You know how bad the political climate is in this country? I didn't used to mind talking politics with folks. Nowadays, I can't stand it. I can't even read Doonesbury anymore. Everyone makes as much political hay as possible, whether the sun is shining or not. Since the hay-makers (maybe manure-slingers would be more appropriate) never stop, there's little time for anything else: nothing constructive, no analysis, and certainly not much consensus. By any other name, it stinks.
Right next to today's Doonesbury is a column by Ann McFeatters. One could argue that her column isn't constructive: she's mostly pointing out the poor tenor of current U. S. political dialogue (read "monologues"). However, writing as the Washington bureau chief for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, she does try to analyze the problem, and I think you'll find a high level of consensus with her editorial on a "political climate" she describes as "uniquely chilling."
The only flaw I see in her essay: she describes the past month as "terrible." A month? That's just weather, not climate. The possibility of real climate change is another polarized, political issue; and it's probably more likely than any real improvement in U. S. politics. Ann uses the right term; she just doesn't take it far enough. The climate in the U. S. for real discussion and tolerance -- not the PC mealy-mouth stuff -- has been absent for a long time. It drives people out of any meaningful issue described as political: just about everything these days. Why else would everything be so politicized and divisive when no one votes and no one cares? Most people can't discern the few good trees in the District of Columbia's forest of deadwood. If one of them falls, good or bad, no one hears it. You know the metaphors as well as I do: Coke and Pepsi; Bud and Miller, Marlboro and Winston. We think we have a choice. But when we exercise our franchise, we find we're deciding between a pile of hay and... a pile of hay. Or maybe two piles of manure. It's all the same.
So, Ann, I agree with you. And I don't think I can fix it either, so I don't blame you for not trying. It doesn't even feel like my country any more, whether she's right or wrong on a given issue. Just now I tried to put part of Stephen Decatur Jr.'s famous quotation in a couple of search engines, hoping to make a link quickly. What I found were self-serving manglings of Decatur's quotation, twisted to point "correctly" in someone's perception of prevailing political afflatus. It was faster to pull out my copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. In today's United States, no one knows and no one cares. It reminds me of another quotation, a more recent one my Bartlett's and Wikipedia both seem to omit: "The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference."
Lest any of us forget -- another Katrina related post. This web site synthesizes data from different places to give current and maximum estimated flood levels for areas in and around New Orleans. Read the FAQ, then click on the map to get the numbers.
As my friends know, I'm a big SF geek -- Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, $pitty Fantasy, or whatever you want to call it. I know a lot about it, and am very inclusive in my labeling thereof. But I don't know much about comics, which is odd for an SF geek
One comic I am familiar with is American Flagg! by Howard Chaykin. It's the only comic for which I've ever hunted down all the original issues. I heard the series was being reissued in trade format, but the only evidence Amazon has are these trade and hardcover listings, both of which are late. But I was reminded to look by stumbling across a Wikipedia article on American Flagg!.
One cool thing about AF!: it was the first true cyberpunk I ever saw. Some folks see William Gibson's Neuromancer (appropriately enough, available online [but not such great formating] ) as the first real cyberpunk But Neuromancer was issued in mid-1984; AF! came out in 1983. I realize dating the Cyberpunk movement is a contentious act, with some folks using, say, Max Headroom (1985 -- too late) or J.G. Ballard (too early; doesn't feel right) as markers. But AF! does it for me.
More SF: The new edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is in progress, according to Orbit Books. Since the 2nd edition was already a bullet-stopper, and since the subject matter is SF, it's appropriate that the 3rd edition is planned as an online publication only. Orbit has set up a mailing list for interested parties. While not having a comforting physical tome might be a drag, it also seems appropriate for the field that its premier reference work will become an online one.