Sunday, August 30, 2015

Beat It!

Yesterday was South Bend’s annual Art Beat festival. We enjoyed it so much last year that we made sure to put it on our calendar for this year! We were joined by Shane and Matt, and despite the somewhat rainy day, we had a great time.

We enjoyed brews from South Bend Brew Werks, a quick snack from Hard Rock at Four Winds Casino, another snack and more brews at Café Navarre, and lots of great art from local artists.

One of my favorites was The Camper, an RV outfitted by artist Jack O’Hearn. I’ve become a big fan of installation and interactive art, and this was so much fun. There were board games and an old radio playing ‘70s music, lots of photos on the walls, and the whole thing reminded me of taking trips with my folks. They had a few campers and tricked-out vans over the years, and there is just something about a camper that reminds me of my childhood. Hitting the road, sitting at the table and reading or talking or having a snack or playing cards, watching the scenery zoom by out the window. Those are good memories, and O’Hearn brought them to life with his latest work!

I was tempted by so many things this year (as I was last year) but tried to keep the output of bucks fairly low. We also have yet to hang the works we got at Art Beat last year, so we decided we should do that before we got anything else!

But there were a couple of things that were irresistible. Like the super cool skull wind chimes that is currently hanging in our front window, and will stay inside all year.
I also loved these spun paint 45s. The colors are beautiful, and I love the energy and brightness of them. And the music connection, of course! They even had LPs that were painted like this. Matt and I were laughing about how we see this stuff and say, “What a cool idea and it would be so easy to do!” But yet we never do it. My head is full of ideas, though! I love seeing the creativity and fun and beauty from all of these artists. Support local art, as well as local musicians!
After Art Beat, Ken and I had tickets for a South Bend Cubs game, but it was still quite rainy and we decided to bail and join Shane and Matt at LaSalle Kitchen and Tavern for drinks and dinner. We heard later that they didn’t start the game until well after its start time of 7 PM, so we were okay with our decision. I love our Cubs, but I didn’t want to sit out in the rain for the game! We had yummy food and some great drinks, including the Liquid Hot Magma and Shag-A-Licious shots. It was tasty, too!

I got wonderful presents from Shane and Matt for kitty care and for my birthday—yes, it was my birthday!—and all kinds of wonderful wishes from family and friends. I got some great cards, and a cute gift from my sweetheart of a friend, Lisa. To top it all off, when we got home, I had a message from a doctor about some great medical results and it was a huge weight off of my mind. I was optimistic, but to hear it was wonderful. And wow, how many doctors call their patients on both Saturday and Sunday to give them results and to check on them AND to wish them a happy birthday? Dr. Engel, you are a prince, and your kindness is appreciated more than you know. (I believe I’ll be sending a note soon, though!)

I’m a fortunate and happy person, and I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. Here’s to another year of fun and friendship! *clink*

Friday, August 28, 2015

Stop saying you hate the term PC!

Having said that, I hate the term PC.

But not for the reason that you hear most people saying they hate it. 

You’ve got Ben Carson saying that political correctness is keeping us from performing our God-given duty to torture people.

Jeb! is all pissed off at the PC police for calling him out on his use of the term “anchor babies,” first talking about Mexicans and then clarifying that no-no-no, he meant Asians. Much better! 

There are yahoos who think that people telling them that they shouldn’t fly a Confederate flag is just those goddamn PC elites taking away their right to free speech and disrespecting their “southern heritage.” 

Most recently, we’ve got Curt Schilling equating all Muslims with ISIS and/or Nazis, and when he was rightfully suspended by ESPN, Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods (Charlie Pierce’s term, not mine...I wish I could take credit for it!) took to her Bookface page and chastised ESPN for being politically correct, bad journalists, blah di fucking blah. 

They are using the anti-PC rhetoric to justify their own hateful words.

But the current Anti-PC Grand Poobah is Donald Trump, who says what he wants, consequences be damned! He frequently says that we are too politically correct in this country, and he’s going to keep right on saying what he wants. His supporters seem to be diggin’ it big time, like this woman at a recent Trump rally in South Carolina:

"I love his tone! It doesn't bother me at all. It makes me very happy," Christie Wilbanks of Simpsonville gushed. "I like to see somebody that speaks their mind, that isn't politically correct. I'm sick of political correctness. He should be able to say what he wants to say. The left has just really got us in a fix because of words, and it's ridiculous." (via NPR)

Sure. We’re “in a fix” because of the left’s penchant for objecting to generalizations about gender, race, religion, and orientation. Thanks for clearing that up, Christie.

Without a doubt, there have been times that it is taken too far, but those are exceptions. What I see in this anti-PC backlash is people getting pissed off about being called out on their bigotry and racism. No one is infringing upon your right to free speech, but you have to understand that there are consequences. If I hear you casually drop the N-word or make sexist remarks or say that all Muslims are out to kill us, I’m going to push back. I am also going to think less of you. I am not, nor have I ever been, a card-carrying member of the PC Police, but I understand basic human decency and realize that it’s wrong to condemn people for their nationality or orientation or religion, or whatever. It is not being overly zealous with political correctness, it is pointing out an offensive remark. Free speech is not an excuse to spout whatever nasty bigotry you harbor in your heart and then expect the rest of us to keep quiet about it.

Trump seems to be tapping the root of white anger with his rhetoric, and it is resonating with people to an alarming degree. “He says what he thinks, but he’s still a successful businessman and even a billionaire! Hey, maybe if I say what I think, I’ll be a billionaire, too!” No. No, you won’t. You will just be shunned by those of us who are disgusted by your words, and there are a lot more of us than there are of you.

It is not okay to say whatever you want and then get pissed off at the consequences you face. Have a little empathy and try to comprehend that not everyone looks, thinks, or believes the way you do. We’re all on this planet together and need to find a way to coexist and solve problems, not divide and sow discord and hatred.

It’s the humanly correct thing to do.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fair Warning

It seems that we’re really starting to get immersed in the 2016 election, with most of the air in the room being aspirated by Mr. Trump. It’s not surprising that the main focus right now is on the Republican side, because honestly, who can’t ogle a train wreck?

But there is some action on the Democratic side, too, and I feel like I need to make something very clear. I think everyone knows that I dress left (ha!), so that should come as no surprise. I’m starting to see some infighting between Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters, though, and I’m here to tell you that I want none of it. I refuse to bash either candidate. The main thing those of us on the left need to do is ensure that a Democrat gets into the White House again, whether it’s Hillary, Bernie, or Joe (although I really don’t think he’s going to run). I don’t care who the nominee turns out to be: I will vote for the Democratic candidate. We actually have a pretty good bench, and I would vote for O’Malley or Webb or Chafee if they somehow got the nomination. They are all decent people who will advance the Democratic agenda and support Democratic policies.

There are possible Supreme Court nominations looming. Do you really want a Republican nominee on the Court? This is crucial.

I am fine if you support any of the Democratic candidates. We have no argument there. However, I will not get into any arguments about who is the better candidate, and I will not tolerate any bashing of any Democratic candidate. Don’t like Hillary? Fine. But don’t be posting stuff on my Bookface wall bashing her. Debate is fine (although I really don’t want to engage in that this time around...my mind is made up), but angry rhetoric and name-calling is not. I also know my own mind well enough that I have come to my own decision, so going after me and trying to convince me otherwise isn’t going to work very well for you. Something some of you might not know about me is that I am very stubborn, and the more someone tells me I have to do or see or read something, the less likely I am to do so.

That’s why I still haven’t seen “Titanic.”

Anyway, at the end of the day, we need to remember that we are on the same side and want the same things. The best way to get there is to get a Democratic president into the White House again. Don’t lose sight of that goal.

(For any Republican friends reading this, it really doesn't apply to you. Carry on!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Beth’s Books: Hit Me!

Hit Me!: Fighting The Las Vegas Mob By The Numbers by Danielle Gomes and Jay Bonansinga

This was an incredibly good and fun read.

It tells the story of Dennis Gomes, an accountant by trade, but whose goal was law enforcement. He was on the verge of joining the FBI when he got an offer to work on the Nevada Gaming Commission in Las Vegas. As the youngest head of the Audit Division ever (only 26 years old!), his job was to monitor the casinos and make sure that their counts were on the up-and-up. Since this was Las Vegas in the '70s, he obviously encountered plenty of illegal activities and Mob involvement.

His most consuming investigation was that of the Stardust, involving the Chicago Outfit guy, Frank Rosenthal, and Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, a psychopathic enforcer who loved to torture his victims. That situation and those characters were covered in the movie "Casino" (a movie I love).

Gomes had a deep-seated sense of justice, and it enraged him to see mobsters getting away with blatantly illegal activities, with many Nevada politicians turning a blind eye. My impression of Gomes was that of a kind and decent man who just wanted to see justice done and worked tirelessly to make that happen. The book was co-written by one of his daughters, and her love and respect for her late father shines through. Gomes is apparently a legend in the gaming industry and his memory is still well-respected.

I loved this for many reasons, but it was a lot of fun to see some of my favorite places mentioned. We've stayed at the Tropicana, the oldest casino still standing on the Strip, and one of the coolest places in Vegas is the Peppermill. Dennis and his wife visit the Peppermill for a bite to eat, then have a drink at the Fireside Lounge.

"As bright and festive as the dining room was, the Fireside Lounge was dark and mellow, but no less over the top. In the center of the room was a flaming pool, and there was always at least one couple brazenly kissing and fondling one another."

Vegas, baby! The flaming pool is still there!

If you are fascinated by the Mob, you'll enjoy this book. If you are fascinated by Vegas history, you'll enjoy this book. If you are fascinated by the history of the Mob in Vegas, you will love this book as much as I did! Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dead and Loving It

Sunday was a pretty happy day for me because it was a Dead day!

I think my obsession with love of “The Walking Dead” has been well-established here and on social media. I get into it like no other show I’ve watched before, and I’ve gotten into quite a few shows over the years.

The Season 5 marathon started early in the morning and I turned it on after I’d gotten up. We had it on all day in the background. (I didn’t sit and watch because I knew the DVD would be here today and we’ll watch the whole thing in depth over the next few weeks.) At 8 PM, it was a new “Talking Dead” episode with a Season 6 preview, and I have really missed Chris Hardwick and that show, too!

Then at 9 PM, it was the 90-minute preview of the new companion series, “Fear the Walking Dead.” If you’ve been under a rock or care nothing about this kind of show, this series takes place before the events we saw in the premiere of “The Walking Dead.” It also takes place in a very different environment: Los Angeles. Instead of the rural survival skills we see in the original series, we will get to see some urban survival skills!

I was impressed by the tone of this first episode. It had a slower pace than we’re used to on the original, but that stands to reason. These people are just going about their lives and have no idea what is happening. They just know that something is starting to seem rather odd in their city.

The standout to me was the character of Nick Clark, played by British actor Frank Dillane. I liked him immediately, and he portrays this junkie kid perfectly. He is a strange mixture of vulnerability, affability, and total fuck-up. He’s needy and emotionally damaged, but he somehow makes you root for him despite all that. He’s the only one in the family (at least initially) who witnesses a zombie chowing down firsthand (the zombie is his girlfriend, no less), but no one believes him because he’s a junkie. He doesn’t even believe himself and thinks that there was something in his drugs that gave him a horrible hallucination.

Although I’m not as emotionally invested in these characters as I am in those of the original series (yet), I thought that this was a strong start, and these are strong characters who are going to make this a great show. They got the tone exactly right. This would be an unbelievable situation and not everyone is going to be equipped to process it and adapt to this new world.

It seems as though there were quite a few others who were as excited about this show as I was. “Fear the Walking Dead” was the highest-rated series premiere on cable in history.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Angry and Afraid

Well, I’m going down to Doomsville, baby  
And I’m taking you along with me

~ The Rainmakers, “Doomsville”

Something I’ve really been seeing in a lot of far right conservatives lately is this sense of pending doom. We’re all gonna DIEEEEE!

[Disclaimer: I do not believe that all conservatives feel this way. I’m sure there are some exceptions.]

How many of these things have you heard in this infant election cycle? Or in the past few years?

“Obama is destroying this country.”

“We’re in big trouble in this country.”

“We can’t keep going this way.”

“ISIS isn’t going to stop until it raises its flag over the White House.”

“Immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans.”

“We want our country back!”

I’ve heard them all, and I’ve heard them multiple times. When you ask for specifics as to exactly HOW this is happening, you get ClusterFox talking points and more vague pronouncements. When you counter with actual facts, you are sometimes flat-out told, “I don’t believe that.” I guess I just have to accept that once someone gets these notions stuck in their head, nothing I can say is going to change their mind. As someone who values rational, logical thought, that is very hard for me to accept.

What I find most dismaying is a strange and pervasive sense of paranoia, anger, and doom from these folks. I think there are a few players on the scene who can reasonably be accused of fostering that sense of doom, and I’m talking to pretty much all of you pod people at ClusterFox! But I suppose that fear drives ratings. I find that sad. Good journalism is hard to find these days.

There is also a sense of fear of the browns. Like we’ve never had immigrants in this country before! You get people like Trump saying that he’s going to deport every immigrant here illegally, despite the incredible cost to our country. (Then the asskissers jump on the Trumpwagon and agree that it’s a reasonable solution.) There is even talk of negating birthright citizenship from some of our Republican candidates, despite the fact that both Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio would have their citizenship revoked. (Do they not pay attention to this stuff before they say something like that?) There are stories from Steve King of Iowa about Mexican drug-smuggling immigrants and their cantaloupe calves and Phil Gingrey of Georgia saying that immigrants are bringing Ebola into our country. Then there is Trump (again), saying that immigrants are bringing “tremendous infectious disease” across the border. All completely untrue, but there is a subset of people who are falling for these claims hook, line, and sinker.

This sort of xenophobia seems very mean-spirited to me. So much for “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” huh? I’m all for immigration reform, but let’s at least be decent human beings about it instead of blaming these people for any and all of our woes and loading them into cattle cars and shipping them out. At the risk of Godwining myself, you all know who else did that, right? We are seeing this irrational fear of The Other that seems to have its basis in the belief of some of these people that this is their country and no one else’s.

You might think that it started when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, but you’d be wrong. It certainly reached a new high upon his election and reelection, but this sort of xenophobia has been going on for a long time. I’m sure I’ve written before about Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” (If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it.) This fear and distrust has been going on for decades, whether it was directed against blacks, Jews, Catholics, the Irish, or Masons. Apparently our stellar American innovation has, for its latest iteration, recycled the same tired trope to target Hispanics in general and Mexicans in particular. Oh, and don’t forget the Muslims!

I don’t buy it. I don’t feel that anyone is “taking over” our country and that we somehow have to “take it back.” It’s nothing more than fear mongering for the sake of ratings and donations, and I have no patience for it. It makes me sad to see so many suckers falling for it, though.

Angry and afraid is no way to go through life.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

It ain’t me, babe

Have you ever been in that kind of relationship? I have. More than one, in fact.

Fortunately, I came to my senses fairly quickly and didn’t put up with that kind of behavior for long.

Sadly, a lot of women DO put up with it, and even stick around in such an environment for years. I refuse to make any judgments on those women, because who knows what their reasons or circumstances are? Not me. I was fortunate to have a good-paying job, capable of supporting myself, and was able to extricate myself when I saw the direction things were going. (For the record, I realize that the gender roles can be reversed. But more often than not, it’s women who are the receiving end of the belittling.)

One of the things I have always resented is anyone who thinks it is okay to diminish a woman simply because of her gender. Sometimes it’s overt, in the form of sexual harassment. It is more often something as simple as a condescending tone. “Here, let me take care of that.” Or “You don’t know what you’re talking about, little lady.” (Yes, someone actually commented that to me once.)

Believe me, I’m not some rager who is ready to be offended at the drop of a hat. I always got along well with my male coworkers, and that involved a fair measure of joking around. I don’t take offense at crude jokes or remarks, as long as they are not meant in a mean-spirited way. And yes, you can tell the difference.

It’s when your thoughts and ideas are dismissed. It is questioning the validity of your remarks. It is the attitude that you can’t possibly know as much as they do. It is being called a “stupid shit.” No one deserves that and no one has to put up with it.

This “little lady” sure didn’t.