There will be plenty to write about from this weekend, but as I find myself battling an unexpectedly resurgent cold, I'm going to head off to get some rest. Before going, though, I'd like to point out a Bill Moyers opinion piece in today's Strib on some of the people driving today's right-wing revolution:
I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed—an essential conflagration on the road to redemption.
Okay, that's frightening. But looking long-term at the continuation of our species, what they feel about the environment may be even more dangerous:
Drive across the country with your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn on some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"
Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, "America's Providential History." You'll find there these words: "The secular or socialist has a limited-resource mentality and views the world as a pie ... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "[t]he Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth ... while many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people."
If you're interested, the original, pre-Strib article can be found over on AlterNet.
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I ended up staying home sick today. While at first I assumed I just had whatever bug had been infecting everyone at work, I'm starting to think I actually was experiencing some kind of severe allergic reaction to something. (I had a couple of taste buds that had inflated to the size of golf balls1, not that you needed to know that.) I'm feeling better this evening, but we'll have to see what the doctor says tomorrow.
Not surprisingly, the day was kind of boring, but at least I got a lot of work done. (I'm becoming increasingly convinced that if I freelanced or worked from home I'd usually end up spending half of my day in bed with my laptop.) The weekend should be more interesting: Assuming a clean bill of health tomorrow morning, I'll be off to Madison for Robin and Andy's annual post-New Year's New Year's party on Saturday. And after that, hey, it's February.
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I still need to nail down plans for South By Southwest, but that's a different issue.
Well, if today is representative of what the new 89.3 KCMP is going to be like, things are looking pretty grim. I'm hoping that they're launching soft in an effort to not alienate folks who've never tried Radio K or KFAI, but even when giving them the benefit of the doubt, it's hard to see any immediate hope anything new or interesting from the station. In a way, it kind of sounds like easy listening for people who may have briefly listened to college radio in the mid-90s. I find this disappointing, as I'd been hoping for an after-hours alternative to the K, but I guess I'll have to wait. (KFAI is great, but I'm not always in the mood for their eclectic programming schedule.)
As it stands, the new station is so bad I'd rather grind down my teeth to dull little stumps and then gnaw off my arms rather than listen to it. But really, since it's just day one, I'm probably being too harsh. Actually, hold on a second and let me give it another listen. (Tunes to KCMP.) Ah, PJ Harvey.
Someone get me a spork. I feel the need to start stabbing people.
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Update, 10:55 p.m. Both KCMP and Radio K are playing The Postal Service. The K is playing "Nothing Better," while KCMP is playing "The District Sleeps Alone." And with that, I think it's time for me to log off.
It's been a busy, snowy weekend. Friday brought a fairly Minneapolis-centric MetaFilter gathering downtown. With many roads borderline impassible, everyone who showed up at the Rock Bottom either lived or worked in the city. While the crowd was a bit small, everyone seemed to have a good time, and a latter journey over to the Herkimer resulted in much laughter and spilt beer. (There were a couple of tangents about lawyers working in the IDS Tower, but there's not too much I can say about that.)
Saturday felt kind of lazy, but was actually rather busy. I worked in the morning, and Lisa arrived in the afternoon after braving the blowing snow between here and Madison. The plan for the evening called for heading downtown for dinner and The Life Aquatic, but some twists of scheduling bumped the movie plan to later this evening. Unsure of where to go for dinner, Lisa half-jokingly recommended T.G.I. Friday's after she learned that I'd never been there before. Well, that's where we ended up, and while the food was better than I expected, I doubt I'll be making a repeat visit anytime soon.
As a side note, Lisa had really wanted me to see some flair, but apparently Friday's has moved on.
Dinner was interrupted by a dual set of headaches—mine partially induced by the fucking stripes on the table at Friday's—but I'm not going to go into the brief run out through City Center to find aspirin that turned into a 15-minute jog to Target and Back. Let's just say that downtown needs more convenience stores that are open on weekend evenings.
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"You know what your mom said to me?"
"What? 'She's taller than the other one?'"
And with that, she hit me.
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While I've been anxiously awaiting the launch of Minnesota Public Radio's new channel 89.3 The Current, their new on-air promo gave me pause. It was good to hear Mary Lucia's voice on the radio again, but when she referred to the station "introducing cool new music like 'The Postal Service,'" I felt my heart sink. I love The Postal Service, but referring to a band who's latest album was released in February of 2003 as "new" suggests we won't be hearing anything truly new for some time.
Maybe I'm being a bit preemptive in my bitching. At least, I hope so. I'll give the new station a chance, of course, but if that's all they can muster, I'll have to stick with the K.
Movie Log: Million Dollar Baby
I've never been the biggest fan of Clint Eastwood's movies—Unforgiven may be one of the most overrated films of all time and, hey, who can forget such stellar flicks as Space Cowboys and True Crime—but I have to say Million Dollar Baby is one of the better films I've seen over the past few months. Eastwood's studied gruffness plays well in his part as Frankie Dunn, and Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman put in very strong performances as well. (Mild spoiler ahead.) While the story was generally good, I felt the lack of explanation around Dunn's relationship with his daughter was a bit of a cop-out to make him look weary and tortured, and the German fighter seemed a bit too cliched in her role as the villain. Still, it was a very good film, and one that I can comfortably recommend. 8/10.
Movie Log: Ocean's Eleven
I've had my Netflix copy of Ocean's Eleven sitting in my apartment for over a month now, and last night, partially egged on by Lisa, finally went ahead and gave it a shot. (One of the few problems with Netflix is if you don't manage your queue carefully, you'll end up with movies you're not in the mood for.) I'd heard a lot of good things about the movie, and probably had unfair expectations of it. The story and the acting were both good, and the overall look of the movie was very slick and stylish. Still, I was left with the feeling that it could've been better, although I'm not exactly sure how. Maybe it spent a little too much time trying to look cool? Both Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts' roles could've been developed a little more, I'm sure, but beyond that I don't know.
That said, it was good enough that I'd like to catch Ocean's Twelve before it disappears from theatres. 6/10.
The happy little salute I had up today for Bush's coronation inauguration can be found here.
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I was listening to Shrub on NPR this evening. One part of his inauguration speech stuck out:
"For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny—prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder—violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders and raise a mortal threat."
"Hey," I said. "It's not nice to talk about your own country that way."
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And, finally, on a completely inconsequential note:
"I'm just looking at the mail."
"Get anything interesting?"
"I got a large magazine wrapped in plastic."
"Kind of. It's the Room & Board 2005 Annual Catalog."
Quite a busy weekend. Friday brought a foray down to the greater Edina/Richfield area for Jenn's birthday. It was a cool event involving green-speckled communists (long story), bands assembled in basement corners, alcohol, and good conversation. Saturday was mostly spent indoors, if for no reason other than it was deathly cold outside. (Or, as I would usually try to say, "a bit chilly.") Lisa and I hit the mega-mall and Target, a small shopping outing that hit a bit of a roadbump at Sears.
"Why are we going to Sears," said Lisa. "I hate Sears."
"How can you hate Sears?"
"It's such a guy store."
"No it's not. Look, they have vacuum cleaners right there."
Lisa neglected to hit me, and I neglected to mention I'd purchased my own vacuum there.
Later, back on top of the mall's west parking deck, we climbed into the car, commented on how incredibly freakin' cold it was, and then decided the most rational thing to do would be to go out for ice cream. We ended up at Sebastian Joe's, which, happily enough, gives a discount when the ice cream case is warmer than the building's exterior. I had a cinnamon float. She had ginger ice cream. (And I thought their garlic ice cream was a bad idea. Whoo.)
Sunday was pretty much spent indoors as well. Aside from watching the Vikings take after the friendly team to the east, the only event worthy of note was catching Million Dollar Baby down at the Lagoon. It was quite good, and I'll try to get a review up for it later this week.
And now it's Monday again. It's just as cold as the weekend, only not as interesting.
10 below this evening, cooler temperatures to come.
I kind of have a masochistic love of brutally cold weather like this, but brain freeze can become an issue if one isn't careful. Stay in the cold too long, and hack philosophy can start to sound like meaningful revelation.
Well, that drive just sucked. I-94 north of Madison was basically a sheer sheet of ice, only without the high levels of traction we often associate with frozen water. I saw seven cars that had been in accidents, including one that had flipped on its roof, as well as 12 other vehicles stranded in the ditches. (One guy in an SUV actually managed to plow through 30 feet of snow and into a grove of trees.) On top of the threat to my physical well-being, I had to deal with the emotional trauma of another Packer season not just going down in flames, but going down in flames in a thoroughly embarrassing fashion. (Needless to say, the Packer Radio Network stayed more off than on.) For a while I considered pulling off and getting a hotel room, but the road dried out around Tomah, and the drive from there on out turned out to be fairly uneventful.
Aside from the drive and the game, Sunday was actually a pretty good day. I had brunch with Robin at Cafe Montmartre, a bohemian-leaning restaurant/jazz club near the capitol. It wasn't what I expected, but was pretty good anyway. The afternoon was spent with Lisa wandering around State Street, visiting The Exclusive Company, and enjoying lunch and appetizers at State Street Brats while the Packers imploded on the television.
Not to go on a food tangent, but the Red Brat at State Street Brats was a bit of a revelation. At first I found the idea of labeling a beef sausage as a bratwurst a bit offensive, but eventually decided to overlook that as it was just so damn good. If I get a chance to go there again, I'd like to try one of their real (read: pork) brats to see if they pass muster.
But not while watching a Packer game. I really need to stop watching those things.
11:02 in the evening. I'm in Madison, and while I had a good day, I'm feeling a bit detached. Today was kind of strange, if for no reason other than for who I saw and what I did. This morning I met my uncle Eric and aunt Margi for a late breakfast, and an hour later Eric and I visited my grandmother at a local nursing home. In itself that may not sound weird, but it's been five years since I saw Margi, and almost a decade since I saw Eric and my grandmother. (There's a story behind that duration, of course, but not one I'm going to touch on here.)
Both Eric and Margi seem to be doing well. Margi has married since I last saw her, and is about to leave with her husband on an eight-week trip to work on their second home in Baja California. Eric has been enjoying retirement by taking in Wisconsin and Packer football, as well as other sporting and cultural events. As far as my grandmother, her health could be better, but I guess she's doing pretty well for a woman in her 87th year, and she has a pretty good support system, so that's good, too. The nursing home she's in wasn't the most impressive in the world, but sometime next week she'll be moving back to her house where she'll have a live-in caregiver to take care of her.
In the afternoon I helped Eric with the genealogy website he's been working on (watch for links soon) and got updates on all the relatives (and new relatives) I haven't heard any news on for quite some time. In a way it was a bit weird; while I felt familiarity with the names and faces, at times the stories felt as if they were about strangers. I guess that's almost inevitable in situations like this, although that in itself doesn't make it any more comfortable.
Of course, some of them knew what's been up with me. You see, I have a website.
On a less heavy note, conversation at breakfast was another reminder that I come from a family line that has a long history of being fairly liberal. "I don't know," I said at one point, "I like Madison, but it's kind of a bubble."
"You'd start to think it was the real world after a while," said Margi.
Eric mulled on that for a moment. "Well," he said, "considering the circumstances, I'm not sure that would be such a bad thing."
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The evening was good. Lisa and I had a nice dinner at The Great Dane restaurant in downtown Madison, followed by a tour of the city from Lisa's perspective. (She grew up here.) In a way that was a bit weird, too, as Madison holds a lot of history for me, and suddenly there were new layers being added to streets and neighborhoods for which I already held memories and associations. I was glad for that to happen, though.
Tomorrow should be a little more normal. I hope to meet Robin for lunch, and then later in the afternoon Lisa and I are going to try to catch the Packer game at State Street Brats. (It's an institution I've passed numerous times but never have visited.) And then, well, it's back to Minneapolis.
It sounds like today was quite a day for everyone.
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Tuesday morning greeted with me with a cold that would pretty much knock me out before the day was over. I'm feeling a bit better now, although the headache I've been carrying for the past few hours is making it more than a little difficult to type.
So, why am I writing this evening? Well, I just had to post something. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Eye Of The Tiger.
I don't know where it's from or who it belongs to, and since it threatens to eat a lot of bandwidth, it probably won't be here for long. So, uh, enjoy, and DO NOT forward it to your friends or enemies, okay?
It was New Year's Eve and the party was going well. Then we stumbled upon a pierced Republican arguing that the fact Al Queda is currently active in Iraq is proof they were active there before the war. I tried to be courteous and give him the benefit of the doubt, but then he switched subjects and dropped this on us: "You know, I don't know what y'all think about this, but all these hurricanes, warm winters and now this tsunami... It kind of seems like we're leading up to Armageddon."
He was completely serious.
Not surprisingly, the conversation went downhill after that. That said, it was still a great party. Tony and Katie were in from Portland, and Heather and Jason drove in from River Falls. I don't see any of them as often as I should, so it was great to have everyone in the same place at once. In a way it was almost like being back at UW-RF, only without the messy student housing and copious amounts of vomit.
And messy student housing and vomit? I can live without that.
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So this is 2005. May it be a good year.
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As it happens, Friday night made two New Year's in a row in St. Paul. I consider that more of a coincidence than a trend.
Movie Log: Road to Perdition
Road To Perdition was clearly a movie that wanted to be bigger and more important than it actually was, although that's not to say it was a bad film. While the storyline lacked whatever element would've been necessary to place it next to great gangster movies like Goodfellas and The Untouchables, it did have a certain elegance to it, and Paul Newman's portrayal of a mob boss who still managed to be caring and fatherly was a nice departure from the typical stereotype. The acting was solid, although Jude Law's hitman occasionally was a bit difficult to take, and the soundtrack carried the movie well enough that its moments of absence were acutely noticeable.
Aside from all that, it has to be said that Road To Perdition was a very pretty movie. There were few scenes that couldn't have been frozen and framed. Chicago probably looked a bit better in The Untouchables, but not enough to count it as a strike against Perdition. All in all, it wasn't a great film, but still one good enough to recommend. 7/10.
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On a completely unrelated note, one of my goals for 2005 should be to get my money's worth out of my Netflix subscription.