why proposition 8 bothers me

i support the fight for gay marriage rights, though i have little stake in the issue as a straight man. but proposition 8 bothers me for reasons that are only incidentally tied to gay marriage.

our constitutions, both federal and state have what are called “equity clauses”, which generically grant equal rights to all citizens of country and state in the eyes of law. but proposition 8 has to this point proven that the equity clause holds no true power. i believe that this should be cause for alarm for all americans, and i expect at some point the equity clause will have to come under very public scrutiny.

i think it is safe to make a small assumption here, that when this country and it’s states were being founded and constitutions were being written, civil rights for gay people were probably never even considered. i don’t think it would be fair to blame the current situation on a lack of foresight by our early-era lawmakers, and it is also unfair to judge a previous society by the values we hold today.

in any matter of civil rights, it should be a simple matter of citing the equity clause and moving on. the state, in effect, is claiming willful agnosticism toward the the little quirks that make us think we are all different from each other such as race, gender, religion, income, sexual preference, etc. there should be no mechanism in our system that should allow for debate over who should or shouldn’t have a right that is expressly granted to all. 

yet proposition 8 has shown that the people can initiate and vote in laws to do just that. this is a problem.  in american law, precedent can be a very powerful thing, affecting decisions in the future. essentially, proposition 8 makes the equity clause state that, “all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law, except…”, in this case gay people seeking the right to marry.

but now that precedent is set, it is a small stretch to imagine the people, and by people i mean well-funded special interest groups, passing laws that wind back other civil rights issues under the argument that proposition 8 set the precedent that the equity clause can either be amended, or holds no actual power under legislation.

suddenly no social group has any reason to assume that their constitutional rights will be protected in perpetuity.

the equity clause is one of the simplest statements in american law, and yet probably the most powerful and far-reaching. i also believe it is a rare all-or-nothing concept. by altering it for something as ultimately trivial as gay marriage, we are opening the door for things that may be much more damaging in the future.

despite propaganda since 9/11 that insists the constitution is a majestically perfect political document, and to criticize it is an act of treason, at some point we will have to examine the constitution and determine whether it is still valid in our modern social context. it is obvious that if the foundation of our constitution can be altered so easily that it simply isn’t as perfect as we are told.


in defense of idealism

2. philosophical process of representing things in an ideal form, or as they might or should be rather than as they are, with emphasis on values.

i get told all the time when i’m talking to my friends about politics or economics that “that will never happen” or “that’s not how things are” because i am such a staunch idealist. i think because i am also an optimist that they mistake the two.

not all optimists are idealists, and not all idealists are optimists. there is a big difference between optimism and idealism, primarily that optimism is a passive personality trait, while idealism is a philosophical stance that an individual takes based on a value judgement.

my experience is that most other intellectuals consider my ideals unrealistic, quaint, and definitely not pragmatic. they don’t understand how it is possible to take a philosophical stance that is impossible at worst, and extremely unlikely at best.

my response to that is a method that i learned in graphic design classes. when designing for a client, it is necessary to push an idea as far out as possible, because it is inevitable that you will have to compromise and bring it back closer to the middle.

pushing ideals is no different. the idealist knows that the ideas are unattainable, but in the knowledge that compromise is necessary, we push that much harder in hopes that the compromise will be as close to our ideals as possible.

like all other intellectual positions, idealist positions are a necessary part of the argument. without them, the inevitable compromise is a little more empty than it would have been before.

why aren’t you a genius?

your brain is like a computer that is constantly receiving input and broadcasting output. the value of the input and output is determined largely by your vocabulary, or the number of words you understand. if your vocabulary is small, then the value of input is largely decreased because you probably don’t understand what you are receiving. also, if you have a small vocabulary the quality of your output is going to suffer greatly as well.

it is widely accepted that vocabulary is directly tied to intelligence. the larger your functional vocabulary is, the more intelligent you are likely to be because the understanding of linguistic context is embedded in how we define words. if you didn’t understand that sentence my point has been made.

genius, however, is a different sack of nuts altogether. contrary to popular belief, genius is not about how intelligent you are, but the connections you are able to make between situations that may appear to be unrelated. for example, developing an understanding of international social dynamics through your world of warcraft addiction is a connection that would not be readily apparent.

the individuals that are able to make these connections frequently, and use them to the benefit of themselves or humanity, are what history will refer to as geniuses. the question then becomes, do you have to be born a genius or is it something that can be developed.

i don’t have the answer to the question, but it is my suspicion that genius can be developed through an the application of philosophical processes and associative thinking. some people do this better than others. my mind has a tendency to wander from subject to subject looking for the connections between them, usually in the interest of making a joke that nobody will understand, and therefore make me look like a weirdo.

other people may have to work at it harder. it might have to feel like work, which is why so few people probably consciously make the effort, which is why we have come to believe that a genius must be born.

the ultimate question is now, though, that if you think genius can be actively developed, are you in some way morally or intellectually responsible to apply your own brain to making the connection of genius that will one day be regarded from the pages of history?

losing gracefully & defeating cynicism

“i didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and i hope he does a good job”. i believe these were the words of john wayne after the election of president kennedy. it is a farfetched hope to think that you might hear something like that coming out of a mccain supporter’s mouth today.

what I witnessed today was extremely indicative of the political atmosphere we live in. for eight years we have been dealing with the bush idiocracy, which has been an eternity for those of us who haven’t supported him from the beginning. it has had a particularly strong effect on young voters, say those under the age of 24, who probably don’t remember the political climate of any president before bush. to them this is just the way politics are.

the horrible blunders, the propaganda, and the partisan fighting during the bush administration have resulted in extreme political cynicism on both sides of the fence. i suspect that had mccain won the race that obama supporters would be angry and dejected; taking a hard fall from the heights that hope had lifted them up to. however, i will go out on a limb and say that the elation that obama supporters felt when his victory was announced could never have been equaled by mccain supporters had he won.

reading facebook comments, notes and status updates showed me how deeply cynical, hateful, and ignorant some people are. many people declairing that they are leaving the country, or obama is going to run america into the ground, and it’s the beginning of the end.

we have turned into an all-or-nothing kind of country. you are either a far-left ultra-liberal, or you are a right-wing nutjob. and it seems that the only way to regard political candidates is either that the one you support is the ultimate patriot, carrying our flag riddled with bullet holes directly to the enemy’s doorstep and then beating them to within an inch of their lives with the flagpole, or the one you don’t support spends their time sitting in dark, smoky rooms plotting the downfall of our nation.

this just doesn’t make any damn sense. all of our candidates, even ralph nader, are men who love their country. i may not have supported john mccain, but i would never question his love for his country – although i have my doubts about sarah palin and her evil cyborg husband. look for him playing a machine on the sarah connor chronicles later this winter.

we have to move beyond the deep cynicism that the bush administration has gifted us with and learn to support our president and hope he does a good job, even if we didn’t vote for him. not just in this election, but in every election, do we have to consider the future of our country. this isn’t college football rivalries, or counter strike matches, it is the future of our nation, and we must move forward with the hope that all of our elected officials will do the best job they can, even if we didn’t vote for them.

and then watch with glee on the daily show when the sex scandals are revealed.

space after periods.

typewriter keys

as a graphic designer, typography is a big part of my life. it’s easy to sit for hours with a piece of printed material and just look at letterforms, not really reading anything. typography is an underappreciate, and many type scholars would say a lost, and i would say ignored, art-form. i’m sure that never in the history of the general public has anybody stopped to make a remark about the beautiful stroke weight of a letter in garamond. most people just don’t pay that much attention. which is why the job of the typesetter is so important. in a way, you want the results of your handiwork to remain invisible, or at least taken for granted, because you want it to work subtley, subconsciously, to communicate your idea.

with all that in mind, this writing has very little to do with the art of typography, and more to do with my number one pet peave with set type: the extra space after a period at the beginning of a sentence.

it is a holdover from the day of the typewriter. i don’t know if many of you remember typewriters, but despite the mechanical brilliance they were not very smart machines. even i barely remember typewriters. when i was in high school we had electronic word processors for a semester before we moved up to computers for our typing class. i kind of miss the opportunity to actually spend some time working on one of those old beasts where you had to push a key down like six inches to type a letter. i would appreciate my super low-profile mac keyboard a whole lot more, like i appreciate my acoustic guitar so much more after playing my dad’s acoustic because the action on my strings is much lower and a lot more manageable.

but seriously, stop putting an extra space after your periods when you end a sentence! we are no longer using big, clunky, dumb typewriters. the computer spaces things correctly for us. i spend way too much of my life combing through copy for publications removing all those extra spaces. thank goodness for visible hidden characters in indesign!

what i don’t understand about politics

i was watching the news today, and there was a story about the recent interviews that evangelical pastor rick warren had with presidential candidates john mccain and barack obama, and the whole thing left me profoundly frustrated.

before i go further, you have to understand that there are two types of conservatives with very different goals. one group are the moral conservatives, mostly what we call evangelicals, that think we need to legislate morality back into the fabric of our society. the other group are fiscal conservatives, business (wo)men mostly, that are primarily concerned with money; making all of it, if they can.

the evangelical vote has become extremely powerful in this country over the last twenty years, and particularly since 9/11, due to some powerful grassroots campaigning in the bible belt of america, kansas in particular, where one of the most passionate local conservative political groups is located. if you want to know more about conservatives in kansas, read this book. it’s a good one.

i don’t have a problem with the cultural conservative platform, that of needing to bring back morality to our culture, because we are failing in a lot of ways. however, i do disagree with the idea that legislation, or participating in government at all is how it should be done. however, that’s not really what i’m here to talk about.

the thing that doesn’t make sense to me is that evangelicals are electing people that are hurting them just because they talk a good game. in the interview with mr. warren, when asked about what we do with evil in the world john mccain says, “defeat it”. and the crowd goes wild. i wish he would have added to the end of that, “and while we have you thinking we’re trying to defeat evil, me and my business buddies are going to bleed every red penny we can from you”.

it is really very simple. if you look at the people that most political conservatives (republicans if we’re naming names) are associated with, they are either extremely rich or they are involved in large corporations. big business. the people that really control this country. most economic legislation that conservatives support is designed to keep more money in the pocket of big business, so the ones left to pick up the economic slack are the middle-class and the poor.

if you’re smart, you’re starting to make the connection here. conservative politicians are manipulating the emotions of evangelical christians to get elected, and then when they are in office they are passing legislation that is hurting the very people that put them in office.

need evidence? look at our economy. since president bush has been elected things have been in steady decline. our housing market crashed because banks were allowed to give unstable loans to people that couldn’t pay for the consequences of their trust and ignorance. i guarantee the decision-makers in those institutions are republicans. there are many examples, many that i’m not even aware of, but you get my point. and i know someone is going to argue that we were headed into recession before bush got elected, and i’m going preemptively call bullshit on that because we had a generous surplus, which bush spent in days on his pet war. do the research.

ultimately public education is to blame. not public schools, but the education of the public about things that happen in the world that they don’t tell you about in school. evangelical voters want the world to be a better place, and i can’t blame them for trying to use the system we have in place to try and achieve that. but they can’t see that the wool is being pulled over their eyes and they are being manipulated into signing their own warrants.

my question to evangelicals: what have they done for you? is abortion illegal? gay marriage is continuing to gain momentum. god is not back in schools. yet many of you are struggling with debt. your children are having to opt for the military hoping to get college money, and they are going off to die in an unjustified war. some of you may be homeless. and we are becoming slaves to high gas prices.

its time for evangelicals to wake up and realize that the republican party does not have their best interests at heart. politics has never been about morality or culture. politics are about money. if you aren’t voting for the people that have your best economic interests at heart, you are failing.

what’s happening?

i’ve never been a big fan of m. night shyamalan’s movies, though i’ve always been impressed with his name. i called the sixth sense early on, signs had some heart but no guts, the village and lady in the water were picturesque but predictable, and the happening kills itself with an anticlimactic dead end. i liked unbreakable though.

the popcorn crunching movie-goer in me resists shyamalan’s movies with strong conviction. i didn’t even finish my soda at the happening, which is extremely rare for me. but as an artist i have an appreciation for what shyamalan is trying to do. trying is they key word though. finishing one of his movies feels very similar to being back in art school for critique day. too often in art school you are left let down, and yet appreciative of what an artist is trying to achieve. i would buy shyamalan a round or two, but i wouldn’t buy one of his paintings.

i think the problem is that m. night shyamalan is given too much money to work with. most often i find that i am most creative, and produce my best work, when i’m lacking resources because i have a reason to fight for artistic vision in the face of adversity. shyamalan needs to step away from hollywood for a while and produce the kind of films that truly communicate his vision without the hollywood nonsense that gets in the way. those are the kinds of films that great actors beg to be in, and aspiring actors and filmmakers cite and discuss for decades to come.