Real Life Internal Dialog of a Hopeless Movie Geek

“Hmmm. Along Came A Spider? That’s one of those Morgan Freeman-Ashley Judd things where he’s the serial killer chaser and she’s the chasee/victim or something right?”
“Yeah. Except Ashley Judd isn’t in it.”
“Monica Potter.”
“Oh! Yeah! And they made her up to look like Julia Roberts!”
“What was with her nose?”
“I think that’s just her nose. Nothing for it.”
“Well, maybe she’s less moonbatty than Judd.”
“Hard to miss there.”

Perverse Optimism

As things get crazier and crazier in Washington D.C., I find myself more and more compelled toward the libertarian optimism I discussed here. Admittedly, yes, it’s partly because the alternative is grim.

But the level of debt our President has just thrust upon us is unsustainable. We can’t pay it off. Can’t. Without confiscatory tax rates. (I give the Founding Fathers a lot of credit for what they knew could happen; I somehow wonder if it occurred to them that our leaders would simply destroy the economy to get what they wanted.) I think–I hope–it’s too big a bite. I think we will rebel.

So, in that sense, the election of BHO is a good thing: We were complacently sliding into socialism, with just a few hiccups here and there. If this forces us to look it in the face and strike it down for real, our progeny benefit. If we this means the ship is upset for a few decades or more, it will be worth it.

That’s also why things like this “Abortion is a blessing!” thing makes me optimistic. The Anchoress writes eloquently on this topic, and is always worth reading. I’m less concerned about abortion’s legality than its social acceptability. I would like the laws (here, as everywhere) to be largely irrelevant.

But I’m convinced that abortion’s acceptability has a lot to do with obfuscation. While most of the support for pro-choice comes, I believe, from a basically libertarian impulse, more than anyone wants to admit comes from a anti-human impulse.

I often say the impulse to be liberal can come from a genuine belief that government is the best solution, or the belief that people are too stupid to take care of themselves. Just as being a conservative can come from a faith in the individual, or a self lack of concern for others. The media determine which narrative is revealed, so they try not to show the ugly stuff of whatever’s on their side.

And the thing about abortion is that it is really, really ugly. If you believe it’s necessary sometimes or not, there’s still no way it isn’t a tragedy. And, actually, I think that’s how most people view it. I think a small majority of people are uncomfortably pro-choice.

Information about abortion makes them more uncomfortable. Until recently, for example, I did not know that an abortion involved cutting up the fetus and then reassembling it ex utero to make sure you got all the parts.

I mean, look: Every day we see colonscopies, and hernia surgeries and whatever other medical procedures on the various educational channels. Why not abortions? Is it because–and I pause to chuckle here–right wing fundamentalists would protest?

Now, I am pro-choice to this degree: If a fertilized embryo is entitled to full legal protection, every woman’s womb is a potential crime scene. That’s the one extreme, of course. The other extreme is that fully viable babies are delivered and then murdered. And–let’s get really uncomfortable now–that’s where we are.

I’m perfectly fine that the abortion debate isn’t settled; it shouldn’t be. It’s much like torture, in the sense that we have to balance two unethical situations (inflicting pain perhaps for no reason vs. allowing innocent lives to be lost). In this case, we have to balance what might colloquially be called murder against the power of the state to intrude into every person’s most private life. (And I trust at this point in time, even the staunchest of pro-lifers can see that the government ultimately respects no limits to its power.)

I respect democracy in these areas, if only for lack of a better authority. Democracy can say, with stupid arbitariness that 20 weeks is a baby, where 19 weeks and 6 days is not. Injustices will occur.

What I object to, however, is the one-sidedness of the speech currently given exposure. It’s important to realize that all these poor, non-white people having abortions was pretty much what the eugenicists wanted. (And what a sleight-of-hand to get their cooperation!) It’s important to know what an abortion actually is. (I forced myself to look at a few pictures while writing this, something I’d always previously avoided.)

I object to those who wish to keep information away from women considering an abortion, if that information might tilt them away from having one.

So I applaud those who come out and say that it’s a blessing. Or, for the more secularly inclined, that it’s no big deal. Women should have more of them. And so on.

It wasn’t long ago that we were inundated with stories about the crazies bombing abortion clinics–the anti-choice crowd you might call them; now let’s get some stories about those who feel they should be allowed to completely shield a woman from any possible negative consequences of an abortion.

We can call them the anti-life crowd.

So, how was your week?

Despite the cash outlays, it was still a very good week. The birth of Ethan is a marvelous thing, not just because babies are wonderful, but because the Freefamily is, well, Chicken Little called Freeman “the strength of America”, and that’s not just poetic imagery.

I think one of the things feminism robbed from women–though not with complete success–was their specialness. The prevailing philosophy got it completely backwards: “Women’s work” was always the important stuff. The world exists for the future. Men do important things, of course, but they do them–if they’re good men–to make the world a better place.

None of which matters without a new generation to carry on. “Women’s work” is senior, fundamental, primary.

So let us put you on a pedestal and worship you, while we have the luxury. We’re clear-eyed about the work that needs to be done, and how you do a lot of the hardest and least glamorous of it. Treasuring you is both a great joy and fulfillment of our masculinity.

We know you can take care of yourselves. We know you’re not weak. But you are precious to us. Letting us express that is a gift.

Shop Locally. Think Whatever.

The telephone stopped ringing on Sunday. The refrigerator stopped refrigerating on Monday. The pilot light on the water heater went out Tuesday. They were going to charge $100 to relight but knocked it down to $50. (Thanks, guys! I suppose I should’ve just relit the damn thing myself, but I hate messing with gas lines if I’m not sure what’s going on. Too many times seeing that Friz Freling Bugs Bunny cartoon where he throws the match into the powder room and Yosemite Sam has to run in and fetch it out.) Turns out the pilot was symptomatic of a larger problem, to boot.

So. Yeah. $1,000 for a new refrigerator from these guys. And then $1,200 more for the water heater with installation from these guys. (Checking my bank account see my federal tax refund of $2,155 just came in. Sigh.)

I actually strongly recommend both Waadt and Frankel’s. Before discovering Frankel, we tried a bunch of different plumbers who would “guarantee their work for life”. But what they’d do is shut down after a couple of years and re-open under a new name. We had the same scam artists come in 2-3 times under different names before we realized what was going on.

Frankel’s backs their work and have been in business for a long time. Plus, they’re straight up about what you need. (The previous plumbers installed a commercial quality garbage disposal in the kitchen, which our pipes couldn’t possibly support if we actually needed it.)

The best thing you can say about Waadt is that they care. If you’ve ever bought something from one of the big chains–Circuit City, Best Buy, wherever–you know they don’t really care about you beyond the sale. Why should they, right?

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m sure the corporate level cares to some degree, though they’re always balancing things like pissing you off versus how much it costs to make you happy, and you’re not a “you” but part of a large demographic. The people who run Waadt are right there on the floor; there’s no minimum wage employee buffer. That alone would make anyone care more.

But more than that, they’ve always been good about selling floor models if you’re pinching pennies, and they have a great repair guy who once located us a free dishwasher.

Some of the best advice ever is to “shop local”. Not because corporations are all evil and corporation-y but because there’s a good chance of longer term happiness. Local appliance stores can often give better deals than the big box chains. And they have way more invested in your happiness.

Brick and Martyr: TMI

The telephone broke this week. (So did the refrigerator and the water heater, but more on that later on.) Well, it had been breaking for a while. It had been submerged in water more than once, and was slowly losing features. The LCD panel was the first to go, of course, so all the caller ID features were gone. And last weekend it stopped ringing.

Fine with me.

But ultimately, no, the flashing light on the phone is not enough to alert me that it’s ringing. And tragically, it sometimes matters. So I went to get a new phone. It was kind of funny. I was walking around Fry’s and first saw a book on Tenzing Norgay. The only reason I know of Tenzing Norgay is because I’m a fan of the Coen Brothers, and the following exchange is from Intolerable Cruelty.

Wrigley: Who are you looking for?
Miles Massey: Tenzing Norgay.
Wrigley: Tenzing Norgay? That’s someone she slept with?
Miles Massey: I doubt it. Tenzing Norgay was the Sherpa that helped Edmund Hillary climb Mt. Everest.
Wrigley: And Marilyn knows him?
Miles Massey: No, you idiot. Not the Tenzing Norgay. Her Tenzing Norgay.
Wrigley: I’m not sure that I actually follow that.
Miles Massey: Few great accomplishments are achieved single-handedly, Wrigley. Most have their Norgays. Marilyn Rexroth is even now climbing her Everest. I wanna find her Norgay.
Wrigley: But how do you determine which of the people on here are…
Miles Massey: How do you spot a Norgay?
Wrigley: Yeah.
Miles Massey: You start with the people with the funny names.

I swear: maybe 20% of the knowledge I have comes from a dogged pursuit of a particular topic while the other 80% comes from random mentions in pop culture. I saw this cool physics book
as well. (I’m looking for something for The Boy that is not too math heavy but also not juvenile. My own texts from school are pretty dry, as well, and this looked like a good mixture.)

Fry’s is interesting. The branches communicate to the main office through a text-based system on (I think) a private network, and none of the hundreds of computers anywhere in the store are hooked to the Internet. But I had my Blackberry with me and began to wonder:

Is this really a good price for the Tenzing book? (It was $8; I can get it used for half that–including shipping–from Amazon.) Is it a good Tenzing book? (So-so. The minimal reviews on Amazon are all over the map.)

What about the Head Start book? I can get a new one cheaper or save a few bucks on a used copy, but I also get the reviews that say it’s a practical book. About the mechanics rather than the more difficult-to-grasp optics, audio, etc. areas. So, actually, it’s perfect.

I put those two books back.

I also wanted to pick up a scanner. (I have a scheme to put some things on t-shirts.) But the scanners just sit there in boxes with numbers on them. Very unhelpful. I realized I didn’t know what I needed. I thought to myself, “What am I doing here?”

Fry’s is the sort of place you go when you know exactly what you want. The best deals you get there are on discontinued things. (A lot of people think they’re getting an incredible price on cutting edge stuff and end up disappointed. A lot of people get angry at Fry’s. A lot of people are dumb.)

But then, a funny thing happened: I still needed a phone. I generally shop at Amazon because of the free shipping, so I went there. And you know what? It was too much information. Too much dubious information, actually.

I need a phone that’s nigh indestructible. The only feature I can’t live without is the speakerphone. (I hate holding the phone up to my ear.) The caller ID is good, too, because I don’t have an answering machine or even a phone book, really, so if you want a call back, you better be IDed.

The reviews on Amazon were things like “Oh, these are great. We only had to take one of the three we bought back.” Also, Amazon’s inabiality to do a secondary sort sucks. In other words, yeah, I want the most relevant items first, but after that, I want the cheapest.

I went to Radio Shack instead. But, of course, there was no one in the Radio Shack, so I went to target. This was actually strangely reassuring. I had gone to Radio Shack for an antenna coupler last weekend and actually got one there for $2.70 and it actually worked! Almost everything at Radio Shack is ridiculously overpriced and then doesn’t do what I want, so I was actually disturbed when I got in and out in five minutes with just what I needed.

Going in this week and finding a bunch of overpriced phones that no one was around to sell me was comforting.

Anyway, I went to Target and picked up a phone for about $25. I have no idea how good a phone it is, but it has a handset speaker and caller ID. It’s probably good enough. Which is good enough. And I guess the brick-and-mortar stores still have their uses.

Of course, it hasn’t been submerged yet. I give the Barbarienne 3-4 weeks to feed it to the toilet.

My Preoccupation…

You guys have left some great comments, much appreciated. I hope to address them in a bit when I catch up on things.

Unlike some quitters, though, I’m not going to be running away to worship God. (He pretty much told me he needs me on the front lines. I think I’m supposed to be fodder.)

It’s crunch time, diet-wise for The Boy. The doctor has reduced his meat intake dramatically, so he has little choice but to eat veggies or starve. (And starving’s not an option.) I’m showing my solidarity here, so I’m also downing the rabbit chow.

I’ll have a review of I Love You, Man soon. (Executive summary: Romantic comedy where the principles are straight males. Surprisingly charming and female friendly.)

Also, the refrigerator broke, distilling water is more complicated than it seems, the pilot light on the water heater keeps going out, and (on the positive side) I’ve apparently won Darcy.

No, don’t tell me it was April Fool’s Day. I don’t wanna know.

Proudly Putting Children Second!

New mom Freeman Hunt tweeted this referencing France’s coverage of plastic surgery after birth, presuming the “damage” done was caused by being pregnant or giving birth. But I just assume that they write these things to piss people off. It’s about getting the mother “back in the saddle” as quickly as possible after delivery.

Now, this seems like not a bad idea, exactly, if not entirely the correct focus. I think there’s a reason for women to have sex drive kicked down a notch after delivering. That is, they’re supposed to be focusing on the baby they already have.

I feel like this is the key graf, designed to inflame:

Whereas in England, childbirth is all about what is best for the child, in France there is much more emphasis on the mother. And by default, the father – or at least his carnal desires. Returning to a normal sex life is seen of paramount importance.

If we wanted to get brutally biological here, contrary to folk wisdom, nature does not protect the unborn baby over the mother. A fertile female is worth considerably more than the potential represented by a single child. This accounts for the huge percentages of miscarriages. The baby represents a huge gamble, survival-wise. (Indeed, one of the great parts of Defiance focuses on that.)

But I’ve never met a mother worthy of the title who wouldn’t sacrifice herself for her children.

As I read this article, it sounded increasingly like there was massive social pressure to neglect the baby.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it but the whole thing sounds like it comes from a country with a low reproduction rate.

The Problem With April Fools’ Day

…is that you don’t know if something like this is legit.

Look, I’m pretty lax in a lot of ways. In fact, one of my very first posts–back when I thought I wasn’t going to be writing about parenting much–was about how parents do need to evolve into friends to their children over time.

I give my kids a lot of responsibility, even to the point of too much. I’m eager to have them try to manage portions of their life, and if that means failure, well, no big deal, we’ll try again later.

But equality?

Children aren’t equal. They have many wonderful attributes and they are the most important work most of the population will ever do, but they’re not our equals. Hell, they’re not even equal to each other. You can’t give your 17, 12, 6 and 1 year old equality with each other, even! The one-year-old isn’t going to be driving the car. You can’t have the one-year-old watch the 17-year-old.

“Equality” is not meaningful in this context.

Democracy is almost fetishized these days, it seems. It has a limited usefulness; in a small group of adults it can work pretty well. When your kids are grown, for example, and you’re figuring out where to eat. (But notice in cultures with extended families, there often is a matriarch or patriarch whose word if final.)

A bigger group does better with a Republic-type format: Representation for matters the rest of the group doesn’t or can’t get involved with. On a family level, this is pretty good for older kids to young teens. You have to figure out what they want and fight for that.

But when you’re dealing with toddlers? Dictatorship. Iron fist. You can’t win a battle of wills with a two-year-old because a two-year-old is entirely will. The only thing you have is trickery and brute force. Really. (You’re not smarter than a two-year-old, either, you have to rely on cunning.)

Now, I’m all for soliciting agreement. Things are much better when everyone agrees to stuff. (Sometimes I think I’m raising lawyers, mind you.) I’m particularly adamant about extending respect and dignity to children. But sometimes this means, “Yes, I know that’s what you want and how important it is to you–and we’re still going to do it my way.”

I don’t use “because I said so” because it’s an unnecessary addition. You’re either the authority or you’re not. And in practice, my children will happily cripple any and all activity while appearing to cooperate, if they’re given room to maneuver. (And I was the same way.)

I think this is because all healthy kids try to control their environment–which for a younger kid is their parents–and a smart parent lets them do that from time-to-time, even if it’s something as silly as letting them move your hands around or “scaring” you. The parents I’ve seen who won’t give an inch there and are determined to micromanage usually do end up victims of a child who figures out exactly how to punch their buttons.

But the game of control-the-parents is the best game most really young chldren have. And you play it willingly or not, but play it you will. But your kids aren’t really interested in being equals. Even the most lackadaisical ones want to be running the show.

Somebody told me once that the problem with parents abnegating all the perks they might enjoy in favor of their children is that it robs the child of motivation to grow up. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s an interesting point: Why would you want to grow up if you can have all the fun and none of the grief? (And I wonder if we don’t have that in a lot of adults today.)

But I thought it was “settled science” that children needed boundaries.