Sunday, October 31, 2004

Electoral Storm - Boo!

Ah, All Hallow's Eve. I'm torn between mocking right-thinking individuals who are flipping out about it falling on the Sabbath (where, as you know, the proper place to be is in front of the Tube, watching football), and left-thinking individuals who are flipping out about negative presentation of witches (not to mention the uncomfortable social interaction when a pagan friend turns up at work with the big black hat and a broomstick). So I'll wrap up the electioneering here.

Washington State stopped being a swing state about a month ago, though if we knew that we'd get Springsteen if we just held out, we would have lied to the pollsters. Rossi (R) has a slender chance at Governor against Gregoire (D). The national Repubs have pulled out of Nethercutt's campaign, leaving him to do a "blooper reel" ad with his wife which pushes his humanity as opposed to his positions. So the "front" of the conflict has now moved into the deep suburbs, the area where the city hits the developing rural areas. That would be the 8th US Congressional and the 47th State Representatives, where I live. And the mail is showing it.

There are not two Americas in this crop of mailers, but four completely separate realities at work. There is the reality of Candidate A - bright, sunny, and dynamic. Then there is Candidate A's party's picture of Candidate B - dark, evil, malignant. Then there is Candidate B's reality - Dynamic, wise, positive. And coupled with that is Candidate B's party's picture of Candidate A - evil, conspiring, festering. You'd quickly come to the opinion that there are FOUR candidates running for office - A, B, A's evil twin, and B's evil twin.

Reichert stands out as the bright hope of a Republican win, and the GOP is carpet bombing against his opponent's evil twin. The former Sherrif is supposedly above the fray, except for his tag line "I approve this message, because talk never saved a life", a mild snark against opponent Ross's talk show background. The bulk of my mailers from the past week have been hammering Ross, who is going to raise taxes, destroy medicine, weaken our military and have wild kinky sex on the flag. Pretty much standard stuff out of the GOP playbook (Do they have a catalog for these? On the web, I saw two other people in local campaigns who were branded as "The Hate America Crowd have found their candidate").

And after the spate of slimy attack ads, what do you do for an encore? Of course, you send out a mailer attaking your opponent for HIS attack ads. I don't have any anti-Reichert mailers, but they have had a strong on-air pressence on the former Sherrif's increasingly conservative views. How dare they point that out! Foul!

Reichert/Ross isn't the only slimepit in our area. Steve Alitck's supporters have made up the bulk of the remainder of the mail with an assault on incumbent Geoff Simpson. Altick, who runs a non-profit (Codeword: Christian) camp, has been attacked with the standard conservative boogey-men - soft on criminals and allowing sexual predators to roam our streets. But the big one is the 22% raise in gas tax, obvious evidence that Simpson wants to raise your taxes. Boo!

This last one is valid - Simpson voted for the tax raise, but as always, things are not as they seem. First off, gas taxes went up by 22%, which I think is a penny a gallon. And the vote in question was the big roll-over our state legislature did for Boeing to keep the new plane - a Tax increase voted for by the a lot of the legislature, including Gubernatorial candidate Rossi and Jack Carnes, who in the incumbent in the OTHER position in the 47th . And as a result of ads like this, Boeing itself has gotten the wind up its skirt and pulled all funding of the state GOP for the rest of the election. Good move, guys. When you're the party of big business - don't go ticking off big business.

The anti-Altick attack ads (the stylish ones) wrap up with the little factoid that Altick is being investigated by the IRS. Not exactly the best recommendation for the party of fiscal responsibility, and I hope to have more data on this before election day (no bets on this).

Over at the other position in the 47th, there was a nicely-done zinger tying incumbant Jack Cairnes with the (fairly-unpopular) slot machine initiative. There also was an Anti-Sullivan ad that is pretty much standard catalog - not having enough traction on Sullivan's record, it goes after his "allies", meaning other Democrat. In this local race, of all of them, the candidates have been pushing their merits (Cairnes is a purple-heart vet who's written a children's book, Sullivan has a lot of experience at lower-levels and is beloved by Covington) as opposed to letting the party dogs flip out on their behalf.

That's about it. Stragglers on Monday, but unless something big breaks, its all over but the shooting. Tuesday, go vote.

More later,

Friday, October 29, 2004

This Just In: Monkey Hearse

So I just came across this in today's Post-Intelligencer:


and furthermore:


The article is Here. The stylish young woman in the coffin is Lorelei Shannon, horror author and one of my old Thousand Monkeys writing group buds. Her hearse is named Annabelle Lee. Yes, I've ridden in it - best to do it now, while I can enjoy it.

More later,

I Become (Under)Employed

So, here's the truth about the endorsement entries - they were written over the course of a single sleepless night last week, and then checked, revised, and posted in bite-sized bits over the following week. The reason for the sleepless night, and the fact I have been busy otherwise this week, has been a return of that Fall Classic - The Autumnal Employment Challenge.

Here's the story so far - Two years ago I was working for a Large Company that was owned by an Even-Larger Company. Financial numbers were not made, someone had to go so we could clear the budgets, and I and a goodly number of others became unemployed. A few months later I was hired by a nice Middle-sized company that was then purchased by a Large Company. Financial numbers were not met, and I and a goodly number of others became unemployed.

After this happened twice, I thought I had come up with a solution. I have hired on with a Small company that does Web Design work for Larger Companies. It seemed like this would work - as of two months ago we had more work than we knew what to do with. However, one of the Larger Companies did not make its numbers for the quarter. Suddenly, the work dropped away as projects were killed - with luck a temporary slump - but still a patch where we don't know what's going to happen next.

So our small company had to lay off one of our web designers, and myself and the other copywriter went to reduced hours - working only on those projects that were totally billable. This left both of us with some downtime, and left me in a quasi-employed zone - still with all benefits, but not with a full forty-hours-a-week.

So the past week has been rattling doors - not looking for an entirely new gig (I trust things will get better), but putting together proposals and looking for a few projects to spackle in some of the lost income. I have a few leads, and one of the dead projects from the Big Client has come back to life in another form. Other than that, I have taken advantage of the situation to do some writing on my laptop at the office (Its a great place to work - T1 connection, quiet atmosphere, few distractions, available in case of an emergency/opportunity, twenty-five cent cokes, and most of all five-dollar pizzas on Thursday). I'm weathering it pretty well, but it has become another fall where resumes flutter like maple leaves on the wind.

But if anyone needs a good web designer, with experience in projects for young women and girls, drop me a line.

(And if my boss reads this, no, I'm not billing for this time.)

More later,

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Jeff Recommends: Here come de Judge

Gods, this has gone on FOREVER, hasn’t it? This is price you pay for a Democracy. Or a Republic. Or whatever we have these days. Finally, the Judge Positions. I know, after slogging your way through the rest of the ballot, these seem like a coin-flip. But, like everything else this screwy year, there are differences.

State Supreme Court, Position 1 - Mary Kay Becker. She has 10 years experience as a Judge. Her opponent has spent more time in the Supreme Court chambers, but all of it as a lawyer, some of it on behalf of Tim Eyeman’s wrong-headed initiatives. He also has been advertising heavily on [wink] talk radio and speaking out against [wink] activist judges for the [wink] non-partisan position. He’s been covering these tracks pretty well, so there’s a good chance that he’ll get in, showing that we’re [wink] morons.

State Supreme Court Position 6 – Activism cuts both ways. While Richard Saunders has a couple publicly-held positions I agree with (he’s hot on first-amendment rights and bringing government documents to the light of day), there are others that are less palatable to me (environment). Thanks for sharing, but judges are supposed to judge impartially. Go for Terry Sebring

King County Superior Court Position 23 – Here’s where the top two system works out – non-partisan positions where the candidates are truly non-partisan. They’re both good, a sign of what happens when the system works. Andrea Darvas over Julia Garratt.

King County Superior Court Position 42 – Another good pair of choices – I’ll go with Chris Washington over Catherine Moore, but to be honest, I like them both, And that’s the type of choice I want to be making in this democracy.

Finally, if you see only one name for a position on the ballot for Judges, that means they got 50%+ in the primary and are therefore running unapposed.

More later, but no more endorsements.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Under A Water-Rust Moon

Total lunar eclipse tonight, last one in this area until 2007. It started while I was in Tai Chi class, but was near totality by the time I got out, hanging overhead as I drove across Lake Washington on I-90. Each lunar eclipse is different - I've seen ones which the moon was nearly wiped out against the night sky and those which were blood-red. Tonight it was the color of old mining equipment, and reminded me of Tonto National Forest in Arizona.

I pulled out the scope Kate got me for Christmas and stood in the backyard, my breath steaming in the cold, fiddling with levels and focii until I could get it right. It looked like the bottom of a steel pan, left out in the rain for a summer or two. It was a future moon, the one that was left after we had pulled everything out that we wanted and left it there, hanging in the sky, as a dim reminder of its former glory.

More later,

The Jeff Recommends: King County Initiatives

OK, almost done. These initiatives are a little wonky, since they themselves navigate a weird menu of options as opposed to straight up-and-down votes, and you have to make sure you know what you’re voting on.

Charter Amendments 1A and 1B -These deal with the reduction of the King County Council, and consists of two separate votes, one for the reduction, and one for which type of reduction you'd prefer, if a reduction is called for, regardless of how you voted for the first question. Confused yet?

On the matter of reducing the council, Vote NO. This is a money-saving initiative only in the fact that outside influences have to influence fewer people with their, um, influence. The governed (that's us) would have less influence on the council, since it has to cover more people. Oh yeah. Like I want that.

Actually, the King County Council itself wants to reduce its numbers, and to that end has passed a wildly unpopular growth act yesterday to cheese off the hinterlands. While the temptation is to seek revenge by reducing their numbers, the simple truth of the matter is – fewer council members, less representation for your viewpoint. Pay attention.

The second question runs: so you voted against 1A and it passes anyway, do you want to do it now or later? Unfortunately, I don’t get a What part of No didn’t you understand? choice, so go for 1B which puts off the reorg into a more reasonable time frame. But I gotta tell yah, this whole thing stinks to high heaven, and when something like this shows up, the only people who lose are the voters.

King County Advisory Measure 1 – Now here’s a non-binding vote, effectively a poll, asking permission to put together a local transportation plan which would then be presented for a vote in 2005. Yes, we have so defanged our government that we have to vote to encourage them to deal with our local issues. Put together a transportation plan to vote on? This is purely about providing political cover for hard decisions. If we need it, we need it, and we need it. Vote YES.

King County Advisory Measure 2 –Here’s another Question 2 that ignores Question 1. It’s sort of like arguing with a three-year-old. So let’s say Measure 1 passes anyway - how do you want to pay for this plan?– credit, cash, or gas tax? Um, gas tax, I guess. But hey, I drive a Hybrid.

I-83 – The Monorail – Guess what! I don’t get to vote on this! It’s a Seattle Initiative. Mind you, I’m going to have to put up with the traffic jams like everyone else if this crashes and burns, but NOOOOOOOOoooOOO I don’t get a vote. Well, I say NO, which means you support the monorail, as opposed to voting YES, which means you don’t want the Monorail. The Monkey King has more on this.

OK, all this made my head hurt. I’m going to lie down.

More later,

The Jeff Recommends: State Legislature.

Short and sweet this time – For the fighting 47th District, Washington State Legislature, positions 1 and 2, I present the Team Supreme – Geoff Simpson and Pat Sullivan.

Simpson stepped into the shoes of Phil Fortunato (cleaning them out first) shortly after I came out here, and has proved a dynamic, positive representative in Position 1. He has been unafraid of taking on larger issues in the state (drugs from Canada) while tending to his constituents needs. I’m thinking of joining the Fire Department just so, when he runs for higher office, I can get free press on FOX News by dissing him in my new book “Geoff Simpson: Not All That”.

Sullivan has been the Rodney Dangerfield of the race. I make fun of his apparent youth (he's actually older than I am) and the Seattle Weekly gets his gender wrong. The truth of the matter is that he will be an improvement over our current Rep in Position 2, who has made a good career out of supporting Boeing, who in turn has rewarded him moving a lot of its jobs out of the district. Sullivan will make a good back-up for Simpson, padawan to his jedi master. (well, that locks up the Geek vote).

More later,

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Jeff Recommends: State Initiatives

Another day, another slot of Endorsements. I'm moving the state initiaitives up in the list because because a lot of folk are voting on state-wide measures right now by absentee ballots.

Oh, and for the younger generation, here's the skinny on Bilandic Snowstorm - Mayor Bilandic was Richard Daley's successor as Mayor of Chicago. As the annointed of the Chicago machine, he was considered to have a safe gig. Then a series of snowstorms besieged Chicago in 1979, and he couldn't clear the streets. People were willing to put up with machine politics, as long as the government lived up to its obligations. Bilandic lost the next election to Jane Byrne.

On to the state-wide initiatives.

I-297 - Clean up Hanford. Vote YES. This is to stop bringing stuff in until we’ve dealt with the stuff we have. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is our own state’s night-light, and its time to throw on the brakes before it gets worse.

I-872 – Top Two Primary. Vote NO. Huh? But haven’t you ranted and raved AGAINST the current system imposed on us after the demise of the blessed blanket primary. Yep, I don’t care for the so-called and mis-named “open” primary, but I don’t think the Top Two is an improvement. Going to a Top-Two system is going to hurt the smaller parties, one of the things that Washington State does well.

The BETTER initiative (which someone should do) is that if the political parties are going to exclude people from the ballot, then the state should CHARGE the political parties for its time and resources for the primaries. Petty? You betcha. That’s what you get for making me vote a party line.

I-884 – Increased Sale Tax for Education. Vote YES (ow! I just got a pain in my wallet!). Here’s the skinny – every year we say that we’ll get better education by improving the business climate, yet as the business climate went up, education funds continued to go down. Lets put our money where our collective mouths are. I have no problem with an educated populace.

I-892 – The Slot Machines – Vote NO. I wish there was a HELL NO line on this one. This is the “everybody gets a pony” initiative. Something for nothing. Yet another tax on stupid people, which going to bring in a lot of cash for Canadian Gambling operations. The question is, are we stupid enough to bite?

R-55 - Charter Schools – Vote NO, with reservations. I think there are a lot of good charter schools. I also think there are a lot of snake-oil salesmen out there who will put corporate bottom-line ahead of your kids future. This has been shot down a couple times already, and deserves to be shot down again.

More later,

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Jeff Recommends: Minor State Offices

I’m real tempted to act like Bill Murray giving Oscar picks – sweeping the board aside and saying – “Who really cares?” Well, we do, mostly, so here goes. And, as a surprise, not all the picks are Democrats!

For Lieutenant Governor, I support Libertarian candidate Jocelyn Langlois Why? Because she wants to get rid of the position (which is not even a heart-beat away from the Governorship).

For Secretary of State, I’m going with incumbent Republican Sam Reed (yeah, I’ll get mail on this). Reed tried to keep the blanket primary when his own party was trying to take it away and he’s supported a paper trail for electronic voting. Yes, his opponent Laura Ruderman is making an issue of his big state-purchased car. Don’t care. Let’s reward good performance in the hopes the GOP will find more like him.

State Treasurer – OK, I’m going Bill Murray on this one. I don’t know, and there hasn’t been enough of a stink to make me do the research. Mike Murphy is the incumbent, and as long as he doesn’t flee to the Grand Caymans, I can support him.

State Auditor – This SHOULD be another Bill Murray moment, but it isn’t because the Republicans REALLY screwed up, and need your help. Here’s the story (promised from an earlier entry): The Libertarian Party is a major party in Washington State (which means you get in the voting books, primaries and other perks). It is a major party because it gets over 5% of the vote for a candidate for a statewide office. In years previous, the State GOP didn’t run candidates in all the offices, which meant the candidates were a Dem and a Lib. So getting 5% wasn’t that tough.

This year, the State GOP decided to run someone in EVERY OFFICE, hoping to deny the Libertarians the Major Party status. So for State Auditor, they got a guy named Will Baker.

And then found out that he’d been arrested 19 times for disrupting meetings. And that his main platform is investigating the death of Crystal Braeme, who was shot by her husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Braeme. Some have noted that the this not part of the State Auditor’s job. Oh, and a superior court judge had to rule against him putting accusations in the voter’s handbook that the FBI was covering up the death.

In short, they had picked a horrible candidate for the office and could not get rid of him.

So, Brian Sontagg, Democrat, deserves your vote, is very popular and capable, and should win. But, if you cannot bring yourself to vote Democratic, please, please, vote for Libertarian Jason Bush. The State GOP promises they will think things through next time.

Attorney General – Deborah Senn. Liked her as State Insurance Commisioner, liked her when she ran against Sidhran, liked her when the US Chamber of Commerce went after her. Showing that people never learn their lessons, another out-of-state group is planning anti-Senn campaign ads for the closing days of the campaign. That should put her over the top. Her opponent, while competent, makes no bones about being pro-business, and that’s not what I want in an AG.

Commissioner of Public Lands – And while we’re on the subject, how about a Commissioner that ISN’T in the pocket of Big Timber? Mike Cooper has the background, experience and knowledge for the job. Go vote for him.

Insurance Commissioner – Deborah Senn is a hard act to follow, but I’m going for Mike Kriedler. He’s a Dem. That’s why. Not good enough? OK, my cat me told. Better?

Superintendent of Public Instruction – I’m torn on this one. This position has turned into a debate on the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) testing. I support student testing, but don’t believe we should tie it to school funding (in particularly the woefully unfunded “No Child Left Behind” act). Incumbent Terry Bergeson is pro-WASL, Judith Billings, who held the job previously, wants to re-evaluate the process. I lean towards Judith Billings, but both women take our educational system dead-serious. If you have kids, check out the issues –there is a difference.

More later,

Sunday, October 24, 2004

A Night at the Opera

Rigoletto, Music by Giuseppe Verdi, Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, Seattle Opera, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, Oct 16-31.

Let me be clear: I have mocked opera in the past. I have done so publicly and in private communications. I have taken money for mocking opera (Tymora's Luck being but one example) and have encouraged others to mock it. Yet, I had never seen an opera live. Now, thanks to IronyMaiden, who proposed this, I have (CORRECTION: Monkey King proposed it - Irony Maiden did the legwork. Thanks to both). So when in the future I use the phrase "an aria that sounded like a phaser on overload" you know I speaking from a strong knowledge base.

Actually, I had a wonderful time. Attendees were Irony Maiden and her husband Chris, Shelly in Seattle, The Monkey King and Scarlettina. First we did dinner at a new place called Crow in a renovated block near the Seattle Center, a few doors up from Pannos Klepikos. The food was great, and we arrived early because the reviews warned that the kitchen was a little slow. The staff must have read the same reviews, because they were delightful and prompt and left enough time for desert and a leisurely walk over the McCaw Hall.

The new opera hall is itself amazing - a massive hall with incredible sound qualities. We were all of three rows away from the back row on the second balcony, and I could hear billiard balls clicking on the pool table on the stage (which was, oh, three miles distant). The seats were narrow and uncomfortable for a three hour marathon, and I regret not bringing stadium binocs, but the sound, ah, the sound, was fantastic.

The production itself had a few big glitches. The superscriptor (a large screen over the stage showing English lyrics) was on the fritz for the opening scene, leaving the unschooled viewer to figure out for themselves what is going on (apparently, in opera, as opposed to theatre, you go to show knowing what the story is already, the better to enjoy the performance). There was a glacial age of a scene change in the first act, amazing because the opera is all of 500 yards from the masters of scenery at the Seattle Rep. And one of the lesser parts had laryngitis and had to be voiced from the orchestra pit. But past those physical limitations, the preformance was absolutely brilliant.

Here's the plot: Rigoletto is an Evil Clown, the hunchbacked jester serving a powerful, womanizing master. The Evil Clown is a character "type" that has almost disappeared from modern plays, but is kept alive in opera. Rigoletto is cruel to others because his master, the Duke of Mantua, protects him. Rigoletto is petty, insulting, vindictive, and clueless about his own faults - as a modern analogy, think of George Costanza from Seinfeld. Everything is someone else's fault. Even the terrible things that happen to him here are not his fault, but rather the result of a curse placed upon him by the father of one of the women the Duke has seduced.

The bright spot in Rigoletto's life is his sheltered daughter, Gilda, who is being secretly romanced by the Duke. The Duke's courtiers, a mob of partygoers, think Gilda to be Rigoletto's mistress, so they kidnap her, making Rigoletto the fool in the process, and take her back to the Duke's court. Rigoletto swears vengeance against the Duke, and hires an assassin to do away with his master. Gilda, out of love for the Duke (who is clueless as to her devotion and moved on to new conquests), sacrifices herself to the assassin's blade, and dies in her father's arms.

That's the framework, and it is usually set in Italy of the 1600's. This production is daring (for opera) in that it moves the time frame up to 1930s Italy under Mussolini. The music and libretto are unchanged, but the move strengthens a number of points that might otherwise be lost on those without a background of Renaisance Italy. The totalitarian concept of "Power Justifies All" is embodied in the callous Duke, who takes what he chooses and escapes the consequences. So too the mob of partygoers embody the idea of the , the bundle of sticks that became the emblem of Mussolini's regime, and in being portrayed this way becomes much more than just the chorus. Moving time frame is common in theatre, but works best when the era chosen supports the theme of the play itself. This is the case here.

And, in moving it forward to the 1930's, they show that this opera is noir, of the same blood as The Big Sleep. Here we have amoral and immoral characters operating in an uncaring and corrupt universe. Gilda is the only pure soul, -she transforms over time and makes real choices, and is punished for it. The rest of the characters are fallen creatures, totally human. The moral at the end of it all? "Forget it, Rigoletto, it's Chinatown."

The performances were incredibly strong - Frank Lopardo as the Duke and Kim Josephson in the title roll as Rigoletto provided were excellent. Norah Amsellen topped the others as Gilda, her voice transcedent. Most of all, in addition to singing, they all acted as well, making the entire production more human and accessible. I am glad I went, and encountered this work as my first opera experience.

Opera Noir. More later,

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Ow Ow OW

Jason over at Subversive Puppet Show found this.

Justice League? Meet My Little Pony.


More later,

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Jeff Recommends: Governor, Senator, US Rep.

As we near Election Day, I'm not the only one making endorsements: Shelly In Seattle is going through the list as well, though she is starting at the other end, with the Intiatives. We should pass each other middle of next week.

Let’s start this off this round with my only nose-holder in the election: Christine Gregoire for Governor. Yes, I know she’s been upfront about the $18 Million dollar mistake in her term as Attorney General – she claimed responsibility like a grownup and shows how she’s put into place safeguards so it would never happen again. But I would rather put into office someone who didn’t make that mistake in the first place, and I fault our Democratic Party faithful for pushing this one down our throats.

The reason for Gregoire is she’s no Dino Rossi. Actually, I’m not sure if Dino Rossi is Dino Rossi, because he’s had a number of public faces. The creationist and fundamentalist of ten years ago (bad) gave way to the deal-maker of the State Capital (good) which gave way to the outsider condemning state government (bad) which gave way to the pragmatic small-businessman (good), who supports big business and development (bad), but who comes with a free frogurt, (um, I think that’s good). Rossi supports the initiative system (but not this year), has never introduced far-right social legislation (but has voted to support it when it comes up), and would create a business-friendly climate for Washington (OK, THAT doesn’t change – get out the kneepads).

If I voted for Rossi, I could not be sure which one of them would show up for work. So, with (mild) regrets, I’m going for Gregroire.

Senator, on the other hand, is a no-brainer. Patty Murray. I may be wonderfully snarky in this journal, but there is only one person I have specifically singled out as a total dumbass. That would be Murray's opponent, George Nethercutt. Watching his campaign, I still stand by that assessment. Murray has shown political savvy, good judgment, and political courage to cleave to a thoughtful course when jingoism has ruled the decision-making of others. Go, Patty!

Lastly, US Representative from the 8th District, Jennifer Dunn’s old seat, I encourage you to vote for Dave Ross. After the dust settled from the primary, I felt we had two celebrity candidates whose politics were a bit ill-defined. Candidate Dave Reichert’s policies have since proved to be “Whatever they tell me they are” – going with the national hard-line Republican playbook as opposed to the more moderate views that Dunn had supported. Ross, on the other hand, has delivered a “Take me as I am” approach, promising a willingness to listen and independence of thought, traits that play well in Washington. And a couple of his recent commercials are as amusing as the ones Russ Feingold ran back in Wisconsin. He STILL looks like a high school guidance counselor (“a face made for radio” as the old joke goes), but he’s won me over.

More later,

Thursday, October 21, 2004

This Just In

Now here's some news that you would only get on a local blog:

THE GOOD NEWS: The Seattle Weekly endorses Pat Sullivan for 47th District Rep, Position 2.

THE BAD NEWS: They get his gender wrong, saying:
"Sullivan promise to focus on education, particularly class size, and would tackle the budget with performance audits and an examination of corporate tax breaks. If she [sic] gets the chance, she'll find a lot of her predecessor's handiwork in evidence."

Come on,read the mailers, folks!

(at least their on-line version restores Pat to his original gender)

More later,

Electoral Storm - The Attack is in the Mail

. . . caff caff... mailer war. . . heating up . . . mailbox . . . bending from the weight . . . must . . . keep . . . up.

Apparently, the worse thing you can say about a political opponent is that he's wrong. The Democractic Central Commitee takes a swing at Jack Cairnes (47 Distict State Rep, Position2) for his self-promotion (noted earlier and elsewhere in this journal), saying "Wrong Priorities and Wrong for Us". The Republican Congressional Commitee has Dave Ross (8th District US Rep) as being "Wrong for Washington. Wrong for America". The more venomous mailers tar their opponents with every accusation under the sun, then close up with that candidate just being "Wrong". Aparently being "Wrong" is the new "Not in the Mainstream" in campaign epithets (though "Desperate" is creeping up fast on the inside curve) . No wonder the current national administration never admits it's wrong.

The anti-Jack Cairnes ad is interesting in that it is all up in his grill about his contributions and his campaign spending, particularly the stuff that's public funded, like the self-promoting congressional updates. Cairnes is #6 on the big spender's list, quoting from the Olympian. Horrors! Of course, that part of the ad has a magnifying glass icon over the the list, showing that #1 and #10 are also Republicans, and obscuring the rest (I tracked down the list - Numbers 3 and 4 are Democrats, the rest are GOP, and Jack is up to #6 from a more restrained #32. The full story is here).

Further, it points out that almost all of Cairnes private funding came from source outside his district - with a lot of developer funds, pro-gun groups, and a nice chunk from Eli Lilly. Actually, it think Cairnes could make this attack a point in his favor "I'm running on other people's money, the better to relieve the burden on the 47th District". I'm not saying he should - but it's just a thought.

8th District US Senate candidate Dave Ross, is, of course, also Wrong, Wrong Wrong. I mentioned early on that being able to comb through an opponent's legislative record is nothing compared with being able to nail your foe on a career in broadcast radio. The guns are out, the firing is heavy, the shelling relentless, but their aim is still . . . a little off. In addition to going after him for supporting/not supporting gay marriage, pointing out that Iraq wasn't working out the way we planned, and mocking our leaders, the most recent broadside (arriving on a daily basis, now), connects his criticism of a missile-based defense system with giving the wrong signal to terrorists. Now, aside from the fact that I'm not sure what a missile-based defense system has to DO with Terrorists (unless they're carrying, you know, missiles), this would be a criticism of a missile-based defense system that, um, doesn't work in the first place. Advice: Pick Your Shots. And get a different picture of Ross - he looks like a High School guidance counselor in ALL the pictures I've seen of him.

Meanwhile, back in the 47th, for the other representitive position, "Citizens for Empowerment" are attacking incumbant Geoff Simpson. You can expect some sleaze when even the GOP won't back something like this. Geoff is a "job-killer" who has voted "No" on important job-related bills. Well, actually, they're corporate-bailout bills - you know, tax incentives to companies that ship out jobs, letting corps off the hook for treating their employees badly, slashing unemployment benefits so the corporations don't have pay as much unemployment insurance, but if you trust the corporations to do the right thing (as these Empowered Citizens clearly do), he's obviously a "job-killer". And, of course, they use the "scary Geoff Simpson" picture in black and white. So, its an effective smear, provided that no one, like, reads it.

The Washington State Democratic Central Committee, though, has created what I think is the scariest ad so far. They paid real money for a graphic designer to turn out a series of "Steve Altick's Guide to Making Big Bucks in Public Life". No scary picture of the opposing candidate here. Rather cartoon clip-art, non-standard mailer sizes, and bright solid nonpolitical colors (kelly green and violet so far). The subject matter is a little dense (loaning personal funds to the one's own campaign at a high interest rate) and a little dated (The candidate wants to cap jury settlements, but sued the local school distict for a million dollars - in 1987), but these stand out from the crowd and are very effective- how effective? I'm looking forward to the next one,

Now, that's just wrong.

More later,

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Jeff Recommends: President

Given the huge number of people running for office out here, you have to get an early start on recommendations for the various offices. I’ll start at the top and work down. The choices should not surprise those who know me, but here goes:

For President, it comes down to the big two: Voting AGAINST BUSH or FOR KERRY.

Against Bush has a lot going for it – This administration is fouled up beyond all recognition. The economy remains craptacular, and the Dow Jones has taken up residence at the sub-10,000 level. Gas prices have settled comfortably at the 2-buck level, oil prices continue to rise. The war is continuing to consume resources and lives as we try to turn our fast-response army into an occupational force. We have not only become tolerant of the loss of American lives, we are getting that way with prison torture and beheadings. We’ve cheesed off most of our allies, such that one of the few groups speaking up for the current administration is the Iranians (Axis of Evil, anyone?). And then there are the open files – Anthrax and OBL and Plame Affair. And through it all, the administration response as been “Its not our fault.” The most recent example is the flu shot balls-up, a Bilandic Snowstorm of a screwup, which they saw coming in plenty of time and still dropped the ball. But they want you to know: Its not their fault, and only they are capable of fixing their screwups.

So there’s a lot to be said for voting against Bush. On the For Kerry side, there is the simple fact that the more I’ve discovered about him, the more I like him. Not in a “Hey he panders to my viewpoint” way or “I’d like to go drinking with him” way (He’d probably be the designated driver), but in a “Yeah, I can deal with him” sorta way. Part of it is the weathering the relentless bombardment of the other side’s noise machine, attack after spurious attack fails to work – Botox, Alex Polier, flip-flops, ribbons versus medals, “foreign leaders support”, his record in the Senate, votes twisted against him, rabid accusations made, lies told. And of course, the Swift Boat thing – ABC News committed an outrageous act of journalism by actually visiting the village where he earned his Silver Star, and (quelle surprise!) the villagers back up Kerry’s story. All in all, after these, he comes out looking better. He is not just merely good – he is most sincerely good. His positions seem rational, and more importantly evolving – he is based in the real world.

The debates strengthened this feeling. Both men were not only contrasting themselves to each other, but to the image that their opponents had created for them. Bush lived down to his rep, presenting different faces, all of them worrisome. Kerry looked, sounded, and acted presidential without being wooden or pedantic.

One last thing that showed up on the radar recently, in connection with his Senate experience. Kerry not only was involved in investigating Iran-Contra, he went after BBCI (Bank of Commerce and Credit International), which was funding a variety of illegal activities including (this was hot at the time) the Narcotics Trade. While the headline bad guys of the age were the Columbian Druglords, the BCCI also funded other quasi-legal operations, including handling the funding of one Osama Bin Laden. So, he was fighting OBL before it was even fashionable to do so.

So I’m going to recommend you don’t vote Not Bush, but rather vote John Kerry. I think its time for a “No More Excuses” president.

More later,

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Dead Parrots

OK, first it was Terry Jones. Then it was Eric Idle. Now John Cleese gets into the act:
How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

None. There’s nothing wrong with that light bulb. There is no need to change anything. We made the right decision and nothing has happened to change our minds. People who criticize this light bulb now, just because it doesn’t work anymore, supported us when we first screwed it in, and when these flip-floppers insist on saying that it is burned out, they are merely giving aid and encouragement to the Forces of Darkness.
I guess a lot of world leaders are supporting John Kerry.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Book On Tape: Da Vinci Crud

The Da Vanci Code by Dan Brown, read by Colin Stinton, 6 hours on 4 cassettes, Random House Audio, 2003.

God, this was bad. By the Blood of Christ, this was awful. By the Holy Grail, this was terrible. The only good thing I can say about it is that it offended only my ears and not my eyes, for there would otherwise be the temptation to pluck them out.

I picked up the best-selling and god-awful book on tape on the Canada trip, but didn't listen to it then, or on the long drive to Concord. On the way back, six hours into the drive, I finally succumbed and slotted it into the tape recorder, to keep us awake as the light was fleeing westward. It succeeded in keeping us alert, in sort of MST 3000/literary train wreck sort of way. We were held raptured the by the linear, predictable nature of the plot, and suppositions of "oh, X is going to happen next" were rewarded as , well, X happened next.

Here's the short form, for those who have wondered what all the NYTimes Bestselling fuss is about: Harvard symbology expert and Harrison-Ford lookalike Robert Langdon is in Paris. He is called into a high-profile murder case at the Louvre, where a cryptic message has been left. Landgon and French cryptologist Sophie Neveu solve the initial riddle, which leads to another riddle and a third third, uncovering that great Illuminati conspiracy - the Priory of Scion and the descendents of Christ. But other dark forces are afoot, and the pair must flee for their own lives, seeking to uncover the mystery of the Holy Grail before their foes.

If this mighty edifice of plot seems to be in danger of tipping over even in summary, well, as it unspools its even worse. Mystery upon mystery are revealed and solved by the plucky pair, as they manage to elude and defeat their pursuers time after time. Escapes are always last-minute, insights are always brilliant, and treacherous twists of the plot - well, they aren't - you can see them coming from pretty far off, even in audio form.

The writing is short and punchy, in best-seller form, and every punch is telegraphed. At first I thought this was merely the product of the abridged format, but I had a chance to compare it against the printed form, which might be better. No such luck - it is written in the desctriptive-hook, action-word approach of Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler, though not at their levels. Worse yet, the author does not share with the reader what his characters see, saving it for a later "reveal", (or a more often tedious flash-back) later in the book. Or, to put it in the form of the book itself:
Jeff says, grimly, "God, this writing device is horrible."
Kate flips a ringlet of her auburn hair and says: "Give me an example, please".
Jeff gives her an example. Kate replies after he was done speaking "Yes, that is a horrible writing device."
Meanwhile, off the coast of Normandy, a submarine cut through the chill autumn waters.
OK, so the plot is hackneyed, the characters wooden (Sophie, of course, is young and brilliant, so therefore first appears wearing a corded Irish sweater), the dialogue always terse, and the thrills cheap. How about the conspiracy itself? Kinda lame, particularly for anyone who has been aware of the various conspiracy theories of the past hundred years (indeed, the "big secret" of the Grail has been published in a number of other books). And parts of the conspiracy are altered to make it fit the plot better - far from being "layered with remarkable research", this book has created a cottage industry of other books correcting its assumption and statements.

I'd recommend the book-on-tape because, not only can you do other things while you are subjected to it (like, drive cross-country or banging your head against a wall), but reader Colin Stinton's accents -gruff American, tweedy Brit, and three varieties of French - haughty waiter, vulnerable coquette, and Inspector Clouseau - relieve the tedium and predictability of the book itself.

The book is to conspiracy theory what "Star Wars" is to science fiction - a popularization that inflicts as much damage as it does help promote the concepts that it so readily acquires. You want a good, readable book on the subject (including the Templars), go dig up Focault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. No, I'm serious - its much more accessable than The Name of the Rose. And much, much better than The Da Vinci Code.

Man, this was bad. More later.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Night of the Living Stan!

So the good news last night (after an iffy play) was the 40th birthday of fellow Alliterate Stan!. Yes, he comes with his own exclamation point, and with good reason. I've known Stan! for more than a few years, and he has been a friend, a co-worker, and a boss. He is also one of those cosmic centers of the universe, that influence all the people that pass within his gravity field. And he changes the world around him. Here's an example: A local restaurant created a "Stan!-burger" of nothing but meat because of Stan! (This was before the Atkins craze caught up the rest of world). And I have had more than a few conversations with people where we both realize (in a single clear moment) that we know Stan! Stan! is the glue holding together multiple wings of polite society (thought he'd blush if he read this - he's modest that way).

Anyway, Stan! held his 40th at the Cedar River Smokehouse in downtown Renton. Now the Cedar River is a small operation that does excxllent ribs, beef, chicken and sides and doesn't usually close the place on a Saturday night for a private party. But they did for Stan!, who invited a host of friends, the bulk of which showed up (a few notable no-shows were in other parts of the country promoting the 30th Anniversary of D&D, and even one of them made it back from Atlanta for the tail end of the party).

The food was great, the company was wonderful (sort of the All-Star-Squadron of geekdom). The BBQ sauce was hot, the cake tremendous. Karoke occured, though plagued by technical difficulties. But the most important thing was that Stan! told some of his stories. And held the crowd with tales, some of had head those tales numerous times. Because watching Stan! telling a story is watching a master at work.

Storytelling is an amazing talent, and Stan! is an amazing storyteller. Combine the genetic codes and timing of BIll Cosby, Garrison Kiellor and George Carlin in a blender and his "meld" and you have Stan!'s storytelling ability. He writes well, but watching him tell a story is like watching a comic who is killing, a baseball player with a hot streak. He told a tale of college and a couple of his Japanese tales, and kept the room enthralled. This is a guy who could take the stage anywhere and hold his own.

And I hope he does. In the meantime, happy 40th, Stan!

Play: Theater Smoke

Anna in the Tropics by Nil Cruz, Driected by Sharon Ott, Seattle Rep Theatre, October 2-30, 2004

Honest: one of the reasons the Alliterates were founded was a chance to smoke cigars. So for several years I smoked one cigar a month, sometimes two, in various smoky bars in Southeastern Wisconsin. Then the group stopped, in part out of solidarity one member was a former nicotine addict who was quitting, and in part because a new member was allergic. It wasn't a major sacrifice, and I am reminded of it only when I have my yearly physical. ("So," my doctor would say, "Have you started smoking again?").

I mention this because Anna in the Tropics is about cigars and cigar manufacture, of which I know a little about (of course I did some research during my cigar-smoking era). The play revolves around arrival of a new lector at a small cigar factory in Yrba City, CA, in 1929. A lector is an person who reads to the workers - both local newspapers and the classics. The result was an illiterate but knowledgeable work force. (Historical note - Pittsburgh itself was a strong cigar manufacturing area (and claimed in the early parts of the 20 Cent. to be the leading producer of "stogies"). Yes, they had lectors).

The factory is a family affair - The gambling-prone patriarch and his wife. Two daughters, the eldest in a loveless marriage, the youngest enthusiastic and dreaming. The patriarch's half-brother from up north, modernistic, heart-broken, too tightly wound for anyone's good. The new lector arrives - young, handsome, educated, smooth. He chooses a "romantic" novel - Anna Karenina. His reading permeates the collected family, sparking different reactions - not changing them, but facilitiating the courses of their lives. Many of the character's arcs are determined even before the lector arrives - the lector is there almost to bear witness.

The play left me a little empty, and perhaps for just that reason. The lector and the novel might have sped the other characters to their actions, but you don't get the feeling that any of them changed as a result of his presence. The play's resolution is sudden and strangely truncated, brewing up like a squall off the Gulf, surprising not for its arrival, but its suddeness. The most interesting character proved to be the villain (Peter Allas), but while the play brushes up several times against his own descent, he doesn't get the chance to address his own fall.

The other part that troubled me in the presentation was the lack of heat. This is Flordia. This is a spanish-speaking cast. The play centers on cigars, which evoke both the sexuality of the item, and the low heat that comes off the tip. And yet, there is a surprising lack of heat. The staging is very chill and controlled. All the moreso odd in that the play makes the specific comparison of the coldness of Ana's Russia with the warmth of Florida, and that the lector's reading evokes the feeling of chill Tolstovian lands. The play does not reverse the process, bringing its warmth out to the audience. The play is ultimately OK, the acting solid, but ultimately unfufilling. On the drive home, where Kate and I usually talk about the play, we talked instead of Anna Karenina.

Though at this point, I could really use a good cigar. More later,

Friday, October 15, 2004

Casino Banal

So last Sunday morning I'm walking around the main floor of the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning, California, and I'm fighting the mental image of Christ amongst the moneychangers.

I'm there because we're doing brunch - me, Kate, her sister Sharon, Sharon's husband Mike. There aren't a lot of places to do brunch in a small town like Corning, and the casino had a very good spread at very low prices, the menu being subsidized by the flashing slots and pai gow poker tables. The buffet is non-smoking, but the casino floor adjacent isn't, and the miasma of cigs drifts in. Its Sunday morning, and most of the seats in front of the slots are occupied, the crowd mostly white (Mike's comment - "We got the natives drunk and took their stuff - now they're getting us drunk and doing the same"). The natives in this case are the Paskenta Band of the Nomlaki tribe, orginally indigineous to the area. They lost federal tribal recognition in 1959, but regained it in 1994. The 240-member tribe acquired a 2000 acre reservation and set up a casino (all this is pulled from their web site).

It is a local industry, and very successful (they are adding on a hotel). But to be frank, it all creeped me out. Not just the stale tobacco odor and the epilepsy-inducing flashing lights, but the mindless mechanization of pulling cash out of people's pockets. The slots were the worst - reducing the older clientelle (a lot of walkers, a lot of motorized carts with American flags and yellow ribbons on them) to hamster-like button-mashing and lever-pulling. I could feel Puritan-level sense of indignation festering in my breast.

After brunch, Kate went outside to practice her Tai Chi while Sharon, Mike, and I walked the floor - Sharon was looking for an old-fashioned nickel-slot machine. It turned out the old coin-drop machines had been retired - there were still 5-cent-a-play machines, but you had to invest a larger bill or buy a ticket (similar to the "Electronic Ticket" machines being touted in I-892). You had to commit. None of this "clear out the change in your pocket" kind of machines. Not enough profit per square footage from that. Sharon was disappointed, and we left without pulling a single lever.

Even for my apostate eyes, I found it all a bit much for a Sunday morning - the noise and the smoke and the soul-dead eyes. I thought of Christ going ballistic on the moneychangers in the temple, but took a deep breath (once outside) and imagined a different outcome - Christ walking through the main floor, and as he passed, machine after machine would jackpot, imprinting on the tickets win after win. No clatter of coins into the bowl, but rather a rise in the noise as the cash flowed back outwards. Then he'd probably recruit a few of the players as disciples and catch a lift to Red Bluff on a flatbed Chevy.

That image made me feel a little better.

More later,

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

On The Road Again: Corning, California

So I spent the past four days, Saturday to Tuesday, in Corning CA, visiting my sister-in-law and her husband. Mike telecomutes from a job in the Bay Area, and Sharon raises and trains dogs. The resident animals are Molly, a sweet-tempered, three-legged Rotwieller, and Ysha Rose, a Belgian Shepherd. Both are work-dogs, and Sharon has done a number of trials with both of them (Molly before the cancer that took her front left leg).

Mike and Sharon have a real nice place in Corning, near the northern end of the Great California Valley. Originally they were just looking for a summer house, but the place they found is so nice, they made it their year-round residence. It is perched on a bluff looking south over almond and olive orchards (Corning has a dry, mediteranean climate, and it is a major olive producer). The hill catches a good breeze even when the rest of the valley is still. Though the valley proper extends about 60 miles to the north before hitting the true foothills, the view south feels like you're at the head of the valley and all of California is beneath you.

I had agreed to go down during a slack period in the office workload, so of course things have started to pick up immdiately afterwards. But I had promised Kate (and I had dodged out of a couple trips before), so I drove most of the 11 hours from Seattle to Corning. The land rises out Seattle and dries out as we go south, until finally hitting the pass on the Oregon/California border and a drop into the promised land. The trip was pretty quiet, though it was definitely through Red America - Lots of Republican signs lashed to farm fences facing the highway - lonely things, far from any habitation or farm buildings. By contrast, the overwhelming number of bumper stickers I saw were for Kerry/Edwards.

Long trip down, two days at rest, long trip back. Didn't take my computer, so I was confined to wading through more of Neil Stephenson's Quicksilver. Generally a quiet time, though Ysha Rose looks exactly like the canine version of my main charter of a short story, which reminded me I still have to finish the revision.

I have more on the trip, but that can wait for after the revision. Later.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Electoral Storm - County Measures

I talked about the state-wide initiatives in an earlier message, but in addition, there are a handful of local measures as well that are coming up on the November Ballots. Here's a quick run-down:

King County Charter Amendments 1A and 1B are about reducing the King County Council from 13 members to 9. (We're in the 9th District, King County Council, under Steve Hammond. He's one of the few people not running for re-election this round - that's why you haven't heard about him recently). The reduction is both a cost-reduction effort and an attempt to make things smoother, though the danger exists of reducing minority and rural voter influence through the measure. The only difference between the Amendments is to redistrict by the end of this year for the election of council members in 2005 (that's 1A) or redistrict by the end of 2006 for the 2007 elections (that's 1B). Given that redistricting is such a calm, cerebral refined process nowadays, I'd go for 1B. 1A sounds like we've got a deadline we're not going to hit. Add to the fact that initiative maven Tim Eyeman supports 1A, and 1B sounds even better.

Speaking of Tim Eyeman, the spawn of his initiative-moving womb is haunting us with King county Advisory Measures 1 and 2. Under an earlier- Eyeman-sponsored initiative, no new taxes go into effect unless approved by the people. Well, this breaks down into Measure 1 - which is the county asking if they can fund a traportation plan to ease congestion, and Measure 2, which asks how we want to pay for it. Even though traffic remains a big problem, I think most folk are going to shy away from biting the bullet.

Not that any bullet so bitten cannot be unbitten, these days. Witness Initiative 83, the Monorail initiative. Despite having supported monorail initiatives three times, the anti-monorail forces are pushing a "but are you SURE?" vote. I support the monorail (probably a result of watching Pittsburgh's Skybus project go down in legal flames, and, more importantly, seeing the value of Pittsburgh's eventual similar-but-different Light Rail System), and hope this one goes away (not that it won't stop future challenges). If we can flip-flop on the Monorail, we can flip-flop on any developmental decision, and that's no way to build an infrastructure.

More later,

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Electoral Storm - Updates

I talked about the initiatives a while back, but there are more measures on the local ballot, and I'll get to them in a later post. First an update on the signature races out here.

The Air War has turned poisonous - its like watching people playing badminton with live grenades. At the Senatorial level, Murray has fired back hard at Nethercutt, hauling out VFW members to say how scuzzy they think Nethercutt's Osama ad was, and rolling out his record to show his conservative nature. Nethercutt, for his part is taking on a Nader-esque tone, "debating" with a pair of size 7 white sneakers to protest that Murray only will agree to two debates. Nethercutt also tried to create an "ambush debate" at the airport when both candidates had planes come in the same time, but that fizzled when he missed Murray at the baggage carrousel. The national GOP is showing its support for Nethercutt's initiatives by pulling $100 thousand dollars of support ads and sending the funds to other races.

And the Gubernatorial stage, Ross has played the $18 Million Dollar mistake card against Gregoire, who has batted it aside by noting that at the time she admitted fault, accepted responsibility, and put into place fixes that would make sure it never happened again. Then Gregoire returned a volley that keys in on Rossi's votes when he was in the state house, particularly tough on the Republican since he's been running on the "outsider" model, and does not want to admit he spent a decade there. Rossi's getting ad support from Scott Howell, a Republican media consultant from Dallas who is responsible for a variety of "low-blow" ads.

And in the Congressional bracket, I got a chance to watch the debate between Reichert and Ross. Reichert came across as patrician and calm, Ross as eager and knowledgable. Reichert seems a little disengaged from the process, but is trying to firm up his base by adhering to many hard-core GOP memes (tax cuts for the wealthy, anti-abortion, pro-drilling in Alaska). Problem is, his views don't line up with those of the person he's trying to replace, Jennifer Dunn, which opens himself up to the "too-conservative" attack that is the Democrat's meat and potatoes assault (a flip on the "Tax and Spend Liberal" trope from the right). Reichert has Dunn campaigning for him, and in addition has Tom DeLay coming in to firm up the donor base. Newspapers and the general public are not invited to any events showing the former Sherrif with the scandal-tainted Majority Leader.

Yeah, things are getting interesting.

More later,

Friday, October 08, 2004

I Get Mail

Three letters about entries in the past week or so, and each one stems from me being less complete (and long-winded) than I usually am. That's what I get for brevity.

On my review of Hero, The Monkey King pointed out that the basis of the tale comes from Chinese history and the founding of the Qin dynasty. The Communist leadership of China are big fans of the Qin for its accomplishments, which include abolishing feudalism and building the Great Wall. The Qin were also hard on their rivals (ambushing and assassinating them) and burned a lot of the history of earlier rulers (the scholars argued with the Emperor with recorded facts, so the Emperor removed those facts from the record). Monkey King is right, and Communist China, which is in charge of Hong Kong, should be very comfortable with this film, since it addresses a core bit of cultural mythology in a fashion positive to government thinking. The nearest thing I can think of is the Disney Davey Crockett films from the fifties that end with him fighting on the battlements of the Alamo as we fade to the credits - what is presented may not be true (Crockett was apparently captured and shot), but it serves the national dream.

On the other hand, Mrs. Monkey King reminds me that the Kerry campaign has a theme song - Springstein's "No Surrender". I don't know the song, other than its title, which is good for a challenging candidate, but I dug up the lyric off the net to get:
Once we made a promise we swore we'd always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Blood brothers in a stormy night
With a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender
I can't find a George Bush Campaign Song, though there seem to be a number of other snarky suggestions out there ("Die for Your Government" by Anti-flag, or "Fortunate Son" From CCR). Both are still better than Perot's use of "Still Crazy" by Patsy Cline.

And finally, Frank in Pittsburgh who doesn't have a blog expressed mild surprise that I said something nice about the media in regards to the recent coverage of the Mt. St. Helens rumbles. Actually, I said something nice about the LOCAL media, which has been pretty good - straightforward without being too sensationalistic. The further away you get from the mountain, the scarier the reports get. But the local guys - they have enough real news to cover here (and a market willing to listen to a vulcanologist for fifteen minutes), so there has been a minimum of bells and whistles.

Hang on, I may have spoken too soon - the volcano news report now has its own theme songs.

More later,

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Why I like my boss

So I'm showing the picture from the entry below to my fellow workers, and my boss walks up.

"When was this taken?" he asks.

I tell him.

"You've lost weight" he says.

And that's why my boss in not insane. I still don't want him to be President.

More later,

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Why the Net is Dangerous

Quick one, as I am on a deadline. While trying to AVOID working towards this deadline, I was bouncing around the Net, and came across THIS photo from last year's Dragon*Con (which long-term readers may remember was about a year back):


Nice panorama. Shows the WizKids booth. Young people everywhere. And in the center, the fat guy. You see him? The fat guy in Dockers. The fat guy in Dockers with the maroon shirt. The fat guy in Dockers with the maroon shirt and the obviously receding hairline. He looks sort of . . . familiar.

And that is why the net is dangerous. Because this picture will never die.

I'd like to go back to that deadline, now. More later.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Electoral Storm - Fog of War

How do you get a questionable initiative passed? Don't tell people what they're voting on!

I-892 is the initiative to expand gambling in the State of Washington by allowing electronic slot machines outside of tribal casinos, using the money to reduce state property taxes. Even that statement of what machines are allowed is a little foggy, since supporters refer to the machines as "electronic scratch-and-win" machines, and detractors refer to them as good-old "slot machines". But you won't find either collection of words on the intiative-backers' signs or mailers.

The yard sign versions says "Lower Property Taxes! I-892". That's it. There's not a lot of nuance or room for explanation on a lawn sign, but its putting like saying "Free Ice Cream!' and waiting until you're in the store to read you the fine print ("With purchase of three jumbo cones!"). There are a lot of those signs up, including a pretty gaggle of them right in front of one of the local gambling hall (which, poor souls, do not have elctronic slot machines).

The mailer, a bright yellow monstrosity, goes into greater detail, but still doesn't seem to have room to mention "Electronic Slot Machines" - only the advantages - Save up to 15% on your state property taxes! No reduction in services! AMVETS, Eagles, and Elks can bolster their fundraising! Taverns and cardrooms can compete! And, the killer, This is the only initiative that lowers taxes!

Uh-huh. Well, the last one IS true, since this was the only one to survive the signature process. I don't see taverns taking a major hit without the omnipresent slot machines that make Reno such a family-friendly city. And I'm trying to find out if the AMVETS, Eagles, and Elks appreciate this offer from large Canadian Casino operations (who are funding this bill) to help out. And the big savings sound just a little bit pie-in-the-sky, since EVERYONE can have one (indeed, if this passes into law, a community can't just get rid of the slots, it has to get rid of ALL games of chance in their community - this particular idea got more barbs than one of Uncle Joshes' pork frogs (that's a jig-type of fishing lure)).

All in all, its pretty impressive, and plows into new depths of "How Dumb Do You Think the Voters Are?" We may just be dumb enough to buy this. In which case, I'm waiting for the same arguments to show up for legalizing prostitution ("We have to compete with Nevada! We're lowering taxes!")

More later,

Monday, October 04, 2004


Its a fun little word, coined by fantasy author and fellow monkey Kij Johnson, which needs to be spread into the mainstream of our language:

Blitzenfreude blitz-en-FROID (n): The feeling of guilty enjoyment from bad climate in other parts of the country: You could see the blitzenfreude all over the newsreader's face as she reported about Hurricane Ivan (German Derivation: blitzen (lightning) + freude (joy)).

Blitzenfreude hits up here in the Pacific Northwest when spring floods hit the Mississipi and the Ohio, when tornado alley spawns clusters of twisters, and when Chicago is paralyzed by three feet of snow and a minus-10 wind chill. There is just a touch of smugness in the local concern about such things, sort of a "boy, I'm glad I'm not there, anymore", particularly among people who a few years ago WERE there, not too long ago.

And then the other shoe drops. Mt. St. Helens is getting frisky, with ever-increasing mini-quakes and steam eruptions. Now the scientists are saying there's magma on the move down there, and an explosion of some kind is imminent. The old-timers (meaning anyone who's been here for 25 years) are now telling stories in the office about the last time Mt. St. Helens went off, when the world was grey and tasted of ash. Tourists are flocking to the mountain (which, given what happened in 1980, I would be more concerned about traffic jams going the OTHER way). And they've closed the Johnston Ridge center, which is the closest place to observe the crater.

And there's that feeling of blitzenfreude from the rest of the country. Yeah, they might have tornados, flooding, and locusts, but at least they don't have a volcano in their backyard.

Ah, well, that's our lot in life. And while I pick on the local media and pols a lot, they have done a pretty solid and respectable job so far. Most of the panic-stricken reporting is being done further away - our local cable news network has done a responsible job keeping folk informed without giving way to a media circus. People are a lot calmer about this warning than in, say, the terror alerts. And that is in the light of the concerns growing slowly over time - from just micro-quakes a week back to a major eruption potential today - things have been legitimately ratcheting up.

All in all, we seem to be taking this in stride with a minimum of panic and grandstanding (though, Seattlites with tell you, PORTLAND is closer to the volcano). But I'm just waiting for the Vice President to state that only the current administration can protect America from vulcanism.

More later,

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Movie: Fantastic Cinematography (not in a good way)

Hero starring Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Directed by Yimou Zhang, Written by Feng Li, Bin Wang, Yimou Zhang. Originally filmed as Ying Xiong.

So I'm going to cede the floor to playwright David Mamet for the moment. I've been reading the book Writing in Resturants, which is a collection of essays about writing, and American Theatre. I'm pulling from his essay Radio Drama, and I recommend those looking for further insights go track down this useful collection (though its not what I'm reviewing). Anyway, Mr. Mamet:
We, as audience, are much better off with a sign that says A BLASTED HEATH, than with all the brilliant cinematography in the world. To say "Brilliant Cinematography" is to say "he made the trains run on time".
Witness the rather fascistic trend in cinema in the last decade.
Q: How'd you like the movie?
A: Fantastic cinematography.
Yeah, but so what? Hitler had fantastic cinematography. The question we have ceased to ask is "What was the fantastic or brilliant cinematography in aid of"?

And that's what we have in Hero - Fantastic Cinematography. Brilliant cinematography. Its the story that this cinematography is wrapped around that is troubling. (I'm going to give major chunks of the plot away starting the paragraph after next, so if you like surprises, go visit someone else for a while).

Let's start with that cinematography - it is rich and sumptuous, brilliant in its palette. Sequences are shot in a narrow band of colors as stories are told. The nature of the world, from the Imperial palace to the wastes, have their own flavor and texture. The martial arts (including a lot of now-mythological wire-work) are elegant and poetic. It is Ran meets Crouching Tiger.

Here's the short form on the plot (and spoilers start stacking up here, so I'm serious: if you want to go see it, go, then come back here so I can tell you I told you so): Jet Li is the nameless Hero that has slain three assassins who threatened the life of an early warlord king of pre-unified China (Daoming Cheng). The King calls the Hero into his presence, and the Hero tells, through flashbacks, how he defeated the three assassins through ability and guile.

Then the King calls him a liar, and tells him what he really believes happens (more flashbacks, sometimes similar scenes shot in a different spectrum). The King states that the Hero is in cahoots with the assassins, in order to get him close to the King. The Hero then AGREES with the King, confessing to the plot and filling in a few points with more flashbacks. Then the Hero has the chance to slay the King, but spares him, because the Hero realizes over the course of the discussion and flashbacks that the Land needs to be unified, even by a Tyrant. The King then, regretfully, orders the Hero slain to make an example of him.

Its sort of like, in the final Star Wars movie, Darth Vader deciding that, after everything that's happened, the Universe IS better ruled by the Emperor after all, and pitches biological son Luke over the edge of the miles-deep pit (and Lucas is still revising, so that may just happen yet). The End justifies the Means, a truth so obvious that it can turn hardened assassins aside when they see the purity of its belief.

It was like watching Triumph of the Will reshot in technicolor. Pretty, pretty sequences, covering a disturbing central theme (not vacant, which is a sin of a lot of movies, but disturbing and frustrating). Its continual flashbacks and continuity changes is challenging, as characters that died in a previous story come back to life as it is retold, or perish in other fashions. Its ultimate message about the power (and the necessary inevitability) of rulership should sit very well with the current government controlling Hong Kong.

But fantasic cinematography. Effing fantastic cinematography.

More later,

Darth Versus Doom

I really don't like it when the kids fight. I'm not talking about the Presidential debate here (of which there are only two results - "Our guy creamed the other guy" and "It was a tie, and debates don't really count"). I'm talking about the idea that if you like one game, other games are obviously substandard and must be dissed.

Case in point is going on over at the HCRealms boards, where I lurk. I left the Wizkids about a year ago, now, and most of the stuff I worked on (A lot of it being Heroclix: Unleashed, Ultimates, and Galactus) has now seen the light of day. But there have been a couple threads about the new Star Wars miniature game (which I worked on as well AFTER I left Wizkids), with the first-adaptors crowing about how good the game is and how its better than Heroclix.

This just makes me sigh. I worked on both projects, and I see Heroclix and SWM as completely different projects, each with their own strengths.

Heroclix is an excellent game. It is second generation, in that it builds off the popular Mage Knight game. It uses the strengths of that game (like the clicking dial) and incorporates new features like a movement grid to capture the feel of the 4-color comic book universe. It definitely plays to those universes' strengths by the wide variety of heroes and villains available.

Star Wars Miniatures is an excellent game. It is second generation, in that it builds off the popular D&D Miniatures game. It uses the strengths of that game (like an open system of special abilities) and incorporates new features like unlimited range to capture the feel of cinematic space adventure. It plays to the license's strengths by creating a strong dualism between the "marquee" characters like Darth and the blaster-carriers like the Stormtroopers.

They are two different games living in the same general product niche (collectable miniature games), but both are pretty darn cool, and I don't think any less of someone else in that prefer one over the other. Both have really cool strengths, and it really breaks down to a matter of taste. I helped bring both Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms to fruition, and both wrote Manual of the Planes and contributed to Planescape, so the idea that one is superior to the other (other than perhaps we always learn from earlier designs) is silly to me.

I love all my creations, and encourage others to enjoy them. Actually, I don't get a chance to play a lot of HC or SWM right now, since I'm working on a NEW collectable project that will be out early next year, which is REALLY cool.

So, the shorter version of the debate between Star Wars and Heroclix?

HC: Apples!

SWM: Oranges!

Me: Bananas!

More later,