First, my assistant introduced me to this video. He kept me laughing hysterically at work when he'd mimic it. Now I've got my man talkin' about "war clouds"...and my ribs hurt. Such happy times, people, happy times...
"I am off my meds and... *whew* ...you know, shit is crazy right now." Hehee.
Through thee alone the sky is arched.
Through thee the rose is red;
All things through thee take nobler form,
And look beyond the earth,
The mill-round of our fate appears
A sun-path in thy worth.
Me too thy nobleness has taught
To master my despair;
The fountains of my hidden life
Are through thy friendship fair.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series, 1841
"We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full." ~Marcel Proust Albertine Disparue
As the year draws to an end, I find myself thinking about the speed at which time passes. It seemingly fluctuates in relation to our desires: it vanishes when life is good and we wish to savor every moment; it lingers in times of adversity.
The truth is, time is constant. It is our human traits of hope and patience that fade, one sand grain at a time. The longer an adversity remains, more sands collect at the base. It is hard to embrace optimism when gravity is not an ally. Reality sucks when you watch the sands keep falling down.
What is most horrifying about these dire economic times is not simply the fiscal devastation affecting millions of hard-working Americans. The saddest fact is not the middle manager's diminished 401K. It is not the devalued portfolio of the seven-figure-earning CEO, nor the forfeited bonus of an auto executive. Those situations are financial inconveniences.
No, the travesty of a recessed/depressed economy is the emotional toll it exacts on everyday citizens. Every day, another grain of sand falls when an hourly blue-collar employee performs a job that doesn't pay well working for a boss who is a despicable ass. He knows he has to suck it up: he's afraid to lose the only job available in town. His frustrations mount as his hopes fade.
Or maybe a woman has been planning to leave an abusive spouse, but cannot afford to leave because her part-time job won't pay her bills if she lives alone. With each verbal and physical blow a few more grains of sand trickle downward. She hopes for a change in the future, but she's not sure she'll survive to escape the reality of the present.
Perhaps it's not as severe as that. Maybe the guy doesn't really love the girl, but he continues living with her because her income is too invaluable to lose. More grains of sand fall every day when they argue about petty domestic issues. Their arrangement drains his resolve to make a better life for himself. He knows it's not the ideal situation, but he tells himself it's better than being alone.
Men and woman aren't the only victims of circumstance. What about the abandoned pets at the local animal shelter whose owners could no longer afford to keep them? It's bad enough to tell a child they must quit their after-school music or gymnastics lessons because it's too expensive. How many grains of sand fall when a parent tells their child that the beloved family dog "ran away" because they're too ashamed to tell little Johnny or Susie the truth? How many parents have secretly taken Buster to the pound because they had no money for pet food? How much does that lie diminish a family's hope for a better future when each day brings more pain?
Worse still, what about the soldier forced to reenlist for another tour of duty - risking his life on the front lines - because there are no jobs for him back home as a civilian?
How much longer can people like this endure the agony that is life today? How many people will commit a crime just so they can be sent to a prison where their basic needs of food and shelter will be met?
The sad thing is that all of these scenarios are plausible. These are all economic realities. In dire financial straits, the number of abuse cases skyrockets. Drunks beat their spouses, children and pets. People stay in jobs they hate, if they're lucky to have one at all. Health gets neglected. Houses and cars get repossessed. Quality of life takes a back seat to everyday survival. It's depressing as hell, and there is no easy solution.
But there's a silver lining in this. The endurance of something atrocious can be a motivator. It can reinforce resilience. It can fuel an otherwise hopeless soul's patience. We learn to be more frugal. We learn to help each other more. We learn to tolerate second choices until we can make it through to the other side. Surviving these harsh times is not unlike boot camp. It's hell, but it's temporary. It's a bitch to endure, but it toughens us and teaches us how to make do with what we've got. Luxuries and creature comforts are postponed but not forgotten. It is our desire to have our desires fulfilled that keeps us trudging on through the muck and mire. Hope of future pleasures makes present pains more tolerable.
I'm reminded of one of my favorite Shakespeare lines: "Though patience be a tired mare, yet will she plod." (Henry V, Act II, scene i)
No, I do not have the life I wanted. I am not living the life I imagined I would have at this point. Like so many people, I am not happy with my present circumstances. In fact, I am angry and bitter and disillusioned. But, like so many others in similar positions, I will trudge on. And when finally I come to know a better reality, I will appreciate it all the more for having endured this nightmare...this annus horribilis.
Bush used the word joyous? Seriously? Chalk up another brilliant analysis from Scott Bateman.
It's 2am and insomnia has me catching up on neglected podcasts. You can subscribe to all of Bateman's video masterpieces at iTunes, or view the archives at Salon's Video Dog page. While Salon surfing, be sure to read the story of my life as told by a 50-something single, celibate woman. All women whose manscape is Sahara dry will now serve tea and sympathy...
OK, here's the deal: the economy sucks ass right now. Few people have a couple hundred extra dollars just sittin' around collecting dust on their desk. The thoughtful folks at Bonnaroo realize this, and they've made it even easier to fund the annual summer trip of a lifetime. Pre-sale tickets go on sale this month instead of in February like normal. The five-payment option makes it easy and affordable to get your tickets.
And no, they haven't announced the lineup yet. That usually happens in January, with the headline acts being announced around February or so. Still, it's a moot point. Many bands you love will be there. It's guaranteed. Bands you'll love but haven't heard of yet? They'll be there, too.
Seriously. You should go. You know you've always wanted to. You're probably tired of hearing me extol the virtues of this world-famous Tennessee summer festival. You really should experience it for yourself. Trust me, when the gates open in June of '09, the world could be a very different place. Whether good or bad, you know you will have one helluva good time with 75,000 other people who feel exactly like you: screw our fucked-up government and the perils of the world - let's get our partayyyy on. Or something like that. It's all good. It's communal. And it's something that must be experienced to be believed. Trust me.
Act now. Operators are standing by.
My choices* (year-end reviews might follow later) include:
- Helio Sequence
- Vampire Weekend
- My Morning Jacket
- Wolf Parade
- Fleet Foxes
- Mates of State
- Sigur Ros
(*I cannot believe Kaki King's "Dreaming of Revenge" wasn't nominated - it was clearly one of the best albums of this or any recent year. She ranks high among the most phenomenal guitarists ever. Her omission from the lineup is a travesty!)
Tune into NPR's All Songs Considered next week to see which albums receive this year's Best Music laurels...
Thanksgiving is normally a tolerable holiday. It involves minimal cooking on my part (or, if I'm making my requested dish, fresh cranberry relish*, it involves no cooking at all) and only moderate driving. Seventy miles each way sure beats the 18-hour commute from Connecticut...
This year, tolerance was not on the menu. It was only the three of us this year, so there were fewer bodies to deflect the tension. Bad idea. I knew a cloud of melancholy would hang over the table since it's only been three weeks since my grandmother died. I was ready for that. I also expected the folks to be a bit gloomy because, in true southern style, they are displeased that their beloved college football team has a horrible season and just fired their coach. I cannot fathom why this is remotely important to them, but still, in an effort to stoke the fires of safe conversational topics, I willingly discussed football with them to the extent that my limited knowledge could sustain it. The conversation, not unlike a badly built campfire, dwindled in minutes.
But what I had not adequately braced myself for was the vicious political attacks. I hoped, foolishly, that a holiday truce would be declared - and honored. Wrong. My right-wing lunatic mother - whose intolerance for my political views is legendary (the woman makes Bill O'Reilly seem taciturn and respectful) - set a new record: I had been in the house all of 7 minutes when she launched into a diatribe. Seeing my tote bag (which was on the floor ten feet away, not even facing her) she hissed, "Take that off!" Having just arrived, I'm thinking, "My fleece? Um, okay..." But instead, I asked, "Take what off?" Thus began Round 1 of the heavyweight holiday political jabfest.
"That Obama-Biden button," she said, disdain dripping from every syllable. I had no idea she had seen it, what with it being on the front of my tote bag which was facing away from her and was now completely covered by my jacket. She had obviously been looking for something to bitch about. Oh, let me tell you: that was a monumentally bad idea. Everybody knows you don't provoke a mean dog and you don't start fights with bullies. And you certainly don't push my political buttons the day after I've had a second root canal in as many weeks and I haven't had my first dose of prescription Vicodin because I can't drive under its influence. But she did...oh, man, did she ever. I went from zero to bitch in roughly 2.3 seconds.
"No, ma'am, I will NOT remove that button. It remains on my bag just as the bumper sticker remains on my car. I am entitled to my own views and opinions, thankyouverymuch," I replied.
"Not in my house, you're not," she replied. So many things went through my head, but I bit my tongue.
She must have seen the warning shots fired from my eyes as I reached for the keys in my bag. My look said, "Keep it up and I'll drive home and you can sulk into your turkey without me." Since she hasn't spoken to my brother in at least 5 years, it would be a sad little holiday if she kept up the taunting.
I thought she let it go, so I proceeded to start making dessert. But nooooo...
She kept harping until I reached critical mass. Over the din of the football game blaring from the TV in the kitchen and the sound of her furiously stirring the mashed potatoes, I calmly stated, "Well, mother, he's going to be your president in exactly 54 days, so it does you no good to start an argument." Then I smiled and pretended, to the best of my ability, that she wasn't standing in front of me, snarling.
The rest of the evening went smoothly. I placated both parents with a homemade dessert and two hours of audio entertainment courtesy of The Vinyl Cafe CD of Holiday Stories. (Note to all members of dysfunctional families: it's hard for anyone to stay in a pissy mood when they're laughing hysterically to the tales of Dave and Morley.) But when it was time to leave, the terrible twosome of right-wing zealotry took a few more cheap shots about the president's so-called disputed citizenship and how the country is going to hell...blah, blah, blah.
I didn't wait around for proper farewells. I grabbed my leftovers and hightailed it home, where I could self-medicate into oblivion. It's sad (though quite common among my friends) that you'd rather spend a holiday at home with a bottle of Vicodin than tolerate a family gathering because your family drives you mad...
One holiday down; two more to go...
*Fresh Cranberry Relish (serves 12)
2 bags fresh whole cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
juice from 2 large oranges
zest from 2 large oranges
2T pumpkin pie spice (or nutmeg & cinnamon)
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
Chop cranberries in food processor.
Add remaining ingredients.
Adjust sugars & liqueur to taste.
Store for several hours before serving.
(Even better if made 1-2 days before.)
A midnight movie on a weeknight. Holy hell, I have become a fan.
I abhor excessively commercial, trite literary pablum - especially when its target demographic is the "young adult" crowd.
Confession: I never read even one page of the boy wizard series.
So imagine my surprise when I finally broke down and read the first installation of the teen vampire novel/saga/enterprise. In one sitting. I became one of those people. I also abhor those people - the ones who gush about each plot twist and discuss these fictional characters with such unbridled enthusiasm with their human counterparts that they positively reek obsessive mania.
OK, so I haven't gone that far over the edge. But when all branches of my local library could not provide a single copy of the second book, I did run to the 24-hour box store and purchase it at oh, midnight yesterday. Then I stayed up til dawn devouring every page. (It's a good thing I didn't have to work today.)
After reading the second book, I promptly purchased a ticket for today's midnight showing.
Hmmm...maybe I have gone over the edge. (The last time I stood in line for a midnight opening was for each installation of the Matrix trilogy.) And damn, if I don't have to work tomorrow...
Somebody shoot me. I have become enraptured by cheesy mass-produced writing. In respect to my dearest friend and other talented souls who can actually write, I won't call this author's works "literature" - but damn, if it's not like word crack. I'm jonesin' for a fix. Now I can finally understand what all those Harry fans felt when they sat mesmerized for hours with each new release, unable (or unwilling) to participate in their life until the last page had been turned.
In my own defense, I will offer these points as testimony to why I am predisposed to liking this otherwise unnamed series:
- I am a bibliophile, a nightowl, and a hopeless romantic (these three are key)
- I am a sucker for beautiful - no, painfully handsome men (what woman isn't?)
- I love stories where I can relate to the heroine (this definitely applies)
- I love to drive fast, take risks, defy authority, and break rules
- I love darkness and loud music* but also tranquility and the outdoors (both are central themes)
- I love drizzly, rainy, gloomy weather (another key to setting & mood)
- I kinda sorta have a deep, dark, twisted, erotic thing for vampires (immortality plus super powers is the ultimate fantasy!)
I can only hope I won't be disappointed.
*OK, it's mildly creepy to me that the author of this series draws inspiration from many of the same bands I love. The playlists available on her Website are eerily similar to my iTunes collection... Does it annoy me that while we've been listening to the same bands for years, her creative fires led to her six-figure contract and untold royalties from the subsequent movies while I've been writing meaningless blogs and research papers for school? Annoying? Hmmmph...
Actual t-shirt available @ thinkgeek.com
Meh is now an official word, recognized by the British. Seriously. Sure, it's not the latest entry in the beloved OED, that bible for word nerds like me...yet...
Still, I am nine kinds of pleased.
And on an unrelated note, a patient at work today informed me that my city has a championship Scrabble club. (It's my all-time favorite game.) They meet at my favorite local [code for: non-franchised, affordably priced, fair-trade selling] coffee bar. (Coffee is, of course, one of my all-time favorite beverages.) And they meet on Thursdays. Did I mention Thursday has always been my favorite weekday? That's like a rare leisure time trifecta. Oh, I am in word nerd heaven. :)
This was me two hours ago, sitting in the dentist's chair having the second root canal of my life. OK, that pic isn't me; it's some cheesy stock photo because A.) I'm too hopped up on Percocet (mmmm...good stuff!) to maneuver anything more complicated than typing, therefore anything uber complicated like hooking a USB cord up to my digicam and uploading photos is waaaaay beyond my grasp and B) I'm much too vain to pose for full-frontal toofer pics. I mean, c'mon, a girl's gotta draw the line somewhere. T and A? Sure, why not? Bicuspids and molars? Dude, that's just nobody's business...except, of course, the dude who dug & drilled and suctioned (if only my body had seen that much action - oh wait, I digress) then gave me a lovely 'scrip for these yummy pills.
Wait. What the hell was my point?
Damn. I know there was something blog-worthy that I felt compelled to discuss. OH YEAH! Some of these damn people in the news really need to learn to shut their fucking mouths. I mean, seriously...I have to vent this.
- FIRST...to the former token chick on the losing party's presidential ticket (I refuse to type her name she annoys me so much) - look here, Caribou Barbie: your 15 minutes are up now. You will make us all very happy if you will just exit stage left right fucking now. Seriously. You are like the Energizer Bunny of Dumb - you just keep talking and talking and talking and continually proving me right. ENOUGH ALREADY! This chick really needs a ball gag.
- SECOND...to the idiotic egomaniac rapper who today proclaimed that he is "the voice of his generation" I say this: um, no, you're not. Dude, I saw your lame-ass show at Bonnaroo and I'm STILL fucking pissed that I wasted 4hrs of my life waiting on you to come on stage. You are not even close to being the voice of your generation. News flash, there Einstein: your declaration of a personal opinion in no way constitutes validity of said opinion. I could easily say I am Queen of Planet Earth, but honestly dude, it's just words. I still have no tiara and no powers (but these marvelous little pills make me care a whole helluva lot less, so it's all good!) OK, Mr. Too Big for Your Lo-Rider Britches: get a clue and shut the fuck up. You are NOT the voice of your generation. Sorry, bro, but that title deservedly belongs to the man we elected last week to be #44. And no, don't get all street and put that on a jersey or a hoodie because that would be tacky.
- THIRD...to the pregnant man who has just announced his second pregnancy: umm, who cares? Look, I'm all about some gay rights and freedom of sexuality and what not, but who honestly gives a flying rat's ass that you're a transgendered woman who grew a beard, strapped on a dick and gave birth using your original incubating oven? Science hasn't changed the fact that you still pee sitting down, so let's face it: your 15 minutes of fame were up about the time your water broke the last time. This cash cow ain't mooing right now, honey, and frankly, none of us care anymore. So get back to lactating or ovulating or whatever the hell you do and be happy living your life...out of the spotlight.
- FINALLY...not everyone in this world has trouble keeping their mouths shut. This is a travesty, because sometimes idiots REFUSE to speak up and tragedy results. I saw online with great horror that a 4-year old child died this week of starvation in this country at the hands of his legal guardians. This is unspeakable. A child died in Mississippi because his grandmother refused to feed him. But the horror is that other family members were aware of the abuse AND DID NOT SPEAK UP! What is wrong with this country?
What has happened to this world? It boggles the mind...
The day has arrived. I am excited and anxious (somebody get me a drink or a Xanax!) and can hardly wait for the long journey to reach its hard-fought conclusion.
Despite being a red state blue voter, I had zero problems at the polls. That's only because I voted two weeks ago and waited maybe 4 minutes, tops. This means I have free time today (because I took the day off, per Ferris Bueller's instruction yesterday on Huffington Post) to assist others on this historic day.
Today, history will be made - thanks to you and me for standing together and doing our part.
Making history has quite an electrifying feel...
In this week's issue of the New Yorker, the ever-brilliant David Sedaris contemplates the absurdity that is Undecided Voters. (Read the full article here.) My issue of said magazine is now waterlogged because this excerpt - this perfect summation of how I feel about the questionable mental health and cerebral fitness of anyone who at this late stage can still self-identify with the term "undecided voter" - caused such an hysterical laughing fit that I dropped said magazine into my bubble bath:
To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?” To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked. I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?
Thank you, Mr. Sedaris.
One of today's free literary acquisitions.
Here's a diary of my day to corroborate my claim that a life of leisure should be pursued at all costs:
12:28pm - Wake up slowly. Turn on cell phone ringer. Listen to voicemail from calls missed while snoozing.
12:36pm - Make first pot of coffee. Call friend who's working and relay exciting news from aforementioned voicemail. Try to lose the "froggy" sounding voice before returning call from the doctor who called offering to discuss employment opportunity. Make breakfast (2 poached eggwhites, 3 slices vegetarian bacon, coffee.)
12:41pm - Eat breakfast. Return doctor's call; leave voicemail. Check up on podcasts. Mutter audible thanks to MSNBC for giving Keith and Rachel equal airtime.
1:57pm - Drink more coffee. Remove yesterday's forgotten load of laundry from washer & put in dryer.
2:06pm - Take shower.
2:17pm - While rinsing out shampoo, nearly slip in shower trying to grab a towel before grabbing cell phone; talk to doctor for 15 minutes. Mutter silent thanks that he cannot see me standing in my bathoom dripping wet and naked.
3:01pm - Leave house to run errands. Torrential downpour. Cold, rainy: invigorating! My favorite weather!
3:16pm - Stand in line at Election Commission to early vote. Mutter more silent thanks that my county uses ballpoint pens, thereby eliminating any fear of hanging chads.
3:43pm - Enter the fluorescent-lit den of consumer iniquity known as the
4:07pm - Pass by Starbucks without purchasing a Venti Sugar-Free Cinnamon Dolce Latte! (Gasp! Three full days of unemployment enables me to forego my caffeination cravings! Fiscal victory shall be mine!) Sip on my grande-size travel mug of fair-trade Rwandan Bourbon coffee which isn't nearly as hot as a Starbucks latte would be. Grumble silent thanks that I just saved $4.75 and a disposable paper cup.
4:09pm - Fight afternoon traffic leaving the state's largest mall, en route to either the local public library or to campus. Can't decide which; will wing it based on the flow of rush-hour.
4:36pm - Circle the downtown library twice looking for a parking space. It's still raining. My L.L.Bean windbreaker is waterproof, but damn, I'm chilly. Notice I'm parked less than a block from a cozy coffee shop. Hightail it in the opposite direction into the equally cozy (yet painfully decaffeinated) library which I suspect is closing in 24 minutes.
4:41pm - Pay $3.50 in overdue book fees. Realize I have 99 minutes to peruse the shelves. Further realize I could have grabbed a coffee and stuffed it into my L.L.Bean totebag and noooobody would've known. Shiver from cold and thirst. Check totebag for book list - damn! It's still @ home on my desk. Log into the library's public PCs to access Powells.com for recommendations; ACCESS DENIED: site blocked (reason: online shopping). I'm thinking, "WTF?" So I then try NY Times Books for the bestseller list. Again, ACCESS DENIED. Finally try my Amazon.com WishList and voila. (Yeah, I know, right? The public library net nazis won't let me surf Powell's, but Amazon is okay? Can we say double standards?!?) Grab a dull-tipped golfer's pencil from the cup beside the monitor and scribble a list.
5:19pm - Leave library with 6 titles, including the one photo-referenced at top...
5:25pm - Walk in the door; make another pot of coffee. Reheat leftovers (butternut squash bisque) as lunch. Curl up with...which book? Fuck it. I can't eat and read - don't want to be messy. Choose to watch today's Blockbuster delivery DVD: Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed instead. Give it my half-attention while shopping online for a new cell phone. Finish dinner. Catch up on more blogs and podcasts.
6:47pm - Check school's website for Spring semester schedule. Make list of desired classes. Sigh in quiet desperation as the reality hits: my registration appointment time is at SIX O-FUCKING CLOCK IN THE MORNING?!? This has got to be somebody's idea of a joke - or a typo. Hoping it's the latter, I log off.
7:00pm - Watch a few minutes of PBS news. The headlines are as bleak as the weather outside. Freezing my ass off because I've had the doors & kitchen window open since coming home, I throw on a sweatshirt. Check the thermostat: holy hell, it's like 62-degrees in my house. Grab a blanket, flop down on the sofa and take a nap.
9:08pm - Yawn. Make another pot of coffee. Pen irrelevant blog post about today's boring events. Update my Amazon Wish List.
9:27pm - Contemplate going to a movie. Check listings; notice the Katrina documentary, Trouble the Water, is showing in a half hour or so. Decide it's not a Friday nite popcorn-eatin' kind of flick & stay home...great, now I'm jonesin' for hot, buttery popcorn...
9:32pm - Begin marathon weekend of reading instead of working on homework examining themes of isolationism and discrimination in the poetry of Emily Dickinson versus Paul Laurence Dunbar. Mutter curses to myself for taking a course that focuses on poetry which will have zero bearing on my future career as either a writer or editor. Realize I should stop drinking coffee and have a nice, stiff adult beverage because ennui is best remedied by inebriation, not caffeination.
And this, my friends, is how you waste an entire day doing jack. I could reeeally get used to this... Yep, what I need is a job that pays me to drink coffee, read books, blog, and surf the Internets...
NPR always blows me away with its content. Today was no exception. Yet again, an NPR piece reaffirms - in a unique way - why I am an Obama supporter...
Actor/musician Terrence Howard gave a brilliant interview on Weekend Edition Saturday. He discussed with host Scott Simon his personal views on acting, performing music, his passion for physics, the joys of parenting, and grieving the loss of a parent. Only on NPR will you find an actor wax poetic about particle physics and piano playing. The interview is top-notch. One of Howard's more profound statements was about acting, but it really summed up my view on politics:
"When I first started acting, I thought it was about the best liar," Howard says. "I thought the best liar was the best actor. But it's the best truth-teller. To find the truth on those pages of black and white and to believe in it so much. It has to be honest; it has to be truthful."
- Terrance Howard on NPR, 10.18.08
What a simple fact: people want TRUTH. We all want someone who answers us honestly. Our collective bullshit meter red-lined years ago. Let's face it: the people you trust most are the ones who shoot straight with you. That applies to interpersonal relationships as well as politics. The best politician is the best truth-teller, not the best smear-tactic campaigner. The best leader is the best truth-teller, period. From my perspective, choosing a political candidate is akin to choosing a romantic partner. It's black and white: if I can trust you, I can give you my heart and my vote. Finding a political candidate was easy. Now if only I could find a decent guy worthy of my trust and commitment...
Check out the rest of the interview on Scott Simon's video blog, Sunday Soapbox.
It's a simple maxim, really. The company you keep speaks volumes about your character. Or, in John McCain's case, it speaks volumes about his lack of character.
John McCain's campaign is fueled by character attacks, unsubstantiated smears, and blatant lies projected in commercials - all of which serve but one purpose: political fearmongering.
Instead of fostering a stance of civility befitting the gentleman he claims to be, McCain continues to stoke the fires of radical intolerance among the virulent, bigoted supporters at his campaign rallies. His blatant refusal to diffuse hot tempers and chants suggesting the murder of his opponent leaves him complicit in their cries. That Americans can tolerate this unforgivable behavior is troubling; that any American can contemplate casting their vote for such an arrogant, hot-tempered rabble-rouser is a perversion of civil discourse and a threat to our collective civil liberties. When angry crowds at McCain-Palin rallies are neither tempered nor chastised for their verbalized rage, our footing on the blood-stained soil of civil liberties falters. When bigoted hecklers are allowed to spew their hateful bile, we take another step back toward our shameful history of lynchings and racial discrimation. The refusals of John McCain and Sarah Palin to assuage the angst amongst their supporters is tantamount to inciting a riot. For this, they should be ashamed. For this, we should be alarmed.
Uncivil discourse sabotages American politics. It diminishes bipartisan cooperation and undermines our chances to foster a climate of change so desperately needed today. Disagreement among parties - both the candidates and their supporters - is to be expected. But respect and tolerance should always be preeminent. The American people should demand nothing less, for unity requires both.
Say it ain't so, BB!
Today is a sad, sad day: just as we have all suspected, the end is near.
NPR confirmed it today. Such bleak news to hear on a Monday drive home.
A portion of my heart shriveled up and wilted; the rest of me pouted.
I'm gonna miss the lil' fella...
Blind date: that predetermined meeting arranged for two otherwise unknown souls to deliberately cross paths thanks to the meddlesome interference of one or more well-intentioned mutual friend(s) in the hopes that the planets will be so perfectly aligned as to create a magical, memorable moment whereupon the blind datees will someday look back and mark it on their shared calendar as The Day We Fell in Love.
Or, in simpler terms: a nearly always ill-fated, disastrous meeting of two completely mismatched persons.
The latter was my fate on Friday. When a newlywed chick friend (yellow flag #1: deliriously happy, recently married friends have absolutely no business playing matchmaker; they are horribly biased toward life's sugar-coated aspects and can only see the world through their nauseating rose-colored glasses of marital bliss) mentioned a few weeks ago that a single guy friend of hers had been admiring (code for: cyberstalking) my blogs and photos on MySpace (yellow flag #2: seriously, all my pics are Photoshopped six ways from Sunday, so of course they look half decent, ergo, no man in his right mind would think that's actually what I look like; therefore, this guy can't possibly have all his marbles) and suggested I meet him, I balked.
Every time I see her, she casually mentions his name, or tells me where he's playing (he's a musician, and she knows I typically go for the brooding, intellectual, guitar-playing types) and hints that I should go check him out. OK, here's my first reaction: if a guy takes an interest, then he should make the first move. We aren't in junior high anymore. Asking a third party to intercede on your behalf indicates a serious lack of balls. And since I am, in Christopher Moore's terminology, a classic Alpha Female, I am not terribly impressed by men who lack a sack. But the Friend (as she shall henceforth be deemed) wore me down and I reconsidered. Plus, as the ultimate in ulterior motives, she said she would finally return several of the aforementioned author's books which I'd loaned her last year. This was the deal-sealer. I have missed my books!
So the Friend emailed last week because the Guy asked her if I might be interested in a double-date kind of outing, say, over dinner at a place that is known for its romantic ambiance. Normally, I'm all about some cozy, candlelit intimacy over a bowl of pasta, but that was major yellow flag #3: restaurants are No-Nos in blind dating. Wikipedia proves it. And yet, the Guy suggested the outing and suggested the specific location. In my hopelessly old-fashioned logic, this implies that the Guy would also pick up the tab. Due to my impending financial doom (two more paychecks and I'm up a creek with no boat!) I relented.
Friday arrived, and I was in no mood for company. I was nine kinds of cranky thanks to an insufficient intake of Midol and an exorbitant level of soon-to-be-gone work-related stress. What I wanted more than anything in the world was to go home, curl up on the sofa with some DVDs and whine until the drugs kicked in. But damn me and my "always keep your word" ethical bullshit mantra! So off to the restaurant I went...
And this, boys and girls, was when the red flags started flyin'. They say you can judge your interest in someone within the first 30 seconds of meeting. In this case, it took about 7.2 seconds. Physical appearance is of secondary importance (the first is always that one-two punch of intelligence paired with a wicked sense of humor) so I decided, "Hmmm, I won't be shallow. He's not even remotely attractive, so maybe he's brilliant." Let the litmus testing begin!
How 'bout the conversational highlights, to save time:
Friend: "Here are your Christopher Moore books. I am so glad you introduced me to him - "You Suck" is hysterical!"
Guy: "Who's Chris Moore? What's the book about?"
Friend: (chuckling) "Beta Males."
Guy: "What's a Beta Male?"
Me: (trying to be tactful, knowing I am in the presence of one) "Um, well, basically it's the opposite of an Alpha Female," (and, anticipating the obvious next question) "which implies one who shouldn't have balls hypothetically does and one who should have balls often does not."
Friend: "It's a vampire love story."
Guy: stares blankly
That was Red Flag #1: he had no clue about one of the funniest writers of this generation. So the Friend and I continue talking about other books/films/music we love while we wait for her husband to arrive. After mentioning David Foster Wallace, Jose Saramago, Chuck Palahniuk, Elliott Smith and Ray LaMontagne (seriously mainstream names here compared to my more obscure favorites) we get zero feedback from the Guy. Ooookay...moving on.
While ordering, I am in "frugal date" mode, ordering water and the least expensive entree, which in this case, was a $12 dish of fresh spinach/roasted garlic ravioli. When asking about the possible sauces to accompany this, I discover Red Flag #2. Once again, the conversational highlights:
Me: "Would the garlic-goronzola sauce be too heavy for this pasta? Or should I try the roasted red pepper pesto?"
Guy: "What's gorgonzola?"
Friend's Husband: "It's cheese, dude. Even I know that."
Friend: "So what ever happened to that Dresden Files show?"
Me: "It was cancelled after one season."
Friend's Husband: "Oh, man, I loved that show!"
Guy: "I don't own a TV."
So there I was, knowing I was in for a miserably long evening with a philistine who neither reads the books I like, watches movies I like, watches TV shows I like (the fact that he doesn't own a TV prompted our discussing the "Stuff White People Like" blog - and of course, he'd never heard of that, either) and didn't know what that gorgonzola was a cheese. I could feel the Midol wearing off, revealing signs of the fire-breathing demoness stirring inside me who never makes for a pleasant dining partner. 'Ruh-'roh, 'Raggy.
Then came Red Flag #3. In an effort to volley the conversational ball, Guy (who had obviously read my MySpace profile) asks some harmless questions:
Guy: "So, what's your connection with New England?"
Me: "I lived there during the 90s when I was unhappily married; now that I'm happily divorced, I'm too broke to move back."
Guy: "I lived in New Hampshire for awhile."
Me: "Why the hell would you voluntarily leave New Hampshire and move back here?"
Guy: "The girlfriend I had was crazy."
Me: (thinking, "yeah, but I'll bet she knows what gorgonzola is") "Wow."
Fast-forward to the point where the server asks, "Is this all on one check?" and before he could fully pronounce the last syllable, Guy said, "Ours are separate; theirs (pointing to our mutual married-couple friends) are together." OK, so then I'm thinking, 'let me get this straight: you pursued me, you asked me to meet you here, you heard me telling my friends how I'm soon to be unemployed, and you still don't offer to pick up the fucking tab?!?" While the server processed our credit cards, I whipped out my phone & texted (under the table) "WTF? Dutch?!?" to one of my guy friends who replied: "The nerve!" Indeed...
At that point, I vowed to never again agree to a blind date, under any circumstances, period. Trust me, next Friday evening you can bet your ass I'll be parked on mine, all cozy & comfy on my sofa, drowning my then-unemployed sorrows in several bottles of Sam Adams. And that scenario will be infinitely superior to the 2.5 hours of near-hell I spent with Gorgonzola Clueless Guy...
The Swell Season - "Fitzcarraldo" live at Bonnaroo 2008
Here, back, down a long and straight track
I have chose the long road
That leads me out to god knows
So I can't stop right now
Even the good stars can fall from grace and falter
Lose their faith and slide
But I can't get an ocean that's deep enough for my day
Well now it's time for to sound your voice
And capture what you're after
My ship was sold right up the river
But I'm not going down here
This journey isn't over...
Most of my favorite musical performers hail from the British Isles: Sting/the Police, Radiohead, The Cure, Peter Gabriel, U2, Damien Rice, The Frames, and more. Music is my panacea, my proven motivator and constant ally. For whatever reason, artists from the U.K. have an uncanny ability to capture my every emotion in song. In times like these when all I want is stasis yet all I find is transience, some songs are more of an aural encouragement than others. This is one of those songs. Based on a 1982 Werner Herzog film (and true story) of a man with an indomitable spirit, the song is not a typical motivational tool to the average music fan. But then again, I'm far from average...
The Frames - one of Ireland's most popular groups - is anchored by Glen Hansard, he of the indie flick Once stardom. It was my great fortune to stand in the crowd this year at Bonnaroo while the above song was performed. Listen at the 5:36 mark when he explains the meaning behind the song and you'll see why its relevance is applicable to anyone facing challenges. You owe it yourself to discover this phenomenal band, either in their original form as The Frames or through Glen's sideline project with Marketa Irglova, The Swell Season.
David Foster Wallace
February 21, 1962 - September 12, 2008
David Foster Wallace died Friday night. The literary world has lost a brilliant, respected talent; I have lost an idol. (Update, 9.15.08: New York Times book critic Michiko Kukatani penned a lovely tribute here. Salon.com also has a remembrance posted.)
This man loved the dictionary as much as I. Words were his sustenance. Footnotes (or his excessive though creative use thereof) will be his legacy.
He will be missed.
What is surprising is his exit strategy. He alluded to suicide in a 2005 speech at a college by saying:
Editor's Note: we interrupt our regular blog session to bring this rambling, ambiguous message/rant precipitated by Stress, that conniving lackey of the ever-fickle Fate.
And so the car sputters and stalls...again. If only life came with a warranty.
Alas, there are no guarantees. No certainties. No assurances of security nor promises of prosperity.
There are no sure bets. Just one chapter after another full of unplanned narratives and unwelcomed plot twists.
Sometimes you find yourself stranded, or nearly so. The fast lane you once occupied is now traveled by others while you watch them pass in a blur. You pull off to the shoulder to minimize the risk of being run over. Sometimes it works; other times your luck runs out. All you can do is watch the sands fall in the hourglass and brace for impact.
Few things are as frustrating as being stranded - physically, emotionally, or financially. Even with warning signs of engine failure, the most intrepid souls plow ahead and hope for a smooth ride. Such is their foolhardy mistake.
The ride is rarely smooth.
Where is the AAA motor club for mid-life crises? Where is the roadside mechanic who will come to my aid and jumpstart my life?
Haven't I paid my dues?
The words of an American president. A Republican president. Yep, the Gipper was one helluva communicator. He could nail a line like nobody's business. That's still the problem with government these days: few politicians have a sense of responsibility. The sad truth is that the great majority of the attention-grabbing media whores (namely those on the Republican ticket) lack even a modicum of human decency.
Republicans heap scorn on the heads of liberal feminists who either exercise their right (or support another woman's legal right) to abort her unwanted fetus. Yet where is the public outcry over a woman who uses her children like pawns to advance her political agenda? Where is the collective uproar over Sarah Palin parading her children before the nation in a shamefully misguided attempt to bolster support for her party's platform: pro-life, pro-war, and abstinence-only sex ed? Mothers should be livid that the media continues to condone Palin's willingness to use - no, exploit - her children this way. An article in Salon.com yesterday wonders why more women aren't pissed about Palin. Speaking on behalf of my own gender: we are. Trust me, we are pissed. But there isn't much we can do about it. McSame's Bullshit Express has become a locomotive of lies barreling full-steam towards election day, leaving in its wake a country divided by derision, delusion, and deceit.
Palin has been carefully coached by the McSame campaign handlers (whose ranks include none other than Karl Rove) so it comes as no surprise that her teen daughter's unplanned pregnancy and eventually planned shotgun wedding was announced just prior to the Republican convention. That the governor's first televised media interview coincides with her oldest son's deployment to Iraq is also no surprise. Finally, her increased funding for special education programs in her home state seems most opportune considering her youngest child has Down Syndrome.
The shame is not that a mother has children whose circumstances test her sanity. There is no shame in having an unwed teenage daughter. There is certainly no shame in having a child with any form of mental or physical handicap. The unmitigated gall lies in parading said children as proof of your qualifications for the job you seek. Never mind requisite experience for the position if you have domestic proof of your ability to toe the party line. Seriously: where is the sense of decency in the Republican party?
Oh wait. Palin belongs to the party which has a lock on exploitation. Why the hell am I even surprised? The Republicans have turned September 11th into nothing more than political propaganda. They are experts in exploiting the pain of the nation and turning what should be a solemn remembrance (like Pearl Harbor Day) into an instrument of fearmongering.
They have no decency. They have no shame. And I have no respect, either for that party or for the mainstream media who turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the bullshit spewed from the lying lips of those who wish to lead.
"Grounds for Divorce" from the 2008 album 'Seldom Seen Kid'
Kudos to another favourite U.K. band, Elbow, on winning the 2008 Mercury Prize. What is it about Manchester groups? What can I say? I'm a sucker for pensive lads with understated musical dexterity. Love this woefully overlooked band. Check 'em out if you haven't had the pleasure of their audio company...
Oh, what the hell. I can't stop with just one:
"Not a Job" from their equally stellar 2003 release 'Cast of Thousands'
Bush will announce Tuesday that he plans (that's the operative term - "plans") to bring home approximately 8,000 troops from Iraq this year. That's 8,000 too few and more than 4,000 too late. It's sad that our sorry president's unjustified war has claimed the lives of so many priceless American soldiers. It's a travesty that he sent many British soldiers to their early graves as well. From their latest release by the same name, here's James - one of my favorite U.K. bands - with their song "Hey Ma":
(I wanted to post an alternate video, but it won't embed.
It's sobering and worth seeing; view it here.)
James - "Hey Ma"
words & lyrics: Tim Booth & James © 2008
Now the towers have fallen
So much dust in the air
It affected your vision
Couldn't see yourself clear
From the fall came such choices
Even worse than the fall
There's this chain of consequences
Action cause and reaction
Never follows to plan
Black swans on your picnic table
Knocking over the jam
Please don't preach me forgiveness
You're hardwired for revenge
War is just about business
Hey ma the boys in body bags
Coming home in pieces
Hey ma the boys in body bags
Coming home in pieces
Hey ma the boys in body bags
Coming home in pieces
Coming home in pieces
The dead live on within us
(In the atoms we trust)
Keep your fingers crossed
We were choking on the smoke and the dust
And the lives that were lost
Scratch the surface of liberals
There's a beast underneath
Others hiding their Jekylls
Hey ma the boys in body bags
Coming home in pieces
Hey ma the boys in body bags
Coming home in pieces
I can feel the daylight
I can feel the daylight
Raining on me
Raining on me
This bumper sticker always gets me: "I want YOU...to wake up. To wake others up. Think for yourself." OK, then. Here goes...
Since the GOP can't seem to keep their facts straight, allow me to repost a rather helpful article - from the mainstream media, of all places (shhh...you can almost hear the collective gasp of the Republican party faithful!) Kudos to AP writer Jim Kuhnhenn for saving us all the trouble of having to fact-check the newly-crowned Daring Duo of Right Wing Propaganda.
First, here's the link:
By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer Wed Sep 3, 11:48 PM ET
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her Republican supporters held back little Wednesday as they issued dismissive attacks on Barack Obama and flattering praise on her credentials to be vice president. In some cases, the reproach and the praise stretched the truth.
PALIN: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending ... and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere."
THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million. In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a "bridge to nowhere."
PALIN: "There is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state senate."
THE FACTS: Compared to McCain and his two decades in the Senate, Obama does have a more meager record. But he has worked with Republicans to pass legislation that expanded efforts to intercept illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction and to help destroy conventional weapons stockpiles. The legislation became law last year. To demean that accomplishment would be to also demean the work of Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, a respected foreign policy voice in the Senate. In Illinois, he was the leader on two big, contentious measures in Illinois: studying racial profiling by police and requiring recordings of interrogations in potential death penalty cases. He also successfully co-sponsored major ethics reform legislation.
PALIN: "The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes, raise payroll taxes, raise investment income taxes, raise the death tax, raise business taxes, and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars."
THE FACTS: The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, concluded that Obama's plan would increase after-tax income for middle-income taxpayers by about 5 percent by 2012, or nearly $2,200 annually. McCain's plan, which cuts taxes across all income levels, would raise after tax-income for middle-income taxpayers by 3 percent, the center concluded.
Obama would provide $80 billion in tax breaks, mainly for poor workers and the elderly, including tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers and higher credits for larger families.
He also would raise income taxes, capital gains and dividend taxes on the wealthiest. He would raise payroll taxes on taxpayers with incomes above $250,000, and he would raise corporate taxes. Small businesses that make more than $250,000 a year would see taxes rise.
MCCAIN: "She's been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply ... She's responsible for 20 percent of the nation's energy supply. I'm entertained by the comparison and I hope we can keep making that comparison that running a political campaign is somehow comparable to being the executive of the largest state in America," he said in an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson.
THE FACTS: McCain's phrasing exaggerates both claims. Palin is governor of a state that ranks second nationally in crude oil production, but she's no more "responsible" for that resource than President Bush was when he was governor of Texas, another oil-producing state. In fact, her primary power is the ability to tax oil, which she did in concert with the Alaska Legislature. And where Alaska is the largest state in America, McCain could as easily have called it the 47th largest state — by population.
MCCAIN: "She's the commander of the Alaska National Guard. ... She has been in charge, and she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities," he said on ABC.
THE FACTS: While governors are in charge of their state guard units, that authority ends whenever those units are called to actual military service. When guard units are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, they assume those duties under "federal status," which means they report to the Defense Department, not their governors. Alaska's national guard units have a total of about 4,200 personnel, among the smallest of state guard organizations.
FORMER ARKANSAS GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Palin "got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States."
THE FACTS: A whopper. Palin got 616 votes in the 1996 mayor's election, and got 909 in her 1999 re-election race, for a total of 1,525. Biden dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses, but he still got 76,165 votes in 23 states and the District of Columbia where he was on the ballot during the 2008 presidential primaries.
FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOV. MITT ROMNEY: "We need change, all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington — throw out the big-government liberals, and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin."
THE FACTS: A Back-to-the-Future moment. George W. Bush, a conservative Republican, has been president for nearly eight years. And until last year, Republicans controlled Congress. Only since January 2007 have Democrats have been in charge of the House and Senate.
Associated Press Writer Jim Drinkard in Washington contributed to this report.
They met just once. Then he vetted her. (Damn, that sounds nine kinds of wrong!) They met again, then he offered her the position. (Again, that sounds most distasteful.) Will somebody please tell me WTF he's thinking? He truly is just a dirty old man who likes empty-headed female arm candy. I mean, c'mon, this chick he picked has maybe 3 hours of experience and no documented views on the Iraq war? Oh yeah, she's what this country needs. Talk about a nightmare ticket: the oldest contender to seek the office chooses one of the nation's youngest, least experienced female elected officials? Only in America...
Republicans. Nearly four decades on this planet, and I still can neither predict nor understand their logic - or, in this case, their lack thereof - or damn near anything else about them.
Alas, a third item that can be added to the "Certainties in Life" column, right after Death and Taxes: political pandering by candidates. No, wait, let me clarify: Republican stupidity exemplified through blatant acts of political pandering. Yeah, that's more like it...
I was thrilled to see and hear one of my favorite people* give the Closing Benediction at the first night of the Democratic Convention tonight in Denver. Don Miller, the bestselling author of books such as Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What, delivered a powerful plea with the conviction of a passionate liberal's heart and stated eloquently all the reasons why I am a card-carrying Democrat. (*This is the same guy who hugged me and autographed my books when me met 3 years ago; I'm still amazed and pleased that his celebrity has not diminished his dedication to his beliefs, as is often - and tragically - the case when idealists achieve notoriety.)
He spoke not cliche' and buzzwords, but convictions that reach across party lines. He touched on the elements that unite us as a party and must unite us as a nation if we are to conquer our societal afflictions.
Most importantly, he addressed the primary concern of all mankind: that we are equally responsible for caring for "the least of these." Thank you, Don, for your honest and moving words. If only more people who dare to call themselves Christians would share your views, echo your words, and follow in your footsteps by choosing action over apathy.
Here is the transcript of his prayer, as posted on his Website:
This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.
We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.
We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.
Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.
Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.
Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.
Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.
Hep us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.
Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.
We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.
Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.
A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.
Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.
Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.
Lastly, father, unify us.
Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.
And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.
God we know that you are good.
Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.
I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.
Let Him be our example.
I am fed up with all of it. The 24/7 network coverage. Incessant blogging. Photos and commentaries galore. Insignificant facts and background stories meant to endear me to those on the screen. And don't even get me started on the commercials...
The hype before and the analysis after have turned these two events into a media frenzy the likes of which leave me numb from overexposure.
Let's face it: life needs TiVo. If only I could fast-forward through all this televised craziness and get back into a "normal" routine of life, love, and the pursuit of alcoholic consumption. Er, I mean happiness. Yeah, that's it.
Wake me when the insanity subsides...