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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Yesterday, I donated my ninety-second pint of blood at Bloodworks Northwest (a name that is much cooler, and more quasi-gruesome than the previous “Puget Sound Blood Bank”).

Yep. 92 pints. That’s 11 ½ gallons.

That’s a lot of blood.

But I digress. (more…)

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Let’s have a discussion about Free Speech.

To begin, let’s go over the basics. The First Amendment does not give you or me the right to say whatever we want; our freedom of speech does have limits. Incitement to violence, threats of violence, and defamation are three of the very few exceptions to this freedom. Hate speech, though, actually is a protected form of speech, as Justice Brennan pointed out in a Texas v. Johnson, concerning flag burning:

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

Given this as a foundation, it is clear that the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and others of that racist ilk who descended upon Charlottesville last weekend had every right, under our Constitution, to assemble and spew their hate.

However…

They do not have a right to be heard.

They do not have a right to be accepted.

They do not have a right to an audience.

And they most certainly do not have a right to beat, assault, maim, or murder.

As a result…

They should expect to be shouted down at every turn of every street corner of every town.

They should expect to be shunned, ostracized, and condemned by every reasonable person who lives outside their twisted clans.

They should expect to be turned away, denied access, canceled on without notice, and prohibited any privately managed venue.

And they should expect to engender our disgust, and our retributive fury, for the crimes they commit.

Some people have tried to equate the two sides that faced off in Charlottesville, saying that there were violent acts from both factions. While we will never know who threw the first punch, we do know which side came with shields, torches, clubs, and guns. We do know which side surrounded a church and chanted Nazi slogans while the congregants were praying inside. And, of course, we do know which side drove a car, at speed, into a crowd.

I do not condone violence, but if I have to choose between the Nazis and the Maquis, between the Gestapo and the Jewish resistance, between the slavers and the slaves, I know which side I choose.

There is no moral equivalence between these two sides. None. And anyone who cannot see that deserves to be called out for it, shamed, castigated, and voted out of office.

k

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We have houseguests staying with us this week, which naturally reminded me of the time my girlfriend’s parents came to dinner.

Let me ‘splain.

As part of her new business, my wife is hosting a retreat for some of her colleagues. They are staying with us for the week, during which they’ll all confab and meditate and plan and strategize and bond as a team.

Since my direct involvement is neither required nor particularly useful, I offered to do two things:

  1. Do the cooking and washing up.
  2. Otherwise stay out of the way.

Regular readers know that I am an unabashed omnivore; my recipes are almost always omnivorous or “omnivore adjacent.” Knowing that, you can imagine my reaction when, after planning menus and making shopping lists, I learned that one of our guests is gluten-free and another is vegan:

DON’T PANIC

(more…)

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This coming weekend, my wife and I will celebrate our thirty-fourth wedding anniversary. Ours has been a good marriage which, despite our many flaws and foibles, despite our misjudgments both large and small, has been a source of strength and comfort to us both.

Oddly, though, we don’t have any traditions for celebrating our wedding anniversary. That’s not to say that we are tradition-averse; far from it. (more…)

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My holiday weekend was less than stellar, mostly because I was on-call and got several alerts on several nights during the wee hours. Grrr.

However, it was not without some good. One of the high points was a new game: Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games) which is available for the PS4 (currently on sale for about $40).

HZD is an open world, third-person POV, quest-structured game along the lines of the Far Cry or Elder Scrolls, but in my opinion HZD is far and away superior to those others and primarily for one single reason: the writing. (more…)

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While I’m working on something more meaty, here’s a bit of fun.

Like most people my age, I learned to type on a manual typewriter, an old Smith-Corona, to be precise. It was heavy — damned heavy — and came in its own nearly-as-heavy hard-sided case. It had a black-and-red ribbon that always got twisted, the keys continually got hooked onto one another, and after typing up an evening’s homework, my forearms ached from the physical exertion of pressing down the keys. That’s no exaggeration; it took some oomph to make those levers thwack with enough force to register through to the carbon copy.

What’s a carbon copy, you ask? Well, it’s a … nope, I don’t have time or space to explain it all. (more…)

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Despite its many advocates, I loathe brie.

Even so, every year or two, when the opportunity presents itself, I give it another try just to see if, somehow, my taste buds have changed and I now agree with the world at large.

To date, I still don’t like brie.

I was reminded of this today when discussing the relative value of spending $500 on a meal for two in a Michelin star restaurant.

My position was that, a few times in a life, it’s worth it.

My opponent took the position that, like getting kicked in the gonads, it’s not. His opinion was that, beyond a certain high-dollar threshold, you’re just showing off. In addition, he informed me that my statement was flatly false, as he’d had a few high-end meals during his life and, in each case, it was never worth the money.

He did not realize that he had just proved my point.

You see, if he had not experienced those few very expensive meals, he’d have had no basis on which to form an opinion (other than his own preconceived notions). This is the essence of prejudice: to condemn a priori a book you’ve never read, a movie you’ve never seen, a meal you’ve never tasted, a person you’ve never met.

For my part, I’ve had three very expensive meals in my life.

The least enjoyable was at Morton’s, a high-end steak house here in Seattle. The most enjoyable was a fantastic meal with a great family of friends at Canlis (also here in Seattle). The most memorable was at the restaurant in the World Trade Club, located (when the WTC was still a thing) in the Ferry Building along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

Were these meals worth the price these high-end restaurants charged? I mean, was the food, the preparation, the presentation, the service, and the atmosphere all worth the money paid?

No (though Canlis came damned close).

Were the experiences worth the price? Meaning, was the meal plus the company, the occasion, the conversation, and the memories gained worth the price?

Without question: Yes.

As a result of each experience, I gained something. After each meal, I knew more about what to expect from high-end dining. I had new anecdotes with which I could entertain, edify, inform. Most importantly, I now have real-life data on which to build an informed opinion. Just as, years ago, I gained first-hand knowledge that allows me to judge whether something is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, I now have first-hand knowledge of fancy-schmancy dining.

Would I spend that kind of money regularly? Fat chance.

Would I spend that kind of money on a meal in the future? Count on it.

Just as with my ongoing litigation of Brie vs. My Taste Buds, I think some experiences are worth the indulgence a few times in our lives. For me, I like to see exactly what all the shouting is about so that I might determine for myself whether or not I agree with the world at large.

Aside from the thing paid for, there’s the experience of the thing.

That is where I find value.

k

PS. Full disclosure: I was a guest at both Canlis and the WTC, and had a gift card that covered part of the bill for Morton’s. (I’m a fairly tight-fisted old fart.) I did, however, see the menus, and was aware of how much the meals cost.

 

 

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