Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reduxing the Zeitgeist

Movies, even mediocre ones, are being remade with greater frequency as our culture demands "new" entertainment without new ideas. We're no different politically.

As Iran unconscionably replaces Iraq in our warspeak, the nation prepares to replace a Bush with a Clinton again. I believe this will be a national mistake, not because she isn't qualified, but because she will merely employ the same old executive ideas (and their expert spin-sters) we've suffered through for a generation. She's essentially a Reagan Democrat, recently a Jesus-freak lite, all for big money and lobbying and executive power and free market solutions. She galvanizes the opposition because she is too like them for their own power-loving comfort.

Certainly she will mollify some on the left with standard centrist positions, but she'll take what she can get from W's excesses. She'll come back 50 steps from his 100 steps into crazy and consolidate power in the executive branch. She'll do better than W, but not necessarily different when it comes to power. She'll crony and spin. Support for the third Bush will crystallize around what will become hatred of all things Hillary, as the conservative hounds will bay mercilessly after the old Clinton scent. As much as I'd love voting for a woman to be president, I believe a vote for Hillary in '08 will result in President Jeb in '12. I hope I'm wrong.

We need new ideas, not yet another Poseidon Adventure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An Itch to Scratch: Unintelligent Design, or Reducible Stupidity

Balls, the very testicle--that haphazard refugee from the body and its sterilizing heat--offer proof of the opposite of intelligent design.

This shifty pair, rather, proves hasty design:

trailer-park-engineer, duct-tape-spliced-extension-cord, tinfoil-rabbit-ear "entertainment system" design;

neophyte-deity-pulling-an-all-nighter-after-bingeing-all-weekend, hoping-to-pull-a-C- design.

What god except a punishing trickster would've--rather than ensconce the family jewels in, say, an irreducibly complex velvet-lined cooling system secure deep in an abdominal haven--hung these all-important procreative nuggets in a handy sack, providing easy, painful, and potentially emasculating access to dangers as varied as invading hordes, royals who like their singers permanently falsettoed, angry ex-lovers, and careless leg-crossers?

Testicles--those perfunctory dangling shape-shifting afterthoughts fashioned from leftover skin and wires exposed to all manner of nauseating abuses--are prime evidence of theologically shoddy design. I suppose Dr. Behe might say the Prime Mover--the Causus Ballus, if you will--was too busy fashioning the flagellum for bacteria to spend time on a proper house for our homunculi. So, Dr. Behe, I say nuts to your intelligent design, ballocks to your irreducible complexity.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Global warming feels like Fresno

Perhaps if global warming were described in this way, people would pay more attention to it.

Meanwhile, Dean begins perhaps the latest fall onslaught as it starts winding up in the mid-Atlantic. Will it be Nolan Ryan in his prime, or a Hoyt Wilhelm knuckler that floats around and dies at the plate? At any rate, I'll be checking the forecast, watching the satellite, wondering, worrying, thinking about the weird arcing blue light, the hum of power lines crashing, blowing out the transformers, watching the trees all night.

In California, we worried about earthquakes tacitly, distantly. Your disaster or relief comes instantly. Hurricanes come in like political campaigns, with a lot of noise and bluster, polls and forecasts, this sick anticipation and even disappointment should it fizzle, pure terror if it comes full strength. Global warming feels like Fresno. Global warming feels like junior high, bully on the corner you have to pass to get home.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Not much to post about lately. The beginning of school is upon us here and every day is devoted to meetings. We're all wonderful. We're going to have to tighten our belts. The parking situation is a mess. Correcting the parking situation will be a mess. We have to do more with less. Growth. Attrition. Retention. Accountability, accountability, accountability, and more (fake) accountability. The missionstatementization of higher education is rampant and sitting in meetings on metrics and efficiency and infrastructure occur with increasing frequency. It's not that these things are all inherently negative or useless. Some of those things lead to positives: cool new buildings, a giant Starbucks, a bigger bookstore. It's just that what seems to get lost in all this kind of consideration is our students. Our students as individuals. That will, I hope, change Monday. School will start. They'll be looking at me wondering what the hell we're going to do all semester. And that's when it will finally be real again.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

For All Those Lost

Fresno High School's class of 1977 will hold its 30th reunion this Saturday Night in Fresno, California. Circumstances don't permit me to attend, but I thought about going, so I looked up info on the alumni web site, perused a few pictures, read names I hadn't thought of all these years trying to raise a family, start a career, move to Salt Lake, Santa Barbara, finally the Southeast.

I'm thinking of Jerry Haydostian right now because his name isn't listed among the dead with old friends Kurt Pempek and Craig Jue. He isn't the only one missing, but he was as much a member of our class as anyone else. He moved around the corner from my parents' stucco tract home on Lafayette when we were still in elementary school. I knew him a little from the neighborhood, stingray bikes in summer, his shock of blond hair, his intelligence already clear in the creative ways he approached things, the way he talked, the way he looked at things. We became better friends in Jr. High-- Cooper with its low roofs, caves for locker rooms, Algebra with Shegeby, wood shop with Peterson ('rrrrrRRRR-ight! cut the horseplay!), English with Ms. Wofford. He was one of the smart kids. At FHS we joined Senate together along with Jim Bane and Paul Luby and Danny Morgigno, and we took German and his hair grew longer, but he was still that smart, friendly kid. He always made you laugh with his wry sense of humor and easygoing personality.

He also didn't let on too much about what was going on in his head, his confusions. He didn't quite fit in, not completely, not in Senate, he wasn't an athlete, and he didn't like to showboat. We all talked about girls, but I don't remember a particular girlfriend. We also once talked about a teacher we shared, a teacher who liked to have students over to his house, our German teacher, Mr. Roy, who told stories and made you feel intelligent if he was interested in you, and it was hard to imagine him as anything other than a fat old kraut, but he had illicit designs on the young men he invited to his house, and both Jerry and I were unfortunately objects of his predilection for young men. My own story is documented in a poem I published years ago, only remarkable for its sad banality. Jerry's story remains implied in the questions he asked me that day. He nodded a lot. He didn't say a lot. He didn't need to. Back then, confused as we would have been even in the healthiest of environments, the added confusion of Andre Roy's affections doesn't necessarily explain anything, but it added an unnecessary burden. Maybe more than most, though, Jerry was one of our classmates, and this is for you, Jerry.