Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So, Eric Holder is opening an investigation into the CIA torturing people. I guess I'm glad these guys are going to be (in theory) punished, but I just can't find it in my heart to be that excited about it.

Let's be honest here: John Ashcroft isn't going to prison over this. I doubt anybody will. I'm glad it's going to be looked into, but at the same time I feel it's almost a way to distract us—let's get revenge on Bush and Cheney!—from the fact that, while things haven't yet collapsed or anything, neither have they gotten Super Awesome yet. My main concern is that perhaps Obama may be biting off more than he can chew. There are a lot of things that need to be fixed, but I kind of doubt they can all be fixed at the same time. My fear from the beginning was that Obama (or whichever Democrat took the White House) would wind up being the second coming of Jimmy Carter, a guy that got tossed a live hand grenade and then took the blame when it exploded in his hand. I really hope that's not the case—Obama seems a lot smarter than Jimmy Carter, and a lot more ruthless, too. You can tell that beneath his Cool Dude exterior he can be a Serious Hardass if he needs to be. Not unlike JFK. Granted, other than fucking Marilyn Monroe, JFK didn't accomplish much.

In the end, Obama is a politician, which means that he promised a lot of things—things that he probably really believed in—that seem destined for compromise at best or failure at worst. A lot of things that I don't have a whole lot of hope for. Which means that the guy was probably not the best candidate for me. I've always been a glass-half-empty sort of person. Rather than “Yes We Can”, I'd have been a lot more comfortable with “We Probably Can't, But Hey, We'll See What Happens”, which doesn't really pack as much of a punch, I admit, but it's a lot more honest, and sums up my attitude much better.

The good thing about Bush, Cheney, et al was that while they were in power, I always knew where I stood: in direct oppostion to them. They were my North Star—I could always find my way home by their putrid lights. But now, I feel lost and listless. My compass spins. The wilderness remains.

You could spend the next four years (hell, the next eight) punishing the people who fucked this country over, but my heart just isnt in it, not tonight.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Today's relevant quote:

I suffer intensely from bouts, at times almost disabling, of a limitless, all-encompassing nostalgia extending well back into the years before I was born.

The mass synthesis, marketing, and distribution of versions and simulacra of an artificial past, perfected over the last thirty years or so, has ruined the reputation and driven a fatal stake through the heart of nostalgia. Those of us who cannot make it from one end of a street to another without being momentarily upended by some fragment of outmoded typography, curve of chrome fender, or whiff of lavender hair oil from the pate of a semiretired neighbor are compelled by the disrepute into which nostalgia has fallen to mourn secretly the passing of a million marvelous quotidian things.

--Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The world lost another of its idols yesterday. Murrell's, a local diner, closed its doors after sixty-plus years in the business of serving fried, greasy food to drunks and college kids.

I'm not going to bullshit anybody and claim that the food there was great—even for a diner, Murrell's was pretty average. The burgers, at one time, were awesome, but they'd gone downhill in quality, to the point where it was strongly suspected that they were just pre-frozen patties. But be that as it may, it is gone, and we should all be in some kind of mourning.

Murrell's was notable for a few things. It was the only place in town where you could get a Morvich, a truly insane sandwich that somehow combined all four food groups: chicken fried steak, cheese, eggs, and bacon. It was also the quintessential shitty diner. It stood for a little over sixty years, and I'm pretty sure it was last cleaned sometime during the Carter administration. There were a number of weird pictures on the walls (including portraits of four random US Presidents), which were stained a deep nicotine brown—only when you looked behind the picture did you see that the walls were at one point two or three shades lighter. The service was never fantastic, the tables and chairs constantly verged on the brink of collapse, and most of the clientele seemed to consist of shabby old lunatics. I can distinctly remember visiting one afternoon and wondering to myself if most/all of the customers had somehow escaped from the mental ward of a local nursing home.


You'd be hard-pressed to think of anything more iconically American than the all-night diner. You imagine truck drivers and cops and other hard-working stiffs coming in, looking for some cheap grub and a place to have a coffee and a smoke before going back out into the night again. You think of Edward Hopper and you think of Norman Rockwell and you think of Robert Frank, images that were antique thirty years before you were born, and you think that visiting these places again will help you touch base with some past that you never saw except in dreams or photos or in the long-gone memory of your grandparents.

I've been a night owl my entire life. When I was a child, I'd stay up while my grandmother played solitaire and watched late-nite TV until three or four in the morning, whenever the station went off the air (and more often that not, when that happened, she would put on a VHS tape and stay up even longer). And years later, I went nearly my entire sophomore year in high school on approximately four hours of sleep a night. Even now, as I'm updating this blog, it's nearly two in the morning. There's no reason for this, of course, it's just...what if I miss something?

It's a kind of lovely loneliness, being up late, thinking you're the one person in the world awake and watchful in the night. Places like Murrell's, open all night, give you the sense that you're not entirely alone out in the world when everyone else is asleep. Diners and gas stations and truck stops give you a happy, welcome feel. They're little beacons of safety in the night, little harbors, a place that lets you know that you are not alone, and that the fun has not yet stopped, that there's always something happening, and that you haven't missed a thing.