Monthly Archives: May 2008

gettin’ hitched (again) in California

It might just be a temporary victory, but today the California Supreme Court overturned a ban on gay marriage that was voted into law (as Proposition 22) back in 2000.

Domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage, the justices ruled 4-3 in an opinion.

The cases were brought by the city of San Francisco, two dozen gay and lesbian couples, Equality California and another gay rights group in March 2004 after the court halted San Francisco’s monthlong same-sex wedding march that took place at Mayor Gavin Newsom’s direction.

“Today the California Supreme Court took a giant leap to ensure that everybody – not just in the state of California, but throughout the country – will have equal treatment under the law,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who argued the case for San Francisco.

Let’s hope so. Even the Governator understands that continuing to fight progress isn’t doing anyone any good:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed legislation that would’ve granted marriage rights to same-sex couples, said in a statement that he respected the court’s decision and “will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”

Indeed. Now, let’s see some weddings!

on technomagic and imagination

I was searching for the term “technomagic” (long story) and came across a post about Clarke’s quote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s a favorite of mine, and of hers as well:

And it is a quote that I’ve always loved. But the more I look at it and think about it, I have to wonder if it still applies to our world.

I’m watching the Transformers movie while writing this. Huge robots from outer space coming to Earth. Does anyone think they are magic? Of course not.

“I bought a car. Turned out to be an alien robot. Who knew?”, says a nonchalant Sam Witwicky.

More technologically advanced than us? Totally. But magic? Don’t be silly! Never even enters anyone’s mind.

Yes, but no. As advanced as a transforming robot might be, I don’t think it’s “sufficiently advanced.” In terms of imagination (if not practicality), an Autobot is a simple combination of a technology we have (a car), a technology we’re working on (a humanoid robot), and a technology that’s explicitly described in the story (transformation from one machine to another.) Each step along the way is imaginable as a technology.

The problem is that we’re describing things we already understand (or have a grasp on, thanks to science fiction), so it’s hard to find something “sufficiently advanced.” Perhaps we could look at aspects of the world we don’t understand, things that spook us when they happen.

The island on LOST could be one. Crazy, unexplainable things happen. Dead people come back to give warnings, weather responds to emotions, buildings appear and disappear. Since the audience doesn’t know enough to explain all the events, they could be magic or some advanced technology. (Or the product of a deranged imagination, but Clarke didn’t say anything about that.) It’s even a theme of the show: is the Island a magical force to be obeyed, or a technological treasure trove to be exploited?

Harry Potter could be a nearer-term example. Flying broomsticks? Animal transformation? Wands that influence the world with a few words and a gesture? They’re presented as magic (and denounced as demonic), but I see technologies that aren’t far off.

support our troops

You never expected to see that headline here, right? Well, I mean it literally, with no riders or secret motives. Putting aside the people who give the orders, the arguments for or against wars, and the numbers, let’s think about the actual men and women who asked what they could do for their country, then did it.

We’ve heard how much it costs to support the war, in terms of money, human lives, and world sentiment. But how much does it cost to support the millions of American soldiers who served their time? How much to heal their wounds, to treat them for PTSD, to provide educational benefits, to help with housing?

To me, these things are much more important than the war itself, because they affect Americans directly. We should protect our borders and help keep the peace around the world, but we must take care of the people who have sacrificed so much to do that for us. Ignoring our defense is ill-advised and may lead to danger, but ignoring our defenders is heartless. Brutal. Insane. Unconscionable.

I bet it doesn’t come near the $500 billion we’ve spent to have them support us, so why is it that I keep hearing news stories about how we’re not spending enough to help them? Shouldn’t I be hearing conservative op-ed columnists grumbling about how we pamper our veterans, instead of stories about crumbling hospitals, suicide rates, and homeless vets?

Or am I just missing something?