26 August 2009

Lion of the Senate

Ted Kennedy

He was as good at being a United States Senator as anyone ever has been. And by my lights, he was not only good at it—smart, skilled, and crafty—but also good: a liberal with a proudly bleeding heart, leading one fight after another for the needs of the disenfranchised. In a long, fascinating 2003 profile in the Boston Globe, Charles P. Pierce quotes Kennedy's former chief of staff Bancroft Littlefield, Jr.

This is a guy who, the first thing he did in the Senate was take on the poll tax


I've read a few profiles like that one over the years, and two things strike me.

First, it's impossible to resist the idea that he worked hard because the shades of the dead were watching, both the brothers he had to measure up to and the woman to whom he owed a debt.

Second, there's a fascination to his tirelessness at the sheer mechanics of playing a role like his: endless little bits of Taking Care of Business, like this moving story:

On the morning of the day before the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin, Senator Ted Kennedy called the White House to inquire if it was appropriate to bring to the burial some earth from Arlington National Cemetery. The answer was essentially a shrug: Who knows? Unadvised, the senator carried a shopping bag onto the plane, filled with earth he had himself dug the afternoon before from the graves of his two murdered brothers. And at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, after waiting for the crowd and the cameras to disperse, he dropped to his hands and knees, and gently placed that earth on the grave of the murdered prime minister.

In that spirit, how about we set aside our conventional eulogies and instead offer the memorial Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice proposes?

The glee of Senator Kennedy’s enemies and ours will be unbounded over the next few days. I’m sure the birfers, astroturfers, industry shills, talibangelicals, Blue Dog DINOs, glibertarians, neocons, and general malefactors of great wealth will weep crocodile tears as they lament that Teddy’s death should not be used as an opportunity by crass liberals to pass the kind of serious health care reform he spent the last thirty years championing. And that, my friends and President Obama, is why it’s time to come back after Labor Day with a single coherent Senator Edward M. Kennedy Health Care Reform Bill, and to twist whatever arms, ears, or other parts are necessary to get a good strong comprehensive bill passed and signed, NOW. We owe the memory of a great man no less.

24 August 2009

Today's quote

Via Hal O'Brien, from Stephen Minkin's obscure novel A No Doubt Mad Idea:
On to the library. And all through his time at the card catalog, combing the shelves, filling out the request cards, he danced a silent, flirtatious minuet of the eyes with a rosy-cheeked redhead in the biology section, pages of notes spread before her. All his life, he had had a yen for women in libraries. In a cerebral setting, the physical becomes irresistible. Also, he figured he was really more likely to meet a better or at least more compatible woman in a library than in a saloon. Ought to have singles libraries, with soups and salads, Bach and Mozart, Montaignes bound in morocco; place to sip, smoke, and seduce in a classical setting, noon to midnight. Chaucer's Salons, call them, franchise chain.
Oh yeah.

20 August 2009

Angels are the New UFOs

I should have suspected as much. Dig the crazy trailer for Legion, the forthcoming Killer Angel Action Movie.

By owning a copy of The Prophecy on DVD, featuring Christopher Walken as the archangel Gabriel and Elias Koteas as a priest turned cop, I feel I'm ahead of the curve on this one.

07 August 2009

Don't you forget about me

John Hughes

I'm pretty much the exact right age to mourn the passing of Mr Hughes: I was a teenager when he was making movies for teenagers, and I still feel a great affection for his work. (Though sitting down with a friend recently to watch my personal favorite of his films, Some Kind of Wonderful, we agreed that it was a very good thing that we were no longer teenagers and so emotionally raw.)

I remember some critics at the time dismissing Hughes as just telling teenagers what they wanted to hear: you're smart and adults are stupid. Those critics are half-right: Hughes did tell teenagers what they wanted to hear, but he had a much less cynical, and more correct, understanding of what that was. Reviewing Hughes' career, Roger Ebert quotes him:

Kids are smart enough to know that most teenage movies are just exploiting them .... People forget that when you’re 16, you’re probably more serious than you’ll ever be again.

Hughes says yeah, parents and schoolteachers and other adults are usually foolish and always uncool, but most of them actually love their teenage charges and are trying to do right by them. Sex is a powerful force, but love is more important. Not everyone you love will return your love, but love is still worth pursuing because if you seek it out you will find it ... most importantly with your friends. And the English language is the greatest toy in the world.

It turns out that these things are not only what I wanted to hear when I was a teenager, they're what I've found to be true as an adult. Nice work.

Update: Twitter informs me about an astonishing and moving blog post about a teenager's correspondence with Mr Hughes.

05 August 2009


Neil Gaiman, saying “it's either beautiful or the stupidest thing I've read today” points us to a UK Telegraph story about a yellow marriage between a woman and an amusement park ride.
“I love him as much as women love their husbands and know we’ll be together forever,” she said.

Miss Wolfe first fell for the ride when she was 13: “I was instantly attracted to him sexually and mentally.

“I wasn’t freaked out, as it just felt so natural, but I didn’t tell anyone about it because I knew it wasn’t ‘normal’ to have feelings for a fairground ride.”

Ten years later, she decided to go back to Knoebels Amusement Park to declare her love. She now sleeps with a picture of the ride on her ceiling and carries its spare nuts and bolts around to feel closer to it.

She claims to believe they share a fulfilling physical and spiritual relationship and does not get jealous when other people ride it.

The Telegraph also offers us stories of the brides of Le Tour Eiffel and the Berlin Wall. A little research finds a website for objectùm-sexuals.
How can one love an inanimate object?

Indeed, the meaning of love comes into question. However, there is no single definition because this feeling has many levels and crosses every part of the spectrum. Virtually every one and every thing can be loved. Love does not have any rules that requisite to whom or to what we express this multifaceted emotion, as long as it causes no violation or harm to the subjected.

Maybe I'm just in a romantic mood today but reading that, to Mr Gaiman's point, makes me go with “beautiful.”

04 August 2009


Via the magnificent Rachel Maddow, I learn of the Hawthorn Group.

The Hawthorn Group is an international public affairs company of senior political communications specialists. Hawthorn helps solve business and policy problems—crisis, legislative, media, customer, financial and employee—for corporations, governments, associations and non-profit organizations.
Specializing in complex policy issues and heavily regulated industries—beverage, banking, energy, gaming, healthcare, insurance, natural resources, security, trade and utilities—Hawthorn currently represents a diverse group of industry-leading clients.

Got that? They're PR guys for corporations. To translate some of those terms, we're talking about corporations that do stuff like drill for oil, operate casinos, deny people's health insurance claims, blow up mountains to get the minerals, and send guys with guns to solve clients' problems. In short: evil corporations.

Their newsletter page reads today:

We thought the most fixated of the political and communications “junkies” might find interesting some highlights of a recent grassroots campaign Hawthorn created and managed for the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

“Grassroots campaign.” I do not think that word means what they think it means.

Deceiving us has become an industrial process.

A Short History of America

Via James Howard Kunstler I am informed that Robert Crumb's immortal comic A Short History of America has a sequel.