Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year Shmeap Year

As if February is not already interminable, this year it has an extra day. I understand that the earth's orbit around the sun takes 365.25 days . . . I understand that this physical reality necessitates the addition of a calendar day every four years and that since February has but 28 days it has room for the extra. Could we not add the extra day to one of the months with 30 days? The end of April can be lovely, as is the end of June and even September. But, no. We add one more day to February, the longest month.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Suburban Demographics

The below is quoted from "The Search for The Next Soccer Mom" in the Wall Street Journal (2/28/08). The article highlights several trends being watched by demographers that may play a role in the 2008 Presidential Election. Given that I'm a suburbanite, this portion of the piece, among others, caught my eye:

The suburbs are the contested terrain. According to Robert Lang of Virginia Tech, Thomas Sanchez of the University of Utah and Alan Berube of Brookings, Republican voters used to dominate the suburbs, but "with these areas becoming larger scale, quasi-urban environments, they are highly contested spaces that contain some of the nation's most important swing districts."

"Density equals Democrats," they argue, because the social environment and housing types in these areas tend to draw more Democratic leaning voters. Conversely, the farther out you get from the urban core, the more voters lean toward the GOP. Hence, strong Mr. Bush and GOP performance in the emerging suburbs and exurbs that lie on the fast-growing metropolitan fringe (52% growth between 1990 and 2005, compared to only 11% in the innermost suburbs).

But in 2006, the Democrats were more competitive in the metropolitan fringe and dominated the rest of suburbia. As Messrs. Lang, Sanchez and Berube put it, "The metropolitan political battle line is not neatly split between city and suburbs, but instead now mostly lies in the transition areas between mature and emerging suburbs." In 2006, the Democrats pushed that battle line fairly far out into the emerging suburbs. In 2008, the battle may turn on whether they can hold that line or whether the GOP can push it back into the mature suburbs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, RIP

William F. Buckley, father of the modern conservative movement, founder of National Review and a major player in twentieth century American literature died this morning while working in his study. By all accounts, he was both a brilliant and a good man. Many of the paeans I'm reading this afternoon and evening all speak of his gentlemanly nature, his command of language, his wit, intellect, and his joy -- an emotion nearly extinct on Terra Politica. I read a 2005 interview with him in the Wall Street Journal in which he offered his interlocutor a cocktail before lunch, and went on to say "mischievously," that "[t]here's a certain wholesomeness to the Republican Party." The interview certainly showed his joie de vivre, but also explicitly highlighted the difference between being conservative and being a conservative -- a point Buckley made in reference to the president.

William F. Buckley's founding statement for National Review:

Let's face it: Unlike Vienna, it seems altogether possible that did National Review not exist, no one would have invented it. The launching of a conservative weekly journal of opinion in a country widely assumed to be a bastion of conservatism at first glance looks like a work of supererogation, rather like publishing a royalist weekly within the walls of Buckingham Palace. It is not that, of course; if National Review is superfluous, it is so for very different reasons: It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.

National Review is out of place, in the sense that the United Nations and the League of Women Voters and the New York Times and Henry Steele Commager are in place. It is out of place because, in its maturity, literate America rejected conservatism in favor of radical social experimentation. Instead of covetously consolidating its premises, the United States seems tormented by its tradition of fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, with the relationship of the state to the individual, of the individual to his neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Omar Got Got

We're very big fans of The Wire on HBO. Without a doubt, it's the best show on television because it is what TV can be at its best: engaging, enraging, entertaining, disheartening, honest, raw and real. The arc of the story lines have been developing for five years, the characters growing, changing and getting more real each season.

There are only two episodes left in the series and last night, Omar (Little) -- the stick up king of West Baltimore, feared, revered and reviled by those in the game, a homosexual, a sociopath but a moralist who never turned his gun on someone not in the game -- one of the best, most charismatic and interesting characters in the show took one in the back of the head while buying a pack of Kools, soft-pack, in a Korean Grocery.

The scene was masterful: Omar hobbled into the store, on a desolate street. There was a sense of dread in the desolation. As Omar bought his smokes, the bell on the store's door rang and he looked at whoever just entered the store, didn't deem that person a threat and went back to his business. Just as my nerves were calming down (jangled by the bells)there was a bang, blood and gore spewed out of the top of Omar's head and onto the bullet proof glass at the checkout counter. The camera cut quickly through the space where Omar once stood to show a little corner boy standing behind Omar, looking terrified and confused. He reached down to touch Omar's body, pointed the gun at the proprietress, dropped the piece and bolted.

It was taughtly rendered television -- proving once again that there are no throw-away scenes and details in The Wire, and that your favorite character will buy it rapidly and violently if the logic of the story requires it. Just as the show started last night I told Mrs. Agricola that I had a feeling that Omar was going to get Marlo before the cops did (it's a 2+ season story line), and that all of their hard work was going to be for naught. I guess I was completely wrong.

Omar got got.
No one on the street even knew who got him.
The Baltimore Sun didn't even deem his murder newsworthy.
A county ME saved him from being mis-identified in the morgue.
The episode closed with the body bag being zipped over his face.
Life is tough in West Ballmer.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Inside Out Job

I took advantage of some beautiful, but cold, weather to do an inside out job. Like many of my neighbors my garage had become a repository for all sorts of stuff -- but not actually a motor vehicle. There are plenty of bikes, trikes, scooters, jogging strollers, snow shoes etc. etc. as well as stowed detritus from last fall's yard clean-up and just generally junk. I attacked it today and cleaned it out and I think that my car will fit. It's not a big deal, not a big job, but it's a good thing to get out of the way. The garage cleaning is the sort of project that for which the winter is made. Next on my list is my workshop/storage area. It really is the little things in life that make me happy -- and taking control of stuff and its spread is a big source of joy -- it's cathartic.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Concerning Obama's Ascendancy

Currently, I'm between contract gigs. I'd had something lined up but it fell through as so often happens when contracting with small, interactive-inexperienced agencies. I've been beating the bushes and reading a ton of stuff about the presidential primaries. I did my civic duty and voted last week, casting a meaningless vote for a once-hopeful but now former candidate (who was still in when I voted).

Things have certainly changed quickly over the past week and now, in light of the VA/MD/DC primaries it looks increasingly as if Barack Hussein Obama has a pretty legitimate shot at the Democrat nomination. I qualify "legitimate" because it's not apparent that the Clinton Machine will actually acknowledge the ground rules of the primary to which they agreed before all of this madness started. Who would have thought that BHO would give Ms. Rodham such a run for her money, and actually beat her? I've had a feeling since late summer that he would -- she's too strident, too divisive and, frankly, too unappealing -- but I'm not sure that I would have wagered my kids' college savings.

He's a heck of a speaker, and charismatic but listen to what he says. He doesn't say much except to say how lousy, how unfair, and Dickensian the whole country is. When he's not being negative he's speaks vaguely of what he stands for and showers his crowds with bromides about "change" and "yes we can!" First of all, he's taken a page from The Commonwealth's very own Governor Deval Patrick, and his campaign motto of "Together we Can." As I wrote after Patrick's election in 2006:

It's a terrific marketing line. It says much and says nothing. It's brilliant and permits the reader to finish the line and therefore believe that the coming administration will fulfill his or her governmental dreams. The Patrick campaign never permitted itself to be defined, to take a stand or to declare its beliefs. Instead, it used its brilliant slogan to make the electorate believe that anything is possible. It's a great message, it's a great slogan but unfortunately the lack of substance, and the apparent lack of a plan behind the slogan don't bode well. . .

To be fair to Gov. Patrick, his campaign motto was better than BHO's. As the father of a toddler-boy I get my fair share of "Bob the Builder," whose motto is, "Yes We Can!" Just like the Democrat front runner for that party's presidential nomination Bob is not overly deep. Despite BHO's willful opacity, and his pseudo-positivity the more he speaks the more his true, negative view of America, his absolute lack of knowledge about foreign affairs emerge from the shadows. During my recent, unfettered, stroll around the blogosphere I've found some scary things popping up -- video and photographic evidence of, if not his true colors, then his lack of patriotism (I know, I know, don't questions the Democrats' Patriotism -- though the below pictures can only make one do so).

Here is BHO refusing to salute the flag last fall in Iowa.

Here is a shot from his newest campaign office in Houston.

He won't wear a flag on his lapel. He won't place his hand over his heart during the National Anthem, and Che's face and the Cuban flag fly in one of his offices. Once the people who sought the office of the presidency seemed to have some sort of love for this country or were compelled to serve out of some sense of duty. What inspires BHO, and what is it that inspires his followers to such levels of enthusiasm? There is a definite cult of personality around the man and that is not a good thing in my book, especially not given his seemingly ambivalent view of America.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Wisdom of Fandom

"Thank you for coming . . . the visiting room is ahead, and to the right . . . please be sure to sign the guest book . . . "

The undertakers rolled into every living-TV-Rumpus-dorm-bed-den-barroom in New England last night around 11:00 PM EST -- just after Eli Manning and the NY Giants committed regicide on the presumed-kings of the NFL, our New England Patriots -- and welcomed us to the funeral parlor. The Giants dispatched the men from Foxboro brutally, ruthlessly and with the utmost professionalism -- qualities we'd come to expect from our own team of football-Gods. It wasn't personal, except that it was, and always is, when you make your living imposing your will on other men. When it was over, we were all reminded how personal and painful fandom can be.

I've been around sports and Boston Sports (capitalization is intentional) for a long time. We've long supported teams that were whipping boys and also-rans. Historically, Boston Fans are die hard, stubborn, bitter-enders who pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost causes. The past seven years have been the Golden Age of Boston Sports -- the Celtics 80s notwithstanding. Super Bowl XLII was meant to be the crown jewel amongst a ridiculous trove of treasure: 3 of 7 Super Bowls, 2 of 4 World Series, the best record in the NBA, a highly ranked D-1 college football team, a pro hockey team that's currently playoff eligible, and as I write this, BC and BU just tore it up in an OT of the second game of the opening night of the Beanpot -- one of the best college tourneys of any kind.

Super Bowl XLII, however, showed how fragile the line between pleasure and pain, success and failure is, and how emotionally devastating fandom can be. I go about my day-to-day, and try and not get overly fired up about sports, though I do like them, I follow them, I derive pleasure from them. I loved this Patriots team -- not in the latently homosexual way that so many "dudes" around here "love" Tom Brady. It was a distinct honor to watch them play, and go along for the ride. Yet, as a friend wrote on his blog "Why do I get so emotionally invested in something that is out of my control?" I wish I knew because Super Bowl Monday was a drag. There is no energy in the area, everybody is down and I've heard more than once that people were up all night; that they thought that what they'd seen was a bad dream. No such luck. It was all too real, and now many of us are questioning why we are fans; is the sort of pain we feel in the wake of a loss like that in XLII worth it in the long run?

Dreams of 19-0 ended "oh . . . no . . . " as Plaxico Burress hauled in the winning TD with 35 seconds to go. Perfection was thwarted. A tremendous, record setting ride has been written off as meaningless. That seems a bit harsh to me, and not entirely fair but never forget the aforementioned, razor thin line between pleasure and pain, success and failure. A miserable 2:24 at the end of XLII, wiped out the previous 18 hours 57 minutes and 36 seconds of superiority, and now the Patriots are judged failures and now their fans, me included, suffer an existential crisis, as we contemplate the wisdom of fandom. I've long said though, that regardless of the team, win or lose, I've got to get up and go to work, pay my mortgage and feed and care for my children. Today was no exception, and, looking ahead, pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Meyers in 9 days, and Patriots mini-camp is only about 6 months away . . .

"Hi, my name's Agricola."
"I'm a fan . . . "