Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hobbits Are (White) People Too

I was avoiding my midterm the other day, absently reading over the boyfriend's shoulder as he avoided his final, when we came across the following headline: Race row erupts over 'Hobbit' casting. I made him back up and let me re-read the article, and there truly was a row, or fight as we say here in the Colonies, over the race of hobbits.  Apparently, a (former, cuz that bitch was sacked) casting director turned a Pakistani-heritage actor away at the door, telling her that she was too dark-skinned to be a Hobbit extra.

Yes, you read that right. Too dark-skinned. To play a hobbit.  Which, yes I know, is a creature that does not exist.

Did J.R.R. Tolkien wax poetic about the creamy complexion every hobbit has in common? Even if he did (he didn't), is that really integral to the story that Peter Jackson is trying to tell? Somehow I highly doubt it. Somehow I think Peter Jackson is more concerned with slow motion 360-degree pans than with creating a sea of miniature, furry Aryans.

This is just another situation in a long, long list of situations in which a person associated "neutral" or "regular" or "without a message" with "white." I could have said white person, but I think the social brainwashing goes deeper and has a farther reach even than that.  Even my generation, twenty-somethings born in the 1980s, grew up coloring with light tan crayons called "flesh." When I type the word nude right now, you think of a color, and it is not dark.

The film industry is notorious for perpetuating this stereotype.  Granted, we do not live in a color-blind world, and for some reality-based films to reflect anything otherwise could be a great disservice to the viewing public, and the characters whose stories do revolve around race.  But that is not always, or even often, the case.  And let's be honest; The Hobbit is not going to be a reality-based film.  The Hobbit does not even take place on Earth as we know it.  So why does it matter what color skin these creatures have? It's all in how this casting director, and many, many other people, see the world.  Hobbits are white. Why? Because they are. Because they always have been. They're just white; white is what they look like.

The casting director said it herself, in her own so-called defense, "We are looking for light-skinned people. I'm not trying to be- whatever. It's just the brief. You've got to look like a hobbit."

I'm not trying to be... whatever.  Just because you don't say it loud doesn't mean you aren't.  Racist. 

Sent a shiver up your spine, didn't it? That word; scary word. True word.  Be aware of the world around you, lady, how small it is or isn't, and why that might be.  That's the first step. The second step is don't put your foot in your mouth like a doofus.  The third step is don't get fired from Peter Jackson's The Hobbit because you are that unaware of your own ignorance.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's A Relatively Decent World

I can't exactly remember when I first went to the Brickskeller in Dupont, perhaps five or six years ago, but at the time it seemed really great. There were so many beers to chose from, it seemed. Flash forward to last year. We went there on a friend's birthday and it took an hour and a half to get a beer of any sort. The service was sub-worthless and I realized that I was completely done with the dingy establishment. To be fair, there are times where I've drank there and had decent experiences (I think I had my first Bellhaven there), but at a certain point the joke about having to select three or four beers from their menu just to find one that was available became less funny and more annoying.

But here we are in 2010, and the world is pretty great. There is such an embarrassment of riches right now that the slow death of the Brickskeller has no bearing at all on the selection of good beer in our city. Yesterday I was at Church Key on 14th street which has 40 or 50 really good beers on tap. Plus I now live walking distance from Mussel Bar in Bethesda, which has an amazing selection of Belgian beers. And next time I'm at a show at Rock and Roll Hotel I can go next door to the Biergarten Haus for one of their many different German beers.

This is all just to say that there are times when I get frustrated about capitalism and globalization and the way the world is going. But right now it's nice to live in a world of such choices.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful for You

I am thankful that you continue to read, even when I spend my posting day eating turkey and remember at 11 p.m. that I forgot to write my Thanksgiving TG post.

I hope you all had an excellent and happy Thanksgiving, and know that we are thankful for your readership.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Taking Thanksgiving Off

As I write this, I am at work, where I will remain until roughly 8:30PM this evening.  After which time, I will make the drive from Maryland back up to New York, taking a new route this time because according to my sources Delaware is going to be a parking lot until Monday.  I'll arrive at home around 4 in the morning, sleep until noon, and then wake up just to drive from my Mom's house to my Dad's.  There I'll enjoy an early Thanksgiving, go back to Mom's house for an evening one, and then leave for Maryland again the next day.

This has been my routine for three Thanksgivings running, despite my mother's protests that I don't really need to go to my Dad's place.  Ah well.

In any event, I will return next week, thankful that I have a family to go home to, a wonderful girlfriend to take with me, and dedicated (if silent) readers enjoying my work.  A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from me, and, I'm sure, all of us at These Gentlemen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Brief Endorsement

I've been pondering a longer post for this week, but it still needs a bit more time to marinate. So for now, and given my last post was more on the negative critical side, I'll provide an endorsement.

My listening when I go jogging has evolved over time. In college is was mostly music, then I started listening to podcasts (This American Life being a regular part of the rotation). Lately I've been listening a lot to all of the Slate Podcasts available.

The three weekly podcasts are the Slate Political Gabfest, whose content you can guess, the Slate Culture gabfest which generally touches on TV and movies with a sprinkling of literature, music, magazine writing, etc, and Hang Up and Listen, the classiest of sports podcasts. Basically, they're all delightful and if you need more podcast material (and who doesn't?) then give them a listen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Republicans and The Great Unemployment Screw

Here's why in a super-tiny nutshell (more details and numbers here - also the source of the image above - and here): in a recession, there are fewer jobs than there are job-seekers. (We've been making improvments, but not enough yet.) This means that without unemployment, many many qualified workers - not deadbeats, mind you, but people who are simply victims of the numbers imbalance - will be pretty well and screwed.

These folks may cease to be able to pay mortgages or rents, cease to be able to buy significant amounts of food, and so forth. This money therefore does not go to the retailers and renters who depend on their customers and rentees. It's a domino effect of badness. The Congressional Budget Office recognizes how bad things would have been had we not had UI extensions previously.

Compare this to the tax cuts for the wealthy which the Republicans want to keep (while saying that we "can't afford" the UI extensions) - the wealthy tend to sit on their money, and that which they spend may well go to foreign countries via strange tax loopholes and business ventures or plain old vacations and importing. Regular joes who are unemployed spend much more locally.

I was unemployed for several months in 2009-early 2010 and again late this summer. The money I got from the government (some of which was unemployment extension from Congress), where did it go? Why, to groceries. Local dining. Gas. Rent. Utilities. Student loans. Household items. Local entertainment (largely theatre, which was then most likely spent by those artists on groceries rent etc.). Health insurance via COBRA. A car repair or two. I carefully balanced my budget to make sure my expenses did not excede my unemployment payments, so that I could keep my savings for luxuries or emergencies (I only ending up using about $200 of them). The point is - nearly every penny of the money the government sent to me went straight back into the economy. (By the way, most of these purchases did also incur sales tax, and the businesses I and those liked me helped support pay taxes, too.)

Now, the economy wouldn't work whatsoever if the government just took money from the working people, gave it to the non-working people, and expected that this money would then go back to the working people when it's spent on groceries. Someone has to generate the money in the first place.

The important thing here - the one super-important thing to remember is:

During my unemployment, I applied to two jobs a week minimum. I took my time crafting those applications, customizing the cover letters, etc. It didn't matter. If there are dozens of qualified people applying for the same jobs, then dozens-minus-one of them are not going to get it. Period.

In this original post about my unemployment (which cooked up quite a little localized Internet firestorm, albeit with typical talking points) (and which I never realized was getting so many responses at the time - I should learn to watch for comments more closely), I mention how the prospect of going to work at Starbucks was not a pleasant one. Two things I neglect to point out in that post: one, Starbucks does not have infinite jobs to offer for unemployed knowledge workers/college graduates. Neither do Walmart or anyone else. During a recession, all the unemployed middle-managers and artmakers and decently-paid office peons (myself being in the latter two categories) can't just all suck it up and move over to Starbucks and Walmart. Especially because some of them couldn't feed their families or keep their houses on Starbucks wages (whereas unemployment gives them enough to do so). Nor can little part-time jobs always fill the gap, because some people - like me - can't afford health insurance without employer assistance or a significant paycheck ($350 of my unemployment checks went to my insurance, plus deductibles), and can't go without insurance for health reasons.

(The thrust of my original post was more complex than that, and, as a late response to those that misread it, was mainly critical of myself. The point of that post was to examine the psyche of someone in my position, not to argue for or against unemployment insurance. This post you're reading now is arguing for unemployment insurance.)

(Additional note - I am currently employed, thanks to our very own b.graham and ali d. Networking trumps both brute force resume-carpet-bombing and tactical cover-letter-strikes.)

Simply put: if you think that, during a recession, leaving the unemployed high and dry will either lead them to get off their lazy asses and get work, or at least give them their due punishment for being freeloading bums, you're wrong. (Even if, reading my previous post, you deem me to be in the lazy-freeloading category, there are millions who definitely are not.)

In a recession, preventing the bankruptcy and poverty of the qualified-but-unemployed prevents the recession from worsening and allows the economy to recover while maintaining quality of life. When the recession is over, that's when you get tough on the expense of unemployment and start looking for deadbeats.

In conclusion: letting these benefits expire does no good for anybody. The government only saves money in the immediate sense; in the long run, tax incomes are hurt, economies weakened, and everybody loses.

So the Republicans are either total hypocrites ($830 billion for tax cuts to the rich okay, $12.5 billion for UI extensions not okay!) - practically bald-faced in their commitment to robbing the poor to feed the rich - or they're stupid.

Or there's a third option (not incompatible with the other two): the Republicans may realize this is all a bad thing, and are doing it anyways, because the only thing that matters is making Obama lose in 2012. It's for the good of the country!

Postscript: It should be noted that the extension bill isn't necessarily scuttled yet; but it's unlikely that it'll get altered to the Republicans' liking before it expires on November 30, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday. Give some serious thanks!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cheap Marketing Ploy

Semi-recently I was wandering around one of my favorite hangouts in Silver Spring, the Borders next to the movie theater. When I want to hang out somewhere or go on a date but have nowhere in particular to actually go, I end up there a lot. I like being able to browse the new books in the Young Adult section, read graphic novels that I'd love to buy but can't afford, see if there are any hidden gems on the clearance rack, or sometimes just chill out with a cup of the best hot chocolate in town (that I've yet to find anyway). I usually feel pretty zen when I'm lounging around Borders.

Unless, of course, I see something that makes me want to up-end display racks and scream like a banshee, which happened on this particular day.

On this day, as I was walking down one of the aisles, I came upon a table with a collection of some of the books they were highlighting in that moment, including, I was thrilled to see, Pride and Prejudice. Except that this copy of Austen's masterpiece looked like this:

Brand new cover art that's awfully similar, you might say, to the original cover art of this little number:

Now, I get it, Twilight's in right now, and as a marketing professional, you want to capitalize on that craze any way you can. Perhaps the ends justify the means if the result is that more young women are going to give Jane Austen a look.

But that doesn't keep me from being really annoyed that Elizabeth Bennet, one of the strongest female protagonists in all of canonical literature, is being compared to Bella Swan, a spineless mopey child who decides she's nothing without her man. Elizabeth Bennet is an amazing role model for young women everywhere, and it's just wrong that someone somewhere decided P&P should be grouped in the same category as the Twilight saga for the sake of pushing a few more books.

I mean, it's a lovely flower and all, but come on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oh Andy, You So Crazy

I don't really need to say a lot about this, it's pretty self-explanatory.

First, let me share with you Andy Harris's thoughts on health care..

Now, here's what happened during his orientation meeting on Monday.

Fortunately, he's here to set the record straight.

Personally, I want to thank Harris for enduring the brunt of the government-run and subsidized health care he speaks out against so that millions of other Americans don't have to. 

Way to go, Andy.

Sometimes You Just Won't Be Able To Go

My dad has about a hundred cousins, and when I say “about” I actually mean “more than.” His parents were one of nine and eleven, respectively, and each of those children had at least five children. So I think it’s safe to say my family on that side is pretty effing big and I don’t know most of them. But I know a few. And one of them was my dad’s best friend growing up, as well as his best man at my parents' wedding. This cousin eventually had two daughters, both older than me; I hung out with them a few times at weddings and family reunions, and would take in family updates passed to me through my mother from my aunt.

This weekend, though, I got a call from my dad, telling me the younger of the two, the thirty year-old, was killed in a car accident.  I don’t know if it’s because of the rarity of girls in my family that I feel closer to these sisters than maybe I should, or if I welcome people into my heart more readily, or if it’s just totally normal to feel this way, but I feel her loss. And my heart breaks for her daughter, who was in the car with her. My family is complicated, and she was complicated, and Lord knows this little girl's five year-old life was complicated, but tragedy is not made more or less by fault, or intention. It just is.

And I can’t go. I have a show, and the funeral is in Jasper, and I can’t go. So on Thursday afternoon I will be in Maryland, but my heart and thoughts and prayers will be in Georgia.  When my mom and I were still trying to figure out a way to get me down there, just for the day, just for the funeral, she told me, “You’re at the age now where these things are going to start happening more often, and sometimes you just won’t be able to go.”  I hate how true that is.

There is no moral, there is no point, there is nothing new to learn about loss except how it washes over you differently every time.  I want to ask you, in a world full of people begging you to care, to take a moment and send a prayer or good thoughts to this little girl, and her aunt, but how can I ask that, when the family of a Peabody student is grieving the same loss tonight?  When the world is so full of people who need love and support in their grief, and most of them you don't even know?  But I will.  Please think of my family tonight, and send some good will in the direction of Georgia, to be taken in by whoever is open to it.

I appreciate it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jonsi - Where did our love go?

On Monday I went to see Jonsi, the lead-singer/guitarist/mystical-Icelandic-wood-nymph of Sigur Ros perform material from his first solo album at the fabulous Nightclub 930. And it left me cold. I should note that I was a huge huge Sigur Ros fan in college, and so in theory it shouldn't have taken much to win me over, but something(s) felt off.

Was I just tired of live music? No, that's not it. I saw Frightened Rabbit the week before, standing in almost the exact same spot at the 930 Club and had a pretty good time. Two days later I saw La Roux, and despite my yawning (it was a later show, after all) I also enjoyed myself.

Was it the crowd? Eh, the crowd was alright. People were pretty respectful all around. No one spilled their drink on me, and my sight-lines were okay. I admit, this was probably more of a balcony kind of show, but I got there too late for a good balcony spot.

Was is the material? That was certainly part of the issue. There are some very catchy and bright songs on Jonsi's album. But it took a good 30 minutes for the band to build up any momentum, and then they played most of the fast songs in a chunk. After that the energy started seeping out of the room. If the slow stuff on the album was better than it would have been more deserving of my rapt attention. Instead, I realized during the show that he suffers the same issue that Bjork has these days. Both have a number of tricks as vocalists, but the problem is that they had used them up early in their career. So I found myself going "oh, that voice again" during the ballads.

Was it the visuals? Sorta. The whole production aspect was really built up beforehand, and was supposed to justify the pricey ticket. The setup was a big screen behind the stage and two on either side perched on top of speakers. Yes, the visuals were nice, but from the descriptions before I thought i was going to see holographic birds flying all over the venue. Plus there were some songs that didn't even have video projections. Cheapskates!

Was it the drummer? Yes. Unlike the rest of the band band who looked frail enough to be knocked over by a stiff wind, the drummer was out of place. I thought it was Kenny Aronoff, session drummer extrodinaire, but nope, it was some bald icelandic dude. Wearing a crown. With tassels on the back. And getting way too into it. I should note that everyone was wearing silly costumes. But the crown was poor form, unless he was on the album of the Wild Things.

Would I go see him live again? Hard to say. My expectations next time will be much lower, but it really depends on material. Jonsi's album didn't grab me the way Sigur Ros's material did in college. But then again, I don't even listen to this stuff that much anymore. Maybe I've moved on musically.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reading This Post Will Make You Sneeze

Human beings are weird.

Just to review a couple more bits of evidence to this regard I've personally come across recently:

Working for food makes it taste better.

If a menu has healthy food on it, we're more likely to pick something unhealthy.

Along similar lines, triggering our "I've done something good" switch makes us more likely to do something not-so-good, like in this study where simply looking at an eco-friendly website leads to stealing.

Oh, and daydreaming makes us sad.

Our brains and bodies seem to want to make us act against every moral and common-sensical principle we like to think we adhere to. I imagine that it will eventually be demonstrated that being loved makes us hate ourselves, experience makes us dumb, sharing makes us selfish, chocolate makes us cynical and sleeping makes us dead.

It seems strange to me that so much of what we do is preprogrammed, predictable, messed up and unconscious. We all of us like to think of ourselves as thoughtful individuals who do everything we do for a reason, based on a personal system of morals and preferences. But we're totally wrong. We're not drivers taking our body-vehicles down whatever road we choose. We're sitting on the roof with a fake steering wheel, coming up with explanations for why we go where we go, how we totally meant to turn left there or right here or go off that cliff there - when really, the car is being driven by a mischeivious chimpanzee, or maybe a malfunctioning robot, or no one at all.

I think in the future (you regular readers didn't think I'd stray from that topic for long, did you?) we might achieve a complete understanding of how humans tend to work, including knowledge of all our counterintuitive intuitions. We might even achieve a holistic picture of the principles that drive human behavior - which won't make us perfectly predictable, of course, because we still have free will and individual differences and so forth, but will make it more like we are at least sitting on that roof of that car with some bananas on a fishing pole to entice the chimp one way or the other.

At such future time - or, heck, right now - we might all benefit from taking a class, in high school or earlier, on How to Be A Human Being. It would consist mainly in participating in experiments that demonstrate our own weirdnesses and subconscious processes to us, so we can be better decision-makers in the future. Wouldn't have to be anything as extreme as the Milgram experiment (although we should read about it), but simply having many of our own cognitive biases demonstrated to us by, for instance, playing simple gambling games to demonstrate the negative effects of the sunk cost fallacy, etc., would make all of us better people and so much less vulnerable to exploitative advertising, con artistry, groupthink, political trickery, and Internet trolls.

It's a pipe dream, but even if it makes me sad pondering it, I'll do it anyways.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's Thursday?

Do you ever have one of those weeks where your work schedule is so funky you can't remember what day it is? That happens to me a lot.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy Birthday

Since it hasn't been mentioned yet, I'll be the first to say it.

We're 2!

Happy Birthday These Gentlemen!  Gifts will be accepted in the form of cash or gift cards.

So I'd like to take a little of your time to reflect on what These Gentlemen has meant over these past 24 months.

We began as an idea in the brain of Jason Heat to gather some of his intelligent friends together and write some thoughtful essays on life in the hopes of creating discussions and gathering a community around a polite yet erstwhile discourse.  With John Ozkirbas on drums, Damien Nichols on bass, Adam Winer on lead guitar, Max Nova on the solemn head nod, Dan Strauss and his back-up dancers, Jason Heat on vocals, and me collecting 15%, we had ourselves a blog.

In our beginning, free-wheeling days, posts ranged from frequent to sporadic, of topics ranging from abusive relationships to beard grooming.  Those carefree days gave rise to an eclectic blend of personal stories, social commentary, reviews of music, movies, and games, and some purely informational fare.  Each member of the band more or less did their own thing, but every so often we'd release a collaborative effort, The Roundtable, leadership of which has switched hands occasionally.  Over time we brought in new acts, working with bands like Stevie B and the Sharpshooters, Matt Lindeboom's Jersey Devils,  and The Brett Abelman Project.  We also enjoyed great success with girl rocker B. Graham, country starlet ali d., and had a brief flirtation with the show tunes of Alex Keiper.  Our business was making posts, and business was good.

Through the last two years, we enjoyed great success in working together.  Our monthly meetings were the high point, where we'd get together and just jam, letting whatever ideas we had come and seeing if they went anywhere.  That's where we came up with hits like Guest Gentleman, GentleMonth, and our newest single, Gentleman in Residence. Also, there would often be food, and sometimes Damien would even show up.  Dan could unfortunately not attend, as he was on tour.

All good things don't necessarily come to an end, contrary to what you might be told by people trying to console you after the latest celebrity death.  Some of them just change, and with time, These Gentlemen succumbed to changes like everything else must.  The evidence is in the posts; as our collection of voices grew, the songs began to change.  Sometimes not everything we tried worked out, others met with relatively smashing success.  Regardless, over time other gigs came along, as they do, and after an extended period without producing anything, the band decided to go their separate ways.

But then . . .

A reunion tour began.

So that brings us to now.  I don't know if we're everything Jason Heat envisioned we would be - his silence on posting sort of speaks for itself on that matter.  Regardless, the Gentlemen continue to work, write, and collaborate, all in the name of making a more perfect blog for all of you.  We want, as always, to hear from you, to find out your input on the things we do, and, more importantly, the things we don't do; the topics you want to see us cover.  The subjects you want to see more than a post on - an essay, a conversation, a discussion.  We are here to make you think, and to broaden your horizons, and we do hope you'll do the same for us.  Singers are cool, and bands are pretty great, but what we're going for is more of a choir - or an orchestra.

There's something for everybody here at These Gentlemen, and we welcome you to take part in it.

For the last two years and for many more to come, we are but Gentlemen, and we are here to entertain you.

Tuesday Blog Post: I Don't Haz It

Heeey guess who just got home from work(s). So, also, guess who does not have a witty/insightful/controversial blog post for you today. Read: I love you all and will see you on Saturday!

In the interim, here is a picture of a cat with cheese on his head:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Guillermo Kutica @ The Hirshorn

The current series of works in various media by Guillermo Kutica at the Hirshorn is one of the best shows I have seen this year. Filling the entire second floor and running through January 16th, the show deals with a number of ideas and a masterful array of mediums but the overriding theme seems to be how to represent space, especially the spaces that humans create and occupy, in a two dimensional manner.

A number of series and styles appear throughout the show. One of the larger spaces in the middle of the exhibit is dedicated to maps painted or printed intricately onto mattresses and cushions. Roads connecting to cities come together at well placed buttons the sizes of the cities on the map. The eye is immediately drawn to these divots in the mattress/maps. Later on he prints a huge black wall of maps with disorienting white text showing cities often connecting to themselelves. Stepping back, this artificial landscape becomes an abstract plane of black and white.

Another series features extremely intricate grids showing the layouts of graveyards and prisons. It's a beautiful and rather frightening how the immense size of canvas and the tiny size of the boxes show the dehumanizing of the tiny spaces carved out for each dead or incarcerated human. Later in the show we see extremely intricate collages of theaters that seem to explode or combust from one side of the canvas to the other, perhaps projecting the inevitable decay of all buildings, even/especially those that are created to bring people together.

The least interesting pieces were a number of paintings showing either human-less or sparsely occupied canvases where furniture (especially beds) floated in huge mono-chromatic spaces. Despite the dark feelings to these works, they still felt less charged than the architectural diagrams and theater collages.

Taken together though, a loose narrative about the geography we create emerges throughout the exhibit, even without any humans to occupy it. The exhibit opens and closes with photorealistic paintings of empty airport luggage carousels which suggest both a beauty in the mechanical form and a sadness in these machines when they are stripped of their context.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Just Framing Marriage and Social Life in a Pseudo-Game Theoretic Way

I have no training whatsoever in game theory or whatever science you might say I'm evoking here, but this is just me riffing, off the cuff, not attempting an academically rigorous thesis of any kind. I proceed with tongue in cheek, please be aware.)

We all want companionship, whether in the form of public socialization or private friendship, active dating or closed marriage, or some mix thereof. Marriage, however, particularly when it leads to childrearing, is the option that does the most to remove the participants (the married couple/parents) from the socialization pool. (Which is not to say that married people never socialize with friends - far from it - but that marriage brings a very, very increased likelihood of essentially removing the couple from the social pool.)

This has nothing to do with what I'm talking about, but it is a really big pool. With a sailboat in it.

This leads to decreased companionship for the married couple's friends, who not only see the couple less, but probably see each other less due to a loss of the social glue/gravity that attracts groups of friends together. If these friends previously were not experiencing a surplus of socialization (a "surplus" meaning, for example, that they would be going out four times a week, when they would have been satisfied with a minimum of twice a week), then they will now have a deficiency of socialization that they need to refill in order to be happiest.

They may be able to fill this deficiency with new friends (or dating, going to bars and clubs, etc), but more likely than not, given enough time, their pool of potential socialization options will decrease to the point where they are now permamently dissatisfied. Part of the reason for this will be that increasing numbers of established friends and potential dating partners will get married; which is to be expected, since some people just plain want to get married and/or have kids and/or they fall in love.

However, this also particularly could happen if, for example, the value of clubbing or dating around or meeting new friends is decreased for them; if the amount of energy these take is not proportional to the socialization received, thanks in large part to the huge turnover of established relationships that is to be expected when your socialization is with entirely new people, devoid of commitment-forming longevity. (To put it more simply, it's not satisfying because these new people they meet don't mean that much to them and keep wandering away.)

Now these dissatisfied persons have only a small number of options: 1) continue to stay dissatsifed, 2) rely on established friends or other less fleeting socialization options, or 3) get married.

1) is obviously sub-optimal. Some will choose 2) and some 3). Of those that choose 3), some will choose it because marriage is attractive to them anyways, and/or they have found a mate, while others will fall into it to escape option 1), especially if option 2) doesn't work for them for whatever reason. Whether or not 2) works for them depends on their own personal proclivities, the availability of like-minded people, and the particular habits and coincidences amongst their immediate social circles. Some people will choose 2) and stay in that option, more or less, for life; there are entire communities built on this. (And as well, it should be noted again, plenty of people blend 2) and 3) successfully.)

However, for many people living in many places and local societies, the more that 3) is chosen, the fewer people there will be available to provide 2), and so, increasingly, 3) will become the only viable option.

It's practically a mathematical trade-off: getting married sacrifices variety and group-cohesion in exchange for intimacy and availability - a sensible choice when one's variety and group-cohesion has already been diminished by... other people getting married.

It's not like this at all. But I wanted another picture.

One might say that, in a pseudo-evolutionary sense, marriage is the most fit competitor in the sphere of socialization options, because it is the only option that eliminates its competitors' "food supply."

Thus marriage leads to more marriage even amongst people who don't want to be married.

(Disclaimer: if it wasn't clear, I am not against marraige. I think it's one viable option amongst many for how to live your life, have a family, raise a child, and/or get your socialization, and which is definitely for some people and definitely not for others. I shall now remove my tongue from cheek. Move along.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Didn't Really Have Anything to Write About Today

Governor O'Malley, I find something about your campaign promises very curious.

As you campaigned against former-Governor Bob Ehrlich, you claimed that fixing Maryland's economy (which is facing a budget shortfall of over $1 billion) could be accomplished with budget cuts and transfers. Maryland should be in a place of economic recovery before any tax hikes are considered. And sure enough, you claim to right this minute be writing a budget proposal for January without a single tax increase.

Your campaign claims also contain this little nugget though: that you can't guarantee that tax increases won't become necessary to balance the budget.


So the governor responsible for the income tax increase, the title fee increase, a 20% sales tax increase, the tobacco tax increase, and many many more, promises that immediately after he's elected, there won't be any tax hikes, but that he can't promise there won't just HAVE to be additional taxes on already hurting Marylanders later.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stream of Election Consciousness

Prop 19 fails in California, meaning marijuana remains illegal.  Support for it dematerialized on election day as most of the people who would vote for it probably stayed home and a large number of opponents operating under the same information we've been giving out since the 1950s.  Maybe this was the wrong way to go about it, but the defeat of Prop 19 leaves a lot of people shaking their head as we continue to spend billions across the country to combat a drug less dangerous than alcohol.

Rand Paul won a seat on the U.S. Senate   This is the same Rand Paul who criticized the government for blaming BP for the oil spill, claiming that it was "Un-American" to blame a business for "an accident."  He said of the economic crisis - "government created the crisis, government created the panic, government created the entire problem."  So do big banks not bear any of the blame?  Does the auto industry have nothing to do with it?  None of the collapsed financial institutions and multi-billion dollar abuses by big business would have happened if not for government?  I suppose that's true in a way; with more government regulation those things might have been prevented, the same type of newly-instituted regulations Paul seeks now to repeal.  If, against all sanity, this somehow works, maybe he'll have the money to build the underground electric fence along the border to Mexico he proposed.

I understand his libertarian views.  I respect the way he adheres to them and is, on an intellectual level, an honest and genuine politician, ready to adhere to unpopular views.  They are, at this point in time, completely repugnant to me in view of using them as a way to fix the economy (the economy which, by the way, has already recovered to a large degree, jobs are always the last thing to come back around in a recession).  More likely they will throw us backwards, or, in an extreme scenario, into worldwide economic chaos.  Rand Paul has promised to filibuster the upcoming budget meetings on the debt ceiling.  If anyone remembers the government shutdown of 1995, this will be like that, only incalculably more devastating to the economy of America and the world at large.

Blue Dog Democrats lost their seats in large numbers.  The entire Blue Dog caucus has been decimated by this election.  In a way it reminds me of natural selection.  So the question is, will a more left-leaning Democratic party now move forward in lockstep, or will they suffer from more political infighting as Democrats who kept their seats, wary of future challenges, try to distance themselves from the President?

The Republicans swarmed over the Blue Dogs and flipped a few genuinely Democratic seats as well to retake the House.  Any chance they had of taking over the Senate was ruined as newcomer Tea Party candidates helped Democratic incumbents keep seats by either beating out more experienced Republicans in the primaries or creating 3-way races which divided the Conservative vote.  What will happen to the relationship between the Tea Party and the Republicans now?  The GOP has long been trying to bring the Tea Party into the fold, will this sour their relationship?  A lot of Senate seats are still blue because Sarah Palin backed the Tea Party.  What will the Republican stance on her antics be after this?

A referendum was given last night on the incumbents, just as it was given in 2008 and 2006.  How many more times will Congress flip before things actually start to happen that people get behind?  What will make people satisfied?  Are politicians just as jaded and disenfranchised with voters as voters are with them?  

Historically, a good economy is good for incumbents.  If unemployment drops in the next two years, does that mean we'll be looking at President Obama and a Republican House until 2014?  Or will discord in the ranks of both parties completely change the landscape by the next election?

10 Governorships changed from blue to red last night.  Democrats retook the mansion in California following Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision not to run again.  This gives Republicans 10 more states in which they have control over redrawing district lines.

Is Health Care reform really that bad?  Is the unpredictable Boom/Bust cycle perpetuated by massive deregulation really preferable to sensible government intervention?

Nobody runs on finance because if you actually understand the numbers you appear elitist and alienate people.  The "$700 billion stimulus" has actually cost $30 billion so far and succeeded in staving off another Depression. 

Roland Burris's retirement means, following last night's elections, there will be no black Senators in office come January.

It is 10 years until I am old enough to run for President during an election year. 

The only thing I can imagine more upsetting than watching FOX News at this time would be watching MSNBC.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How to Vote a Provisional Ballot in 15 Easy Steps

1. Make big plans to wake up at 6:45a in the hopes of beating the crowds, in case they take issue with you just showing up at their polling place without an invitation

2. Toss and turn until about 3:00a, at which point turn over and change your alarm to 7:45a

3. Wake up at 8:45a, throw on some sweats. Wear your boots without socks in an effort to conserve socks and valuable machine washing.

4. Walk to your friendly neighborhood polling place.

5. Create a blister, curse the cold.

6. Try not to think about where all those plastic signs will be thrown tomorrow.

7. Go straight to the front; there are no crowds, who were you kidding. Turn off your phone, slightly disappointed (and for some reason surprised) that you can’t document everything via pictures.

8. Present your license with the incorrect address (you’ve only lived here for six months give yourself a break) and your most recent paycheck with your correct address. Smile convincingly, like someone who lives in this neighborhood, as opposed to Calvert County, where your license says you live.

9. Walk excitedly to your (paper!) ballot, listen while the nice lady explains everything. Become slightly suspicious of her insistence that you use (erasable!) pencil, before you realize that the ballot is probably counted via scantron. Facepalm.

10. Look at your ballot; realize you’ve done all your political research for the wrong Congressional District. Resist the urge to vote solely along party lines just to have voted; skip the questions with names you don’t know.

11. Reread the questions on the back six or so times in an attempt to translate them into real-person speak. Answer said questions when you think you know what they mean. Hope for the best.

12. Fold your ballot on the million or so fold lines and slip inside the sealable folder. Slip folder inside a very official-looking red government bag. Feel like someone who is more important than you are as you do so.

13. Limp home on your ever-widening blister, carrying your information and sticker.

14. Shower, change, proudly don your “I voted!” sticker.

15. Put a band aid on your blister before you go out the door.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Band That Changed Your Life ...

...has broken up. Yes, the Shins have broken up. Wikipedia may say 1997 to present, but the internets are kidding themselves. The Shins are no more.

If it makes you feel any better, my favorite band as a young lad, have also broken up as well despite what a very tall bald rock n' roller says. But the point still stands, that indie rock band that we have all grown to know and love is no longer functioning in a manner that it can still be called The Shins. James Mercer sacked 50% of the people who were originally part of the thing called The Shins last year and if interview are to be believed, he wanted to start fresh without the band name. But managers and money and whatnot intervened and so we still have an entity that will keep playing that band's music, but with a new more "polished."

I sound a bit bitter, right? Eh, not bitter, just concerned that a band that's ostensibly indie rock will become as careerist as say, Journey. Sometimes you just need to break up your band. And make sure whatever you do afterwards is less terrible than Zwan.