Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has moved on to my cable movie comfort list. It's become one of those films I can pick up at any point, watch for a while, and enjoy as much as the last time I saw it.

Hunter Thompson has long been one of my favorite writers, and I have read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a number of times. It's a great book - although in my opinion his best was Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 - but the movie took a while to grow on me. It was jarring to see the excesses of the book shown on screen.

A few nights ago I came across the film again and stumbled right in to the "wave speech." This short part of the book is rumored to have been Thompson's favorite piece of his own writing. Seeing Johnny Depp deliver it again reminded me of what a gifted writer Thompson was.

Here is the text:

"Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."

Here's Depp delivering it brilliantly:

The passage so perfectly captures his feelings of loss about the 60's, and shows the sense of hope and destiny that Baby Boomers once had. As a Gen Xer I've long raged against the failings of the Boomers - and there is a lot to rage over - but I admire that they have the 60's to look back on.

Gen X doesn't have anything similar. I can't longingly look back at the 80's and say "we were winning." I hope we get more things right in middle age than the Boomers did, but it's hard to deny that they did "young" exceptionally well.

Hunter - we miss you.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rescue the Risky

Now that wall street and the banks have gotten their chunk of taxpayer money, the Obama administration has finally gotten around to helping average Americans by proposing a foreclosure aid package. Naturally it has been met with some skepticism because it might aid people who made bad financial decisions. (Note that sarcasm doesn't come through particularly well in print)

Really? Now we are worried about rewarding people who made bad financial decisions? We didn't seem all that worried about it when we were handing billions to banks who gave risky loans. We didn't seem to mind rewarding risky financial behavior when we gave billions to an auto industry that drove itself in to the ground. Rewarding bad behavior wasn't that big a deal when taxpayers were handing over cash to Goldman Sachs and AIG. Now that it is individual citizens though we have to worry about whether we are rewarding bad behavior.

The housing market is a mess, and we need to do something to fix it. Fact is that all of us who own, or intend to own, homes stand to benefit from stabilizing the housing market and stemming the tide of foreclosure. The fact that a few bad planners stand to benefit from this should be the least of our concerns.

Oh - and if the new administration is finally going to turn it's attention to helping the little guy, how about doing something about health care. Remember that promise?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lego Your Doubt!

This is awesome! The fairly recent trend of converting stories and movies in to Legos is tremendous, but a Lego Bible is just fantastic. Take a few minutes and kick around in here. The above depiction of Job is just one of the highly entertaining things you will find.

Shout out to Unreasonable Faith for tipping me off to this one

You Made Me Promises Promises

Over the course of the presidential campaign both parties made an awful lot of promises. The folks at this site have put together a pretty comprehensive list of Obama's promises, and are keeping track of whether they are kept.

It's very early in the administration, but it will be interesting to see how many of these he can keep. (Actually according to the site he's kept a surprising number already, given how long he's been in office.)It's unreasonable to think he can keep all of them. Situations change, making some impossible to keep. Some were just flat out lies. I'm particularly interested to see if he keeps his promise to draw down in Iraq.

It's been lost in our terrible economy, but it wasn't that long ago that getting out of Iraq was a major plank in the Obama platform. He drew a lot of early support over being right on Iraq from the outset. It will be interesting to see if he is able to keep his promises on that front.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Woody on Life.

It's late, I'm tired, and sometimes life feels like you're stuck on a movie line in front of a boorish intellectual. Take it away Woody:

"If only life were like this..."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Roid Rage

Well, another high profile ball player on my favorite team has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. I thought I was numb to these kinds of stories, but this one has hit me harder than I expected.

While A-Rod has been stand-offish and a bit odd, he always seemed so talented that he wouldn't need PED's. Apparently he thought he did. By his own admission, he used steroids from at least 2001 to 2003, while he was on the Texas Rangers.

If players of his caliber were using roids as recently as 2003, I have to assume a majority of players are. If the super stars need it to keep up, the dregs surely need it just to stay in the league. That's depressing. I love baseball, and I'm afraid PED's will eventually ruin it. While I have a libertarian bent when it comes to drug use, I think you cross a line when you use drugs to gain an unfair advantage on the field of play. It makes the game less fair and less real.

A few days ago a good friend, who is also a huge baseball fan, drew an analogy between baseball and cycling. I'm afraid it may be a good one. I use to love pro cycling. I recorded major races like the Tour De France and Giro D'italia. I watched every stage. A few years ago though it became apparent that doping was so prevalent in cycling - and that testing was doing nothing to slow it down - that I just lost interest. I stopped caring because the product seemed fake - almost like pro wrestling.

I hope baseball isn't headed down that path.

If hardcore fans like me are asking these questions though, MLB should be worried.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How About Reality Based Instead?

This week Obama fulfilled another campaign promise, when he signed an order establishing the White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives. This was a bad idea when W. did it, and Obama's version isn't any better.

This kind of mixing between government and religion brings a host of problems. Will these "faith based" programs evangelize while handing out soup, effectively using tax dollars to preach? Will faith based programs discriminate in hiring, effectively causing government subsidized discrimination? Why do we need the "faith based" aspect of these programs at all?

I'm all for government helping those in need. As a matter of fact, I wish government would do a lot more in this area. I would gladly pay higher taxes to know that a minimum standard of living existed for all Americans. Why we need religion involved in this escapes me though. Unless the purpose is to draw people toward faith (an exercise government should not be involved in at all), why is there a need for "faith based" anything?

Instead of using my tax dollars to fund religion, I propose we establish a secular Office of Need. (Or something to that effect) It could do all the "good" things these faith based programs are suppose to do, without blurring the church-state line. I don't tithe on Sundays, I'd like it if my government didn't force me to through my tax bill.

Besides, it's just silly that smart people think "faith" is a virtue. It worries me that two consecutive administrations seem to think it is.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cause I'm The Tax Man!

I'm a little behind the curve on this one, but how is it possible that at least three separate Obama appointees made the "mistake" of not paying their taxes? It raises some very interesting questions.

Wasn't this suppose to be the administration of responsibility and planning? I expected a better vetting job from Obama & Company given how carefully they ran the campaign. It's frankly disappointing that they managed to miss such an obvious problem as failure to pay federal taxes. After all, one would assume that the President might have access to - oh say - federal tax records. One might also assume that checking on tax payment history would be near the top of the vetting appointees to do list.

Still, I'm even more disappointed that people seeking important positions in our government don't take their obligation to pay taxes seriously. These people are suppose to believe in the power of government to improve people's lives. Government needs money to do those things. Guess where that money comes from? It just isn't that hard to hire an excellent accountant to make damn sure your taxes are paid. It's the very least we can expect from the people we ultimately trust with our tax money.

Despite Obama's lack of foresight on these appointees, I was impressed with how he dealt with the fall out. Frankly admitting he "screwed up" and taking responsibility was a breath of fresh air.

Compare Obama's approach with this.

Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dude...Where's My Medals?

Stop the presses! A twenty something celebrity with the world as his feet and a bajillion dollars smoked some pot! How will we ever explain it to our kids? Can he still be a role model? Is he worthy of his endorsements? He better apologize now!

America's drug policy, particularly as it relates to marijuanna, is ridiculous. It siphons public funds to stop a non-problem that will never be stopped. It makes teenagers engaging in normal teenage behavior in to criminals, and it takes personal decisions out of the hands of capable adults.

The Phelps story highlights just how dumb our laws and attitudes toward pot are though. The idea that this young man, who by all accounts has worked tirelessly to acheive greatness, is incapable of making decisions about his own body is just dumb. To possibly make him a criminal for a victimless crime is outlandish. We may question the wisdom of abusing his lungs given what he does, but surely it should be his choice to make.

Instead of issuing an apology, Phelps should just move to Amsterdam.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Prediction

It's that special time when everyone on the web turns in to a football expert. I'm no exception. Here's how today's big game in Tampa will end:

Pittsburgh: 31
Arizona: 14

The Cardinals have had almost no running game all season. Although they have had some success running in the playoffs, Pittsburgh's run defense is too good for that to continue. That will make the Arizona offense one dimensional, and the Steelers' D is too good for a one dimensional attack to work. The Steeler's line backers are going to pin their ears back and blitz Warner to death.

Arizona's defense just isn't very good, and Big Ben will be good enough to win his second championship ring. Of course the Steelers will be helped by a defensive touchdown.

Before you go out and bet the farm on my prediction, please keep in mind that I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Enjoy the game.

White House of Sport

I read an interesting article today about sports facilities at the White House. Apparently over the years the People's House has had indoor pools, an outdoor pool, tennis courts, a putting green, a quarter mile track, an outdoor basketball court, a horse shoe pit, and a bowling alley. It's pretty cool to explore all the sport preferences of our nation's leaders, and how they have influenced the White House.

Apparently Obama is considering turning the White House bowling alley in to a basketball court. It's a small thing (very small), but in light of the criticism the new President has thrown at Wall Street for misusing public funds, perhaps he should forget the hoops court on the public dime. Even if private funds are used for the renovation, it might be better for the Prez to ask contributors to give that money to a soup kitchen or battered women's shelter instead.

A little leadership by example in tough times could go a long way.