Sunday, February 15, 2009

the follow-up

So I never did write that post. I was out looking at laptops (I can't afford to buy) with Sean, and was trying to articulate the shape of the post to him. I got partway through the set-up, which is that it was being fashioned in part as a response to some writing by Ross Douthat that struck me as "wrong" while reading, and how I--as an admittedly-privileged young white liberal male--was sick and tired of hearing folks from "the Right" telling me and everyone else how we "should" behave.

Which is the crux of it all. I'm tired of being told how I should behave. I'm tired of watching other folks be told how they should behave. There's a lot of contentious issues in modern politics, and a healthy debate on them would be a positive thing. We can probably reach some kind of acceptable compromise on abortion, on the death penalty, on affirmative action, on the military-industrial-complex, or any of a host of other issues I read about in grade school, and am still flabbergasted to discover haven't been fucking solved yet.

But "the Right" loves to tell people how they should live, who they can love, and that we all need to trust the Invisible Hand of the Market to somehow set the world's economy straight (wholesale ignoring the astonishing number of people who will willingly lie to get your money away from you, thereby poking a fatal hole in free-market ideas).

Meanwhile, "the Left" loves to tell people how they should feel about abortion, what we must do to save the environment, and that we should trust the Government to take care of us properly (wholesale ignoring the astonishing number of people who will lie their way to keep power when they have zero interest in helping anyone but themselves).

And from both sides, there's a constant battle to accept this religion or that religion and that we should trust religious leaders for their moral authority (wholesale ignoring the astonishing number of priests who rape little boys).

Do I have opinions on all of the above? Yes.
Do I tend to agree with "the Left" most often? Yes.
Do I presume that I have the absolute correct answer to any of these questions? No.

So the only thing I'm going to tell anyone they should do is to not assume themselves to know better. Perhaps you've studied more (I never finished college). Perhaps you have more experience (I've never spent more than four years doing any one thing except being a Dad, and I'm far from the best Dad around). Perhaps you're older and have a better base of history to remember first-hand (I'm twenty-seven, so probably).

But seriously. When everything is a binary issue, we don't solve anything. The losing side will simply wait until they can get in power again, and push their agenda as hard as they can while they can, until the pendulum swings back again.

So Ross? If you're reading? I don't want to hear what I should do as an atheist. I don't want to hear what I should do as a Democrat. I don't want to hear what I should do as a supporter of open access to abortion. I don't want to hear what I should do as a man who's never made more than $30,000 a year (and usually makes far less).

I find it fascinating that you're assuming Obama will fail. I find your views on the potential renaissance of the Republican party fascinating (I'm even reading your book).

But if you keep writing like you're inherently more correct than anyone who disagrees with you, I'm going to stop listening to you at all.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I'm working on a piece right now. It's a response to this article by Ross Douthat that I had a strong, but inarticulate reaction to. The reaction, and the argument I wanted to make, has been slowly taking shape, and was reinforced by this article a few days ago. Today, while trolling through my rss reader, I hit upon a couple quotes that crystallized what I'm trying to say, perhaps better than I can hope to say it.

Nonetheless, I'm doing what I always do, which is that there's something nagging at my brain, and I'm processing it as a piece of writing, because the writing process allows me to come to terms with it fully, and make a far more coherent point than simply linking to a few things and then a few other things and letting you draw your own conclusions. But then ... that's kind of what I'm dancing around in my head.

The real point right now is that as I try to make sense of what I want to be doing, and how I want to use this medium, and how my brain works as a writer, I'm considering a regular piece, on a regular schedule, on loosely related topics. A column of sorts.

Some would argue that, as a nonprofessional writer, writing a regular column and expecting to garner a readership is cocky. I say to them, fuck off, it's the internet and I can do whatever the hell I want. I was hoping to finish the (first) piece tonight and start a schedule for a sunday-evening thing, since Sunday evenings are the time in my week most conducive to reflection and coherent writing. But it's just not quite there yet, and I'd rather give it an extra day to percolate.

The benefits of self-imposed deadlines. I can break them and only have myself to answer to.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

movie sign - the darjeeling limited

From an e-mail I wrote on 10/30/07:
I did like it. I liked the brothers a great deal, and Wes Anderson's sense of humor is fantastic. The thing I'm having trouble with is deciding if the film had any point. As an exercise in character, cinematography, music, and tone, it was phenomenally successful. But as an actual story, it fell a little flat. I might even go so far as to say that it was indulgent. Partially because it quickly becomes very hard for me to sympathize with a character who casually drops that he's spent $6000 on a belt--when the story isn't about them having trouble in the real world because they're rich. Part of it is because it's hard for me to care about their relationship troubles when the three of them were such dicks for most of the movie. I guess if I had to sum it up, I'd say that the movie looked, acted and was directed--and consequently felt like--it was an extended sidebar from a more focused and relevant film. But at so many moments in the story, it seemed like the writers were trying to force this pleasant little diversion into the shoes of that relevant film. And it just didn't gel for me.