Monday, December 10, 2012

Sheep and goats

So, we just watched a movie called "Goats."  It wasn't, I'm afraid, terribly good, except I suppose that we probably should cheer now whenever nobody in a movie has superpowers, so there's that. 

But I guess it may have been very good in that I'm thinking about it hours later.  The issue is that the main character lives with his New-Age-y flake mom and her boarder, "Goat Man," who spends his days hiking in the desert with a couple of goats and growing weed, and who has been largely responsible for the kid's development via those two hobbies.  And the kid goes off to an East Coast males-only prep school -- students all white far as I can tell -- of the Phillips Exeter sort.  Reconnects with his estranged father, a businessman out of Princeton, summers at Telluride, the whole white-bread success thing.  Gets into running and academics, learns to appreciate the pudgy roommate who wants to got to Yale, grows somewhat out of the lost-in-the-Southwest stoner vibe.  The potential love interest is a girl with a crazy/wild lifestyle but a hidden mind-of-gold, sneaks into the library to read the Great Books, and the protagonist flirts with her but ends up deciding to keep away, probably sees -- like his father would -- the danger of her unsettled/crazy lifestyle and choices: she is not his social equal.  I mean, OK, he keeps a foot in both cultures, but it's about a kid becoming a Harvard Latin scholar or the like.

So, OK, another coming-of-age thing.  But in an odd mold.  The pattern is typically the young guy from the Establishment breaks out into the wild side -- think "Risky Business" as the archetype, even maybe "Rushmore" -- and this thing goes 100% the other direction.  I suppose at one time the "Goats" progression would've been more the norm -- think "Great Expectations" or even "Huckleberry Finn."  So I don't have a lot that's profound to say about it but I've been trying to think about how it became expected that the coming-of-age story goes away from authority.  Or maybe it usually doesn't and it's just more subtle: the hero matures into society but it isn't as overtly joining the Elite.  But I still think this blows against a wind where the hero is supposed to break loose of the strictures of societal expectations (OK, yes, he is doing that from the perspective of the society he comes from, but you get what I mean: we don't usually figure it this way). 

Man, I wish it had been a better movie though, there's something there that someone smarter than me could've worked with.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another fallen hero

I think Carl Prine is one of the bravest, most honest voices on military issues out there, even when I don't agree with him.  Few people will call BS on great reporters like Tom Ricks or Rajiv Chandrasekaran so casually, and still get the better of the argument.  Nobody else seems so willing to name names instead of bitching vaguely about "the generals" or "the leadership."  He's honest and funny and seems to have spent a lot of his career doing the kind of feel-good local journalism that keeps the field working.  And his heroism in combat shines through in Owen West's new book.

So watching him lose the battle with brain injury so publicly, breaks my heart.  I hope he still turns it around somehow.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lizard music

I'm sure "Benedict Cumberbatch" is a hell of a talented and nice guy.  But, damn, his name makes me want to buy an iguana so I could name it that.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Invisible mind

So I'm in a line, I'm waiting for my name to be called, there's a huge TV on with no sound and it's showing an ad for a new Colgate tooth whitening product, with pictures of smiling people with white teeth and big big splashes of whiter-than-white paint.  OK.  The product's name?  "Optic White." 
     WTF?  Are we completely illiterate now?  Who the hell greenlighted that?  Was it lurking in his subconscious?

Friday, January 20, 2012

But back to SUBSTANCE

Hey, what I miss most of 2011: Paul Motian and Sam Rivers.  Two HUGE losses.

Cut and run

So, this here ain't one of them political blogs.  Ain't my thang.  Lots of smart people are doing it, besides.

But I'm not a particular fan of the little nutcase known as Ron Paul.  I'm not fond of libertarianism as it is usually manifest.  I'm not well disposed to his racist associations and writings, or his ideas about civil rights or religious liberty or money or pretty much anything.  And then there's this crap.  But lots of folks, from surprisingly diverse parts of the political spectrum, seem to think the little guy's the bomb.  And because his little racial problems come up a lot, there has somehow been developed a stock rejoinder that, hey, man, Paul is the best damn thing going for them blacks, because he wants to end the drug war which imprisons so many blacks, they'll dig it the most!

So I think that's the biggest lie of the campaign season so far.

Look, I don't think the occasional doobie is doing anyone any harm.  And I'm well convinced by arguments that the drug war does more harm than good, here and abroad, and may aggravate the very problems it seeks to mitigate.  I'm all for stopping that.

The "drug war" has created a massive prison population of largely harmless individuals.  Now, that prison population is disproportionately minority -- but then again, minorities also seem to get disproportionately hit for non-drug crimes, and for that matter we seemed to do a hell of a good job discriminating against minorities in the legal system before we had the drug war, so I'm not really convinced that drug laws aren't just a handy pretext and that in their absence we won't find something else to hand.  Now, you could mitigate those problems with strong civil rights law and federal bans on racial profiling or discrimination -- but guess who opposes those things?  It's also ridiculous that in many states a huge part of the black population can't vote because of laws disenfranchising felons -- but presumably you could fix that easily without reference to drug laws, and again, guess who would find that an unConstitutional stepping on states' privileges?  If Ron Paul wanted to help minorities from being sent to jail by drug laws, he has easier ways to do it!

I also know lots of people whose lives were simply, completely ruined by drug addiction, sometimes even addiction to weed or alcohol or stuff I find minor.  Now, I've heard Ron Paul (in a speech that should shame some med school somewhere) making fun of addicts who need government help not to be addicted, so I know he doesn't care a lot about these folks.  But I do.  So when I talk about "ending," I'm talking about moving away from jails and busts and investigations and more into treatment and prevention -- something that will also require money, and compassion.  For that matter, addictive drugs can be damn dangerous things and probably should be, if legally sold, subject to medical regulation and supervision.  How do we figure Ron Paul feels about those things?

The absence of that regulation, or of treatment and support, will be felt most brutally in minority and disadvantaged communities.  Furthermore, some part of money and effort in the "drug war" has gone into finding ways kids in those communities can keep busy and improve their lives without falling into the criminal activity which pervades them, and into more engaged and active law enforcement and social investment in those communities.  Simply cut off, as opposed to reorienting, the "drug war," and those things collapse.  But the violent networks and structures that strangle those communities will not collapse so easily, and will continue their damage with no interest from the likes of Dr. Paul.

When we go into someplace and trash it in the course of toppling a dictator we don't like or chasing out a terrorist group, we have a moral obligation to try to rebuild.  Now, I find it perfectly understandable that after some length of time and some loss of blood and treasure -- different people will have different sense how much that is -- we say, the hell with it, we've given it our best shot and that moral burden is no longer part of our strategic calculus.  But the disadvantaged fellow Americans whose homes are being destroyed in this "drug war" are our own, and simply quitting and going home as opposed to repurposing, figuring out what resources that needs, and committing them, is morally empty, and I'm getting sick of being told otherwise in wide-eyed credulity.  What's on offer is the ability for white kids in the suburbs to get a hit without worrying about the Man.  That's not nothing.  But it's not some great bit of philanthropy either.