Among the many sounds and scents of Independence Day — hot dogs grilling, fireworks exploding, the cat seeking refuge in a bedroom — there is Old Glory. A few houses on my block fly the flag on this day, two keep them up all year, and I have no reason to doubt that each family loves this country. When Conor Friedersdorf wrote ‘This flag is your flag’ he was not so magnanimous in choosing to open by referring to a president who “cast himself as…protector of the American flag.” That’s an easy case to make when President Trump traffics in the kind of ostentatious displays that seemingly equate patriotism with the size of a flag flying from one’s porch. By the time Eagles players were uninvited from the White House the source of player’s discontent and Colin Kaepernick’s role in provoking it didn’t matter; they were disrespecting Americans, veterans and the flag by demonstrating. Friedersdorf may have felt that Trump used the bully pulpit to carelessly stir up resentment about an issue even veterans are divided over, but reacted in a familiar way. Continue reading
Category Archives: community
If the library of science fiction tales about our first contact with artificial intelligence have a common thread it’s that they don’t end well for humans. The signature stories in man-versus-machine lore vary in tone and scale: they’ve included everything from small, relatively modest affairs like 2001 to splashy, high-tech trilogies that include Terminator and The Matrix. If we played any part in our fictional downfall it was that of unwitting participant, not knowing collaborator. In this world of machine-learning, Facebook algorithms and autonomous cars the challenge of adapting to artificial intelligence have been fairly pedestrian and easy to overlook. A world-renowned Chess champion was toppled by Deep Blue, a top-ranked Jeopardy! player has been soundly defeated, a little-known Go master is humbled, and a few cats have been taken for a ride by Roomba vacuums. Machines are still more novelty than challenger. Continue reading
After skimming through and scrolling past an unknown number of year-in-review articles and top-ten posts that included one illustrating 12 ways liberals reveal their anger and another listing President Trump’s accomplishments I was tempted to contribute. The prospect of a personal trip through the past 12 months sounded like fun at first, a way to put my own stamp on 2017 that would presumably differ from the others. But it didn’t seem as interesting once I considered adding to what was already a voluminous list, so I decided to take a different look back. In September WordPress delivered a notification that it had been three years since PurpleChi opened for business. It was a happy reminder — and a surprising one for how fast the last two years flew by — but a combination of more pressing news and my stubborn tendency to be late for almost everything interfered. The draft file remained occupied by other aspiring posts. Continue reading
An unexpected journey: Kevin Takagi had been an early riser from his first days on the high school basketball team. Something about making that commitment drove Takagi to outwork everyone around him, not out of spite, but because of how driven he was. As much as the Arcadia High School grad loved basketball, he didn’t have the talent to attract attention from a Division 1 school or the commitment to keep working and hope to draw interest from NBA scouts building Summer League teams. It turns out the kid known as “KT” by his friends had other plans. Continue reading
There was a sense of Trump fatigue when news of another march appeared on the front page of the local newspaper, then spread online to outlets like DailyNews.com, Breitbart.com, KTLA News, and YouTube. These protests have been occurring fairly regularly since inauguration day, sometimes branded as a “Women’s March” or a “March for Science.” Another group called for impeachment and they, like the group at Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, were confronted by pro-Trump demonstrators who cloak themselves in the flag and chant “USA! USA!” A pair of clever posts by a fellow blogger started the gears turning, now the sight of a folder without any timely yet incomplete drafts in it has motivated me to grapple with my own feelings about American civics, government, and politics. There’s also the little matter of what “great” means in a country governed by a former reality TV star promising to bring back what may have never gone away. Continue reading
I knew the rap on office Christmas parties when I discovered the invitation to one on my desk. They’re the kind of place people go when they’ve got nowhere else to go, an event better suited to the cast of a Mike Judge movie than an aspiring writer. But since I was a rookie typesetter who was new in town and had nowhere else to be on that Saturday I bought a ticket. The print shop I was working for rented out a ballroom at a hotel whose name remains elusive. If the pay was a hint at what money could be made producing business cards and letterhead it was all they could afford. Continue reading
As the calendar changes from May to June, the focus changes from moms to dads and vets to grads. When one is neither a dad or a prospective grad, the sight of all those greeting cards can send the mind wandering toward class reunions. Such a weird place for it to go, but minds can be pesky things: when left to their own devices, they wander about like cats. Impulsive and easily distracted. But the prospect of tumbling down the rabbit hole into the past is tempting. How have the years changed the cast of characters I went to school with? They could be essentially the same people I remember…but maybe they’re not. Maybe the guy who wrote for the same “alternative” newspaper I did is a roofing contractor now and hasn’t written a paragraph since. Maybe the girl from media ethics I was convinced would be a professor is a married beautician with two kids. What about me? The years have been kind in some ways; the dashing figure I remember seeing in the mirror still is, but I’m not the (paid) editorialist I expected to be.
everyone I know has got a reason…to say…put the past away.
It’s easy advice, but I don’t want to take it. True, there is no way to rewrite history, and — though it can be fun to visit and offers plenty of opportunities for a toast and little levity — dwelling on it can only drag me down if I wonder where a well-placed zag or two would have led. But the road did offer hard-won lessons. There were better ways to handle an awful crash of a date than a months-long retreat into friendship, the stubborness and indecisiveness it brought on didn’t help; there were better ways of responding to getting fired from a job than stewing through a six month sabbatical, the stubborness and pride it brought on didn’t help. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it would be better to leave unhappy memories like these behind the way people are freed of their sins at baptism.* But what if the lessons went with them? Suddenly the value of turning away isn’t so clear.
and I want you to know…everyone has to face down the demons.**
The analogy is a bit melodramatic. Mistakes are not sins or demons, though one driven by pride or greed could be suitably redefined. I know, still melodramatic for various reasons, but going somewhere. Trust me. The past does leave scars of a different kind from the one on my ankle. They’re as much a part of me as back-to-back 3rd place state awards for political cartooning, hours spent philosophizing with friends over suds, or a year behind the news editor’s desk jousting with the editorial page editor over a weekly column. They’re reminders that slipping is not an embarrassment or a failure; I’ve lost my footing before and probably will again. The next trip won’t be embraced, but it will give me another mark to explain and another story to tell the Cheshire cat, the Mad Hatter, and the rest of the crew when I see them.
* It’s my understanding that baptism involves washing away sins, but I’m not a practicing Christian…so if I’m wrong I would like to know.
** Song lyrics courtesy of Third Eye Blind.