Michael Herrick's blog

To legalize or to moot?

Some people think the title of this song is irrelevant. But it’s not irrelevant, it’s a hippopotamus. —Michael Flanders

Today, someone asked me how I felt about the “our republican governor’s” resistance to the legalization of the use of marijuana. Pot-smoking not being an issue specially close to my heart, I had to admit I didn’t care much one way or the other. But I couldn’t help observing that the political tactics of these grass-roots activists strike me as laughably respectful, deferential, and old-fashioned.

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Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand is completely misunderstood both by those who love her and by those who revile her. In fact, she’s one of the best writers of humor since Dickens. Her heroes can be boring but her villains are hysterical. If your political biases prevent you from laughing out loud while reading the scenes with Ellsworth Toohey or Wesley Mouch, then I truly pity you. She’s also an excellent plotter and leitmotifer. The gradual revelation of who is John Galt is very skillfully done. I have yet to find someone who dislikes Ayn Rand and is able to argue intelligently against that claim on aesthetic grounds. It is also true that Ayn Rand was insane and constructed insane universes. But when was that ever a problem for art?

August Dvorak

One of my heroes is August Dvorak. He saved my career.

About twenty years ago, I had a debilitating case of tendinitis in my hands, wrists and forearms. I couldn’t turn a key in a lock or pick up a cup with one hand. I went to physical therapy and wore a TENS Unit on my belt to deliver pain-killing electrical shocks to my damaged nerves.

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It's a scary, dangerous world

Protect your baby from the hazards of life with this innovative infant helmet! Ensure they never know what a bump on the head feels like! Turn them into frightened little neurotics!

I hope this company makes a fortune and many fools are parted from much money.

No skating

Now you might ask, “What kind of ass would ever think that skating would be an ok thing to do here?”

But a better question is, “What kind of ass thinks you need a sign for it?”

At the Albuquerque Veterans’ Hospital.

Always know the time

At the Albuquerque VA hospital.

The Big House, by Stephen Cox

I picked up The Big House by Stephen Cox after running across an interesting article by the same author. The biggest eye-openers for me came in the very first pages where the author recounts how people used to tour prisons. It was formerly not uncommon for people to take sightseeing trips to prisons in the same way, and for similar reasons, that they today visit the Washington Monument or the Golden Gate Bridge.

The New Mexico Corrections Department has started hosting tours of Old Main, the state penitentiary that was the site in 1980 of one of the deadliest prison riots in US history, referenced in The Big House. Tours are booked through 2012 (perhaps charging an admission fee could regulate some scarcity there) but I hope we can sign up soon for a 2013 tour.

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

The Amazon blurb for The Big House:

“The Big House” is America’s idea of the prison—­a huge, tough, ostentatiously oppressive pile of rock, bristling with rules and punishments, overwhelming in size and the intent to intimidate. Stephen Cox tells the story of the American prison—its politics, its sex, its violence, its inability to control itself—and its idealization in American popular culture. This book investigates both the popular images of prison and the realities behind them­: problems of control and discipline, maintenance and reform, power and sexuality. It conveys an awareness of the limits of human and institutional power, and of the symbolic and iconic qualities the “Big House” has attained in America’s understanding of itself.

Chickens again

I figure chickens are only just as smart as they need to be, but I’m still surprised at how smart and curious they are. I’m working at home this morning with the front door open to the nice spring day (finally) and this chicken came inside and methodically explored every corner in the room before heading back outside.

The Calvin and Hobbes Search Engine

The Calvin and Hobbes Search Engine lets you find that comic strip you remember just by typing a few words. Search for “Spiff” or “snowman” or Susie is a booger brain. What a great tech project. I would love to do this for the Far Side strips, but who could possibly enter all that data to build the index?

Update

Unfortunately, a Far Side search engine isn’t ever going to happen. I don’t quite buy this sentimental version of the cease-and-desist. If you’re so sensitive about your creation, why publish? And anyway, unlike Watterson, Larson seems quite able to deal with the emotional trauma of lucrative merchandising deals. Which reminds me, incidentally, that we all owe Bill Watterson a debt of gratitude for never inflicting a Hobbes plush toy or “A Very Calvin Christmas” television special on the world.

Samuel Alito and gun control

Just came across this article again that I wrote several years ago, right around the time Bush nominated Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court. Re-reading it made me laugh, so I’m republishing it now on the off chance that it might amuse someone else at least a tenth as much as it did me.

An attorney of my acquaintance — let’s call him ‘Lawrence’1 — maintains a joke email list of which I am a beneficiary. As everyone knows, the cost of sending email has risen greatly since the start of the Iraq war, forcing my friend to subsidize his joke service with a high volume of political commentary. Naturally, I find this hilarious, which is why I don’t unsubscribe.

Some of the opinions “Lawrence” expresses in his political digressions seem a little strange for a Catholic constitutionalist. At least I assume “Lawrence” is a Catholic constitutionalist, because I always assume that everyone I know shares the same political and religious beliefs that I do. That’s what makes having friends so interesting.

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To legalize or to moot?
Ayn Rand
August Dvorak
It's a scary, dangerous world
No skating
Always know the time
The Big House, by Stephen Cox
Chickens again
Samuel Alito and gun control