Archive for November, 2009

Long-term Resident

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2009 by a4synapse

“this is just depressing”  When you’ve lived somewhere for a while (say 5 years), you accrete memories of ‘what happened here’ as you drive by.  I now pass several places (daily) where someone died violently.

18-year-old graduation party-hopper, whose SUV failed to negotiate the curve

17-year-old girl going somewhere in her mother’s SUV (she’d banged up her own the week prior) died when the SUV flipped on a straight road on a sunny spring morning; she wasn’t wearing a seat belt and died at the scene

middle-aged motorcyclist died at this intersection when someone simply wasn’t paying attention; no charges filed that I know of

middle-aged man in SUV kills two high-school students and seriously injures a third.  they crossed a six-lane highway just past the crest of a hill after dark; he’d had two glasses of wine.  he is prosecuted.

middle-aged business owner with a gun permit kills a woman over a minor traffic accident (or maybe he killed her boyfriend when they got into an argument, does it matter?)

the night shift manager at a fast-food outlet is murdered by someone; case not solved

middle-aged man fatally shoots his father at home

middle-aged man recently released from the mental hospital stabs his wife to death (or maybe he fatally stabbed his son, with his wife looking on, does it matter?)

two girls, drunk, driving too quickly in a cheap car, die when it fails to negotiate the curve

four teenagers, the driver with a penchant for going very fast, die when they ignore a stop sign and are t-boned; all except one are not wearing seatbelts and are thrown from the car, which stops inches away from a home

young, distraught man is run over by an SUV, which is never found.  no word if he survived

There are other incidents.  Why has this gotten itself engraved on my mental map of my town?  What does the long-term layering of this crap mean?  Part of this revolves around the dual mysteries of why these things happened and what happened afterward.  There is no resolution for most of these events.  So, there.



Posted in Uncategorized on November 11, 2009 by a4synapse

There has been a spate of stories about executions and life imprisonment this week.  The DC sniper died last night at the hands of the state.  I don’t believe there is a deterrence factor in the death sentence.  The death sentence is enormously expensive.  Life imprisonment is less expensive.  I believe the government should not sentence anyone to death.  It dehumanizes everyone, particularly prosecutors, juries, judges and prison personnel.

On another front, life imprisonment for anyone under the age of 18 should not be allowed.  As we learn more about the biological processes of becoming an adult, it becomes clearer that adolescent brains simply do not process information or make judgments in ways that the so-called adult brain makes them.  Imposing adult penalties on non-adult brains is wrong.

This is not to deny that young adults understand the difference between right and wrong.  Their decision-making differs materially from the brain that is ‘mature’.  The law simply must recognize this and look to rehabilitation rather than imprisonment.

I think there is such a thing as an ‘incorrigible offender’.  We don’t know enough right now to say that an adolescent is one.

Procrustes and His Bed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 11, 2009 by a4synapse

Nouriel Roubini has an interesting piece on the FT about shorting the dollar to invest in risky assets and etc., etc., here.

Currency speculation and derivatives, playing the spreads… it adds up to too much money chasing a return, which distorts asset values and creates bubbles.  That’s all fine, except that the underlying asset is often a necessity for a population or a business.  The distortion leads to destruction.

Mad Men and Quiet Flows the Don

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 10, 2009 by a4synapse

Season Three ended by going into a tunnel and: ‘is that the light or is it a train’?  Don has been insisting lately that everything is going to be ok, reassuring his wife in the wake of the Kennedy assassination.  He’s asserting his dominance (he’s a man of the world, she’s a Tarrytown housewife) and he seems to feel that in saying it, he’ll make it be true.  Sure.

Betts, however, has other ideas.  Don kept his past from her and he had good reason.  He told her that he never believed she could love him; he was proven right.  Now that she knows that Don Draper is an elaborate construct, she wants out.  She wants to be the sort of woman who has a fainting couch in her livingroom.  He was exactly right when he called her a main-line brat.  What’s amazing is that she has no idea who her husband is.  She was in love with the mystery.  He was in love with the package: gorgeous, immutable and ignorant.  He’s been uncomfortable with that for a long time, as evidenced by his string of mistresses, all very smart women, who were, at a minimum, in charge of themselves.  Betts is pissed that all of her life is an illusion; legitimacy is the sine qua non of her existence.  Wait ’til she finds out that Henry Francis is a flimsy reed.  He can’t help it: he’s merely answering the siren call of her screaming need.  She doesn’t get how amazing Dick Whitman is: bastard, raised in ignorance, violence and poverty.  He pulled himself out of it with luck, brilliance, elan and sheer will and she doesn’t give a rip about any of that.  Yes, he’s a bastard, but he’s acutely nice sometimes, and he always acts.  He’s still looking for a woman and he responds to intelligence in ways that makes my jaw drop.  He’s stuck though, these smart women he’s attracted to freak out when they discover the need he hides so well.  The only woman he truly seems comfortable with is the original Mrs. Don Draper, and there’s no chance of love there.

So all bets (Betts) are off.  They will divorce and she will marry Henry Francis and move into an even more upscale neighborhood and meet a better class of people and maybe even some people she likes.  She’ll find they’re just like the people she doesn’t like in her current neighborhood.  Her children will become even more difficult.  Sally is headed for real trouble.

One of the guilty pleasures of watching Mad Men is schadenfreude.  The viewer knows the cliff-edge they’re headed for and is watching them blissfully assume that everything will continue as it has.  Most of the characters, who, being in the ad-game think they’re clued-in, have no inkling of the changes to come.  I’m dying to see them introduce the Beatles next season.  They haven’t even mentioned James Bond.

Don rearranged all of his personal relationships in the finale.  He let Betty go; he reconciled with Roger and formed an alliance with Bert that has real possibilities.  He admitted that Pete might be, albeit a sleazeball, a creative sleazeball.  He sought a level playing ground with Peggy.  He shucked off the coil of Sterling Cooper and started a whole new thing.  He’s free now to rebuild.  As he headed into his new building, he looked like a twenty-year old kid, totally jazzed about the possibilities.  Can’t wait ’til next year.