What I’ve been up to

October 5th, 2004 § 10 comments § permalink

I’ll keep this short so I can get to class on time.

Sunday: The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park. I saw Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris, both of whom were amazing. My fingers are still thawing.

Monday: A debate between Mark Danner, a journalism professor at Berkeley, and William Kristol on whether we need a new president. Unsurprisingly, they did not reach a consensus. A Lyndon LaRouche supporter sitting behind me kept standing up and yelling at Kristol; police eventually came in and removed him. The LaRouche supporter, that is, not Kristol. Berkeley isn’t that ridiculous.

Today, later on: Butternut squash risotto, the vice-presidential debate, and drinks with my former housemates. Deliciousness bracketing bitterness.


September 30th, 2004 § Three comments § permalink

Some quick observations about tonight’s presidential debate, before reading any of the spin: Kerry is a remarkable debater—I had suspected and heard as much, but I never would have guessed just how good he is. He was focused and concise; he stayed on message but (usually) answered the question. And his answers were clear, cogent, and eloquent. George W. Bush was, well, George W. Bush. He frequently found himself at a loss for words; he confused Saddam Hussein with Osama Bin Laden within, I think, the first fifteen minutes; he struggled to defend four years of foreign policy that are all but indefensible. He lost. He lost badly. No intellectually honest person could say otherwise.

Tonight bodes well for the remainder of the campaign. And I promise not to post about the election all the time, but it made me so happy to see Kerry wipe the floor with Bush that I had to write something.

Giving you the franchise

September 28th, 2004 § Seven comments § permalink

Hey, California pals: If you’ve moved recently, and you were expecting the DMV to handle your change of voter registration, make sure you’re actually registered at your new address! I mailed my change of address form to the DMV two months ago, and they still haven’t updated my registration.

The easiest way to find out whether you’re registered is to call your county registrar of voters. For my Alameda County peeps, the number is 510-272-6973. It took me about two minutes to call and check. If you know you’re not registered, you can download the form and mail it in. You can also pick one up from any of the seventeen thousand people who are registering voters right now—but mail it in yourself, so you can be sure that it doesn’t get lost.

Remember, you will feel stupid if you aren’t able to vote this year. The registration deadline is October 18. Take care of this while you still can!

Now more than ever

September 6th, 2004 § Three comments § permalink

My work-avoidance tactic this morning: watching more old presidential campaign commercials. I especially like this treacly 1972 ad for Nixon. Who, I wonder, thought it wise to make an ad for Richard Fucking (expletive deleted) Nixon that opened with a shot of a butterfly? Meanwhile, George McGovern, who had Watergate and Vietnam to talk about, apparently couldn’t do any better than a weird little newspaper montage and a stream-of-consciousness monologue from an undecided voter.

Everybody likes Ike

July 15th, 2004 § One comment § permalink

The Living Room Candidate is an archive of commercials for American presidential campaigns. The earliest ones, from the 1952 Eisenhower-Stevenson race, are especially entertaining. One proclaims Eisenhower to be “THE MAN FROM ABILENE!” using a voice and typeface better suited to a tights-wearing superhero. Another tries to position Ike as the people’s candidate:

Announcer: Eisenhower answers America!

Unconvincing actress portraying housewife: You know what things cost today. High prices are just driving me crazy.

Eisenhower (woodenly): Yes. My Mamie gets after me about the high cost of living. It’s another reason why I say izz (sic) time for a change. Time to get back to an honest dollar and an honest dollar’s worth.

Adlai Stevenson’s ads were worse. One of them is basically just a tight shot of a woman singing this jazzy little number, titled “I Love the Gov”:

I’d rather have a man with a hole in his shoe
Than a hole in everything he says
I’d rather have a man who knows what to do
When he gets to be the prez

I love the gov, the governor of Illinois
He is the gov that brings the dove of peace and joy
When Illinois the GOP double-crossed
He is the one who told all the crooks “Get lost!”

Adlai, love you madly
And what you did for your own great state
You’re gonna do for the rest of the 48

Didn’t know much about him before he came
But now my heart’s a ballot that bears his name

‘Cause I listened to what he had to say
I know that on Election Day
We’re gonna choose the gov that we love
He is the gov nobody can shove
We’ll make the gov the president of
The U, the me and the USA!

Yeah! Swing it!

“This has been tough weeks in that country”

April 13th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

I applied Microsoft Word’s autosummarize feature to President Bush’s responses at tonight’s press conference. Here’s the 94-word version of his answers:

The Iraqi people need us there to help with security. Saddam Hussein was a threat. We needed to work with people. People needed to come together to work. John?


People are sacrificing their lives in Iraq from different countries. It’ll change the world. We’re an open country. We’re at war. Iraq is a part of the war on terror. It’s a tough time for the American people to see that. The American people may decide to change. Now’s the time to talk about winning this war on terror. Free societies are hopeful societies.

The only flaw in this summary is that it does not urge us to remember the lessons of 9-11.

A dirty shame

March 13th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Robert F. Kennedy’s long, angry, brilliant indictment of the Bush Administration’s environmental policies is worth reading, even for those of us who already knew enough about the policies to be outraged:

Generations of Americans will pay the Republican campaign debt to the energy industry with global instability, depleted national coffers and increased vulnerability to price shocks in the oil market.

They will also pay with reduced prosperity and quality of life at home. Pollution from power plants and traffic smog will continue to skyrocket. Carbon-dioxide emissions will aggravate global warming. Acid rain from Midwestern coal plants has already sterilized half the lakes in the Adirondacks and destroyed the forest cover in the high peaks of the Appalachian range up into Canada. The administration’s attacks on science and the law have put something even greater at risk. Americans need to recognize that we are facing not just a threat to our environment but to our values, and to our democracy.

The Fog of War

February 15th, 2004 § One comment § permalink

No matter how much you know about the Vietnam War; no matter what you think of Robert McNamara; no matter whether you normally watch documentaries, go see The Fog of War. It’s troubling, thought-provoking, and unfortunately, quite timely. The fact that the word “Berkeley” was misspelled in the credits in no way detracts from the film’s overall excellence.

Now I need to find time to watch the webcast of McNamara’s appearance at UC Berkeley with Errol Morris, which sold out long before I tried to get a ticket.

Well, ain’t that a kick in the teeth

January 8th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

It’s not too often that a news story makes me sit straight up in my chair and yell unprintable things at my computer, but this one managed to do just that: Schwarzenegger wants to raise fees for UC graduate students by 40 percent. That would be the second 40 percent hike in two years.

Reading this part of the article didn’t make me any happier:

In his State of the State address Tuesday, Schwarzenegger proposed capping annual student fee increases for the state’s university systems at 10%, but did not specify whether he was referring to undergraduate or graduate students.

In his speech, the governor spoke of the necessity of ending what he described as the “boom-and-bust cycle of wildly fluctuating fees with a predictable, capped fee policy” for college students.

“And we must limit fee increases to no more than 10% a year,” Schwarzenegger said. “Like our kindergarten through 12th grade schools, our colleges and universities must also share the burden of the fiscal crisis.”

Late Wednesday, a spokesman for the Department of Finance said Schwarzenegger was referring only to undergraduate students when he proposed a cap on university fee increases.

Oh, so that was what he meant. For a minute there, I thought the governor was just a goddamned liar.

In which I find a way to mention robots in a post about the Gettysburg Address

December 18th, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, one of the finest oratories in American history, six score 120 years ago yesterday. Would that more writing were so powerful and eloquent. (Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address comes close.)

NPR aired Sam Waterston’s reading of the Address on Morning Edition, but I confess that his delivery did not impress me much. Also, ever since Saturday Night Live showed that damned Old Glory Robot Insurance sketch, I have trouble imagining him in any other role.

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