The Incredibles, Skeeball
and a Few Weightier Issues

by Jeff Lewis

Our courts suspend basic civil liberties for suspected terrorists and pockets of our military practice torture on suspected terrorists.  It seems the term “suspected” loses its importance when placed next to “terrorist.”  These irrefutable facts don’t bother many people as much as gay marriage does, judging by the Election Day results (men or women stacking themselves in two-person, loving piles:   bad; men being stacked forcibly in large piles because they don’t like being invaded:  apparently, not as bad).  If reduced civil liberties and the less-mutilating forms of torture don’t bother you—when applied to suspected terrorists—that’s your prerogative, and I’ll at least join you in abhorring the confirmed terrorists.

No doubt, you’ll be happy with President Bush’s new nominee for Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, who gave his opinion on torture in a Department of Justice memorandum, dated August 1, 2002.  In it, he concludes that interrogation techniques can be “cruel, inhuman, or degrading,” as long as they “do not produce pain and suffering of the requisite intensity to fall within Section 2340A’s proscription against torture.”  His view of the “requisite intensity” allows for a great deal of suffering:

Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death . For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture under Section 2340, it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g. lasting for months or even years…We conclude that the statute, taken as a whole, makes plain that it prohibits only extreme acts.

It appears that the stance on torture of our nominee for Attorney General can be summarized as follows:  If you wrap it up before the month is out, it’s OK.  If it drags on a little longer, just make sure all the organs are in place when you’re done.  I hope I’m wrong about Gonzales, but his words seem pretty damning.

On a different tack, two cases of voter fraud in the past election need to be investigated, not because they affected the outcome of the election, but because voter fraud is unacceptable, no matter who perpetrates the crime.  Two troublesome events occurred on Election Day

  1. Some electronic voting machines in Broward County, Florida counted backwards, so that the official vote count went down when people voted.
  2. Election officials in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio noted that Bush won by 4,258 votes, even though only 638 people voted there.

Let’s get the vote count right, so that we don’t revert back to the Tammany Hall days; also, I don’t want to see four more years of finger quotation marks when liberals say the word “elected.”  There’s a petition you can sign if this bothers you.  If you voted for Bush, you probably should note that, because your opinion likely will have more weight.

On a lighter note, I left the house two days in a row, which is rare these days.  After several days of venturing only as far as our curb, Lynn and I made a bold move:  we had a noontime round of minigolf.  We purposely waited until a rainy weekday to ensure that we were the only people on the course.  Our golf game is rusty and we didn’t want to worry about holding up antsy kids or surly teenagers on awkward dates.  With our round, we received twenty video game tokens apiece, but we’re too out-of-the-loop to enjoy the current generation of video games, so we spent nearly all of them on skeeball.  I got quite good, scoring a 630 near the end—three near misses away from a perfect score.  Our bounty of skeeball tickets reached the hundreds, but after looking at the selection of whoopee cushions and finger-cuffs, we didn’t feel like cashing them in.  We looked for a kid that might appreciate the tickets, but the only person in the place was a teenage boy who was cutting class so he could shoot at buxom Nazis in sunglasses.

The next day, we attended a movie—only our fifth in the past twelve months.  The past four were Fahrenheit 911, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Finding Nemo. We stuck to our pattern of kiddie fare (or propaganda) and saw The Incredibles.  As Tivo owners with Turner Classic Movies, we don’t seem to have much need for dramas on the big screen.

Unfortunately, we weren’t as clever as we were on the previous day:  the strategy of seeing a midweek matinee doesn’t work if you choose a holiday.  I don’t remember getting out of school for Veteran’s Day on a Thursday, but there were plenty of kids spoiling our plans of a 1:00pm matinee.  Luckily, the 3:20pm show wasn’t sold out, so we had ample time to eat at one of the few Rubios in Northern California.  After a few fish tacos, we killed some time at Barnes & Noble, where we came across a photo collaboration between Anne Geddes and Celine Dion that—while not as troubling as torture or voter fraud—makes me shudder.  It’s a series of pictures of Celin Dion dressed as a flower, holding other people’s naked babies.  On the babies’ heads, someone has placed rubbery hats that look like the film on the top of Jello.  I think this might be the beginning of the New World Order predicted in The Matrix.

As for The Incredibles, I highly recommend it if you’re in need of a couple hours of escapist fun.  Unlike most superhero movies, you don’t need to be bothered by silly looking suits or a loose interpretation of physics because the digitally rendered world helps to suspend logic.  The movie has a great look, is clever and features the voice of Sarah Vowell, the eminently talented writer and radio personality.  My only complaint is that the Incredibles aren’t real, because we could really use their help in Iraq.

Copyright Jeff Lewis, 2004