August 2012


I have to admit, I must be one of the, like, five people on this planet who found Clint Eastwood’s schtick yesterday to be kind of amusing.  And that even though I completely disagree with him politically.  Obviously, even the Republicans and the Romney campaign are busy running away from that incident like it was a bad sewage spill, so I’m in a tiny minority on this.

I think the reason why I enjoyed the empty chair conversation is precisely the same reason that everyone else considers it a mistake–the fact that it was off the cuff, unscripted.  The conventions–and politics in general–have become such a tightly controlled, artificial show.  This is probably why the parts of the Republican convention which got a positive reception–Ann Romney’s speech, the Romney promotional video–left me cold.  These were the moments which went exactly according to script.   Wasn’t there a time when conventions included brawls and fisticuffs on the convention floor?  If only we could go back to those days.  It would make for a lot better TV watching, at least.

Granted, debating an imaginary opponent will always make you look silly.  After all, you can put any words in their mouth…which Clint certainly did.  It’s easy to berate an invisible Obama.  As a supporter of the President, I can imagine he would have much more relevant responses if he were there in person.  I still thought the rambling conversation was pretty funny.  As far as the implied swearing, well, I can see why people would find it offensive.  I know the President doesn’t swear in public…but then again, I’m of the opinion that politicians, and the rest of us, would be a lot healthier if we would swear a little more often.

Maybe the problem is that a personality like Clint’s doesn’t fit into a setting like the convention, and maybe the people who invited him to participate should have known this.  The audience seemed to enjoy it, but these are the same people who enjoy being told that Medicare will be privatized, so the fact that I liked the same speech they did might just mean that I’m living in Crazytown too.

Whatever the case, I’m secretly hoping that at next week’s Democratic convention they will have Joy Behar or Oprah giving a stern chiding to an invisible Mitt in an empty chair.  Unfortunately, the Obama campaign is smarter than that.

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At about the same time that NASA was experiencing the triumph of landing Curiosity on the surface of Mars, there was a mini-disaster which took place at the Kennedy Space Center.  The Morpheus lander, meant to one day explore places like the Moon or a near-asteroid, crashed and burned a few seconds after it lifted off.  It was unmanned, so nobody got hurt, thankfully.  Something about the article caught my attention, though.  NASA had made the attempt to build a cheap lander.  According to the Associated Press, “the lander was built mostly with low-cost, off-the-shelf materials”.

Is this really what America is coming to?  Once upon a time, we were willing to spend money on great achievements, like sending Americans out into the universe.  Is this part of our new obsession with being fiscally conservative?  Let me give everyone a hint:  stuff made of cheap materials is never that good.  That’s why the slippers I buy at K-Mart usually fall apart after a few weeks.  Could we at least not be cheap when it comes to our space exploration?

It’s been amusing over the past few days to watch my friends–including my conservative friends–cheering for the landing on Mars.  Yes, this is what happens when our government is willing to invest a little more money (and yes, I’m aware this includes working with private contractors) and chase after great ambitions for this country.  NASA is also planning terrible government schemes such as finding better ways to monitor severe weather, studying the Earth’s radiation belts and the effects of microgravity, and possibly landing on that near-Earth asteroid (but not with Morpheus).

I just hope we stop laboring under the delusion that we can do these things on the cheap.  Thrift store sales can be good for a cute sweater sometimes…not so much for space.