Saturday, May 22, 2010

Potpourri Shmotpourri

Shane and Beth2 Despite having a pretty good day today, I still had some bouts of sadness, so this isn't going to be a majorly serious post. I was paying attention to all things political (I just can't turn it off), made quite a few comments on Crackbook, but I don't feel like writing about that stuff right now. I'm sure you'll all be okay with a little fluff, and if not, feisty Beth will be back soon. Probably sooner than you like.

I had lunch with Cousin Shane on Friday, and it is always good to see him and get caught up on things. (The picture isn't from yesterday, but it was taken at the same restaurant...a mere two years ago. haha) We talked about all kinds of things as we ate our yummy Mexican food and sipped our margaritas. His recent trip to fabulous New York City, his new duties at his job, mutual friends on Facebook, family, music, snowfall here compared to Canada (yes, we're weird), his cats, life in general. There are few people I feel as comfortable with as I do with Shane...I feel I can completely be myself (and I think vice versa), and we're so similar in our outlooks and personalities that we really understand each other's thoughts and feelings. I love my cousin. He gets me.

And see...there, just writing about that made me smile, and that's a good thing. Love you, Shane!

Earrings blue I don't recall if I've written about this here, but a while back I started having a bad reaction to earrings, and had a couple of years where I couldn't wear them. That was heartbreaking to me, because I've always loved my earrings. In my younger days, I was MAD about earrings, and had several boxes of them. My specialty was fish earrings. Manta rays, fishbones, earrings that looked like fishing lures. (Have I mentioned that I'm weird?) I toned it down as I got older, but it really bummed me out to not be able to wear earrings. A few months ago, I thought I'd give it another go with higher quality earrings and strictly non-allergenic ones, and so far, so good! I remember saying that I got my earholes back, and Shane said, "Welcome earholes." I don't know why that cracked me up so bad, but I still can't think of that phrase without laughing.

Earrings grey I still had quite a few supplies from when I was making earrings, so I decided to make some more. I branched out a little from the easy drop earrings, where you basically pile a few beads onto a head pin and call it good, and made some dangly earrings that were a little more complicated. These are two of my creations, and I'm fairly pleased with them. (The hoop isn't part of the earring. I have a second earhole--welcome second earhole!--on my left ear, so it's a separate earring.) I have some other connectors and stuff to play with, and I'm looking forward to making a few more things. I haven't tackled much beyond earrings, but I don't wear a lot of jewelry beyond earrings. My ankh necklace, and that's about it.

Anyway, I've enjoyed making them, and it stills my mind as I design them and then put them all together. Then I get to wear them, and feel pretty, oh so pretty! Sometimes it's the little things that can really help with taking my mind off of things. I'll take 'em as I can find 'em!

Vodka bottles When I go grocery shopping, my favorite stop is right before I head to the checkout. My store places a couple of shopping carts to the side with clearance items, and I've found some good bargains there on everything from coconut M&M's to sangria. (Which I bet would taste pretty good together, now that I think about it.) When I stopped the other day, they had some hard liquor on clearance, including Vox vodka from the Netherlands for $11. I had never heard of it, but the bottle design sold me. This is one of the coolest bottles ever! It's taller than normal, and if you were to take a cross-section of it, you'd see a football shape. It has indented dots on the back of the bottle, and striations on the front. It is one fucking beautiful bottle. When I got home, I looked it up online, and found that it is a pretty good vodka, and usually sells for about $28 a bottle. Whoa, SCORE! I went back the next day to see if there were any left, but sadly, there weren't. But I picked up another cool bottle, a sort of Art Deco design, Opulent, which is made here. That one was on clearance for $15, and when I got home, I found that it was also around $28 normally. Double SCORE! I'm sure they'll be pretty tasty, but man, I think those bottles are just gorgeous. Don't you think so?

Visual appeal IS important, especially for those of us who like shiny thi---hey, is that a quarter?!

My last topic for today is the overly litigious. It's obvious that we live in a society that is ready to sue at the drop of a hat, and I think we all find it ridiculous. I see two categories: those who are out to make a quick buck by fabricating lawsuits, those who love to threaten in order to intimidate people, and those who---three! I see three categories. Those who are out to make a quick buck by fabricating lawsuits, those who love to threaten in order to intimidate people, those who have a legitimate complaint, and those who---four! I see four categories! I'll go out and start again. Those who are out to make a quick buck by fabricating lawsuits, those who love to threaten in order to intimidate people, those who have a legitimate complaint, and those who have an almost fanatical devotion to the pope. Wait...that last one doesn't seem right.

Litigant kitteh Any of the above can overlap, and I suppose it depends on your experience as to which irritates you the most. Of course, no one disputes those who have a legitimate lawsuit, but I think we all get tired of the other two. Everyone remembers the stupid bitch who sat a steaming hot cup of coffee in her crotch while driving and then sued McDonald's when she spilled it and burned her cooter. I find the threatener just as irritating. "If you don't do this, I'm going to file a lawsuit!" or "I'm calling my lawyer!" Give it a rest. Most lawyers will happily take your money even if they know you don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning your stupid lawsuit. Remember the fable of the boy who cried wolf? When you keep threatening litigation for every silly little perceived transgression, you lose all credibility and begin to look rather...shrewish. I'm guessing that such people also lose credibility with their lawyers. "Oh man, is she calling again?"

If you rely upon your lawyers to take care of your problems (and you'd better hope to hell that you don't get bad advice...remember, they want your money) and depend upon them to fight your battles for you, what does that say about your character and strength of will, or your intellectual capacity to figure out if a lawsuit is worth pursuing? I've seen it happen before, when someone thinks they can get a windfall based upon bad legal advice, hoping to recover their legal fees in pursuit of that windfall, only to be, as Colonel Klink said, "DEEE-nied." Within a matter of moments. If the only way you can get people to do your bidding or grant your requests is to threaten a lawsuit, you're one weak sister who has never learned the powers of persuasion.

I guarantee that people will eventually find it tiresome and find such threats hollow. You can threaten all you want, but you can bet that people on the other end are saying "Whatever."

Speaking of frivolous, this was my frivolous entry for the fiscal quarter, and I'll return soon to your regularly scheduled broadrant.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Editors gone wild

Jefferson Memorial Have you all heard about the big vote coming up in Texas? It's with the State Board of Education, and they're voting on some revisions in textbooks. Nothing major, really...just a few changes here and there, tidying up a few messy historical matters, editing a few troublesome details and oh yeah...totally rewriting history in order to further these fundamentalist yahoos' own religious and political agendas! Think I'm joking?

Among the recommendations facing a final vote: adding language saying the country's Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles and including positive references to the Moral Majority, the National Rifle Association and the GOP’s Contract with America.

Other amendments to the state's curriculum standards for kindergarten through 12th grade would minimize Thomas Jefferson's role in world and U.S. history because he advocated the separation of church and state; require that students learn about "the unintended consequences" of affirmative action; assert that "the right to keep and bear arms" is an important element of a democratic society; and rename the slave trade to the "Atlantic triangular trade.”

This is, of course, alongside the usual "teach the controversy" crap in which evolution is taught as a theory and intelligent design as a viable option.

All of these revisions are ridiculous—I find the new name for the slave trade especially appalling, as should anyone who has bothered to learn even the most fundamental things about the practice and the war that resulted from it—but you know which one really gets to me? The ousting of Thomas Jefferson from his rightful place as one of the major players in the framing of the government of our country.

Jefferson had his flaws (see slavery comments above), but there is no denying that he was a towering intellect and one of the greatest statesmen and philosophers the world has ever experienced. I truly believe that, and don't feel that it is an exaggeration at all. According to the Texas Board of Education, Jerry Falwell, Newt Gingrich, Charlton Heston, and Phyllis fuckin' Schlafly have more significance to our country than Thomas Jefferson.

Of all the memorials to various figures that I've seen in our nation's capitol, the Jefferson Memorial is my favorite. It is a lovely structure, and although grand, it is also beautiful in its simplicity. A large rotunda, with a 19 foot tall statue of Jefferson in the center, the surrounding walls inscribed with Jefferson's words. I remember walking the interior of the memorial, looking up as I read Jefferson's words, and I was struck by his intellect, his eloquence, and most importantly, his vision. He didn't just see how things should be in his moment in time; he saw the need to frame our documents so that we could change as we grew and matured as a country. This is my favorite inscription in the memorial:

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

That's right. Jefferson fully intended that the Constitution would change over time. The basic tenets concerning human rights must remain the same, but as we become more enlightened, we adapt by adding (or repealing...I love you, 21st Amendment! <sip>) amendments. (The "all men are created equal" part was finally expanded to include other than white male Christians, for example.) But I digress. I am dismayed that the Texas BOE would think that it is perfectly reasonable to exclude Jefferson from a place of importance in history textbooks. He's only the main architect of our republic and our Constitution, the same Constitution that they claim to love so dearly. I guess their love for the Constitution's primary author stops when he advocates the separation of church and state.

Why does the Texas Board of Education matter to me? Well, beyond the fact that we should all be concerned about what kids in Texas are being taught in our schools—some of these kids will be the national leaders of tomorrow, and I think we should expect that they will be taught, not indoctrinated—the Texas school system is so large that they are the second biggest buyer of textbooks after California, so many of the revisions they specify are used in textbooks around the country. Texas's revisionist history could very well make it to the textbooks of your children. Do you really want your kids learning more about the NRA and Phyllis Schlafly rather than Thomas Jefferson? If so, what is wrong with you?

How many times do we have to quote Moynihan: You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. Excluding Thomas Jefferson, one of our greatest thinkers and one of the world's most amazing intellectuals, from history books because he understood the importance of the separation of government from religion is not just crazy. It is dangerous.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Anybody here seen my old friend John?

Kennedy assassination One of Tuesday's big stories (besides a few state primaries, but I'm not all fired up about those) was of the Alabama geometry teacher who used a lesson on tangents to mention the assassination of the President of the United States.

Oh, I know, I know...don't be so hard on him. After all, it was a student who brought it up first, saying, "Well, if you shoot the President..." and then geometry teacher Gregory Harrison went along with it and said:

OK, if you shoot off his ear, that is a point of tangency.

Sure thing, Mr. Harrison, so it is.

It is also completely irresponsible for you to condone, in any way, shape, or form, such a horrid remark about shooting the President of the United States of America, let alone continue the joke. The proper response would have been, "No, Joey, we don't shoot the President of the United States, because that is wrong, remember? That is an act of treason, and it is murder. Assassination is bad, mmmkay?"

Normally, I wouldn't get my panties in a wad about something in a far off land like Alabama. But the more I thought about it, I realized that this is my country, too, and Alabama is part of it. If they are saying things like that in front of kids that might be a part of my national government one day (although I have to express skepticism about that, she said with an arched eyebrow), I feel the need to speak up. I found an email address for Corner High School of Jefferson County in Alabama: I don't know if it's a valid address, but I sent the email a while ago and haven't received a failure notification yet.

Why did this bother me so much? I think it was because although I was too young to remember the assassinations in the 60's, I have actually made the effort to read about that turbulent time and try to understand the impact that it had on our country. My Dad was in the National Guard and was called out for local riots; my sister was a member of the SDS and protested the war (although not the soldiers); my friend Dan Edwards assisted with a sculpture commemorating Robert Kennedy's speech in Indianapolis after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, a speech that was credited with staving off the rioting that occurred in other large cities at the time. So many people I know speak of that time with sadness, horror, and regret. I have taken the time to try to learn about it and understand what an impact it had upon our country and upon the world.

RFK assassinationFor this student to make such a hateful, ignorant remark, and for the geometry teacher to go with it rather than pointedly saying that it was completely inappropriate, completely appalls me. It is this sort of rhetoric that hurts me deeply and makes me wonder what is wrong with some people in my country. Whether it's a Facebook group praying for the death of the President (oh, but it was only a joke, they say!) or a teacher in Alabama joking about shooting off the President's ear, you know what? It is not one fucking bit funny.

I was looking for pictures for this entry, and I came across President Kennedy's autopsy photo, as well as a closeup of his wife reaching for his exploded head. I chose not to use those, because I still found them horribly upsetting, and I was only a year old when that happened. However, I am intelligent enough to read and learn and understand what a horrible time that was for our country, and why we never want to experience anything like that again. It doesn't just affect us, it affects the entire world. And on a more personal level, it would certainly affect a wife who calls our President husband, and two young girls who call him Daddy.

Teachers play a part in kids' lives. Not just formal education, but also in the foundation for being a good citizen and responsible member of society, someone who realizes that change comes not from chaos and murder, but from working towards making things better for all. The tacit approval of this teacher with his joking comments made me feel that he has no place in guiding those children who will soon be taking their place in our society.

The deaths of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have left a lasting mark on our country and a deep sadness in our psyches. These were men cut down in the prime of their lives, and who knows what they might have done as they grew older? They have already left a profound legacy...what might they have done if they had been allowed to continue their lives in peace and prosperity, rather than have their heads blown off by lunatics swayed by propaganda? This is the danger that many of us sense, and many of us are speaking out about. The rhetoric of the far right who continue to ratchet up the anger in the name of ratings, those who advocate the violent overthrow of our government, the ridiculous hyperbole of those who call Obama a socialist/communist/fascist, what have you...this is the sort of thing that gave rise to the tumult of the 60's, and led to the death of three good men who were trying to make a difference in our country.

Make no mistake about it: people like Beck and Limbaugh do not worry about who might act upon their words. They want ratings. Beck's ratings are dropping, and Limbaugh is making ridiculous statements about how the Sierra Club should be paying for the BP oil spill cleanup. Even the 'rightiest' of the right have to realize how insane that sounds, so I hope that people are starting to figure out that it's not a good idea to get all of their Instructions for Life from these fucktards.

MLK assassination I'm sure that some will say that they advocate change through the ballot box, not violence. Well, you might want to tell your teabaggin' friends about that, because they don't seem to be getting the message. People might take you a little more seriously if you put down the fucking guns and stopped threatening to blow people's heads off. Okay, not really. Most of us still won't take you seriously. But yeah...the blowing people's heads off stuff doesn't help matters one iota.

I would ask these people to remember...or at least to do some research. This is not something we want to revisit. It was a divisive, horrible, upsetting time that lingers with us over forty years later. Look at the picture of a President shot in the head with his wife next to him; look at the picture of his brother, a presidential candidate, shot in the head and dying in the arms of a busboy whose hand he was shaking when the bullet entered his brain; look at the picture of a man who advocated peaceful protest and equality for all, shot in the head and dying on the balcony of a Memphis hotel. Look at these men dying and ask yourselves if that is what you really want. Ask yourselves if you think that killing good men is the way to achieve the change YOU want.

If you don't want that—and I believe that the majority of you don't want that—then speak up and tell your like-minded friends to lower the level a bit. Tell them that it's not funny to joke about assassinating the President. Tell your kids' teachers to be true leaders rather than spewing their own ideologies. Make the changes you want by pulling the lever at the voting booth...not by pulling the trigger of a gun, or by advocating it, or by giving implied approval by not speaking out against it.

A bullet in the brain is not funny. Ever.