Sunday, December 14, 2008

A roof over his woof

Pictured above is "Ravi," rescued from the lethal chamber in Hollister CA early this month and at present being fostered here in the Crumbling Manse. He's eighteen months old, gangly, goofy and about a head taller than the incomparable Napalm, who's the senior dog on these premises. The original deal was that we would look after him for ten days, after which he would proceed either to another foster home or to a permanent gig. In exchange for taking him in fresh from his reprieve (rescue organization A plucked him from the pound in Hollister, eighty miles south of here, and handed him off to Berkeley-based rescue organization B via a veterinarian in nearby Fremont, a Bay Area locus of the Southwest Asian diaspora—hence his name, bestowed by the vet, a grandson of the Raj—where the contents of his scrotal sac were extracted and discarded, who then fobbed the creature off on us that afternoon) we have first refusal on that gig. Heaven help me, I think I'm going to say yes. I'm looking around me at possessions—books, DVDs, clothing—knowing that some of these will perish in the coming months in consequence of my softheartedness. I will be distraught, wroth. Will I benefit, I wonder, from remembering that I entered into this doggie pact with my eyes open?

Let me say at once that this is an adorable dog. His disposition is sociable, affectionate and curious; he is obviously intelligent; understands and complies with "NO!", albeit with a vanishingly brief retention. I can't believe that he's spent his life feral: he must have had a human family to be so well socialized. I surmise that the hypothetical family permitted him free run of their beds, sofas and chairs, a privilege he will not enjoy here in the Crumbling Manse. Napalm (also a "shepherd mix"; sixteen in March; remarkably healthy for a dog of his size) is concerned that his alpha status not be questioned, and does much posturing and snarling, to which the younger responds "Oh! The alpha male deigns to growl at me! I am not worthy!", conveyed with appropriately submissive body language and much tail wagging. Napalm appears gratified by this. Yesterday we took them both to "Point Isabel," the largest of the local off-leash parks, and Ravi behaved himself very well, never copping an attitude toward dogs or people. When a couple of other canines tried a brutal dominance routine on him, he did not respond in snarling kind but rather removed himself from the fray with an air of puzzled surprise.

When he reached us that first Friday, separated forever from his human family, fresh off a fortnight in the pound with some hardened characters, emasculated just hours earlier, a clown-cone affixed to he head and confined to a big plastic cage for transport, he was thoroughly traumatized and frantic. Sprung from the plastic cage he was so obviously distraught by the cone (intended to keep his wandering tongue away from those fresh stitches) that we defied the guidelines promulgated by rescue org B and discarded the device just five minutes in. I think we must have seemed to him the first human beings since Veterans' Day who'd done anything right, and that we secured, in that moment of his deepest doggie despair, almost inexhaustible moral credit for the remainder of our association.

There are issues. Abandonment issues. Separation anxiety. Ravi does not like being left alone, and sublimates this tension in...scientific investigation of his surroundings. His approach to the world around him, which he indulges when left unsupervised for even a short time, appears to be: 1) Is it edible? 1a) If yes, eat it. If no, might it be edible on the inside? 1b) Investigate with teeth. 1c) If inedible, destroy and discard; look around for another candidate to subject to the scientific method. 2) Rinse and repeat. Casualties of this approach thus far include two sets of wooden mini-blinds and two dog pillows.

And yet, and yet...A sweeter-tempered creature you could not ask for. Affectionate, attentive, eager to please and physically easy on the eyes. I fear that I've bonded (Lina, of course, was always in the can). He's here for as long as he wants to be.

Friday, November 7, 2008

How cool is that?

I have not been as proud of my presidential vote since I cast it for the first time against Richard M. Nixon, whose toxic residues continue to sap and impurify our precious political fluids, on this night in 1972, and I'm far more pleased with the result this time out.

(The image is the work of NYC-based designer Marco Avedo, and reminds me of why it is that I'm an obscure in-house art director whose work (largely for in-house consumption) is routinely derivative. I wouldn't have come up with this in a year of trying. Avedo's original entry here.)

Friday, October 3, 2008

I saw the best minds of my generation...elsewhere

Governor Sarah Heath Palin, concerned citizen:
Now, no one could have reasonably faulted her had she replied "Oh, ya know, that one a few years back where they said ya could lose yer home if, ya know, if the city wanted it for a shoppin' mall or somethin', you betcha!" without being able to identify it as Kelo v. City of New London. But it's quite clear from the embedded video that she was unable to think of a single case, and unwilling to acknowledge the fact. Instead she attempted to bluff her way past it.

I find this one point of common ground with many of her partisans: let Sarah be Sarah! Let her have "unfiltered" exposure to the Teeming Millions. For example, the CNN transcript of Thursday night's "debate" can be found here. Find the text string "Iran and Pakistan," and compare the candidates' responses on the issue. Biden doesn't do as well as he did addressing the same issue in one of the primary debates, but Palin is simply incoherent.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Reply to interlocutors tired of "holding their noses"

(originally posted on a discussion board; slightly revised for this blog)

...My, aren't we a couple of high-minded libertarian freethinkers, too fine-grained for the sordid political realities of this wicked world! "A" "tried that a couple of years back" and has "absolutely nothing to show for it so far" (o, the humanity!) and "B" is on his usual Noble Savage tear. Well, boo-fucking hoo. Ayup, I could get behind a candidate who never fudged, shaded or pandered on the campaign trail no matter how little his various audiences wanted to hear the unvarnished truth, and that might get me, and my hypothetical candidate, about a fortnight—if that—past the Iowa caucuses before he dropped out. "B" mentioned Khrushchev a couple of threads downstream (mangling the name, natch). Our younger participants will not remember, but Nikita Sergeyevich ramped down the level of oppression in the USSR an order of magnitude or two from Stalin's grim imperium. Life got a lot better there between 1949 and 1959, and this came about not because the Butcher of the Ukraine was a nice guy, but because he was, for the era, something like the best of all possible leaders, the nearest approximation to a decent human being in the Presidium who survived the literally murderous political ecosystem that surrounded Stalin. In Shrove's Amerika we content ourselves these latter years with mere character assassination, but the political process synthesized by a servile corporate press, a Beltway culture of snide courtiers masquerading as "pundits," and a voting populace largely debauched by soundbite coverage (including both outright knuckle-draggers and suburban naifs) is itself a pretty fucking harsh environment in which the pure of principle do not thrive, and certainly never survive for consideration on the first Tuesday in November.

Yeah, we all want a presidential candidate who opposes every federal policy, be it war or subsidy, that we dislike, and who promises to maintain or enhance every program of which we approve. We want him to nominate judges who will rule our way every time on issues concerning which we feel strongly. The good news is that this candidate exists. The bad news, my friends, is that this candidate is otherwise manifestly unqualified, for it is each and every one of us, a constituency of one. But let's return to the real world.

In the "real" world (assuming that this shoddy simulacrum of a century, so at odds with what we were all promised, can be dignified with that adjective) we live in a corporate-dominated duopoly that tolerates the franchise provided that the actual options are severely restricted. Unfair? Of course. Get over it, sports fans. Does this mean that the functional distance between the options is less than we might like it? Yes again. Suck it up. Are we therefore to conclude that the differences between the two candidates are immaterial, that the consequences of victory for the one would deviate from the consequences of victory for the other in negligible degree?

Bush v. Gore, motherfuckers. If you think we'd be in this fix today had organized partisan thuggery, media complicity and magisterial prejudice not contrived between them to fix the 2000 election, then just click away to another blog. Your money's no good here, as the unfriendly bartender says.

Election's coming up. The GOP was so damaged, its "base" so fragmented, its candidates so dreadful (Hillbilly Theocrat? Il Duce? Folksy Second Coming of the Gipper? Lunatic Libertarian? Magic Underwearian?), its record so utterly discreditable, that the "Maverick"—talk about living on capital!—was the last man standing. A rational electorate, weighing a rational discussion by actual "pundits," might conclude that the GOP standard-bearer sallied forth for consideration beneath an utterly discredited banner. Certainly his differences with his royal predecessor are slender. Surveillance, torture and "the surge"—hey, McCain's golden. His volatility, impulsiveness and gambler's temperament have all been amply documented, but he survived [something] at the hands of the North Vietnamese communists! He is a manly man! —and of course, "He's a man of conviction! He doesn't waffle! Once he makes a decision he sticks to it, even if events prove him utterly wrong—he'll never compromise his principles!"

Where have we heard that last bit before?

Obama is no one's perfect vehicle. I wish that he had stood firm on FISA, but he's running for president, and the perfect is the enemy of the good. I wish he'd set forth the grim and—largely thanks to the feckless actions of this regime—narrow options that the next administration faces, but I have a more nuanced (there: I've said it) view of these than does the Sarah Palin-besotted "hockey mom" imagined by the popular press.

What I propose to vote for is an obviously thoughtful and intelligent candidate, perhaps not ideally seasoned (seasoning isn't everything: look at Dick Cheney, with a distinguished executive résumé—his shogunate has been an utter clusterfuck) but clearly a quick study, a competent campaign field marshal and, looking back on the Democratic field, in retrospect the best choice, "choice" being here defined as the nexus between candidate chops and administrative potential. My candidate's opponent is an elderly man who has nakedly compromised most of his best-publicized previous "maverick" stances in order to make himself right with the theocratic faction of the GOP (today a criminal conspiracy masquerading as an American political party), and who was demonstrated with his choice of Sarah Palin a stark naked contempt for the office to which she might thereby be made eligible someday to ascend.

To those of you in deep "red" or "blue" states who might be inclined to abstain or to vote your simon-pure "conscience," for Nader or some other deluded enabler, I'd remind you that according to Newsweek's post-election account in 2000, a Bush campaign official cheerfully acknowledged that they'd thought that they might win the popular vote while losing in the Electoral College, and that in that event they'd planned to scream bloody murder and to challenge the legitimacy of Gore's election. In the event, of course, they turned effortlessly on that dime, as Republicans will, and they carried the day, to our and the world's cost. If you despise the party of authoritarian theocracy, and unless you are prepared to countenance its continued rule until your hypothetical perfect candidate is elected president, you should take your fingers out of your fucking nostrils, wipe them off, and vote for Obama, who will need both for the election and afterward as solid a mandate as he and we can get.

But if it's all about your rugged individualism and your preternaturally discriminating sense of smell—hey, go crazy. It's not like it'll be a long walk.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Johnny, we hardly knew ye

I was not impressed with John Edwards' performance on the ticket four year ago, but late last year he was starting to win me over. The callow candidate of 04 appeared to have employed his down time to good effect, like a conscientious trial lawyer preparing for a court date. He seemed more thoughtful and more seasoned, and I thought I caught a whiff of RFK, another unpromising youngster who cleaned up better than expected. By the time of the California primary, though, he'd bailed, and I cast my vote for the Swarthy Guy.

We now learn that Edwards was going for the gold with an ingot of infidelity in his recent personal history — and what an infidelity! My stars and stripes, this man is within a year the near side of my own age, and a character like this doesn't cause his deeper reflexes to scream run away?

Regarding the actual morality of the thing I am, alas, unable to hold forth: in consequence of certain youthful sins and indiscretions the Special Subcommittee on Moral Abuses long ago banned me for life from participation in the Olympic stone-casting event, much as I'd love to play.

In a perfect world, or in a better world, at least, than this pellet of muck we are obliged to share with one another, the lapses of our candidates might be treated with the judicious perspective an anonymous Chicagoan brought to bear upon the news that 1884 presidential contender Grover Cleveland was implicated in an out-of-wedlock paternity scandal:

We are told that Mr. Blaine has been delinquent in office but blameless in private life, while Mr. Cleveland has been a model of official integrity but culpable in personal relations. We should therefore elect Mr. Cleveland to the public office which he is so well qualified to fill, and remand Mr. Blaine to the private station he is admirably fitted to adorn.

Of course, Cleveland was a character of Cromwellian rectitude (lacking, thank God, the corresponding Cromwellian severity), and Edwards has shown himself...not so much. I do not fault him for lack of priapic self-restraint, but I take it very ill indeed that having let the Little Head lead the Big Head into realms forbidden to serious candidates ever since the Monkey Business business, he nevertheless partied as if it was 1968, and offered himself up as the standard-bearer for a cause far greater than himself, with the potential to put it at mortal peril. If this was done cold-bloodedly, then I cannot disparage his cynicism enough. If, as I am (perhaps charitably) slightly inclined to believe, he had contrived to persuade himself that the secret would not emerge, or that his candidacy could somehow survive it in a world in which Maureen Dowd is granted a column in the Paper of Record to vent her patented spinster's brew of the toxic and the trivial, then he is merely deluded rather than sociopathically selfish. Still, this remains a deal-breaker. I do not require that a president possess better-than average personal morals, but I do look for a better-than average resistance to self-deception. We have, after all, experimented with fantasy-based policymaking these ninety months past, and I trust that most of recognize how that has turned out.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Deborah Saunders avers that were she a Democrat she'd be "spittin' mad." Alas, on the evidence of her columns the past dozen years she's merely barking mad.

It is suggested that some in the Clinton camp now believe that but for Edwards' tainted candidacy the junior Senator from New York would have extinguished the flickering Obama campaign in Iowa. If this is true, then the former junior Senator from North Carolina should be entitled—not to the Justice Department, but to a parole from political limbo once a year on the anniversary of his providential interference.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Graphic design we can believe in

This is by far the finest political poster produced on behalf of an American presidential candidate that I have seen in the 48 years since I first began to pay attention. And then there's...this.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

V as Soviet poster girl

I took this picture in April 1973 on the grounds of the University of California at Santa Cruz. It has always been one of my favorites among the (shockingly few) photos of her I possess. Remembering that time, I now think of a passage from Kingsley Amis' novel Lucky Jim:

As he left the bar with Christine at his side, Dixon felt like a special agent, a picaroon, a Chicago war-lord, a hidalgo, an oil baron, a mohock. He kept careful control over his features to stop them doing what they wanted to do and breaking out into an imbecile smirk of excitement and pride. When she turned and faced him on the edge of the floor, he found it hard to believe that she was really going to let him touch her, or that the men near them wouldn't spontaneously intervene to prevent him...

Monday, February 18, 2008


She liked this poem, I remember, even though she disdained the George Kline translation:

Once more we're living by the bay,
and clouds of black smoke drift, daily, above us.
Our own Vesuvius has cleared its throat;
volcanic ash is settling in the side streets.
Our windowpanes have rattled to its roaring.
Some day we too will be shrouded with ashes.
And when that happens, at that awful moment,
I'd like to take a streetcar to the outskirts
of town and find your house;
and if, after a thousand years,
a swarm of scientists should come here
to dig our city out, I hope they'll find me,
cloaked with the ashes of our modern epoch,
and everlastingly within your arms.
—Joseph Brodsky

Friday, January 11, 2008

Heavy traffic

I devised The Diebold Variations on a caffeinated whim 46 months ago, and was sufficiently pleased with them that I created a quick-and-dirty web page to share the conceit with a few friends. A couple of months later they came to the attention of Arianna Huffington, who plugged them in her blog, resulting in a surge of about 25,000 visits that June. Since then interest has risen and declined with the election cycles, but the general trend has been downward, with an average of 300 visits/month for most of the past year. This left me unprepared for a spike of just over 41,000 visits in the course of the twenty-four hours comprising last Wednesday. Criminentlies! Another increment of my fifteen minutes of fame! The good people at dotmac have already objected to my profligate use of their bandwidth.

I'm a little puzzled that the New Hampshire primary, fercrissake, appears to have been the occasion of the present kerfuffle. I'm actually an agnostic on the subject of e-vote fraud, having undertaken the project principally as a designer, and not as anyone who has meditated at length on, much less mastered, the technical impedimenta. Those of you craving red-meat analyses of the geek stuff should depart these precincts and head for Bev Harris' admirable Black Box Voting site. I do believe that instruments for committing vote fraud without undue effort either in the perpetration or the concealment ought not be left lying around where Karl Rove might find them, but when election fraud is the first conclusion arrived at by the losing side it creeps me out just a little bit.