Thursday, November 08, 2007

Any Suggestions?

Hi dear friends,

As we approach the end of the year and another installment of "Cliff Makes a Self-Important Best-of Music List," I realize that while I certainly have a lot of great material from which to choose, there is probably an equal amount of stuff out there that slipped my notice. So I invite all of my well-versed readers to submit for consideration any albums that you feel did not get their deserved attention this year.

My own list thus far ranges from the obvious (you heard of this guy they're callin' Springsteen?) to the not so obvious (Marnie Stern will shred your ass up one side and down another!). So please send me your suggestions. Unless they include Arctic Monkeys. You can keep that shit to yourself.

You Suck And Everyone Knows It

Dear Microsoft,

Why, oh why does Hotmail no longer work with Safari? Are you really that insecure that you have to get into these little pissing matches with Apple? The leader in a category is not supposed to acknowledge those below. Jackasses. And if you want to remain relevant, how about letting mail clients sync with your email addresses without paying your ridiculous upgrades!

I have recently been forced to use your assy software at my new job, and it's like returning to the Dark Ages. I had forgotten how nothing works on a PC. How the error messsages you get don't bother to tell you what you actually did wrong. How, in general, you say to your users, "We're too busy counting our monopoly money. You figure out what's wrong with the piece of shit we sold you."

You can kiss my grits.

P.S. For those of you who have been using my hotmail account, feel free to discontinue use of it. In its stead, please use:


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The American Idea

First of all, sorry for the long absence. My new job is pretty intense, and it gives me little brain power left for blogging. So until I get a bit more used to this pace, I will ape from other sources.

The Atlantic devoted their November issue to an examination of the American Idea. I found David Foster Wallace's response particularly thought-provoking:

Are some things still woth dying for? Is the American idea one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, "sacrifices on the altar of freedom?" In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life - sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?

In still other words, what if we chose to accept the fact that every few years, despite all reasonable precautions, some hundreds or thousands of us may die in the sort of ghastly terrorist attack that a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?

Is this thought experiment monstrous? Would it be monstrous to refer to the 40,000-plus domestic highway deaths we accept each year because the mobility and autonomy of the car are evidently worth that high price? Is monstrousness why no serious public figure now will speak of the delusory trade-off of liberty for safety that Ben Franklin warned about more than 200 years ago? What exactly has changed between Franklin's time and ours? Why now can we not have a serious national conversation about sacrifice, the inevitability of sacrifice - either of (a) some portion of safety or (b) some portion of the rights and protections that make the American idea so incalculably precious?

In the absence of such a conversation, can we trust our elected leaders to value and protect the American idea as they act to secure the homeland? What are the effects on the American idea of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, PATRIOT Acts I and II, warrantless surveillance, Executive Order 13233, corporate contractors performing military functions, the Military Commissions Act, NSPD 51, etc., etc.? Assume for a moment that some of these measures really have helped make our persons and property safer - are they worth it? Where and when was the public debate on whether they're worth it? Was there no such debate because we're not capable of having or demanding one? Why not? Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don't even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?

Word. Check out the issue, there's a lot of great stuff in it. As my life is being swallowed whole by various methods of transportation, I may draw more from it.