Just in case you hadn't heard, Barack Obama has reached the 100 Day mark in his presidency.
The rest of America is free to spend as much time as they want discussing and debating and attempting to justify the first 100 days of Barack Obama.
As for me, I'd rather discuss the first 100 episodes of Lost.
Of course, there is a link between the two and that is the fact that Barack Obama -- at his most Barack Obama-like (his press conference earlier tonight being a prime example) -- seems to exhibit the exact same stubborn, self-righteous, self-pitying personality traits that have transformed the character of Jack Shepherd into the protagonist that so many Lost fans love to hate.
Michelle Obama, with her wax-like smile and lack of any discernible emotional depth, would seem to have much in common with Elizabeth Mitchell's Juliet.
Meanwhile the rather pompous yet clueless Joe Biden is almost a dead ringer for John Locke.
George Soros makes as good a Charles Widmore as we're likely to find.
I'm tempted to attempt to link Arlen Specter to Ben Linus, if just because they both look like reptiles. (David Icke fans -- take note!) But, in the end, that's probably a disservice to Ben.
Insane and paranoid Hurley is an obvious stand in for an insane and paranoid Michael Moore.
Rev. Jeremiah Wright was a slightly louder version of the unfortunate Mr. Eko.
Put a fake beard on White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and you've got none other than the late Mr. Friendly.
I'm still trying to figure out who would stand in for Sawyer. Rahm Emanuel comes to mind but, much like with Ben and Specter, it's hard not to feel that Sawyer deserves better.
On tonight's episode of Lost, we discovered that Eloise Hawking is a woman so dedicated to getting what she wants that she was willing to manipulate and (possibly) murder her own son. Hillary Clinton, anyone?
As for Kate, with her sordid background and talent for somehow landing on her feet no matter what terrible crime she may have committed, she's the female equivalent of Tim Geithner.
I'm still trying to figure out just who in Washington can serve as Richard Alpert's counterpart. Richard, of course, is the mysterious fellow who apparently never ages and who manages to make viewers uncomfortable while somehow remaining strangely likable. Bill Clinton, perhaps?
Of course, Lost is reportedly going to end after the next season. We've still got at least four more years of Barack Obama.*
Earlier today, at my day job, the big boss (this would be the guy who is over all of the little bosses that are over the middle management drones like me) came into the office, tracked me down, and specifically complimented me on my recent work. As the big boss doesn't hand out praise all that often, this was a bit of a surprise. The other big surprise, of course, was that he actually got my name right for once. For the first time in three years, he did not call me "John" at any point during our conversation.
After this, a few of my coworkers told me that I was obviously the "new" favorite. They were obviously a bit jealous though I'm not sure why. Traditionally, the "new" favorite is always the first one sacked after the latest big boss gets fired (as they all eventually do).
Still, it was nice to be the object of jealousy for once.
It was also nice to finally win some praise.
It's almost enough to make me wish that I didn't currently and completely hate my day job.
Can anyone really claim to be shocked by this? Specter has always voted more like a Democrat than a Republican. Pennsylvania is becoming (or, to be honest, has become) a heavily Democratic state. In the past few elections, Specter's only real challenges have come in the Republican primary. In the upcoming primary, he was facing a second challenge from Pat Toomey, the man who nearly defeated Specter back in the 2004 primary.
As well, Specter has long been the Republican that other Republicans loved to hate. If he had any doubts about this, they were surely erased during his failed attempt to win the Republican presidential nomination in 1996. During the campaign, Republican audiences tended to boo Specter even more than they booed Pete Wilson.
As well, there had to be something very attractive about being part of a 59-member majority as opposed to a 40-member minority.
Make no mistake about it, there was no higher principle guiding Arlen Specter. His switch was all about power and survival.
And, to be honest, who can't understand that?
Still, I am sure that the mainstream media will take this opportunity to lionize Specter as a "man of principle" (much as they did for James Jeffords back in 2001). Don't believe it. This is the same Arlen Specter who started out his career decades ago as a Democrat, switched to the Republicans back in the '70s when Jimmy Carter was making the Democratic affiliation a liability, and who has now jumped ships again to save his own hide. As I stated above, one can't blame Specter for not going down with a sinking ship. But, seriously, let's not delude ourselves into considering Arlen Specter to be a statesman.
I recently discovered that the police department of Denton, Texas (my home from 1992 to 2001) maintains a website for the Denton City Jail. There are currently two jails in Denton. The county jail is where people go to serve out a sentence after being convicted of a crime. The city jail is more of a holding center. When someone is arrested by a member of the Denton Police Department (as opposed to the Denton County Sheriff's Office), they are usually first booked into the city jail where they either wait to be bonded out or until they are transferred over to county.
I'm neither proud nor ashamed to admit that, in the very late 90s, I spent a night or two in both of these jails. Fortunately for me, my youthful run-inswith the law were more of a case of me being young and irresponsible as opposed to me being a criminal. As such, my infrequent stays in the various holding cells of these two institutions never lasted for more than a couple of hours and never cost me anything more than the occasional fine. That said, I can still say that, from my limited experience, I was always relieved whenever I found myself being booked into the city jail as opposed to the county jail. Whereas the county jail was always overcrowded, loud, and was run by a bunch of pot-bellied rednecks, the city jail was almost peaceful. The guards were always polite and quick to laugh at a good joke. Since the Denton City Police tend to arrest fewer people than the Denton County Sheriff's office, the city jail was never all that crowded. One could be sure that, if nothing else, he'd at least get a private holding cell where he could lie down on a fairly comfortable cot and enjoy the quiet.
Add to that, the food was better in city jail. Indeed, the only bad thing about the Denton City Jail in the late 1990s was the total lack of television in the cells. However, it was a small price to pay to avoid the claustrophobia of county jail.
I don't know if that description is still accurate. It's been a while and, quite frankly, repeating the experience holds little appeal to me. In fact, I probably would have blocked all that from my mind if not for the fact that I've become rather addicted to visiting the homepage of the Denton City Jail.
On this website, they post the name, age, and latest mugshot of everyone currently being held in the jail, what they're being charged with, and how much it is going to cost to get them out of jail. This is, of course, a public web site which means that if you're arrested in Denton, the entire world can know about it within a matter of minutes. The Denton Police Department claims that the reason they're doing this is so that concerned friends or relatives can know if their loved ones are currently in jail and in need of someone to post bond.
Now, I have to admit that, personally, I'm not really comfortable with the idea of putting someone's picture on the Internet just because they've been arrested for a crime. Quite frankly, it seems like a massive invasion of privacy as well as a blatant violation of the whole concept of innocent until proven guilty. As a concerned citizen and a Libertarian, I think that the web site should be taken down.
However, as an individual, I'd be sorry to see that happen. The site, as reprehensible as it may be in the grand scheme of things, is just too addictive to maintain any sort of outrage towards.
One of the key components of this addiction is the fact that the site is updated in "real time." What this means is that each time a person is booked into the city jail, that new name is immediately added to the site. By that same token, whenever someone is finally released (whether by completing a sentence or getting bonded out), that name is removed from the site. As such, one could spend several hours just continually reloading the page and seeing if any names have disappeared and if any new names have materialized. Words cannot begin to describe just how entertaining this can truly be.
Each time the page is reloaded, it's like turning the page on a trashy but involving novel.
For instance, when I was visited earlier tonight, the first thing I noticed is that the two cute girls who were arrested for shop lifting have apparently either finally been bailed out or else have transferred out to the country jail. I'm hoping, for their sakes, that they bonded out and are free tonight. After all, they spent the last three days in the city jail. During that time, six separate guys were all arrested on DUI charges, booked in the jail, and subsequently released. With each visit to the web site, I would see their two names remaining even as all around them, new prisoners were being brought in and then released. I found myself feeling a lot of sympathy for these two strangers as I imagined what it must have been like to be setting in those cells and watching as everyone but them was eventually allowed to leave. I wondered if those two shoplifters were best friends or were they just casual acquaintances? Was one of the girl trying to impress the other by stealing? Were they just two spoiled suburban brats who were stealing because they could get away with and was their subsequent abandonment in jail the punishment of an outraged parent who refused to bond his daughters out? Or, I wondered, were they two desperate runaways who were shop lifting because they desperately needed something to bargain with?
It was better than a soap opera. Indeed, I was on the verge of driving to Denton myself just to bail these two out of jail.
The web site's genius is that it gives us just enough specifics to get our attention without giving us any of the details that would serve to limit the imagination. For example, when I visit the site, I might discover that a 47 year-old individual named Tom Smith has been arrested for public intoxication. I might click on Tom Smith's name and be presented with a mugshot of a balding, overweight white guy with a grim expression on his face. However, what the site won't tell me is who Tom Smith is and why he was intoxicated in public. Those facts are left to me to try to uncover based on the thin evidence provided.
As a result, I might find myself spending a lot of time examining Tom Smith's mugshot. I'll look at his grim expression and I'll wonder if the frown is a permanent feature or is it just a result of being arrested. I'll look at the face in search of any scratches or bruises or scars, any evidence of a struggle. I'll look at that mugshot and I'll ask myself, "Is Tom Smith a villain or is he a tragic hero? Is he a man with an addiction or is he a man trying to cope with pain?" In the end, the only thing that can be said for sure is that the Tom Smith of my imagination will probably turn out to have a far more interesting story than the Tom Smith of reality.
What a life! I got no sleep last night because of my toothache, I went to work for 9 hours, came home around 4 in the afternoon, and as soon as I finished watching tonight's episode of Lost, I'm going back up to work.
In many ways, the violence at Columbine High School pretty much sumsup the entire 1990s for me. Problems were dismissed, obvious warning signs were ignored, and the end result was a senseless waste of human life.
It is, of course, popular to claim that we, as a nation, learned something as a result of what happened at Columbine.
I have my doubts. American society continues to glamorize violence and parents -- who can't be bothered to confront that which doesn't have an easy solution -- continue to try to dismiss the behavior of their children as being evidence of "growing pains," "creativity," or "a need for increased medication." The latch-key children of the baby boomers have, for quite some time now, been old enough to have children of their own. It's doubtful that a generation raised without values will find much success in passing anything worthwhile along to their kids.
At some point, the human race has forgotten the importance of respecting life.
The end result? Columbine, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Branch Davidian inferno, the shootings at Virginia Tech, and so many other senseless killings that we now find ourselves struggling to keep straight.
It's hard to imagine who Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold would be today if they hadn't made that decision ten years ago. If they had decided to leave the guns at home, who would they be today? Would they still be friends? Would they get together occasionally and laugh about the day when they were so pissed off that they nearly took weapons to school? Would they have eventually learned to cope as so many former high school outcasts have learned to cope in the adult world?
Or would leaving the guns at home ten years ago have simply delayed the inevitable? Would they have grown up to eventually act out their bloodlust in some other way? Would Harris be a serial killer? Would Klebold be the bitter office manager who delighted in making the people working under him miserable?
Were these guys two forces of evil who were destined to be forces of destruction? Or were they just two kids who found themselves in a literal-minded, unimaginative society that no longer valued the things that, in the past, would have allowed them to escape from the drudgery of their present reality?
We'll never know and that, regardless of the evil committed by Klebold and Harris, is a tragedy.
However, the true tragedy of the Columbine Massacre is not that Klebold and Harris were too weak to battle their demons, The true tragedy is that, because of that weakness, 13 people were brutally murdered.
All of them were murdered ten years ago today.
12 students would be on their way to 30 today if not for the fact that, ten years ago, they showed up for class at Columbine High.
That is the tragedy of Columbine.
And the tragedy of this anniversary is that, after ten years and so many more senseless deaths, America has yet to find the courage to actually consider the lessons of Columbine.