Friday, November 30, 2012

Because Twitter is too pithy.

Quick update for my millions of minions. In Kona. Gorgeous. Starbucks for my legal speed before a workout, but gee, it's nice to have some time to myself. So I'm lingering.

Mean Girls, the movie. Major score for Tina Fey. Awesome script. No surprise there. The big surprise: Lindsay Lohan? Like eight years ago? I say this with all sincerity and nary a hint of sarcasm or snark: TOTES ADORBS. Like, the most perfect rendition of the cute, guileless SoCal teen girl since Alicia Silverstone in that remake of Emma. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I haz a sad for LiLo.

Established: a beautiful tropical island paradise simply isn't enough without good surf. I don't demand much. 3-5' is perfect...maybe 4-6' if I really want to get wild. But the waves this week have been dead flat, nonexistent. Normally, you'd see me chomping at the bit to get to the beach. But not this vacay. Hence why I'm here at the Death Star, on terra firm. I will have to plan for more in the future.

Damn, but clothes sizes vary wildly! Maybe obvious to those who are more conscious of such matters, but until recently, I figured a large is a large is a large. Now I put on an XL (because you can't contain these growing muscles...and let's be honest...this expanding midsection), and one fits loosely, while the next hugs the curves just right, and the next hugs a bit too tight for comfort. And because of my growth this past year, I've had to donate generously to Goodwill. Oh well.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Oh, for STUPID.

And now, for your edification, an excerpt of an e-mail that a family friend sent to his family and friends the day after this year's election, and which my mother deemed worthy to send to the rest of the family.

I worry that we have lost the America that made us great. The vast, voting part of our population has decided that they would rather be taken care of than be responsible and rewarded for their hard work, individual initiative and success.
This is not a republican/democrat thing. Rather it is an assault on the very fiber of our countries founding principles... What made us the greatest country in the world. We have gradually slipped into mediocrity. We have 50% of our population paying zero taxes...and wanting even more freebies! How is that a good scenario??? For almost 100 years America has been the worlds protector. Now, as evidenced by what happened in Libya and the killing of our own soldiers by "friendlies" in Afganistan, we are no longer respected, revered and feared. And, it seems, as evidenced by the election, we don't even care.
We have reelected a President who will turn us into a socialist country, having no idea that it will spiral us into social oblivion. In the meantime , he will continue to spend more time and OUR money vacationing on airforce one Than any other President in history. we should be ashamed.
Perhaps I am just a fatalist worrywart, hopefully things will work out ok, and that America can become great again. For the benefit of all our growing kids, I hope and pray so!
Now, let me start by saying that I understand the worry. That first sentence is universal, particularly amongst those for whom the day after a bitterly contested election is full of regret, extreme disappointment, and fear for the future. I felt that acutely eight years ago, after our country re-elected whom many consider among the worst presidents in our nation's history. I went to bed early that night. Through the door crack, I heard that Bush took Ohio, and felt a deep pit in my stomach. I went fetal. And I woke up the next morning full of regret, extreme disappointment, and fear for the future. (And I still have yet to forgive Ohio for that...with apologies to my friends who do live in Ohio.)

And there ends my defense of this e-mail. On to the scission.

"The vast voting part of our population has decided that they would rather be taken care of..." This is pure right-wing demoralizing bullshit, tainted with fear and loathing, and smeared on the wall with broad strokes. I heard it for years growing up, often pointed at me for being lazy and not working hard, and being totally irresponsible. There are few things less attractive than condescension from an ivory tower and assuming that because people are not doing well, that they would rather be taken care of instead of working hard. (I prefer the latter myself.) Also? The "vast voting part of our population," I assume, means "those who voted for Obama." From an electoral vote standpoint, yes, 332 to 206 is a pretty solid defeat. But the popular vote is - as of this writing - roughly 2.5%, among the smaller margins in presidential election history. And I'd argue that the vast voting part of our population decided to believe in a country that does not "take care of them" (Republicanspeak for "coddle them into uselessness"), but rather provides opportunities for them to succeed. That, I would argue, transcends party lines.

"We have gradually slipped into mediocrity." Depends on the benchmarks by which you define mediocrity. (Non-sequitur: here's a brillant excerpt from one of my fave shows, The Newsroom.) Economically, I'd unfortunately agree...but the question of why divides me from this writer. From a social standpoint, though, we've made leaps and bounds over where we have been. There have been many periods of economic prosperity throughout the 20th century: the 1920s, the 1950s, the 1980s, even the 1990s. But accompanying the first part of the century was stifling social and often political conservatism, replete with very narrow standards of propriety. My parents look back, in particular, on the 1950s as an era to emulate. Everyone knew their place. Everyone functioned efficiently. And our country was full of civic pride. (At least, that was the facade.) I could go on about the 1950s and how "perfect" it was. But I think the majority of Americans suffered quite a bit under this facade. And I am certain the majority of Americans now would chafe under its sexism, racism, and homophobia. At any rate, economically, we ebb and surge. And you could argue that there are strong elements of bread and circuses in society nowadays, which I find highly unfortunate. But socially, we are far from mediocre; indeed, we continue to improve every day. (The writer would probably demur...his vision of a perfect America fades more and more into the sunset each day. And I've debunked that vision.)

"We have 50% of our population paying zero taxes." Oh HELL no. Hold my weave while I go medieval on this one. I'm sure what this writer meant was "zero federal income tax." So sez the Heritage Foundation. No talk about state or local income tax, to say nothing of sales tax. The implication is that 50% of the population is not contributing their fair share. Speaking of not contributing a fair share, show me a person paying no taxes, and I'll show you a corporation earning many times more than that person, yet also paying no taxes. How many corporations like to take advantage of loopholes and contort themselves into avoiding taxes? Many more than I'd like to think of...but the amount of money that could be pumped into our economy if these corporations actually did pay their fair share would be staggering...and would bring us out of a deficit and into unquestionable prosperity. I look at corporations that shirk their duty to contribute their fair share to America as destructive, unpatriotic, and un-American. To contribute to the infrastructure, stability, and growth of a country by contributing a portion of earnings to the body that governs it is patriotic. (Obviously, within reason. It is entirely possible to contribute a significant share of profits and still remain profitable. I adhere to the Elizabeth Warren school of thought.)

"For almost 100 years America has been the worlds (sic) protector." Said as if that's something to be proud of. And perhaps it is. Sorry, but I tend to be a bit "Isolationist" is too strong of a word. Let's just say that I don't think America needs to fulfill that role. We've got plenty of problems at home to deal with. Which leads me to the next point...

Afghanistan. My grandfather spent years and years after retiring from the army (as a brigadier general) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, fascinated by the culture and society, and working to defend it from the then-Soviet Union. His experience was that as soon as the Soviet Union dissolved, and the respective countries began to address their own issues, the unity that Afghanis and Pakistanis had against their Soviet enemies also dissolved. These countries are largely composed of smaller social groups that have historically always fought and killed each other, often in the service of honor and vengeance. Here's the idea: You killed my father, therefore I am bound to honor the memory of my father to wreak vengeance and kill you. Easy to see how this self-perpetuates into perpetuity. In my grandfather's opinion, outside influence could help decrease this violence, but could not address the centuries-long vengeance that dictates so much of their culture. The sooner we get out of Afghanistan, the better.

"We have reelected a President who will turn us into a socialist country..." *groan* Highly, highly unlikely. Where's the evidence? Obamacare? Individual mandates? The policy that the Heritage Foundation began endorsing back in the day? The policy that Romney - that socialist Commie pinko - spearheaded successfully in his home state? Yeah, that one. Nope, sorry. Try again. If not Obamacare, then what else? Where's the evidence? I see none.
Incidentally, naming Obama a socialist is a hairsbreadth from outright racism...the hatred behind it is the same. Only racism isn't as politically correct nowadays. You can accuse others of being un-American and get away with it more easily. Of course, racist anti-Obama sentiment is still insanely easy to find. Just not quite as visible.

"...he will continue to spend more time and OUR money vacationing on airforce one Than any other President in history." (all sic) How do you back this up? How can you predict this? If the issue is wasting money and time on vacation instead of fulfilling duties as this nation's president, then God, this is an easy issue to address, particularly for those who love Dubya.

I'm not a particularly political individual, but sometimes you have to respond to ignorance when it hits close to home. My work here is done for now. I've a life to lead.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Judy Blume

Back in elementary school, and definitely around 4th and 5th grade, just like in any good respectable public school back in the early '80s, Judy Blume books reigned supreme. Beverly Cleary and the Encyclopedia Brown books ran a close second, but began fading as girls got older and more mature and began to wonder just what in the world was waiting for them around the corner. I assume. Our librarian, bless her, definitely pushed the Judy Blume. And clueless boy that I was, I read lots of it without really realizing what it was all about. Definitely Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. But I also read Blubber, Deenie and Tiger Eyes. I don't remember much about them to this day, other than...well, I think Deenie was about a girl with...scoliosis, maybe? (I could look online, but that would spoil all the fun of me not knowing, and of you Judy Blume fans amused at my ignorance.) Also had a masturbation scene in there, I believe, that I only got after I reread the pertinent chapter, for some reason. And Blubber was the consummate anti-bullying book. Still should be required reading for tweens, I think. But it's only now, after reading this, that I actually learned that Margaret was partially about a girl getting her first period. Like I said, I was clueless. (I know you all are smirking at me. I feel it.)

I have great respect for Judy Blume. I mean, she wrote quite honestly about issues that I think are incredibly important to girls growing up and hitting puberty. The fact that her books have been banned many times also warms my heart - you know someone's doing something right if it rankles the old guard like that - although it bums me to know that some girls never got a chance to read her books. It makes me wish she had a male counterpart. Robert Cormier comes to mind right off, but he dwelled mainly on the bullying aspect of being a teenage boy...usually uncomfortably so. The Chocolate War was brilliant, and I devoured it time and again, but man, he reveled in torturing his characters...protagonists, enemies, incidentals, all of 'em. Plus, the book took place at a private boarding school, so it reeked of privilege and money, making the shenanigans there even more evil than usual. So he wasn't the most pleasant writer. At some point, I also plowed through I Am The Cheese, but apparently it didn't make much of an impact on me, aside from the ending, where (again, without looking online for spoilers) I think there was...a glorious and triumphant suicide? That's quite the paradox, but if I'm right, that's exactly what happens. I also loved all the Jack London stories, taking place in the wilderness of Canada and Alaska, the ultimate brave and valiant struggle of man vs. nature. But really, that was it for major writers I knew who hit the target for me back when I was a tween, give or take.

Fun fact: I actually lost Deenie for a while back in 5th grade, and I had to suffer the embarrassment of the librarian calling my name out a number of times in front of the whole class that the book was overdue. It kinda begged the question: what kind of a pervert boy would keep a book with a girl's masturbation scene over a month beyond its due date? I swear on a stack of all things true and holy, not me. I honestly did lose it, and was all too thrilled to return the book and not endure that shame.


Okay, now that I've looked at more of the Judy Blume God, did she write a lot of books! Freckle Juice, Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself, Forever, Then Again, Maybe I Won't, Superfudge, Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing, The One in the Middle is the Green Her influence extends a lot further than I originally thought it had. I've read all of 'em. (And that's not even all she wrote.) Color me impressed.