Monday, December 19, 2016

Annual Ralphies: Lucky 13th

My, what an inactive year for Ralph.  This reflects what an active year it was outside of Ralph.  The first half of the year was devoted to writing lectures and then delivering them – most notably in Cambridge (a splendid and sumptuous event, for which I am eternally grateful) and in Jerusalem (ditto).  The second half of the year was less spectacular and more dismaying; I refer to the recent presidential election, which is the most disturbing one in my lifetime.  Some of my Facebook statuses reflect my growing sense of foreboding:

Amy and I will be voting for the same person this year for the first time ever. #nevertrump (July 22)

Only Trump could make "Merry Christmas" sound like a threat. #nevertrump (July 30)

Evangelicals supporting Trump have permanently lost credibility to speak on public policy or public morality. But hey, good for Albert Mohler. #nevertrump

I really hope that the white male middle class, its spurious Herrenvolk aspirations in jeopardy, doesn't elect the most grotesquely unqualified Presidential candidate ever. (Sept. 26)

Come back, baseball. Don't leave us to face next week without you. (Nov. 3)

Kitchen dialogue in the a.m.:
"I'd like to punch Trump in the face."
"Oh, that's a real Christian attitude!"
"The heart wants what it wants." (Nov. 7)

Haven't felt this grieved since 9/11. (Nov. 9)

And that about says it.  On 9/12/01, I felt that the foundations of society were fragile; now I feel the same way.  Now the Ralphies are more important than ever.

MUSIC:  There has been a lot of good music this year – none of, regrettably, from our newest Nobel Laureate in Literature.  I've heard a lot of great female voices, like Angel Olsen, Mitski, and that gal in Sylvan Esso, and that other gal in Tennis.  But my favorite music came from a bunch of guys, namely Foals.  Can't decide what their best track is, but I'll go with "Birch Tree." They're supposed to be awesome live, which I regrettably can't confirm by experience.

FICTION:  I've read some really good sci-fi this year, with super thumbs-up to Lavie Tidhar's Central Station and Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" (about which more below).  Also, I was surprised to find out how good C. S. Forester's Hornblower series is.  The rumor was that the Aubrey-Maturin series (which I love) was far superior, but this turned out not to be the case at all.  Forester's prose is superb, the stories are terrific, and Hornblower, in his own way, is as compelling a character as Jack Aubrey.  But my book of the year award goes to Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville (c'mon, you don't need a hyperlink for this, do you?).  I've never been ready to read this book before, but this year I was, and it was enthralling.

NON-FICTION:  There was a lot, good and bad.  The most stimulating for me was Kees Versteegh's Pidginization and Creolization: The Case of Arabic, which gave me tons of ideas.  

TV:  I was an indifferent consumer of TV this year, with two exceptions.  One was the series Law and Order: SVU, which is in more or less continuous re-runs on a variety of channels. I figured it was junk, but I watched a few, and found the series as addictive as potato chips.  Pretty good plots, interesting characters, decent acting (especially Mariska Hargitay). It ain't Breaking Bad, but it ain't bad.  But the Ralphie has to go to Stranger Things, which I binge-watched during a free month of Netflix.  So much fun.

MOVIES:  We saw exactly two in the theater, namely The Secret Life of Pets (it was OK) and Arrival, based on Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" (see above). Arrival takes the prize, just for making a linguist the hero, but a high runner-up is Hail Caesar, which I watched on the plane twice going to and from Israel, then I bought the DVD, which is a rare event indeed.  A knee-slapper, for sure, and Ralph Fiennes' scene with Alden Ehrenreich is not to be missed. 

SPORTS:  Sports was pretty meh this year, with one exception: the Nats' playoff drive, which fell short.  Better luck next year, guys, but thanks for making the summer and early fall a lot of fun, and a great distraction from the collapse of the republic.

OK, see you all next year, if there is a next year.  Not that I'm pessimistic or anything. :)                                                                                                                          

Sunday, October 09, 2016

A Third Party in 2016?

It has been noted and repeated many times that this year's Presidential campaign is almost without analogy in American history.  The Republican candidate is hilariously, grotesquely, unfit for high public office, while the Democratic candidate, despite her credentials in public service (which are not without blemish), bids fair to continue many of the highly questionable policies of the incumbent.  She herself has a somewhat rebarbative personal style – irrelevant, I know – but it makes it hard to build up a big enthusiasm for her.

For these reasons, many people in the country are considering voting for a third-party candidate.  I am one of them.  For years, I have kidded people that I am a member of the "Green Tory" party, which is nonexistent, but which would include, if it existed, strong pro-life and pro-traditional marriage planks (traditionally associated with Republicanism), as well as strong support for environmental protection (including limiting greenhouse gas emissions), universal health care, opposing torture as a tool against terrorism, and pro-gun control (traditionally associated with the left). I distrust both Big Government and Big Business.   But since there is no Green Tory party, I have been forced, every four years, to vote for a candidate whose views I consider in part repugnant.  This is the price of being a citizen in the US.

However, this year I will be voting for a party whose platform I believe in, namely the American Solidarity Party.  The ASP is an American version of the European-Latin American Christian democracy parties, and its platform, as you can see, has a great deal to recommend it to Green Tory members.  For the first time in – well, ever – I can vote for President (the ASP ticket is Maturen-Muñoz) whole-heartedly.

But I need to defend this choice against two charges. The first charge is, "Everyone has a duty to keep Trump out of the White House, and only a vote for Clinton will ensure that." I do agree with this up to a point.  Indeed, if Maryland were a swing state, I would probably vote for Clinton for exactly that reason.  However, Maryland is solidly Democratic and my vote for Clinton is not needed.

The second charge is, "You are wasting your vote on someone who cannot win." However, the value of a third party does not rest on electoral success or failure.  Politics is concerned not only with elections (who holds power), but also with policy (what the government should do).  A third-party platform can express certain ideals of public policy and will represent a unified political and social worldview, that is an alternative to the inadequate views of the two big parties.  To the degree that the third party gains votes and, with them, a higher public profile, the more attention will be paid to these ideals and this worldview, and the more traction they stand to gain in the society at large.  This seems to me to be a goal worth working toward. 

For these reasons, I am voting for the ASP in 2016, and I recommend their platform to those looking for an alternative.  See you at the polls!