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Mixed bag

A lot of stuff is happening this summer. In the news, as I write this, there are eight or nine stories that, in a slower news cycle, might easily dominate the headlines to the exclusion of all else: the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act, the trial of George Zimmerman, the continuing saga of Edward Snowden, the murder(s) allegedly committed by the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez, Texas Senate Bill Five and Wendy Davis's marathon filibuster, Paula Deen's racism scandal . . . and probably some international stuff in places like Syria and Turkey that's actually more important than any of these other things.

As it happens, most of these (domestic) stories aren't all that fun to have opinions on, in the sense that the "correct" position is kind of too obvious (marriage equality is good, murder and racism are bad).

I guess, for the average liberal, the Snowden story contains the largest gray area. My own (probably dumb) instinctive reaction was a somewhat unsympathetic one, even as Snowden's central premise - that we deserve at least to know the extent to which the government is spying on us - seemed to me correct: yet here was a vainglorious Ron Paul supporter who, by releasing hard evidence of (legal, if not necessarily "right") government surveillance that we all sort of vaguely knew was happening anyway, had maybe just empowered a preexisting current of American paranoia toward our "foreign," "socialist" president and his "invasive," "overreaching" policies.

It's difficult to tell, though, how much harm or good Snowden's whistleblowing has done, and for that reason (and because of his obviously basically good intentions) it's hard to really want to see him spend the rest of his life in prison, for instance. One thing that's kind of weird (and totally predictable) is how the media has come to focus on Snowden's personal story - his flight to Hong Kong, and then to Moscow, and will the U.S. ever nab him? - Rather than the NSA's privacy violations, which of course is the main issue here.

After the initial outrage, I haven't heard much about what, if we're truly about to enter "1984," we should do about it.
Moving on to some other food for thought for this holiday week:

1. Now that the Paul Pierce era has finally ended in Boston, Celtics fans can debate where he ranks among the franchise's all-time greats. My guess: well below Russell and Bird (obviously), slightly below McHale and Havlicek, slightly above Sam Jones and Tommy Heinsohn, well above Dennis Johnson - maybe on the level of Robert Parish? I dunno. It occurs to me that, if Ainge hadn't brought in Garnett and Allen, Pierce's career might have been ultimately seen as no more significant than Antoine Walker's. It also occurs to me that pretty soon there will be, in the NBA's history, so many great players to account for that this sort of debate will basically be impossible to have, and perhaps we'll all be better off.

2. Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" are squaring off for this year's "summer anthem" title, insofar as our fractured culture still has an overarching "summer anthem." "Get Lucky" is the better choice, I think, because Daft Punk is more important musically than Robin Thicke, but "Blurred Lines" is more fun - and currently in the lead, it seems.

3. When Nadal lost in the first round of Wimbledon, I finally realized that the primary reason I'm still rooting for him to win every major after all these years is that I'm still angry about how dumb David Foster Wallace's typically overzealous "Roger Federer as Religious Experience" article  was - which cast Federer as so divinely talented as to inspire belief in God, and Nadal as some pedestrian muscle-man - back in 2006. I want Nadal's career to overtake Federer's not so much for tennis reasons as for literary ones.

4. Hey, look, it's the 4th of July! Happy America, everyone. On a related note, I recently fulfilled my once-in-a-lifetime patriotic duty to visit Colonial Williamsburg, having found myself in Virginia for other reasons.

Williamsburg - whose real, functional downtown was restored in the 20th century to a lovely, green approximation of its colonial state and populated with historical interpreters, actors, and craftsmen - is sort of an amazing project but a confusing experience, occupying, as it does, some uneasy territory between museum and amusement park and Medieval Times.

On a Monday, it was so overrun by tourists that I didn't see all that much opportunity to wrest the interpreters from their rehearsed speeches and performances, and the craftsmen were particularly hard to interact with: it seemed that some were playing 18th-century artisans and wanted to talk about the practices of, say, colonial tailors, while others seemed to view themselves basically as modern-day skilled laborers who just happened, irrelevantly, to be dressed in old-timey garb, and they wanted to talk about their trade from a modern perspective (that is to say, about the trade itself, not about its past) - or to be left alone to work.

It was weird.