Sacramento Bee, Peter Schrag, “California secedes — A midwinter night’s dream”

It began as no more than a gesture of protest, when a group of California Democrats, led by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, put on the November 2004 ballot the California Dignity Initiative, a measure calling on the state’s congressional delegation to renegotiate California’s relationship to the Union. […]

Washington Post, Daryl Fears, “People of Color Who Never Felt They Were Black”

[…] Although most do not identify themselves as black, they are seen that way as soon as they set foot in North America.

Their reluctance to embrace this definition has left them feeling particularly isolated — shunned by African Americans who believe they are denying their blackness; by white Americans who profile them in stores or on highways; and by lighter-skinned Latinos whose images dominate Spanish-language television all over the world, even though a majority of Latin people have some African or Indian ancestry. […]

Me, too. From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, and so on.

For later perusal: The Atlantic, Maggie Scarf, “Intimate Partners” (after vague curiosity with Barbara Dafoe Whitehead’s latest work on single women) and Esquire, Jonathan Nolan, “Memento Mori” (after curling up with A. to watch rented copies of “Afterlife” and “Memento,” which sandwiched a sojourn to the Piedmont for Almod�var’s “Talk To Her”).

John and Kate Snyder (née Maletz), witnesses and photographers when A. and I wed in September 1999, have had a busy year. Good on ’em!

CitySearch Live Daily, Colin Devenish, “Joe Strummer”

[…] Do you ever feel like you’re in competition with your past?

Not really, because it’s so long ago. The past is past. I always feel to live in the present. Blank piece of paper is always the same. You’ve got to fill the blank piece of paper. It’s crazy.

You’ve got to face up to your past. It can feel like a millstone in that situation, but mainly, I feel proud about it. It’s a good spur to try and top that. I don’t really dwell upon it. You can’t throw yourself off too much. It’s great to live in the moment and not think too much about the past. It can really drag you down. I would say the past is like treacle. It can get stuck on your feet if you go back. Can’t get in and out that easy. Dylan said, “Don’t look back.”

Washington Post, Desson Howe, “The Prefect Who Rocked My World”

[…] I suddenly remember that he once wore a T-shirt with a heart on it. It said: “In case of emergency, tear out.” I never imagined how much it would hurt to think of that now.” […]

PopMatters, which I don’t visit often enough, has Mark Anthony Neal’s “White Chocolate” schooling fools on Lady T, and David Sanjek’s “Fate Wears a Fedora” on Jean-Paul Melville, director of probably my favorite Frenchlanguage film ever.

There is no greater solitude than the samurai’s…unless perhaps it be that of the tiger in the jungle.
–The Book of Bushido

Jane Lagrange: I like it when you come round, because you need me.

Jef Costello: I never lose. Not ever.

Martey: Who are you?
Jef Costello: It doesn’t matter.
Martey: What do you want?
Jef: To kill you.

Olivier Rey’s associate: He’s a lone wolf.
Olivier Rey: He’s a wounded wolf; now there will be a trail. He must be disposed of quickly.

Police Superintendent: I don’t like forcing the pace to extract confessions or get information. I’m very liberal, a great believer in the liberty of the individual … in people’s right to live as they choose. Provided that the way of life they choose harms no one else … and is contrary to neither law and order nor public decency.

Police Superintendent: Don’t you love him [Jef Costello]?
Jane Lagrange: No.
Superintendent: Really? I’d have said you did. Laying yourself on the line for him like that, I thought you must love him.
Jane: You’re not the psychologist you imagined.

Police Superintendent: Have you ever thought how close girls like you are to being prostitutes?

Jane Lagrange: If I understand you right, I’ll have no problems if I perjure myself. If I insist on telling the truth, then I can expect trouble. Am I right?
Police Superintendent: Not quite. Because the truth isn’t what you say, it’s what I say … despite the methods I am obliged to employ to get at it.

Gunman: Nothing to say?
Jef Costello: Not with a gun on me.
Gunman: Is that a principle?
Jef: A habit.

Jef Costello: Who sent you?
Gunman: I can’t tell you that.
Jef: Yet you could try to kill me. Look at me. I’ll ask you just once more. Who? Name and address.
Gunman: You don’t know him; he’s not in our league.
Jef: Don’t keep me waiting.
Gunman: Olivier Rey … 73, Boulevard de Montmorency.
Jef: That’s how you became unemployed.

Jef Costello: Trouble? … Because of me
Jane Lagrange: No, you’ve never meant trouble for me.

[Jef pulls a gun on the Piano Player]
Piano Player: Why, Jef?
Jef Costello: Because I’ve been paid to.

An old meme (via Black Belt Jones): one’s Dungeons & Dragons alignment. My results? Chaotic good. (Specifically: Law: 0, Chaos: 5; Good: 4, Evil: 3 — my specific choices were here) Which I’ll need to poke around into D&D to understand more clearly, since (like Howard Cosell) I never played the game.


Of course, by now you are arguing with my answers. Here, then, question by question, is the logic of each answer.

Question 1 gets to the motive of the character. Good characters are always looking to make the world a better place; therefore, answer B, rescuing the weak and helping the helpless, is the good answer. Lawfuls see the world as necessarily being structured, and the unstructured elements as breaking that down. A quest into the unknown has the primary purpose of taming it; therefore, answer A, putting things right, is a lawful response. Answer D, acquiring wealth and power, is definitive of the evil alignment; evils believe that such is theirs by right. As to the chaotic, there can be little reason for such an adventure except the adventure itself, and so answer C, enjoying the thrill of the dangers, is the best choice.

Question 2 looks at character, belief, and personality by considering an alternative career path. The good character will want to do something to help others, especially the poor, so an herbalist, answer C, is the best choice. Evil characters will still want to claim what is theirs, and so answer B, bandit, comes closest. A man-at-arms is clearly involved in a defined position in an authority structure; he knows whence his orders come, what is expected of him, and who he commands. All this, answer A, will appeal to the lawful character. As to the chaotic character, he has no need of any of those things, but wants to live his own life. Being a hermit, answer D, is the easiest way to escape from the structures of society.

Question 3 is the first of the corner alignment questions. Each of the four heroes defines (at least in the popular conception) one of the four combinations. Robin Hood is definitively the chaotic good hero, opposing all that is law and structure because it oppresses the people, and taking the profit he gains for his opposition and giving it to them. Answer A thus credits chaos and good. King Arthur, on the other hand, built one of the finest orderly systems, complete with law and enforcement, command and authority, to bring down the notion that might makes right and establish a good society. He, answer B, combines good with law. Attilla the Hun is most noted for tearing down structures in Europe and Asia. Although he maintained a highly disciplined army for the purpose, he is seen as a raider who destroys entire countries to line his own pocket. This is very close to the heart of chaotic evil, and falls as answer C. When it comes to moving within the dark side, Darth Vader shows us clearly how one can be entirely out for one’s self while being completely obedient to a master and strictly part of a chain of command. His entire aspect combines the disciplines of law with the values of evil, and so answer D is the lawful evil choice.

Question 4 restates question one, using names instead of descriptions, to reach the motive of the character in a more poetic way. The soldier, answer A, is the one in the authority structure, the lawful. Heroes are those who rescue others for the sake of the rescued; answer B thus is the good answer. Answer D, the rogue, describes those trying to better themselves at the expense of others, frequently by deception, and is the evil selection. The adventurer is the one who does this because it is there to be done; he is the chaotic, having no better reason to explore than that he may.

Question 5 asks what should happen when the adventure is over. The first answer, wipe out the party and abscond with the money, is clearly the evil answer; many an evil party has passed out of existence because one of them understood answer A as the correct choice. Answer B places the planning of another venture in the hands of those in charge, the lawful decision. Answer C points up that good characters are always seeking to do good; adventuring is generally a way of gaining the means to do so, and the doing good continues between the adventures. Answer D breaks the party up. To the chaotic, the party is a necessary evil which exists for the purpose of the adventure; when the adventure is over, the party no longer really exists except as a group of friends who might adventure again someday. While the lawful thinks of the party as ongoing, an authority structure which continues, the chaotic rejects this notion, and opposes any idea that party rules apply to party members when the necessity of a present danger does not exist.

The issue in question 6 is structure and planning. This is a law/chaos issue, of no real interest to good and evil. The lawful character will choose answer A, because he believes in planning as the best means to achieve goals. The chaotic character will reject answer A, preferring answer B, maintaining flexibility as a way to seize opportunities. The good character would be less interested in these aspects, but would tend toward a balance in which there is enough flexibility to help others, however strictly the plan is formed, thus choosing answer C. Finally, when it comes to planning, the evil character will always keep in mind his maxim, look out for yourself first, answer D.

In question 7, the other corner alignment question, the issue is the nature of government. Answer A describes a belief in which government is ultimately minimized, making it possible for people to be freed from the oppressions of law to just be good to each other the way they would be were it not for the pressures on them to conform. This is a chaotic good belief, and so credits both chaos and good. The lawful good opposes this view, maintaining answer B, that crime must be controlled (by law) in order for everyone to prosper. The lawful evil character does not care about the rest of society, but recognizes in a strong government the opportunity for him to move into the position he deserves, and so chooses answer C, expecting that he is one of those best people. Answer D is the song of the chaotic evil, that the government is trying to keep us in our place, refusing to allow us to do what we want.

Question 8 is the slavery issue. This is difficult to understand in our society. Slavery itself is not a good/evil issue, but a law/chaos issue. It is possible to perceive slavery as a force for good, providing a home for those who would not otherwise have it by employing their services to produce for society at large. In a society in which slavery is legal, lawfuls will not oppose it on lawful grounds, because on lawful grounds it is, as answer C suggests, a reasonable solution to certain economic problems. Conversely, chaotic characters will always oppose enslavement of any creature in principle, whether or not it’s legal, and will thus choose answer A. To the good character, the issue is not slavery itself but the treatment of slaves by masters; if slaves are generally well treated, there is not much about which to complain. However, answer B suggests that to the good the inherent flaw in slavery is its openness to abuse by the strong against the weak. As to the evil character, he believes that society should permit him to have what he wants. Although slavery is not a good/evil issue, he sees himself as worthy of being a master if slavery is to exist, and to be treated with deference even where it does not, answer D.

The relationship of the individual to the civil law is the next issue, in question 9. Of course, the lawful believes that law is essential to society, answer C. The chaotic follows that great American maxim that less is more, answer A, rejecting the need for law. To the good character, it is a non-issue. If you are good, says answer B, the law will ignore you. As to answer D, the evil character also sees it as a non-issue. Law or no law, you can make whatever is there work for you. It is your advantage that counts.

Finally question 10 asks us about our unwritten duty. The good character sees, with answer A, that we are all connected, and have a duty to help everyone else. The lawful character, taking answer B, thinks of duty more in terms of the authority which must be obeyed. A duty to himself, answer C, is the evil character’s way of thinking: put yourself first. As to the chaotic, perhaps there are some duties to freedom and liberty, or perhaps some have duties to masters they have chosen to obey, or duties to philanthropies and charities to which they are pledged, but in the final analysis you cannot tell anyone that everyone has any specific single duty. It depends on who you are. Thus answer D expresses the chaotic view.

Washington Post, E.J. Dionne, “Thurmond’s GOP”

[…] African Americans in the South are among the best-known victims of states’ rights claims, but they were not alone in having to turn to the federal government to seek vindication for their rights. It also took federal power to advance the rights of workers (through the Wagner Act and wages and hours laws), to protect consumers and to guarantee the rights of small investors. Federal law protects the rights of women, the disabled and members of religious minorities.

Yes, it’s good that many Republicans have come out against what Lott said. But it’s significant that many of his earliest and most forceful critics were neoconservative former Democrats (Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol come to mind) who never shared the old states’ rights faith. The first Republican senator to issue an outright call on Lott to quit was Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee, who, as his first name suggests, speaks from his party’s oldest tradition of support for federal power. […]