I Am Surrounded by Democrats

I’m at Chuckanut Brewery tonight with the local Democrats waiting for the primary election returns to come in. Why Democrats? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

7:06: Your diarist rolls in with the silver Subaru sedan and a sign at the brewery says “Welcome Democrats.” Signs for all the local races are planted in the planters and put up on the walls of the beer garden. I go to get out and, at the last second, decide to remove the Gadston flag from my jacket’s lapel. It just seems like unnecessary provocation.

7:09: I say hello to Riley Sweeney, local lefty blogger and pretty good guy, considering. He tells me that the results are expected in after 8 and tells me he’ll introduce me to Matt Krogh, opponent of my landlord state rep Vincent Buys

7:25: Overheard: “Traditional marriage, yeah you and your two dogs and three goats.”

7:37: The bangers & mash that I ordered arrive and they are delicious. Not what I expected, but delicious.

7:41: Riley introduces me to Matt Krogh and says that I wrote about him in recently. “In what context?” Krogh asks. Reply: “I endorsed Vincent Buys.” He asks why I did that. I joke that my rent might have gone up otherwise. Riley explains that Buys is my landlord. Krogh says, apparently seriously “Well let me know if you want some help with rent control and to be able to endorse me.” I tell him I’ve got rent under control, but thanks.

7:56: Kevin Ranker, senator from the 40th district, steals a chair from my table and asks what I’m doing. “Liveblogging this for Patheos” I say. “Oh really, that’s great. Right on,” he says as he winks at an older female supporter. Also: Riley’s liveblog of the proceedings can be found here: http://sweeneypolitics.com/2012/08/07/primary-night-live-blog/

8:06: Live photoblogging!

8:09: Chuckanut is serving three beers, a brown, a scotch and a pilsner. Pilsner is clearly winning the beer primary.

8:14: Riley breaks out the early statewide results. Not a great night for Dems so far. We get to the Democratic lieutenant governor Brad Owen who clearly has it in a walk. I say, “Even I voted for Brad Owen.” Turns out he voted for a more liberal candidate. Interesting but no local results yet.

8:16: A cheer goes up for some race or another. One of the Dems celebrates the result: “Almost second!”

8:17: Results in the 40th are favoring Dems. They’re not doing as well in the 42nd.

8:20: But hey, it looks like the Ds will hold Norm Dicks’s old district around Tacoma.

8:26: I think the Whatcom County Auditor is fudging a bit, but if not then every single voter who voted for Buys also voted for seatmate Jason Overstreet and every single voter who voted against also voted for both of their opponents. They both lead 53.32 to 46.68 percent.

8:36: Somebody just texted me and asked if I would take a measure of the mood in the room. I would describe it as moderately convivial with a side of inebriated.

8:41: This reminds me, I need another drink.

8:46: While I’m in line for a beer, Riley announces to the crowd that somebody “got knocked out of the top two” and people cheer. On the way back to my seat, I ask him who got knocked out and he shakes a fist and says “Jim Kastema, the turncoat!”

8:49: This pilsner is not winning my personal beer primary.

8:54: Guy at my table says, “If Romney wins, I’m moving out of the country.” No he won’t.

8:55: Riley: “Inslee leads McKenna 46 to 42 suckas!”

9:00: A few Ds finally start playing pool. If the brewery had Foosball, this would be a much shorter blogpost. Also, the Dems would be weeping right now.

9:06: Krogh’s campaign manager is sitting at my table. “Why did you decide to manage this campaign,” I want to ask her.

9:16: Her name is Lauren and here is what she said: “I worked for Matt before and I really enjoy working for him and I believe in him. I think he’s a great candidate.”

9:20: Riley has the floor. He asks people to go to a Maria Cantwell fundraiser (she doesn’t need the money), the Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner and a chili cookoff. Beans, I say!

9:36: One big difference between Washington DC and Washington state — the good Washington, I call it — is that things wind down earlier here. I expect everybody will be out of here by 10:15 and I don’t want to be last man standing. So, goodnight all. It has been a fun evening.

If I Had a Hammock

You know, it’s possible I just managed to capture the whole of my politics in a single parody blog title.

The “hammer” of “If I Had a Hammer” was Pete Seeger’s 1949 tribute to those members of the Communist Party USA who were on trial for advocating the overthrow of the US government. Here are Peter, Paul and Mary performing the song once the politics had simmered a bit:

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My Higher Education Bubble

In this review of Glenn Reynolds’s The Higher Education Bubble, I had to slap my own hand every time the urge to write some of my own college experiences into it surfaced. There was just no way to do that and get it in under the word limit.

High school was a problem, you could say. It was so tedious it amounted to a prison. Upon turning 16, I informed my father that I was planning on exercising my legal right to drop out. Dad could tell I wasn’t bluffing. He asked me to hold off on that for 24 hours, went down the the school and brokered a deal with a guidance counselor whereby I could start going to college straight away.

I was a sophomore at Stadium High School, the location where the movie Ten Things I Hate About You was shot. For the next two-and-a-half years, your young diarist took advantage of Washington State’s Running Start program and went to Tacoma Community College. I graduated from both high school and community college in the same year, then spent a couple of aimless can-kicking years.

There are two stories I can point to to explain why I finally went back to college.

One, I took a temp job working in a flash freezing plant in Lynden. I spent 8 hours a day watching frozen fish fall into a box. For mental stimulation breaks, I would get somebody to spell me, go over to the wet part of the plant and use a wet-dry vac to vacuum fish scales off the gears of the conveyor belt. I had finally found something more tedious than high school.

Two, Grandma Bailey, who was obsessed that her descendants be college grads, suckered me into promising to get a four-year degree. (“Suckered” because I assumed that if I did what she dearly wanted, she would help me out a bit financially. Yeah, no such luck.)

I went to Trinity Western University just up over the border in British Columbia. For one semester, I lived in the campus dorms. Then I commuted, which was great fun when 9/11 rolled around. I got boxed into majoring in biblical studies, the value of which I will come back to in a minute.

The value of a college education to me at the time was that it gave me permission to fail as a writer. The first several years in the business are rough and most people rightly look at the long hard slog that it would take to make it and decide to do something else. I might have done the same but I could say to myself, “Hey, I’m still in college. This is the night job.”

That redounded to my long-term economic benefit and writing surely helped to pay the tuition bills. There was a lot of scraping and hustling, sure, but I managed to bankroll it as I went. My policy at the time, which Reynolds would surely approve of, was not one penny of debt. If I recall rightly, I delayed getting a credit card until after graduation.

The cash value of my degree has been a lot more than I assumed it would be. That’s mostly due to the fact that I did not put it toward its intended use. Biblical studies majors become pastors, translators or professors of biblical studies — after more schooling and more debt.

All of those jobs pay, on average, peanuts. However, they do assure me that the promised paradisaical pensions are out of this world.

The Blind Kid Did It

This is my favorite piece that friend and onetime roommate W. James “Jim” Antle III ever wrote for the American Spectator. It’s a remembrance of his friend Mike Kosior, who died unexpectedly last week at 38.

Mike was blind from birth. The two met while they both worked at a Boston-based marketing company. There, Jim learned a little about Mike’s story.

Mike’s parents had “insisted that he attend public schools with everyone else rather than be sent somewhere that specialized in teaching disabled children. He is believed to be the first blind student to attend his Tiverton, Rhode Island high school.” He also became the first blind graduate of Bryant College “in its 133-year history.”

It was a tough slog every inch of the way. It took Kosior a year to find a job out of college at a time when sighted people with degrees in computer information systems could pretty much write their own tickets. And his blindness was not his only infirmity. The genetic defect that made Mike blind also made him “profoundly hard of hearing.”

Mike would navigate the streets of Boston armed with nothing but his
trusty red-and-white cane. Jim once asked him why he didn’t get a seeing-eye dog. Mike replied, “It’s hard enough to get a job when you’re blind. Try bringing a [expletive] dog to the interview.”

Kosior eventually moved to Virginia, married, and adopted a child. He worked in the Pentagon, Quantico, and the Veteran’s Administration. He explained his career path to columnist Mark Patinkin. If the military would admit blind people, Mike said, “I’d have thrown on that uniform in a second. I love my country. A lot of people don’t realize what military folks do to sacrifice so we can be free.”

I saw Mike once, several years ago. He was with Jim in a Virginia Metro station. I’d never met Mike but I’d heard some of the stories and I thought, maybe I should go up and introduce myself. Just now, I wish I had. RIP.

Was It Something I Said?

Oh Royal Tannenbaum

Tonight I am going to a book reading/signing in Bellingham by Kaya Oakes, author most recently of Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church. This diary discussed the book Sunday in part to make things a little easier in case a review is in the offing, which is likely.

Being a reviewer is weird because of what it demands of you. You at least implicitly promise to give your honest, no-holds-barred opinion of the book to help give readers some idea if they should bother.

Too often, critics fail to be brutal when brutality is what’s called for. The reason is empathy. They think of all the effort that went into writing the book and they don’t want to dump all over that effort.

Empathy is not my problem. But I do see, from personal experience, why many book reviews have developed the general practice of trying to get book reviewers who don’t know the authors — or, at the very least, don’t know them well.

All ethical considerations aside, I try to avoid reviewing books by friends because I’d like to keep those friends. Otherwise, my existence might come to resemble one long reprise of that scene from the Royal Tannenbaums — the one where the kids make the mistake of asking Dear Old Dad what he thought of their play, and he tells them.

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Holy Hypocrisy, Batman

How many of you are excited about the new Batman movie this week? I’m getting there. Wasn’t sure I’d see the first showing but then I found myself Saturday night watching The Dark Knight in a friend’s backyard.

He has a whole projector set-up and so we disassembled it in his basement and put it back together outside. Slices of light that ran just over each side of the screen were finally stopped by a grove of evergreen trees in the background.

I hereby confidently predict that Dark Knight Rises will shatter the current sales record for opening day box office. The number to beat is just north of $91 million for the last Harry Potter flick. I’m guessing… $110 million.

This would be welcome news because Christopher Nolan is a big budget director who takes ideas seriously. That was obvious with Inception, but Dark Knight was no less of an idea driven movie, as I argued at the time in this Guardian piece.

The article, which pissed off a few cranky lefty Brits, made the case that the film was one long brief for hypocrisy. It got a little too bogged down with rehashing plot, so let me see if I can distill it for you here.

Hypocrisy derives from acting. The hypocrite pretends to be something that he is not, for the sake of projecting a certain appearance.

This can go a couple of ways. Some people pretend to be better than they are. We usually think of specifically these people as hypocrites. A smaller subset of people pretend to be worse. These people are also hypocrites but Mark Shea has suggested the term eupocrites (“good hypocrites”) as a way of distinguishing them. Both Batman and Bruce Wayne are eupocrites. Harvey Dent, when he is still a good guy, is a hypocrite.

The Joker is an anti-hypocrite. The dead serious purpose at the root of his murderous antics is to expose the polite contradictions that hold society together. And he thinks it’s worth burning all of the Gotham to the ground, if necessary, to do so.

There’s a lot more to the piece than that, so go read it, then see The Dark Knight, then get tickets for the new movie. For the midnight showing, if you want. I’ve just bought my tickets.