Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Welcome Back Keillor

Huh. Just when I'd dismissed him and his sellout smarm forever, little Gary Keillor from Anoka steps up to the plate and belts one out of the park.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the [Republican] party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.


Welcome back, Gary.
Keillor's been a presence in my life for over 30 years now. In the 70s he hosted the morning show on MPR from 6 - 9 am, and he got me up and outta bed every morning with killer selections like the Mpls. Sabathani Baptist Choir singing "99 and a Half Just Won't Do". And for a long time, long before Prairie Home Companion went national, it seemed like everyone in the state of Minnesota including me turned the radio dial to PHC every Saturday night from 5 to 7 pm.

Then he got all huffy at us because he bought a big house on bigtime old-money Summit Avenue in St. Paul, and Nick Coleman published the street address in one of his columns for the Pioneer Press, so Keillor suddenly had to deal with a pesky multitude of the great unwashed streaming by his front door every day. Well, not entirely unwashed - -this *is* Minnesota, after all - - better make that 'the great unshowered in the past 4 hours'.

Anyway, Gary got all bent out of shape over the rigid, parochial, un-cosmopolitan-ness of Minnesotans. Never mind that with just those exact characteristics we've provided him with very lucrative fodder for his writing over the past 40 years... Anyway, Gary blew outta town, to settle first in his then-wife's home turf of Denmark for a year or two, then in NYC for a few more years. All the better to rub suede-patched elbows with the other cognoscenti, my dear.

But, after a few years of being a Noo Yawker, you could just tell Keillor was starting to pine for us all, back here in the Best Little Treasure Trove of Quirky Behavior a writer ever was lucky enough to stumble upon. So, he came back, and he settled somewhere out in the St. Croix river hinterlands beyond St. Paul, and he got married again, and he and his new wife had a baby, and that gold-plated PHC juggernaut just keeps chugging along.

Somewhere in the course of the past several years I lost the habit of listening to Garrison Keillor, or reading anything he wrote. He became just another grasping , pretentious auteur, a celebrity who'd sold the last vestiges of his heart and integrity in pursuit of the almighty Dollar. He just didn't matter any more.

I've seen him many times over the years, and asked him to sign a book or two or three along the way. Today I'm thinking back to 1985 and what he wrote in the front of my copy of Lake Wobegon Days.

For Tild, standing beside me. Best -- Garrison Keillor


Here's a news flash for you, Gary. Today I'm standing beside you again. And never more proud to be there.



This post also appears over here.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Vote as if your life depends on it!


The Oust George Bush Song Parody

Hi. Here's my latest:

The Oust George Bush Song Parody (Sing to "Five Foot Two" a/k/a "Has Anybody Seen My Gal?")

GOP,
NYC,
It's time to oust them from DC.
Evict George Bush and all his pals.

Screwed New Yawk,
Yet those hawks,
Act as if they did not balk
At sending help to our locale.

Now if you run into
A Bushie crew,
Wand'ring the streets.
Tell them you
Love Dubya too.
Then explain that west is east.

But don't you shove.
That won't do.
Cops will grab you right on cue,
Which only helps George Bush's pals.

The rest is here with a midi sing-along link:
The Oust George Bush Song Parody

Hope you enjoy it!
Mad Kane

Let's Celebrate Women's Political Voices

This post may also be found at Rox Populi.

Eighty-four years ago today, women in the United States were given the right to vote. While many would offer up a "you've come a long way, baby," few would argue that women are truly equal to men in our society.

Anyway, to honor the day, here's a snap-shot of women's blogs and the issues they cover:

  • Jessica, writing at BushvsChoice, believes that the only practical choice for women in the upcoming presidential election is a vote for John Kerry.

  • Morgaine wonders why the fuck Tucker Carlson is now on PBS. Me too.

  • ms. jared, blogging at Sinister Girls wonders why some women don't vote: "So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because--why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining? Last week, there was a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie "Iron Jawed Angels." It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder." To evote the sentiment of my mother's generation: Right on, sistah! The fact that some women don't vote just plain pisses me off. And don't give me excuses about how much busier women are than men. I call bullshit.

  • Susan points to an interesting article on Bush and the new over-time regs at Suburban Guerilla.

  • Shameless Agitator is "stepping up to the plate" and doing volunteer work for the Kerry campaign.

  • Wonder if a man can truly be a feminist? So does Aurora at A Wicked Muse.

  • Sensory Overload doesn't think Walmart, a new sponsor of NPR, should help determine how we see the world.

  • Verbatim, one of my few blog links to the world of women raising kids, reminds her readers that the Republican Party contains "rotten planks" in it's 2004 Party Platform. Here, here.

  • Asarte laments the use of "Sex in the City" to characterize single women voters at Utopia Hell.

  • My favorite holoholo girl (and that's saying a lot), Nohealani, questions the timing of terror alerts.

  • The controversey over Mark Thatcher's recent arrest is well-covered by Kathryn Cramer.

  • Elle recommends The Passion of the Christ Blooper Reel.

  • Trish Wilson shockingly reveals parts of the Bible she thinks are HOT.

  • Echnide insists she has a sense of humor, despite the fact she thinks the "uniforms" worn by female Olympians competing in beach volleyball are inappropriate.

  • You can read about the "Coalition of the Idiots" over at Eat Your Vegetables.

  • Dru Blood covers the campaign to convince Starbucks "that harassing nursing mamas is not cool" here.

  • If you're pissed when you hear someone use a word that describes the female anatomy as the ultimate insult, read this at Des Femmes.

  • As you know, the situation is Sudan is getting worse. Well, there's something you can do to fight it and Elayne Riggs has some resources for action.

  • silencingprotestor
    I found this photo a few days back at Strangechord, where Emily points out what the Bush administration thinks of free speech.

  • If you have children, Shari wants you to take the No Child Left Behind survey.

  • Check out Blondesense for the best review of the best political theater I've seen in some time.

  • Amy wants politicians to start telling the truth.

  • You can read about "Kodak and Racism" at Jeneane Sessum's Allied.

  • Jo, prolific blogger extraordinare, had this to say about the recent report on AG: "It just galls me so much that the neocons pretend to have "character" and to be ethically cleaner than the rest of us. It's simply appalling. An independent group has concluded that Rumsfeld is responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Yes! Of course! If there were no clear guidelines for interrogation, and the attitude was "anything goes in a war," then no SHIT you're going to get clueless 19-year-olds doing stupid things and blowing the whole "anywhere Americans go, people want to BE us, and democracy will follow" delusion."

  • Sheelzebub wants you to join the "War on Democracy."

  • Mad Kane has written a song in "celebration" of next week's RNC confab.

  • Did Cheney's recent revolt against Bush vis-a-vis gay marriage catch you off-guard? Amanda at Mousewords questions the timing of this "revelation" and doesn't think Cheney should be admired for it.

  • Anne Zook reviews The Emerging Democratic Majority.

  • Mac Diva reports on an interesting new twist in the Kobe Bryant case.

  • This post at Body and Soul is guaranteed to make you smile.

  • If you read my blog regularly, it's no secret that I have the utmost disrespect for Michelle Malkin. If you do too, check out this post at Burningbird.


I'm certain I've left out many important, relevant women's blogs in this entry. So, please feel free to add your suggestions here.

And the next time some moron suggests that women don't do political blogging or women don't read blogs, tell them to shut the fuck up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

hitchens v moore

With all the fashion sense of an unmade bed and an equally muddled grab-bag of cheerfully partisan politics, Michael Moore is without peer as this season’s most disorderly star. When he’s not busy fanning the flames of a cultural inferno, he seems to be scooping up gold statuettes and embarrassing the heck out of studio moguls. Rambling into plain view, as he does almost daily, the bloke in the baseball cap has become for many the most annoying and inevitable pop culture fixture since Paris Hilton was first caught on home video.
It’s no great shock that proud pro-War conservatives find Moore every bit as engaging as a single lesbian mother who lulls her child to sleep with tales from the Koran.
An unabashed muckraker, Moore had no trouble in telling the New York Times last June, "It's my personal aim that Bush is removed from the White House." To conservative critics, Moore is a deceitful one-man-band playing the requiem for The War on Terror. That he has a willing army of right-leaning detractors is not exactly a bombshell.
What is a mild surprise, however, is the growing number of leftist critics who find this ramshackle auteur both dangerous and distasteful.
In a widely cited piece from Microsoft Corp’s website slate.com, stylish celeb hack Christopher Hitchens let fly. “To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental.” So wrote the soft-left journalist in a piece entitled Unfairenheit 9/11.
When prominent Vanity Fair contributor Hitchens lobbed his scatological chestnuts, open season was declared on an ample target. Moore, the cuddly clown prince of conspiracy theories, had a new and unlikely enemy. Avowedly progressive critics attacked his Bush Burning, high grossing film Fahrenheit 9/11 as childish liberal fantasy.
Hitchens, a contributor to US liberal weekly magazine The Nation for more than 20 years, has led the leftist charge against F9/11. Unlikely commentators worldwide have now joined him in accusing Moore of reheating “half-baked fantasies” to audiences hungry for conspiracy.
Australian critics of all hues have not been at all reticent to slap Moore with similar accusations. According to many local commentators, he is guilty of joining the dots with a poison pen; of confusing historical fact with emotional memory and, worst of all, becoming an extraordinarily well paid subject of dinner party conversation.
It has become chic in the most unlikely circles to dismiss Fahrenheit 9/11 as low down agitprop trickery. For some leftist commentators, its director has become a one-dimensional commodity every bit as uncool and omniscient as the Starbucks chain of coffee houses.
There’s a relentless queue of punters, however, who take F9/11 much more seriously than they might a propagandist Frappuccino with a twist. To eager admirers worldwide, Moore has emerged as the leading international roaster of specialty brand doubt.
Moore himself has freely admitted that his most commercially successful work to date is a visceral piece intended to rouse the emotions and oust the incumbent US president. Many viewers of the work willingly take this emotional ride, if not all of its occasionally shaky details.
Certainly, the film cannot be divorced from its political context. F 9/ 11 is nothing if not a film with a capital-A Agenda. Moore has made this point explicitly in interview and, significantly, within his film.
No one who sits through F 9/11 could genuinely suppose for a moment that it presents a scrupulous and impartial expression of the truth. The pronouncements of world leaders are spliced into TV westerns; jokes abound and our host shows himself commandeering an ice-cream van.
There is rarely an instant where we are unaware that we are watching a Moore translation of reality rather than reality itself.
It is Moore’s iconoclastic enthusiasm that wins him fans and not his supposed Leni Riefenstahl-like skill as a propagandist. As a propagandist, he’s no great shakes. As an especially funny human, he excels.
Within F 9/11, there are multiple instances where audiences are reminded that the “reality” they are watching is filtered through the grubby Moore lens. This film repeatedly disobeys documentary convention with gags, down-home tropes and a gaudy rock’n’roll sound track.
While Moore’s politics might be akin to documentary makers John Pilger or David Bradbury, his film-making techniques are not. F 9/11 is no professedly unbiased bleeding heart doco shot through a gritty lens. This entertainment is, very explicitly, armchair current affairs. Like a peculiar left-leaning uncle who guffaws with scorn through 60 Minutes every Sunday night, Moore lets us know: this is the stuff that I’ve been thinking about.
In the thrust of fashionable lefty zeal to dismiss the Moore Franchise as cheesy and cheap, many commentators overlook the details that make F 9/11 so very engaging.
In an apparent eagerness to safeguard the defenceless public, critics repeatedly warn that this documentary, although it may appear very real, depends on the fairy tale of objectivity. We are repeatedly cautioned that Moore’s apparent realism is, in fact, just his own version of the truth.
This is precisely why so many loved F 9/11 to bits. Not because it’s a reliable document of irrefutable fact but because it’s the charming handiwork of a chunky man from Flint, Michigan with whom audiences wouldn’t mind sharing a beer and an idle afternoon. We know that this document is The Truth According to Moore. We are aware that it’s every bit as skewed as the 6 O’clock news.
It is the film’s refusal to be a genuine documentary and its folksy partiality that has landed it in the multiplexes of the western world.
However, it is not just Moore’s charming gall that has delighted audiences and appalled so many liberal critics. Hitchens and others have specifically disputed many of Moore’s claims. One writer in a newspaper I contribute to insisted that most of Moore’s assertions “disintegrate on any contact with evidence.”
While Moore does maintain the same fluid relationship with truth that any raconteur might is beyond dispute. Certainly, within F 9/11 rigid fact and unassailable evidence often play second fiddle to the goal of amusing spectators. That media commentators might want to unpick these assertions for the benefit of suggestible audiences is not surprising. What is astounding is the volume of this painstaking critique and the fact that it so often originates from those who might be predisposed to a Moore’s Eye View of the world.
F 9/11 is not a documentary. It is a gloriously rickety vehicle for Moore and his passions. That being said, many of its broad central contentions are difficult to dispute: George W. Bush is marginally less statesmanlike than Brintey Spears, the urban poor are over-represented in the US military and, importantly, the war in Iraq has been shamelessly sanitised for electronic media consumption.
Moore cannot be blamed for deluding audiences any more than he could be legitimately accused of being a snappy dresser. While his document is a polemic, it is not, in the strictest sense, a “lie”. He is not guilty of untruth. What he is guilty of is outrageous success. Moore’s fault is to take a marginal political view, usually relegated to late night viewing on public television, and make it sizzle.
Moore makes current events much more entertaining than most journalists possibly could. Perhaps that’s why Christopher Hitchens remains so unduly miffed.


Saturday, August 21, 2004

IMing

Internet: To IM or not

I rarely use instant messaging. I haven't developed a complex theory why, and, the far Right hasn't managed to link my apostasy to some presumed malfeasance by John Kerry -- yet. Perhaps it has to do with longevity on the 'Net. As a veteran of AOL chatrooms in the early '90s, Talk City news chats later, and various ethnic and women's sites, not to mention Yahoo and About.com, I think I may have exceeded my lifetime bandwidth for real time interaction on the Web a long time ago. If responding in comments to something I've said or emailing me is not fast enough, I wonder why. I don't miss the immediacy and like being able to adhere to other things I'm working on instead of answering the online equivalent of the phone.

However, being a reasonable person, I am willing to lend an ear to people who approve of instant messaging. Brian Cooley, at ZDNet's Anchordesk, likes IM. Cooley is a convert who started out with a decidedly different opinion.

Working at CNET back in 1996, it seemed like everyone on earth went with instant messaging, but I stood pat with e-mail. Why? Like so many of my life's little stances, I can't remember anymore.

I think it had something to do with thinking IM was an unseemly waste of time, just another way to goof off in an industry that didn't exactly need more of those. For example, my office was less than two minutes away from a massage place, a video arcade, a foosball parlor, and a phalanx of Coke machines--and that was without leaving the building

I don't know that I ever considered instant messaging unseemly. Most people who contacted me did not spell you're 'your' or blather about Britney Spears. The conversations were more likely to be about a legal decision or a book I'd mentioned reading. They weren't a waste of time, but neither were they momentous. Answering my IMs was much less goofing off than the millions of Americans who play Solitaire on their computers at work are engaged in. I've never been to the kind of massage place Cooley is referring to and I don't play foosball.

Cooley's main reason for liking instant messaging is disliking email.

But today e-mail is choked with garbage, and I think that's the best reason for IM. I run two spam filters just to get down to 300 spam messages in my in-box each day. People I need to reach aren't responsive to e-mail anymore; they seem to check it every few hours or so, probably dreading the onslaught of spam and tedious threads that await them.

IM restores that rapid-fire pungency e-mail used to have, an electronic version of someone sticking their head in your office door.

My email filters are about 75 percent effective in identifying detritus and depositing it in my Junk and Trash folders. I weed through the rest. I don't believe IMing would make much difference in how much email I receive. I already route real life communicants to email addresses that I don't publish, so I know to check those accounts often.

I suspect Brian Cooley's real motivation for IMing is the immediacy he refers to as "rapid-fire pungency." There was a time, years ago, when I might have said the same thing. But, as more words than I care to think about have come and gone from and to me on the Internet, I've become less eager to have someone stick his head in my office door. Email me instead.

Note: This entry also appeared at Mac-a-ro-nies.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Sex Offender Databases

Okay, I'm a little bit creeped out. On Janelle's blog, she has this post where she found a map of the sex offenders in her neighborhood. I never thought to look this up. I have assumed that you would just somehow KNOW if some registered sex offender moved in next door. (I know. Stupid assumption.)

So on Janelle's suggestion, I googled "Texas Sex Offenders" and got this lovely database. Putting in my zip code got me 18 EIGHTEEN reg sex offenders in my general neighborhood!!!!!

On the Texas page, they have photos of the person (I guess it's their mugshot.) And their address. And the crime they were convicted of. Several that I clicked on were offenses against minors. The one I clicked on last had the lovely note that his risk level was HIGH, which I guess means he will probably offend AGAIN. And his last offense was this March. With a 15 year old kid.

It's not like I want to go out and picket these people's front lawn with a big red "PERVERT" sign. I know that people can reform (usually, I don't think sex offenders are very good at reforming, though).

But I am freaked! I am not exactly naive, but I did not think there would be this many. Check it out for your state. Google "your state" plus "sex offender" and see what you find. Especially if you have kids. You should know this information.

Also posted on Kim Procrastinates

Monday, August 16, 2004

The GOP Hits New York Song Parody

I'll be street-blogging the GOP Convention and I'm celebrating with a new song parody. I hope you'll enjoy singing The GOP Hits New York song parody to "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again." Here's how it starts:

The GOP bash will soon be here.
Oh, no! Oh, no!
Won't give 'em a hearty welcome cheer.
Oh, no! Oh, no!
They'll swarm our bars and they'll crowd our streets.
They'll praise and laud their nominees.
And we won't feel gay when The GOP hits New York.

Republican pols in NYC.
Oh, no! Oh, no!

The rest of my song parody is here.

In Today's World

A quick hello from a new Blog Sister, a 50-something Goddess Geek and natural-born optimist working hard to maintain that status in this world of hyped bad news.

I started my day at the lakeshore. The early morning colors -- the blue herons, the purple coneflowers, the dark brown earth -- these are the features worth reading in today's news.

And on the radio? The BBC's Heart and Soul, a weekly program whose host is doing a series on Goddesses in Today's World.

Updated on Wednesdays and available for listening on the Net, this week's program is an interesting 13 minutes of interviews from the UK to Kathmandu, with goddess lore, temple chanting, current issues and this provocative bit of Hindu cosmology:

Within the cosmology of Hinduism the male is a passive reality. That energy lies there latent. And it's the female energy that brings forth that potentiality.... For example, how does the fire burn? Through Shakti. How does the wind blow? Through Shakti. How do the waters flow in the rivers? Through Shakti, the feminine aspect of the Godhead.

How does the fire burn, indeed. Mine's been burning too low, lately. Two young men dead in my immediate and extended family in the past four months: one a suicide, the other still undetermined -- suicide or homicide.

If depression is a stage of grief, I've just recently begun moving out of it. Finding beauty in the sights and sounds of morning is a sign and a station: healing is happening.

Back to School

It's not like we have kids that we have to buy new clothes and supplies for. It's not like we take our annual summer vacation at the beach or Disneyworld with the masses. It's not as if I'm anxiety-ridden in anticipation of the end of some steamy summer romance. But, the familiar sensation is there just the same.

Maybe it's the days are getting shorter and the light outside is changing. Maybe it's the commencement of reminder pop-ups on my calendar -- reminders of all the decisions and life-changes I've promised to make after Labor Day. Maybe it's the indelible mark Sister Mary Therese's ruler left on my psyche.

No matter how long I've been out of school -- and that's almost 20 years now -- I always get that dreaded end-of-the-summer, back-to-school feeling this time of year.

This entry is also cross-posted here.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Julia Child 1912-2004


"Life is the proper binge." - - Julia Child

Julia Child died today at the age of nearly 92. I loved watching her shows; loved her calm and her warmth and her funniness and her ridiculous voice [Eleanor Roosevelt meets Margaret Dumont.] Jeanne at Body & Soul has a beautiful remembrance involving her mom and inspiration from Julia Child.

From watching Julia, a lot of us got the courage to fuck up, because Julia could, and often did fuck up, especially on camera, and she just breezed through it, whatever the fuck-up was, and went on to the next thing with nary a twinge or stumble of embarrassment or shame. I just adored her.

Julia Child was always one of the examples my mother pointed out to me of a successful, well-known, and very tall woman. When I was 13 and had already reached my full adult height of 5'11", I often felt like I towered over all the other kids my age. There was a good reason for that: for a couple years there I actually did tower over every other kid my age. As you might imagine, this could be quite the depression-inducer for an adolescent. When Mom saw me slumping and moping because I obviously felt like Hideous Giant Girl, she would say these things: [always in this order, too:]

  • 'You know, Eleanor Roosevelt was six feet tall."
  • "Jackie Kennedy wears size ten shoes."
  • "Paula Prentiss is about 5'11" too, just like you."
  • "And Julia Child is 6-2!"
I know I was sarcastic and terrible to you way back then, but I did appreciate what you were trying to do, Mom. Thanks. I love you. And I love you too Miss Julia, you wonderful non-petite chou. Au revoir.

This post also appears over here.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Wither [sic] that Social Contract?

A friend of mine, a politically liberal single mother who often works two jobs, has a (now) young adult offspring who is learning disabled. My friend recently recounted a discussion with her politically conservative brother, who was ranting about how we don't take enough responsibility for our lives and expect the government to take care of us. Ultimately, my friend's response to her brother was --"are you going to take care of my daughter when I die?" Right now, she lives in a group home, works as a bagger in a supermarket, and gets SSI. The young woman is doing what she's able to do, but she wouldn't surivive without help from the government.

While conservatives argue against government support, they sure don't seem to have any problem with government interference. What this conservative administration seems to have done is turned inside out the "social contract" that our constitutional republic is supposesd to protect.

I found this very informative essay about this "social contract," that begins with

Between 1787 and 1791 the Framers of the U.S. Constitution established a system of government upon principles that had been discussed and partially implemented in many countries over the course of several centuries, but never before in such a pure and complete design, which we call a constitutional republic. Since then, the design has often been imitated, but important principles have often been ignored in those imitations, with the result that their governments fall short of being true republics or truly constitutional. Although these principles are discussed in civics books, the treatment of them there is often less than satisfactory. This essay will attempt to remedy some of the deficiencies of those treatments.

The Social Contract and Government
The fundamental basis for government and law in this system is the concept of the social contract, according to which human beings begin as individuals in a state of nature, and create a society by establishing a contract whereby they agree to live together in harmony for their mutual benefit, after which they are said to live in a state of society. This contract involves the retaining of certain natural rights, an acceptance of restrictions of certain liberties, the assumption of certain duties, and the pooling of certain powers to be exercised collectively.

Such pooled powers are generally exercised by delegating them to some members of the society to act as agents for the members of the society as a whole, and to do so within a framework of structure and procedures that is a government. No such government may exercise any powers not thus delegated to it, or do so in a way that is not consistent with established structures or procedures defined by a basic law which is called the constitution
.

and then, later, this:

In his treatment of the subject, Locke tended to emphasize those violations of the social contract that are so serious that the social contract is entirely broken and the parties enter a state of war in which anything is permitted, including killing the violator. Today we would tend to place violations on a scale of seriousness, only the most extreme of which would permit killing. Some would even go so far as to exclude killing for any transgression, no matter how serious, but that extreme view is both unacceptable to most normal persons and subversive of the social contract itself, which ultimately depends not on mutual understanding and good will, but on a balanced distribution of physical power and the willingness to use it. Sustaining the social contract therefore depends in large part on so ordering the constitution and laws as to avoid unbalanced or excessive concentrations of power, whether in the public or the private sector.

I know very little about the intricacies of Constitutional law. However, what I do know of successful "social contracts," whether on a family level, a neighborhood level, a community level, or a governmental level, those that work best include an understanding that those individuals who are not able to take care of themselves are taken care of by some agreement and contribution (according to ability) of the whole. To me, that kind of "my brother's/sister's keeper" is the foundation of the Christianity that Bush so vehemently espouses. Yet, in action, he and his administration have managed to turn the essence of Christianity inside out as well.

How did so many patriotic "Americans" move so far to the right of that social contract cornerstone that they openly oppose the responsibilities of that contract to collectively help those who cannot help themselves?

Didn't Christ say "as ye do unto the least of my brethren, ye do unto me?" I'm not a Christian, but Bush maintains he is. C'mon George and all you Christian conservatives, WWJD?

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Dub & Dick's Limerick; Daily News Haiku

Lately I've been busily writing political poetry -- everything from limericks to news haiku. Here's a pair of limericks:
Dub & Dick's Limerick
George Dub has a Veep named Dick Cheney.
Next to Dub he appears rather brainy...

The rest of Dub & Dick's Limerick is here.

Ode To Our Misleader
We have a misleader named George.
On power and lies he does gorge...

The rest of Ode To Our Misleader is here.

And you'll find some daily news haiku here, here, and here.

Monday, August 09, 2004

My first Iron Blog challenge

hey sisters,

I just posted the opening argument to my first challenge on The Iron Blog. It's "Battle Affirmative Action" and I am the Iron Blogger Green, representing the pro-affirmative action stance.

If you haven't visited Iron Blog yet, you might really enjoy the forum. Come check it out!

Sunday, August 08, 2004

DaVinciFreedom

Hi. I'm new to Blog Sisters, and I just wanted to tell you about my blog. It's at www.davincifreedom.blogspot.com/ -- although I'm not sure if I needed to tell you that. It a chronicle of my journey as woman, to leave an abusive relationship and to find myself again. I hope some of you will enjoy it and leave me some comments. Glad to be here, and I hope to learn all about Blog Sisters as I go along. Feels nice to know I'm not out there all alone.

PEACE
Katie

Girlfriends

A young wife sat on a sofa on a hot humid day, drinking iced tea and visiting with her Mother. As they talked about life, about marriage, about the responsibilities of life and the obligations of adulthood, the mother clinked the ice cubes in her glass thoughtfully and turned a clear, sober glance upon her daughter.

"Don't forget your girlfriends," she advised, swirling the tea leaves to the
bottom of her glass. "They'll be more important as you get older.

No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you'll have, you are still going to need girlfriends.

Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them. And remember that girlfriends" are not only your friends, but your sisters your daughters, and other relatives too. You'll need other women. Women always do."

'What a funny piece of advice,' the young woman thought. 'Haven't I just gotten married? Haven't I just joined the couple-world? I'm now a married woman, for goodness sake, a grown-up, not a young girl who needs girlfriends! Surely my husband and the family we'll start will be all I need to make my life worthwhile!'

But she listened to her Mother; she kept contact with her girlfriends and made more each year. As the years tumbled by, one after another, she gradually came to understand that her Mom really knew what she was talking about. As time and nature work their changes and their mysteries upon a woman, girlfriends are the mainstays of her life. After 50 years of living in this world, here is what she learned:

Times passes. Life happens. Distance separates. Children grow up. Love waxes and wanes. Hearts break. Careers end. Jobs come and go. Parents die. Colleagues forget favors. Men don't call when they say they will.

BUT girlfriends are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you.

A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach. When you have to walk that lonesome valley, and you have to walk it for yourself, your girlfriends will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end.

Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you. Or come in and carry you out. Daughters, sisters, mother, sisters-in-law, mother-in-law, Auntie's, nieces, cousins, extended family, and friends bless our life!

The world wouldn't be the same without them, and neither would I.

When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other. Every day, we need each other still.

Pass this on to the women who help make your life work.

I just did.

My life as a topo map

I’ve just been visualizing a topographical map of my emotional life. Looking at the low country and the highlands. Seeing the valleys, the peaks, and the plateaus. Charting the wide, rolling plains and the towering mountain ranges. Throwing in some literary references, like my own personal Slough of Despond [John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress], Cliffs of Insanity [William Goldman, The Princess Bride], and Mountains of Madness [H.P. Lovecraft]. Adding some movie titles so I can go from the Valley of Decision to the Valley of Gwangi

How Green Was My Valley of Gwangi! she exclaimed.

Then it’s over the Angry Hills and through the Petrified Forest until I can Escape to Witch Mountain and – okay, okay, is this metaphorical nag dead yet?

The kids shout: Yep! He dead!

If I consider the lives of my family as pages in one big topo atlas-gazetteer, here’s how they look:
The hub has gotten some very gratifying strokes and acknowledgement lately for some work he’s done. He’s been doing a lot of biking and has lost at least 20 # in the past couple of months, so he’s pretty happy about himself these days, and rightly so. The hub’s topo map page is currently all high country: an ever-rising elevation dotted here and there with rocky outcrops [a hostile, sarcastic wife going through drug withdrawal, for one]. These harsh impediments to happiness can be overcome with some effort and actually provide a satisfying challenge. And nothing but boundless blue cloudless skies overhead.

Meanwhile my two boys, ages 16 and 14, have maps that clearly situate them on the slopes of Sugar Mountain:
Oh to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Tho you’re thinking you’ll be leaving there too soon
You’re leaving there too soon


For my "16", the map of summer 2004 includes: getting ready to take his driver test. Shopping for a cheap, safe, good-running vehicle. Girls. Hanging out with his peeps, either online or at the local coffee joint. All-night LAN parties. Girls. Football practice beginning in August. And denouncing M. Night Shyama-lama-dingdong’s “The Village” as the “Worst… Film… Ever!”
As for my "14", it’s a world of: Battlefield 1942 , played constantly with ten buddies online. Dave Chapelle. The Daily Show. Band of Brothers. IM-ing forty or fifty people all day, every day. Theater Boot Camp at the high school. Yearning for an iPod. Backpacking in the Boundary Waters for a week, which is what he’s doing at this very moment.

Finally, there’s my map. Note the warning: “Here There Be Monsters”.

No shit, Sherlock! she shrieks, bitterly.

This week I’m completing my long slow goodbye to Paxil, which I’ve taken for the past 3 and a half years. Most of that time I’ve felt like a hostage to a medication which hasn’t done much for me apart from keeping me taking it in order to avoid the hellish withdrawals I go through when I try to go off it. Others' experiences with Paxil may vary, of course.

I am a soon to be 52 year old woman deep in the throes of my “change”, as I so euphemistically put it, complete with the hot flashes, night sweats, and other icky crap that goes with it. Now, if it were just the menopause stuff going on, there would be relatively little to complain about. It can be bad at times, but not that bad, and now I’m almost done anyway. Some friends who are of similiar age have expressed amazement that I've slogged through the process with a fairly minimal level of discomfort. Why on earth should that amaze them? I think it must be because they have all been on some form of HRT, and I never have been.

I made a vow 20 years ago, before I had kids even, that when I entered menopause I would forgo HRT. Just tough it out. Suck it up. Ride it out. [Insert one more hackneyed phrase denoting survival. How about “Bite the bullet”? Oooh, good one.]
I decided against HRT after watching my mom “cope” with her symptoms. When she went into perimenopause in her early 40s, her doctor prescribed Premarin, the same as millions of other women’s doctors did, and she took the stuff for nearly 20 years. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 64, and died six months later, not from the cancer but of a massive pulmonary embolism that brought death in less than five minutes. Studies have since shown that HRT can affect not only a woman’s likelihood of getting breast cancer, but also the likelihood of blood clots forming like the one that killed my mother.

And now when it’s my turn, I’m supposed to take HRT? I don’t think so.

I know now that doing menopause without hormone replacement therapy was definitely the right thing for me to do. For me. Each of us needs to make our own decisions, of course. Informed decisions, hopefully. Personally, I've always asked myself: Why medicate women for menopause?? Jebus H Christ, aren’t we medicated for everything under the sun already?? Luckily, the symptoms I’ve had to deal with have been managed by taking ibuprofen, avoiding alcohol, and sometimes setting my blowdryer on “Cool” and aiming it inside my shirt . Woo-hoo!
And I enjoy getting older. There’s a lot of advantages to having these wrinkles, these sags and bags, and this new spare tire. Plus, best of all, you get a license to be a crank and curmudgeon for the rest of your life, and that alone is SO worth it!

But, add Paxil withdrawal to the mix and on top of the menopause side effects I get more, even more delightful reactions. Paxil leaves the body in a very short time: within 20 hours. When it’s suddenly out of my bloodstream, I get chills and sweats. Nausea. Dizziness. It’s like the worst case of flu I’ve ever had. I start to see strobe flashes of light behind my eyelids, and get a brutal headache that won’t go away, and at some point I start to think longingly about how blissful being in a coma would be. Even weaning myself off it very slowly, over the course of a year and a half, has resulted in many, many episodes of feeling spectacularly lousy.

Welcome to my world


So, here you have my present coordinates on the big topo map of my life.

Where I’m at, the terrain is harsh, rock-strewn, and desolate. It’s kind of like the “Sun’s Anvil” stretch of the Nefud Desert that TE Lawrence and his band of 50 men had to cross in order to take the Turks by surprise and attack Akaba from the landward side.

Oh come on, you know what I’m talking about. I’m not the only Lawrence of Arabia fanatic out there. Someday I’m going to have to write about being a Jeopardy contestant back in 1993, and how I ended up chatting on-camera with Alex Trebek about LOA, and how he then performed 6 minutes of dialog from the film in front of the studio audience, because it’s also one of his all-time favorite movies.

I go through some days as the noble Sherif Ali [Omar Sharif], poised and in control, looming up out of the desert like a mirage, graceful and elegant. Other days, I swagger around hollering obnoxiously at everybody like Auda Abu Tayi [Anthony Quinn], which drives the hub and kids right out the door. Then, another day a word or a thought will start me crying uncontrollably, or I’ll throw up without warning –and this will happen repeatedly throughout the day. That’s when I’m like the hapless Gasim, staggering around lost in the furnace-heat of the desert, dropping my ammo belts, falling down and fixin’ to die. After suffering through that a while, I somehow buck up, turn into TEL and go back to rescue my Gasim-self, and then come trotting triumphantly out of the desert, wild-eyed, delirious, quixotic.

Oh, it’s fun being me these days, I tell ya. I could draw you a map.

This post also appears over here.


Saturday, August 07, 2004

Part of My Roots

I grew up in central New York. Ten years ago when I was so ready to leave, I referred to it as "a great place to be from." I couldn't wait to shake the dust (or rather, slush) from my shoes. Over time, however, the distance helped me to see what is special about upstate New York, a place of emerald-green lushness and abundant seasons.

One thing I take pride in about central New York is its rich economic, cultural, and political history. For instance, Seneca Falls is the seat of the National Women's Hall of Fame. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a driving force for the suffragist movement: "Oh my daughter, I wish you were a boy!" her father said, grieving at the death of his only son. Young Elizabeth vowed to prove him wrong. She worked hard to excel in Greek, Latin, and mathematics, and obtained the finest education then available to women at Troy Female Seminary. When she married Henry Stanton, an activist in the anti-slavery cause, the word "obey" was omitted from the ceremony at her insistence.

Stanton wrote and presented the Declaration of Sentiments on July 19-20, 1848 (one of the most eloquent and stirring declarations I've ever read). She also worked with Susan B. Anthony to win for women the right to vote. There are many other women highlighted at the web site.

Cross-posted at A Mindful Life

It's Weird the Things You Miss

This entry is also cross-posted at Rox Populi.



roxpornIn addition to being a Rox Populi blog anniversary, it's also my two year anniversary of being back in America.

When I left Los Angeles at the end of the 20th, the United States was loud, proud, fat and happy -- a prosperous country, whose inhabitants, I learned only after returning home once on a Christmas holiday, smell like butter.

Japan was my destination, a country on the slide (at the time) that smells of shoyu. A country, as my experience corroborated, that was grossly over-mythologized for its worker productivity, hospitality, and innovation. That was my personal experience in Tokyo anyway.

That is not to say that the Japanese are bad people or that Japan is a bad country. It’s just that, in my view, Japan ain’t quite the bill of goods we were sold in the 80s.

As many accidental expats do, I used the pretext of a job overseas to escape, to temporarily circumvent dealing with my life. Like a lot of expats, a great deal of time in Japan was spent intoxicated, too. And I don't mean “intoxicated” in the romantic, literary, quixotic sense.

When you live overseas, events -- both world and personal – can take on a surreal, detached quality. I passed many a milestone in the Land of the Rising Sun, including my mother’s death, the 2000 election, 9/11, and marriage. Of course, 9/11 was particularly peculiar.

America changed a great deal during my Tokyo years. I changed, too. But, I don’t mean that in the schmaltzy “the world will never be the same” way. It’s little things you only notice if you’ve been away for a while, like flavored mayo and Swifters, reality television, and Humvees lining the streets of San Francisco, that make you feel like you’ve been living in a time-warp.

And, now that I’ve been back home for a couple of years, I’m starting to miss Japan. I miss polite taxi drivers, even though they don’t know where they're going or how to get there. I miss being able to walk down the street at 3am without worrying about my safety. I miss going to the theater and not having to listen to you talk to your girlfriend about what you have to pick up at the grocery store on the way home in the middle of the fucking movie. I miss the little ironies, the constant reminders that even though they have just as many Starbucks, KFCs, and McDonald's, you know that you're in Japan and not Kansas. I miss the Coffee Boss.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A True Hero

alex2.jpg Today I saw a June 11 story on CBSNews.com that brought me to tears: The report concerned an eight-year-old girl, Alexandra Scott of Pennsylvania, who showed the world how to turn lemons into lemonade. Literally and figuratively.

Just shy of her first birthday, Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer that originates in certain nerve cells. The girl's cancer was of the high-risk variety, which has a survival rate of only 40 percent.

Young Alex did not let the tragic news dampen her spirit. As she grew, she set a lofty goal: She dedicated her life to raising $1 million for cancer research, even if she could do so only one dollar at a time.

Four years ago, the enterprising young girl -- while still battling her own cancer -- opened a lemonade stand whose proceeds went to fight the disease. On one day alone, she raised $2,000. And as time went on, others joined Alex's effort, opening up their own lemonade stands and giving the money made to cancer research. As of June, more than $200 thousand had been raised; $15 thousand of that total came from the Scott family stand.

The movement went nationwide via Alex's Lemonade Stand For Pediatric Cancer Research. Lemonade stands popped up throughout the US, Canada, and France to support the cause this June, and according to the campaign's web site, $700 thousand has been collected so far through sales and donations from around the world. The hospital treating Alex has received about $150 thousand, and hospitals in Connecticut, Michigan, Texas and California have benefitted from the crusade. And leading the effort was Alex, who generously shared her story and her cause via television programs such as "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "The Today Show."

Alex, in June 2004 Remember that through it all, she was a very sick little girl. As CBS News reports,

"Alex would have died many years ago if it wasn't for newer experimental therapies, and I think that's something she and her parents recognize," said Dr. John Maris, who has directed Alex's care at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Neuroblastoma is diagnosed in about 700 U.S. children every year.

Though excited about [the national effort], Alex has been drained by the chemotherapy and radiation being used to treat a new attack of tumors, her mother said. After seven years of treatment, her cancer is considered incurable.

"She's tired. She's exhausted," Liz Scott said. "Her future has always been uncertain, but I don't think any of us — me, my husband, her doctor — has felt this pessimistic before."

Because of her frail condition, her parents and doctor ... encouraged Alex to cut back on her fund-raising activities. But she insisted on appearing on a television morning show [in June] to publicize the fifth annual "Alex's Lemonade Stand" day. ...

Some days Alex feels good, like ... when she saw the new Harry Potter movie. Other days she doesn't. Every day she lives knowing many of her friends have died of neuroblastoma.
Her mom calls Alex "the bravest person I know," and she holds out hope her daughter can overcome her disease.


Sadly, that hope was not to be.

Alexandra Scott, of Wynnewood, Pa., whose battle with pediatric cancer captured hearts nationwide, "passed on peacefully with us holding her hands," her parents, Jay and Liz Scott, said in an e-mail, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday.

"She just slipped away," Liz Scott told the paper Sunday. "You could see when she was ready. She let off a big sigh, and went off to sleep. She was very calm. For that, we're grateful. You're always fearful it's going to be scary."


The girl who turned lemons into lemonade is gone from Earth, but her work will continue. Before her death, Volvo of North America promised to hold a fall fund-raising event to assure that the $1 million goal is reached. And you can still help the cause: Visit Alex's Lemonade Stand and do all you can to help. No doubt, Alex, now sitting among the angels, will be pleased.
"I'm obviously very proud of her, but it's more than that," Liz Scott told CBS News. "I feel privileged to be her mom. I admire her."

Same here. Thank you, Alex, for showing the world that anyone can make a difference. In only eight short years, you did a lifetime of good.

from all facts and opinions

Monday, August 02, 2004

Your Own Private Mt. Everest

The guy who draws those Gaping Void cartoons on the back of business cards gives a useful rumination on the creative process . And I'm not just interested because I'm currently searching for ways to jump-start my writing, either. An excerpt that hit me like being pole-axed right between the eyes:

9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.

You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don't make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.

This metaphorical Mount Everest doesn't have to manifest itself as "Art". For some people, yes, it might be a novel or a painting. But Art is just one path up the mountain, one of many. With others the path may be something more prosaic. Making a million dollars, raising a family, owning the most Burger King franchises in the Tri-State area, building some crazy oversized model airplane, the list has no end.

Whatever. Let's talk about you now. Your mountain. Your private Mount Everest. Yes, that one. Exactly.

Let's say you never climb it. Do you have a problem witb that? Can you just say to yourself, "Never mind, I never really wanted it anyway" and take up stamp collecting instead?

Well, you could try. But I wouldn't believe you. I think it's not OK for you never to try to climb it. And I think you agree with me. Otherwise you wouldn't have read this far.

So it looks like you're going to have to climb the frickin' mountain. Deal with it.

My advice? You don't need my advice. You really don't. The biggest piece of advice I could give anyone would be this:

"Admit that your own private Mount Everest exists. That is half the battle."

And you've already done that. You really have. Otherwise, again, you wouldn't have read this far.

Rock on.

Thanks to Cory at Boing Boing for the link. Cross-posted over here.

Blog Sisters get e-press

An article in Women's E-News by Karen Trimbath about women and blogging features Jeneane Sessum, Shelley Powers, and... me. Of course, the article mentions Blog Sisters, so now -- as registrar -- I'm getting overwhelmed with requests to join. So, if you're a potential Sister who sent me an email, hang in there. I'm dancing as fast as I can.