight search so that Application results were at the top of the list, and turning off unneeded results like Mail or Podcasts to speed up search, so that he could use Spotlight as an application launcher, as I’ve been doing ever since I accumlated more than 3 screens worth of apps.
It was a small moment in my visit. The dark hospital room, late at night. Him laying in bed, in scrubs, unshaven, tired but still alert.
I felt the sadness at his illness, which seemed vastly unfair for a man six years my junior. I could see that he did not want to be alone, but knew that I had to leave in less than 20 minutes, to ride the bus back to my side of town. I knew that he was an extrovert; he drew energy from interacting with others, nearly my opposite in that regard.
I felt the long years we had known each other, and the laughter we’d shared, and the occassional bitter words that estranged us for a long-but-short time. I fretted about the effect of all this on his wife, and his children, so young to be exposed to a truth about life’s ebb and flow.
And I remembered a nerdy chubby 12 year old, so many years ago, showing off something cool when his 6 year old friend came to visit. The 12 year old me, patient but excited, explaining the intricacies of some electronic doodad he’d been given, sharing with the 6 year old Kevin, and then the two of them making up stories about it and losing themselves in play for an afternoon, until his parents came in to tell him they were going home.
Some things never change, I suppose. Except that the past gets layered on top of current events, shading what’s happening. Those layers are what we call nostalgia.
The fear and anger at what the near future holds, though – do we have a name for that?
I know this news came up an epoch ago in internet time (last week) but in the interest of demonstrating consistency in opinions (which is apparently not required of more highly-paid pundits) and in fulfilling my duties as a blogger, I would like to state here and now, that I am appalled, ashamed, shocked and a bit frightened that it appears President Obama, a man I supported for the presidency, has authorized the death, without due process or trial, of an American citizen.
If you read the above link, from the Guardian, a newspaper from the United Kingdom, you’ll learn that the person who has been given a death sentence by the elected head of the now aptly-named Executive Branch, has been “linked” to a failed plot to bomb an airplane full of innocent victims last Christmas. The person, one Anwar al-Awlaki, was born in New Mexico, which makes him nominally eligible to be elected to the same position that Barack Obama now holds – although I doubt Anwar al-Awlaki would make it past the arduous primary process, regardless of how socialist/communist/fascist/Democrat our country has become since November 2008.
This is the logical endpoint of the rise in Executive Branch powers that have been claimed going back several administrations, administrations of both Democratic and Republican colors. To be sure, a craven former official from the 43rd president’s administration would not go on the record with his or her name, but did attempt to avoid any shadow of war crimes prosecution by pointing out that there appears to be no record of the 43rd president ever taking this particular step. Oh, would that there would any shadow of war crimes prosecution in our country.
Shit, I know, I know, that I’ve said this before, but try as I might, I can’t find a link now. I’ll update this if I find it (or if someone finds me saying the opposite) but let me clearly state my position on whether presidents who swear an oath to uphold the United States Constitution should be able to imprison, or restrict the free speech of, or assassinate, or plant evidence on, or abridge our freedom from state religion, or in any other manner restrict the rights of American citizens: No, they should not.
No president should have the powers that I’ve seen presidents use for as long as I’ve been watching presidents. And that goes for ones I voted for just as well as those I did not. I draw the line. I don’t care what the rationale is. I don’t care if they’re “keeping the country safe” or “protecting our national interests” or whatever bullshit reason they give.
No president should have these powers.
Update: I found a post where I made my position clear, although it does not explicitly mention political parties. In September 2007 I wrote, in regards to electing Steve Novick to the US Senate (my emphasis added):
“Steve Novick is on the side of the majority of Americans and Oregonians on many issues: universal health care, getting US troops out of Iraq, returning to the 500 year-old principle of allowing all humans the right to challenge their accuser in court (habeas corpus), and holding the Executive Branch accountable in order to prevent future administrations to abuse the powers Bush/Cheney have claimed in their devastating terms in office.”
If that’s not clear, I will make it clear now: When I wrote those words, I meant to include all administrations, Democratic, Republican, Whig, No-Nothings, Teabaggers, you name it. No president should have these powers.
In the olden times, my music collection process looked like this: I’d listen to the radio, and when I heard a song I liked, I’d make a mental note about it. Then when I had some money, some time later (and in the olden times, I didn’t have a lot of extra money, not that that would stop me from spending what I had, mind you) I found myself at a record store, I’d browse among the aisles and maybe see a name or picture or hear something playing in the store that reminded me that I liked that artist or song, and I’d go find that album, and maybe, sometimes, I’d buy that album.
Then I’d take it home, play it, make a cassette of it so I could take it with me, and listen to it over and over again until I knew every song, in order, by heart. I’d read the liner notes, and look at the pictures, and sit there in my gigantic headphones soaking in the music and the feelings.
Sometimes I’d be at a friend’s house, or at a party, or in their car, or talking to them at work, and they’d mention some artist, or song, or concert, and that would also get filed away in my brain for the next time I had money to spend or found myself in a record store, or the music section of my local one-stop-shopping store.
The problem with that was it was very reliant on a long chain of events and serendipity. There were a lot of places where that chain could be broken, resulting in me not adding new artists and new music to my personal soundtrack. A major one, if a subtle one, was the fact that most of my discovery relied on local radio, which rarely stepped outside of the bounds of what their owners decided to play, which meant music meant to appeal to a a common denominator, and also, advertisers. In my hometown of the Portland of Oregon, there weren’t a lot of radio stations playing stuff from the bleeding edge.
It changed a bit for the better (better meaning more novelty) when I finally fell in with a group of people who had more varied tastes and knowledge. Expanding my circle of friends also expanded the music I was exposed to (and books, and movies, and TV shows, and cultures… but I’m just thinking about music at the moment).
Then for the longest time, I stopped buying music. I didn’t have a car so I didn’t listen to the radio as much. CDs showed up and they were just as expensive as vinyl was. I’m not really sure what happened but I just stopped paying for music. Maybe I had less money. Maybe I had less interest (there were other things going on in my life, y’know). Then it started changing again.
Oh, wait, I know what happened: the MP3 format was invented, and the internet got fast enough that I could download a 4 minute song in less than 4 minutes, and people invented software that let people share those compressed but still good enough songs. I started collecting music on my computer. The bulk of my early collection wasn’t downloaded from strangers on the internet, though; the bulk was a big chunk I copied from another friend’s computer to mine, about 15 GB worth to start me off. I got a MP3 player to listen to a few at a time (my first MP3 player wasn’t an iPod it was a Diamond Rio MP500 that could hold about 32 songs at “high quality” and 64 songs at “low quality”).
But a funny thing happened: getting a song here, and a song there, sharing music, searching other people’s collections and seeing that this person had some Bad Religion but they also had Social Distortion and the Dead Kennedys: browsing Napster was like the best parts of the early process. But in those early days, with bandwidth still constrained, I couldn’t get all of a collection. I could get a few songs, and it would whet my appetite for everything that artist did.
Is that just me? Maybe I just have the collector’s instinct. Regardless, I started buying music again. Oh, I was still mad at the big labels and the RIAA for making me feel bad at sharing music, so my solution was to go buy used CDs. They were half the cost of a new album, so I could own (or license, I suppose), legally by the rules the RIAA and the labels enforced, the music I loved. But I never would have bought those CDs if I didn’t have an option to hear that music. And I found stuff that I had never heard on a Portland radio station.
And now I get to my main point: I’ve been listening to iTunes Radio for the last few weeks. I’ve tried Pandora and it was interesting but the interface was borked by the fact that they are a small company and they are beholden to the RIAA and the labels. And the RIAA and the labels don’t really get it yet.
But Apple’s iTunes Radio doesn’t play ads. They don’t break up the music from time to time with weather, or the news, or paid sponsor bits. And I can get it on my iPhone, on my laptop, or (the vast majority of the time) on my home entertainment system via my Apple TV. That may not make a difference to you, the lack of ads and the ease of being built-in to the devices I use all the time, but it does to me, apparently. I’m surprised by it myself.
And I realized today, as I heard a great song (“Long Way From Home” by Foreigner), turned it up until it was loud enough to annoy my neighbors, and then clicked 3 times and added it to my collection…
…the songs themselves are the ads. Apple got $1.29 from me after playing four songs. Well, Apple is only keeping 30% of that; the rest goes to the labels, and some small part of that trickles down to the artists. But I’ve been buying more music lately. I’ve bought three albums and five single tracks in the last few weeks that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I have a feeling I’m not alone (am I?) in this, either.
It has other benefits, too. I can tune the station to make it a better recommendation engine for my own tastes. I can skip songs (like anything by Rush, ugh, I’ve never liked them) or like songs. I can create my own stations with my own mix (try listening to what happens when you seed a station with Bad Religion, Patsy Cline, and Ray Charles). I can’t help but think that if over the air radio had something like this years ago, they could have continued to stay relevant. Of course, the technology didn’t allow instantaneous purchases back then, so that’s a pie in the sky dream.
But man, I’m so glad to be living in the future.
Sitting at the sidewalk cafe you take a look at your Rafters Breeze Wedge Sandals, the left one dangling a bit, the right one with its sculpted rubber outsole firmly planted against the concrete. The walk here from the hotel was a perfect morning: sunshine, attractive foreigners smiling and saying ciao, and your stride long and secure. You were so glad you came to Rome, and you're extra glad you brought these sandals. They're fashionable but comfortable, and the perfect footwear for the sunny Mediterranean climes. You and your Rafters Wedge Sandals are ready to explore.
Stylish and warm at the same time, the Volcom Carpel Full Zip Hoodie is made of soft warm fleece, and lined with water resistant Hydrophobic Fleece to keep you dry and insulated. The ribbed cuff and ribbed hem hug your wrists and waist, and the regular fit means comfort. Everyone will notice the discreet contrast colored drawcord and hood lining, at least those times you've got the hood down. You'll want to wear your Volcom Carpel Hoodie all day, every day, both because of how you feel in it, and how you look in it!
Easy women''s fashion is a great way to describe the Burton Logo Horizontal Fullzip Hoodie, because it''s made from soft and comfortable 85% Cotton, 12% Polyester, 3% Spandex, as well as 280G fleece which provides a midweight amount of insulation. Regular fit means it''s great for daily wear, or at school; just throw it on, toss your keys and phone in the kangaroo pocket, zip it up if it''s chilly outside, and head out the door! The Burton Logo Hoodie is the perfect topper for a casual outfit.
I am glad that Measure 66, the initiative to raise the top rate for individuals making over $125,000 and families making over $250,000, and Measure 67, the initiative to increase the minimum corporate tax from $10 to $150, appears to have passed. At least, when I went to bed last night, the local newspaper, The Oregonian, was predicting they would both pass.
Which has to gall the editors at the Oregonian, considering the apparent lies they were telling in regards to the ballot measures in the last few weeks.
Be that as it may, I am hopeful that the measures passed due to some good ol’ fashioned populism. In my view, the rich have been getting theirs for quite some time, and meanwhile our basic, shared, infrastructure has been falling apart. Gee, cutting taxes doesn’t create jobs and help everyone out; who knew? Our streets are broken, our schools aren’t teaching, our sick aren’t getting healthy.
Passing these two ballot measures will help fill the giant budget gap that has been the result of the conservative movements anti-tax experiment. Conservative darling Grover Norquist’s desire to “drown government in the bathtub” is repudiated. Or so I hope.
Someone has to make the argument that government, as an institution, can make our lives better, not worse. Someone has to say, repeatedly and forcefully and sincerely, that government is the only institution we have that can face down amoral corporatism and redress the balance of power.
Of course, government that isn’t made up of the efforts of citizens is nothing more than another wing of corporate power. Which is pretty much what we have right now on a Federal level.
But the progressive movement is growing and that includes more involvement in government by regular folks.
Score one for us progressives today with the passage of Measure 66 & 67.
Star Wars opened 37 years ago today. If my memory serves, and it might not, it played at the Westgate Theater in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, and it would run there continuously until 1980, when it was replaced by the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, one of only a few theaters in the country allowed to do that. Times were different then.
I, however, did not see the original Star Wars in one of the big cinder-block multi-screen theaters, and I certainly didn’t see it opening weekend. Many kids at North Oak Grove Elementary School did, however, see it, and they talked excitedly about the droids and Darth Vader and made swooshing lightsaber sounds at recess to each other. It was a simpler time. None of us cared about spoilers yet. Star Wars was in the air and we absorbed every molecule.
I hadn’t seen the movie while my classmates were planning on seeing it again and again, as the school year dragged on until summer. I had, however, read the book, the novelization. Even though the book (obtained via the Science Fiction Book Club, where once a month I’d get cheap book-club editions of whatever was featured; thanks, mom and dad, for feeding my habit) had a section of pictures inside, my own imagination took Alan Dean Foster’s words and created my own visuals to go along with them. If I concentrate I can still almost remember what my original version of the Millennium Falcon looked like, or Luke and Leia’s swing to safety to escape the Stormtroopers. My mental version was more colorful, more like a comic book, or maybe like Gene Roddenberry’s late-60s Enterprise bridge, and less detailed.
I begged to see Star Wars. Or maybe I pouted and sulked for being denied the seminal experience of everyone else at school. But I remember bringing it up and having dad say, “there’s no way in Hell that I’m going to stand in line for a silly science-fiction movie.” It was a new phenomenon, waiting in line for a movie and seeing it multiple times, one that local and national news programs reported on breathlessly.
Grandma Hayner and her sister, my great aunt Carmen, sat around one lazy warm afternoon complaining that “the kids” were idolizing this war movie, when they hated war. I tried to argue back that it wasn’t a war movie, not like, say, Patton or The Green Berets. “Of course it is! It’s right there in the title!” Aunt Carmen shot back, and I couldn’t muster a counter argument. That was long before I consciously realized that a movie about war can actually have an anti-war message. That kind of thinking would come later.
I don’t know what day it was when I finally got to see Star Wars; it was after school had let out for the year, so… mid June? The school year was longer then, too. But one afternoon, dad finally agreed that we could go see this movie. But not out in Beaverton, not where we’d have to wait in line. No, his compromise was seeing it in a tiny little theater out in Estacada, a little town out on the Clackamas River, up in the mountains. He figured it would be much less crowded, and also, cheaper. We all piled into the car and went for a drive.
Dad was wrong, though. There was a line. He had guessed wrong; lots of people had had the same idea. We did manage to get in, though. Memory is so unreliable; all I remember is that once I walked in to that theater, I was lost. My dad, mom and sister faded away, and all I could see was that galaxy far, far away. It was probably a dingy screen and a horrible sound system but when Princess Leia’s ship zoomed past, followed by the enormous Star Destroyer, red and green blaster bolts flashing, I was there. It may as well have been a direct brain feed. The celebrated “lived-in universe” of George Lucas felt like my home.
Happy anniversary, Star Wars. May the Force be with you.
Lunar Obverse: I am who I am and so is everyone els...