Prairie and I were watching a movie last night, and so we missed the announcement of the Big News. After the movie, as I scrolled through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, I got more and more disturbed. Not surprised, really…but I just wasn’t comfortable with most of what I was seeing people post (and was outright offended by some of it, particularly the picture going around of the Statue of Liberty holding Osama’s bloody head high…that’s uncool on so many levels, I’m a little embarrassed to see it popping up multiple times in my friend lists).

I just want to take a moment to call out three friends (one of whom I’ve never even met in person) for making posts more in line with my own feelings on the matter.

Never was a person to celebrate another person’s death. No matter how heinous they are, that is still a life.

Kirsten

OK, here are my feelings on the whole Bin Laden thing: I’m not comfortable, ethically, with celebrating any death (no matter who died, or how symbolically/politically loaded it was), but I don’t feel sorry that he died, and I hope it gives some people a sense of justice or closure. I do think that cheering someone’s (anyone’s) murder is really, really low and uncool. Just sayin’.

Lori

So, Osama’s dead. Given the man was responsible for thousands’ death, and the life-changing misery of their loved ones, there’s no question I feel justice was done, albeit at 10 freaking years’ remove. But — solely in my opinion, mind you — the proper reaction to such for an average American is not to break out Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration.” A grim smile at justice performed, and then moving on with one’s life.

Mike

Thanks to the three of you (and anyone else with similar sentiments that I may not have seen) for helping confirm that I’m not alone in my reaction to the news.

There’s a New York Times column where West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin writes a bit of political ‘fanfic’: what advice could Barack Obama get from former president Jed Bartlet?

OBAMA They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I’m — wait for it — the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

BARTLET Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

I love that line: “The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.” So sadly true.

Then, leading into a rant more than worthy of some of the best West Wing episodes…

OBAMA The problem is we can’t appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?

BARTLET Well … let me think. …We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know … I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

Oh, but how I miss Jed Bartlet. What I wouldn’t give to see Martin Sheen step back into character and let that little rant fly.

(via MeFi)

I’ve always been a big fan of short stories, will happily snap up a collection from any author I know, and have often found some wonderful gems in various “Best of” collections. In the introduction to Skeleton Crew, Stephen King has a nice little bit on just why they’re so fun…

…most of you have forgotten the real pleasures of the short story. Reading a good long novel is in many ways like having a long and satisfying affair. I can remember commuting between Maine and Pittsburgh during the making of Creepshow, and going mostly by car…. I had a reading of The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough, on eight cassette tapes, and for a space of about five weeks I wasn’t even having an affair with that novel; I felt married to it….

A short story is a different thing altogether–a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger. That is not, of course, the same thing as an affair or a marriage, but kisses can be sweet, and their very brevity forms their own attraction.

Nothing terribly new here, I’ll admit, but I just stumbled across this, and I’ve had this rant (or variations upon the theme) many times over the past few years: Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture:

The phrase ‘The Customer is Always Right’ is the single worst philosophy that has ever been adopted by American culture. It gave an entire generation of people the green light to be as impolite, unreasonable, and demanding as their little hearts desired because they were always going to be considered right. It destroyed the entire concept of courtesy and rendered manners obsolete. People began to treat their peers in the service industry like incompetent morons, lacking in feelings or human dignity, who deserved to be browbeaten and abused for no other reason than they had the audacity to run out of a particular brand of coffee. Furthermore, instead of suffering negative repercussions for their appallingly disrespectful behavior, they are awarded with free coupons and plenty of ass kissing. In reality, they should be shunned and humiliated for behaving like such self absorbed little children.

Speaking of respect, another idea that has ruined American culture is the one that states, ‘I don’t give respect freely. You have to earn my respect.’ This one is most often uttered by punk kids with bad attitudes and black fingernail polish.

Fucking gag me.

I mean, how egotistical does one have to be to automatically assume that their respect is so fucking important that one must jump through multiples hoops in order to earn it? How about we give people respect because they are humans with lives and feelings just as important as our own? Why not give people a default level of respect and more or less can either be won or lost based on the behavior of the individual? The loss of respect is something that should be based on actions. The idea that that one must win basic respect in the first place is incredibly belittling. How narcissistic can you be to embrace that ideology?

I think a short passage in this Reuters Photographers blog may have nailed one of the reasons why my interest in sports is limited to football (real football, that is — most of you know this as ‘soccer’):

…there appear to be few sporting images more emotional or exuberant than those “jubo” moments of soccer players celebrating after scoring a goal. The expressions of American football and icehockey players are all too frequently obscured by facemasks. Basketball players seem to err on the side of mean and moody and baseball players appear to be almost permanently underwhelmed. It might be a cultural thing or perhaps just a result of the way those sports are broadcast or sponsored. There certainly isn’t a lack of passion because tempers do fray and fights and arguments are frequent, but there doesn’t seem to be any of the theatricality we see from soccer players, at least not during the game.

There are no precise rules about punctuation (Fowler lays out some general advice (as best he can under the complex circumstances of English prose (he points out, for example, that we possess only four stops (the comma, the semicolon, the colon and the period (the question mark and exclamation point are not, strictly speaking, stops; they are indicators of tone (oddly enough, the Greeks employed the semicolon for their question mark (it produces a strange sensation to read a Greek sentence which is a straightforward question: Why weepest thou; (instead of Why weepest thou? (and, of course, there are parentheses (which are surely a kind of punctuation making this whole matter much more complicated by having to count up the left-handed parentheses in order to be sure of closing with the right number (but if the parentheses were left out, with nothing to work with by the stops, we would have considerably more flexibility in the deploying of layers of meaning than if we tried to separate all the clauses by physical barriers (and in the latter case, while we might have more precision and exactitude for our meaning, we would lose the essential flavor of language, which is its wonderful ambiguity)))))))))))).

— Lewis Thomas, Notes on Punctuation

Last week sometime, Prairie and I were flopped in bed, watching some silly sitcom before we faded out for the night. During one of the commercial breaks, we heard the following:

Of course milk comes from cows, but we know that cheese comes from people…

Prairie and I looked at each other with identical horrified and amused expressions, and then spent the next few minutes laughing until our sides ached and our eyes were tearing up. Cheese comes from people? We just couldn’t get past it, and every time we started to calm down, one or the other of us would say, “cheese comes from people!” and we’d start laughing all over again.

The worst part was, we were laughing so hard that we had no idea what the rest of the commercial was about, or who it was for, so since then, we’ve just been hoping to run across the “cheese comes from people” commercial again so that we’d have some idea what they were talking about. Prairie found it last night, and apparently it’s an ad for Kraft cheese…unfortunately, a horribly written ad. This one just slipped right past the editors before it went on the air!

Thankfully, we’re not the only ones amused by this.

Not overheard by me, unfortunately, just too bizarre and funny not to share. This is ganked directly from overheardsea on LiveJournal:

Select lines from a guy having a very long conversation with what I believe was his significant other on his cell phone sitting directly behind me [on the #26 bus]:

“I’m on my way to my brother’s to pick up weed, and them I’m going to get a cat at the Humane Shelter.”

“So last night I went to meet up with that couple I told you about. They’re a gay guy and a tranny girl. The interview went real well. They called me back later that same night and said I was their favorite, so things are looking good there.”

“I’m making dinner tonight with my housemates. No, honey! Honey! I told you I was doing this tonight! Well, we’ll have to play really quickly in the bathroom tonight because I have to be there for the dinner. I love you, too.”

A beautiful opening paragraph from a review of one of my favorite movies, Brazil:

In Brazil, Terry Gilliam asks the audience to imagine a world where the government wages a never-ending war with shadowy terrorists, a world where civil liberties are being destroyed in the name of security, a world where torture becomes official state policy in order to conduct more efficient interrogations of suspected terrorists. What’s more, in Gilliam’s fictional world, the central government is not just secretive but incompetent. Mistakes are made, leading to the imprisonment and torture of innocents. Most offensive of all, Gilliam implies that such a government could exist without its citizens staging an armed revolt. I’m usually willing to suspend disbelief, but this goes too entirely too far.