Essay: Seeing things differently

My wife initiated a discussion a few days ago in which she clarified (for both of us) our deepest respective interests. She acknowledged that despite her RISD degree in illustration and the fact that she has pursued illustration, painting, and graphic design since graduating, her real love is fashion and fashion design. She also suggested that my deepest-held interest is in movies (as opposed to literature and fiction writing, which I majored in, partly as a reaction to the prospect of fighting my way to any kind of recognition in the film industry, and which I've been telling myself for almost ten years was my true calling in some form or another).

I think she is right.

She loves fashion and approaches it from a really thoughtful angle - an artistic angle. She finds significance in fashion choices, in style, and in comportment. To her it's not just how something looks on an individual, but what it does functionally and what it suggests visually. She finds meaning here. She doesn't just have a strong personal sense of style - she has quite specific ideas about What People Should Wear.

Similarly, all I think about is movies. My storytelling instincts are visual. Even when I'm reading, which I do a lot of and which I think is important regardless, stories are constantly reminding me of some movie and I get this urge to watch it - no matter how engrossing the book is. Lindsay and I usually watch a movie every night; occasionally I wedge in a solo viewing here and there. I think that films can be the most efficient, effective, and intellectually robust form of storytelling available. I am not interested in films because of one particular thing that they offer in the way that some people love great actors, action, special effects, imagery of a certain kind, or particular subject matter. I love the idea that great films can do all of these things simultaneously, creating a really rich experience that works on a whole array of levels.

The impact for me here is not too terribly intense: I haven't written anything substantial (or complete) in a long, long time. A few big ideas have been percolating, but I've only written stuff in note form. In one way, this is good news: I think I'm very good at writing screenplays and I do it fairly quickly. In my mind, writing a story as a screenplay is much, much easier than as prose.

Lindsay's situation is different. It's tough to design clothing "on spec." She wants to take a design class in RISD's continuing ed program in the spring, which I think is great. However, I'm afraid that if she really wants to pursue this, she'll have to go into a full-fledged graduate program. I'm worried that this will mean two years in RI or NYC. Either way, I want her to do it. I only dread the prospect of the cost - and staying on (or coming back to) the East Coast, which I now have pretty unmixed feelings about: it sucks.

I'm not sure of next steps here yet. I can get writing immediately, and Lindsay can set up her sewing machine and learn to draw patterns. Other than that, it's a new way of looking at things that has somehow escaped me for too long - and I need to get used to it.


Essay: Keith Olbermann needs to get back to nature

Yes, Keith: Shhh! Quiet. Be a mouse.

A couple of years ago, when I first started watching him, I really liked Keith. He was one of the few mainstream journalists willing to directly challenge Bush/Cheney on various issues. And he did it cogently, with verve and humor. It was compelling and entertaining to watch.

But then his Special Comments started coming two at a time, it seemed, each one more frothy than the next. I started getting really agitated by the way his mouth purses downward as he gets more and more self-righteous. The Countdown "stories," Worst Persons, and Special Comments all started to seem like one single amorphous mass of content/criticism/yelling and all bore the same tone: outrage. Whether it was deserved or not, one note is one note, and it gets boring.

Break it up. Do more interviews. Go out onto the street. Use animation. Something.

The problem here is that Keith has started to take on the possessed vivacity of his nemesis, Bill O'Reilly, apparently without knowing it. MSNBC in general is a bit too much, I guess. Is "bias" even a word worth introducing here? I still admire Chris Matthews' insane, careening, wonkier-than-thou intelligence and wit. But the constant parade of the same 8 talking heads (anchors showing up as commentators and vice versa) smacks of the same incestuous newsey thought process reflected in Keith's increasingly-overbearing tone.

Keith was once a shining star of sorts, but now he's just another annoying douche on TV. Get it together, my friend. Take some Murrow pills. You are good at what you do. Just do less of it.


Essay: Crouching badger, hidden Clinton

What's really sad is, based on how the McCain campaign is being run - and particularly the "discussion" of Obama's non-relationship with Bill Ayers - plus the fact that the Clintons are notably absent from the Obama campaign, this column by Maureen Dowd seems more and more plausible with every passing day. What's really sad is that the Clintons' legacy (whatever that is) can be seen as an exercise in pure political ambition.

Also, what's really sad is that voting for the smart guy means you're an elitist asshole, apparently. But I say - and have always said - elitism needs a renaissance. And every renaissance needs a Michelangelo.

It's hard to believe that even 30% of Americans (the minimum of all the available polls) feel that John McCain "won" the debate last night. "Won" is a fairly subjective term here - but I find it impossible to defend McCain's performance on any grounds. In terms of hard data/information/substance, McCain has no command at all. He throws around generalities and tells you what he "will" do, or is "determined" to do, but never how he's going to do it. In terms of demeanor and behavior, McCain was an outright loon, and an offensive one at that. During the several instances where he tried to deride Obama for this or that, his face looked like a badger's, especially during the already-infamous "that one" remark (seemingly innocuous words which McCain somehow made sound exactly like "nigra.") His ongoing habit of addressing the audience as "My friends" was evidently adopted from 19th-century snake oil salesmen, i.e., "My friends, you've never seen a product like this one! It cures Hair Loss, Loss of Nerves, and Curvy-Finger!" He says he can do it, that he's got experience, that he's determined, etc., but he could barely make it from Section A to Section F of the audience without limping. And at the end of the debate - he FLED! Like the average political couple seeking votes, Barack Obama mixed with the audience for a good twenty minutes; autographs were signed and photos were snapped. I would have expected McCain - who had so many "friends" and fellow servicemen in the crowd, after all - to stay as well. But it was past his bedtime, and he and Cindy slipped out without the cameras catching it.

Maybe I should get away from the snarkier stuff. It's annoying. It's annoying to read about & hear about on the political talk shows. It's so easy to cover all of the "personality" issues because they're obvious and telegenic. Issue-based details are harder to cover and discuss because they're flat and sometimes complicated. But let's be honest - no matter how you actually FEEL about the various issues: the economy, foreign policy, energy production, or health care. Obama clearly and consistently describes how he would deal with those issues. McCain does not. McCain believes that two things preclude the need to go into detail: 1) People's ignorance (i.e., "You probably never even heard of Fannie or Freddie before this crisis," one of his more condescending lines from last night. Is he joking? At the very least, most college students have heard of them because of their role in the student loan system - and what about homeowners?) and 2) his apparent belief that George W. Bush's ways have worked out okay. If he didn't believe that, why isn't he using his Maverickyness to change them more drastically? At best, his policies are just W. with an extra dash of Reagan.

Whether or not you agree with Obama's or McCain's approach to solving national problems, it is nearly impossible to countenance the opinion that McCain is more thoughtful or detailed in his solutions. I guess what I'm really trying to get at here is this: After 8 years of grammatical blunders - grammatical blunders that are directly related to grave foreign & domestic blunders, the connections between which have yet to be fully explored by anyone - I have decided that I will always vote for the more intelligent, more thoughtful candidate. And if, as in the recent past, it becomes difficult to distinguish any difference on that score, I will not vote at all. Sure, Jimmy Carter was not a great president - although historians differ a bit on whether the failings of his presidency were really his own or those of his predecessor, and about which I hold no opinion at all, since I was 4 when he left office - but he is a good man, an intelligent and honest one who is curious about the world and whose opinions are developed as a result of investigation, reflection, and analysis. And on that basis alone, I would vote for him if he were running against McCain today.

McCain's supposed asset, his great experience, is exactly what is weighing him down in this election. We've had eight years of predetermined conclusions, bullheaded aggression, and a total lack of consequence-weighing or curiosity. McCain is 72. He doesn't use a computer. His hero is Ronald Reagan - not the absolute worst hero to have, but one whose era has come and gone. Times have changed. But you still can't teach an old badger new tricks.


News: Changes

My friend Midge over at Sorry, Wrong Blog has inspired me to get back on here and mill about and say some things. There's really too much happening right now to go over in any kind of detail, but I'll summarize a few things very briefly for the sake of "catching up."

1: The wife and I moved to Providence, Rhode Island in June of this year. Not the most brilliant choice. Changes will be made in the spring. Rhode Island is a gray sadness.

2: Our business is growing in leaps and bounds. We are on our way to financial success.

3: I have a "big" idea for a novel that I continue to make notes for...the most promising idea I've had in years.

4: The American political and economic scene affects my mood deeply on a daily basis. The stuff we're seeing is the tip of the iceberg, in my opinion. The best I think anyone can hope for is that Obama will do things differently & better somehow. McCain makes me feel like I'm standing on the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge in a high wind.

5: Marriage is a good thing.

6: Despite the fact that Rhode Island is a gray sadness, the fall is here and the leaves are changing and it's pleasing. Here's my favorite creative statement about the fall: