compassionate conservatism?

I've heard the term "compassionate conversatism" or variations thereof so many times I could puke. Not once have I encountered a single example of a conservative showing anything remotely demonstrative of compassion. No, the majority of conservatives are shameless, insolent hypocrites (whose so-called "pro-life" views apply only to fetuses in utero) who would rather inflict grievous bodily harm on suspected enemies of the state and legally sanction the deaths of their own citizens than to uphold the sanctity of life as they claim. Conservatives who profess to be "pro-life" speak one way but act another. They contradict their own views with such appalling audacity: they say life is precious when the life in question is an unborn fetus, yet they ferociously defend their right to legitimately annihilate perceived enemies on foreign soil and routinely execute American citizens who have been found guilty of committing crimes.

Let me get this straight: if you're a "pro-life compassionate conservative", the only thing deserving of your compassion is a woman's unborn child? What about that same woman's child when it turns 18 and it is forced to fight an unjust war while wearing the uniform of the country you command? What about that same woman's child when it is an adult who has committed a crime and now wears the uniform of the prisons your country runs? That woman's child is only deserving of your "compassionate conservatism" when its umbilical cord is still attached? Apparently, once the child matures and reaches adulthood, the value of their life plummets to zero in your eyes.

And where exactly does our Commander in Chief stand on this issue? Our esteemed "Hypocrite in Chief" is the worst offender of all: He has now authorized the execution of a United States Army private who has been on death row at Ft. Leavenworth since 1988. What is compassionate about this executive order? Where is this so-called Christian's adherence to the biblical commandment, "Thou shalt not kill?" Will someone please explain to me how these right-wing nutjobs can justify killing when the Bible they claim to follow and vow to uphold clearly commands otherwise? And don't quote me the Old Testament retribution philosophy of "an eye for an eye." That's bullshit, and anyone who spews such unorthodox pabulum needs to have their head examined - assuming, of course, that they are willing to remove it from the sand wherein it is so firmly lodged. Once removed, they should reference their beloved Bible and look up the verse (Romans 12:19, to be precise) where God says, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." Seriously, a blindfolded Stevie Wonder can see the meaning there: Thou Shalt Not Kill. Period. End of discussion. This isn't rocket science, people.

White House spokesmodel Dana Perino, commenting on Bush's decision, said:

"While approving a sentence of death for a member of our armed services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander in chief, the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted."
- quoted by Deb Riechmann, Associated Press Writer

Just? Warranted? Gandhi once said something along the lines of, "I like your Christ, but I do not like your christians; they are so unlike your Christ." Truer words were never spoken. Yes, I imagine the families of the victims who were brutally raped, beaten, robbed, and murdered by the Army private have grieved daily for 20 years. They stand united in their heartbroken desire to see justice meted out to the perpetrator of such heinous acts. I cannot and will not condone the violent, unjustifiably horrible acts committed by such a calloused soul. But for a president to use his sword of power (tainted though it may be with the innocent blood of more than 4,000 uniformed souls and counting) to end the life of such a felon is nothing less than criminal. But hey, when you have already broken the hearts of a few thousand families, what's one more? May God have mercy on your hardened, hypocritical soul.


grammar goddess strikes again...

The greengrocer's apostrophe reigns supreme in the U.K.

...alongside typos, apparently.

Few things vex me more than grammar errors in general and apostrophe abuse in particular. I sometimes wonder if I need a 12-step program. ("Hello, my name is Hollie, and I'm an orthographic maniac.") For years, I have carried a Sharpie in my purse to rid the world of errant greengrocer's apostrophes. While grocery shopping nine years ago, I noticed a chalkboard displaying the sale price of "banana's" - so I promptly erased the misplaced symbol before leaving the store empty-handed. Yes, I'm one of those die-hard types. I won't buy groceries from stores who misspell their displays. I won't order food from a restaurant if its menu has typos. (That's typos, as in plural, not typo's, thankyouverymuch.) Seriously, I figure if they can't print the menu correctly, how can I be sure they will prepare my food properly? Needless to say, I eat at home. A lot. But I digress...

Last year, after tolerating an unforgivably escalating crime wave of grammatical errors in this country, I returned to school in a determined effort to become A. an English teacher or B. an editor. My logic is that I can either take a proactive approach and rectify the grammatical illiteracy rampant in today's youth before the problem gets (god forbid) worse, or I can take a reactive approach and simply correct their mistakes with an editor's merciless red pen. Methinks the money is better in the latter, so the pursuit of multiple degrees continues. Plus, I am sadly outnumbered. One dedicated soul against millions of apathetic teens seems like the ultimate exercise in futility. But one well-paid employee with a stack of manuscripts? That's a tolerable scenario.

As heartsick as I am over the misuse of apostrophes, I am crushed to learn the problem is not simply geographical. Contrary to popular belief and personal opinion, stupidity exists beyond the Mason-Dixon line. It seems ignorance (at least where punctuation rules apply) extends outside the South. (I'll be damned!) The epidemic is nationwide, as many blogs attest. But I am truly saddened to learn the problem also exists on the other side of the pond. It seems even speakers of the Queen's English are guilty of these grammatical crimes. No wonder Lynne Truss laughed all the way to the bank with her bestselling book.

I'll post a few examples of local grammatical errors later. My next shift on volunteer Punctuation Police patrol is this weekend; citations will no doubt be plentiful.


our country's going to pot...

A recent Time magazine article contrasts statistical use of marijuana and cocaine in our country as compared to other nations. The results are not shocking: 42% of Americans have toked or snorted, some starting as early as junior high school. Me? Well, I was a late bloomer by today's standards. I got baked for the first time in 11th grade, for justifiable reasons: I'd been stood up for the prom, so I met up with an ex-boyfriend and medicated myself until the damned event passed. I figured, "what the hell, next month I'm graduating a year early, so it's not like I'm gonna need these overachieving brain cells." Fast-forward to college, where I eventually shared an off-campus 3-BR apartment with 3 fraternity guys who'd lost their house; one of the roomies had a 4-foot water bong. Miraculously, I had a very good GPA that semester. Granted, I was taking a crip courses like Philosophy and Intro to Theater (aaah, Kirkegaard and Ibsen were so enjoyable) but I am certain that herbal intake was not the cause of my scholastic downfall.

Here's the interesting twist: The aforementioned article states experimental drug use is practically non-existent in China and Japan. So where's the connection? Are we as a nation better off because we release stress by lighting up or snorting a few lines? Or have we contributed to our collective demise while our Asian peers kick our once-great industrial asses to the curb? America has lost its competitive edge. We have become the laughing stock of the global market and our formerly stellar reputation as a world leader worthy of respect and admiration is sullied beyond measure. Is my generation to blame? Perhaps the Baby Boomers who burned their bras and draft cards contributed. Fingerpointing is futile. One thing is certain: this country - the land of the free - is full of self-centered,
undisciplined, whiny, fat, lazy degenerates who couldn't care less if other countries usurp our throne of excellence. Why should we care? We're too stoned to muster any concern. We are free to make our own choices, and the majority of Americans have chosen to sit on their lazy asses and waste away their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. Who am I to complain? This is the beauty of freedom. We can do whatever the fuck we want, laws and consequences be damned.

This is not to imply every American is worthless. But we have allowed ourselves to become lax and now we are paying the price. When parents complain about the quality of their children's education, we should focus the searchlight inward: why did we allow our schools to deteriorate? Why have we stopped treating teachers with the dignity and pay they so justly deserve? Why have we turned a blind eye to the deplorable conditions in our healthcare system? Where is the respect for our fellow men and for our country we once had? We continue to turn a blind eye to our nation's myriad problems in the unrealistic hopes that the next generation will clean up the messes made by our generation and the generations before us. Wake up, America. Do you need Windex for those rose-colored glasses?

Maybe we should just start passing the peace pipe with our worldwide competitors. Eventually, if we're all too stoned to give a damn, we'll all achieve mediocrity together. This just might be the elusive recipe for peace...


all hail, word nerds...

I've been remiss in posting of late. The new job has me, as the old saying goes, "busier than a one-armed paper hanger." Or something like that. I meant to post this earlier in the week. More updates on recent changes forthcoming...assuming my motivation prevails before the fall semester starts in three weeks...

A cartoon fit for a grammar goddess/word nerd/English major...and its timing in this week's New Yorker coincides nicely with Monday's A Word A Day: grammatolatry


noun: The worship of words: regard for the letter while ignoring the spirit of something.

I'm gonna love this week's theme of "words about language." Does that make me a certifiable grammatolator? Or a grammatolatrix? Or just certifiable? ;)


hometown pride...

2009 VW Jetta Hybrid

It's official. The board at Volkswagen in Germany today chose Chattanooga as the site of their new American auto assembly plant. My hometown will start producing my favorite cars at a $1B facility in 2011.

The local press covered it with a special edition. But I was especially pleased to hear and see my hometown mentioned on NPR, the BBC, and in the New York Times. Wundervoll!

Oh, and Outside magazine ranks Chattanooga #2 on their Best Towns of 2008 list. The article even mentions one of my favorite neighborhood haunts for Sunday brunch. Look for the current issue on newsstands now...


soundtrack for summer...

Sweltering summer days call for three things: cold beverages, engaging books, and inspiring music. (Sure, A/C tops the list, but that goes without saying...)

All summer I've been spinning the Vampire Weekend album. Those guys are
"the whitest band around" according to the blogger/author of Stuff White People Like in a recent Salon.com article. Nevertheless, their tunes are perfect for summer gatherings with friends who sip overpriced beer while wearing madras shorts and overpriced designer shirts.

Newton Faulkner (he of the long, cinnamon dreads whose performance on NPR's WorldCafe with David Dye will be re-broadcast 7.12 and 7.14) has also been in heavy rotation. Although I missed his show at Bonnaroo, I'm still lovin' the album, esp. this song, "Gone in the Morning":

But my audio A.D.D. requires variety, so I added more season-specific tunes to the mix with another band of Bonnaroo veterans: Toubab Krewe. Their "Hang Tan" instrumental has one of the most infectious melodies you'll hear. Listening to this Asheville, N.C.-based quintet, it's obvious why their hometown is praised in Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss. This music elevates the spirits of even the sourest sap:

Continuing with the afro-pop/world music vibe, I'm still hooked on Peter Gabriel's recent project called Big Blue Ball. This collaboration (which features other favorites such as Tim Finn and Joseph Arthur) finally released last month after 17 years in the making. It may take as many years for me to get the song "Whole Thing" out of my head:


books that kicked my ass...

Let me preface this by admitting I am an English Literature major with, unfortunately, a wicked case of A.D.D. and a predilection for short stories. However...

Certain "classics" sit neglected on my bookshelf and taunt me for my inability to conquer them in a timely manner, if at all. And thanks to recent comments by one of the most well-read souls on the planet (you know who you are), I am reminded yet again of James Joyce's continued ability to kick my ass.

I usually try every year in mid-June to trudge through Ulysses. I get a few pages into it before my eyelids droop. [Strike one.] Sometimes, for variety, I'll heed the suggestions of readers who actually finished it and skip the first hundred pages before losing interest and tossing it aside. [Strike two.] Once I tried reading the last few pages first, in true pessimist style (think Billy Crystal's Harry telling Sally he always does that because, if he dies, he'll know how the story ends) until I realized the last 45 pages are a mind-numbing stream-of-consciousness blur without a single punctuation mark. The grammar grouch in me then went into convulsions and my eyes started to twitch. [Strike three.]

I want to love this book. I want to savor this book like a vintage single malt but every attempt leaves me feeling hungover. Not even David Foster Wallace's countless footnotes annoy me like this book does. I concede:
after seven tries and seven forfeits, James Joyce wins, hands down.

But Ulysses is not alone on the bookshelf of mockery. Oh no, it has stellar company. At the risk of revealing the depths of my ignorance (while possibly committing heinous acts of literary blasphemy), I hereby admit to page-skimming and/or altogether dismissing the following "great" works, for which I expect to be summarily stoned outside the city walls at daybreak as a philistine:
  1. James Joyce - Ulysses. 'Nuff said.
  2. Herman Melville - Moby Dick. I love the sea and I love a good nautical yarn. But this thing bored me to tears. Tried it in junior high and never bothered a second attempt. Must admit, though, Queequeg is one of the best character names ever, right up there with Aphra Behn's Oroonoko.
  3. Joseph Conrad - Lord Jim. Another high-seas tale that lured me in, mainly because I wanted to know Jim's last name. Got halfway through without enlightenment before giving up. Based on that experience, I never even attempted Heart of Darkness.
  4. Marcel Proust - Swann's Way. I have tried this one on numerous occasions. My bookmark shows the last attempt ended on page 51. Perhaps another go is in order, although I fear that if I complete it, I would have no written cure for insomnia. Proust cures sleeplessness better than Ambien...
  5. W. Somerset Maugham - Of Human Bondage. Damn, this thing is so bloody depressing; it should come with free samples of Prozac. Have zero regrets about not finishing it...
  6. William Makepeace Thackeray - Vanity Fair. Epic satire. Unrequited love. War. Europe. Poor, determined woman with an agenda. I should have loved this, but for whatever reason, I never finished it...
  7. John Steinbeck - Grapes of Wrath. Depression-era sharecroppers in California didn't appeal to me. It may be a classic, but I lost interest. Same with Cannery Row and The Pearl. Yawn...
  8. William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying. Even my southern heritage cannot inspire appreciation for Faulkner, much to my mother's chagrin. This is one of her faaayv'rites, shug. Seriously, I couldn't be from a more southern family: Mom comes from Alabama ("a fur piece" in Faulkner-esque), Dad was born in Mississippi and his family hails from New Orleans & Memphis, for cryin' out loud. It's a wonder I didn't exit the womb with a damn Confederate flag already tattooed on my ass, begging to be weaned on sweet tea. But holy hell... Faulkner makes me want to pull my hair out and scream. I can almost smell cornbread and feel the south's oppressively stagnant summer humidity after only a few pages. Although I love other southern writers (O'Connor, Welty, Styron, Gurganus) I simply cannot muster any love for Faulkner. Y'all can just shoot me now, thankyouverymuch.

I can hear it now: "How could you not love (insert title here)?" Go ahead, chastise away. To my credit, I have read and enjoyed a great many classics that didn't suck. Anna Karenina. War and Peace. Madame Bovary. Beowulf. The Inferno. The Iliad. The Odyssey. The Great Gatsby. Fahrenheit 451. Catch-22. Lord of the Flies. Those held me rapt, start to finish. To my further credit, I sometimes give second chances to once-dismissed books. But the older I get, the more selective I become when choosing titles for reconsideration. Perhaps I shouldn't be so hasty in dismissing the disliked books of my youth (or youthful ignorance). Or perhaps I'll just become an English teacher so I can inflict the same torture on tomorrow's youth. Yep, payback's a bitch.