I love Supreme Court nomination hearings. I only barely remember watching some of Clarence Thomas's, but that was all it took. Unfortunately, they've never been that explosive again--or involved a would-be justice allegedly describing pornographic films--but they're still fun.
We're a month or two away from Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings and unless something more shocking than her diabetes comes up, it's looking like it will be a cakewalk. She's clearly no Harriet Miers--or Clarence Thomas for that matter--and so far the arguments against her can basically be summarized thusly:
* She might not be smart - This is unrelated, but Clarence Thomas hasn't asked a question during oral arguments since February 2006. Just saying.
* She too smart and therefore, as a woman, sort of a bitch - Something tells me this argument isn't going to win anyone over.
* She's racist - ?
What's clear at this point--other than one political party apparently having decided to add Hispanics and women to the list of groups they don't want votes from--is that Sotomayor is sharp and aggressive and proud of her heritage (as she should be). The same could be said of Justice Alito who spoke quite proudly about his roots as the son of Italian immigrants at his confirmation hearings.
(Also interesting is that Alito and Sotomayor share an identical educational trajectory - undergraduate degrees from Princeton and then law school at Yale where both were editors of the Yale Law Review [Alito graduate from law school in '75, Sotomayor in '79]. Remember how everyone said Alito was an unintelligent, affirmative action case? Oh, right, that never happened).
What's so sad and predictable about the identity-based attacks on Sotomayor is that it was the last administration's actions that forced this nomination. Somehow by floating Alberto Gonzalez's name and briefly nominating the unconfirmable Miers, we all shrugged our shoulders as two more male whities were confirmed and the court grew even less representative of the country. Poor Ruth Bader Ginsberg has spent the last few years looking like she's about to Pelican Brief a colleague or two herself if things didn't change. Obama really had no choice but to nominate a woman and, with no guarantee of getting to select a second justice (though it's likely), a minority woman was as inevitable as it was the right thing to do.
Which is not to say Sotomayor doesn't deserve her spot--she's done more to deserve it than just about anyone currently on the court from the looks of things--just that it's unfortunate a nominee who will make the court look more like America gets criticized for those very qualities. Where the right is wrong is in assuming those are the qualities that make her weak when the truth is exactly the opposite.
Oh, and she saved baseball. So there's that.
This really was so predictable as to almost not warrant another post. But then I thought about all of the children relying on me for their Nebraska license plate news and figured I'd catch everyone up:
1) State holds online vote using four designs everyone hates
2) The chosen design--done by the aluminum vendor of all things--wins because of a prank done by a humor website
3) The state goes to the second place winner:
4) Everyone hates the new winner even more
5) Governor Heineman loses his reelection bid over this
Okay, so that fifth step is just a guess, but I don't think anyone would be shocked. We are talking about a state that would break into a war if anyone ever tried to renumber the counties based on a contemporary census. Custer County would rather see their entire population killed than live with a license plate number higher than 4.
It's either 4 or 93 for those people, there is no compromise.
At the moment, there's a 0.4% chance this bird and weed plate ends up being used. Needless to say, I'm continuing to enjoy this.
Damn, someone has already taken the title I was planning on using for my novel.
I'd even mocked up a cover.
From the sounds of it, his book isn't about using a greyhound strapped with TNT to kill the president so I should still be okay there.
The president is a dog racing fan, you see, and he naturally wants to pet the winner, a dog trained since birth to do two things: run fast and kill the president. Well, three things if you count sitting.
You know what, it would probably be easier if you just read it. I don't like to explain what I'm trying to say with my work. You can figure out for yourself that it's about my estranged father.
Things I've Been Reading Recently
* Nick Flynn's Some Ether - I really, really like this book. It looks like I'll never get around to doing a full writeup of this one, but that's probably for the best. Every time I try, I end up writing, "I really, really like this book." and then stopping.
* Jeffrey Toobin's article on John Roberts - The worst part is that we all knew he was this guy. There was never any doubt that Roberts was not only very conservative--which is fine, it was Bush's call--but also unprecedentedly political after his years in the White House. All throughout the hearings he gave answers like this one:
"If the Constitution says that the little guy should win, the little guy's going to win in court before me," Roberts said. "But if the Constitution says that the big guy should win, well, then the big guy's going to win, because my obligation is to the Constitution. That's the oath."
I mean, nobody believed this. So naturally we now have 5,000 word articles expressing shock--shock!--that Roberts maybe wasn't what he said:
In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.
Jesus, it's like he said what everyone wanted to hear then changed once he had a lifetime appointment. If only there was a group of people who could have gotten together--a sort of congress, if you will--and done something about this. Oh well.
* Higgs's interview - Good stuff and not just because I always get to imagine him rolling his eyes at my political talk. I like Chris.
* Dave's new website - Finally, a place for Dave to share his thoughts on the television shows of the day in the most egotistical manner possible. I have this theory he chose .org because Dave thinks of himself not as something he has to sell to you (.com) but as something you have to volunteer and pay dues for, like the AARP. I like Dave.
* Play at This Recording - That's a great website on any day, but it just so happens to feature pieces from Mathias's new Cupboard today.
Things I've Been Listening to Recently
* The Nazario Scenario - My life has been much richer ever since I discovered how to subscribe to podcasts. This is always one of my favorites. It made me want to meet Amanda Nazario. Then someone told me I did meet Amanda Nazario. But, like, I think I'd meet her better this time. Okay, probably not.
* Danger Mouse's Dark Night of the Soul - You can stream the entire album at that link since it's apparently never going to be sold. Or maybe it will be sold but you have to ask David Lynch nicely or something. I don't know, but I do know that it's good. You should go listen to it.
* Rany Jazayerli's Royals on the Radio - I don't think you're going to find a better radio show about the Royals hosted by a Muslim baseball statistician/dermatologist. Bold statement, I know. Unrelated to baseball, but his essay from the election which ended up on This American Life is still a must read.
Things I've Been Watching Recently
* Not much - But I did catch Frost/Nixon after Netflix skipped approximately 15 other movies in my queue (did that many other people really want to watch Bride Wars?). It was fine and sort of nondescript like Howard's other stuff, but I just can't get over the fact that its hero is someone that his most talented contemporaries passionately hate. Peter Cook and the entire cast of Monty Python, for example.
I received the new issue of Dislocate a few days back which has great work from, among others, Nin Andrews, (Lincoln-ite) Josh Ware, and Kevin Wilson whose story collection Tunneling to the Center of the Earth I'll be writing about soon.
It also has a short short from me which is only notable for having an absurdly sad beginning--sort of a boring middle--and absurdly happy ending. I also once got to describe it to a famous writer at the now defunct Sadie's Saloon in Lincoln. We were drunk--well, one of us was drunk--and hitting on all the girls despite the fact we were married--well, one of us was hitting on all the girls despite the fact we were married--and generally having a good time. I'd mostly been ignoring the famous writer because he wrote one of my favorite books and I don't know what else I'd say to him, but I got pulled into a conversation by Heather who the famous writer seemed to have taken a liking to.
[Ed note: Heather would like it pointed out that he was hitting on everyone. Adam would like it pointed out that he wasn't hitting on Adam. Not that that would have been something Adam would have wanted, exactly, but it might have been a little flattering].
I think I was supposed to defuse the situation by my introduction, but I was also a little on the famous writer's side. I mean, he did write [book title] and fought in [war]. I'd probably spent most of the night before that point in a pair of sweatpants trying to beat Contra.
Heather, you can correct me here, but I believe we got to have this conversation on the way home.
Heather: Ugh, he just kept hitting on me.
Me: He did write [book title].
Heather: You think that excuses it?
Me: [a little bit thinks that excuses it]
Heather: You need to stop using the laser and stick with the spread gun.
Me: I would have changed out of my sweatpants if I'd known I was going to talk to him.
Anyway, so the famous writer starts talking about stories that either out of embarrassment or shame or the use of something he knows will upset them, he doesn't share with his loved ones until he absolutely has to. I actually have one of these stories--this one in Dislocate--and I quickly describe the premise to the famous writer.
Famous writer: Who won't you let read that one?
Me: [pointing at the only other person in the conversation]
Famous writer: She's hot.
Me: I think she likes you, bro.
Heather: No I don't.
Me: Hey, did you learn anything in [war] that might help me beat Contra?
Famous writer: Yes. Yes, I did.
Things in that story which are actually true:
1. There have been wars
2. Sadie's Saloon is gone
3. I do have a self-destructive affinity for the laser gun in Contra
4. The new issue of Dislocate is great and you should read it
Okay, maybe one or two other things. Also, the song I am listening to just had a lyric that is also the name of this writer's most famous book (but not my favorite). So that was weird.
I'm not really sure why I told that story, and I'm pretty sure this has gone on longer than my sad, bad, happy, still mostly bad piece in Dislocate. Here, J. Ware will save me. Here's the first line of his poem "103107" which will take us all out on a high note:
If the antiquated movements of electrons have no history, then silver-clear shadows
can cut the moon in two.
I had the privilege of filling Bryan Mohr's seat and joining Mike Shearer and my brother Jeff on their radio show this past weekend. The Weekly Grind--Omaha's only Saturday morning AM radio show for the young professional--is quite the enterprise and, from what I hear, even greater plans are afoot. At least if I didn't ruin it.
If you must, you can download the podcast here or subscribe on iTunes. We talk Las Vegas, Marriage, Celebrities, Lincoln vs. Omaha, and even a little Kansas City Royals.
(Just FYI: there were some technical problems which led to an early commercial break. Actual talk starts around the three minute mark).
You should be sure to check the show out in the future when my problematically nerdy voice isn't on it. Those guys are doing good work.
Now, I don't care in the sense that I don't have Nebraska license plates and will likely never have Nebraska license plates. I also don't care in the sense that I can't say I ever really notice license plates.
I just think the state's reaction to the license plate voting has been fairly hilarious. For weeks people have been complaining about it and writing letters to the editor, all of whom seem to hold the same opinion: the choices, such as they were, were horrible and whatever misguided process excluded using actual design professionals should be scrapped.
Almost every aspect of the process has been attacked, from the use of the governor (who, despite a fairly well documented history of being a tool and no documented history of being a graphic designer, picked the finalists) to the required inclusion of Nebraska.gov (at the expense of, say, "The Good Life," Nebraska's awesome state motto).
And now, naturally, the worst design won and I'm as outraged as everyone else for some reason (probably boredom). The winner:
Black? Really? This for a state with two distinguishing features (wide, blue skies and flat, amber prairie)? There's not even any indication of what the intent was here. It's too designed to be distinctly plain (like Delaware's plates) and is so contrary to the state itself as to actually be fairly transgressive, as if the football team played five seasons as The Nebraska.gov Corpsemongers.
More importantly, the gradients. Good lord, the gradients. It's like someone took a two-week Creative Suite class and couldn't help themselves. We're just lucky we didn't get any clip art or artificial lens flares.
And by we I mean you. I'm out of here, suckers.
[runs away laughing maniacally, returns for Christmas, feels bad]
The Master and Margarita
With the exception of The Good Soldier, no book seems to get mentioned quite as often as Bulgakov's masterwork when writers of a certain sort--my sort--talk about their favorite novels. The particulars are all on its side: banned and untranslated for decades, published posthumously with sections censored, several translations competing to handle all of the puns and allusions. In other words, even if it weren't such a funny, strange read, there would still be plenty to talk about.
The story of the devil causing chaos in Stalinist Moscow, the novel initially seems to present itself as a rebuke to Soviet atheism as the head of a state-backed literary organization argues that Jesus never existed. A strange foreigner proves that he exists by telling him the story of Pontius Pilate--one of several times and several guises that Pilate's story takes over the novel--which he knows because he was there. It's odd seeing the devil stick up for the existence of Christ, but subverting our conceptions of good and evil is what the novel does best. Most notably, the devil is the hero here, at least a kind of hero. He argues convincingly that the world needs shadows as much as it needs light and that, to do away with darkness, you'd have to level everything and live with flat and boring.
But it's hard to see Bulgakov as being much interested in the actual theistic considerations here. Rather, his is a satire of those who claim absolute truth without cause or curiosity. It's a form of cowardice--which Pilate calls the greatest vice--to stake a claim without allowing objections. Its an argument Bulgakov makes personal in the character of The Master, a writer relegated to an asylum after his novel--about Pilate, naturally--is not only rejected but condemned by writers and publishers in league with the corrupt literary union. Even with what little I know of Bulgakov's life, it's easy to read the author's plight into the story of The Master, an artist persecuted and ignored for daring to make art that challenges (or, in other words, actual art). Soviet bureaucracy gets hit hard here, but the bulk of the damage done by the devil is directed at the elite writers and critics who are more interested in food and comfortable apartments than in writing.
Pontius Pilate serves as the novel's centerpiece and for good reason. Even in the Bible he's a fascinating and complex character--Nietzsche seemed to think he was the only one worth listening to in the New Testament--and given his own narrative here his story seems even more complicated. He's certainly not a good man, but he's not a bad man either. Ultimately, for all his faults of personality, what he's mostly guilty of is the cowardice he rails against, realizing too late that being brave doesn't always come with a sword. As the character most uniquely situated in between good and evil--he's a sinner yet acutely aware of his sin and repentant--he's also the most human. In the end, he's saved, but only when The Master's novel redeems his humanity in the eyes of both the devil and the lord. Man's art, in Bulgakov's world, has insight that even Christ lacks.
(Which is why it seems certain that Bulgakov cares little about organized religion and a whole lot about art).
Just like The Good Soldier, it's a fantastic book that deserves its reputation among writers. I'm really at a loss to say much else. A passionate, rational defense of the bravery and necessity of doubt and insurgency and art? A hilarious, sympathetic portrayal of the devil befuddling communists? A book some critics have called the Red Dawn of the literary world? Okay, so no critics have said that last one, but you count me as a fan in any case.
Ten Things I've Learned After a Year of Reading Mary Worth
1. Don't go on the Internet
2. That childhood tragedy must be what's affecting my ice skating
3. Don't publicly admit to reading Mary Worth
4. For god's sake, certainly not on the Internet
5. Everyone except Mary Worth is trying to hurt you
6. Daniel Johnston is a-okay
7. Don't love anyone or anything (especially on the Internet)
8. My hair will never be shiny enough for my parents (or your parents)
9. Women love plain, circular earrings - I mean, love them
10. It's wrong
Whatever it is, it's wrong.
On the Royals
A week back I was going to write something about the Royals' great start to the season, but I decided to wait until they'd cooled down a little and couldn't jinx them. They've since lost four in a row, and I've been appalled about having ruined their season by wishing for their failure.
(Yes, I have the power to manipulate the world with what I write about here [or, in this case, consider writing about while watching Coco Crisp leg out a triple]. No, I can't use this power for good, only to change the outcome of sporting events. Yes, it is a very specific power of no particular value).
It's gotten so bad that last night's game actually got 10-run ruled in the second inning. Or at least it did as far as Anders and I know.
Still, things are going well for the Royals. They're 18-15 and more or less tied for 1st place in the division despite the fact that they're without one of their best hitters and their All-Star closer, most of the lineup is still under performing, and that alien stretching out Sidney Ponson's skin got six starts. Sure, some guys are over performing and Ponson wasn't that bad, but the remarkable thing is that the Royals seem like they not only deserve their record but should maybe even be a few games better.
Why? I don't want to engage in any hyperbole here, so I'll let Sports Illustrated do it for me:
For all of the other reasons the Royals seem like an actual professional baseball team for the first time in 15 years, none quite match what Greinke has done. I don't need to go over the numbers here, but if it helps give you some perspective, these are his worst three starts this season:
5 inning, 0 ER, 11k, win
7 inning, 2 ER, 8k, win
Complete game, 1 ER, 4 hit, loss
I don't know if he's Pedro Martinez, Bret Saberhagen, or circa 1994 little leaguer Matt McMurtry, but Greinke really is the best pitcher in baseball (as Posnanski's article details). And so this year's team is for real, or at least it is as long as Zack is out there every fifth day. Soria will be back. Gordon will provide a spark in July. Mike Jacobs will continue to infuriate America with his bleached hair. They won't win the division, probably, but for the first time since I was a kid playing T&C Surf Designs on the NES, they're contenders.
As long as I, Adam Peterson, don't somehow screw it up. I'm not ruling that out. We all remember what I did to Australia's cricket team against Zimbabwe in 1983, right? Right?
Upon Investigation of U-Haul Prices, Things I Won't Be Taking to Houston
Forks and knives (will make do with spoons)
Cape from 2006's Count Chocula costume
Pots (will make do with pans)
Sense of shame
All five copies of If on a winter's night a traveler...
Old pictures of Ryan
Long obsolete 39 cent stamps
Books propping up couch
Pictures of Civil War General John Coffee
Cape from 2007's Super Humphrey Bogart costume
My favorite tree
Both pens I carry (will make do with one)
Love for one parent (will make do with one)
Fleeting interest in Premier League soccer
All five crystal punch bowls
Sega Genesis/G.I. Joes/childhood memories
Collection of Supreme Court Justices' death masks
Need to have a guitar I can't play in house
(I will be moving the guitar, I just won't need it)
Any Cupboard responsibilities
Top hat and corncob pipe for snowmen
Interest in Nebraska's next license plate
A Running Catalogue of My Thoughts While, um, Running
I should buy running shoes...(four months later)...I should wear my running shoes...I know, I'll wear them while reading Murakami's book on running...I can't believe I used to read without proper arch support...(three months later)...running: I'm going to do it Tuesday...god, it's Tuesday...Wednesday...oh no, I put on my running outfit...so many rhinestones...should have bought headband...headband with rhinestones...maybe I should put off running until I can go to the headband store...no, it's Thursday, I should just do it...okay...how does running work?...I'll start with stretching...should stretch outside...hi, kids...I'm just here stretching...maybe instead of running I should help you draw on the sidewalks...yeah, that's cool, I didn't really want to anyway...you kids are lame...that's not even how you spell that dirty word...okay, thirty-five minutes of stretching should be sufficient for ten minute run...all right...I'm running...this isn't so bad...oh god this is horrible...I hope there's traffic at the intersection so I can't stop and maybe do some more stretching...I'm starting to think I did not stretch enough...or maybe I shouldn't have gone running after drinking all that coffee...there's no traffic...I must have been running for at least half a mile...or however long I got during the one minute and thirty seconds my iPod is telling me I've been listening to this track...why do I only have French lesson podcasts on my running iPod anyway...merde!...I can't believe I used to learn French without proper arch support...I need to do something to pass the time or this is going to be excruciating...I know, I'll come up with imaginary car names...the Hyundai Swoon, the Mercury Nyx, the Honda Yall (for a cross-over SUV/van aimed at extreme 20-somethings who surf and camp and whatnot)...must remember car names so I can mail to respective car companies when I get back...if I get back...how much time did that take? thirty seconds...that's not enough time...tu peux m'aider?...it would be fantastic if someone mugged me right now...I think I'd hug them while handing over my running shoes...even if they didn't want the running shoes...I'd say, no, no it's okay, you should take them...thank god I'm almost home...how long was I gone...hmm, not long enough for my screensaver to come on...and my coffee is still warm...and the burrito I put in the microwave is still microwaving...come on burrito...I know how to pass the time...I'll come up with imaginary car names the Toyota Reprise, the Ford Pulse, the Chevy Kleos...(eight months later)...my legs still hurt...
At the Opthamologist
Assistant: Can you read that?
Me: Sure, I think so. D - E - S - O - B.
Assistant: Let's try something bigger.
Me: 5 - 3 - 8 - 1 - 0.
Assistant: Um, how about this?
Me: Wait, I said letters for the first set. Are there letters in any of these?
Me: So have I gotten any right?
Assistant: You got the 3.
* Steven Karl gave a mini-review of Play, the new volume of The Cupboard by Mathias Svalina, here. "Svalina's writing ranges from simplistic to absurd and is always filled with wit, intelligence, and most importantly compassion." So very true. I think if you'll read the whole review you'll see that by 'simplistic' he's implying something innocent or childlike which has always been one of my favorite aspects of Mathias's writing.
* I'm glad somebody else got to write that. If it were left to me, I would have said something like, "Svalina's writing sometimes seems like it's coming from the smartest, strangest, most well-read child, probably some kind of space child who, when we get him back to the lab, shows us how much more further he can see using his space eyes--both inward and outward--than we will ever be able to. But this vision has not cost him his sense of humor or wonder, it has only made him more aware of possibility, of justice and truth and the coming of the Space Conquistadors."
* See, it's better if I just tell you to considering buying M's volume or just subscribing to The Cupboard. All of that can be done here.
* On the elevator this morning someone said to me, "I hope the sun burns off this grey" (although they probably would have spelled it gray. I've just decided to spell my words the way the Queen would want me to spell them). This seemed like a rather violent greeting. Especially since I was mostly asleep, we were inside, and the only grey I could see was in the person's hair. I believe I replied, "Yes." But I didn't really mean it.
* Yesterday I was the 28th person to vote at my precinct. This was at 5:15 in the afternoon. The elderly women running the polling place were getting a little saucy. I've never had so much fun voting for three races (two competitive).
* I'd let you know if the good guys won, but, honestly, when it comes to the local airport authority, I don't think there are good guys and bad guys; there are only bad life decisions.
Stock Photography Review
This was one of the first images that came up in a search for 'rain' with the results sorted by most popular. This led to the following revelations:
1) I've stumbled upon a stock photography service based in the Dune universe
2) Long, flowing ribbons are back (finally!)
3) Marketers have finally realized what we all want: futuristic athletes posing before a post-apocalyptic background wearing anachronistically normal tennis shoes
4) I'll buy what this image is used to sell (presumably frozen yogurt. Oh, please God let it be frozen yogurt)
Finally, an image appropriate for my stick-based implements store. I was tired of using that one with the gold-shorted ribbon guy. By the way, we're having a special on tree trimmers this week. Just saying.
Harold understood why his parents didn't want to pay for the plastic bubble, but he wasn't sure they understood about pathogens or the nature of his immuno deficiency when they gave him the raincoat and umbrella for his birthday. Later, they'd all watch the John Travolta movie again, and he'd be sure to cough at the key parts. Of course, he'd be coughing anyway. Next year for his birthday he wanted to still be alive.
When the time came, his father insisted he buried in the raincoat. He loved that thing, his father said. That and that one movie with John Travolta. God, he always made us watch that movie.
Yep, Dune universe.
Hey, that's not how rain works!
Hey, that's not how rain or lightning work!
Hey, that's not how rain or boots or baby ducks work!
This is how British people work.
Everyone agreed the phalanx was cute. Too cute? Well, that was for General Mittens to decide when he got back from the gumdrop store. They assumed the Germans would wait.
Summer Tennis - Game One
Ryan calling and saying he couldn't play: 1
Adam glad Ryan called first so he didn't have to: 1
Adam not telling Ryan he was going to call the game off himself and instead questioning Ryan's manhood: 14
I answered some questions for Ryan Manning's series of interviews. You should read it--here--if you've ever wondered why I keep asking you for your extra Legos then awkwardly declining when you offer some from your space set.
Sorry. I had to keep my castle plans under wraps so the pirates wouldn't suspect anything.