Thursday, June 28, 2007
It flooded yesterday up in Marble Falls (just north and west of here), and we're supposed to get more rain today. Town Lake looked swollen and angry this morning when I drove over the Lamar Street bridge, and I guess Mansfield Dam has 4 floodgates open. The guy on the TV this morning said Lake Travis rose 12 feet yesterday. The weather is out of control this year. I hope we don't deal with flooding weather on our drive to New Orleans.
That's it. Hope you guys are doing ok.
I'm not sure about how the posting will go as I drive to New Orleans with Andy, Rami, and Weedo for this trip (we're going to see The Police and to just hang out a bit in The Big Easy for a day and a couple of nights). I'll definitely let ya'll know how it went when I get back, though.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Here we have Judge Crain reviewing some jury questions with Adam Reposa (defense counsel) and Yvonne Patton (a friend and fellow prosecutor) up at the bench. This is County Court at Law Number 3, where I used to be court chief (before becoming the jail call court chief). Judge Crain's court reporter, Karen, is the women to the side with her hand on her hip.
Here's a wider shot of the same scene in Court 3. Delia, the Court 3 bailiff, is there on the left.
Here's a shot of Brandon (from Court 7) talking punishment strategy with Yvonne while waiting for a guilt/innocence verdict. You can see Amber's head at the bottom. She was sitting second chair with Yvonne on this case.
Here's one last shot of Amber and Brandon right after someone asked Amber if she was going to be ready to start a new trial the following morning....
The photos aren't the greatest, I guess, but they're kind of fun. I don't have very many pictures from up at the courthouse.
Last night I went with Jennifer and Team Bloom to see Hot Fuzz at The Alamo Drafthouse for Jennifer's birthday. It was a good movie. It kind of gave some perspective on the classic American cop drama as seen through British eyes. (It was also surprisingly violent, but the violence totally over-the-top and contributed to the comedy). Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg wrote the movie (and also wrote 2004's Shaun of the Dead), and they seem to have this weird knack for writing funny movies that pay homage to genre films without quite becoming true parodies of those films (the films are definitely meant to be funny, but they have just enough plot and character development, in and of themselves, to land within their designated genre rather than simply spoofing it). Anyhoo, I enjoyed the flick, the food, and the company. Hopefully Jennifer enjoyed it, too.
We also saw a trailer for the upcoming horror flick, 30 Days of Night, which is based upon the horror comic of the same name, written by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. The comic version of 30 Days of Night was one of the more original and scary horror comics that I had read in a very long time, and the movie (at least insofar as I could tell from the trailer) looks to be a pretty faithful adaptation. The plot of the comic revolves around the town of Barrow, Alaska, which goes through a month long period of darkness every year during the winter. In the storyline of the comics, America (and the world at large) has a small vampire population which follows very strict rules about feeding on humans and killing people- rules which are designed to keep the very existence of the vampire species a secret, lest humanity awaken to the dangers posed by the vampire race and hunt them down to the point of extinction. A renegade group of vampires, however, grows tired of following these vampire rules of formality and civility, and they travel north to Barrow, where the town's annual 30 days of darkness and remote location will allow the vampires to isolate and massacre the town's population at their leisure.
It's an interesting idea, and the movie looks awfully scary.
Well, that's about it for now. Tony blair is resigning, and despite the fact that he supported Bush on this whole Iraq war, I'll be sorry to see him go. He seemed to be doing pretty well until he got tangled up with Bush, and although a lot of people criticize him harshly for allying himself with our current administration, let's not forget the incredibly difficult position that he was put in- it's asking an awful lot of the Prime Minister to demand that he thumb his nose at one of Britain's most powerful and longstanding allies. And after all, if the American people hadn't been foolish enough to vote Bush into office for a second term, then Blair wouldn't have been forced to deal with the man and his policies. Now granted, I don't follow British politics all that closely, but as a casual, outside observer, I think Blair was a pretty fair, reasonable, intelligent, and articulate leader, and I think Gordon Brown will be doing very well if he can do the job half as well.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
And does anybody remember Jonathan "The Impaler" Sharkey, a self proclaimed vampire and satanist who ran for governor of Minnesota back in 2006? Well, Sharkey is back, this time running as a presidential candidate, and it's not like Steanso to forget his old friends. After all, given his new job as a county prosecutor, Steanso needs to be maintain a tough stance against crime, and what could be tougher than threatening to impale criminals on the White House lawn?
And Germany is refusing to allow Tom Cruise to film scenes on its military sites (Cruise is filming a new movie about a plot to kill Hitler) due to Cruise's public affiliation with the Church of Scientology. Germany refuses to recognize Scientology as a church, instead considering it a cult whose primary purpose is to raise money.
While my first instinct is to find the story pretty funny (Tom Cruise sort of annoys me, as do the Scientologists), in some respects it's kind of alarming. It's troubling to think that a government has the power to unilaterally decide whether or not an organization is a religion, and in so doing, to decide which religions are worthy of respect. Scientology has always struck me as exactly the sort of scam that the Germans claim it is (and I've read numerous articles about how the Church of Scientology has actively harrassed and threatened its detractors), but it's still a little scary when a government (and I hate to say it, but it's particularly the German government) feels entitled to single people out for disparate treatment based on their religious beliefs. I don't like the Scientologists, either, but what's to stop the Germans from turning against the Lutherans or the Buddhists next month?
Then again, I also remember reading somewhere that the Germans are taking a hard stand against Scientology because of its dogmatic, brainwashing-style methodology and because of the harrassment tactics that it uses against its critics. You can kind of see how the Germans might be a bit twitchy about organizations that strictly indoctrinate followers, intimidate detractors, and encourage a cult-like mentality. The last big organization that they had along those lines in their country didn't work out very well for them.
So that's about it. I had dinner with Roundball and McSteans last night. They seem to be doing fine. New Orleans and The Police are coming up this weekend, so that's cool. Trying to make sure I'm back to full health and ready to party.
Monday, June 25, 2007
In other news, I spent pretty much the entire weekend (and most of Friday) in bed with some kind of cold/flu thing, which I'm still getting over (I debated staying home again today, but I seriously doubt that I'm still contagious at this point, and my job isn't exactly physically rigorous- plus, I was starting to get cabin fever just sitting in my house). My only outing of the weekend was to have dinner over at Kate and Judy's last night with Mandy. They made shrimp, asparagus, and corn, and everything was very good. It was nice to get out and spend some time with friends after a couple of days with only Cassidy for company.
So not much to report. I rented the Reno 911 movie, which wasn't as funny as I had hoped (I like the show, so it was kind of disappointing). And last night I started Letters from Iwo Jima, which was pretty good, but I fell asleep partway through it (I was all doped up on anti-histamines).
I guess that's it for now. Happy birthday, Jennifer!
Friday, June 22, 2007
Last night I hung out with Mandy a bit while some guy installed her new security system (Mandy and the wieners are now pretty well protected against danger from fires or intruders), and then we picked up Chinese food and just watched some TV.
Jennifer has questioned the fact that I praised Juneteenth as a happy holiday, pointing out that white Texans were pretty much bastards for not setting the slaves free at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation. Jennifer, I guess, sees Juneteenth as more of a day of commemoration and remembrance than as a true celebration (maybe akin to Pearl Harbor Day or Yom HaShoah- Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is a national holiday in Israel). I see her point, but that's just never been the way that I've seen Juneteenth celebrated in Texas. It's always been a day of celebration- parades, picnics, music, and a generally festive atmosphere seem to accompany Juneteenth. But why would people want to celebrate their newfound freedom when that freedom was over two years overdue (and when federal troops had to be brought in to enforce the emancipation of the slaves)? I guess that maybe it's partly a glass is half full/ half empty kind of question. At the time when they were finally set free, the blacks in Texas could have been upset (or unbelievably furious) about having their freedom delayed for so long, but instead they seemed to just want to move forward and celebrate the fact that they were finally free. They could have just been bitter and filled with hatred and loathing at the injustices they had suffered for so long (and the fact that freedom, when it finally did arrive, only came under the threat of federal military action), but instead they turned the occasion into a celebration of newfound freedom. To be honest, despite the fact that The Emancipation Proclamation had already been passed, I would bet that a lot of slaves in Texas never really thought that slavery would ever come to an end in Texas (after all, they had been living under a system of slavery for generations, and Texans weren't necessarily all that great about complying with orders from the federal government), so maybe that plays into it. I think Jennifer's viewpoint comes maybe from a position of guilt, whereas the Juneteenth celebrations that I've seen are more of an expression of happiness and grattitude (not really toward the white population, who should never have been endorsing slavery to begin with, but maybe thankfulness to a higher power for helping to make their lives better). Jennifer's position involves the viewpoint that the white southerners were bastards for not ending slavery sooner, and that point is well taken, but I think that Juneteenth is a celebration of the triumph of freedom and liberty over oppression, even if that freedom was long overdue. It's true that freedom took far longer to reach Texas than it should have, but I'm sure that, to the slaves, the long wait made freedom all the more exciting when it finally came to pass. Given the choice between mourning the injustices that they had suffered versus celebrating their newfound freedom, the freed slaves chose to celebrate, and successive generations seem to have followed their example. I would imagine that there's nothing that makes you want to celebrate life more than surviving a great evil.
Anyway, that's the way I see Juneteenth. I'm not black, and I'm not even really a native Texan (I was born in Florida and lived in Michigan for my very early childhood), but I've seen Juneteenth celebrated since arriving in this state as a kid, and it always seemed like a pretty happy occasion to me. Maybe the simple fact that it is a celebration is part of what makes it special.
Next year I'm going to pay a lot more attention to Juneteenth and maybe go to a parade. I hope I haven't just been seeing the whole thing through rose colored glasses this whole time.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
The artwork of the game is really beautiful, and in contrast to many of the other hyperkinetic, overstimulating games on the market, you spend a lot of time riding around the lonely landscape and simply seeking the creatures that you are meant to battle. You have a horse named Argo, your only companion in the game, and he's incredibly well animated and fairly intelligent for a little AI bot (left to his own devices, he can find his way over some pretty treacherous terrain, and he's pretty good at coming running quickly when you whistle for him). The emptiness of the game is captivating and sort of haunting- you encounter the ruins of some unexplained, long lost civilization, but never come across another person or being with whom to converse or interact- and the scenery is pretty darn cool to look at. The game isn't filled with constant battles or obstacles that pop out at you (this is one of those rare games which obviously is truly meant to appeal to an adult audience), but instead presents a series of solitary, epic battles against colossal foes which must be won through a combination of skill, agility, problem-solving, and patience.
I haven't finished the game, but I've been noticing that the colossi are becoming more powerful and trickier to defeat as I progress (and more and more, you have to pay careful attention to the landscape and the enviromental features around you in order to defeat them). The colossi, like most of the art and animation in the game, are extremely well rendered and fascinating to watch and interact with (the animators do a tremendous job with lending the giants a sense of massive scale and weight).
Anyway, it's a neat game and worthy of a look if you're a gamer. More importantly, it's the kind of game that might interest you and give you an appreciation of games as an art form even if you're not a gamer.
Check it out if you get a chance and if you have even a remote interest in such things.
What else? I was troubled and shocked to hear about the beating death of David Morales here in Austin. Morales was riding as the passenger in a car that accidentally struck a 2 year old in an apartment parking lot in East Austin. The two year old apparently escaped without serious injury, but the driver of the car was attacked by several men when he got out of the car to check on the child (there were supposedly around 20 men present at the scene), and when Morales got out of the car to try to help the driver, he was also attacked and was beaten to the point of brain death. There are a couple of legal assistants up here at the office who knew Morales and had seen him as recently as last week. The incident is especially tragic in that it allegedly involved a group of black men that attacked Morales and the driver, who were both Hispanic, and there are already rumors and witness accounts that the attacks may have had, at least in part, some racial overtones (local neighborhood groups are trying to dispel such rumors, but eyewitness accounts on the news last night included allegations that Morales' attackers confronted him about why he was in the area of the accident at all, given that it was Juneteenth and not a Hispanic holiday). Anyway, I hope that this event doesn't raise racial tensions or create friction in the East Austin community. Although we're growing at an exponential rate, I still think of Austin as a small town in many ways, and I hate to see awful things like this happen which have the potential to creat rifts within the community. Hopefully the police can make some relatively quick arrests and the attackers can be succefully prosecuted. The focus needs to remain on objectively punishing the single, isolated crime in this case rather than letting it become some kind of flashpoint for racial tensions. The fact that this brutal attack occurred in front of a group of 20 people (without anyone stepping in to try to stop it) is undoubtedly troubling, though. There's just no getting around it. It's just not the sort of thing that we're used to hearing about here in Austin, and it sucks that it will probably be a story that gets picked up by the national media (given the fact that such an event is so unusual in Austin, it's just a shame that people will be associating this story with Austin on a national news level).
Well, like I said, I don't have a lot to report on. Reed "Weedo" Shaw is more than halfway through his first week at his new job, and he seems to be enjoying it so far (I spoke with him on the phone last night). Congrats to him for that.
Hope you guys are having a good day. Maybe more later.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Oh well. Other from that I really didn't do anything. I flipped channels, tried to pick up a couple of different books, and even gave the ol' guitar a try, but I just couldn't settle into anything. I finally fell asleep on the futon with Cassidy while listening to My Morning Jacket and wondering how much of their set I could catch at ACL Fest before making a run for Wilco.
Hope you guys are having a good day.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Anyhoo, last night I just hung out with Mandy, had some dinner, played with Max and Lucy, and watched a Boston Legal episode from the DVR.
And a couple of people have asked me what I thought about the treatment that Mike Nifong, the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case, is getting (i.e., disbarrment, lawsuits, and possible criminal indictment). I guess the short answer is that I guess he pretty much deserves whatever he gets. I don't believe in punishment for prosecutors who are simply wrong (the job inherently requires people to make important decisions, sometimes based upon limited information), but Nifong ignored crucial evidence while seeking indictments, witheld exculpatory evidence from the defense (a huge no no for prosecutors), and may have even perjured himself regarding the availability of certain evidence when responding to inquiries by the court. In short, he turned the prosecution of this case into some kind of personal vendetta or quest for professional glory and seemed willing to potentially sacrifice the freedom of innocent defendants in order to do it. The only thing that I find remarkable about the case is how much retribution is being heaped upon Nifong for his overzealous prosecution. I say this not because he is undeserving of it, but because this is probably not an etriely isolated incident in which prosecutors are aggressively and unethically prosecuting defendants whose guilt they have very good reason to doubt (they may do this for reasons of career advancement, politics, or -and this is the most troubling- simply because they have become jaded and have come to see every defendant that they encounter as undoubtedly 100% guilty and deserving of punishment from the moment that they start to work on a case). For the typical low-income, uneducated, oftentimes minority defendant, however, justice may be a lot harder to come by than it was for the affluent, white, upper class lacrosse players of Duke University. Even if overzealous, unjust prosecutions result in a correct verdict and exhonerate some wrongly accused defendants, the typical low income defendant is unlikely to see the kind of justice meted out against an overzealous prosecutor on their case the way that it is currently being delivered to Mike Nifong. I'm not saying that this type of behavior is in any way common, but I think it's laughable to believe that Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor in this country who has been guilty of it.
But to get back to the original question, I think Mike Nifong is due some pretty stiff consequences. Society invests a lot of trust in their prosecutors and needs them to do the right thing (or at least try to do the right thing), and if we can't count on them to be objective and fair, than the role of prosecutor can become, without a doubt, a very scary one. Prosecutors need to understand that there can be consequences if they abuse their power to pursue their own personal agenda rather than objectively pursuing the enforcement of the law, and the public needs to understand that sometimes mistakes can happen within the criminal justice system. Nifong's actions weren't simple mistakes, though. He told a series of lies which indicate that he was willing to sacrifice defendants who were very likely to be innocent. You just can't let that kind of behavior slide and still expect people to have faith in the justice system.
Blah, blah, blah.
Ooookay. I'll rap at you cats later.
Oh crap. I almost forgot. Happy Juneteenth to everybody! It's a good holiday. It marks one of those occasions when that little ol' flame of human rights (and with it, enlightenment) began to burn a little brighter in our great state of Texas. So everybody go out there and enjoy it!
Monday, June 18, 2007
Well, not a lot to post on since I reported yesterday. Mandy fed me some very good meatloaf, and I went home and watched most of The Breach, which was actually pretty good, but I fell asleep during the last 20 or 30 minutes (in my defense, it was sometime around 12:45 a.m. when I konked out). Anyway, it's a movie about Robert Hanssen, an FBI intelligence specialist who was selling American secrets to the Russians in what turned out to be the single largest security breach in U.S. history (he compromised a whole lot of our security plans and protocols as well as selling a few of our foreign agents down the river- intelligence compromises which ended in the capture and/or execution of a number of U.S. operatives). The movie isn't so much your typical spy thriller as it is a character study of Robert Hanssen and an examination of the relationship that he developed with his clerk, Eric O'Neill, after O'Neill is assigned to spy on Hanssen. Anyhoo, Chris Cooper does a good job in making Hanssen an interesting, multifaceted character. I need to finish watching the movie.
What else? Mandy is taking a leave of absence from her job for a little while in order to get some rest, relaxation, and time for introspection, I suppose. I'm envious of her ability to take some time off, and I really hope it treats her well.
Sounds like Bonnaroo is rocking as hard as ever, and that The Police played a set that combined traditional favorites with some improvisation and jamming. I'm glad to hear that they're still out there fighting to keep things fresh. I'm looking forward to seeing them in The Big Easy in a couple of weeks.
Well, that's about it. Hope all of you father's had a good Father's Day yesterday.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
There seemed to be confusion when I posted the first picture of Ryan's car (hereafter known as The Roundball Express) as to whether or not the vehicle actually had a back window (the first photo was taken at night, and apparently it looked like the back of the car was not covered). Well, here's Roundball, gleefully pointing out the back window of his car for everyone so as to clear up the confusion.
It's been a slow weekend, really, but a relaxing one. Friday night I had dinner with the S.I.L. (that's sister-in-law), Jamie, at Hao Hao. Jamie's going to get a new car, too, so we talked about that. Pretty exciting. After dinner we went over to Mandy's and hung out in her backyard, and then Ryan got back from his work retreat out at the lake and he hung out for a little while before he and Jamie motored home. Mandy and I watched some TV and hung out.
Saturday I wanted to go swimming, but it was kind of rainy and overcast, so I went with Ryan and Jamie to breakfast instead (Maudie's) and then to see the new Fantastic 4 movie (which was pretty lame, except for the Silver Surfer, who was pretty cool). After the movie I cruised to the comic store (Austin Books) with Ryan (Jamie went home), and then after that Ryan went home and I had pizza with Andy, Rami, and Mandy. We hung out and drank sangria in the back yard with the wiener dogs.
Today I had breakfast again with Team Steans, but since then I've mostly just been hanging out, reading and playing music and whatnot (I also took a nap and had called the Admiral to wish him a happy Father's Day). Now I gotta go over to Mandy's to get some dinner.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Last night Mandy took Andy, Rami, myself, and Jeff's cousin, Braxton, out for dinner at Chuy's in order to welcome Braxton to town as he prepares to start his first year at UT. Braxton is in town for orientation, and he's looking to become a vocal performance major (opera- can you dig it?). Anyway, we had a pretty nice dinner once we finally got seated (we were waiting for a table for a long time before I spoke with the hostess and figured out that some other mofo had sneaked in and gotten a table using our name on the list- the hostess said people steal other people's tables all the time). We were stuck in the bar for a long time, but at least I got a chance to see a bit of the Spurs game as they went on to win their 4th championship in 9 years. (I was happy to see the Spurs win, but I have to admit that this wasn't a very exciting championship series- I mean, I'm a Spurs fan, but I didn't even feel compelled to watch all of game 4 because I felt that ultimately the outcome of the series was a foregone conclusion)
Here is a picture of Feral Andy with a bowl of shredded cheese at Chuy's. Andy is sort of particular about his food, but a big bowl of cheese will usually make him happy.
I read an article in Newsweek this week which was kind of interesting about possible side effects or negative effects of psychotherapy. Now I'm not trying to decry the dangers of therapy, and I've been in therapy before to help me out with various things (with varying degrees of success), but the whole idea that therapy, much like a medication or drug regimen, could have side effects or negative consequences just hadn't really occurred to me. In particular, the article kind of hit home when it mentioned that grief therapy has been shown to actually deepen and lengthen the effects of grief in some people (as opposed to people in similar situations who had worked through their grief on their own).
I'm obviously not using this recent article to justify my actions, and the studies quoted in the article may themselves be flawed, but I've wrestled with whether I should have put myself into therapy following Jeff's death. I just never did it- partly out of laziness and my own general aversion to doctors, but mostly just because it somehow didn't "feel right" to me for some reason and because I felt an inexplicable need to work through things on my own.
The article also mentions the fact that certain sorts of therapeutic techniques which are used to address post traumatic stress disorder may carry certain risks, and that certain people with PTSD who undergo certain techniques during therapy may actually have their symptoms aggravated or prolonged if those techniques prove unsuccessful. Shouldn't therapists have to warn their patients that some people react negatively to certain forms of therapy before they have them engage in them? (at the moment it seems as if the therapists faith in their techniques precludes them from having to go into any kind of discussion about any potential downsides that might occur)
Anyway, side effects from just talking? Who would have imagined that therapy could have side effects? But it makes sense when you think about it. Anything which possesses that much capacity to heal must conversely carry power to do harm (hopefully not intentional harm- although you can bet that the military has probably quietly found numerous ways to use various pyschotherapy derived techniques as weapons- but harm in terms of side effects and unintended consequences). Psychotherapy is a powerful tool. It's pretty naive to think that there's no chance that anything can go wrong when it's employed. Once again, I'm not knocking therapy and I've benefitted from it myself, but it's interesting to think that you might need to be aware of potential problems and side effects from it the same way that you need to be aware of such things when taking medication. I really do find it very interesting. I shoulda finished out that psychology major when I was in college.
Not a lot else going on. Glad the weekend is around the corner. I want to wish my dad, The Admiral, a happy Father's Day in case he doesn't read the blog over the weekend (or in case I don't get to post). At the risk of sounding cliched, he really is a great dad (possibly the world's greatest). As I was telling Mandy last night, he not only taught me a lot of stuff about how to get along in the world, but he's the one who taught me the really important stuff (like a fine appreciation for sci-fi movies where lots of stuff blows up). In all honesty, the most important thing he probably taught me was to have a healthy respect for all people, but at the same time to keep in mind that no one is better than you, either (the old "You're as good as anyone, but better than no one," speech). It sounds like a simple idea, but as you go through life it's amazing to see how few people seem to understand it. Dad really lives by that philosophy and, to be honest, I really am hard pressed to ever remember having ever seen him intentionally disrespect anyone (this isn't to say that he never gets angry, but I think he's an extraordinarily fair person who gives people the benefit of the doubt until they give him a reason not to). I have to love him for it. Happy Father's Day, Admiral!!!!
Peace, Adventurers. Maybe more later. Maybe.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I can't believe that it's normal for people in L.A. to be released 3 or 4 days into a 45 day sentence because of jail overcrowding. Now it's going to end up looking like Paris was singled out for harsh treatment, when the truth of the matter is that her whole debacle is just shining a light on a big ol' problem with the justice system in L.A. County. They shouldn't be letting Paris out early- they should be keeping all of those other DWI offenders locked up longer.
We had Crack practice last night, and we sounded pretty good. During the latter half of practice, in particular, Andy and I just kind of laid down some atmospheric soundscape type stuff, and Sigmund played some really cool trombone grooves over the top of it. Sigmund is shaping up to be a pretty darn good t-bone player (which is both good, because sometimes we need someone to step up and take a melodic lead in the midst of our sonic wanderings, and kind of impressive, especially given the fact that Sigmund never takes his horn home to play it between practices). Anyway, we continue to evolve and grow, and pretty much every practice involves the healthy release of a lot of pent up psychic tension. Even if the 3 of us were the only people to ever hear our music, I would still keep making it, just for love of the process (and because we find the music fascinating and entertaining to listen to- we end up doing some kind of odd and cool things as we struggle to express ourselves through our limited- but hopefully constantly growing- musical vocabulary).
Well, that's about it for the moment. Mayhaps more later. Hope you guys are having a tolerable to pleasant day. ; )
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Here's something sort of interesting which relates to my blog entry from yesterday about America's dimished credibility in the areas of human rights and freedom. Apparently the State Department, under direction from the Bush administration, is now seeking to create a new center designed to rebut terrorist propaganda and ideology, and which will seek to "underscore our commitment to freedom, human rights, and the dignity and equality of every human being". The initial report, which outlines the main goals and basic agenda of the new center, fails to mention how the U.S. will respond to claims of human rights abuses in rendition practices, torture, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay (those last two encompass a number of specific allegations, including torture and the denial of basic due process). Officials involved with he project have brushed aside criticism and maintain that "A disciplined system for reacting quickly and how one might best respond to developments and rumors and sometimes misinformation is a good idea."
I guess I would agree that it is important for the public to get fairly quick, reliable, objective, information about world events, including events involving terrorism. It seems that providing such information is the job of the media, however, and not the governement. Our government's plan seems to be a sort of strategy in which we try to combat the spin and propaganda of the terrorists with propaganda and spin of our own. Hello, Ministry of Information. I think we don't need to have events interpretted for us (nor does the rest of the world) through a pro-American filter, and frankly, it just won't work (there are just too many competing sources of information out there- it's not as if terrorist propaganda is really the reason that people are angry at America- they're angry at us because we have, from time to time, stolen their family members and hauled them off to remote mystery prisons so that they could be tortured without any access to the judicial system). We just need the facts to be relayed to us in an objective a way as possible, and preferrably, we need America to stop committing human rights abuses so that we don't have to spin accounts of our actions for the world community. I know. I'm a hopeless romantic.
Anyway, I'm not sure that a new State Department spin center is really the answer to improving America's failing stature in the world. Maybe we ought to try behaving ourselves for awhile, instead.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
That's about it. (well, this is just an informative post about Ryan's new vehicle, not a story, really, and plus, the Spurs game is on right now, so I have to go....)
Not too much other news. Ryan is supposed to be getting a new car today. Word on the street has it that he's getting a Honda Element.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Sunday, June 10, 2007
I took Cassidy to Gus Fruh swimming hole down on the greenbelt yesterday. The water is up and the place was beautiful. I'm so lucky to live in a place where I have swimming holes and spring fed pools within a mile or two of my house.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Here's the thing, Paris. Even though this whole thing just seems like a big ol' inconvenient pain in the ass to you, the fact remains that drunk driving hurts and kills people, and you were never willing to take that fact seriously. I think the judge sent exactly the right message by taking a stand and saying that drunk drivers are a threat to the community, regardless of how wealthy or famous they are. No one should be immune from punishment if they're going to put innocent people at risk through their own stupid decision making.
Okay. Back down off the soapbox (for the moment).
Have a good weekend, ya'll!!!
What else? Mandy and I had dinner last night and watched some TV. You will all be happy to know that Dog the Bounty Hunter hasn't let this whole Mexican deportation thing get him down, and he's back to arresting Hawaiian bail jumpers and counselling them on the dangers of drug abuse as he hauls their butts off to the pokey.
And last, but certainly not least, the San Antonio Spurs won game 1 of the NBA finals last night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. People keep talking about how the Spurs don't get enough respect, but I sure dig that team and enjoy watching those guys play (although last night I only managed to watch the game from end of the third quarter on). They may not be the flashiest team around, but they're consistent, fast paced, and fun, and I think it's cool to watch a team that employs that much discipline and strategy. Go Spurs!!!!
Thursday, June 07, 2007
What else? Last night we had Crack practice. And it was good. We listened to some of our old recordings, as well, and Sigmund had us listen to some songs off of Wilco's new Sky Blue Sky album while he gave us his pitch on why it's a great (and somewhat underestimated) album. Eric Gottula from Mono E has recently been echoing similar sentiments, pointing out the guitar work by Tweedy and Nels Cline (which is excellent, both in terms of melody and tone). My initial impression upon listening to the album is that it was a little too comfortable (lacking in edge, angst, and tension), but maybe those thoughts reflect more about my own mindset and what I was looking for at the time than serious flaws with the album. It really is an excellent album, and it's going to be cool to get to hear songs from it at ACL Fest, but I still think the boys in Wilco are walking a fine line. Sigmund talks about how the album is all about acceptance, coming to terms with things, and finding peace, which is cool, but it's also dangerous territory when you're a rocker because all of those things reside only a stone's throw away from complacency, and that a characteristic which I just don't think good rock and roll should ever possess. Still, it sounds really nice, and I like the album. I guess my main concern is where they will go from here.
So, anyway, Crack practice was good. Crack is changing without Jeff in it (which was pretty much inevitable given how much of the lyrics, music, and general attitude of the band erupted from him), but it's changing in interesting an unexpected ways, and I think Sigmund, Andy, and I are all enjoying the process of just witnessing what happens when we get together to make sounds. I think we've become more about seeing where different sounds lead us than about trying to shape, bend, and batter the notes into expressions of whatever message that we're trying to scream (and for the record, I thoroughly enjoy both approaches). We're still musical infants, but we're moving into the toddler stage. Jeff would still dig it immensely, I think.
That's it for now.
Hope you have a good Thursday.
Oh wait. I just read this article about how a bunch of businesses moving into our new downtown shopping district are from Dallas and other big cities. The writer goes to great pains to explain why this isn't a bad thing, but really the writer seems to be defending downtown living, shopping, and urban planning over suburban sprawl, without really addressing the issue of why we need big city chain stores and restaurants to be installed rather than locally owned businesses. I'm all for developing downtown, but I think we need to do it in a way that's appropriate for and which reflects the unique tastes and styles of Austin. Ain't no way I want to live in some scaled down version of Dallas.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
I didn't do much last night. Watched some TV, ate a sandwich, took Cassidy for a walk.
I saw a bumper sticker this morning that made me chuckle.
"Lord, give me the strength to be the person that my dog believes that I am."
I know the feeling. No one is more excited to see you when you've been gone than your dog. No one looks more disappointed when you leave, either.
Cormac McCarthy, author of The Road, the book I recently blogged about, recently came out of seclusion to appear on The Oprah Winfrey show. McCarthy is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who pretty much rivals J.D. Salinger in terms of his reputation for consistently avoiding the press, yet Oprah's book club brings him out of hiding? Is there anyone that woman can't charm? (well, I'm sure that the bag of money from the book club helps)
The G-8 summit is going on, and I guess that there are some disagreements over climate control and global security (see, this is why I don't understand conspiracy theorists who endlessly speculate about how powerful men are secretly manipulating the course of human history in smoke-filled, hidden back rooms: between The World Bank, the G-8, the U.N. Security Council, the World Trade Organization, and a few other highly visible global government groups, it doesn't seem like the world's most powerful people really feel a lot of need to hide the fact that they're collectively laying out plans for the course of human history. They're carrying out their plans fairly publicly, apparently only mildly amused by the countless protestors gathered outside their door.) Anyhow, I hope that the Germans and some of the other G-8 members can talk some sense into Bush in terms of regulating greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental controls (but then again, why would he start listening to them now) . Oh well, at least this trip is keeping Bush out of Texas for awhile.
That's it for now, I guess.
Hope you guys are having a good one.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Last night I went to Casa Garcia and had dinner with Team Steans as well as Matt Mangum. Matt's condo is being renovated, so he's staying at my brother's place off and on. Dinner was pleasant, but brief. Other from dinner, I'm honestly not sure what I did last night (it was one of those nights where I was just piddling around on the computer and listening to music and stuff, and the next thing I knew it was time to go to bed). Oh, wait. I also watched a good bit of a documentary on KLRU called Six Days in June about the Six Day War in 1967 between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors. I didn't know a whole lot about that conflict, so it was interesting to watch (and not just because I like wars- I'm looking in your direction, Jennifer- but because it explained how Israel came to occupy a bunch of formerly Arab territory- an occupation which has contributed to decades of tension between Israel and its neighbors). Anyway, it was interesting.
No other news. I'll talk to you guys later.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Partly it's because I love summer time. I love Barton Springs, backyard barbecues, warm summer nights with cold beer, long days, sunburns, toads and possums and other neighborhood wildlife, cold water, tubing, hot dogs, the Greenbelt, mosquito repellent, the beach, outdoor concerts, flip flops, charcoal, snow cones, long and rambling conversations that keep you up too late out on the porch, baseball, showing up for work with a sunburn after taking a sick day, and standing in the ocean. I miss Jeff a lot because he loved all of this stuff too, he got excited about it, and he loved sharing it with his friends.
I've been looking forward to summer all winter, but now that it's here I'm having a bit of a hard time with it.
Miss you, Jeff.
(Jeff and Sigmund at Krause Springs, 2006)
Just glad to see that Paris Hilton is actually doing her jail time (thereby renewing my faith in the belief that there's some justice to be found in the world). Also, I'm troubled to hear that APD was involved in another officer involved shooting over the weekend. I'm not casting any stones on that deal, but I definitely think it merits a thorough investigation. APD doesn't need any more image problems, and the actions of its officers need to be transparent to the general public in order to build trust.
Gotta run. Maybe more later.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Just wanted to post the weekend update.
Hope you guys are having a good one.
Friday, June 01, 2007
I also had dinner with Roundball and McSteans at Hill's Cafe, which was pretty good. I spent time both before and after dinner talking to my respective parents on the phone (they're coming to town this weekend). After chatting it up with Mom, I watched a couple of episodes of Doctor Who and then went to bed.
It's good to see that Nessie, The Loch Ness Monster, has returned for a photo op. When I was a kid I used to check out every book I could find about The Loch Ness Monster (along with ghost books and UFO books), but it seems like she's been pretty quiet in recent years. Happy to see that she still appears to be doing well!
OK, guys. That's it for now. Gotta grab a bite for lunch.