Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Political Theories

Here's my theory: Donald Trump got into the race as a lark, a marketing gimmick.

A lot of people have that theory. And of course he did better than expected, which was great for marketing and then people started effusively praising him which was great for his ego.

But now he's the presumptive Republican candidate and he has a problem. In the general election, he will either a) lose and become a "loser" like Romney and Bob Dole and that loser John McCain who allowed himself to be captured during war; or b) become president, a position that must look more daunting and hard to wrap your head around the closer you get to it.

Yes, I think Trump still doesn't actually want to be president. I mean, I'm sure he'd like to be president the way I would: be president for a day, with a congress that goes along with everything I say, pass three laws of meaning to me and then step down. But four years of actual presidency? And Trump doesn't like the GOP establishment, the kind of people who could actually supply him with cabinet secretaries and advisors to actually help him.

So here's the theory as of today. Trump doesn't want to be president and he's purposefully flaming out to try to avoid becoming the GOP candidate. Thus the remarks about impartial judges recently. He's trying to get fired before the GOP convention.

Here's another theory: if Trump is the GOP candidate, he will not win, but there could be a lot of trouble for Democrats in the near future.

I know that people say that Trump would motivate a Democratic base to vote down ballot for senators and representatives, but the other part of this is the GOP money machine. If Trump is the candidate, the Kochs and others will fund the billions of dollars they had ear-marked for this year into races for state houses and mayors and city councils. Those races don't make the news and people will be much more easily swayed by advertising dollars.

The problem then is that there will be incumbents leading up to 2020 and the next census. Then those state houses will redraw congressional districts and make more safe GOP seats meaning more extreme candidates from the right.

So, for the record, those are my theories of the moment. I hope some of them are wrong.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Why I Don't Love Captain America: Civil War

I took the kids (and some of their friends) to see Captain America: Civil War at 10:30am on Saturday morning the day after in opened. In other words, we have bought into the Disney/Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big way. (In contrast, when my son went to see Batman v Superman and asked if I wanted to come with, I passed.)

So, you think to yourself, the new Captain America movie didn't live up to your high expectations?

And the answer is no, I think it was quite good.

The trouble is, I came out of the theater feeling a bit assaulted (lots of punching -- superpunching) and, well, I couldn't quite remember what had just happened. I remember some great fight scenes, and some dramatic revelations, I loved the new characters introduced and I enjoyed seeing older characters again.

It took me a week, but I figured out what is bothering me: it's not a comic book.

Watching the movie reminded me of when I was 14 and collecting comics. My best friend Marcus was an X-men and Marvel collector and I was a Teen Titans/Justice League, DC collector. What allowed us to function this way was that I would go over to his house and read the latest Daredevil, or he would come to my house and see what was up with The Vigilante.

Every once in a while, there was a storyline that couldn't wait. We would sit in the mall outside the convenience store -- or sit on the subway home from the comic book store -- and open up the latest issue of the Judas Contract or Secret Wars and read it together. That first pass was just about inhaling plot, flipping those pages as fast as possible to get to the end of the issue before looking up at each other in amazement. Did that just happen?!

That's how the new Captain America movie felt -- did that just happen?!

But here's the thing about comic books: After that first quick pass, I would re-read the comic, reviewing the dialogue but also just devouring each panel with my eyes. The backgrounds, the facial features, the weird stylized illustration of a "Boom tube," the careful italicization of a single word in a dense Claremont word balloon... There was just so much to absorb.

Civil War was great and there was a lot to digest and I don't feel like I have fully absorbed it yet. I want to pore over sequences that happened quickly and think about characters and composition.

You may suppose that what I want is to watch the movie again, or to get a DVD that I could advance frame by frame.

Nah, I just want my son to be old enough that we could sit and have a soda and discuss the movie from beginning to end. He's almost there but he still gets a bit hung up on applying real science to these fantasies, and he's still more interested in spectacle than character. But he's getting there.

It's going to be great watching Avengers: Infinity War with him. Can't wait.

Monday, May 09, 2016


It’s only natural in an election year, to think about what kind of person you would like to be the President of the United States or POTUS.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the declared candidates -- or even politicians we might want to draft into the race -- I’m talking about pure speculation. What sort of person -- with what sort of experiences -- would make a great president?

In this age where we are all more globally connected and yet wary of even our closest neighbors, I would want as president someone who has spent significant time overseas. Not as a tourist -- someone who has lived overseas in an apartment, not a hotel. Someone who has the ability to consider the United States from a foreign perspective.

Ideally, the foreign experience would take place in an Islamic country, so my POTUS would have a personal sense of the culture that so many Americans fear right now. Perhaps this sort of perspective would temper or at least inform decisions to start wars, or to use drones as killing machines. I think it can be hard for some people to understand how large the United States looms in the politics and economics of every other nation on earth, but a POTUS who has lived as an ex-patriate might not have that blindspot.

Of course, my ideal POTUS would have real, hands-on experience in the United States. How about a POTUS who began life as a social worker? Or nurse? Or parole officer? Someone who dealt with people of every income and learned about the problems people face when one sick child or car accident or dumb mistake seems to lead inexorably toward bankruptcy or incarceration. And on the positive side, my POTUS would have worked through a local government system and could spot flaws and inefficiencies to be corrected while also recognizing higher purposes and successes that could be replicated.

Domestic policy as designed by a social service employee could be amazing. Access to health care and some way to control costs would be a priority, of course. But just working in a social service agency would encourage my POTUS to seek new ideas, perhaps pushing Judge Brandeis’ formulation of states being laboratories of democracy, into making states laboratories of social policy or education reform, or any manner domestic innovations.

Remember that hypothetical graduation speech by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich? Sure you do -- people mistakenly credited it to Kurt Vonnegut and someone else made it into a song “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”? My ideal POTUS would follow the advice she gave: Live in New York City for a while, but leave before it makes you hard, and live in California but leave before it makes you soft. In fact, it would be great if my ideal POTUS was not identified with just one state or region of the country, but could claim both a big city and a small state as “home.” Just as living abroad would help my POTUS internationally, a sense of the many regional and state differences within this country would help my POTUS connect with people all over this extremely diverse nation.

I think it’s important that my POTUS is a parent, or if not, have strong relationships with the next generation. This bond could be with sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, much younger siblings, or a best friend’s children. The point being, while Representatives in the House may work hard to insure their next two-year term, the POTUS should be looking beyond four, or even eight years, and make investments at a generational scale, the way Eisenhower did with the highway system and Kennedy did with the space program.

In the heat of this primary season, there are Republicans saying they would never vote for Trump -- or Cruz, and Bernie supporters who say they would never vote for Hillary or vice versa.

To which I say: It’s great that you found a candidate whose ideas and leadership you admire, and more power to you. But when it comes down to politics, things are too messy to throw away your vote because you didn’t get your ideal candidate.

My own POTUS wishlist is somewhat improbable except for the fact that our current president, fulfils all of my criteria. President Obama lived abroad in Indonesia, a majority Muslim nation, went to college in California and New York City, and calls both Hawaii and Chicago his home. He worked in social services and is a family man.

Obama would seem to be my ideal POTUS, and, for the most part, I’ve admired his presidency. However, he has made a number of choices that I’ve personally disagreed with. And of course that’s true: He has different information than I do and has politics and legacy to wrestle with. Also, he’s not me.

It’s easy to get caught up conjuring up an ideal POTUS, but we’ll probably each be happier -- and ultimately advance our own political causes -- if we can accept that real-life candidates are never exactly what we want.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February 2016

So what's been going on at Zervas?

I took these two photos from Beacon Street on January 29th. The school looks a bit different because the 4th grade classrooms of Mr Bergquist and Mr West are gone!

 This shot from February 3rd shows the back side of the school. I'm not sure but I think they are starting on the foundation of the new building here. It's amazing how rich and dark that soil looks. No doubt because Zervas borders Cold Spring Park and wetlands where lots of leaves grow, fall and rot.

Also from February 3rd, this is the front of the school with the decorative stone facing removed, along with the name Frank Zervas School. That pole, by the way, is the support for the Time Lapse Camera.

Here's a photo from February 4th showing the wreckage of the "big kids playground." Someone told me it cost the PTO $15,000 to put up less than 10 years ago. If you're wondering where it will be reused, I was told that they cannot reuse this and it will go to landfill.

From February 8, this is a photo showing Ms Aiken's classroom, sort of. I've been taking photos with my iPhone so there are limits to what I can get, unfortunately. I've tried and failed to get a photo of a mini-cat machine inside the school crunching up furniture and walls and shoving it out the doors to be scooped into dumpsters.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Time lapse construction camera

For a less verbal, aerial view of the Zervas (de) construction, here's a link to the Zervas construction cam. Cool! No comments about wallball, however.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

End of January 2016

Work on the dismantling of Zervas continues. 

From January 23, a shot of the playground equipment with swings removed. This photo is looking west from Cold Spring Park and the building behind the swing set is the modular at the end of the Kindergarten hall (you can see the original brick building on the right edge of this photo).

Here are two photos from January 27. The first shows men removing material from the roof of the building. There may be asbestos or some such because they wrapped all the material in plastic (and wore hazmat type suits) before hauling it away.

This shot from the 27th shows how much of the roof they've taken off of 1338 Beacon Street, a former home with dentist office which was one of three that the city bought to expand the Zervas lot. (1330 Beacon is shown behind and 1316 is not visible.)

This photo from today, January 28, shows that they've removed the modular room that extended past the kindergarten hallway which was in the first photo of this post. That modular was less than five years old and covered up what the kids considered the "handball" wall. Well kids, the wall is back! (Don't climb into the construction area to play, please.)

Saturday, January 09, 2016

New sight lines

Well, maybe someone is reading this blog or (more likely) they were planning on cutting holes in the fence in the first place. In any case, as you can see, there are now easier sight lines between Beethoven and Beacon. 

Meanwhile, here's a view from Cold Spring Park showing how the fence is closed off from that side.