Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things that freak me out



The possibility of dropping my keys down a storm drain.

Anything being pointed at my eyeball.

The plastic-faced giant Burger King man on the commercials.

(And no, I'm not kidding about that last one. I had to shield my eyes from the TV a minute ago because the creepy Burger King was on.)

What's the weirdest thing that gives you the willies?

Monday, September 29, 2008

The public referendum on the campaign

I live in the liberal lakefront wards of a solidly Democratic city in a blue state that Barack Obama calls home. My car sports an Obama magnet. I see other Obama magnets and bumper stickers on many cars, plus Obama window signs, t-shirts, buttons, and caps, but try as I may, I've yet to spot McCain paraphernalia around town.

Until yesterday, that is. We were driving to the 'burbs to visit Brookfield Zoo. (It's much bigger than Lincoln Park Zoo, but L.P. Zoo is a short bus or bike ride away so we usually go there.) I saw a McCain bumper sticker! But the SUV had Iowa plates. My record was intact: no Illinois-based McCain supporters in evidence.

Then we drove home from the zoo, and I was astonished to find an SUV with a McCain/Palin sticker on it in my own parking lot. Four years ago, my block had but a single solitary SUV with a Bush sticker on it, far outnumbered by the Kerry/Edwards stickers and signs. I wonder if it's the same person, or if one Republican household moved out and was replaced by a new one.

At a pottery studio I passed on Lincoln Avenue, though, there were no McCain cups to offset the assortment of handpainted Obama pottery. I dunno; McCain just doesn't seem the type to inspire artistic musings.

What's the Obama vs. McCain paraphernalia balance like where you live?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Chicken: funky or non?

Mr. Tangerine enjoys the various high-definition television channels. In fact, he's one of those guys who will only watch HD. He cannot abide the regular crapola-definition programming.

There are a couple HD music channels, so he's been watching a lot of concert performances from the Isle of Wight music festival and whatnot. Right now, he's watching some sort of documentary/concert combo on Palladia (is this a new channel? I think so) featuring circa-1970 African-American music and talk (including Richard Pryor). Anyway, an older man clad in a Pepto Bismol pink shorts suit sang a couple rousing songs, including "Do the Funky Chicken." Google tells me he's soul singer Rufus Thomas.

Anyway: So, the concert-going crowd was dancing the Funky Chicken dance, and they were getting their groove on. The dance looked more like dancing than poultry. See for yourself: here's the video of Thomas's Wattstax performance.

The nadir of American culture just might be the white folks' chicken dance:

Frankly, I don't know why they call it the chicken "dance," because...that's not dancing. Nor does it resemble the motion of chickens. And it is certainly not what one would term "funky."

Do the Funky Chicken, and you display a love of life and music and rhythm. Do the chicken "dance," and you look like a halfwit. Nay, a quarterwit. And a dork. With no sense of rhythm. And no reason to go on living.

Remind me to tell my child that if he ever gets married after he's grown, he must not allow the chicken "dance" to bust out at his wedding reception.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A guest post you must read

A friend of mine who's in academia and prefers to remain anonymous has written a terrific essay about the culture wars, the Reagan-era roots of Gen X cynicism, the divide between the ivory tower and NASCAR fans, and the current presidential campaign. He started it as a blog comment here, but it expanded into a full-out essay. Read on:

The Palin nomination made me sad in a way I would not have thought possible. Why would McCain, who at one point had seemed to me admirably independent, thoughtful, and above all, responsible, put someone on his ticket who (politics aside, and I mean it) is so radically unqualified, both in experience and general temperament, to be president? Surely there are other people out there who could have appeased his base - people who, I don't know, have some interest in and curiosity about the world, who exhibit some capacity to have an intelligent discussion about a major issue, some basic understanding of how the world works and how it might work better. Someone. Dear god, someone. I'm looking at you, Orrin Hatch. Seriously. Orrin Hatch. I disagree with the man on virtually every issue, but he is thoughtful, competent, and, at his core, decent.

"Country First????" Those placards at McCain rallies ... it's like some kind of dystopia. Yes = no. Day = night. No one who truly puts his country first would have nominated Palin. Everything you say about her, M5k, is true, including her possible future competence (in theory). Comparisons to Obama's own relative lack of experience are laughable. How do I know? OK, imagine it's 3 a.m. and the phone rings ... I am half serious. Obama always seems to want to know more, to find things out, to learn (even when he clearly already knows a Ton). Palin knows what she knows. She has "that certainty." No blinking!

Again, this has gone beyond politics. Disagree with me on issues, fine. I've been in the minority on most issues my whole life (pro gay marriage, pro drug legalization, anti death penalty, etc.). I can handle losing. But if you're going to beat my guy, please please, have the basic knowledge, competence, and thoughtfulness to be President Of The United States of @#@$#ing America.

In conclusion [HA ha, not really]: I have this theory about Reagan. People talk about my generation (X) being all ironic and sneering and detached. And it's true. And that's one of the great lasting effects and triumphs of the Reagan era. He made empty sloganeering an art form. Everything he said was about being strong and certain and essentially unthoughtful (no blinking!) - and he had a lot of followers, obviously, but for those of us who were just coming into political consciousness at the time of his early presidency ... to see such hucksterism work, such irresponsibility reign (re: living beyond our means, having whatever we want when we want it, saying we support democracy while arming strongmen, undermining democracies we don't like, etc.) ... to look around you and watch people adore this man and think to yourself "Are you @#$#! kidding me? People are buying this @#$#?" It was devastating, in a way. Couple that with the quick onset of the MTV and then digital age, and you get a generation of people who are, happily or not-so-happily, tuned out, who find it very difficult to be "patriotic" when every self-styled patriot they've ever seen has been in the service of a fundamentally dishonest regime; people who retreat into isolated, technologically enabled enclaves, which only strengthen that already strong sense of detachment and isolation from the greater community. When a generation of kids opts out of concern for country due to a deep cynicism fostered by manifestly dishonest political role models, that provides fertile ground for manipulative, anti-intellectual, hateful culture-war-mongers to thrive and thus control the terms of public debate (and the meaning of American symbolism, i.e. the flag).

And now we're grown up and we all watch TDS and Colbert and laff as Rome burns and burns and burns.

Carter was prescient about so many things, but he was a terrible leader. So maybe I should blame him for Reagan. Or maybe I should blame Nixon for Carter, who was like the anti-Nixon. I don't know. But the mess we're in now - Carter didn't create it. Nixon, though his resignation plus our failure in Vietnam did cause massive disillusionment, didn't create it . Reagan, arguably, did. Reagan / Bush's cynical manipulation of the symbols of America / patriotism, their celebration of mindless consumption, their exploitation of "values voters" (screw them financially while doing Nothing about their alleged "moral" concerns), and their Orwellian disregard for truth all made me and many like me retreat into Academia, where we could sneer at the idiocy of the country from the comfort of our sinecures, as if the plight of our country were just a bad movie. "Why is everyone so stupid!?" cries the disgusted, befuddled, over-educated liberal. The answer is, at least in part, because academics hate "people" and 20 years ago almost completely gave up on the idea of addressing the public in terms it could relate to / comprehend. We're now in the odd position of seeing the "people" as oppressed and deluded. I.e. we're many of us tacit-to-explicit Marxists. Except we hate workers and the stuff they like (God, NASCAR, American beer...). Much as I hate conservative critiques of "The Ivory Tower," there is a hint of truth there. And so here we are.

This ironic sense of detachment - It's an affliction (at least in part self-induced) that I'm still getting over. Ironically (!), getting over it means starting to see Republicans and conservatives as (occasionally) decent and principled people. You sort of have to opt out of the culture wars at some point if you want them to stop. Right now, I just want this comment to stop. And I want very much for Obama to be my next president. Not because Democrats are better than Republicans, or because magical "Hope" will make everything better - just because, in addition to his basic intelligence and charisma, Obama seems genuinely committed to a post-Reagan, post culture wars world. A genuinely conservative world, where what's being conserved are what I like to think are basic American values (honesty, decency, financial prudence, a respect for difference, a strength that has peace as its ultimate goal). A dream world, maybe, but if I'm going to put my Faith in anything but God, that's where I'm going to put it.

—by X Patriot

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

And another thing

One of the lines the GOP speechwriter crafted for Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention was this:
“We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity.”

I don't like this glorification of the small town.

We grow good people in our big cities, too. In the comments at Pandagon, FlipYrWhig responded to my sentiment with "You just have to use espalier techniques."

But seriously: The only reason the Republicans like to glorify the small town is because so many small towns are filled with white folks who might vote for them. Whereas urban areas have lots of people of color, immigrants, poor people, and folks who appreciate diversity—few of them voting Republican.

My son and his friends are being raised right here in the city "with honesty and sincerity and dignity," all right, plus a lot more exposure to people who aren't just like them. When did the Republicans start to fear the American melting pot, anyway?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mariska Hargitay is Sarah Palin

Do you see it? The dramatic frozen stare accompanying "In what respect, Charlie?"—couldn't you see Mariska Hargitay with hair extensions playing Sarah Palin in the Lifetime movie, Hell in an Alaskan Handbasket?

Or maybe Michael Moloney, the interior designer from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition:

Either one's a dead ringer. The glasses make people think of Tina Fey, but the face is all Hargitay and Moloney.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

No original material? No problem!

Here are two handy links from Bitch Ph.D.'s latest post (and she herself got the links elsewhere, and her post was called "Links to share," so I'm covered):

I don't agree with people being swayed by politicians' promises of tax cuts because yo, tax revenues pay for a lot of important stuff. Schools, parks, highways, medical research? I'm for 'em. But it's not fair for one candidate to rouse the rabble with claims that the Dems are all about "tax-and-spend." This site will calculate your tax cut under Obama's plan. Do you make less than a half mil a year? Then you will probably save on your tax bill.

Are you registered to vote where you live now? If you're not, or you don't know for sure, get cracking before it's too late. This link runs down the voter registration deadline for each state. In many, you need to register no later than a month before the election, so time's a-wasting!

Remember, the next president is likely to be appointing two to four Supreme Court justices. If McCain is elected, he seems keen on overturning Roe v. Wade, and appointing just two anti-choice justices will make that a reality. His running mate Sarah Palin is perhaps even more hardcore in her anti-choice stance. Maverick, my ass. Don't forget that McCain has voted with Bush 90% or more of the time—in the past year, I think I read that McCain's Senate votes have toed the party line 100% of the time. Where's the rebellion? Where's the reform? And don't get me started on the crock of steaming poo that the RNC was. Romney arguing that we need to get rid of the liberals who are running Washington? You mean...Bush and Cheney? Ri-i-i-ight. The height of ridiculosity, the Republicans running as change agents who will overthrow the liberal power structure when the Constitution-gutting GOP administration has been in charge for eight years. And Palin? Her police chief in Wasilla thought it was a fine idea to charge rape victims for the cost of collecting the "rape kit" evidence. You know what taxes ought to cover? Having the police investigate crime without billing the crime victims for it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Meandering update

Ben started school this week. So far, so good! He hasn't had much homework, but did collapse into frustrated tears one day. I plan to put a new time-out strategy into effect—the moment either of us starts getting too frustrated, we call a two-minute break. We've had a bad habit of feeding one another's tension.

The third-grade homerooms are roughly sorted out by reading level—so the kids Ben knows from his reading group last year make up half of his class this year. The best part of this? It's not that Ben is delighted to have many of his pals in his class. It's that the moms have a ready-made back-up system. Your kid claims he has no homework today? We can check out that claim. Your kid was home sick? Another mom can fax over the homework assignments. Your kid's explanation of a particular assignment makes no sense? Find out what message the other kids picked up.

Ben didn't do much reading over the summer. (I know: bad parents! bad!) He's a very good reader, but seldom evinces an interest in reading for pleasure other than leafing through books with lots of photos of cars and information about their horsepower. I think he's beginning to come around, though! V. exciting. This morning, he asked if he could play a video game if he did his reading first. (This is in sharp contrast to the usual "Can I play my video game?" "You need to read first." "[outraged objection to parents' cruelty].") He started a new chapter book, this one about a kid who finds that anything edible he touches turns to chocolate. He laughed while he was reading it, and volunteered information about the story after his 20 minutes (the teacher's prescribed amount) were up.

I have a cold or something. Runny nose, sore throat, backache, general propensity to whine. Ben's nose is beginning to run, too.

Speaking of running, I bought tickets for Mr. Tangerine and me to watch the Chicago Marathon from the reserved bleachers and "Ovation Pavilion" tent. We've never managed to reach the finish line early enough to see the elite runners finish, and navigating the area on foot is often a clusterfuck of having to walk a half mile past your target and then double back.

I just signed Ben up for a fall class—acrobatic and aerial dance, affiliated with my cousins' dance troupe, Ameba. I think it'll mainly be tumbling and trapeze work. I would have signed him up for a park district sports or art class (despite his lack of interest) if only the class times hadn't bumped into homework time. With the homework struggles we had last year, a 3:30 class frightens me. But 5:15 acro/aerial? Perfect! Homework's done and he's had play time already. Ben's already met the teacher, a dancer who went to the same college I did.

My medical editing client hasn't had much work for me this year. So I'm taking on a new client—in the realm of crosswords! Crossword work generally pays less than medical editing, but it should be fun to get paid for doing crosswords and checking for outdated clues.

I signed up for Twitter and added it to the blog sidebar. I don't know why. It remains to be seen whether I will remember to write those 140-character Twitter updates. Wait, I do know why I signed up for it. I read somewhere that it's a fun writing tool, to craft concise statements. I don't generally do concise. This could be good for me.

Politics! I need to DVR The Daily Show for the next two months. Mostly I've been catching the occasional clip online, but damn, politics is a lot funnier when Jon Stewart's team is talking about it. They've done a good job of calling out the hypocrisy of the various GOP mouthpieces, including Karl Rove—isn't it interesting that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is a private family matter and it's nobody else's business what choice she makes, whereas the Republican Party would prefer to deprive every woman of having a choice in the matter of a pregnancy> Then there's Bill O'Reilly, speaking warmly in defense of the Palins' privacy mere months after he railed against Jamie Lynn Spears' parents as "pinheads" to blame for her pregnancy? Feh.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Why the GOP hammers at abortion rights so much

I think Amanda Marcotte has nailed it, with a simple clarity. Key excerpts:

But for the small cadre of hardcore anti-feminists, you have to understand that they’re deeply invested in a fantasy and in the fantasy that they can vote that fantasy into existence. That fantasy is, as cliched as it is to say, a fantasy version of the 1950s, where women knew their place and everyone was happy all the time.

And dismantling reproductive rights is the key to this fantasy. Topple that, topple feminism. There’s a weird logic to it—women generally maintain careers because they can limit their fertility and aren’t always taking time off to manage a brood of 5-10 kids. Once the cost of day care outstrips any salary you can command, you have to quit your job. ... Feminists were right to think that the right to contraception and abortion are fundamental to women’s liberation, and anti-choicers agree, so they want to take that away.

Go read the full post for the fleshed-out argument.