At the end of May, there is but one sound I do not want to hear. I can take the incessant patter of rain; I can bear tornado sirens, thunder, the American Idol theme, anything. Anything but the click and hiss of the boiler below, the whoomph! of gas catching fire to heat the house. It feels not like May but like September. Like a certain September I don’t want to recall. But more on that tomorrow.

Took the computer to the Apple Store today for repairs. An external hard drive somehow blew the firewire bridge on the ZZZZZZzzzzzz as you alllll fall asleep. Okay, let’s talk about abortion!

No? Okay, then. So I bagged up the G5 in plastic lawn sacks and hauled it to the store. Of course they had to confirm that my diagnosis was correct; can’t blame them. This required that they hook the G5 up to a monitor, natch. Which monitor? The widescreen monitors on the wall over the Genius Bar. I should note that the store was packed. Packed. They were six deep at the cash register; two people hunched over every display in the store. And now my desktop is being broadcast above. It felt terribly intimate.

Hey, said the tech. Nice custom icon for the hard drive.

Why - why thank you!

Thus emboldened, I shot the cursor into the southwest corner so everyone could see my screen saver. Local buildings run through my own custom Edward Hopper photoshop filter, thank you very much. But of course no one cared.

“Good thing I took off the Art Frahm screensaver,” I said to the Giant Swede, who’d helped me lug the computer into the store.

“Are you kidding?” he said. “You should have kept it up.”

Right. My desktop with my full name up in the right hand corner, showing pictures of women with their underwear around their ankles.

While the tech was writing up the service order, a woman came by with a question: Word kept quitting. What to do? I took over, said I’d had the same problem. Here’s what you do: check the font book for corrupted fonts. Then verify your permissions – here’s the path name for that. Then trash your plist – you’ll go to users > library > preferences.

“You can also set up a new user and see if the same thing happens,” says the tech.

“Well, great!” she says. “And this should do it?”

“Oh, heavens, no,” I said. “But that’s what tech support will tell you to do, so you might as well do it anyway. Then wipe the drive clean and start again.”

I think she thought I was kidding.

Allright, now we talk about abortion. No? Fine. Movies, then. I’m having a personal Mutiny Film Fest – first the Caine Mutiny, then all three Bountys. I’d never seen the Caine Mutiny in widescreen, so that was new. The highlight of the movie is still Jose Ferrar’s drunk scene at the end, complete with the humiliation of Fred MacMurray. It’s always a shock for people of my generation to see his movie work; we know him as the Kindly Dad in “My Three Sons,” but before he put on the pipe and slippers and pater familias demeanor, he played the unlikable, and unlikely, murderer in “Double Indemnity,” and the unlikable officer in Caine. “Mutiny” (1935) is pretty impressive. And it’s nice to see the source material for all those Warner Brothers cartoon references in the 30s. Gable is quite sympathetic, even though he’s a press ganger when first we meet him. He shows up at a pub and conscripts the patrons for a two-year tour of duty.

Man, that had to be a buzzkiller. And I can’t help but think this would cut down on the pubs’ business; if you knew that the King’s Men could kick down the door and drag you off to the Horn of Africa on a ship where the slightest infraction got your back lashed to ribbons, you’d think: you know, I’m just going to stay in tonight.

But did people in 1935 really think that Tahitians looked like this?

Or this?

That’s Maimiti, played by Mamo, as she’s credited in the movie. (See also, Zulu as Kono.) Full name, Mamo Clark. Born in Hawaii, it turns out. But when they did the remake in the early sixties, they cast a woman named Tarita. . Imdb says she born in a bamboo hut, and “was working as a dishwasher in a resort” in Tahiti when she was discovered. Other trivia: “Has two children with Marlon Brando.” The man certainly got into his roles. Among other things.

Anyway, don’t miss the breathless conclusion to “The Many Faces of Maimiti,” when I watch the oft-forgotten 80s remake with Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian, and Danny DeVito as Captain Bligh. (Kidding. It’s Anthony Hopkins.)

Okay, abortion. Don’t worry; I’m not going to write The Most Alienating Post Ever. Like many, I have a set of ideas on the subject that are not necessarily consistent. I please no one except those who agree with me, and frankly I'm not all that comfy agreeing with myself. Let’s posit this: there are extremes. You may believe that life begins at conception, and draw from that belief that conception itself is wrong. On the other end, you may believe – although I doubt you do – that Peter Singer is correct, and parents can terminate a life months after birth if there is a quality-of-life issue. Ban the pill or legalize infanticide: where do you stand? It’s a moot point; it doesn’t come to that, it never does, it won't. But. You learn something about yourself when you answer the hypothetical question. Over the years I’ve come to err on the side of life. Being the father of a premature baby colors my views. I am not an absolutist. But there are borders; there are boundaries, there are bright red lines. You see them too. We disagree about where they are. This is not about that argument.

At least I hope not. It has to do with something I heard Kerry say on the radio last Friday, a snippet from a speech made a few months ago. He said something that seemed to conflate two different issues:

"Abortion should be rare, but it should be safe and legal -- and the government should stay out of the bedrooms of America," he said to cheers and applause.

Abortion takes place in the bedroom?

No; conception takes place in the bedroom. (Usually.) I’m all for keeping government out of the bedroom; sodomy laws are preposterous, just as the laws against contraceptives were preposterous. But the “government out of the bedrooms of America” line applies to consenting activity between adults; the matter of abortion revolves around the question of a third party – what rights the fetus has, whether it is a party with rights at all, etc. The standard line about governmental interference has previously been phrased as a matter of medical privacy, e.g., the state should stay out of the doctor’s office. Or it’s a matter of personal real estate: keep your laws out of my uterus, as the bumpersticker has it. But I’ve never heard the bedroom referenced in the abortion debate. Why?

Bad speechwriting – or an attempt to blur the issue, and make reproductive choice part and parcel of sexual freedom? In other words, are we now to believe that the decision not to use contraceptives automatically overrides any ethical questions that later arise from that action? “It was my choice to risk pregnancy, therefore I have total control over the results of that choice.” Seems a shaky argument to me; it’s like saying “I chose not to demand that my passenger wear a seatbelt, so now that he’s in a coma after the accident I caused, I alone have the right to say that life support should be withdrawn.”

You want to know why I never, ever talk about this subject? Because the previous paragraph makes sense to me; it seems right. And I know there are smart good people who can pick it apart logically and ethically, and make a persuasive case completely opposed to mine. I could understand all of it and applaud the conciseness of its logic, and agree with none of it. We won’t change minds here. I bring this up only to point to an interesting shift in the argument itself.

Personally, I think it’s bad speechwriting. I think someone dropped in a slab of boilerplate without realizing that it didn’t quite fit. But:

“He said, to cheers and applause.”

Obviously it sounded right to some. But it’s a bad tack for the pro-choice camp to take. If abortion is a necessary component of sexual freedom, then we have to ask why it should be “rare.” The desire for a diminished number of abortions would seem to suggest that there is something regrettable about the procedure. Because it is unpleasant? Well, many medical procedures are unpleasant, but no one would insist that prostate exams or wisdom teeth extractions be “rare” if they're the right thing to do. The term “rare” is a sop thrown to the moderate middle that wants legal abortion for the first trimester and abhors it for the third, and doesn’t want to think about the second trimester. It’s a have-your-cake / eat-it-too position, and given the wide smear of opinion on the subject, I understand why politicians on the left use the term to court the middle. It sets them apart from the right, whose silence on the middle ground implies that they do not believe such a thing exists, because it shouldn't.

When it comes to the public discussion of abortion policy, “rare” and “keep government out of the bedroom” are two first cousins who should not date no matter how much they seem to get along. And now I am going to bed. See you tomorrow.


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