Happy Thanksgiving!

I apologize for the sporadicism of my narcissistic blogging. We’ve got grundles of family coming into town for Thanksgiving, and between work and housecleaning, Mrs. Cornell would have my head on a stick if I blogged any more than is absolutely necessary – and since no blogging is absolutely necessary, that settles that. I want to get another chunk of the book online for you to read at your leisure over the Thanksgiving weekend, but that’s probably going to be my last post until next week. So enjoy, sports fans! We have a 35-pound turkey in our fridge that was alive on Monday. It’s going to be tasty, indeed.

Mini-Reviews

Those who are reading my book and have not yet commented on 5.2 – meaning everyone but thursowick – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE give me what for. These comments are more helpful than you know. I eagerly await your reviews.

Reviewing things is fun to do, anyway, isn’t it? Which is why I have prepared a series of mini-reviews of a bunch of crap I’ve seen and done over the last few weeks. Enjoy!

EXPELLED – NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED

I was eager to see this movie in theatres, and it came and went before I could get there. I’m the natural audience for something like this – I’m not hostile to Darwinism, but I’m open to discussion on the subject. I like Ben Stein, and I thought that if anyone could make the pitch for Intelligent Design as an alternative theory, he could. So we Netflixed this sucker and popped it into the DVD player.

Well, I’ve only seen half of the thing as of last night, and color me underwhelmed. It’s not that the arguments aren’t persuasive – they make a great case for the idea that groupthink and thuggery dominate the modern scientific community, and they expose the militant atheism of the hardcore Darwiniacs – but that the whole movie is a cluttered, convoluted mess. Instead of letting us sit and watch people talk about things, they underscore every conversation with loudly obnoxious New Age music, and every other sentence cuts away to some cutesy black-and-white little pop culture reference – we’re talking evolutionary theory, andup pops Edward R. Murrow or Gary Cooper or The Wizard of Oz to make a wisecrack. It’s really annoying, and it demonstrates that they either don’t trust their material or their audience. Probably both. I’m not sure if I’m going to make it all the way through this one.

JOHN ADAMS

As I blogged earlier and as was posted at Aint It Cool News some months ago, I was present at the premiere of the HBO miniseries based on the McCullough book , and I saw the second installment of this series on the big screen. I loved it, and I said so. Now, having gone back and watched most of the rest of the thing, I’m far less impressed. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney both play one note through the whole thing – Giamatti is akin to a crusty old woman, and Linney is a wide-eyed ice queen. That’s not bothersome in small doses, but nine hours of it gets to be a bit much. I also don’t understand why they age Linney by giving her bigger and bigger hair as the years go by.

The other problem is that they lift all the dialogue directly from Adams’ letters, which makes for stilted conversations that are, at times, inappropriate. Adams recites his failures as Ambassador to France to the coachman taking him away from Versailles, which the real Adams would have seen as a huge breach of etiquette. The other problem is that there’s very little after the Declaration of Independence in Adams’ life that lends itself to direct dramatization. Watch him be bored as vice president! See him ask for a loan from the Netherlands! Watch as he gets sick! To mitigate this, they toss in utterly random nonsense, like when we get to watch the Adamses reconsummate their marriage upon Abigail’s arrival in France. Ummm, ick. We didn’t watch the last two episodes which cover Adams’ presidency and his death, and those might have been interesting, but we’d had enough.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK

Netflix brought us this little gem, too, which is a reboot of the series after the noble failure of 2003′s Hulk. I wasn’t all that interested in seeing this until after I saw Iron Man, which holds its own with The Dark Knight as the best superhero movie ever made. The Hulk is a companion piece to Iron Man, as it further sets the stage for the upcoming Avengers movie that will use all these heroes at once. Unfortunately, The Incredible Hulk feels a lot like exposition, which is kind of boring. We learn about the super soldier serum and such to prepare the way for Captain America, but the use of it feels tacked on, as does the central villain, who is bad solely for the sake of being bad. Edward Norton sighs and mopes his way through this movie, and a slightly heftier Liv Tyler is an ever-breathless and completely implausible research scientist. William Hurt’s turn as General Ross is well-received, though, although he’s the only interesting character in the mix here.

And the plot! How dumb is it to send a team of commandos after Banner in Brazil but not tell them that he might hulk out? The idea that they want to use his blood to make weapons is stupid, too – and it’s been done, better, in the Alien movie series. This whole thing was buy-the-numbers superhero boilerplate, and an all-CGI hulk is tiresome to watch. If I have to watch a glorified videogame, I’d rather play the videogame instead.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3

Saw it with the kids. I liked the first two, actually. This one felt like one too many trips to the well. The characters were exactly as they’d been in the last two, and who needs to see Sharpei scheming and Troy and Gabriella mooning and Ryan firmly ensconced in the closet one more time? The new kids were unlikeable, especially this “Rocket Man” doofus. And I told my boys that if they give up their dreams to follow a girl to college, I’m disowning them.

This movie was a case of having too much money thrown at a story that was already spent. The songs were forgettable; the story was tepid, and the whole thing felt padded. I kept looking at my cell phone to see if it was time to go.

So it seems like I didn’t like anything. Sorry. I’ll give better reviews if I can see better movies.

Chapter 5.2

David had kept the taxi waiting as he knocked on his mother’s front door. She hadn’t answered, which came as a disappointment but no real surprise. She hadn’t answered her phone either, and David had no idea where she was. He now had nowhere else to go but home.

So he climbed into the back seat of the cab, gave his apartment address, and closed his eyes, desperately hoping to drift off to sleep. He had the beginnings of a headache, which was starting to bother him. Still, it didn’t keep him from drifting off until somebody spoke.

“Wild night, innit?”

It took him a couple of seconds to realize it was the cab driver talking to him. “Yeah, pretty wild,” David muttered, closing his eyes again. Take the hint, David thought. Shut up and let me sleep.

“Terrorists. In LA. Who’d a thunk it, huh?”

“Yeah,” David said. “Look, I’m kind of tired. You mind if I…”

“Don’t let me bug ya,” the cab driver said earnestly. “No problem.”

David thought that was the end of it until the guy turned up the music. Idiot!

For a fleeting moment, he thought he felt his hands swell, but he buried that feeling with ease. This guy’s annoying, but he’s not going to die for it.

“Could you…” David began.

“Too loud?” the driver said. “Sorry.” He turned down the volume dial. The music was still annoying, but it was just white noise. It didn’t take long for him to drift off to sleep.

He started dreaming almost immediately.

David knew he was dreaming, which allowed him to distance himself from what he knew was coming. His mind cast back to an unnaturally warm January in Bel Air, the night he had chosen to come back to his father’s house. He knew he was supposed to be excited – he was standing up to his mother, he was becoming his own man – but he knew how the story ended. Every time, he tried to talk himself out of doing what he did then. But that was why he was here, wasn’t it? That was the way real life had played out, and he had to follow suit.

Those were the rules of the dream.

He heard himself scream again as he looked into the dimly-lit pool and saw the lifeless eyes staring back at him from the bottom. He had screamed before, in the real world, but his heart wasn’t in it the way it was the first time. He wasn’t surprised. He knew how improbably odd and strange they were, how they looked desiccated, mummified, bone dry while surrounded by water. But he still screamed, out of duty to the dream more than anything else.

He turned at the appointed time and saw the familiar figure coming toward him.

Only this time, the dream changed. His hands swelled up; he reached out to grab him before he had a chance to speak. I could squeeze the life out of him faster than popping a zit…

No! That’s not the way it works!

But he couldn’t help himself. He could feel the tiny body between his colossal hands, feel the life draining out of him the way it had abandoned the figures lying like dead weights in the pool behind him…

No. No.

“NO!!”

“Sorry, man,” the real-life cabbie said, “it’s one of those special reports. They just broke into the music. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

David rubbed his eyes and tried to get his bearings. He had come out of that dream so many times before, but never to a reality that was just as strange, or even stranger…

“There’s been report of another terrorist attack in the Reseda area,” a voice from the radio voice intoned. “Details are sketchy, but – “

Click. The driver had turned the radio off.

“I’m sorry. Really,” he said. “You can go back to-”

“Turn it back on!” David ordered fiercely. The driver, looking startled and somewhat annoyed, sheepishly complied.

“- in an apartment complex. The masked stranger from the earlier Westwood incident was sighted, along with his female companion, who bystanders say was injured in the blast.”

A female voice broke in. “Todd, why this apartment?”

“Well,” the first voice answered, “we know very little, but one report say this apartment was being rented by David Chakiris, son of Olympus Studios Chairman and CEO Leo Chakiris.”

David thought his heart was probably still beating, but he couldn’t be sure.

His sense of purpose, however, had suddenly returned.

________________

She was alive. For the moment, that was enough.

Jeff was grateful for each and every one of Lisa’s breaths as he carried her out of harm’s way back toward the UCLA emergency room. He knew there were likely closer hospitals, but his sense of direction was lousy; he couldn’t see the signs without his glasses, and he didn’t want to take chances. Even without glasses, it was easy enough to follow the freeway route back over to the West Side and then back to the place he’d dropped off Vikki. He flew hunched over her, almost backward, in order to shield her from the wind resistance, which allowed him to travel far more quickly than would have if she were conscious. He made it from Reseda to UCLA in record time.

Once he got to the hospital, in the blink of an eye, he was able to swoop in, deposit Lisa in the lap of the startled nurse on duty, and then swoop back out again.

He used the next few minutes to hover and think.

He was balanced on his back, drifting through the now-cloudless night as if he were floating lazily down a stream. His body was perfectly at ease while his mind was racing, and he wasn’t sure what to panic about first. Where was Walthius? Not that he could have helped. Both Lisa and Vikki were wounded. He was now a wanted terrorist. His parents were probably about to have a joint heart attack. And his car was trashed, totaled. Not to mention the killer giant on the loose, or the movie studio head who was probably nothing but ashes. So where to begin?

He looked down at his ankles, which were glowing in the moonlight. Stupid tights, he thought. What was Walthius thinking?

Good question.

Jeff looked at his arms and realized for the first time that the tights had escaped the explosion entirely unscathed. He checked his torso and his legs for signs of burns or scorch marks. Nothing. Not even some fraying around the edges. It was perfectly intact. It was even clean. How does that work? Jeff thought. There was more to this suit than spandex.

What was Walthius thinking?

His thoughts of self-pity took a detour to consider this new evidence. Walthius wasn’t the least bit surprised when he heard the news about Jeff’s inexplicable transformation. Walthius prepared for all this. Walthius had this miracle suit ready made for the occasion. Walthius was at the home of the giant, talking to a studio executive.

There was more to Walthius than met the eye.

Somehow, Walthius was at the center of everything that had happened. Clinging to the thought of this infused him with a new confidence.

But it also made him mad.

Jeff didn’t understand the particulars, but he knew Walthius somehow did. That didn’t strike him as fair. He wanted to know why. Why would he know all this without confiding in me? Without telling me everything? The friend he’d known for over a dozen years was now a complete enigma.

Just who was Walthius, anyway?
________________

“I’m her brother,” David told the nurse. “I need to see her right away.”

“I’m sorry, what?” she said. David could barely hear her – the emergency room was alive with activity in every corner, filling quickly with victims from David’s attack earlier. David had even thought he’d recognized one of them, and was terrified that maybe they recognized him, too. He was sure that at any moment he might be discovered. His agitation was not out of place in a hospital that was seeing more than its share of action tonight.

David looked out the front window to see his cab pulling away. He wasn’t even sure he was at the right hospital, and now his ride was gone. He turned back to the nurse and hoped things wouldn’t get too messy.

“Didn’t you hear me, lady?” David said, shouting. “I said I’m her brother.”

“Whose brother?” the nurse asked. She was speaking blandly, unruffled by the frenzy around her.

“Coming through!” yelled an orderly directly behind David. David dodged a stretcher that almost rolled directly into his back. Watch where you’re going, he thought. He felt his hands begin to swell…

“Her brother?” said another nurse sitting on the other side of the station. “Is that what you said?”

David exhaled slowly. His hand seemed to do the same. He turned to the other nurse, smiled, and said, “That’s right.” Maybe this one would be more sympathetic, he thought. There will be no need for a more… physical solution.

The other nurse wasn’t smiling. “Who did you want to see again?”

David’s hand twitched again.

“Look, it doesn’t matter anyway,” said the first nurse. “We’re too busy right now for visitors.”

“I need to – ”

The nurse cut him off. “Sir, if you’ll just take a seat, I’ll call you over when things calm down.”

“Are you even listening to me?” David’s voice was rising. “Because I just need you to listen to me…”

A burly man in an official-looking uniform appeared from what seemed to David like out of nowhere. “Would you come with me, please, sir?” the man said. His voice was polite, but his hard eyes were not.

David stared back at him. You think you’re tough? I’ll show you tough…

No. No, I won’t. It was like holding back a river with one outstretched hand, but David managed to keep the giant-sized rage from drowning him. The rage river slowed to a trickle. David was back in control.

“Would you like to come with me, sir?” the guard asked again, exactly as he had the first time, which made it all the more threatening the second.

“It can wait until tomorrow,” David said, smiling pleasantly. He walked toward the door and waved at the nurse, who had gone back to her business and didn’t notice him. He waved at the guard, too, who saw him and didn’t wave back.

“Fine,” David mumbled, and, out on the street, he turned to go. He made his way to the parking lot when he saw an ambulance turning toward a different rear entrance. They pulled someone out of the back on a stretcher, and they started wheeling the patient in to the hospital. Paramedics, nurses and family members were swirling around the scene. Another ambulance pulled up behind them. It was total pandemonium.

All that lying about being her brother was just a waste of time, David thought. In the end, it was too easy. He made use of the confusion to slip in through the rear door unnoticed.

I’m in, he thought.

He breathed a sigh of relief, and then he set off looking for Vikki Dennis’s room.

________________

Unable to assuage his anxiety, and having nothing much better to do, Jeff was now distracting himself by playing what amounted to a superheroic game of chicken. How low could he go without being spotted? He was bobbing up and down in the dark above all of the comings and going around the emergency room. He began by hovering about ten feet above the heads of the visitors, and then lowered it to five feet. In one manic moment, he actually brushed up against a woman’s head, which he was sure would be the end of the game. Instead, the lady just reacted as if she’d felt a stiff breeze. She patted her hair down and kept moving.

Nobody ever looks up, Jeff thought. I could do this all night.

Or I could do something else.

As soon as he thought of the plan, he put it into motion. The ER sliding doors opened, and at just under the speed of sound, Jeff whisked into the waiting room, hoping that the entry into the actual hospital wing would be open.

They weren’t. So Jeff clung to the eight-foot ceiling, just a couple of feet above the nurses, and prayed that no one looked up.

No one did.

The room was jammed, but no one had the time or interest to look toward the ceiling. Jeff crabwalked a few feet to see whether the movement would attract anyone’s attention. Still nothing. Jeff resisted the urge to chuckle. After a moment, the doors opened, and Jeff darted into the main holding area and practically glued himself to the ceiling. He banged the door on the way in, making a fairly loud noise, and Jeff looked back to see if anyone would notice the source of the disturbance.

This time, someone did.

It was a toddler, a blonde, curly-haired little moppet who saw Jeff up where Jeff shouldn’t have been. Jeff made eye contact and waved feebly, and then quickly put his “shushing” finger to his lips to keep the kid quiet.

The kid’s eyes grew as big as saucers and filled with tears. His mother, who was consulting with the doctor next to her, turned to pick her up.

“What’s wrong sweetie?” she asked.

Jeff was sure that the kid’s next move would be to point in his direction, so he dashed from the ceiling to an open closet and, after landing without making too much noise, he gingerly shut the door and flipped on the light.

It was a linen closet.

Sheets and clean surgical clothing adorned the utilitarian shelves. Jeff saw an opportunity to get out of his tights and into something less noticeable, and he wasn’t about to let that pass. He rummaged through the piles until he found a pair of blue XL scrubs. Then he grabbed his tights by the neck and started to pull them off.

The tights vanished in his hand.

The instant he’d taken action to remove them, they’d removed themselves. Jeff wondered if the opposite would be true. He dropped the scrubs and concentrated on making the tights reappear.

Which they did, the moment the thought entered his mind.

“Nice,” he said aloud. He started playing with it, imagining the tights on and then off, over and over, realizing that the clothes responded to his every whim.

This could come in handy, Jeff thought. Or, if I don’t watch what I’m thinking, this could be downright embarrassing.

Jeff donned the scrubs and tentatively opened the door, looking to see if anyone would spot him.

The coast was clear.

He strolled out confidently, passing each room, looking for either Vikki or Lisa. He saw an old man, an old lady, and a guy with a broken leg until he almost ran directly into a bed being wheeled into a nearby empty room with an IV-wired Lisa Meyer on top of it.

And she was awake.

“Lisa!” he blurted. She looked at him, and, even as groggy as she was, her eyes brightened in recognition. The orderly wheeling her looked at him quizzically, and a doctor came up behind him.

“Can I help you, sir?” the doctor asked.

“Uh, yes,” Jeff fumbled, “I need to see the, uh, patient, with the uh, thing with the – “

“He’s my husband,” Lisa said, and the doctor nodded, smiled, and walked away. The orderly took them to a semi-private room in which the other bed was empty. He also smiled, told Lisa to press a button if he needed anything, and then he was gone.

Jeff decided they could talk freely. “A little early to be thinking about marriage, aren’t we?”

Lisa smiled wearily. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” she said. “It’s the only way they’d let you stay.”

“You didn’t embarrass me,” Jeff said, sitting down at the end of her bed. He didn’t tell her that he felt a small electric thrill that she could imagine being married to him, even under such bizarre circumstances. “Are you all right?”

“They don’t think I’m your accomplice anymore, which is a good thing,” she said. “I told them you’d rescued both me and Vikki, but I doubt they bought the part about the giant. They must think I’m delirious. They even gave me a breathalyzer test, which was kind of a laugh…”

“That’s not what I meant,” Jeff said. “It’s not about me. It’s about you. Are you all right?”

Lisa’s face softened. “A nasty concussion and more bruises than I can count, but nothing’s broken or badly burned,” she said. “I got off easy. How about you?”

“Me?”

“Yes, you,” she said. “Are you all right?”

Jeff shrugged. “Indestructible as always.”

“Any idea what happened back there?”

“Nope.”

“A lot of help you are,” Lisa sniffed.

Jeff began to protest, but Lisa let out a small, simple laugh. “Knock it off, Jumper,” she said gently, taking his hand in hers. “You saved my life. Thanks.”

Jeff was taken aback. “Anytime,” he whispered as he felt his pulse quicken.

Viva la Shagin!

I was going to post the next piece of my book, and perhaps I will later today, but I wanted to take a moment to give a shout out to my newest Facebook friend and the finest civics teacher any high school student has ever had – the honorable Lee Shagin of Southern California.

I try to avoid real people’s names in this blog, but Mr. Shagin is something of a celebrity already. Prior to the 2000 election, he created quite a stir when he was cited in a nationally syndicated column by humorist Dave Barry, who was describing an online poll conducted for PBS that allowed users to identify the most important issues to be addressed in the presidential campaign.

I quote Mr. Barry at length:

As of Nov. 2, a total of 12,000 viewers had voted, and I am shocked to report that only ONE PERSON — identified by PBS as Lee Shagin of Woodland Hills, Calif. — named low-flow toilets. I am referring to these useless toilets that Congress foisted on the public by the Useless Toilet Foisting Act of 1992; the toilets you have to flush at least three times to eliminate the evidence from the scene of the crime. This issue came in dead last in a field of 41, behind such snore-o-matic issues as “health care,” “foreign policy,” “leadership,” and “infrastructure/energy.”

I refuse to believe that this poll truly reflects the opinions of you, the voters. I have never once heard a voter say, “You know an issue I am very excited about? Infrastructure/energy!” But every day millions of voters say “Yuck!” upon lifting the commode lid and encountering a previous user’s inadequately flushed foistings.

I let out a huge whoop of delight when I read this column, and not only because I, too, hate low-flow toilets. It was because the subversive genius of Lee Shagin had finally entered the mainstream. My family moved to Utah right after I graduated from high school. That sort of split my family in half – three of six children had grown up in California, while the younger three went to high school in Salt Lake City. Those three sometimes feel left out when the older half of the family starts talking, because every now and then, we just sit around swapping Lee Shagin stories.

So I shared the Dave Barry column with my older brother and sister, both of whom had also had the privilege of learning at the feet of the master. Indeed, it was my oldest sister who, long ago, had come home from her first day of school in her senior year of high school and couldn’t stop talking about her Government teacher, who was the funniest man she’d ever met.

She told the story of how he had drawn a line on the chalkboard from left to right to illustrate the political spectrum. On that line, he labeled four points as follows: radical, liberal, conservative, and reactionary. He gave a brief description of each term, and then he made it personal.

“Some people think it’s better for teachers to try to appear politically neutral, but I disagree,” Mr. Shagin said. “I think you have a right to know where I stand. Back in college, I was somewhere over here.” He then drew a line about two feet to the left of radical. “But, you know, they say you get more conservative as you grow older, and I suppose that’s true. So, having mellowed with age, I’d say I’m somewhere around here.” He then drew another line that was only about a foot and a half to the left of radical. He explained that the difference was that he wouldn’t now actively participate in a demonstration where people were burning draft cards, but he’d probably be willing to go and pick up some donuts for everybody.

Politically, I’m probably a severe disappointment to Mr. Shagin, as I consider myself a disaffected Republican, even as the GOP begins its forty years in the wilderness. But Mr. Shagin made it very clear that he refused to pick his friends according to where they stood on the political spectrum, and he always treated each of his students with kindness and respect. He might be pleased to know that both Foodleking and I registered as Democrats our first time out in an attempt both to please Mr. Shagin and to tick off our parents. But once my parents made it clear they didn’t care much, Shagin’s tacit approval couldn’t prevent my fundamentally evil nature from reasserting itself. Same with Foodleking. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t paying attention. Indeed, Foodleking appropriated one of Mr. Shagin’s witticisms as his senior quote in his high school yearbook:

“If it moves, bet on it. If it doesn’t move, eat it.”

I’ve stolen a bunch of Mr. Shagin’s stories over the years. He was once deriding people who dismissed Communism out of hand because it provides no incentive to do a good job. “Fine,” Mr. Shagin conceded. “In a Communist system, there’s no incentive to do a good job. But in a Capitalist system, there’s no incentive to do a good job, either.” He then recounted his time working as a clerk in a shoe store and having a lady come in and complain that the pair of shoes she was trying to buy was too tight on her feet, and that the leather needed to be broken in a little bit before the shoes were wearable.

“No problem,” Mr. Shagin said. “We’ve got a machine in back that’ll fix that for you.” He then took the shoes into the storeroom and tossed them on top of the filing cabinet. He came back out and said “It’ll be a few minutes.” He then went on and tended to other customers, ignoring the lady as she waited patiently. After about ten minutes, the lady asked if her shoes were ready. “Let me check,” Mr. Shagin said, wandering back into the storeroom to for appearance’s sake. Sure enough, the shoes were still just sitting there. He came back and said “Just a little while longer.” Finally, he went and got the shoes, and handed them to the lady, who thanked him profusely and told him the shoes were much, much better.

Or there was the time that Mr. Shagin arrived at a grocery store and found that someone had taken two parking spaces for a single car. This displeased Shagin, who decided to squeeze his Volkswagen Beetle into what remained of the second space and sit in his car, stewing in his own anger, just waiting for the inconsiderate person to show themselves and get what was coming to them. When the culprit finally showed up, it was a young woman, who, according to Mr. Shagin, “then did the worst thing she could possibly do.” Apparently, that meant that she sincerely, profusely apologized, leaving Mr. Shagin disarmed and defeated, with no choice but to accept her apology.

I’ve used that story repeatedly in teaching Sunday School classes, which may not be an application Mr. Shagin had anticipated. I certainly don’t tell it as well as Mr. Shagin did. Just reading these cold words on a screen does not do justice to the brilliant comic delivery that marked every one of Mr. Shagin’s lectures. You were laughing so hard that sometimes you didn’t notice how much you were learning.

And you learned a lot.

I’ve spent a lot of time in and around government over the years, and so much of what I have encountered has been informed by what Mr. Shagin taught me lo those many years ago. I’ve been critical on this blog of the public education system, because I think it encourages mediocrity. It’s only in the rarest of instances that a teacher has both the capacity and the commitment to make a real impact on the life and education of their students. Mr. Shagin was and is that kind of teacher, and I hope he can take satisfaction in knowing that his influence has had a profound effect that matters a whole lot more than the diploma does.

In fact, I’m not sure if I even know where my diploma is…

Changes to Chapter 5.1

Old line:

“Oh, really?” Jeff was shouting now. “You know how this works, do you? A lot of experience in breaking and entering?”

New, improved line:

“Oh, really?” Jeff was peeved now. “You know how this works, do you? A lot of experience in breaking and entering?”
_____________________

Old explosion sequence:

She didn’t get a chance to finish. An explosion rocked the entire building, blowing the door off its hinges and out into the courtyard, and Walthius along with it. He came flailing out directly above Jeff’s head and behind a massive wooden chunk that slammed up against the metal railing and splintered in every direction.

That cleared the way for Walthius, who arrived at where the railing used to be just a split second after the top half of the door. Walthius arced slightly upward and before he dropped like a stone on to the patio below. In that briefest of moments, just before he fell, he managed to make eye contact with Jeff.

Walthius was smiling. Smiling!

And then he was gone.

New explosion sequence:

She didn’t get a chance to finish. With the sound of a thunderclap, an explosion rocked the entire building, blowing the door off its hinges and out into the courtyard, Walthius along with it. He came hurtling out, arms flailing, right above Jeff’s head, directly following the door, the bottom half of which slammed against Jeff, ripping the wood in two and sending the top half to take out the balcony’s metal railing.

On impact with the metal, the door splintered in every direction, clearing the way for Walthius, who arrived at where the railing used to be just a split second after the top half of the door. His body arced slightly upward before he dropped like a stone on to the patio below.

And in that briefest of moments, just before he fell, he managed to make eye contact with Jeff.

Walthius was smiling. Smiling!

And then he was gone.
_____________________

Old backdraft moment:

Jeff was about to scream, but then he heard Lisa screaming for him. He turned to face the apartment which was now engulfed in flame. Lisa had been pulled into the center of the room by the backdraft, and she was hysterical, screaming but still cradling herself, rocking back and forth almost in a fetal position, a stream of blood mixed with grime was trickling down from her forehead.

New Backdraft moment:

Jeff resisted a heavy backdraft yanking him inside, toward the carnage. He thought, for a moment, that he was screaming, but he quickly realized it was Lisa screaming for him. He turned to face the apartment which was now engulfed in flame. Lisa had been pulled into the center of the room by the backdraft, and she was hysterical, screaming, cradling herself, rocking back and forth almost in a fetal position, a stream of blood trickling down her scorch-marked forehead.
_____________________

Old “getting closer” moment:

He looked down, and despite his myopia, he could see the apartment building being devoured by flame. As he got closer, he realized it was better than he’d thought -

New “getting closer” moment:

He looked down, and despite his myopia, he could see the apartment building being devoured by flame. He had to find Walthius, to make sure he was okay. So he began to descend again, and as he got closer, he realized it was better than he’d thought -
_____________________

Old Walthius shout-out moment:

“Walthius!” he shouted. No answer. He knew there was no way anyone could have survived a fall like that, but he refused to let himself believe it.

New Walthius shout-out moment:

“Walthius!” he shouted. No answer. He thought briefly about Leo Chakiris, who had no doubt been consumed by the initial explosion. I’m okay with that, he thought grimly. It’s Walthius I’m concerned about. Jeff knew there was no way anyone could have survived the fall, but he refused to let himself believe it.
_____________________

Old “where was he?” moment:

Walthius landed in the pool. He was all right. He wasn’t dead.

So where was he?

New “where has he gone?” moment:

Walthius landed in the pool. He was all right. He wasn’t dead.

But he wasn’t here. Where had he gone?

_____________________

That’s all for now. Carry on.

Capitalism Doesn’t Suck

(BTW, if you haven’t read yesterday’s book chapter, please do and comment before reading this. This is just a rant. Your comments on yesterday’s post would be much more helpful.)

Just a few months ago, when oil was trading upwards of $140 a barrel, plenty of observers were predicting that gasoline could end up costing $10 a gallon by the end of the decade. Certainly $5 a gallon gas was inevitable in the short term, and America would have to accept the fact that, as Barack Obama put it, ““We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times…and just expect that other countries are going to say okay.” I don’t really care what other countries say, personally, but the message was clear that America’s days of big cars and cheap fuel were long behind us.

Gas is now half as expensive as it was two months ago. Oil is now projected to fall to $40 a barrel, and OPEC is desperately trying to slash production in order to drive up the price, but to no avail. Demand for oil just isn’t there to sustain the massive prices, and all the evil oil companies aren’t nearly as good at fixing the price as the conspiracy nuts think they are.
You cannot repeal the law of supply and demand.

You can try, though, which is what Obama intends to do with tax cuts for people who don’t pay taxes and cash payments to failing industries and all manner of compassion that will alleviate short-term pain by devastating markets over the long haul. (I’m not trying to be partisan here – George Bush’s instincts are to do exactly the same thing, albeit on a slightly lesser scale.)
Why doesn’t Washington recognize that markets work? They work quickly; they work effectively; and they’re almost brutally efficient. Government, on the other hand, is slow, ineffective, and kindly inefficient. Politicians are good at making you feel better while making the problem worse. They do that with the best of intentions, but no one human being, or one group of human beings, or even the entire government can possibly understand every element of every transaction and how it benefits everyone else.

It’s remarkable that Democrats are so distrustful of markets when the Free Market is the most democratic institution in existence. Government election only take place once every few years. But every day, with every dollar, you cast a vote on everything you do – what and where you prefer to eat, wear, do, go, shop, buy – you name it, you vote with your dollar every time you use it. You don’t like the greasy spoon you eat lunch in every day? Go to the one on the other side of the street. Your old greasy spoon will then have to figure out a way to get you back. Or they’ll have to get someone else to come. If enough people follow suit, that greasy spoon is out of business, making way for something else that can use those resources more effectively. It’s painful for the greasy spoon owner, but in the long term, it’s better for everyone.

Now imagine Obamasized compassion stepping in and ensuring that the good folks of the Greasy Spoon all keep their jobs in perpetuity. With enough government cash, the Greasy Spoon stays afloat whether you stay away or not. Those customers who keep going soon discover that nobody at the Greasy Spoon is too concerned if it takes too long to fill up their water or to bring them their food. They ignore complaints that the burgers are undercooked, because, honestly, what does it matter? The end result is a diminished product and a waste of capital. The food sucks, the service is ghastly, and nobody bothers to come anymore. But at least lousy waiters are never in danger of losing their jobs.

Sounds silly? It’s exactly what we’re doing in public education. Good teachers with tenure get paid exactly the same as bad teachers with tenure, and both have just as much job security. More money continues to get poured into education, and the teacher’s unions whine that it’s never enough, even as our test scores continue to drop. Our schools end up doing a lousy job teaching our kids.

But you know where they do a great job? Intimidating lawmakers into increasing their funding.
Education is as market driven as anything else. It’s just that their customer is the government, not our children. Teachers who can’t tell a noun from a triangle are darn good at leaning on elected officials. Forget Big Oil – it’s Big Education and Big Government that has a gift for fixing prices. Unless you’ve got the dough to take your kids to a private school with far better responsiveness to the real customer, you’re out of luck.

Expect even more industries, notably health care, to look more and more like the post office in the years to come. That’s the change we can all believe in.

Chapter 5.1

I’ve started rewriting, but I haven’t seen it all the way through. iI’m only 80% confident that I know what happens. This version of Chapter Five is significantly different from the original, but since no one has seen the original, I guess that doesn’t matter. Chapter Five is pretty long, too, so I’m going to give it to you in pieces.
______________

“How do you know this is it?”

Jeff was just barely speaking directly into Lisa’s ear. The wind was still rushing past them, so they could hear each other only if their lips were right up next to the eardrum, an arrangement that suited Jeff just fine.

“I don’t,” Lisa whispered back. “But it’s got to be either this one or the one across the street.”

They hovered over an apartment complex with a neglected pool in the center. The water was covered with floating leaves, which were as brown and dingy as the surrounding walls. He set down behind a flimsy black railing on the second floor overlooking the pool, and Lisa seemed a bit too anxious to get her own feet on the ground.

Jeff, still in his tights, mask, and glasses, felt out of place and wished he had taken the opportunity to change clothes when he’d had the chance. He told himself that he just didn’t want to be recognized from the video footage, and that this had nothing to do with how silly he looked in front of Lisa. He also knew that the second thought would have never even occurred to him ten minutes earlier, before his nose had gone and complicated his thinking.

Lisa scrambled down the stairs to the front gate and quickly returned. “It’s the right address,” she said.

“Which means,” Jeff said, “that his apartment is 212, which would be – ”

“Right over there,” Lisa finished, pointing at an apartment directly facing them from across the pool. The lights were on, but the front room looked empty.

“Right,” Jeff said. “So now what?”

“Now,” Lisa said, “you get us in there and we look for information.”

“I get us in there?” Jeff sputtered. “Just how am I supposed to do that?”

Lisa’s face hardened, which Jeff took as a sign that she hadn’t thought this through, but she didn’t want Jeff to know that. Jeff smiled. I’m more perceptive than you think I am, lady.

“What’s so funny?” Lisa snapped, misreading Jeff’s smile.

“Nothing’s funny,” Jeff answered defensively.

“Fine,” Lisa said. “Then do your job.”

Jeff did a double take. “Excuse me? My job?”

“I don’t know,” Lisa said just a little too loudly. “You’re the one with the – the tights,” she said, waving her arms absently in Jeff’s direction.

“So?”

“So – kick the door in.”

“Ah, good plan,” Jeff smarted back, pressing the tips of his fingers together.

“You’ve got a better idea?”

“No,” Jeff said, “but doing nothing would be preferable to pounding down a bearing wall and waking all the neighbors.”

“You don’t have to pound down the wall! Just the door!”

“Oh, really?” Jeff was shouting now. “You know how this works, do you? A lot of experience in breaking and entering?”

“Never mind, then,” she said quietly, and then she ducked below the railing.

“What?” Jeff turned to see what had changed her demeanor so suddenly. Then he saw it, too.

There was someone in David’s apartment.

An older guy had just walked in front of the window, between a small break in the curtains. He was old enough to be David’s grandfather. Or great-grandfather. He was smoking a cigar and gesturing wildly, talking to someone just out of sight.

“That’s Leo Chakiris,” Jeff whispered, now stooped down next to Lisa.

“He’s a geezer,” Lisa said.

Jeff nodded. “Been around the block a few times, I guess.”

“Who’s he talking to?”

Jeff vaulted over the railing, and Lisa made a gasp of protest before remembering that Jeff could do that sort of thing without falling to the ground below. It’s impressive, isn’t it? Jeff thought, tiptoeing through the air delicately like a ballerina en pointe. He knew it was silly to waste time showing off, but he couldn’t help himself.

He floated over to an angle better suited to see deeper into the apartment, or, at least, to see who Leo was talking to. And there he was, just on the other side of the window.

Walthius.

Jeff put his hand over his mouth to keep his jaw from falling to the pool below.

“What is it?” Lisa whispered. Jeff motioned for her to come over and look. She ran around the side of the second floor closest to where he was hovering.

“That’s your friend, isn’t it?” she whispered. Jeff, too stunned to talk, nodded absently. Lisa didn’t seem shocked – just puzzled. “What’s he doing in there?” she asked.

Jeff tried to summon some words to answer, but it was all he could do to shrug helplessly. He could think of no earthly reason why Leo Chakiris and Walthius could possibly be in the same room together, let alone that room.

“Is he a prisoner?” Lisa asked.

Jeff shook his head. “I don’t think so.” Walthius looked perfectly relaxed, and he wasn’t all that far from the front door. He could have made a break for it if he wanted to.

That seemed to confuse Lisa even further. “Is he a friend of David’s?”

“Not that I know of,” Jeff answered.

“Then how do those two know each other?” Lisa demanded.

Jeff shot her a look. “And how am I supposed to know that?”

“I don’t know,” said Lisa, annoyed. “He’s your friend. If anyone would know, it would be you.”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” Jeff said, turning his attention back to the front window.

Things were starting to get heated. Leo Chakiris yelled “no!” so loudly that it almost shook the walls. Jeff and Lisa stared at each other, wide-eyed and shocked.

“What was that?” Lisa whispered.

“We need to know what they’re saying in there,” Jeff whispered back. He crouched down and practically crawled up to the door. He gently placed both of his hands on the door’s base. Lisa waved her arms in a frenetic silent protest, a panicked look on her face.

“I’m not going in,” Jeff whispered harshly. He then put his ear up against the door in the hopes of hearing the low volume portions of the conversation.

Lisa opened her eyes a little wider and then dropped down and scurried over next to Jeff to join him in his eavesdropping.

“- bleachers full of dead teenagers,” Jeff heard Walthius say. “Is that really…” the last part of the sentence dropped off.

“What did he say?” Lisa whispered. “I couldn’t hear it.”

“Neither could I.”

“Did he say something about dead teenagers?”

“I think so,” Jeff hissed.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t know.”

Lisa looked slightly manic. “Is he talking about us?”

“Look,” Jeff hissed, exasperated, “I can’t very well listen to this and give you a play-by-play at the same time.”

Lisa shot him a dirty look.

Leo Chakiris was talking now. “Earthquakes happen when they happen, kid,” he said. And then Walthius said, “Oh, don’t give me that,” and then the conversation dropped down too low to make out any actual words.

“ ‘Earthquakes happen when they happen?’ ” Lisa repeated. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Jeff shushed her, probably a little too loudly. Was it his imagination, or had the conversation inside stopped after he shushed? His heart seemed to stop until he heard the low rumble of voices again. But was someone coming toward the door?

Jeff heard distinct sounds of movement, and he motioned Lisa to make a break for it, but she just stayed there, her arms wrapped around her knees, paralyzed with fear.

Someone was standing right in front of the other side of the door, which Jeff was sure was about to open.

But it didn’t open.

“That’s right, another hero,” came Walthius’ clearly audible voice from just inches away, blocked only by a thin piece of wood. “Wal-me-thius did it before, and now I’ve done it again.”

Huh? Wal-me-thius? Jeff had no idea what that was supposed to mean. Is that like “Me, Walthius?” Shouldn’t it be “I, Walthius?”

Lisa looked confused, too. “Who is – ”

She didn’t get a chance to finish. An explosion rocked the entire building, blowing the door off its hinges and out into the courtyard, and Walthius along with it. He came flailing out directly above Jeff’s head and behind a massive wooden chunk that slammed up against the metal railing and splintered in every direction.

That cleared the way for Walthius, who arrived at where the railing used to be just a split second after the top half of the door. Walthius arced slightly upward and before he dropped like a stone on to the patio below. In that briefest of moments, just before he fell, he managed to make eye contact with Jeff.

Walthius was smiling. Smiling!

And then he was gone.

Jeff was about to scream, but then he heard Lisa screaming for him. He turned to face the apartment which was now engulfed in flame. Lisa had been pulled into the center of the room by the backdraft, and she was hysterical, screaming but still cradling herself, rocking back and forth almost in a fetal position, a stream of blood mixed with grime was trickling down from her forehead. Jeff could barely see her through the wall of flame that stood between them.

She herself was not on fire, though. Indeed, she seemed to be sitting in the eye of a blazing hurricane. Jeff walked through the flames as the heat shattered his glasses and consumed his mask. He was blinded by the brilliant, searing flames. He could feel the hot wind rushing past and hear the crackling flames engulfing everything around him.

Then he got to the center of the room, and Lisa.

The entire building was being consumed now. Jeff wasn’t injured at all, but the smoke was making it impossible to breathe. He grabbed Lisa and leapt upward, pushing effortlessly through the ceiling and soaring into the night sky, still struggling to see anything. The cool breeze rushing past him revived his spirits, and after a minute of staring upward, he thought he could actually see stars – real ones, not the ones burned onto his retina by the colossal blast.

He looked down, and despite his myopia, he could see the apartment building being devoured by flame. As he got closer, he realized it was better than he’d thought – the flames were actually localized, focused primarily on the one apartment. Thankfully, the majority of the building was essentially intact, and the other tenants were gathering out near ground zero, looking frazzled but unharmed.

Good, Jeff thought. I don’t have to worry about them.

“Walthius!” he shouted. No answer. He knew there was no way anyone could have survived a fall like that, but he refused to let himself believe it. He was hovering above the pool, away from the prying eyes, hands and questions of the other bewildered residents. With Lisa, bleeding and unconscious, cradled in his arms, Jeff looked everywhere for a glimpse of his other friend. He was practically blind without his glasses, so he squinted with all his might. All he could see was blobs of motion, which he guessed were probably people.

“Walthius!” he shouted again. He saw a blue blur over to his right and whisked over to see if it might be him. It wasn’t. Not even close. It was a very old woman who didn’t seem pleased to see him.

“Excuse me,” Jeff asked. “Did you see a…” he stopped himself. See a what? A guy with wavy hair come flying over the balcony? How could he possibly ask this question without freaking her out anymore than she already was?

“You’re the devil!” the lady yelled. “The devil!”

“Probably,” Jeff said, turning his back on her and gliding out over the pool.

The pool.

Jeff felt a rush of hope as he considered the possibility that the trajectory of Walthius’ fall might have landed him in soft water instead of hard cement. The pool was wavy and the water was disturbed, but there was no one swimming. Walthius landed in the pool. He was all right. He wasn’t dead.

So where was he?

Lisa moaned.

Jeff looked at her and then glanced up at the balcony, which was missing a large section of railing. He saw blobs of bodies up there, too – a mass of people demanding answers. In a corner of his mind, he wondered whether they had gotten a good glimpse of his unmasked face, but that did not distract him from his purpose.

Wherever Walthius was, he didn’t need him right now. Lisa did. Jeff floated upward past the angry horde, far from the chaos and back toward the real stars.

Quantum of Meh

Saw Quantum of Solace on Saturday night, and I don’t really have much to say about it.

That’s surprising, as I’m something of a James Bond geek. I can tell you how many official James Bond movies there have been – 22 – and can even tell you something about the unofficial ones – Sean Connery’s Never Say Never Again, which is really just a Thunderball remake, and the first Casino Royale, a really bad spoof starring David Niven and Woody Allen. I can tell you all the names of the actors and the movies off the top of my head without cheating and looking up online, although I’m sure I won’t get them in the right order.

  1. Sean Connery created the screen Bond character in Dr. No, Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice, Thunderball, and Diamonds Are Forever.
  2. Australian George Lazenby did his one and only appearance as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond becomes a married man and a widower in this one. Neat.
  3. Former Saint star Roger Moore is the most prolific Bond, having appeared in seven flicks: Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View To a Kill. He was 57 years old in the last movie, and it showed.
  4. The underrated Timothy Dalton only got two shots at 007 – The Living Daylights, which was great, and License to Kill, which blew.
  5. Pierce Brosnan revived the franchise a full five years after the awful License to Kill, and put in four uneven turns as the superspy: Goldeneye, which was OK, Tomorrow Never Dies, which I quite liked, The World Is Not Enough, which stank on ice, and Die Another Day, which was odd, but fun.
  6. And now we have Daniel Craig, who fits Ian Fleming’s tough guy description of James Bond better than the other guys, even though he has blonde hair and blue eyes. Casino Royale was a great reboot of the series, which leads us to Quantum of Solace, which just didn’t do anything for me.

Many people have wondered about the title of the new Bond, which is pulled from an Ian Fleming short story in which Bond appears, but only as a background character. They ran out of legitimate Ian Fleming titles after Living Daylights and have been making them up for the movies ever since.

All this seems irrelevant, which it is, but it highlights the fact that Bond movies have become something of a ritual. They open with a spectacular action sequence that has nothing to do with the story of the rest of the movie, which then segues into the title sequence, featuring an elaborate theme song written around the title. (Best Bond theme: Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” Worst: “The Living Daylights” by A-Ha. There’s a reason you’ve probably never heard it.) Then Bond shows up at M’s office, and after flirting with Miss Moneypenney the receptionist, Bond receives his new assignment. At some point, Q shows up to give him all the gadgets he’s going to need, and then we’re off and running. Sexy women with risqué names a la Pussy Galore show up, and Bond takes advantage thereof. He drinks a shaken, not stirred martini at some point, and he says “Bond. James Bond” a couple of times. The villain has plans for world domination, and usually a really cool lair that rises up out of the ocean or out of the arctic or down from the moon or some other nonsense. And then Bond wins, the villain dies, and there’s some good lovin’. The end.

At least, that was the way it was pre-Daniel Craig. Casino Royale ignored this formula and was actually zealously faithful to Ian Fleming’s original novel. (They changed the Baccarat game to Texas Hold ‘em, but that’s a quibble, really.) They pulled away from the campiness and made Bond the blunt instrument that Fleming always intended him to be.

It worked. Once.

Quantum of Solace picks up just a few minutes after Casino Royale left off, and it can’t really decide what it wants to be. It forgoes the formulaic ritual or pre-Craig conventions, but it pays homage to them every once in awhile. There’s a Bond woman named Fields who refuses to give her first name, yet her “strawberry” hair gives you a clue. She ends up meeting a fate very similar to a woman in Goldfinger, only it’s black gold that’s used this time. Bond drinks several shaken, not stirred martinis for the first time, and decides he likes them. I don’t think he ever says “Bond, James Bond,” though. There’s a supersecret, world-dominating organization that makes its debut, and there’s a sort of ecologically-friendly superlair in the middle of a desert. There are a few gadgets, but real-life technology has made it harder and harder for Bond to have anything cooler than what the average consumer can already get with an iPhone.

In short, Quantum of Solace straddles the line between the silliness of the old Bonds and the hard-edged reality of Casino Royale, and it tries to mask its own indecision with relentless, non-stop action, which is exciting at first but soon becomes exhausting. Many reviewers have noted that this movie is significantly shorter than Casino Royale, but it felt much, much longer. I didn’t care what happened much. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening for a good chunk of the time. And I was pretty sure that it didn’t matter.

The Star Trek trailer they showed right before the movie was pretty cool, though.

Why PJG Is Wrong About Everything

It’s lunchtime! I have a few minutes, and I’m going to waste them blogging. I’m going to finish out the week on the whole Prop. 8 business and hope to get back to posting new novel bits on Monday. The problem with that is that I have to do some major rewrites to the next chapter, which includes some plot developments that have now been radically altered. I may have time to get to that this weekend, but then again, maybe not.

Anyway, I was thrilled beyond measure to see PJG responding to my Olbermann post, despite the fact that we can’t seem to agree on a dang thing. But I have to believe that it’s constructive to have both sides of this issue talking to each other, and I couldn’t ask for a better foil than PJG, who has been expertly sparring with me since long before puberty. He once insisted that I was the reason that the California coastline is crooked. Barring any evidence to the contrary, I’ll have to concede he’s right about that one. Which is good, because as far as Proposition 8 is concerned, he’s wrong on everything else.

His responses begin thusly:

The issue, as my father points out, should be that the State should have nothing to do with marriage at all, but rather allow all consenting adults the chance to enter into a union that is recognized by the state.

This statement is wildly contradictory. It begins with the idea that the state should have “nothing to do with marriage at all.” It ends with the state recognizing any and all unions entered into by consenting adults as marriage – or perhaps a new marriage equivalent that doesn’t use such a loaded label. In other words, to get out of the marriage business, the state will say that everything is the equal to marriage, but nothing is marriage. Paraphrasing Frank Zappa, this is akin to curing dandruff by means of decapitation.

He continues:

This avoids letting possum eaters in Arkansas pull legislative flimflammery to dis-allow gay couples from raising children, etc.

Our pal the Arkansan Possumeater will surely be disappointed to discover that nothing in Proposition 8 will “dis-allow” gay couples from raising children.

More from PJG:

The State has no business in the matters of religion and religion has no business in matters of the State.

I’m trying to decide whether I agree with this statement, or whether this statement should really be part of another discussion. As such, it’s a bit of a non sequitor here. Which of my arguments draw on religion to justify their claims? Is PJG saying that marriage itself is an inherently religious concept? Perhaps it is. Yet it is one so deeply ingrained in our societal structure that to remove it forcibly would be for the state to intrude unduly on the religious sphere. And why should the State have the power to take precedence over marriage? The State of California has been around for about a century and a half. Marriage has been around for millennia.

If it’s between the State and Marriage, Marriage was here first.

More:

To further this, people in other states (UT) should stay out of the business of other states (CA), if you want to be consistent in righty philosophy about states rights trumping federal, etc.

If what happened in California stayed in California, I might find this convincing. But upon judicial review, I’m confident that the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution will rightfully require others states (UT) to recognize all contracts conducted by states (CA, MA, CT) that disregard marriage’s traditional definition. The Defense of Marriage Act that President Clinton signed into law to prevent this from happening is a fig leaf that is unlikely to pass muster in the Supreme Court.

More:

P.S., thursowick, whoever you are, you consistently make me sick.

That’s payback, I would imagine. I used to consistently make thursowick sick by leaving a dirty butter knife on the counter of our weird little farm house that we lived in together in Thurso, Scotland for three months.

thursowick is my favorite missionary companion, a good friend, and quite the musician himself. Indeed, he orchestrated all the music for the demo recording of my musical Neverland that appears on this blog. That’s his voice playing Smee in the song Hook of the Jolly Roger. Captain Hook was sung by the late and sorely-missed Scott Morgan, a remarkable man whose life story provides a valuable perspective on this whole debate. You can – and should – read more about him here.

Incidentally, PJG, I spoke to thursowick after reading your comment, which amused him to no end. However, he was confused as to how he “consistently” makes you sick, as this is the first time he has ever commented on anything remotely political. All his other comments on this blog are book suggestions. Is it his grammar that makes you nauseous?

More from PJG:

And no, Mr. Stallion, your argument doesn’t follow and doesn’t stick, per usual.

1. People who believe that marriage is by definition all wrapped up in religious mumbo jumbo do not believe that my marriage by a judge is a “real” marriage, much less that interracial couples were “married.” This contradicts all sorts of Bronze Age nonsense, and is therfore invalid.

What’s the issue here, PJG? Is it recognition by “people who believe that marriage is by definition all wrapped up in religious mumbo jumbo,” or recognition by the State? Because I thought “the State has no business in the matters of religion.”

Certainly the State recognizes your marriage before a judge, and Proposition 8 only deals with how California regards marriage, not any church. Are you demanding that my church be compelled to recognize a gay union as a religiously sanctioned marriage?

More:

Furthermore, this supposed argument that you keep trotting out that because culture has never before done something it means that there is some sort of positive ontology ascribed is absolute malarky. There is no argument here. It’s not even a classic strawman. Just nonsense said authoritatively. You’re wrong, as always. Wrong about everything.

I had to look up “ontology,” because the only other time I’ve seen the word referenced is in a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, where Calvin laments the “ontological quandary” of understanding things we cannot see. The dictionary defines ontology as “the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence or being as such.”

I think you’ve got me on this one, sort of. Without question, great things are done that had never been done before. In 1776, no colony had ever broken off from its mother country. In 1987, no arms control agreement had ever actually reduced the number of arms in a military arsenal. In 2007, no African-American had ever been elected President of the United States. These three things, among many others, are things that had never been done before, and they were all worth doing.

But the converse is also true: i.e. just because something has never been done, it doesn’t mean we should do it. Indeed, even the good things we do to change society ought to be done with ample consideration for the weight and evidence of history, which has repeatedly demonstrated the intrinsic value of the nuclear family ideal, i.e. a mommy and a daddy.

Olbermann would have you believe that shifting the fundamental definition of marriage to include two daddies and no mommy is a slight thing, a chance to let people feel just a little less alone. And besides, what does it matter to you, Mr. Hetero? Your marriage won’t disappear. This is nothing. You don’t even have to like it. Just look the other way.

My authoritatively nonsensical point is that it’s not nothing. Marriage creates families. The State is made up of families. The family is the basic building block of civilization. Fundamentally altering its basic structure is a big, big deal, and we don’t have any idea what the long-term consequences will be. Belittling the reticence to make such a monumental shift is intellectually lazy.

More:

Okay, I’m having a hard time stopping here. My previous post points out why Olberman’s (and, clearly, this is not an original thesis) points are salient and relevant to this case. Inter-racial marriage was attacked on same grounds. Never in the history of humankind have we allowed. blah blah blah nonsense. I’m a non religious Jew married to a non religous Catholic. We also wouldn’t have been allowed to marry with same arguments against, not that long ago.

Again, you’re shifting the sands. The issue is state recognition, not religious sanction. The Catholic Church probably still doesn’t consider you married in the eyes of God. They probably never will. (I’m in the same boat as a Mormon/heretic.) If you try to get the State to change the church’s teachings, then you’re way out of bounds.

Again, the issue here is race and religion, not marriage itself. The State has historically placed restrictions on marriage, many of them unnecessary and misguided, but the State has never deviated from the course that marriage is a man and a woman.

What you’re saying, PJG, is that gender is as fundamentally irrelevant to human experience as race is. And that sounds egalitarian and loving and kind, but it just isn’t true.

PJG concludes:

Wake UP! Our society evolves. That’s the point. We grow better over time. Slowly, but better. We learn that all sorts of things, like human sacrifice isn’t so cool. We learn that wearing garments of mixed fabrics doesn’t damn one to the bad graces of a strangely jealous and petty deity.Eathing shellfish neither. WAKE UP

Good morning! I love shellfish. Although garments of mixed fabrics strike me as iffy.

I would substitute the word “evolves” with “changes.” Our society definitely changes, and many of the changes, like the ixnay on volcano virgins, are good ones. Yet most of the changes that I applaud have taken place in the physical world: Medicine, transportation, technology, that kind of stuff. Science helps in that regard as we better understand how the world works.

But societally, I’m not convinced that we’re on an inexorable evolutionary course to greatness. I think we, as a society, are growing coarser and ruder with time, not kinder and gentler, as George H.W. would want. I think the gradual erosion of traditional morality and mores leaves us increasingly vacant and devoid of purpose. For all our progress, human nature itself remains fundamentally unaltered lo these many centuries, and abandoning one of the elemental institutions to civilize our natural barbarism – the ideal of a mommy and a daddy – does not strike me as a good idea.

Good night, good luck, and good grief.