Monthly Archives: April 2006

big block of cheese, pt. 4

Why would Mr. Sorkin, who during the production of the show seemed always to be suffering from logorrhea of the word processor, who could hardly go out for a sandwich without writing a scene or a speech, feel it necessary to take not just a few lines but really a whole plotline from what is basically a lame internet gripe? Why would a man with one of the world’s biggest dramatic stages invent a whole sideline on his show just to sharpshoot Dr. Laura? I mean, she’s a bit of a pissant, comparatively. And if he were going to do it, if he really wanted to use the show to debate Scripture line by line, why wouldn’t he have his staff do some real research, come up with some real arguments, and — most importantly — give the president an opponent who can defend herself?
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big block of cheese, pt. 3

Leo’s defense of the decision here is completely unsatisfying, but perhaps not unrealistic. For all I know, this is how the most difficult decisions are made — in a haze of poorly stated half-thoughts. Perhaps at the end, any President who ventures into such a moral quagmire is simply unable to give an articulate voice to his conscience; and perhaps his advisors really do importune him with irrelevancies and knee-jerk appeals to patriotism.

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big block of cheese, pt. 2

Josh’s character is perhaps the weakest on the show; although Bradley Whitford generally holds it together with wit and charm, his primary personal characteristics seem to be womanizing and a certain flexibility in his political beliefs. This is fine, and in fact Josh often provides us some relief from the unrelenting piety of the other characters. The trouble comes in trying to explain this behavior through unconvincing backstory. When, in the fourth season, Donna “explains” Josh to Amy, telling her that everyone Josh loves goes away (his sister, his father, and very nearly the President), we certainly can’t complain this time that the show hasn’t prepared us for it. But somehow the points remain unconnected; moreover, it’s not clear that we need or want them connected. Surely there are many men of weak character where women and politics are concerned; do we always need to trace this back to family loss? Is there some reason that Josh’s issues around women can’t simply be the result of his own decisions, his own unwillingness to expose himself?
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lying i’s

Yet thinking about it later, I realized that our enormous and redundant vocabulary presents a problem — namely, that without some sort of tonal system (for the spoken language) or unlimited set of ideograms (for the written) one quickly runs out of manageable unique combinations of sounds and symbols. Thus, as our language evolved, was colonized by the French, went through a free-for-all period of glorious expansion and experimentation, and was finally corralled, though hardly tamed, by grammarians and schoolmasters, we left behind our relatively straightforward, relatively phonetic Anglo-Saxon rules of spelling and leapt into the explosion of “bear” and “bare” and “to” and “too” and “two” and “shoe” and “shoo” and “for” and “four” and “fore” and “blue” and “blew” and “by” and “buy” and “eves” and “eaves” and “you” and “ewe” and “won” and “one.” We developed these alternate spellings as a way of keeping meanings straight among homophones adopted from different places. Most languages would not tolerate such flagrant homophonia among such common, high-usage words, in part because most languages have sensible spelling rules. But because we English speakers have been willing to give up a certain amount of phonetic identification in our spelling, we’ve gained a measure of flexibility in creating and adopting words which sound alike, and thus increased our available vocabulary and power of expression.
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the march

The ruck march is basically just walking, but is an order of magnitude more difficult. The standard at Ft. Lewis, set by the I Corps commander, is to carry a 35-lb. rucksack 12 miles in four hours. Our first sergeant wants us to do it in three hours. Our platoon sergeant has led us through a series of train-up marches, and wanted us to carry 50 lbs., on the theory that “when you take some of that weight off, it’ll be easy.” This is actually a well-known Army maxim: train harder than you fight. There is, of course, really no upper limit to this maxim. Well, maybe one. The U.S. Army Ranger School’s promotional website features an ascending bar graph of “human potential”: the first bar is “INDIVIDUAL COMFORT RANGE” at about 15%, followed by “SELF-IMPOSED LIMIT” at 50%, “IMPOSED STRESS OF RANGER SCHOOL” at 75%, and, finally, at 100%, “TOTAL EXERTION (DEATH).”

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