August 31, 2005

Faith In The Face Of Tragedy And Job

Disclaimer: This is a post i don't expect everyone to agree with.

Perhaps due to the ongoing disaster in the Gulf states, and some personal tragedies that have hit an alarming number of my blog friends recently, i've been seeing an unusual number of posts that deal with faith and tragedy.

It's the age old question. Why do bad things happen to good people? What does a person of faith do when tragedy strikes? How does one deal? What happens to a person's faith in an all-powerful and all-loving God when that God takes a loved one for no apparent reason?

One book of the Bible supposedly deals with this very question. It's the book of Job. Perhaps i'm not alone when i say that Job never really made me feel better for reading it. It's a strange book, and it's not a comfort at all, really. i read Job all the way through a few years ago. Let's just say i needed to read it at the time and leave it at that.

Basically, the gist of the story is this, as i recall. Job is a good and righteous man who's been blessed with a nice family and lots of money. One day, God makes a bet with the devil about whether or not Job will reject God if He lets the devil completely fuck with Job's life. So the devil kills all of Job's family, takes all his stuff, and gives Job boils on his skin.

Job gets pissed, but doesn't blame God at first. The devil continues to fuck him up, so Job asks a friend to talk to God for him. That ends up nowhere, and Job finally gets on the line with the Big Guy himself. Now God is pissed, and He says to Job (i'm paraphrasing) "Dude, why don't you create the entire universe in six days. Then you can come back here and pop off to me. Until then, shut your pie hole. I do what I want and you don't get to know the reason."

Now there are plenty of other parts in the Bible where one can go for real comfort in times of despair, but Job is not one of them. God doesn't come off looking very nice in Job, but that's not the point of the story. It's kind of the tough talk part of the Old Testament. We may not like the message, but we need to hear it at least once.

God's smackdown to Job, is one of the most awe inspiring and majestic passages of the Bible. It is hard reading when you're in trouble, though. You never thought God could be this sarcastic either:

From out of a storm,
the LORD said to Job:
Why do you talk so much
when you know so little?
Now get ready to face me!
Can you answer
the questions I ask?
How did I lay the foundation
for the earth?
Were you there?
Doubtless you know who decided
its length and width.
What supports the foundation?
Who placed the cornerstone,
while morning stars sang,
and angels rejoiced?
God goes on like this at some length. As they say, it ain't bragging if it's true.
Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?

Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.

What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?

Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!

Yah, so God is the Big Boss and we're just piss-ants. But He loves us anyway. Whether we know it, like it, believe it or want it, He still loves us because He created us.

My favorite holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church is the Feast of Christ the King. It's the last Holy Day of the liturgical year, and i think it's placed there for emphasis. It's a reminder to me that God is ruler over all. The universe is not a democracy, it is a monarchy and we are subjects of the King, not his equals.

Therefore i think it would be the height of arrogance for me to presume to know the mind of God. That's the lesson of the tower of Babel, and of the Book of Job. WTF, we humans can't even understand how light can act like both a particle and a wave. We don't know why neurons communicate across synapses. And every day, giant squid and great whales a hundred feet long fight death battles at the bottom of the sea that no man has ever witnessed. So for me to decide whether God is acting justly or unjustly, based on my own infinitely narrow vantage point on the universe, well it's the height of arrogance as i said.

i could choose to be pissed off at my own powerlessness, or i could find freedom in it. i never understand why so many people waste so much energy trying to reason God into or out of existence. Or trying to reason the nature of God. My knowledge that God exists was never based on reason. That knowledge is itself a gift from God and it remains in me as a result of my faith, not reason.

So i go on believing whether or not God's plan appears fair to me. i don't get to know the plan. Is that a cop-out? i don't think so. i think it's the essence of faith. If my faith were dependent on things like reason or observation or argument, it would be a very weak faith indeed. Yes, even my own mind, smart as i am, was created by Him.

Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind?
There are no easy answers. When i see tragedies like what's going on in the Southeast right now, it saddens me and i want to ask why, God, why. But i also know that i can never really answer that question. He may choose to reveal the answer to me in His time. But then again He may not, and how can i ever know. Bad things might happen to good people for no fucking reason simply because i'm not supposed to be in the loop. i tend to mistrust people when they presume to know God's plan, even if what they're saying comes from a compassionate heart.

So what does that mean? What about God's love that we hear so much about. Where does that fit into a universe that may or may not be cruel in a completely arbitrary way. Job asked:

from my deep despair,
I complain to you, my God.
Don't just condemn me!
Point out my sin.
Why do you take such delight
in destroying those you created
and in smiling on sinners?
Do you look at things
the way we humans do?
Is your life as short as ours?
Is that why you are so quick
to find fault with me?
You know I am innocent,
but who can defend me
against you?
It's not that i'm some kind of Deist who believes that God acts arbitrarily. i believe He has a plan, i just don't believe i can know it. Similarly, i have experienced miracles in my own life and i know from whom they came. God has taken very good care of me, and i don't know why.

It's the knowledge of my own inferior wisdom that has enabled me to never have a crisis of faith, even in times of despair. My spiritual weakness is one of devoutness, not doubt. i have crises of apathy, not belief. i'm going through one now, as a matter of fact. But God's love for this world is obvious to me every time i hear the Gospel. And that's what overcomes the pain i see at times too often to ignore.

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Wednesday Is Poetry Day

Searching for a poem about New Orleans this week was easy.

Charles Bukowski:

Young In New Orleans

starving there, sitting around the bars,
and at night walking the streets for
the moonlight always seemed fake
to me, maybe it was,
and in the French Quarter I watched
the horses and buggies going by,
everybody sitting high in the open
carriages, the black driver, and in
back the man and the woman,
usually young and always white.
and I was always white.
and hardly charmed by the
New Orleans was a place to
I could piss away my life,
except for the rats.
the rats in my dark small room
very much resented sharing it
with me.
they were large and fearless
and stared at me with eyes
that spoke
an unblinking

women were beyond me.
they saw something
there was one waitress
a little older than
I, she rather smiled,
lingered when she
brought my

that was plenty for
me, that was

there was something about
that city, though
it didn't let me feel guilty
that I had no feeling for the
things so many others
it let me alone.

sitting up in my bed
the lights out,
hearing the outside
lifting my cheap
bottle of wine,
letting the warmth of
the grape
as I heard the rats
moving about the
I preferred them

being lost,
being crazy maybe
is not so bad
if you can be
that way

New Orleans gave me
nobody ever called
my name.

no telephone,
no car,
no job,

me and the
and my youth,
one time,
that time
I knew
even through the
it was a
of something not to
but only

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August 30, 2005

NPR Opinion Piece

i just read one of the dumbest things i've read in a while. "Lack Of Mandate On Iraq Haunts Bush," by Ron Elving, NPR's "supervising senior Washington editor." Knowledge of history or political science seems not to be a pre-requisite for his job. On the contrary, the ability to produce a slanted argument from out one's butthole looks like an asset.

While the premise―Bush's lack of a mandate on the Iraq War―is reasonable enough, the op-ed piece went downhill soon after the byline. Elving's theory, no doubt taught to impressionable young minds when he was a professor at Georgetown's Graduate Public Policy Institute, is that "the scope of [a president's] plans must be matched by the breadth of [his] support.

Elving calls this the Rule of Proportionate Mandate. i cannot find any mention of such a rule in my own library, but never mind. It seems reasonable when applied to republics such as ours. That is, as long as one ignores the historical exceptions to the so-called rule. The plans of Lincoln, FDR, Truman and even Churchill are the most obvious examples.

But this quote here is a real doozie:

Before invading Iraq, the administration of President Bush needed the broad backing of three constituencies: the Iraqi people, the international community and the American public. In each case, the administration heard just enough of what it wanted to hear to conclude it had sufficient support. In each case, it was wrong. [emphasis added]
i love Elving's new take on Kerry's "Global Test" doctrine. Did you catch it? Not only should America have the support of certain foreign powers before acting in its self-interest, but America should also have the support of its enemies before going to war!

Wow. This guy was teaching graduate students? In D.C. no less. That's scary.

Elving goes on to re-state the tired old canard that the "Coalition of the Willing" was really a disguise for unilateral action. Never mind the much debated question of whether the over 48 countries who initially signed on to help us were "window dressing" or not. Since when has the commander-in-chief been prohibited from exercising the war powers unilaterally? There is no such requirement in Constitutional law or history. Let's be clear. A president has never been required to seek "the broad backing of the international community." That's complete hogwash. i'll agree that international support is nice to have, but true leadership does not find it necessary before acting.

Then Elving says that support for the war has never been an overwhelming majority such "as in the case of Pearl Harbor or the invasion of Afghanistan." Again, hogwash. In January 2004, for example, 65% of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center thought that the war in Iraq was the "right decision," versus only 30% who thought it was the "wrong decision." Note that support for the war continued to lead by 20 points or more even when Bush's approval rating dipped below his disapproval rating a few months later, according to Pew.

Elving might rightly point out that previous support for the war has eroded today,* but for him to say that it never existed is a lie, and he should know better.

[cross-posted at A Western Heart]

* In my opinion, this is thanks to a combination of consistent media negativity and consistently inept public relations at the White House.

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Cotillion For This Week

The wonderful American Princess took it upon herself to do the whole Cotillion Ball this week. Having done one fourth of the hosting myself, i have to tip my hat to her, it is quite a task, and she did a great job. Go take a look at the best work from the members of the Cotillion here. And if i may highlight one selection, please don't miss Beth's retelling of her visit to Camp Reality in Crawford, Texas.

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Coverage Question

What is happening in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is awful. i had no idea this storm's aftermath would be so severe. And it looks like only the beginning.

i watched Fox News this morning and Shepard Smith was saying that his crew was planning to leave. He thought that by staying, they would be taking resources away from the victims. i think that's a mistake.

This is one case where the media can do more good by covering the story as much as possible. Yah, i never thought i'd say that either. This disaster looks worse than anything i've ever imagined. It needs to be reported, so people can help with donations or in any way they can.

My suggestion to the media would be to spend money. Make the crews self sufficient and join in the relief effort. Fuck the rule against becoming part of the story, they never follow that rule anyway. They should bring bottled water. They should also continue to keep emergency workers informed about what they see or people who need rescuing.

Update: Journalist and Louisiana expat Ken Wheaton has much more.

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August 29, 2005

Gun Nut Progress Report

As a brand new gun nut, i thought it might be interesting to give you regular updates on how things are going.

progress report

i've now shot a total of 150 rounds through a pistol. The Sig Sauer P226 is still the gun to beat, in my estimation. But i recently tried two other guns, which i'll critique for you from my novice's viewpoint.

TacProIItarget.jpgThe first was a Kimber Tactical Pro II in .45 ACP caliber. i did not like this gun. First of all, it dang near took my arm off. Big bang, big kick. That's to be expected from the larger cartridge, i imagine. But i know the Kimber's sights were off, too. Look at the photo of my target. You'll see that nothing hit to the left of center out of 50 rounds at ranges from 7 yards to 25 yards. i think that's unusual. It also shot low and i had to compensate by aiming above the bullseye, which was annoying. i normally line up the sights just below the bullseye.

Also, the Kimber's grip was too short and didn't feel right. The gun was double action only and had a grip safety and a thumb safety. i liked the idea of two safeties, but i'd rather have a single action option because i tend to squeeze the trigger very slowly and watching the hammer go back was distracting to me. i want to try another .45 just to give them a fair shake, but i wouldn't buy a Kimber. They retail for over a thousand and i expected better for that kind of price.

Most recently, i tried the Browning BDM 9mm. Now, after researching this post, i learned that the BDM can be switched from "double action" to "double action only" by use of a little slotted swich on the side. i noticed the switch at the range, but since nobody told me what it was for, i didn't mess with it.

The Browning was nice, despite some problems. i found it to be accurate at all the distances i tried. It fit my hand comfortably and the trigger was easy to squeeze. It's a good looking gun and it was well behaved when it didn't jam, which was too often for my liking. The range dude said it probably needed cleaning. Also, the slide sometimes failed to lock open after the last round was fired. i expected a little more from the famous Browning name, but it was a fun gun to shoot. i still prefer the Sig Sauer's big bright sights. The Browning's sights had smaller dots and one of them had been rubbed off on my rental gun.

Next week i think i'll branch out and try a revolver.

P.S. Last night, i had a dream that i met Kim du Toit. What's happening to me?!

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Something Wrong With Comments?

Some of you have emailed me with rejected comments. i don't know why they're being rejected, but it's not my doing and i have no control over the filter. It may have something to do with the recent server problem and hopefully it will only be temporary. Feel free to email me with your compliments or vitriol, in the meantime.

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Katrina Help, My Charity Choice

i'm donating to Catholic Charities.

While local agencies along the Gulf Coast anticipate that they will be provide some type of emergency assistance in their communities, Catholic Charities' niche in disaster relief is to provide long-term recovery work. In fact, Catholic Charities agencies in Florida are still providing services to help people recover from last year's devastating hurricanes.

Based on past disasters, possible long-term services that Catholic Charities may provide include temporary and permanent housing, direct assistance beyond food and water to get people back into their homes, job placement counseling, and medical and prescription drug assistance.

i trust Catholic Charities more than the Red Cross or United Way, whom i believe skim off the top worse than a mob run casino.

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Finally, The Jeopardy Winner

i'm sorry for the delay. With the hurricane and all, i was unable to post before today.

Okay, so i'm in California. i knew that. Well the real reason is that i was in moving and had no electricity. i thought i'd be able to post via my telephone but then its battery went dead. So i was completely blog incommunicado for four days.

But i hope you'll find the long awaited Final Jeopardy round as exciting as i did. The category was "The Blogosphere," and the clue was

annika has almost all of his TV appearances on DVD, yet this blogger is not on her blogroll. Go figure.
As in the TV show, we start with the player who has the lowest amount of cash. Kyle said "I got nuthin," by which i assume he means he wagered nothing too. So Kyle stays at $200.

Next is Ken, who said: "I bet my whole wad on Wil Wheaton." i'm sorry Ken, the judges cannot accept that answer. You lose your whole wad, $200.

Jasen and Skippy didn't play FJ, so i'm keeping their money.

Next is D-Rod, who responded: "Who is Victor David Hanson?" Nope. D-Rod wagered $399, so he now has $1.

Charlie had $400, but didn't submit a response, so i keep his money.

Phil had $500, and his response was "Who is Frank Sinatra?" Last i checked, Frank Sinatra was dead. Although his music lives on, i don't think Sinatra's music has a blog. Phil wagered "$0.00," so he's left with $500 and the lead.

Next is Shelly, who responded

Damn, I hate this game. I am compulsive by nature, and I have made this an addiction. I'm glad it is over an I can get back to my mundane life.

OK, at first, I thought it was gonna be Hugh Hewitt for sure, but I checked and he IS on your blogroll, so that fizzled out.

Then I said (to myself) 'Myself, who has been on TV enough to have Annie have taped him, and yet not so much that her house would be running over with discs, etc.?'.

Myself replied 'The only person I can come up with is a guy who's show was canceled for some inexplicable reason (well, he seems less offensive on the radio, I guess) from Northern California named Michael Savage.'

So, trusting Myself, and having no other thoughts . . . Who is Michael Savage?
Uhh, no.

Let's see what Shelly wagered. His entire $1000. Sorry Shelly, you're down to zero.

Next is Victor, who guessed "Who is Will Wheaton?" Ding. You are correct, Victor. Spelling does not count in Final Jeopardy. Victor bet all $1100, so he now has the lead with $2200.

Dave J was next with $1400, but this was his response:

Since I'm completely stumped, I'm not betting anything: I can't even think up a good guess, though I'm sure I'll be kicking myself about how obvious it was after this is over.

And now you've motivated me to try out again, and pester the hell out of the real show to call me back this time.

Dave's $1400 won't be enough to take over the lead from Victor. But good luck on the real Jeopardy, Dave.

Casca started out with the second highest point total, at $1700. Ever confident, Casca responded with "Who is Hugh Hewitt?" aaaaaaa! Like Shelly said, Hugh Hewitt is indeed on my blogroll. Casca bet the whole thing, so he is now down to zero.

Finally, it's all up to Trevor, who starts out Final Jeopardy with the most points, $1900. His response was "Who is Wil Wheaton?" Nice job Trevor.

Now let's find out if Trevor wagered enough to beat Victor. more...

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August 24, 2005 Back Up

Many thanks to Beth, Michelle and Basil for allowing the free trackbacks and links while was down.

Since the blog was unavailable for most of Tuesday, i will extend the Final Jeopardy deadline until 11:59 p.m. Pacific time, Thursday night. Or until all players have submitted their responses. Right now, we're still waiting for Charlie, Skippy and Jasen.

For future reference, my old Blogspot blog will be my backup blog. You can find it at or just google "blogspot annika."

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August 23, 2005

Notice To Jeopardy Players

Don't forget to email your Final Jeopardy responses by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time, Thursday night.

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She Don't Speak For Us Caravan

For those in Southern California interested in lending support, the Crawford Texas Caravan in support of our troops is heading your way.

On Tuesday at 3:05pm, we will be arriving in Burbank at KFI studio, 3400 W. Olive Avenue to appear on the John and Ken Show.

On Wednesday at 8:00am, we will be arriving in San Diego at KOGO studio, 9660 Granite Ridge Drive, San Diego to appear live on the Roger Hedgecock Show. Roger will be broadcasting from the parking lot so our supporters can join him during the broadcast.

PLEASE - if you are anywhere near where our caravan will be, we NEED you to make plans to meet us at the caravan stops... and if possible join the caravan for part of the way.

More info and updates can be found here.

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Cotillion Ball

This Week's Cotillion Ball is hosted by the following ladies: Cassandra, who asks "what is it about boots?;" The American Princess, a hot chick with some hot cars; Soldiers' Angel - Holly Aho, who spotlights America's fighting women, and the lovely Fausta, of Bad Hair Blog, who never has a bad hair day, blogwise. As always, i encourage you to read these best posts of the last week from the top women bloggers around.

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August 22, 2005

California Handgun Safety Certificate

i took the California Handgun Safety Certificate written test last weekend and passed with flying colors. That means that the State of California has deemed me worthy to purchase a handgun within the next five years if i so choose.

The test is so easy even one of Victor's rats could pass it (assuming that Victor has taught them how to read, as i'm sure he has). But the State of California still got 25 bucks out of me for the privilege of taking the test.

Publicola fisked the test's review booklet and showed how, despite the simplicity of the questions, even an expert can have trouble. This sample question seems to have tripped him up:

Hmmm. They have a self test.

'Safety Rule Number Two is keep
the gun pointed:

A. To the north.
B. In the safest possible direction.
C. Up.
D. Down.'

Well being a Southerner I gotta go with A. . . . we never really trusted those damn yankees . . .

Very funny.

Publicola was also nice enough to answer two questions i posed to him:

if Cali does not have the worst gun laws in the country, who does? and on a related note . . . Are there any decently industrialized nations that recognize the rights of gun owners similar to or better than the US?
You can read his answers here.

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Incredibly Stupid Statement Making The Rounds

The next time i hear someone say that Iraqi women were better off when Saddam was in power, i'm going to scream. Why are so many people saying that? Do they all get the same stupidity newsletter?

Listen up. When the son of a country's leader goes around town picking out women, who are then abducted, raped, and their husbands killed, that is not a situation that any sane person should characterize as "better off."

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Reflections On A '95 St. Supery Cab

i'm no wine expert, but i'll give it a try. i emailed Pursuit, who is the unofficial sommelier of annika's journal, and asked him if it was time to drink that $12 bottle of '95 St. Supery Cabernet i'd been holding onto. He responded thusly:

I'd suggest that you drink it pretty soon.

I hope you've kept it on its side

i had.
and in a reasonably cool place.
No place is cooler than wherever i am.
While some reds can be great beyond ten years, my guess is the St Supery is probably in its sweet spot now.
So i tried it with beef this weekend and, while it's not Silver Oak, it was good.

(If you're ever in Napa, i recommend the St. Supery winery tour. Very informative.)

As for the '95, i liked it. Almost rust in color, plum and berry predominates, and there was no trace of tannin. A hint of oak [i have no idea what i'm talking about, btw] and big but not overly complex. All in all, a good $12 investment.

Tasted good tooo.

Update: Although i have no idea what a tannin is, this pro seemed to agree with me that the '95 didn't have any.

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Final Jeopardy With annika

The category is "The Blogosphere."


The players are:

Trevor $1900
Casca $1700
Dave J $1400
Victor $1100
Shelly $1000
Phil $500
Charlie $400
D-Rod $400
Skippy $400
Jasen $300
Ken $200
Kyle $200

The time limit is until 11:59 p.m. Pacific time, Tuesday night. Rules are here. Don't forget your wager and to phrase the response correctly. No need to buzz in. Click here to send me your response. Good luck!


[Final Jeopardy music starts now.]

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August 21, 2005

See, i'm Not The Only Girl Sinatra Fan

So is Robyn, of North American Patriot. Here's a great tribute.

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August 20, 2005

Boomer Deathwatch

i discovered an interesting niche blog this morning, Boomer Deathwatch. It's about that old Gen X - Boomer antipathy. i consider myself a Gen Xer, so i can relate to a lot of it. Here's an excerpt from the top post:

In the meantime, I worked minimum wage jobs and buffed up my political and social paranoia, built out of bits and pieces of leftover 60s radical rhetoric. Reagan was evil; Thatcher was a witch; the CIA pulled the strings; the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their counterparts at the Kremlin were glaring at each other over some future battlefield, wracked with nervous ticks and drenched with booze-soaked flopsweat, and one day they'd go too far and blow us all to kingdom come. There was no good or evil, or it was all evil, or we all had the potential for good. I don't know, it changed all the time, depending on what I was reading.

Then the 80s boom ended and the Wall fell and I finally got tired of being afraid and confused. More to the point, I got tired of letting fear and ignorance dictate how I saw the world, so I started reading books, some of which I didn't agree with at first. I stopped reading music magazines and started reading about economics, if only to find out just why all of the magazines I'd worked for as a freelance writer and photographer came and went in such regular cycles.

I was 'empowering myself'. Sure. Basically I was trying to peek my head up over the surging boomer crest ahead of me before the building echo wave behind me swept me down again. There had to be more to be seen or heard than the surging spectacle of sex, drugs and rock and roll that had been the backdrop for my whole life. If it looked like I'd never afford a house or a family, at least I wanted to know why I didn't die in a nuclear holocaust, or live in the Orwellian 'security state' of total surveillance and mind control that so many of my peers seemed to think was inevitable - indeed, already here, if you listened to many of them.

i was born later than the authors of this blog, so i don't have the same reference point they do on Carter, Punk, Disco, etc. (i read Douglas Coupland one night, yawned and promptly dismissed it.) But i get the whole "Boomers ruined it for us" meme.

i remember when Time ran that cover story about Gen X back in the eighties and it wasn't too flattering. And this whole shit storm erupted about whether Gen Xers were slackers, and why the Boomers were so bitter about the next generation.

Then the conflict seemed to die down, sometime in the late nineties perhaps. Boomers started to realize with their mortality staring them in the face, that their entire life could not be the big self-indulgent youth movement they thought it would be. And that Gen-Xers weren't all lazy cynics, and they didn't necessarily want or need to follow in the Boomers' footsteps either.

By the way, i recently saw The Big Chill for the first time on DVD. i'd heard so much about that movie that i figured i was missing out for having never seen it. i was wrong. i didn't miss a darn thing.

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August 19, 2005

Good For Him

Way to go, Bob.

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