November 30, 2006

Caitlyn wasn't ready for sleep, I guess, when I finished her lullabies and left her room last night. Instead of in bed, under blankets, she was across the room, with her books. After she'd quieted down and fallen asleep, I went in to check on her. She'd made it to her bed and was lying on her tummy, with her head off her mat and on the carpet. Her stuffed black and white "Tinker" cat was tucked under one arm; her other was splayed across If I Ran the Circus, which she had brought to bed.

It's quite possible we have a bookworm on our hands. You are never too young to fall asleep with your books.

November 06, 2006

Ah, climate change and automobile dependency...
I haven't tried this out myself, but I know if I sit in my running car in a closed garage, I'm pretty sure I will be dead long before the fuel runs out. My car holds two. We would both be dead. Did I mention that I drive a hybrid?

My car could kill many more. Taking the conservative estimate of five carbon-monoxide deaths per car, I started estimating how many cars there are in one mile of traffic. I reset my odometer and checked the clock. In rush hour, it took me an hour and a half to travel 30 miles from Long Beach to Glendale. I was lucky.

Thirty miles in one hour and a half averages out to 20 miles an hour. Even when we were traveling at speeds in excess of 60 miles an hour, there was barely the recommended two seconds of distance between cars, but let's use that figure. There are 3600 seconds in one hour, 1800 two-second intervals. Twenty miles divided by 1800 is just under 60 feet.

Taking the first car that comes to mind, a Toyota Camry, the 2005 model is 15 feet, 9 inches. Add that to the front and back of our two-second cushion and we have two cars occupying approximately every 90 feet of highway, or just over 58 cars in a one mile stretch. Lets round down, for you skeptics: 50 cars per mile, four lanes of traffic is 200 cars per mile. In 30 miles, that's 6000 cars.

I don't have any empirical evidence, and the freeway is not a closed garage, but every time I drive home well over 30,000 potential carbon-monoxide deaths are lurking in the atmosphere over one short stretch of Los Angeles freeway. I don't think they're patching up that hole in the ozone layer.
Thanks to Matt for doing the math.

If you haven't already, vote on Tuesday. Vote for pollution controls, emissions standards, alternative fuels, and energy independence. And then find at least one way to reduce your car use this week.

September 22, 2006

Caitlyn seems to have discovered buttons, the kind you push and get some sort of response from. She has a small collection of such toys, from a dancing bear with excerpts of five classical works to a key chain with sounds for a doorbell, a car horn, and a UFO launching (although it's just as common for her to hold the keys to her ear and say "Ahlo?"). Thinking that maybe more buttons might be interesting, we went looking for our ideal buttoned toy.

Only to find that it apparently doesn't exist. There are lots of toys with buttons and lots of toys that make noise. But they are static. Here's what we were looking for:
  • Something (closed) laptop sized, that has a touch screen that fills a side
  • Color display
  • Water resistant enough to survive repeated wipe-downs after jam-covered fingers get a hold of it
  • A wireless stylus that can be attached or removed depending on activity and/or age of user
  • An USB connection for temporary hook-ups to a parental computer for installation of programs and activities
  • An open architecture (or whatever the proper term is) so that lots of programs/activities could be available. I don't want to be limited to just a single publisher for content. A thriving open-source community that was constantly coming up with new stuff would be fantastic. Also, it would be cool if programming for it was simple enough that the kids/users could get involved.
This devise could be a sketchpad for one user (for use with stylus or fingers), for artistic creations. It could be a "teach me how to write my letters" toy, first with printing and later with cursive. It could display a keyboard and be a "teach me how to type" toy. There could be letter/word games, math/number games, matching games, ebooks (how cool would it be to have a familiar story but with the opportunity to draw the pictures yourself?), and probably all sorts of other things I haven't thought of.

The idea here is to make top (or near-top) technology available to kids, not call a red and blue plastic thing with 5 activities and 20 buttons "My First Laptop". I want a device that's durable enough to survive repeated maulings by toddlers and adaptable enough that it is neat now and still cool and usable when Caitlyn is 3 and 7 and 10. The whole thing should be available for less than $100 (it's a slimmer $100 laptop after all) and new material for it should always be available for $5-$30.

That's not unreasonable, is it?

September 20, 2006

A recent conversation on our family mailing list brought 911 Mysteries to my attention. (Watch part 1, part 2, and part 3 of the first installment, Demolitions.) The producers make a pretty compelling argument, although I could just be too willing to believe people in positions of power are capable of shocking feats of corruption.

The movie doesn't make accusations, perhaps one of its strongest aspects. It just presents lots of evidence, about buildings and steel and fire and explosions and demolitions and insurance and investments and permits and planes and volcanoes and thermite and basements and the weekend before 9/11, then leaves it up to the viewer to ask the gut-wrenching impossible questions: What if...?

I had just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible the week before 9/11. In the novel, some of the characters get caught up in a removal of a legitimate African government apparently orchestrated by the US since the African government wanted something out of line with American expectations. I remember thinking after 9/11 that I wouldn't be surprised if it came out someday that somehow the US government was behind or aware of the tragedy. If some portion of our government is orchestrating coups in other countries and no one calls them on it loudly enough, it's really only a matter of time before that portion tries the same scenario at home.

They must have felt so confident. Decades of pulling off the downfall of governments, of protecting the interests of the few at the cost of the many, of using popular mainstream media to tell a gullible public what to believe. After so much practice abroad, to so little consequence, it must have been easy.

May the truth, the unbiased, uncompromised, unadulterated truth, whatever it may be, be revealed.

September 14, 2006

Apparently, this "where does my money go" site (see previous post) isn't an original idea, although why the best summary of the battle for getting the matter unveiled appears in a Scots newspaper, I'm sure I don't know. According to the font of information that is Wikipedia, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act has passed both House and Senate and is awaiting a Presidential Signature. It looks as if it's focussing on listing the organizations that receive federal funding as well as the amounts received. Depending on how that gets translated from the legal-speak of the bill to an actual website, it might be somewhat less than I'd hoped (since there doesn't seem to be a requirement that the receiving organization detail what they did with the money after they received it). But it's a start.

September 07, 2006

So, it's that time of year again, and I'm wading through a (mercifully short) voter's pamphlet in preparation for Washington's mid-September primary. In compliance with some apparent rule out there that says one cannot have an election without something about taxes in it somewhere, there's a local initiative looking to add approximately $150 to the "average" homeowner's property taxes. They insist that these funds would go exclusively to local schools.

I'm probably naive when it comes to things governmental, and I'm generally pro-education, but I find I have a small problem with all the repeated requests for more money (more taxes). Not that I'm going to spurn broccoli and pontificate about No New Taxes or anything, but it seems that there's quite a bit of money going to the various governments out there and that it never quite seems to be enough. If our government is supposed to be "for the people, by the people", is it too much to hold our government to the same standards as regular people? I balance our checkbook weekly, and the government can't be bothered to balance a budget once a year?

So here's my suggestion: Let's have a website (or several) out there, covering each level of government (city, county, state, federal), with a plain-English (ie, you don't have to be a lawyer to understand it) breakdown of where the money comes from and where it goes. Seattle has a population of 573,000; let's be conservative and hypothetically say that a quarter of those people are property-owners. That's 143,250 people to pay property taxes, with an average of $3,209 each. That's a total of $459,689,250, which looks like a large number to me. And this isn't taking into account business taxes, sales taxes, use taxes, vehicle taxes or any other way the government has of getting income. Government price tags always seem to run millions to billions, so clearly this hypothetical $460 million isn't quite enough, but where does it go?

I'd like to see how much money comes in for a government and where it comes from. Then, I'd like to see where it's going. And not just "14% - transportation". I should be able to chase that 14% down to the dollars and cents spent on stop signs and reflective paint. Don't say "Administrative costs"; tell me how much you spent on pencils and the person who sharpens them.

If it was clear exactly where the money I hand over to all the various levels of government go, then I might feel better about the larger picture. I might not mind polite, well-reasoned requests for more money. Because if I can clearly see that the government is spending it's money wisely and responsibly, balancing it's checkbook and not wheeling-and-dealing on credit, then I can trust that there is truely a need and that the government is going to spend the newly requested funds on what it says it will spend them on.

August 23, 2006

I was driving, so most of my critical thinking brain cells were not paying attention to the radio, but I did catch most of KUOW's interview with Noah Feldman, author of What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building. How refreshing to hear someone speaking rationally on the topic, weighing in somewhere between "Stay the Course!" and "Bring the Troops Home Now!"

His logic: No matter what flawed logic got us there, the US has more or less completely dismantled Iraq and, having made a mess, it's our responsibility to clean up after ourselves. We owe the people of Iraq an apology and a functioning government. What's more, Mr. Feldman has ideas on how to get there: change our "nation building" policy to one that doesn't automatically hand out contracts to US companies. (He's got a point there: if our point in invading Iraq was to liberate the Iraqi people, then what's with all the money going to US companies? How does that help the Iraqi people?)

I've never been in favor of this particularly misguided example of foreign policy. But there's something about the angry agitation for complete and immediate withdrawal that doesn't sit right either. It's kind of like making a really big mess in your friend's house and then saying, not my problem. It may be your friend's house, but you'd be low-life, short-term friend for behaving that way, and eventually everyone would move and not leave a forwarding address just to get rid of you.

August 19, 2006

Caitlyn and I went to the aquarium the other day. This was the first such outing where she found the exhibits interesting. Sure, she seemed to appreciate the orange fish on her first aquarium trip (at 7 months), but this time she marched up to the tank windows, put her hands on the glass and stared at the occupants. At the sea otters, she pointed at the otters, turned to me, and announced, "Dog!" In contrast to our trip to the zoo a month ago, when she found the fences irresistible. Not the enclosure fences, but the "serving suggestion" fences along the paths through the zoo. They were cable and about 14 inches high, perfect for Caitlyn to lean on and swing on and hang over. I kept pointing out animals ("Caitlyn, look! Hippos!"), and she kept going back to the fences.

Back at the aquarium, we also saw a large sea star moving at high speed down one of the tank windows. I'm familiar with the idea that sea stars move, but, never having actually seen any such activity, figured they moved about the speed of drugged snails. This star made it from top to bottom of a 30-inch window in under five minutes. We could see his many tentacles in his many arms reach and grab and contract and release, over and over. Two windows over, another sea star was moving at sea star speed, pulling a fish toward it's mouth so slowly that we couldn't see the motion, only the creeping disappearance of the fish when we looked back after watching some other, more active, fish for a while.

August 13, 2006

We watched V for Vendetta over the weekend. I wonder if in fifty years we will look back on it as an amusing celuloid fiction or as prophesy.

I wonder if it will take fifty years before we know.

July 13, 2006

I came upon this article today. We have three choices: destroy ourselves in the next 100 years through warfare; destroy ourselves in the next 100 years through environmental catastrophe; or, by some miracle, avoid disaster by radically and aggressively addressing the habits that are leading to warfare and environmental catastrophe. The article's author asserts that "There will be sacrifices to deal with global warming, and we will need to change some habits of long-standing."

I'm sick of hearing, "Things must change." Yeah. Duh. How about something a bit more concrete? And don't go pointing me to the "50 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet" article or the 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. Nothing against either resource, but I doubt that's going to be enough. Recycling soda cans is a drop in the bucket, an important drop but a drop nonetheless, and doesn't do anything to address the over-consumption that is the more fundamental problem.

If we are guilty of over-consumption, the logical thing to do is to consume less. But what does Consume Less look like? Does it mean eating less? Buying fewer groceries? Buying in bulk? Driving less? Foregoing the seasonal wardrobe update? Passing over that new video game? Going to bed when the sun goes down so you don't use electric lights? Where are the parts of our lifestyle that over-consume resources? Because I'm willing to bet that there are big black holes of resource consumption that we are entirely unaware of.

And I'm pretty sure that we can't wait for "the next administration - of either party - (to) shift from apocalypse to reality ... to turn back the environmental tide and save the 21st century for our grandchildren." Change happens out here, among individuals, in small groups. Change is an idea that starts locally, among neighbors, and catches on and spreads until it's just the Way Things Are. But nothing will change enough to save us until we individuals know what our patterns of consumption are really costing us all.

July 05, 2006

With the possible exception of the grass in the central park, I think we have all survived the Fourth.

I have a complicated relationship with the holiday, even if we ignore the current discomforting foreign policy. Mostly, it's about the fireworks. I enjoy the sparkles and the lights, but I'm finding that the older I get the more uncomfortable I am with the sounds and the smoke they cause. The big fireworks for large displays (the kind over the beach in Santa Barbara, or over any of the Seattle-area bodies of water) are fine, somehow. It's the smaller explosives, the firecrackers you can find in the supermarket in late June and the fireworks brought back from the surrounding reservations, that bother me.

Our neighborhood has been popping and booming for the last five days. As a parent, there's a kind of general discomfort with all the kids running around with matches and explosives. "Don't play with that - someone could get hurt!" This wasn't made any better when I realized that some of the fireworks were being launched sideways. But it's the sounds these things make that make me really edgy. One last night had a kind of sustained scream that turned all my vertebrae on end. The rest sound like a cacophony of gunfire.

I should appreciate the innocence that allows the neighborhood kids to shriek with delight at things that sound like weapons. But I found myself instead, tense and on edge in my kitchen, thinking of the women in Gaza and Baghdad, places where those sounds are not primarily sounds of celebration. There is a sense of personal gratitude that I am not there, but there is also a prayer for strength and peace for these women. May you survive with your hearts and spirits intact; may you raise the next generation to find the road to peace; may the explosions you hear soon be as innocuous as fireworks launched sideways.

June 22, 2006

I had occasion to attempt clothes shopping yesterday. It's always been a daunting task for me, now more so since Caitlyn thinks that department stores are for running in. She knows she can get around (under) the clothes faster than I, and it amuses her no end to have me chasing after her.

I've never really gotten into shopping for shopping's sake, although I certainly tried when I was a teenager. The chief problem is that I'm tall and narrow, and while the models and fashion industry say this is what women should look like, it's still impossible to find clothes that fit right. Or, maybe not impossible, exactly. I would just have to take two whole days, try on everything in sight, and be ok with dropping $150 on a pair of jeans.

My fashion sense has evolved into something pragmatic. Basic. Classic. Hemlines go up and down, skirts go full and straight. I wear the same things day after day.

So, here's what I want: a section in at least one department store (or a specialty store) where regardless of season or fashion, there are the basics. Jeans that sit at my waist and go to my ankles. Solid cotton skirts of middling fullness and length. Shirts I can tuck in. Long sleeves that go to my wrists. All in basic mix-n-match colors: black, white, cream, blues, burgundy, green.

Give me comfortable, affordable basics that I can wear around the house or around town, reading on the couch or chasing my kid. If I could get that without hassle, I might be willing to indulge in something "fashionable", like the over-embellished shirt (printed! painted! glittered!) that no one would be caught dead in at the end of the season.

June 21, 2006

The conversation vered toward local traffic over the weekend, with an out-of-town guest surprised at the number of cars on the highway - at mid-day on a weekday, no less. I was rather inarticulate in saying that yes, there are lots of cars on the road and that's ok since we need people to get fed up with driving so we get some comprehensive public transit in place. D. thought that there'd be fewer people on the road if property and houses weren't so expensive closer to the city. If people didn't have to go so far just to find a house they could afford, traffic would be better. A. pointed out that she's paying $70 per week on gas (nearly $300 per month) and then you add wear and tear on your car, you're not saving anything by driving so much. She thought that if the businesses and therefore the jobs weren't all concentrated in one area, then there'd be fewer cars on the highway since they wouldn't all be trying to go to the same place at the same time.

Which got me thinking about expectations. How many people expect that they should have a large house on a large plot of land? It's an expectation we get from our national history, when filling the vast empty spaces of the country with farmers and taxpayers was an imperative. Is it still a widely held expectation? In today's culture, is this still something people think they want regardless of how little they are actually going to do with the land? With all the time spent at work and commuting, how many people raise produce or animals on their property?

Certainly, some people do. But I wonder about the people with the large house and the large plot of unused acreage. Sometimes, of course, that acreage is simply green space, a necessary and welcome thing. But often, it seems, it's all more of a status thing, a declaration of "I can afford this". And I find I miss the (romantic) sensible-ness of pockets of density surrounded by farms and green space. Nature, neighbors, and nutrition all conveniently located. No need to spend an hour or more on the road, alone in the car, surrounded by lots of other cars, all going the same way.

June 09, 2006

The other day, I noticed a billboard advertising Nestle's new CoffeeMate, now not just non-dairy but soy. The ad was making a connection between the curved shape of the CoffeeMate bottle and the curved shape of a toned female waist. One more product pushing the miracle of the soybean... lose weight, stay in shape, be hot and sexy all by adding Soy CoffeeMate to your coffee.

I thought it was all a bit ridiculous really. Nothing against the soybean, but it's hardly a miracle food that can cure everything. Still, I wasn't expecting to be validated quite so soon: The Seattle Times recently ran an article summing up some recent studies which indicate that while soy is certainly good for you and a near complete protien, it doesn't cure cancer, reverse heart disease or relieve hot flashes. They didn't say it, but I think it's safe to assume that soy products alone will not make you lose weight or give you a nice trim figure without all that pesky exercising.

Sorry, CoffeeMate. I'll go have myself a latte, with whole milk, and sugar, and hazelnut syrup... because when I drink coffee I'm having a moment to enjoy myself, not obsess about how this might be the gram of fat that does me in.

May 22, 2006

A copy of The Stranger materialized in our kitchen the other day, so I had a chance to read this edition of "Savage Love" with an update on "straight rights":

"In particular, and not to put too fine a point on it, they [fundamentalists and conservatives] want to change the way Americans have sex," [Russell] Shorto writes [in "The War on Contraception," in the New York Times Magazine]. "Contraception, by [their] logic, encourages sexual promiscuity, sexual deviance (like homosexuality), and a preoccupation with sex that is unhealthful even within marriage." Shorto quotes Judie Brown, president of the American Life League: "We see a direct connection between the practice of contraception and the practice of abortion. The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set.... We oppose all forms of contraception." And there's this from R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: "I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill... Prior to it, every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy. Once that is removed, the entire horizon of the sexual act changes. I think there could be no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation."

There are a number of things to take issue with here, including the faulty science of "every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy" and the assertion that it's "anti-child" to time the arrival of children for when a family has the resources (financial, temporal, emotional, etc) to actually care for that child. But here's what's been on my mind:

The anti-contraception position is fundamentally an anti-woman position, and specifically, a position that wants to restrict women to the roles of housewife and mother. I cannot object to either of those roles, since I wear those hats myself. However, I also wear a number of other hats. I have continued to work, albeit from home and with limited hours, since Caitlyn was born. I need the mental challenge and the grown-up interaction work provides. While I love my daughter and think she's the smartest, most advanced child the world has ever seen, there's only so long that her current favorite activities (wood chip and tupperware relocation projects) can keep me amused.

Taking time for me and my projects, during her naps and the quiet hours before she starts the day, makes me a better parent: more patient, more present. After solving some coding problem or making a quilt block square up, I find I'm more fully engaged in parenting. The wood chip project becomes an important process; under the couch is a reasonable place to store the tupperware. By giving my brain some time to be an adult, it's easier to focus all my attention on her latest discovery, to translate the string of "ma ma ma ma" to "look what I'm doing!", to fully participate in a game of ball fetching and carrying.

I suppose that my need for personal time and mental stimulus could be an argument against my being a parent at all. But the anti-contraception position would have me bear more children. They would have me be a worse parent: short-tempered, mentally unengaged, exhausted, distracted, distant and bored. After all, it would be anti-child to do the things that would counter such characteristics or to be a good parent to fewer children. The results: a brood of children, all of them dirty, four in need of a diaper change, three in tears, two eating Cap'n Crunch out of the box while sitting on the floor because it's likely the only dinner they'll get, and one about to check out what happens when a wet table knife is stuck in an electrical outlet. Their mother would be prone to crying or screaming and be incabable of keeping up with the diapers, providing any comfort, supplying an appropriate meal or preventing bodily harm. Somehow, this seems more anti-child than preventing conception.

May 18, 2006

I can't help but think about a short story I read back in high school, "Once Upon a Time" by Nadine Gordimer. A family, feeling unsecure, gradually adds level after level of security products to their home. First, it's a warning sign. (No Tresspassing. Beware of Dog. Never mind the dog, beware of owner.) Then it's bars on the windows. Eventually, it's a wall, and then a wall topped with razor wire. The day after the razor wire is installed, finally feeling "safe", the family lets their child out to play. He, being the climbing, curious thing a child is, gets caught in the wire and dies trying to get out.

Today, I read this article, the latest update on the immigration debate in Congress. Apparently, the wall idea for the US/Mexican border is gaining support.

Some day after the wall is built (It's just a portion of the border now, but it's a start. We build a wall and the "vulnerable areas" will move and next thing we know we'll have a wall that's along the entire border and extending a mile out to sea.) and topped with razor wire and patrolled by armed guards and punctuated by towers with searchlights and machine guns, we'll wake up and discover that we live in a concentration camp. We'll discover that we are not just afraid of the immigrants but of our neighbors as well. We'll sit in our houses, with our fences and survailance cameras and guard dogs and air filters, watching an endless parade of horrors on the 24 hour news channels. And we'll die that way.

May 04, 2006

I try not to think about high school all that much. I didn't really care for the experience. Sure, it wasn't as horrible as it could have been, but it didn't live up to the hype of the Brat Pack movies and Seventeen magazine. I've read Odd Girl Out, and I didn't suffer what those girls did, the rumors and the backstabbing. I didn't make it high enough on any one's radar to worry too much about the sudden subtle shifting of the social sands. Instead, I spent those years reading lots of books, waiting for graduation, and ignoring as much of everything else as possible.

Which is why I'm all conflicted now. I've discovered I'm curious about what happened to the other people in my graduating class. Who's become successful and who's longing for the "glory days" of high school? Who got out and who's still there? And how does the stand-off-ish bookworm say, "Hey, what's up?" to people she's not seen or spoken to in thirteen years? That is, if I could find any of them.

And what do I say about me? In school, I carried around this attitude of "You'll all be sorry some day you didn't know me better, didn't include me, 'cause I'm gonna be wildly successful (at something) and I'm gonna do great stuff." But, I haven't written the novel I always said I would. I have had great adventures but probably nothing hugely impressive. And now I can't decide if I still want to impress the people I tried to ignore or if I've finally come to a point of contentment with my life that it doesn't matter what they think.

April 30, 2006

Ian and I have known each other seven years. In that time, we have moved - majorly, like entire lives in boxes, needing storage units and large trucks - five times. Now, I'm packing for Move Number Six. It's a shorter move, just down the road 10 minutes, not to another state (or country!), but it still means everything goes in boxes and we need to rent a truck. We have many of the boxes from previous moves, some that date all the way back to Santa Barbara, all nicely pre-labeled so I don't have to think much about what goes in to which. It's handy, but I think I'm going to have a Ceremonial Box Disposal when this move is done. This time, we are planning to stay in one place for more than two years. In fact, I think we should have a party in three years, just to say "It's the longest we've ever lived in one place!"

When we were traveling Europe, I did most of the packing every time we checked out of a hotel. I came to think of it as "erasing ourselves", making sure we didn't leave anything behind, removing all traces that we'd been there. Which wasn't really the case because there was trash in the trash can and we'd slept in the bed so it's not like the room was ready for the next guests or anything. But still, that's how I thought of it.

And for this move, the thought's come back to me. We're erasing ourselves in one location so we can draw ourselves into another. Kind of like Harold and his purple crayon, drawing ourselves where we want to be. I just hope I've drawn enough boxes for all the stuff and enough friends to help us move them all.

April 26, 2006

It's official: Global warming, climate change, whatever you want to call it, is in.

"Climate Crisis!" "A Threat Graver Than Terrorism!" Wired and Vanity Fair, two popular, mainstream magazines, the kind you see at the market checkout line, are taking the global warming message to Average Joe.

About damn time.

I suppose there was a time when I didn't know that global warming was a danger, likely to affect the world within my lifetime, but I can't remember it. I have fuzzy memories of reading Time magazine exclusives, probably when I was in junior high or my first year of high school. At the time, if it was in Time, it was fact. And if it was fact, surely everyone knew about it.

I'm wiser, presumably, now. Or at least more jaded. The Reign of the SUV dawned after I knew about emissions, so clearly, global warming wasn't something everyone knew or cared about. I remember a letter to some editor, taking a publication to task for treating global warming like it might be a serious issue when "it's been the worst, coldest, winter here in New England in my lifetime."

It's been a disheartening several years as the science has gotten more certain, the predictions scarier, while the leadership marched off to war to protect our oil interests. These two magazines, and Al Gore's new documentary, are the first bright spots I've seen. Going mainstream with the facts, as scary as they are, in ways that (hopefully) will get to a wider audience. If the leadership won't lead, then the people have the responsibility to get there on their own. If the goverment won't curb greenhouse gasses, it's our job to do it.

Bruce Sterling once said that we needed to make environmentalism sexy before it would go mainstream. George and Julia, we're glad to have you green.

April 23, 2006

Watched Peter Jackson's King Kong; we got through it in two evenings, but only because Caitlyn went to bed early for one of them. The movie is large and very pretty to look at, but uncomfortable to watch at times (not just for the enormous bugs), and it left me with an unpleasant aftertaste.

Jackson has said a number of times, even in an interview on the back of a Kelloggs' Pops' box, that he was remaking a film he saw as a child, a film he credits with getting him into the movie business in the first place. King Kong is a remake, not an update. The bits with the Skull Islanders still carry tones of early 20th Century white man perspectives on non-white, primitive cultures.

But it's the line at the end that sticks uncomfortably in my head, the famous "It was Beauty killed the Beast." It's wedged there and makes me sutter, "But, but, but..." whenever I run up against one of the sharper edges. Because it's just an excuse to make opportunistic, money-grubbing Carl, and the audience, feel better. Beauty didn't kill Kong. Fear and ignorance killed him. The sudden presence of beauty and kindness in his life merely makes his end a tragic one. By blaming Beauty, no one has to change his habits or his world view to make room for things wild or beyond human control. By blaming Beauty, we get to go back to Skull Island, build a tourist resort, and charge safari fees for those who want to see the dinosaurs and the over-grown bugs. This time, nothing unplanned will happen in Jurassic Park.

April 21, 2006

Ian pointed me to The Brick Testament this morning... Bible stories lovingly illustrated in LEGO! Which, of course, raises the question: Does LEGO make little Egyptian headpieces for little LEGO people? And if so, what doesn't LEGO make?

The fun thing about The Brick Testament is that by rendering the stories in LEGO tableaux, it reinforces the story nature of them. Nothing quite like being able to pop headgear off and on as Isaac blesses his sons. Humans tell each other stories, to share experiences, to explain things, to answer The Big Questions. We have told stories regardless of culture, throughout history. Maybe story-telling, not speech or humor or morality or whatever else has been suggested, is what sets us apart from the animals.

The Bible is a collection of stories, perhaps our greatest, oldest anthology. As much as we might wish that it were instead a simple checklist "How to Live a Good Life," it's more complicated. Kind of like life.

April 07, 2006

I've just stumbled across the trailer for a documentary coming out this summer. An Inconvenient Truth premiered at Sundance this year, and the buzz is rather impressive. (Sorry. I looked around for a non-Moviefone, non-AOL trailer for the movie, but they appear to have the exclusive at the moment.)

It seems a bit odd to get excited about a movie that's bound to be as depressing as hell, but there it is. Perhaps I've yet to give up on the idea that elements of pop culture (movies, for one) can make a critical difference in how ordinary people live and how governments conduct themselves. Perhaps I'm looking for a counterweight to the silliness of The Day After Tomorrow or the sensationalist fuzzy science of the book that "inspired" that movie. Perhaps I just want to see other people as scared about climate change as I am.

Of note: An Inconvenient Truth is a Participant Films production. If I'm naive, so are these guys.

March 29, 2006

I'm back, or at least, I mean to be back. For anyone curious as to the long silence, check out the latest project.