Things That Make You Go, "Huh?"

Karl Rove recently gave a commencement speech at George Washington University’s graduate school of political management. He asserted, “There are practitioners of politics who hold that voters are dumb, ill-informed and easily misled, that voters can be manipulated by a clever ad or smart money,” [but] “It’s wrong to underestimate the intelligence of the American voter.” Rove went on to describe voters as swayed more by instinct than by the nuances of legislative proposals or candidates’ position papers. And finally he said, “The American people are not policy wonks. But they have great instincts and they try to do the right thing.”

There are three pretty brain-scratching implications here. First, if he trusts the instincts of voters, and if opinion polls are reasonably reflective of results if issues were put to a vote, then his boss would be out of a job. In fact, he never would have been elected in the first place. Further, abortion would be uncontestably legal, stem cell research would be funded, and we would be withdrawing from Iraq. So clearly this is just pandering. He’s not actually saying the voters wishes should be respected and honored. Just that we should think he thinks we’re a bright lot so that we’ll vote for his guys in November. And I can’t possibly be alone in seeing the irony of appealing to voters intellectual egos to create an instinctual bond to a position which defies intelligent reasoning. Apparently he thinks we’re dumb after all.

Second, there is the outright contradiction of saying voters are “swayed more by instinct” while saying their intelligence should not be underestimated. Not that instinct doesn’t play a role in intelligence, but the chess club isn’t full of folks renowned for their great instincts.

Third, there is the irony that Rove has made a career out of manipulating voters. He is the master of the clever ad, the smart money, and appealing to the heart-string issues. His speech basically offers his strategy. Appeal to their instincts and their hearts will lead them places their minds would refuse to go. And apparently a little positive reinforcement along the way is good for soothing egos. If you manage to get people to do what you want, then telling them they’re smart little voters for doing it seems a pretty rational strategy to keep them coming your way.

The true pity is I would like to be outraged and disgusted by Rove. But I think he’s pretty much on the mark. Voters do ignore policy issues in favor of instincts. Emotion plays way more of a role in politics than reason does. But while people act that way, no one wants to hear it. They all want to think they are smart cookies making rational choices. Marketing 101. In honor of Karl, perhaps we could all bleat like a sheep on our way into the voting booths in November.


Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

The other evening I made an attempt to see the new Superman movie with the boys. Simply getting into the theater was a tad more arduous than I expected. I approached the ticket window with both boys where we were the only ones in line. I asked for three to see Superman. The price she quoteed seemed a little low, but I assumed we must still be at matinee pricing as it’s a 6:30 show. I payed, and she handed me two tickets. I asked about the third and she looked genuinely surprised that the three people standing in front of her booth would want a third ticket.

In looking at what’s in my hand, she has already sold me one adult and one child ticket. Now she’s going to sell me a second child ticket. So I pay for it, but I can’t help wondering what she had in mind. That one of the kids was just walking Dad and brother to the theater before going off on his own for a couple of hours?

That behind us, we proceed into the theater where we’re instructed to go to theater 10. But when we get there, theater 10 is not showing Superman. It’s showing My Super Ex-Girlfriend. I guess all “super” movies are equivalent. In checking the tickets again, I notice that she actually sold us tickets to Super-Ex. Then, as we’re looking for the right theater to be in, we meet a couple who also is holding Super-Ex tickets and looking for the Superman theater.

At this point I’m really hoping the chick-let in the ticket booth just broke up with her boyfriend or something, because if this job is too complicated for her, she has a long few decades in front of her.

Well, at last we’re watching the movie. And in retrospect, I’m thinking maybe we should have gone with Super-Ex instead. The characters were actually well played. Kevin Spacey is a wonderful Lex Luthor. And I liked the homage of working Noel Neill (Lois Lane from the old TV series) into a small role. But who wrote the script? Did anyone tell him this was a comic book? The film is completely devoid of cheesy dialog, wit, sarcasm, or any other rhetoric which is the bread and butter of comics. The comic fodder of the bumbling Clark Kent is completely untapped. And while there are lots of special effects, it manages to have almost no action sequences. Nothing that’s engaging anyway. I think the film needs to be classified a drama. And it probably succeeds as that, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

[WARNING: SPOILER ALERT – STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT]

The movie did provide some food for thought though. Apparently, years before the movie took place, Superman and Lois had a baby. While the chemistry of that makes sense, the physics is still making my head spin. I keep envisioning sperm that are “faster than a speeding bullet” and “more powerful than a miniature locomotive”. I gotta wonder why poor Lois wasn’t just shredded like a wet Kleenex during sex. Ouch. Maybe Noel Neill had it right after all. Keep that relationship strictly professional.


The Great Train Robbery

It was the dang strangest thing you ever did saw. The kids was headed to Carter Station on the 12:30 out of Thendara.

When SUDDENLY!! The Loomis Gang came riding up and boarded the train with guns blazing.

Before the fight even began, Daisy preemptively surrendered. You can never be too careful.

Not to fear though, they got their comeuppance when Bob lifted a C-note from one of them no good bad guys while Two-Tone distracted him.

Then for no apparent reason, a saloon girl strolled down the aisle and dropped her cute self in Lenny’s lap.

It’s not obvious why she’s riding with the Loomis’, or how she boarded a moving train in 3″ heels, but rest assured that Lenny will get to the bottom of the mystery. He’s that kind of guy.


Don’t Pay the Ransom Honey, I’ve Escaped

The title is a little blast from the past for all you Nat Stuckey fans out there. It’s also an admission that the blogging has been light lately, and is likely to continue that way for a few weeks. After all, it’s vacation season (no, wabbit season!).

My eldest spent a week at swim camp recently. He says it went well. He says he’d go again. He says he’s hungry. He doesn’t say much else, but what he does say is in an increasingly baritone voice. I can hardly wait until teen-dom really sets in.

Meanwhile, my younger son and I spent a week together at the lake. It was great to have a chance to torment a kid one-on-one for a change. I tried to drown him one day, but it really didn’t work so well. It was a very blustery day. The kind of a day which could send a small boat soaring and sailing into the air, whether a small boat wanted to or not. Ours wanted to, so we hopped on my ancient WaveRunner and headed into the waves.

There was a dark cloud on the horizon, but showers had been passing all day, and I figured this was just another one coming. We head out to the main part of the lake, hopping waves and having them break over the bow and soak us. Junior is loving it. I happen to glance over my shoulder and notice that a wall of water is about 100 yards behind us. The rain is approaching fast, and I cannot see a thing behind the wet curtain. So I tell him to hang on, that we’re headed in. Unfortunately, “in” is parallel to the storm, not away from it.

It doesn’t take long for the storm to catch us. The rain is hitting so hard it stings your skin, and visibility drops to about 10 feet. Fortunately, I know the lake well and can dead-reckon us home. I notice that once we have to turn and drive into the storm that he is trying to shield his face with one hand and hang-on with the other. I was worried he was scared, but there really wasn’t much to do about it just then. Finally, we get to shore and are securing the boat. As he gets off, I can see the ear-to-ear grin on his face.

However, when we got to the porch, Grandma did not have an ear-to-ear grin on her face. Grandpa was relieved to see us too, but I suspect that’s mostly because Grandma would stop asking him what he was going to do about us being out there in the storm.

The following week, the kids headed south with their mom. Beauty and the Blogger headed back north to relax at the lake. And this time, I decided to try and drown me – or rather, the beavers tried. We took a kayak trip one day. We were told by a neighbor about a beautiful gorge and splendid scenery that was up a creek I’d never been up before. (And mind you, I’ve been up quite a few creeks in my day, with and without paddles.)

The trip started serenely enough. It was quiet easy paddling. We encountered a few areas of heavy weeds, but nothing we couldn’t navigate. Then came the beaver dam. It was a small dam, only 6 inches or so high. But it certainly didn’t lend itself to paddling over it. Unfortunately, the ground to either side of the creek was quite swampy in both directions, so beaching and portaging around would be pretty difficult.

So I had me a brainstorm. I’ll get out of my boat and stand on the dam. Then I can pull her boat over it with her in it, get back in mine, and upstream we go. You see, one of the problems with being an engineer is that some of your plans that look really damn good on paper, don’t scale up so well.

I managed to get out of my boat and pull it across. I then pulled her boat across without tipping her over. I figured it was all downhill from there. And it was. As I tried to get back in my boat, I tipped the damn thing over and dumped myself in the beaver pond.

You may not realize this, but beavers are not good housekeepers. The pond is only 4 feet deep or so, but the bottom is pure muck. I finally manage to get both myself and my sandals unmired and get back on the dam. But the boat is still full of water. Now I’d done a bit of canoeing before, and emptying a swamped canoe is no big deal. It turns out that kayaks don’t empty so easily. Getting the water out of that little hole in the top while balancing on a dam is damn hard. But after a fashion, I got enough out to declare victory, and managed to get my muck-encrusted butt in the seat without scaring any other wildlife.

Fortunately the trip was worthwhile anyway. Not because the gorge was gorgeous. We never found it. We were forced to turn back when the creek got too narrow and weedy to navigate. But it was worth it because it provided blog fodder. And it should be noted that the Beauty was a very good sport about the whole debacle.