Wednesday, January 31, 2007

If only we could control the media...

says the media.

I spend a considerable amount of time defending the media to a couple of my rightward leaning friends. Of course, the left tends to have its own beef. Without any emprirical evidence to back me up, I would have to say the media is one of our most beleagured national institutions. I'm not saying they don't deserve criticism, they often do. But it does seem that if you got a big group of people with varying viewpoints together in the same room and asked them what we could get rid of to improve America, they might very likely decide on the media.

And from what I can tell if anyone would show up to defend the media, it would not be the media itself. Talking heads love to pound home the problems that media cause in our society. I saw an example of this in person earlier in the week, when I attended a presentation by a local media member. The media member described the media as a monolith that could exert its will and was uncontrollable. It creates our poor images of ourselves, encourages us to be passive, and manipulates all our thoughts and feelings. If I felt that way about my profession, I think I might not do it anymore.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Importance of Being Someone (Real)

My wife and I watched the SAG awards last nights. I would have to say that the SAGs are probably the best of the awards shows. I mean there is of course the name, which always makes me think the Golden Girls might show up. There is also the fact that it is all about the actors, which means we don't have to watch some poor sound technician get up and get cut off halfway through his speech so they can move on.

Helen Mirren won the best actress award last night and Forest Whitaker won the best actor award. What these two had in common was that they both played characters that were real people. These two are also likely headed for the Oscar as well, which made me start wondering whether it is still possible to win an award if you play someone who is made up. Last year Reese Witherspoon and Philip Seymor Hoffman both won Oscars for playing real people.

In fact, since 2000 only 2002 had both lead acting categories taken by people playing fake people (Denzel Washington and Halle Berry). But perhaps so that year wouldn't feel completely left out, the Best Picture Oscar went to A Beautiful Mind (which, of course, was about a real person). In 2003, it was both awards going to actors playing the real (Adrien Brody and Nicole Kidman). Every other year it was one or the other.

None of this is important, of course, but it intrigues/annoys me nonetheless. Is there greater acting skill displayed when playing an actual figure? Does it mean our imaginations aren't very good? Is it simply true that real life (or a loose version of it) is more interesting than fiction? I've never had a good answer to that question, "Who would play you in a movie?" But at least I know that whoever it was, they would have a shot at an award.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Here are a couple of issues that have nothing and yet everything to do with one another.

1. In the days since the SOTU, there has been quite a bit of talk about what constitutes a reasonable energy plan. There do, however, seem to be two distinct camps on the energy required for driving our vehicles. Charles Krauthammer is part of the contingent that wants to raise gasoline taxes thereby lowering consumption.

The other side of the argument is well-represented by blogger Kevin Drum. He suggests that huge increases in gasoline prices in 2005-2006 did little to affect consumption, so a tax probably won't do much either. Instead, he wants to raise minimum fuel efficiency standards. That is fine, but then it becomes cheaper in relative terms to drive. That could in turn increase consumption, which is not at all what we want to do.

There are merits to each of these plans, but both seem like partial solutions at best. My question is why we couldn't combine both ideas to achieve maximum effect with minimum impact on Americans who depend on their vehicles. My very simple (and most likely naive) notion is that we raise mileage standards and gasoline taxes congruently. You can drive more miles on a tank of gasoline that also costs you more money. In the end, your price per mile driven changes very little - theoretically allowing people to drive similar quantities on less fuel. Is there a reason why I should be reprimanded for stupidity here?

2. I have several friends who are staunch supporters of Mark Funkhouser for Kansas City mayor. I have told each of them that their opinion means a lot to me, but I need to be convinced by the candidates themselves. I have never had a doubt that Funkhouser is likely the strongest candidate in the field concerning policy and financial understanding. I have been concerned, however, about his vision for the city. Hearing him speak on television and radio about Kansas City's future has been frustrating at times. I know that he is trying to set realistic expectations, but at times realism seems to give way to morosity. I really do want a realistic plan for the city, but I also want it to feel like progress.

Anyway, a transportation question posed by the star about the light rail system has possibly turned the tide in Funkhouser's favor. I read the responses by each candidate, and Funkhouser seemed the only one ready to deal with this issue today. He gave more than a perfunctory answer to the question, which is more than most candidates. More importantly he acknowledged challenges, but also laid out specifics in a way that inspired confidence in the future. Well done.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Best Food In Town

I like to eat. So, one thing I want to talk about on this blog from time to time is good food. In my humble estimation, there is none better in the city than Hien Vuong in the River Market. It is a tiny Vietnamese restaurant that is one of those garage stalls inside the market. The food is always fresh, and I am yet to have anything that isn't perfectly put together. A few things I might recommend:

Soup with Wontons and Barbecue Pork
Vietnamese Chicken Curry
Winter Special Dumpling Soup
Spring Rolls
Fried Egg Rolls
Fried Rice with Barbecue Pork and Chinese Sausage
Pho (my wife has never had anything else in well over 50 trips)

Or anything else. I can promise you it will all be good.

You know they've at least thought it.

Dear Genetic Scientists,

We are writing to inform you of our grave concerns about the progress of your efforts allowing parents to select which genes they pass on to their children. While we certainly understand the potential to keep children from inheriting debilitating diseases, we harbor grave doubts about whether or not the technology would prove too tempting not to use for more superficial reasons. Simply stated our fear is that parents would begin using gene selection to ensure their children better conform to the societal standard that many call "normal" or "beautiful."

Many see these potential alterations as a grave moral or religious issue. That is not our concern. Our worry is that allowing some people to select what their children will look like will do infinite harm to others' ability to select television programs they now regularly enjoy. Programs such as Little People Big World, 600lb. Woman, and Extreme Makeover would be irreperably harmed by any action to eliminate physical challenges inherited at birth. Our opinion is that the viewing pleasure of television audiences outweighs whatever challenges may face individuals with physical deviations from the norm.

We appreciate your time in considering our position. Our hope is that you will agree and no further action need be taken.


The Learning Channel, The Discovery Channel, and ABC

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Gods Are Angry

I am speaking of the sports Gods, those fickle deities who for the most part inflict pain upon those tread in their domain. This is especially true if you live in KC. It was significant to Kansas Citians that New Orleans did not win on Sunday. If they had, there would officially have been no other multiple-franchise city in the nation with a longer championship game drought than KC. And essentially, that is already the case since New Orleans received its second franchise just 5 years ago, and that franchise (the Hornets) now plays half its games in Oklahoma City. Still, when you are in the shape we are in you take what you can get. For the sake of overkill, here are the other multiple franchise cities and their teams' appearances in championship games since the glory days of 1985.

Atlanta 6 app. (1 title)
Baltimore 1 app. (1 title)
Boston 11 app. (5 titles)
Buffalo 5 app.
Charlotte 3 app. (1 title)
Chicago 10 app. (8 titles)
Cleveland 2 app.
Cincinnati 2 app. (1 title)
Dallas 6 app. (4 titles)
Denver 7 app. (4 titles)
Detroit 10 app. (6 titles)
Houston 4 app. (2 titles)
Indianapolis 2 app.
Los Angeles 12 app. (7 titles)
Miami 4 app. (3 titles)
Milwaukee/Green Bay 2 app. (1 title)
Minneapolis 3 app. (2 titles)
Nashville 1 app.
New York 20 app. (11 titles)
Oakland 4 app. (1 title)
Philadelphia 4 app.
Phoenix 2 app. (1 title)
Pittsburgh 4 app. (3 titles)
San Diego 2 app.
San Francisco 5 app. (3 titles)
Seattle 2 app.
St. Louis 5 app. (2 titles)
Tampa 2 app. (1 title)
Toronto 2 app. (2 titles)
Washington D.C. 3 app. (2 titles)

What makes this even worse is that all but a couple of the cities listed above have made at least one of those appearances since we even had a playoff victory. It's almost unfathomable. I'm usually not a boo-bird, but I think anyone who feels the need at a Royals or Chiefs game (or anywhere in public) has certainly earned the right. Maybe our potential hockey and/or basketball team will fare better. One can only hope.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Alright who do we have left?

NPR this morning featured a story about jury selection for the "Scooter" Libby trial. There were a lot of interesting angles to the story including the racial make-up of D.C. and the everyone-knows-everyone-else world that is Washington. But by far the most interesting (and hilarious) piece of the story was the issue of jury selection in relation to views on the administration. For obvious reasons, the defense does not want jurors that "have questions about President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, or their conduct of the war." That brings us to the priceless quote:

"Last Thursday it took all day to get six jurors because so many in the pool expressed outright hostility about the president and his Iraq policy."

I can't think of anything more surreal and yet appropriate than Libby getting off because the president has angered every single American to the point that they are unfit for the jury. There are still some holdouts, but Libby's lawyers ought to looking for a continuance. Time would surely be on their side.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Presidential Politics already?

I'm as eager as anyone to get to the next president. The only problem I have with the onslaught of "will they, won't they, and why would they" is that we do still have the current president for a couple of years. I would prefer if someone in the media continued keeping an eye on him.

But I'm a slave to the hype machine too. I have seen the candidate fields from both parties and listened to the media hype about how crowded they are (Am I wrong in thinking this seems like a pretty normal number of candidates heading into primaries?). [If there are any English professors reading this, I would love to know if I punctuated the last sentence correctly. I suspect not.] Anyway I think the biggest question has been missed. To me that question is, "Will anyone bother to vote?" We had a nice surge in voter turnout during the midterms, but that was an election where people really believed they could make a difference. I don't know that the '08 election will be the same. Here is my peak into voter minds that explains my reasoning:

Republican voter: I just can't vote for a Democrat, but the Republican I voted for last time made me feel as though I woke having traded my children for a six-pack of beer (not even good beer).

Democratic voter: I naturally don't like Republican candidate X, but when you compare him to George Bush he doesn't seem so bad.

Independent voter: Some combination of both above.

Libertarian voter: The only right I have that hasn't been trampled is my right not to vote, so I think I'll exercise it.

Green Party voter: Do you have any idea how much pollution is caused by people driving to the polls? Mother Earth wants us to stay home.

My worry is that Bush has gone so far over the top that he has broken down people's sense of presidential reality. Does anyone even remember what a president is supposed to do or act like? Do you ever watch speeches by any former president and think "My God, these guys used to have coherent thoughts!" You don't even have to look at big speeches, just some weekly press-conference of Reagan or testimony from Clinton. It is actually startling if Bush is the only president you have seen in a while. This, of course, will be a boon to the next president. Someone will say "Oh my God, I can't believe the president nuked all of Central Canada." And someone will respond "Yeah but he did say nuclear correctly, so..."

Friday, January 19, 2007

If we keep this up...

Missouri at 51.8 percent outbound, continued its 12-year outbound trend as 1 percent more residents left in 2006 compared to 2005.

This was a fact presented in a story about moving patterns in Realty Times, which by the way made more sense after I realized it wasn't the Reality Times. Anyway, I love it when statistics hit home. My wife and I have had three friends move out of state in the last year, and I am yet to meet anyone who has moved here from anywhere else during that time. This is mildly distressing to someone who has been a lifelong (minus a regrettable 7 month period on the dark side that is Kansas) Missouri boy. Is it economics, is it our burgeoning place in red-statehood, is it the stench coming from the Kansas City professional sports franchises? I don't know the answer, but I propose we start one of those campaigns to try and convince people to move here. We'll need a good slogan. I have a few preliminary ideas.

"Missouri, you can get to the middle of nowhere in any direction fast."

"Move to St. Louis and believe you live on the east coast. Everyone there now does."

"Perhaps you didn't know that Don Johnson is from Missouri?"

"Kansas City is the perfect new home for the tortured sports fan."

"Think of us as reddish-purple."

"They call it the Sho-Me State for a reason (this one needs a creepy middle aged pervert with sweatpants and an arched eyebrow looking up from his computer)"

"We're unbuckling the Bible Belt!"
(This one isn't true as far as I know, but it wouldn't be the first ad that stretched the truth a bit right?)

These are just some ideas. I am sure there are better ones. Just give the concept some thought. Our population ranking depends on it.

History and youth

I have become much more politically active over the last five years. What I have learned is that it is almost impossible for me to look back at historical events and compare them with current events. When someone says Iraq is like Vietnam, or that it isn't or that it is like something else I have to completely remove myself from the debate. It isn't that I don't know any of the historical facts of the events that came before my time, I do. But I can only see an event such as Vietnam in hindsight. Maybe that is beneficial and maybe it is harmful, but it is unquestionably different from being there when an event unfolds.

The major issue seems to me to be the difference between experiencing an event over a period of time and experiencing it as whole entity only. When I read news reports, see video, or listen to speakers I can consider the implications and ramifications of each of the small pieces that become the larger puzzle when added together. Anytime I look at a historical event, the entirety is right there staring back at me. This makes it very difficult to consider all the information.

I can't help but believe that the next time our country gets itself into a mess like this I will draw on my current experience and feeling to help shape my views. I would wager that it will make me more cynical, but I can't be sure. Will this experience be helpful or harmful? I don't know, but I hope it will allow me a bit more certainty.

Maiden Voyage

What an intimidating experience it is to come up with a topic for your first blog entry. I would say that is especially true when you are someone who thought they were just signing up to comment on someone else's blog (Gone Mild, the ideas of a wide old sage named Dan). I just realized in fact that I don't even know how to make the link work. (Update: I think I fixed it.)

Anyway, the first topic is a big deal. I suppose it should be a kind of declaration about the purpose and focus of the blog -- a mission statement, if you are inclined to believe in such sorcery. Unfortunately, I have no idea what I want to talk about. I'm interested in just about everything to a degree. At the same time, almost nothing is interesting enough to devote one's entire Internet alter-ego to it. So I suppose this blog will hereby be dedicated to the discussion (possibly one-sided) of things that interest me. I think this fits the presiding ethos of the Internet. No less official source than Time magazine told me that this is all about me. Hell, I was on the cover. When I really think about it I realize that it is practically my civic duty to inform anyone who accidentally ventures to my little corner of the cyber-universe on anything and everything I think about.

I should probably cover the title as well. Let me begin by stating the purpose. I like the title Ancillary Adams for two reasons. First, I like to think I am to off-topic conversation as Ansel Adams was to Posters Plus, i.e. invaluable. Second, I love bad wordplay more than any other blog technique. Non sequitur arguments are good, but bad wordplay is great (and less ultimately less damaging). Now let me give a large qualification to my use of the title. I am not sure that I invented it. At a rather remarkable rate I seem to think up things that amuse me only to find out later that I had heard the ideas sometime before and forgotten them (and even when I don't I always carry the nagging suspicion). I thereby do not swear not to steal someone else's ideas. I do swear not to do it knowingly. And if the true creator comes forward, I will be glad to attribute appropriately.

Perhaps that is plenty for post #1. In our future together lies politics, food, drink, sports, human nature, art, and primarily the unimportant small stuff that seems to interest me most. If by bizarre coincidence, divine intervention, or a serious smiting you somehow read this, welcome.

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