Michelle Obama, You Were Right

14 09 2011

I’ve been trying to watch at least part of the Republican debates in the name of remaining well-informed. Frankly,the fact that one of these people might be president disturbs me, but their audience disturbs me more. Last week, in response to a question about the 234 executions carried out during Rick Perry’s tenure as governor of Texas, the crowd broke into cheers. Cheers?!

My issue is not over the death penalty itself. I have my opinions on the issue and I think responsible people can intelligently debate its pros and cons all day long. What I found so jarring was the raucous applause and whoops from the audience. We’re talking about killing people, not a great football play. Whether or not you believe a criminal deserves to die for their crimes, I think we can all agree that executions aren’t exactly cause for celebration.

Last night I had another of those “what country are these people living in” moments. A hypothetical question was posed to Texas Representative Ron Paul about what should happen to an individual who is uninsured and suddenly needs expensive medical care. Ron Paul tends to get a little long-winded, so the moderator pushed him asking if society should just let the man die which lead to several calls of “Yeah!” from the audience. Not as much glee as the death penalty mention some days before, but still creepy.

It isn’t just the fact that the idea of someone dying really pleases a few of these audience members. The thing that blows my mind is that not one of the candidates stepped up to say one of our strengths as a nation is our compassionate nature and that there would be something out there to keep citizens unable to afford insurance from being forced to go without necessary care. Looking out for one another doesn’t mean the “nanny state” is taking over. It means that we are part of a community – local, state, and national. Remember? “E Pluribus Unum”  – out of many, one. It’s on the national seal. (That was our motto before the 1950’s when “god” was added to our pledge to the flag and our money and the national motto became “In god we trust.”) A conservative can still have a soul, but you’d never know it. Empathy is apparently a facet of godless, socialistic, liberalism which must be abandoned as quickly and completely as possible.

In early 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama’s wife Michelle was taken to task by Republicans (and supporters of Hillary Clinton) for saying that America could be a mean country. Well, Mrs. Obama, I have to say that you were at least partially correct. A country which cheers execution, calls for those can’t afford that which will save their lives to lose their lives, and lacks any feeling for those who don’t plump up some corporation’s bottom line is a mean, mean place. The thing is, that mean place is not where I grew up. I don’t even recognize it. When I was growing up, if someone lost their job due to downsizing, lay-offs, and etc they weren’t the problem, whatever lead to their job going away was. A social security check, and the check and medical benefits of a union pension were the well-earned reward my grandmother and many others of the “greatest generation” received for decades of hard, honest work building our modern society. No one ever said they didn’t deserve it or were stealing from their children and grandchildren. Times have gotten harder, but I don’t think getting meaner as a society will solve anything. I’m hoping that logic will overcome whatever makes seemingly ordinary people cheer death and view compassion as a curse.

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The Body Un-Naturale

22 05 2011

There’s another wedding in the family and, since I don’t have a bunch of wedding-related baking to provide an excuse this time around and because this one sounds like a much more formal affair, I have had to focus more on what I will look like and what I will wear. This has meant that I’ve been looking at clothes and caring about whether they might do anything to improve the sorry state of affairs that is my physique or at least distract from it. This has led me to look at clothing ads and even the odd fashion magazine for an idea for a wedding appropriate outfit that won’t make me look foolish. Shopping for clothing is never a fun time for me. Shopping for shoes can be enjoyable. So can shopping for jewelry and makeup, but looking for anything that covers any region from my arms to my ankles (with the exception of good, comfy, cotton t-shirts)  is a long, tedious process for which I honestly have little patience.

I’ve often thought that it was because I have so little in common with the fashion industry’s six-foot tall, ninety-two pound idea of beauty and that is mostly true, except that, thanks to Photoshop, the fashion industry – and our culture’s – idea of beauty is no longer simply extremely difficult to attain. It’s now practically impossible, even un-natural. It’s now a seventy-two pound idea of beauty.

This is a rather well-publicized example from a few years ago. If you haven’t picked out what’s wrong, allow me to point out that, in addition to her absurdly stick figure-like limbs, her head is about the same size as her pelvis and is larger than her waist. That does not occur in nature… ever. It just doesn’t. An emaciated adult’s head isn’t larger the their waist. Also, while this particular image did get some media attention, it is by no mean a rarity. Victoria’s Secret ads and all the ones in the magazines are loaded with heavily Photoshopped, skeletal waifs glowering and pouting. Is it just me or do they look hungry? Do people even find these modified images sexy?

I’m a little too old and a little too rational in terms of my understanding of anatomically feasible thinness to be made to feel inadequate by these images, but it does concern me in terms of its effect on younger, more self-conscious individuals. I mean creating a goal that’s impossible to achieve and then foisting it upon girls at an ever decreasing age strikes me as a problem waiting to happen. I remember how desperately I wanted to be skinny and pretty as a fat, plain preteen and that was in the olden days of the nineties when models and other “beautiful people” were just anorexic and on drugs. Now they’re digitally modified, too.

A while back I was working on a post that never made the cut and I found this photo of Sophia Loren from the late sixties. She was a sex symbol in her day, but at the same time she was still very much a flesh and blood human being with the physical flaws that come with being human as opposed to digital. At one point in time not too very long ago, this image and those of other attractive, unaltered women made up the idea of beauty in our culture. If your thighs were a little less than sculpted or your breast weren’t disproportionately large and up by your chin, it was OK. You would be viewed as pretty, desirable, and the like because you were beautiful even though you weren’t flawless.

There are mountains of things that I find wrong with the 50’s and 60’s views on women, but I think that the scale on which female looks were judged was a healthy one. Where we as a society have worked to break down ideas that negatively effected women’s view of themselves in the areas of career, and family, and personal worth, and pretty much everywhere else, we have made it harder and harder for women and girls to view their bodies in a positive light and that, in turn, has an adverse effect on all of the other things we’ve improved on. If a person can’t be confident with the way they look, they won’t be able to radiate the confidence they need to in order to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves whether those goals are personal, professional, or what have you.

That picture of Sophia Loren makes me feel pretty good about myself, not because I in any way resemble that when I’m wearing just my underwear, but because it’s honest. Even the best looking among us has a flaw here and there. Even the ones that are deemed beautiful are never perfect. That’s normal. She might not be perfect, but she’s healthy, confident, and quite pretty.

I tried to keep this photo in mind when I was in the fitting room at Victoria’s Secret.





And the Dumbass Award Goes to… The Naked WikiLeaker Guy

6 03 2011

I’ll get back to posting about admirable women later today, but I need to indulge my bruised self-esteem for a moment. Anyone who’s been reading this blog for any length of time knows that things don’t tend to go my way. For those of you who are new I’m overweight, unemployed, living at home, and am extremely pessimistic about much of that changing in the foreseeable future. That kind of outlook can make anyone depressed, but occasionally something happens to reminds me that I am, in fact smarter than some people. When it’s on the comic side, I share it. Such was the case today as I, feeling rather nauseous and “blue” (which, as a synesthete, is actually a warm-tone grey for me, but if I say “I feel grey,” no one knows what I’m talking about), I came across this article from Politico. apparently, Bradley Manning, the Marine Pfc. that is facing preliminary charges in the case of that massive load of State Dept. cables which found their way to WikiLeaks several months ago, decided that a military prison was a good place to have an attitude. The article cites a blog post made by Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, as saying that, in response to being told that his being held in isolation stemmed from that possibility that he would harm himself, Pfc. Manning sarcastically stated that, if he wanted to hurt himself, he could do so with the elastic from his underwear or his flip-flops or just about anything. Well, those in charge took him at his word and now he has to seven hours (overnight) naked for his own safety.

Now, I don’t condone any inhumane treatment of anyone. There will be a trial and a verdict because that is how we dispense justice in this country. I’m not bothered by this though, because what he did is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard of. Saying “I could kill myself with with my underoos if I wanted to,” while in prison and after having been deemed a risk to your safety is right up there on the Idiot Meter with saying “Pardon me, sir, but could you be more gentle? I have an explosive in my rectum at the moment,” to a TSA screener. You will regret that statement in a big, bad, possibly painful way. Those with a duty to protect people have to take these things seriously no matter how asinine they may seem because that’s their job. If he had meant what he said and had made a suicide attempt or hurt himself in some other way there would be an outcry over why this statement wasn’t dealt with seriously. You just don’t make jokes about that kind of stuff in those places unless you want to cause a problem for yourself. This is self-inflicted indignity. This guy decided he’d show those dumb jailers the supreme intellect with which they are dealing… and he got owned because they did their job and took him at his word. He was literally asking for it.

I confer upon Pfc. Bradley Manning the title of World-Class Dumbass for thinking that sarcasm and a feeling of superiority were the way to improve his time in Quantico. Thank you for making my life seem a little better today and for making me laugh.





The Day We All Got Punked by Apple

3 02 2011

Apple iProduct lovers across the twitterverse and blogosphere who have been waiting for some news of the release date, or indeed the mere existence of, the mythical, magical iPad 2 had a moment of hyperventilation yesterday afternoon and it had to do with some hearsay at the launch of Apple’s new iPad-only newspaper, The Daily. The Daily itself really didn’t strike me as all that big a deal. Oooh, another news agency owned by Rupert Murdoch. Wow. What is that now? 50? I also get the sense that I can find something much more insightful for my money too – it rated for ages 9+. The big deal about it is that it’s exclusively for the iPad (for now) and it adds subscription billing to the app model which other publications will probably pick up on, but really, it wasn’t the biggest technology launch of the day. Yes, there was something else much more interesting to ooh an ahh at. Google debuted its Honeycomb app market for tablet computers running the Android OS. It’s hoping Honeycomb will be as big a hit as its Android app market for smartphones. It’s a bigger, shinier, all around sexier version of an already wildly successful product. It has worlds of potential. It may even turn out to be what the tablet computer market is missing – any real, serious competition for the iPad, but it has one big problem in the short-term. They have yet to announce a release date for Honeycomb and if it happens anywhere close to the release date of the iPad 2, nobody will notice or care for a while. That will have a bearing on Android-powered tablet sales because most techno-geeks – or at least the well-funded ones – are instinctively drawn to the newest thing. Google got a tiny taste of what that kind of overshadowing might be like yesterday. Apparently, somebody who knows somebody who knows how to contact Reuters saw an iPad 2 off on the sidelines at the launch of The Daily… and the net was all over it. Honeycomb what? Isn’t that a cereal?

At first blush, this sounded absolutely excellent. A sneak peek at what I’ve begun calling The Precious snuck into the launch of something far less cool simultaneously proving to the world that the iPad 2 is in fact on the way and getting free press for at least a few days from blogs, twitter, and a news cycle mention from traditional media as well. What a stroke of genius! I twittered news of the sighting just like many others. After a few seconds of thought, though, it didn’t add up. There’s one big flaw in this scenario as far as I see it – one thing that is impossible to ignore. In this age where every cell phone, no matter how cheap and basic, has a camera in it and in a room full of professional journalists no one got a picture of the thing that so many are waiting for. That makes no sense. One of them might have missed it – half a dozen at most – but a whole room full of reporters representing all sorts of media outlets from tech blogs to major news channels and none of them sees what is almost surely going to be one of the next big things on the market and grabs their camera or smartphone quicker than a fat kid grabs a Ring Ding? No way! This article from techcrunch.com (cool site!) has a few other points but it echos my main one as well. I think we got punked. Sorry Reuters, I’ll believe it when I see the pictures.

Apple is still getting some free press and the iPad 2 is still shrouded in mystery. Also yesterday, while Google was showing off its cool, new tablet OS, the post holiday return numbers for the Android-running Samsung Galaxy Tab, an android powered tablet and the iPad’s closest competition, were released and the news isn’t good. According to this article in Beatweek, the return rate for the Galaxy Tab was 13%. Thirteen out of every 100 are returned for a refund. That’s a big deal because not everyone who isn’t completely happy with a device returns it. Sometimes people miss the return deadline, or otherwise end up keeping the thing and waiting until something better comes along to upgrade So there are theoretically more unsatisfied customers out there who just weren’t unsatisfied enough or able to return their Galaxy Tabs. By the way, the return rate on the iPad – 2%. On the bright side for non-iPad tablets, many tech blogs including Techcrunch.com were really impressed with the Honeycomb OS and think it might challenge the iPad (they got to test it for about 20 minutes on a Motorola Xoom). Even with all the improvements to the tablet version of Android, we still have no concrete knowledge of what the iPad 2’s specs are yet, so it really is anyone’s guess. Still, I think that Apple had a bit of fun with all of us and maybe ruffled Google’s feather’s in the process. Well played, Apple, well played.





Snow, Chaos, and the Merchant of Hate

12 01 2011

According to this, we got the most snow this state has ever seen in one day. That’s saying something considering the state is Connecticut. It’s up to my hips. I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow at one time. I have dug out and am feeling the results.

This is the Amalfi Coast in Italy and that is where I have been wishing I was all day today. The warm sun, a glass of wine, and gorgeous men sounds great right now.

There’s too much going on in the aftermath of the shooting in Arizona, my previous post‘s topic not to go back to it and, since I couldn’t do much other than dig out I’ve had a decent amount of time to work on this. Here is my opus magnum. On Monday evening, Bill O’Reilly said on his Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor that those calling for the political debate in this country to take a more civil tone in the wake of the shooting of a congresswoman “Merchants of Hate” because some on the left had taken the opportunity to go after various conservative voices, naming them as potential (unintentional) accessories to the crime before anything was known about the shooter. Go figure. He singled out national publication which had specified specific individuals like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or groups like the Tea Party-ites, conservatives, or the right in general but expanded his point to include anyone who had put out ideas about lowering the intensity level of our nation’s partisan tone. So you say “can’t we all treat each other properly ’cause somebody could get hurt” and you’re labeled a Merchant of Hate.

I expected being an evil, nation-destroying villain would be different to tell you the truth. I mean, do I get a costume? Do I get a scythe? A mace? A cat o’ nine tails? It seems like a Merchant of Hate should have something dangerous, painful, and medieval in their hand. I’m envisioning a combination of the grim reaper, a ringwraith, and a dominatrix (or the male version thereof). “Beware, you are in the presence of a Merchant of Hate. Hey, are those BBQ potato chips? Sweet!”

Mr. O’Reilly also made a claim that it was all due to a great liberal fear of the left-wing dissolving. That’s madness plain and simple. The left-wing isn’t going anywhere. Even in the good old conservative days of Father Knows Best, mandatory prayer in schools, the acceptance of the use of every racial, ethnic, religious, and social slurs except those pertaining to white, protestant, middle or upper class men – the days before the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation, or the first Pride Parade was ever thought of – there was still a left-wing. Don’t believe me? Look up “Joe McCarthy” to see how scared they got people. They were always there and, no matter how small or large their number, conservatives have always been screaming that they would destroy the country and should be stopped. News flash, Mr. O’Reilly, the left is not going away. There’s been a political shift, a common occurrence in this country, but, barring some large-scale, Mao-style re-education effort or the far right wingnuts getting the right to make arrests on sedition or treason charges, there will still be a population of liberal thinkers in this country involved in politics, voting, and serving in elected office. If the our system of national government can accommodate the views of the likes of Ron Paul in can also handle those held by people like Nancy Pelosi and everyone else on the spectrum. It’s been making things work in spite of our elected officials’ flaws for 235 years and I have faith in it. I find it strange that some who would wrap themselves in the mantle of patriotism and Americana would view the building blocks of our country as so easily able to be broken. Come on, we’re stronger than that.

I might be a Merchant of Hate according to Mr. O’Reilly, but I stand by my statements in my last post. I don’t care what the shooter’s motive was. If thousands of people – not the usual punditry suspects, but average people – hear that a member of congress was shot and start talking about tempering political rhetoric, that should be a hint that maybe there’s a problem there. Why not be proactive and curb our collective enthusiasm before it gets someone hurt and for goodness sake don’t ramp it up just for the hell of it ,or because you like controversy, or because you think your base will love it. I still believe that the caustic nature of our national climate is unhealthy and should be diffused, not through the passage of legislation, but through a little self-restraint on the part of our leaders and those who put their political opinions out for all to see (myself included).

This evening, The President spoke at the University of Arizona at a memorial for the victims of this senseless act. His eloquence served him well. I found his thoughts about the youngest victim, nine-year old Christina Taylor Green – words about public service viewed as nobel through the innocent lenses of a child’s eyes. “I want to live up to her expectations,” he said. Why not try? Seriously, let’s make the effort. There’s no downside that I can see to treating politicians like people instead of demons. A few paragraphs back, I mention having faith in our governmental process. Well, since I’m in a quoting mood, Ella Grasso, the former governor of Connecticut – the first woman elected governor in her own right – is quoted as saying “It is not enough to profess faith in the democratic process; we must do something about it.” We need to do something about the way we debate. We need to not take the easy way out – the systematic shredding of an opponent’s humanity as opposed to taking them to task on the more academic, less sensational realm of stands on issues, and economic plans, and polling data and all the other nuts and bolts of policy wonkery. Another politician who is way before my time said in his inaugural address “So let us begin anew remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof.” The topic of John F. Kennedy’s quote was the Cold War. Compared to that, partisan hyperbole seems a lot easier to handle.

If you missed it, this is the President’s speech and the University of Arizona.





The Case Against What I Refer To As “Good Christian Driving”

14 12 2010

First of all, this isn’t me railing on Christianity less than two weeks before the Big, Divine, Birthday Party. No, this is about bad driving habits, particularly those of people who feel it necessary to immediately slam on the brakes and allow any vehicle that wishes to cross the road or merge into traffic no manner what is going on around them in an effort to be a nice, good, sweet person. (Incidentally, I’ve included directions so that my explanations make more sense. It might sound a little like algebra, but I promise it’s not.) I happen call this process “good Christian driving” because it reminds me of all of those small, selfless actions that the teachers of the religious instruction classes I took as a child would ask us to do around Advent and Lent. See, it’s nothing derogatory, just me reminiscing of my angelic, child-self. Ok, I’m stretching the term “angelic”, but you get my point.

The image to the left is what can, and often does, result from “good Christian driving”. Even if you’ve never been in an accident because of someone in front of you trying to get one random act of kindness closer to a spot on Heaven’s reservation list, I’m sure you can think of time that this has almost happened. Up until today, the closest I’d come to being an unintended consequence of someone’s goodwill toward others came when I was helping one of my aunts move and someone who had been given a chance to cut across into my lane of traffic drove out and nearly t-boned me because at this particular point on the road, if there is heavy traffic in the lane in front of you (northbound), you can’t see the lane you’re trying to merge into(southbound). Essentially you trust the person letting you cross in front of them and drive blindly into the southbound lane. Not good! The only thing that saved my butt, both from the car suddenly appearing in front of me and from my aunt who was following couple cars behind me was that my chronic “leadfoot-itis” had been tempered by the fact that I had all of my aunt’s glassware rather shoddily packed in the back of my car. The sound of it rattling around back there and knowing that if anything got broken in transit there would be no escape from my aunt once we got to my house for dinner clipped a good 5-10 mph off my average speed.

Today I officially became a “good Christian driving” victim. There was I nice fellow in front of me in a large pickup truck. How do I know he was nice? Well, he let several people (going east) cut through rush hour traffic on a main road (westbound) to get to a side street (northbound). He did so even after the light turned green. How kind! The issue came when, with two cars stacked up behind me now, someone missed the memo that everyone was still stopping even though the light was green and hit the gas instead of the brake. That SUV hit a car, that hit a car, that hit my car. At least one car was towed and at least one person went to the hospital. My mother, my dog, and I are all ok. My pink chariot is too, aside from a messed up back bumper which I’m not too phased by. The car drove home fine and, since I was in no way at fault, I got no ticket. On an unfortunate note, as a result of the traffic backing up from our accident, at least one more collision was caused by a similar chain of events. That’s a minimum of six cars messed up in one way or another and at least one hospitalization all because somebody thought holding up everyone on a busy road when they’re impatient to get home was a good idea.

And what happened to Saint Pickup Truck? Once I got hit – I’m certain he got to watch my mother and me whip forward and my 25 lbs dog bounce off the back of the seats – he was gone. Hell of a good Samaritan, right?

This is for you, Saint Pickup Truck, wherever you are. I have another symbolic gesture for you, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.





That’s It! Sarah Palin, Get The Hell Out Of My Living Room!

1 12 2010

TV personalities are invited into my living room. If I like them, I might grace them with my viewership and make my one woman contribution to their ratings. I might make it a point to watch a show regularly, if it appeals to me. I might even purchase episodes or DVDs. I’m even fussy about my news broadcasts because some anchors are just too damn annoying. If something isn’t entertaining to me for whatever reason, so long. I’m like Luke Skywalker and the remote is my light saber – I will use the force.

But it doesn’t always work.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to avoid the Kardashian sisters completely. They’re just everywhere. I am happy to say I don’t know much about them, but I can tell you their names and probably which are married and other useless bullfunky like that. They’re inescapable. Like football. I’m not a fan football in the NFL sense, preferring the football that actually involves a foot coming into regular contact with the ball, but I can still tell you who won the last Super Bowl. Also, because I was born in America and went to high school, I know the basic rules of the game. Some people and things are just like that. Last year, whether you wanted to or not, you got to know more than enough about John and Kate Gosselin as the nation watched their marriage crumble while the reality television cameras rolled on. In the world of politics, everybody heard all about South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and his Argentinean “soul mate” and saw John Edwards take Bill Clinton’s famous extramarital activities one step farther by insisting that he did not father a child with that woman – which was proven to be quite false indeed. We all heard so much about those events and everyone was saying “Enough! Please!” Well, I’ve reached my media saturation point with someone else.

Dear sweet God Almighty, am I so damn sick of Sarah Palin!

This begged for a picture, but I am in full Palin Overload at this point, so this is as close as I'm getting to putting her picture up here. Bullwinkle is my Sarah Palin Stand-In.

She’s highly opinionated, she’s rabidly conservative, and she is everywhere I look. She needs to get out of my living room – now – but changing the channel isn’t much help. She is mentioned in nearly every US news broadcast. (I’m so thankful we get BBC.) Turn on any Discovery Channel subsidiary and you’ll see the ad for her reality show at least six times in any given hour, so she’s effectively invaded Mythbusters. Browse the internet for anything political and there she is. Her tweets and facebook posts make news in a way many government officials who were actually elected to a particular office can only dream of. She even turned Dancing With the Stars, something else I avoid, into a battle between the right and the left. Did Bristol Palin get as far as she did because of who her mother is (because it’s certainly why she was on the show to begin with)? Did she lose because of all the Palin-haters out there furiously voting against her? Oh, the conspiracy theories abound. Then there is her position as an analyst for Fox News and her reality show fame. You can’t lob a political statement anywhere without it running into some issue she’s been pontificating about over the past few months. Add to that the fact that my own father thinks she’s the best human being to grace this planet since, I don’t know, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, maybe Jesus, and it’s official – I’m trapped. The American political discourse has turned into Palin World, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of her. Sarah Palin has been the center of national attention more times in two years than Dubya was in his eight years in the White House. Thankfully, I’m not alone in my Palin fatigue. It’s nice to know the entire country hasn’t gone mad, but it’s disappointing to think about how many people may very well be voting for “that reality show lady” in 2012.

And before people start to screech about my obvious liberal bias, let me point out that I haven’t even mentioned her views and where they differ from my own. This isn’t even about ideological stances, it’s about media overexposure. It’s like that song on the radio that you hear all day long and sooner or later you start to not like it. Sarah Palin is getting over-played fast and, with two years until the next election, I think she runs the risk of going overboard with the self promotion even with those who are more inclined to like her. Her strategy of inundating the country with all Palin all the time could backfire. She has high disapproval ratings as it is and in polls conducted by both Quinnipiac University and CNN she loses to Obama in a hypothetical election by eight points – more than his margin of victory against John McCain in 2008. That is not an insignificant thing to overcome and becoming a pop culture nuisance isn’t going to win people over, it’s just obnoxious.