But it’s just the price I pay, destiny is calling me

OK. In the cold light of noon, let’s have a look at this thing.

There will be plenty of analysis about how this was won: enhanced turnout among Democratic voters driven by a sustained and repeatable GOTV effort fully funded by the DNC and external donors, leveraged against a compromised candidate – and there will be a case that this cannot be done again barring the nomination of yet another holy roller pervert for statewide office by the GOP. I’m here to tell you it’s wrong. Roy Moore came within the population of Gardendale of a mandatory recount. His issue positions are not materially different from any other Alabama Republican. His voters were not that dissuaded by the allegations, because they already reject any reality that doesn’t fit their views. And his voters are dying. Old white men who remember life before desegregation are sinking sand on which to build a voter base.

More to the point, contra my remarks yesterday, the fact that Doug Jones won suggests there is a path to statewide Democratic victory in Alabama. Hang Trump around the GOP’s neck, get black voters to the polls, and get young voters mobilized and active. It will take extra effort to overcome the structural obstacles Alabama has spent years if not decades placing in the path of likely Democratic voters, but we now have the existence proof that it can be done. And if you can do it once, you can do it again – for the right gubernatorial candidate in 2018, and then beyond.

But more to the point…

Last night, the fans of Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires were crossing team lines on Twitter to exult in their victory, with Auburn fans posting Rammer Jammer cheers and Tide fans gleefully showing off the toilet paper fluttering in the trees at Toomer’s Corner. Grapico and special dogs and Milo’s were invoked and great oaths were sworn about how “We Dare Defend Our Rights” now means everyone’s and all of them. And I contemplated the fact that of all the places I’ve ever lived, 13 years in California and 7 more in the NoVA suburbs of DC, the only place that ever stereotyped me as a white man from Alabama was Jefferson County, Alabama…which went 3-1 for Doug Jones last night. 

That’s not nothing. That’s a meaningful marker laid down, that what was once a tiny blue dot in Southside in a sea of red is now a burgeoning and reliable blue county driven by African-American voting power. That in addition to baseball and wi-fi and recycling and craft beer, Birmingham is developing a politics that looks like America and pushing it ever outward toward the rest of the state. And the ones who resist, the ones who fight hardest to keep things like they are, the ones who are so wedded to how it used to be that they might as well be Vol fans…they’re dying. Every day.

I still don’t see ever moving back. But being able to visit, being able to enjoy it, being able to take pride in everything from the Barons to Avondale Brewing to Top Hat BBQ to a 205 area code? This morning, there’s a path back to the light that wasn’t there yesterday. And I am grateful for everyone who trod out that path and who fights to clear it today and tomorrow and the day after that.

It raises the possibility that before I die, I could live to see the state of my birth not showing its ass to the world. That for the first time in my life, it might just extend a hand and say “y’all come home.” That there’s a path back to Birmingham that doesn’t involve looking out the bay doors of the bomber during the Second American Civil War. That who I am, what I am, could actually be part and parcel of what the city and the state and the South is. That I wouldn’t have to hang my head and make excuses and disavow a state that disavowed me…because it wouldn’t, not any more.

Wouldn’t that be something.

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Open up my eager eyes

Well don’t I feel like a jackass.

Never been happier to feel like one. EEEEE TO THE AWWWWWW, Y’ALL.

 

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Here’s the galling thing:

…this shouldn’t be close. It shouldn’t be within screaming distance of close. Roy Moore shouldn’t be able to see Doug Jones with binoculars. This should be about a 50 point spread, and in a sane state, it would be.  Instead, it’s 50-50. Instead, we’re back to hoping that a turnout of 25% and a third of the white vote will be enough to vote in a bog-standard blue-dog Democrat, a lauded federal prosecutor about as radical as buttermilk, so that we don’t get a literal religious fanatic who believes in Christian-flavored Sharia law and has literally been thrown out of office twice since 2000 because of it.

The man is manifestly unqualified for office. He sits far outside the mainstream of conservative thought, as difficult as that is to imagine in Alabama in 2017. He is manifestly unpopular with elected Republicans who view him as a show horse and a glory hound. He is a repository for the kind of performative redneckery that leads most people in Alabama to point and howl at New York City and California for slandering their Southern culture and heritage. Listen here, hilljacks: the libel is coming from inside the house. No one is stereotyping Southerners more than the Southerners who run on those stereotypes and get votes from them.

This, too, is exactly why Democrats write off Alabama. It’s hard, and it’s harsh, and it’s unfair on the nonwhite population or those precious few Caucasians who actually want better for their state. But this should be a layup. This should be a fish, a barrel and a smoking gun. Money has poured into this race, national help has poured into this race, everything that can be done has been done. Who knows, the Democratic Socialist purity flowers may even find a way to hold their nose and bubble in for Doug. This is throwing everything that can be thrown. If it doesn’t work now? If the bastard child of Boss Hogg and Yosemite Sam as sired out of the love scene in Deliverance can win through anyway? Then tell me exactly where the percentage is in throwing money into a Senate race in Alabama ever.

Win the districts you can until the VRA lines get redrawn. Maybe pour some of this money into trying to retake the state legislature and work your way up from there. But give up on turning it blue. Retake the Congress and the White House by other means and then use the power of the federal government to do for those who deserve it despite the state’s best efforts. You know, exactly as we’ve had to do for the last fifty years, and will have to do until every white person born before 1970 lies dead in the cold red dirt.

If you can Argo the other folks, do. Rescue the ones who deserve better. But forget about the Roy Moore voters. They deserve nothing less or more than the consequences of their actions, and I have better things to do with my life. You see that sign outside my house that says Captain Save-A-Neck? You know why you don’t see that sign? Because saving necks ain’t my fucking business any more.

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ghosts of christmas past, part 11 of n

Dashing through the stores, people every place

Up and down the aisles, sneezing in my face (achoo!)

There’s so much to choose, there’s so much to see

Wonder if what I got you cost more’n what you got me?

 

At Christmas in 1983 it was sixth-grade choir. We learned a number of songs and then found ourselves bused here or there to perform in December, one time at Western Hills Mall before it was written out of the pantheon of “acceptable white people shopping districts” in greater Birmingham. I remember the choke of the necktie, the pinch of the dress shoes, the discovery of the heretofore-unseen Discs of Tron standalone game in the mall’s arcade afterwards. And that Jingle Bells parody was, in fact, one of the songs we actually performed. And the bus rides to rehearsals, with that parody as the most popular song while other people chimed in with ripoffs of the Toys R Us jingle or similar, and a realization that something was happening.

 

Wrap your presents nice, pretty bows that shine

Take ‘em out to mail, gonna wait in line

Fight your way back home, and if you’re like me

Maybe by the twenty-fourth you’ll get to trim the tree!

 

I wasn’t in any sort of organized choir the next year, seventh grade, but I remember doing the same thing again somehow. This time I think it was Century Plaza, wearing more or less the same getup that I had sported as Chief Elf in my playwriting debut, “The Elves Go On Strike” – a Luddite celebration of anti-automation and industrial sabotage, in Alabama in 1984. (Never say the signs weren’t there.) And the van ride back, Duran Duran blasting as the girls all mockingly sang “Boys On Film,” and me more conscious than ever of…something. The obvious answer ought to be puberty, but that wasn’t it. It was the sort of moment that appears in memoirs as “when I realized I was gay,” but that isn’t it either. Just an awareness that there was a social structure here, and that I was on the outside of it – and for the first time, I was suddenly and acutely conscious of What That Meant.

I already knew I was different. I knew I didn’t have a hell of a lot of friends. I knew I was not exactly held in high esteem by most of my peers – awe at the freakish smarts and disgust at the smart freak, but not esteem – but leaking through in those Christmas seasons was the first ever realization that this might be turn into a problem for me sooner or later. That there were other things in life than just bringing home a report card full of A’s, and I had absolutely no idea how to do them. I had to learn to interact socially with people, and I had absolutely positively no idea how.

I learned. Slowly and painfully. I figured out that I had to sometimes just stop talking, swallow the point I had planned to make and let it go. I had to find things other people were interested in, which led to a decade of sports obsession out of nowhere. It took a long, long time, and if I’m honest it probably only really started to kick in at Vanderbilt, when I was thrust into a small clique that kind of had to take me in and willingly did so, and when I had the opportunity to hone my wit and repartee in a form that demanded cleverness at 70 words per minute and 33.6 Kbps minimum.

So now I can go out to one holiday party after another, with people I barely know, and I can find a way to hold my own. Find a hook, remember a name and a fact, spin a tale out of it or pull one out of someone else. Hop from pain management to the tax and finance issues around vertically integrated cannabis production to pedestrian tours and tales of band larceny, and in a pinch there’s always the ample ineptitude of American football, college or pro alike. I learned to finesse away that I must have met you at some point previously, it’s always nice to see you and not nice to meet you just in case, and years of trivia give me something to work with…

But it’s still a chore. It’s an effort. It’s something that I had to work at and struggle with and it doesn’t come easy at all, especially as I get older and ever more introvert, and it makes me wish I’d had this skill set in 1983 or 1984 or 1989. And it makes me ever more grateful for years like 1994 or 2006, when somehow I either magically had it or magically didn’t need it, and a glorious Christmas season just happened. But sometimes you can work your way into one too. I’m pulling for it.

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Final Impressions

“It’s too damn big. In every particular, it conveys SIZE like a Texas pickup with horns in the hood. I know intellectually it’s thinner than the Moto X, but it’s definitely taller and I suspect wider, with a top bevel that really doesn’t need to be that size…”

It’s too big. The bezels are gone, but they just stretched the screen awkwardly into them. And yes, there are UI conventions to try to work around it, but the swipe-down-on-the-bottom is far less reliable or responsive than the double-tap-the-home-button was to bring the top of the screen down, and having different swipe-down-from-top is incredibly awkward, and having the keyboard scooch itself to one side or the other is problematic even if the keyboard were reliably responsive and not the dog’s breakfast it’s been for several releases now.

No, my complaints of three years ago about the iPhone 6 are even more valid for a slightly larger device. The iPhone X is just too large to be anything but a two-handed phone. In that respect, Apple has clearly capitulated to our computing future: everyone is stuck with a two-handed phone at all times and you’d better have a jacket or a purse. I don’t like it, I don’t appreciate it, but then, it wasn’t my money and I still have the iPhone SE in a pinch. So get over that. What else?

Well, iOS 11 hasn’t shook the uncomfortable sense that Apple’s QA department all died in a tragic blimp accident. While it doesn’t have the gargantuan security nightmares of its Mac counterpart, iOS 11 is downright rickety in its UI choices (I still don’t get why the control center can’t just fucking turn off the Wi-Fi if I said so) and it’s still frequently easier to just turn Wi-Fi off altogether in favor of one bar of LTE, because it clings to bad Wi-Fi like a Demigorgon to a peripheral character’s face. FaceID works most of the time, except when the phone is laying on the table and you have to pick it up to look at it to unlock it or else tap in the whole code, neither of which was necessary with TouchID.

I alluded earlier to the fact that Beleagued Apple Computer presented itself as something like Mercedes or BMW, and that by the time they became Apple Inc they had become Volkswagen, and that now they’re aiming to be Tesla. And I think this exemplifies how they have done so. This new phone finally adopts a bunch of other tech other folks had, but does it in a sleek and sexy way, with superlative integration and flashy design and an absurd price tag and if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it. Meanwhile, Nokia and Motorola are over there grinding out perfectly serviceable devices for less than half the money (hell, Nokia just dropped a bare-Android smartphone for a hundred dollars at Best Buy. It’s practically an Android burner) if you’re willing to…

That’s the real trick, isn’t it? You either give your ecosystem over to the Beast of North Bayshore, or you pay through the nose to stay with Apple. The privacy of your personal data is now a luxury good. Sure, you can still get the iPhone SE for $350 and have a phone that doesn’t make you put your coffee down to use, but for how much longer (given its innards are two generations behind current now)? And with Tim Cook over there making nice to a Chinese government that has the kind of control over the Internet the FCC would love to give Comcast and the Baby Bell Twins, you have to ask if having your personal data vivisected for profit is just The Way We Live Now.

Anyway.

The other experiment is: if the phone is so damn big and unwieldy, can it actually be used in place of a Kindle or iPad? Well, I haven’t pulled the iPad out of its case since I got the iPhone X set up, and I can’t remember the last time I drew on the Kindle. The actual Kindle app for iPhone could use an update because it can’t take advantage of the whole screen, but even the iPhone 6-equivalent is slightly larger than what was available on the Moto X, and the combination of AMOLED and white text on black screen means I can read for an hour and only burn 5% of battery with no other remediative power solutions in play. So that’s nice, for what it’s worth. Only one device to carry. The downside is, when you’re down the pub and trying to read yourself out of the world for a while, your primary phone – with all its apps, and all its notifications, and all its empty promises – is not the best tool for the job.

Of which more later.

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Act Four

I first heard of Kentucky Route Zero in late 2012, as its latest trailer appeared online and suggested a radical shift in the nature of the game. While it had started out as some sort of side-scroller and turned into a point-click game, the fundamental story seems to be similar. It looked haunting and magical-realist and very atmospheric, for lack of a better word.

Act One of a planned five first appeared in early 2013, just as I was hitting rock bottom at work and experiencing the kind of existential despair I hadn’t felt in years. The game turned out to be just what I sensed, and just what I needed: not really a game so much as a meandering novelistic story that the player immerses into and shepherds along. Originally, all five acts were supposed to be done in 2013, but almost five years on, we’re only up to act IV, which came out in the summer of 2016.

Kentucky Route Zero is the story of a strange and mysterious sort-of-underground road and those who travel on it. It intersects with the normal world in a fairly surreal fashion, and as you continue, you go from playing one character to several. The first trailer described them as “lost souls” and that’s as good a sense as any; they all find themselves in circumstances and happenstances that are somewhat their own fault, somewhat not their fault, somewhat nobody’s fault. Things just sort of worked out this way.

By the fourth act, the action had moved to a river, rather than the eponymous road, like some kind of dark and vaguely ominous version of Huckleberry Finn. Act IV is the only one so far to take place entirely underground, and I found it more affecting than any of the three acts preceding, because…you’re always concealed. It’s always dark. There are places and people you see and meet, things as strangely diverse as a gas station or a research center or a tiki bar, all along this river in the caves. And this hit home hard with me a year ago, as I was sick of the world around me and sick of dodging the bikeholes of Palo Alto, and I found myself using the tunnels at work to go back and forth. And they were quiet, uncrowded, maybe warmer than I really needed, but along the way you’d find a side door into a taqueria. Or a rarely used restroom. Or, surprisingly, the basement lounge of a building with an open four-story atrium that was nonetheless frosted over so the light was never direct, with a vending machine and some comfortable chairs – the perfect place to escape in solitude, if not privacy.

KRZ is art not unlike Hopper’s Nighthawks – it evokes an emotional response for me, twangs a chord that I feel sympathetically in my bones. That need for not so much light, for feeling like you’re safely stashed away under the ground or under the fog or under the night sky. That sense of solitude even if you aren’t by yourself, and that even if there are a handful of other people around, you are let to go on your own way as they go on theirs. A moment to step out of the world, to get away from the claustrophobia of the crowd and the news and the creeping distant horror, something like a smoke break from reality. It’s something I hadn’t thought about for a long time, but which in retrospect I’ve craved and sought from the time I was six years old right on through undergrad and ultimately to work last year. Sometimes, you just need that five-space and five-time, you just need the universe to let you be for a moment and not think about it.

And so, into the laptop, and a drink at the Rum Colony before a long float down the river that ends up with a meal at Sam & Ida’s, and wondering what is to become of our lost souls now. It’s been years if not decades since I could say this of a video game, but…it’s a masterpiece.

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Perspective

In the last six months, I’ve been intermittently listening to a podcast my wife’s cousin recommended. It’s called Expat Sandwich, in which a woman called Marty Walker interviews one American living abroad in one country or another. And two things recur as a theme, no matter whether it’s France, Japan, Berlin or Antarctica: one, everyone misses Mexican food and can’t get any where they are. And two, after a while as an expat, you still don’t feel entirely at home in your foreign country, but now you feel out of place in America too.

When I arrived on campus at Vanderbilt, it felt like home on day one. I managed to screw that up. Northern Virginia was nice, but it took some time for me to feel like I fit in (in fairness, part of that could have been down to my disappearance and regeneration after my dad died). Northern California felt incredibly different when I first moved here, and once the chaos settled down, I got comfortable – 2006 might still be the best stem-to-stern calendar year of my life – but the recurring bouts with the black cloud have made it incredibly difficult not to feel out of place, made worse by the deterioration of Silly Con Valley over the last five years.

And then I heard this podcast, and something clicked. I’ve lived in my current address for longer than I’ve lived in any one place in my life since graduating high school. But from birth to age 22? I didn’t feel any less out of place than I do now. In fact, in some ways, it was worse. At least in California, I’ve had the experience for a couple of years of sort of feeling like I fit in before Silly Con Valley turned into 1986 Wall Street. I never fit in when I lived in Alabama, aside from a roughly two year stretch in high school (and only at high school).

So if I’ve always felt out of place…why?

“To betray, you must first belong. I never belonged.”
-Kim Philby

There is a whole world of the alternate South right now. A world limned by the Bitter Southerner and by Scalawag magazine. A world where college football is defined by the almost surreal stylings of Every Day Should Be Saturday rather than the illiterate howling of the Paul Finebaum Show. A world where “Southerner” isn’t always defined as “white” and where Atlanta is the city of Outkast and Migos instead of Gone With The Wind. One where Nashville is the It City and Birmingham a culinary Mecca on the way up.

And in theory and on paper, I should be ideally fitted for it. I grew up in Birmingham. I attended Vanderbilt. I was out there trying to be part of the alt-South before it was fashionable, before Billy Reid and Good People and hot chicken. And the thing is…it was never enough to pull me back. Still isn’t. When I look around Birmingham, I see a place that I wouldn’t have been sorry to be when I was twenty, if it were still the early 90s and we had a downtown ballpark and this huge public space and bike share and…the thing about this new South is that in a lot of ways, it’s getting stuff I already had in the DMV or have now in California. Yes, I could get all the same stuff down South now that I could get in Silicon Valley, bar light rail and decent tacos. But I can get all that stuff in Silicon Valley too, and not have to wade through Vols or Tide fans or the kind of people who would literally rather vote for a statutory rapist than a Democrat. No amount of gentrification seems like enough for me to work through the humidity, the institutionalized ignorance or the past. Time is supposed to bring growth and modernity, but down South, it just brought the necks more to hate.

I think it’s pretty easy to tell why I felt out of place in Alabama – because I was. From the time I was old enough to read above my age level, I was officially different, and that’s the worst thing you can be in Alabama. Recent events have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt just how messed up a place that state can be if you aren’t on the correct side, and despite having all the necessary markers – white, male, Southern Baptist (notionally), heterosexual and reasonably middle-class and thoroughly Crimson Tide – I was still different, and never mind how; different is all that mattered. I basically never had friends in the neighborhood, school was always ten miles away in another town, and huge chunks of my social life all the way through tenth grade were carried out mostly over the phone with the same two or three people. Most of the high school friends I made were all a year ahead of me, and when they graduated, I was adrift, but I figured college would take care of that. One biggest mistake of my life later, nope, and then you get to grad school for the wrong reasons, and this story is so old I’m sick of it myself.

So I guess there’s a question of when ever have I felt comfortable within myself – when have I been happy to be who I am and what I am? 1988-89. Maybe in 1994. Probably 2000-2006 inclusive. I was this close to coming to terms with who I am in 2016…and then the wheels came off the world. Now I just keep asking myself if this kind of despair, this kind of rage, this kind of uncertainly and fear of the future is normal. And the thing that kept bugging me over and over is that…I used to be interesting. I mean, when you go from a top-15 university to National Geographic to Apple, and Nashville to DC to NorCal, and you’ve driven cross-country twice and been to NYC and London and proposed to your wife in a TV star’s apartment and lived through blizzards and droughts and terrorism and have friends all over the country – after all that, it’s tough to go through a stretch where you don’t leave the US for years and you never even take your car out of state and you have the same mind-numbing job for six or seven years and all you get is more stress and more angst.

But..

We rented a Skoda Octavia in Ireland, with right-hand drive. If you get in the car like you would in America, you’re sitting on the passenger side instead of the driver’s. And there’s no pedals and no wheel, and when you look up at the mirror, you’re looking somewhere completely other and have no view of what’s behind you. You’re left with a completely different perspective and have to change the way you look at things.

And I look at 45. And I look in the mirror at the paunch beneath the fisherman’s sweater and the jowls below the tweed flat cap, and I look back at twenty years in Macintosh IT and its ancillary professions, and I look at things like my hybrid Chevrolet and my iPhone that are straight out of some futuristic fiction or maybe Popular Science in 1988 or so. And I think how comfortable I am at home in the recliner with a pint of something dark and a good book, or taking a leisurely drive up PCH, or being able to cuddle the same girl since 2001. And I reflect on being able to say that I remember when this happened 10, or 20, or 25 or 30 years ago.

Through no fault of my own – or creditable effort, if I’m honest – I’ve aged into being where I kind of wanted to be all along. The birth certificate is catching up with the soul. I don’t need to be 45 pretending I’m 25. I have the advantage now of distance and perspective, and the ability to appreciate what I outlasted. And not coincidentally, enough income to actually do the things we want to do, whether that’s London or Ireland or seeing long-lost friends. I still have problems with the geography of belonging – the constant exodus of friends and the bad energy around the Peninsula – but I’m remarkably close to being OK with me, myself, who I am, in a way I haven’t been for a long time. And that’s progress not to be dismissed or diminished. Now it’s just a question of holding the world in macro at a distance and acknowledging and fighting the horror without letting it diminish me in micro. Which is not a small undertaking, but it’s one worth trying for.

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flashback, part 88 of n

There wasn’t a whole lot to do in undergrad. I wasn’t old enough to get into bars, not that Birmingham had the greatest bar scene in the world in the early 1990s. I wasn’t in a fraternity, so I had no social life available to me through my college. I’d exhausted most of the amusement possibilities available to me in the greater Birmingham area during my high school years, so there wasn’t much available to explore that I hadn’t already seen enough of.

But there was one thing I could do which wasn’t available to me at home in high school. And that was the midnight movie. Matinee prices for a picture that started on or around 12 AM? Something to do late at night, something date-worthy and less expensive than it would otherwise be? Sign me up. The early 90s were the one time in my life where I actually went to the movies on a regular basis. I mean, think about it – there was no percentage in going back and forth to Blockbuster looking at the same tired selection again, not everyone had a VCR or cable or even a TV in the dorm room, and this was an era when Hollywood was able to turn out movies other than blockbuster adaptations of existing intellectual property or endless sequels. There was space in between the indie darlings and the Jurassic Parks and Dances With Wolves, where an assortment of romantic comedies and middling dramas and such sat in that $20-30M budget range.

I mean, look at the films that were number one at the box office for 1991: Sleeping With The Enemy. Silence Of The Lambs. What About Bob? City Slickers. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Naked Gun 2 1/2. Terminator 2. Hot Shots! Dead Again. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. The Fisher King. Hook. I saw every one of them in the theater. In fact, I saw 11 of the top 12 grossing films of 1991 in the theater (how did I miss on The Addams Family?) The more amazing thing, to me, is that I could drink one or even two of those 44 oz “Cobbster”-size sodas and then go back to the dorms and fall asleep.

That seems like the last gasp of another world. That was before I had internet access or a cell phone or even so much as a pager; I had an answering machine on my dorm phone which I could call and check messages (it wouldn’t pick up until the 4th ring if there were no messages, but it would pick up on the second if there were, thus saving you the quarter if you were calling from a pay phone) and if someone didn’t make the meeting point on time, you had no option but to wait around. Not that there was a lot of meeting; it was a rare occasion that anyone but just me and the girlfriend were going to the movies (or anywhere else for that matter). But then, when you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t really get you at all, which has to be maintained just so you won’t be completely alone, the best kind of date is one where you sit in the dark and don’t have to talk for two hours.

Maybe that explains why my wife and I never go to the movies much anymore. =)

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Ol’ Roy

I didn’t leave Alabama because of Roy Moore.

Ol’ Roy is of a type that should be familiar to anyone: he’s a televangelist. He’s an aspiring martyr without the balls to actually face death. The sort of whom a smarter and sharper Hank Williams Jr once sang “They want you to send your money to the Lord, but they give you their address.” He found a bulletproof hustle: the persecuted Christian in a state that’s fully half Baptist. Telling the veto majority that they are an oppressed few is always reliable grift for the holy rollers, and informs no small bit of how we got to where we are.

Ol’ Roy’s a troll. He specifically put up one Ten Commandments after another knowing he would be made to take it down, knowing that this was out of bounds to anyone with better than an eighth-grade-civics grasp of how church-and-state works, knowing that the rednecks would bay and howl to his benefit and he could use this to get rich and famous. And he did. He managed to get himself thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court twice – and the fact that he made it back to get thrown off the second time puts the lie to anyone who thinks Christianity persecuted in the least in this country – and then managed to get himself the Republican nomination for Senate, which is normally tantamount to election ever since 1996.

And then, the truth started to come out.

It’s not like this is the thing that disqualifies him from office. Roy Moore should have never been elected anything more responsible than head of the coffee club. I thought about saying “maybe deacon” but the news of the last week has made it pretty apparent that he never should have been placed in any position of power, by anyone, ever. I’ve been to Gadsden, more than I’d’ve liked, and I assure you I can absolutely see how such a thing could transpire there in the 1970s.

Here’s the thing: you could get a Roy Moore anywhere. There is nothing exceptionally Alabama about him, nothing that couldn’t have been bred in central California or South Boston or Idaho or Missouri. That’s not the thing that jumps out. What jumps out is the army of loyal zombies rising to his defense, saying not that he didn’t do it, but that even if he did, he didn’t do anything wrong. People making Biblical analogies which are either spectacularly blasphemous or else torpedo the fundamental understanding of Christianity at the waterline. Insane talk about how he never dated anyone without the mother’s permission. One thing after another that makes you grab your skull with both hands and scream “how in the chicken fried fuck do you think this is somehow a DEFENSE?”

But he’s on their side. No amount of sin is enough to make it worth cutting ties with someone on your side. The fact that they have a concept of “side” that is appalling at best and inhuman at worst makes no difference whatsoever. Maybe he’s a serial child diddler, but at least he’s not a Democrat. They don’t have an answer for it when you accuse them – when you ask exactly what part of God’s miracle plan involves groping a teenager, they hem and haw and try to work around it, but it’s not enough to make them disavow. It’s not even a question of “well I don’t want to vote for him, but the other guy is worse”, which in itself would be asinine. No, it’s “I don’t care, I still think he’s the best one to vote for.” It’s affirmative support of a crime and a sin, simply because that’s their team.

And that, dear friends, is why you will never find me with an Alabama address ever again, for the rest of my days. Because on December 12, you’ll get a precise count of just how many people in that state are willing to countenance the unspeakable for the sake of their side. And I’ll have that many reasons why my ashes will be going into the Pacific instead of the red red dirt of what was never really home.

Of which.

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To the box

It’s time. After over three and a half years, the Moto X is going to the memento box and its SIM will be repurposed in the iPhone SE, which has deftly filled the role the Moto X was originally intended for: compact travel phone and backup device. It’s getting increasingly difficult to turn the Moto off and on, it hasn’t had a security update since April 2016, and it wasn’t the most powerful phone in the world when it debuted four years ago (I remember more than one jibe about it being “pre-aged”). A device that wasn’t rocket-quick in 2013 and hasn’t been updated for a year and a half is no longer a broadly feasible device.

But it’s an existence proof that you could build a 4.7” AMOLED screen into a phone small enough to use one-handed and slap a 2000 mAh battery on it. Nobody has been able to do that since. And you could assemble it in the United States and sell it for under $350, tax tag and title. The camera wasn’t fabulous, and the battery life improvements that Android 5 was supposed to bring never quite came to pass, but it was proof of concept that you could make a phone with Android that put the user experience ahead of the stat sheet. It’s also the proof for me that Google will never succeed as a phone manufacturer, because if they couldn’t sell this, they won’t be able to sell anything.

I was last using the Moto X as a species of cosplay – a device that would do Swarm checkins and let me look at Instagram, read books on Kindle and stream RTE Radio in Irish or minor league baseball games. Something that I could use to get out of the world for a while. I suppose the iPhone SE could be that now, in a pinch, but it was nice to have a completely different UI to further the illusion. At this point, if I go down the pub and want to punch out, I’m actually a lot more likely to take the new little Nokia and an actual Kindle and maybe a Field Notes notebook and a pen for jotting down ideas. We crossed the finish line for phones in 2013, and I’m not convinced we didn’t cross the finish line for social media in about 2007 or so. Original Vox and early Twitter were just about sufficient (although I like Instagram – I think it’s a healthier environment for a 45 year old following friends than a 16 year old following celebrities, but that’s neither here nor there).

The iPhone SE is likely to be good for at least two more years, possibly three. If I just use it for the same purposes as the X, it should hold up to about 2021. I’m a little sad to be putting the X out to pasture, but not every good idea gets the reward it deserved. 

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