Sunday, October 14, 2012

Big Red: The Parallel Lives of Rusty and Hell Boy

The comic book hero doomed to bring about the end of the Earth, Hellboy struggles to remain the hero while desperately trying to be more human.
Though not likely to bring about the apocalypse, Rusty is an amazing dog who is trying to understand his role in the family. New experiences include interacting with cats and walking around the furniture.
I love comic book movies.  I take that back, I love many comic book movies.  Some not so much.  The ones I really enjoy, are those that are about more than super powers set against fabulous computer generated backdrops.  The good ones are those that involve the viewer in the hero's life, that reveal the humanity of person, a look beyond the super power.

A great example of this is Edward Norton's portrayal of Bruce Banner in 2008's The Incredible Hulk. Norton's superb performance moves the green giant past "Hulk smash!!" to the tragedy of Bruce Banner.  As a man struggling to be free of his curse, Norton convincingly highlights Banner as a complex man with a complex past, full of love, hope, and desire.  He's helped out by a passable cast, though Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination is pretty darn fun.

Probably my most favorite comic book movie, however, is Guillermo Del Toro's 2004 Hellboy. The story of the demon child summoned to earth by Hitler's psychic warfare department is convincingly told, mostly on the backs of superb performances by Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Ward and Rupert Evans.  The demon child is grown to manhood and struggles mightily to be the featured weapon at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.  He is empowered with incredible energy and strength, and usually beats the crap out of paranormal bad guys.  He is the biggest, baddest kid on the block.  Yet, and this is what the film does so well, he desperately wants to fit in. He drinks Bud Light, loves junk food, and smokes cigars.  Most of all, he loves pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, and struggles when Liz doesn't freely return his feelings. And perhaps at the heart of it all is his love for his "father," Trevor "Broom" Bruttenfield, who rescues him as a young boy, er demon" during WWII and heads the Bureau.  Hellboy, struggles to be "human," to fit in while doing his job.  And then there is the matter of his red pigment and those, erm, horns.

Though Rusty may not menace the creatures of darkness everywhere, he is having many of the same struggles as Hellboy.  First, he is the biggest, most energetic red dog on the block.  He's about 40 pounds of lean, quivering furball ready to explode at any given moment.
When not using his super powers, Rusty is often quietly looking out the window (watching for evil doers), or napping.  He's a good boy.
 Like Hellboy, he mostly uses his super powers for good, but occasionally has lapses.  Yesterday, he destroyed a feather duster he managed to get hold of.  Poor duster, we hardly knew ye, but it was likely hatching some dastardly plot, like dusting one of Rusty's two crates.  Amos and Lucy are drawn to this energy, because, gosh, who wouldn't be. I know I am.

Like Hellboy, however, Rusty sometimes struggles to fit in.  He too was raised in a home much different than our own.  Well taken care of by two wonderful mommies, Rusty was mostly an outside dog.  Though he had play time with friends, he spent a lot of time in a covered kennel, but he longed secretly for his own family.  Now that he has one, he's basically trying to figure out what to do with them.  Usually he does the right thing.  He loves attention and affection.  He fits in well with the other dogs.  Rusty has almost taken on the role of big brother for Amos, who suddenly seems quite small and young next to him. The two of them guard the house from all bad guys-the UPS and FedEx drivers-as well as those seemingly non-existent.  But those moments when the two of them are together outside playing are instants of sheer magic.  If you've never watched Australian shepherds run, especially two playing together in their great arcs, you've missed out.  It is David Gilmour's solo on "Comfortably Numb" or Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring." I observed in silent awe.
Amos often plays Agent Myers to Rusty's Hellboy.  He mostly tags along, though he doesn't seem to have Myers' conscience.  My little boy has enjoyed having a big brother. Groomed yesterday, not much for the neckerchief myself.

Lucy is more like Jeff Tambor's disapproving Agent Manning.  Disapproving, but clearly wanting to be in on the action.
 Occasionally, Big Red struggles with his baser instincts.  One night as Lorri was watching television from the couch, she called to him and he leaped across the coffee table, clearing everything in his path.  My favorite moment is when he jumped up into my lap while I was watching the VP debate and began frantically washing my face.  First, I love a great face washing as much as the next guy.  I was rooting for Biden, and loved the smirks, smiles and laughter and was feeling a bit dirty anyway, so I probably needed a good face washing.  That Rusty is no Yorkie or Papillon, and weighs in at a very lean 38 pounds seemed to matter little to him.  Honestly, it didn't matter much to me; I was laughing too hard.

Rusty has added a lot to our family.  There will be peaks and valleys as he tries to figure things out.  He has to learn what it means to be an inside dog.  He has to figure out what it means to live with a 16-year old cat that is grumpy and solitary.  Daphne has already given him a lesson or two and it ain't pretty. This week he'll spend more time alone in crate.  We managed to give him a lot of time at home this week, but our lives will move on. He's added a great deal to our family.  He brings the best out of Amos who seems less reticent, more out of his shell.   We laugh a lot at his antics, but find it endearing he tends to put himself to bed at 9:00.  Only Lucy is non-plussed, but she seems to like Rusty too.

It's daylight now, so it's best to wrap up and try to keep track of my big red friend.  He's trying to keep the block safe for the family.  I'm just his sidekick.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Three is not necessarily a crowd

On Monday night Lorri and I cruised down I-5 to pick up Rusty.  I mentioned him in a previous post about Amos and Lucy.  Lorri has been in close contact with Rusty's breeder and we went down to Steamboat Island to visit with him a few weeks ago.  Amos and Lucy were quite excited to meet him, and Lorri and Deb made final arrangements for us to pick him up. 

Lots of complications, but chief among them was that Rusty was also neutered on Monday.  Yikes.  So were tearing this poor dog away from his mommy at almost the exact time his manhood was being ripped from him. 

After lots of well-intentioned good advice from Deb, we drove away with this poor whimpering dog.  Lorri managed to get him through the night relatively unscathed, and he woke up, not too much the worse for wear, but in some pain.  As Lorri worked through the morning at home, he was fairly whiny, but in the afternoon things picked up and he seemed much happier.  I left work fairly early and went dog-shopping, picking up needed items for around the house.

Rusty is incredibly athletic, affectionate, and well-mannerred.  He's a great addition to the family.  We've replaced his "cone of shame" with this decorative life preserver until his incision heals.

Our Lucy, sitting with Lorri hoping for one last slice of pizza.

Two views of Amos.  This one in his favorite place under the computer desk.

His second favorite place is with Lorri, literally under foot.  Unfortunately I couldn't get the red out of his eyes for this picture.  He has the most beautiful Aussie-eyes I've ever seen.  He's the most beautiful dog I could ever imagine owning (if you could actually own a family member.)
When I got home from Petco and Costco I was mobbed by three pretty happy dogs, each vying for attention.  Rusty is bigger than Amos and Lucy, he is a love bug and likes attention.  He jumps up on my lap and loves to wash my face.  I love that!!.  He seems to like the other dogs, and they are anxious to play with him when he is a bit more on the mend. I've got some pictures here so you can see.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Why I will vote for Obama

I watched the first presidential debate on Wednesday as I was cutting apart plastic pieces for one of my miniature soldiers project.  While I was not tempted to impale myself with the fresh X-acto blade, it was disappointing to see the president perform so poorly.

Despite the President's discouraging performance in Wednesday's debate, he is still my man.
Even so, I made up my mind long ago to vote for President Obama.  For anybody who knows me, this should not come as much of a surprise.  I've been a liberal and a Democrat all my life.  I believe in what the Democratic party has always stood for:
  1. Improving the standard of living working Americans
  2. Economic protections to insure the poorest and most vulnerable Americans can survive in our economy
  3. Using government to insure those protections, and regulate the economy, preserve the environment when needed. 
Some may throw stones and suggest this is socialism.  It's not.  I've been  socialist, and this ain't it. I believe President Obama fits quite nicely in the line of Democratic leaders from Franklin Roosevelt, to the Kennedys (all three of 'em) to Bill Clinton.

I have a great deal of admiration for the President.  I like his story.  I read Dreams of My Father and was blown away by his life experiences.  I really like Michelle Obama.  She's beautiful and smart, a great advocate for fitness and health, and together the two of them are raising a great family in the harsh spotlight of highly partisan Washington, D.C.  Barack is very intelligent and speaks in nuanced terms.  While he comes across as professorial (that's who he is,) he communicates with Americans in multi-syllables.  He helps us understand the problems we face are complex and the fix will neither be easy or brief.

I confess my great fortune.  I have not been badly affected by the economic troubles of the past four years.  I still have a job, though I took a pay cut and my health insurance is now spendy.  None of my family or closest friends have had extended jobless periods. I've been able to watch the President try to improve the country's situation as an outsider, secure in the knowledge that I am likely not at risk if the economy slides sideways.  I've observed his negotiations with Congress with incredulity, and become utterly disillusioned at the lack of interest Republican leaders and the Tea Party insurgents seem to have in solving the country's very real fiscal problems.

Obama has done the best that he can under trying circumstances.  He walked into a Hoover-like catastrophe with limited tools at his disposal.   The trap door opened under the economy, and when he worked with his predecessor to rescue the banking industry, bailed out the auto industry and offered a stimulus package he was met with contempt.  When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed the number one priority was to make Obama a one term president, he led the GOP away from answering the country's economic challenges in favor of political gain.  McConnell will simply be remembered as political pond scum. Though Obama's economic accomplishments are far from perfect the GOP obstruction is unforgivable.

The President is vilified in unspeakable terms by the Tea Party, the right wing media, the LaRouche nutballs in ways I simply cannot remember being applied to any leader, R or D.  Is it racist?  Likely some of it.  Or some of it is just pseudo-intellectual whackball nonsense such as Ramesh Ponnuru's "Obama is an anti-colonialist America hater." The right wing has great respect for haters who are multi-syllabic and don't wear sheets.

While I do like Obama a great deal, I am not star-struck.  There are important aspects of his presidency I find deeply troubling. Most are related to the continuation and extension of President Bush's policy in the War on Terror.  First, is the the president's signature on the National Defense Authorization Act.  This act, signed January 1, 2012, authorized funding for the military.  However, it also authorized the indefinite detention of Americans suspected of terrorist acts.  The president threatened a veto over this measure and should have followed through.  Though these measures existed under both the Bush and Obama administrations, the Act officially codified them into law and make them ripe for abuse.The President did not close Guantanamo as he promised.  Though this is as much related to the craven views of  Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the President's lack of will in removing this moral blot from our record is disconcerting.  Prolonging the Afghan war, extending the human and financial cost seems wholly out of balance with the likely outcome when we leave, and we must leave. Resentment against the drone war in Waziristan is growing in the press, and will eventually be seen as our own war of terror. The President has not acted honestly and forthrightly with a plan to curtail deficits and deal with the debt.  Too many important decisions are left undecided.

Mitt Romney is the alternative.  I won't waste my vote on a minor candidate.  I did that in 1980 and got eight years of Ronald Reagan.  It's Obama or Romney. I can't vote for the latter.

Mitt Romney is in a terrible spot.  First I want to just say that I find him a very sympathetic figure. Mitt clearly has many accomplishments notched on his belt. He is clearly a good man, devoted to his family, and has used his great wealth for many good causes.  Bain CEO, Massachusetts governor, Olympic savior.  At another time a very moderate governor from a liberal leaning state could be just the man to lead this country..  Unfortunately that man cannot run for president as a Republican in 2012.

What happened to the GOP?  Once upon a time-during my lifetime, not eons ago-there was a kaleidoscope of political views in this party.  Jacob Javits of New York, Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, Howard Baker of Tennessee were all liberal to moderate Republicans.  They would have no place in this party today.  Even men like Robert Dole and Alan Simpson, men with impeccable  conservative credentials, would not find themselves welcome in the party of Rand Paul, Todd Akin, and Marco Rubio.  Men of long GOP standing like John McCain and Orrin Hatch, legislators who could make a deal with their rivals across the aisle are forced to adopt new Tea Party-stamped underwear that insulates them from cross-party cooperation for fear of a fatal primary battle.  The GOP is all orthodoxy all the time, the good of the country be damned.  Fiscal neanderthals, and social jihadists, for these Republicans there can be no third way.

Yet this is the party for which Mitt Romney must carry a standard.  He must adopt positions I don't think he shares in his heart of hearts.  Ultimately I believe Romney is a decent, moderate man.  Yet he is shackled to social and fiscal policies locked to his candidacy by the traveling clown show that was Republican primary season.  No longer pro-choice, no longer favoring his own Massachusetts health care system for the rest of the country, Romney must adopt the same scorched earth policies of Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, and Michele Bachman.  Maybe not Bachman; she seems to orbit some other dark star of fantasy in her own strange psyche.

There are many areas where I cannot support Mitt the Candidate.  Today he opposes a woman's right to choose.  That's a non-starter for me.  He opposes same-sex marriage, the civil rights issue of our time. His positions on Iran simply scare the crap out of me.  Unless the United States is prepared to undertake a war costing tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, Gov. Romney needs to take a more cautious view of this situation.

Yet the biggest issue for me continues to be the GOP/Romney fiscal plan. Cut taxes, and close unspecified loopholes, increase military spending by two trillion dollars over ten years. Offset the lot with unspecified spending cuts.  Oops, I forgot, Big Bird must be plucked.

 In 1981 Ronald Reagan cut taxes and increased military spending, promising growth and a balanced budget.  Eventually we got growth, but the debt, a campaign issue that festooned Jimmy Carter's re-election bid, exploded, and continued throughout Reagan and George H.W. Bush's presidencies.  When Bill Clinton reached agreement with a Newt-led Congress to raise taxes and actually balanced the budget, this was immediately flushed with George W. Bush's tax cuts.  These too promised growth with fiscal responsibility.  We got little of the former and none of the latter.  Conservative economists continue to promise that lower taxes with fiscal austerity will bring back the economy and balance the budget.  I'm not buying.  Arthur Laffer  promised this so many times over the past thirty years he should change his name to Arthur Laughable. Nope, it's snake oil. What has austerity done for Ireland, Great Britain, Greece, Spain and Italy?  Recession, depression, civil unrest.  This may be the one thing Mitt truly does believe in, and for me it's like Coronado chasing the Seven Cities of Gold.  It's mythical, and not a way to run the country.

I don't know how Mr. Obama will do in the remaining debates.  My hope is he will rise to the occasion and give Romney hell. Whether he performs well or not, he has my vote.