Thursday, August 25, 2016

It is to laugh

We got problems right here in Central City,
We have problems on the North, South, East and West,
New York City, Saint Louis, Philadelphia, Los Angeles,
Detroit, Chicago,
Everybody has problems,
And personally, I don't care

~~ “Elected” by Alice Cooper

Ohhhh, lawd. Lawdy lawd.

You know, I’m to the point where my only recourse when dealing with the Vulgar Talking Yam is to laugh.

I mean, really. He is just absurd. I am laughing at you, Yam!

His latest weird waffling about the immigration thing is playing right into Hillary’s hands. It’s impossible to know what his policies are. Hell, I don’t think HE knows what his policies are. It seems to me that a couple of months away from the election, you should have figured that out by now. “Unpredictable” is not a desirable trait when choosing the most powerful leader in the world.

I think the majority of people are starting to figure that out now. I’m still taking nothing for granted, but we’re onto you, Yam. The American people have your number, as does Hillary. The upcoming debates are going to be delightful! Hillary’s got your stamina right here, pal. HA!

But it’s time to leave this all behind as we hit the road for our annual vegecation in New Smyrna Beach! I’m looking forward to some beach time and relaxation and some time away from politics.

Oh, I’m totally kidding! I’ll still be reading my usual political feeds but more importantly, the TV market (Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne) where we’ll be is the #1 political ad buy in the country for both campaigns at the moment. NUMBER ONE. We’ve been down there in election season before but this time it’s going to be insane. We don’t plan on having the TV on a lot—we like to just sit outside and read if we’re not out and about or on the beach—but I’m sure we’ll get plenty of exposure to politics gone wild.

We also have a special visit planned on the drive back when we stop in the Atlanta area. More to follow, but if you know me, you might be able to guess what we’ll be doing!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lake Nutwood

I could write an entry about Trump whitesplaining to African-Americans in front of a white audience in Michigan, but I find that I’m just feeling too mellow to get riled up about him today. It’s just so absurd and laughable that I can’t quite find the words. Maybe tomorrow.

So instead I’ll leave politics behind and write about Lake Nutwood!

On Monday, it started raining. It rained and rained. And rained. I think it rained for about 18 hours straight, and some of it was definitely a downpour.

South Bend ended up getting a record rainfall for the day, around 8 inches at the official location at the airport. Our place, however, was in the “hot spot” for rainfall and we got around 11 inches. We went from the driest August on record up to that point to the wettest August on record, in less than one day.

Crazy!

When I got up Tuesday morning, I looked out back and couldn’t believe my eyes. Half of our backyard was underwater! We’ve been here almost 15 years and we have never seen so much water in our yard. I joked to Ken that I always thought a lake house would be nice but I’d rather WE went to the lake instead of the other way around!

I find myself looking at it constantly. It is just odd to look out there and see all that water. It’s kind of pretty...I like seeing the reflection of the trees on its still surface. It has held fairly steady since Monday but I’m finally starting to see that it is receding back to the pond. The ground is obviously saturated and we may not see it recede completely for a few weeks.

I’m including a video that I took Tuesday morning and as I say in the video, we were very fortunate. We had no water in our basement (it’s a walk-out basement) and no damage. A lot of people weren’t so lucky and ended up with a lot of damage. A couple of families lost their homes. Our flood wasn’t nearly as bad as what is happening in Louisiana, of course. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this in South Bend, as well as in Louisiana, and we are proud to be long-time supporters of the American Red Cross.

I’m certain that what saved us was Kengineer. Shortly after we moved here, we noticed standing water in the yard after a heavy rain. If I recall correctly, the previous owners had mentioned a couple of times when they got water in the basement. So Ken rented a Grasshopper and dug a couple of trenches in the yard and installed PVC pipe, then put in drains up by the house to carry any water out to the small back pond. We never saw standing water like that again, at least not by the house. Everything flowed back to the pond and the wetlands and when the pond overflowed this week, the water stayed away from the house.

Well done, Kengineer!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

That’s why I’ll do it again

I hear you’re lonely, don’t monkey with my business
You pay the profits to justify the reasons
I heard your promise but I don’t believe it
That’s why I’ll do it again

~~ “Notorious” by Duran Duran

I find it...interesting...when people decide what should and shouldn’t be posted on social media. Why are so many people posting about this? Why aren’t people posting about that? I don’t want to read this and I don’t like that and people should listen to me and do what I want!

Well, who made you hall monitor?

Here’s the deal. We all see things we don’t like on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. That doesn’t mean you get to decide what others should or should not post! I’ve been writing this blog for ten years (although admittedly sporadically lately) and I can remember people sending me suggestions in the past on things to write about. “You should write about this.” Really? If you want to read something about that topic, how about you start your own blog and write it yourself instead of playing editor with me? I don’t take requests!

A lot of people don’t care about politics. I get it. (Although why the hell not, I DON’T get.) A lot of people just don’t want the constant barrage of stories about it. I get that, too. Sometimes I have to step away for a bit. I try to balance my fascination with politics with my other passions, like music and books. I’m not all Woodward and Bernstein up in here, okay?

But you know what’s really cool about electronic things like TVs and computers? They have an Off button! Isn’t that amazing? You don’t have to watch and you don’t have to read. You know what’s cool about social media sites? You have the power to control what you read. Here are some options.

If someone consistently posts things you don’t want to read on Facebook, you can unfollow them. None of their posts will show up on your feed, but you can still go to their page and see their posts if you want to. I have even suggested this to my friends on Facebook if they get tired of my political posts. I won’t be offended. I know that not everyone is as into it as I am.

If someone posts things that you find deeply offensive, just unfriend them on Facebook or stop following them on Twitter, or whatever options other sites offer. If you honestly don’t like the person and what they post, why are you following them, anyway? I don’t care if it’s a coworker or a family member. Life is too short to put up with assholes, no matter the work or family relationship.

Or hey, here’s an idea. If you don’t like a post and it’s something you don’t want to see...maybe you could just scroll on by and understand that everyone has the right to post what they want! (As long as it’s not hate speech.) What a concept, right? Yes, you can just move along, nothing to see here, and no harm is done.

Here is what you don’t get to do: You don’t get to decide what others should or should not post, and you don’t get to decide what are or are not appropriate topics. Social media means different things to different people. My friends and I discuss all kinds of things, and yes, we have some lively discussions about politics. We are exchanging ideas and opinions and we are contributing to the dialogue. I happen to feel passionate about what is happening in our country and about what road we are taking. I feel fortunate to have this blog and social media where I can voice my opinion. Many in this world do not have such freedoms.

I was very moved by the lecture we attended last week about the suffragist movement. Women didn’t get the vote by staying silent. I have no intention of staying silent about this election or future elections.

I don’t take umbrage with people who express frustration with all the political posts. That’s fine, because you have the right to say that! I support your right to feel that way and to post about it!

But don’t chide me for my posts. I’m not going to stop.

That’s why I’ll do it again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Beth’s Books: Look Who’s Back


I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the Blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Please to meet you
Hope you guessed my name

~~ “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones

Written by Timur Vermes, translated from German by Jamie Bulloch

Ausgezeichnet!

This book was excellent and amazing. Published in Germany in 2015, it tells the story of Adolf Hitler—yes, the real one—waking up in 2011 Berlin. No explanation is given as to why he survived his suicide and burning with Eva Braun, but none is needed. That is not the point of the book.

As the Führer learns that he has awakened 60 years after his last memory, he attempts to navigate the modern world. He is mistaken for a comedian and actor/impersonator, soon attracts the attention of the networks, and gets a segment on a comedy show. He is a hit with many viewers (although some do not find him amusing at all) and seen as a master satirist. He never breaks character to anyone because he is, of course, the actual Hitler. He delivers speeches he gave decades ago and they begin to resonate with a certain segment of the population. He becomes so popular that he is given his own show.

This is one of the best dark humor books I’ve ever read. It manages to take one of the most abhorrent figures in world history and make him somewhat sympathetic. Of course, just as you’re going along and thinking, “Well, it was kind of nice what he said to her,” he then thinks about how it was necessary to eliminate as many Jews as possible and that his efforts were not in vain. I often felt a combination of horror and hilarity. It can’t be an easy thing to evoke such opposing feelings in a reader, but Vermes does it perfectly. (Credit to the translator, as well. It is not easy to translate German and retain the humor.)

There were parts that made me laugh out loud, such as when Hitler wonders at the absence of candles in the hospital due to concerns about fire:

I cannot recall large numbers of buildings having been damaged during my time in government, despite the generous use of candles. But I do concede that, from 1943 onward, the statistics become rather less meaningful given the increasing absence of buildings.

Then there is Hitler’s visit to Oktoberfest, where he strikes up a conversation with a woman. She speculates on his operations, meaning plastic surgery in order to look more like the real Hitler, but he takes it as literal military operations and mentions Sea Lion, Barbarossa, and Cerberus. She says she hasn’t heard of them, thinking that he is talking about plastic surgeons.

She scrutinized me. “I don’t see any scars,” she said with the air of a professional.

“I’m not going to complain,” I said. “The deepest wounds are those that Fate inflicts upon our hearts.”

“You’re right there,” she said with a smile, holding her beer toward me.

This is an absolutely brilliant indictment of celebrity worship, social media, politics, and the cult of personality. How is it possible that a somewhat charismatic, completely narcissistic blowhard with delusions of grandeur could rise to a position of political power while spouting racist, xenophobic, sexist rhetoric?

Heyyyy, wait a minute…!





Look Who's Back

Saturday, August 13, 2016

TFS

Hey, T.V. child, look into my eyes.
Here by intervention, I want your attention.
Promotion boy in a suit and tie; he wants you to use it.
You're too shot to loose it.
It's pumpin' down the cable like never so before.
A cola manufacturer is sponsoring the war.
Here comes the news with love from me to you.   

~~ “Too Much Information” by Duran Duran

Illustration by Edel Rodriguez for TIME
The other day I posted about how it must be exhausting for journalists to cover Trump. I dubbed it Trump Fatigue Syndrome and have decided that I seem to be suffering a mild case myself. I would list the symptoms as an almost visceral disgust that is exacerbated with each outrageous remark (no immunity is built up, apparently); vertigo from trying to follow his numerous stances on issues and his attempts to explain why he didn’t mean what actually came out of his mouth; a sense of shock that anyone in this country thinks he is capable of performing the duties required of the President of the United States; and a general malaise that often makes the victim think, “How can I continue to listen to this? How much more of this can I take?”

I reached that point this week. What did it for me? It was his patently absurd comments about President Obama, as well as Hillary Clinton, being the “founder” and “MVP,” respectively, of ISIS. Anyone with a half a brain and an Internet connection can find out in a matter of moments that it was a ridiculous claim. Now, if he had made the argument that President Obama’s policies and actions in the world, as well as Hillary’s as Secretary of State, had contributed to a strengthening of ISIS, that might be a reasonable argument. (I think it’s a wrong one, but at least it’s a coherent argument.) In fact, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt gave him the chance to say exactly that (leading questions much, Hugh?) in an interview. Nope. Nope nope nope. Trump said he meant exactly what he said, that Obama and Hillary were the founders of ISIS. Which is, again, absurd.

After saying multiple times that he meant exactly what he said, the next morning he tweeted out that he was being sarcastic and the media or anyone criticizing him for his remarks is too dumb to understand sarcasm.

No, we understand sarcasm, Yamboy. That is not what you were doing. A charitable term would be hyperbole, and hyperbolic claims happen often in politics. I think a better term would be a LIE. A big, fat, fact-checkable lie.

This was all ridiculous enough, but later that day at a rally, he riffed on this again, essentially saying, “Come on, it was sarcasm! Or WAS it?!” Yep, he walked it back again and said that maybe he wasn’t being sarcastic at all.

This was the point where I said, “Oh, for Pete’s sake. I’m turning it back to the Olympics.” For all his supporters’ talk about how they like him because he “tells it like it is,” he sure goes back and forth a lot, doesn’t he? So what was the deal? Was he making a joke, being sarcastic, or wasn’t he? What’s it gonna be, boy? Yes...or...no?

I grow exceedingly weary of his naughty schoolboy antics. He is an absurd candidate and doesn’t have the temperament or knowledge to lead our country. It’s not enough to surround yourself with “good people...the best people.” You have to have at least a basic understanding of our government and of how to behave diplomatically and realize that words have meanings as well as consequences. You know...WOOOORDS. Those things you put together to make sentences, Donald. Of course, some are better at it than others.

I’ll keep posting stories about him and about the election on Facebook and Twitter. It’s kind of my thing this time of year.  I am also not going to take anything for granted and will do what I can to make sure that Hillary Clinton wins the election. But you know what I’ve decided? Trump is BORING. His shtick is as stale as that of a 70-year-old washed up comedian playing the Catskills. His attitude is that of a bratty four-year-old who doesn’t get his way. “Waaaaah, Hillary’s gonna cheat. Waaaaah, the Khans were mean to me.” Grow the fuck up, Donald. We’ve got shit to do in this country and your ridiculous antics and non-existent and/or unworkable plans aren’t contributing to solutions.

We’ll be subjected to this for the next three months and when you lose—because you’re going to be a big LOSER—I’m sure you’ll whine and cry about how things were rigged against you, but we’ll all know that you lost to a GIRL. Then you can go take your nice long vacation and we’ll go about getting said shit done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Tuppence Worth

I’m sure you all know that Trump has chosen my Governor, Mike Pence, as his running mate. A few friends from other states have asked me for my opinion and experience with having Pence as the Governor of Indiana. This was my comment to one of them, and I thought I’d share it here with a little light editing.

~~

I don't hate the guy personally because he does seem to be a somewhat decent man who is no fan of negative campaigning. His campaigns have generally focused on the "issues" (I put that in quotes for a reason, as you'll see) rather than on mud-slinging and attacking his opponent on a personal level.

For that reason, it amazes me that he would align himself with Trump. Not only do they not agree on many things (Pence is pro-trade, called Trump's ban on Muslims unconstitutional, for a couple of examples), I would imagine that Pence finds Trump distasteful, vulgar, and immoral on many levels. The only thing that occurs to me is that he is positioning himself for his own White House bid, something everyone figured he would attempt eventually. He is also in a very tight race for re-election, and there has been some speculation that he was lobbying for the VP slot because he was afraid he wasn't going to be re-elected. I think there is probably some merit in that.

Having said all that, I can tell you that I find his policies abhorrent. I can't begin to tell you the way he's screwed my state over. His tax cuts have hurt our public schools terribly. The Democrats in the Statehouse have been pushing for an infrastructure bill because our roads and bridges are crumbling. Over 10% of our bridges have been deemed structurally deficient. The Repubs in the Statehouse refuse to consider it and Trump refuses to lead on the issue.

Instead, he focuses on social issues. As you know, even when in Congress, he constantly tried to defund Planned Parenthood. His policies have seriously harmed the organization in Indiana. I read just yesterday that several clinics are closing, including the one I used in Muncie while at Ball State. That's right, a clinic in a college town is closing! I couldn't believe it.

There was the recent bill he signed about fetuses having to be buried or incinerated that was halted as unconstitutional by a federal judge. That bill led to the Periods for Pence site, in which women asked him questions about their periods and checked in when their flow was particularly heavy, and so forth. It's been quite amusing to watch.

Then there was the "state-run news website" that he attempted to pay for with state funds. He seemed completely clueless as to why that was a bad thing or why it goes against freedom of the press.

And of course, there was the famous Religious Freedom Restoration Act that he signed into law, making us a laughing stock of the world and costing our state MILLIONS in tourist dollars and new business. Again, he seemed utterly shocked by the pushback from both citizens and businesses, despite intensive lobbying by huge corporations like Eli Lilly who repeatedly said that it would be very bad for business. When he finally got the message and had our Congress add a non-discrimination clause in there, the Christian conservatives who had pushed him on it felt betrayed. So they were mad at him, too. In short, it was a complete clusterfuck, and he seemed completely gobsmacked by the whole thing.

Along with many of my friends, I called the Governor's office (after assuring that my Democrat legislators were going to vote against the RFRA bill...didn't matter, because our Statehouse is in Repub hands) to voice my opposition to the bill. I was unable to get through to the Governor's office. The phone rang and rang and rang, with no option to leave a voice message. I truly believe that they were just not answering the phone.

In his time in office, I can think of one good thing that he has done: he expanded Medicaid under the ACA in Indiana. He had to tweak it his own way, but it was approved by the Federal government and it has helped a lot of Hoosiers. So I'll give him that.

But otherwise, his policies and attitudes and willingness to push his religious beliefs on my entire state, even at the expense of the civil and reproductive rights of certain groups of Hoosiers, makes my skin crawl. I was looking forward to booting him out of office this fall. My wish came a little early! But we need to make sure that he doesn't get anywhere near the White House.

One additional thing (although this is long enough). I don't know if you happened to see the 60 Minutes interview with Trump and Pence last night. It was laughable. Pence was completely deferential to Trump, to the point of where he let him answer questions for him even when he was asked one directly, and often seemed to look to Trump as if asking permission to speak. Trump said, "It's okay, you can answer that." It was UNREAL.

So I will sum him up by saying that he's a right-wing, ultra-conservative toady who wants to push policies that further his Christian right agenda, even when they trample the Constitution that he claims to love so much.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Beth’s Music Moment: Ironing Simon’s Pants

And you wanted to dance so I asked you to dance
But fear is in your soul
Some people call it a one-night stand
But we can call it paradise

~~ Duran Duran, “Save A Prayer”

Before I get into the story of the rather strange title of this entry, I’ll give you a review of my beloved Duran Duran at Ravinia Park Pavilion north of Chicago on Saturday, July 9th! (Click on a picture to embiggenate.)

When Ken and I saw Duran Duran at Berkeley last October, the show immediately rocketed into my Top Five concerts ever. The concert at Ravinia also rocketed into my Top Five and even passed the show at the Greek!

Why was this one better? Well, they were both fantastic. But this one was a bit of a bigger production. I think the first leg of the tour last year was a test—an attempt to see how well they would be received, how ticket sales would be, what songs, both old and new, would go over well. When they expanded this year’s tour, a continuation of the “Paper Gods” tour, they added a few songs, the lights and video seemed more fleshed out, and it seemed a little less stripped down than the show we saw at the Greek. This was two hours of sheer entertainment and I danced my ass off!

First, the venue. It was my first time at Ravinia Park and it was absolutely gorgeous! It really is a park and the stage and pavilion are surrounded by grass and trees. The lawn was absolutely packed with people having elaborate picnics, including tables with tablecloths, huge spreads of food, drinks...I said it was like a fancy version of tailgating at Notre Dame! Duran Duran posted on their Facebook page that a couple had even gotten married and had their wedding reception there and that they were happy to be a small part of the couple’s special day. Awww!

Our seats were in the pavilion, though, not on the lawn. Seeing them up there onstage for real is much more fun than seeing them on a big video screen! Our seats were great (I got us VIP tickets via the DD website because I’m a club member) and we settled down with Shane and Matt to wait. The show started right on time, with the opening band Chic and Nile Rodgers taking the stage promptly at 7 PM. They opened for DD when we saw them at the Greek, too, and they blew me away then. They didn’t disappoint this time, and Nile Rodgers is an absolute legend. Not only is he an amazing producer and songwriter, he is an incredible showman. He knows how to get a crowd moving and his smile just lit up the whole joint. He talked about being a cancer survivor as an introduction to the song he wrote about that, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. It’s not often that I stand for the whole time for an opening act, but I honestly don’t know how anyone could sit down for that set!


After a brief break between bands, in which we got to see my cousin Michael and his husband Mike, the lights went down and the opening to “Paper Gods” started. There was lots of fog and dramatic lighting as the band took the stage, and then the lights hit Simon as he started to sing. Ooo, I get chills just writing about it! For the next two hours, it was hit after hit, and on the songs that weren’t hits from the new album, I danced my ass off, anyway! I sang, I pumped my fist in the air for “Wild Boys,” I yelled, “Play that fuckin’ bass, John!” I had a TOTAL BLAST. In Berkeley, I didn’t get to hear “Wild Boys” or their cover of “White Lines,” but I got both in this show! They had also not been playing “The Reflex” on some of the European shows, but it was back in the setlist, as was “Save A Prayer” which was surprisingly not on the Nashville setlist. The band dedicated that song to Nick Rhodes, who sadly was not there due to a family emergency back in England. You were missed, Nick, but the woman filling in for him, MNDR, did a great job in his place!

One of the coolest parts? Shane mentioned it first, but it was my feeling upon seeing them in Berkeley: they were really having fun up there. Simon was smiling and joking, John was grinning, the backup singers were dancing around and having a blast, and they were all loving us for loving them. Of course, Roger was his usual stoic self, but he flashed a big grin when they came out to take a bow! Like I always say, “Show the band some love!” You’ll get it back a thousandfold with an incredible show, and that’s what happened here. John was wearing a t-shirt with a sequined “Rio” smile on it, and at one point, cheeky Simon went up and kissed him on the chest. Made me laugh!

They are absolute professionals and incredibly talented musicians. The show was perfect, with no technical glitches or sound problems. I kind of lost myself for a couple of hours and what better way to do it? This show reaffirmed my love and respect for the band. Not that it needed reaffirming!

Oh, and have I mentioned Simon Le Bon’s tight white pants yet? No? Shame on me! That became a bit of a joke, because for a while there, practically every review I read of their shows included a mention of how good Simon looks in his “tight white trousers” or “tight white jeans.” (It’s true. He does.) That is what led to the title of this entry. After we checked into the hotel, the four of us were sitting around talking before we went to dinner. I said, “I wonder where the band is staying? Palmer House, maybe?” Either Shane or Matt said, “They’re staying right here!” There was an adjoining door to the room next door and one of them said, “John is staying next door!”

We were cracking up because it was funny to imagine Duran Duran staying in a Courtyard Marriott. Then Shane took it to another level and said, “Simon is probably opening the closet, pulling out the iron and ironing board, and ironing his tight white pants right now!” I don’t know what it was, but that struck us so funny that I fell over laughing on the bed. Not only imagining them staying in a Courtyard Marriott but picturing Simon ironing his own pants. Probably in his underwear, right? Right!

But wait, there’s more! The next morning, as we’re getting ready to go grab some breakfast, I get a text from Shane: “New band name: Ironing Simon’s Pants”! I about died!

But wait, there’s even more! When I mentioned that on Facebook, our friend Tim came up with an album cover for us. I’ll let you know when it’s released! (Don’t hold your breath!)

I experienced a bit of post-showital blues, but I’m back to my usual self. It was a total kicky blast of a weekend. Thanks to Saint Ken for putting up with our shenanigans, thanks to Shane and Matt for aiding and abetting in said shenanigans, and thanks to Duran Duran for making me smile for so many years. I don’t think I could adore them more. Fangirl is happy!