Saturday, May 29, 2010

Is it possible to be too cool?

Obama cool I don't mean in a badass cool kind of way. Everyone knows it is impossible to be too cool in that way.

I'm talking about in a passionate sort of way. President Obama has a reputation as a relatively unflappable guy. We can never know what he's like in person, but his public persona is definitely one that might include words like "cucumber" and "ice." Personally, I've always liked that about him. If you read his books or listen to his speeches, you can tell that he is most certainly passionate about his philosophies and ideas. However, when it comes to staying cool under pressure, he's as good as anyone I've seen.

Remember during the election, when everyone realized that the economy had almost folded? That was in September. McCain's choice of Palin as running mate had fired up the right wing base; her handlers were still keeping her from the press, so no one knew yet what a dim bulb she really is; McCain was making progress in the polls, and the results were a virtual dead heat. Then the economy crisis hit. Obama's reaction was to study the problem and try to put together what had happened and what could be done, both now and in the future so the chances of this happening again are lessened. McCain's strategy, after three days of congressional hearings, was to announce that he was [cue trumpet sound] suspending his campaign, and the scheduled debate with Obama should be postponed! This was so he could rush to Washington to see what he could do to solve the problem! He probably even pictured himself riding into D.C. on a white horse (It sure as hell wouldn't be a black horse...HA! I couldn't resist.), but all I could think was, "What does he think that is going to accomplish?" I saw it as an attempt to grab headlines (McCain Suspends Campaign To Deal With Financial Crisis!) rather than any sort of real effort or belief that he could possibly do any good.

Of course, it did no good whatsoever, and his participation in discussions was limited. The day that he announced he was suspending his campaign, he canceled an appearance on Letterman...and then was caught on tape getting made up for an appearance with Katie Couric on CBS News. Letterman ridiculed him thoroughly, and the video of him sitting in the makeup chair was quite funny when compared with his urgent need to get back to Washington. In short, McCain came across as looking like a kneejerk reactionary trying to garner some free headlines, while Obama appeared deliberative and serious. I think it was a big turning point in the campaign. It certainly solidified my choice, because it only strengthened my belief of who would react better in a crisis. (And I believe that has been borne out.)

With the continued crisis of the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration has taken heat for not handling the crisis better, or perhaps sooner. I think the latter is a bogus charge; they were informed and engaged from day one. Were there things they could have done differently or better? I don't know for sure, although the President himself has said there is always room for improvement, and takes ultimate responsibility for being in charge of the management of the Dead heronscrisis. I think it's being blown out of proportion by his opponents. Not the crisis, of course. That's about as bad as bad can get. But I think his critics are claiming that he has mishandled this, and I don't believe that's true. I was not pleased that he authorized the drilling; the shortsightedness of those chanting "Drill, baby, drill!" (nottomentionanynamesSarahPalin), the foolish belief that this would help decrease our dependence on foreign oil (it's a drop in the oil barrel), the inability to see the consequences of what might happen in a worst-case scenario (I guess we're seeing that now, aren't we?)...any short term gains have not only been wiped out by this disaster, they have been mind-bogglingly obliterated. A huge swath of fragile environment, thousands of animals and birds, a fragile ecosystem, oyster farms, people's livelihoods...all wiped out.

The responsibility for this disaster does not lie solely upon any one person or entity or administration. People fucked up on many levels based on what I'm reading, whether it was laxity on the issue of permits, special interest pandering, companies like Halliburton letting faulty work get by (Hmm, Halliburton...why does that ring a bell?), BP sacrificing safety for's sickening and tragic in every way, and we can't even begin to know the long term effects of this horror. But that isn't the point of this entry. I know we're all heartsick and disgusted about it, and I can hardly bear to look at the pictures.

Back to the cool factor. Along with the criticism of the Obama administration for their handling of this, I'm reading criticism of him personally, saying that he is too cool about this, that he doesn't understand the full impact of this disaster, doesn't sympathize with those who make their living from the ocean or those who simply love it, just doesn't feel passionately enough about this. When he showed a glimpse of his personal involvement in this, talking about his daughter Malia asking if he'd plugged the hole yet, professional asshole Glenn Beck (and he's highly successful in that endeavor) mocked not the President, but his daughter for asking the question, ridiculing her and questioning her education. If you found that in any way funny, please stop following me right now. I don't want your readership. Seriously.

I understand the President on this one. I have, on occasion, been accused of being "cold-hearted." I think anyone who really knows me knows that is far from true. In some respects, I'm far too tender-hearted for my own good. I still remember hitting a cat on my way home from work one evening...this was probably fifteen years ago, and I remember exactly how pretty it looked, just as if it were sleeping, except for the vacant eyes. I remember hitting a squirrel that ran out in front of my car several years ago here, and how I cried when I walked back out to the road and confirmed that I had indeed crushed it. I remember picking up a hummingbird that had broken its neck on the window, cradling the poor little thing in my hands and stroking its tiny little head. I am far from cold-hearted.

Obama chill But when it comes to moments of true crisis--all of the above are tragic moments, but not true crises--I tend to shut down. I put on my stoic face, I go into crisis management mode, and I can be very aloof. I'm the person who, if we were in a crisis together and you flipped the fuck out, would grab you by the shoulders and shake you, smack you across the face if I had to, tell you to get a grip, and direct you to do what needed to be done. We all deal with grief, anger, and other strong emotions in our own ways. I tend to keep my moments like that personal, and in the presence of others do my best to keep my cool. I do not collapse from grief. You can call it right or wrong to deal with things that way, but if we were on a plane crash together, would you rather have some dipshit collapsing and wailing in the aisle so that no one could get through, or would you rather have me yanking him to his feet and telling him to shut up or get out of the way? Would you rather have the histrionic John McCain suspending his campaign or Barack Obama learning more about the situation and knowing what can and can't be done in the short term?

Would you rather have a highly emotional President who reacts with extreme passion (maybe faux-crying like Glenn Beck) or one who tries to remain calm while all about him are losing their shit? I know which one I want. This criticism of the President's "lack of passion" is ridiculous. I know quite well that it is possible to feel passionately about something but remain calm. It is highly desirable to lead rather than to panic. If one person is able to keep their shit together, it can calm others down and get them to do the same. No one can think clearly when in a state of panic. Throwing one's hands in the air and wailing "Oh Jeebus, what do we doooo?" does no one any good. What we DO is start thinking about things clearly and rationally, formulate a plan, and then get to work.

If you don't want to be a part of that, then get the fuck out of the way.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just beggin’ for it

Irritate my coworkers This week the Republican National Committee, in a desperate attempt to seem like it is with it and hip (Daddy-O) and once again proving that they just don’t get it, launched a website called AmericaSpeakingOut. In theory, they wanted to get ideas from average Joes (plumbers and such, doncha know...not to disparage any actual plumbers out there) about in which direction they should take the party. They wanted to know what people want from them, although they added the caveat that only ideas that jibe with the usual Republican principles will be considered. Isn't that sort of missing the whole point? Wouldn't it be better to sort of look at the general sentiment in the country and see if there are some issues they just might be out of touch on? Oh well. Not my party, not my committee, not my website. I'm also thinking logically, and that is just silly of me.

Naturally, when word got out about this site, it wasn't just Republicans who joined in on the fun. The prospect of a Republican website where we could make suggestions was impossible to resist for liberals. Moth to a flame, milk on cereal, mud on a pig, white on rice--pick your metaphor, sarcastic liberals were all over that thing. Hilarity ensued. I didn't register and leave a suggestion myself, but I spent some time looking through them all, endlessly fascinated and amused.

As PZ wrote on his entry about it, Poe's Law was writ large when the liberals converged upon the site. According to RationalWiki, "Poe's Law points out that it is hard to tell parodies of fundamentalism (or, more generally, any crackpot theory) from the real thing, since they both seem equally insane. Conversely, real fundamentalism can easily be mistaken for a parody of fundamentalism. For example, some conservatives consider noted homophobe Fred Phelps to be so over-the-top that they argue he's a 'deep cover liberal' trying to discredit more mainstream homophobes." (I consider the phrase "mainstream homophobes" to be an oxymoron. They don't swim in my stream.)

PZ gave a few examples in his entry; I found more. Here are a few silly ones, most of which get removed from the site fairly quickly.

We need to train an army of Ninja Cats. Cats are natural born hunters and predators, and it is known that they indeed have 9 lives.

We should invent and patent more colors. Like fuchsia, but not that because it's already been invented.

I've noticed lately that America's birds are getting a little on the small side. The North African Ostrich is the world's largest and therefore best bird.

Belgium looked at us funny. Let's bomb them.

Build the Star Wars missile defense system. Who cares if it works or not? It sounds super badass.

When we deport illegal aliens we should get rid of the street mimes as well. Also.

Then there are those concerned about the environment.

People are always worrying about deforesting trees and stuff. What they should do is attach an old coffee can full of seeds to the bottom of airplanes with some holes poked in the bottom. That way, when they fly across the country, they'll also be REFORESTING the nation for close to nothing.

There were many concerned about illegal immigrants.

They should send the Statue of "Liberty" back to France. We dont want your hungry tired poor, sorry! They should stay in France with you and your statue.

Some want us to get back to the ways of Paine and Jefferson (no mention of whether that includes slavery).

We need the re-establish this nation as a Christian nation, the way Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson intended!

Others felt the need to defend Sarah Palin.

Can we please make it illegal to make fun of Sarah Palin? It's just mean. Sure, she isn't that smart. But she raised five kids, and only one got knocked up in high school. That used to count for something in AMREICA!

A kindred spirit mentioned Star Trek.

On the popular television series Star Trek Deep Space Nine, many of the characters have freedoms such as holodeck privileges and visits to Quarks bar. They also don't get paid or really use any money at all, they all work for the betterment of society and in return get what they need from society. I think it sounds like a pretty good idea.

It does sound like a good idea, doesn't it?

There was a suggestion to help all us patriots who are vocally challenged.

I love my country as much as the next guy and I'll pistol whip anyone who says different but, sorry, the national anthem blows. I mean, who can sing that? I only watch it before a game to see someone's neck explode trying to hit high c. There are other songs which are prettier, a LOT easier to sing, and which, I've observed, people really seem to get behind. I humbly propose three songs for consideration: 1. America, Eff Yeah 2. Waltzing Matilda 3. O Canada

As I said during the recent winter Olympics, "O Canada" is certainly an inspiring and singable anthem. I think that commenter might be onto something. Maybe we could change the lyrics to "O 'Merica."

There were quite a few comments praising the GOP for creating this site.

I think we have proof here that our dear statesmen from the GOP are brain dead. Anyone with more than three active brain cells would have seen this coming a mile away. Brilliant idea.

I just wanna say this site is the best thing that house GOP have done in years. You have given me hours of entertainment.

I would like to thank the Republican Party for subsidizing literally hours of fun for all us Godless socialists. I don't know when I've had such a good time playing an online game. This site ROCKS! Uh, it is a game, right?

The forum even got rickrolled.

Never gonna give you up, Never gonna let you down, Never gonna run around and desert you, Never gonna make you cry, Never gonna say goodbye, Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.

It wasn't all fun and games, as one person showed in a comment that I found somewhat poignant (and I think this one is completely real).

As a Republican since the 70s, a faithful voter for most of that time, and someone who worked in the defense industry for years, you guys have simply flown off the rails. The extremism and partisanship of the current GOP has taken you out of the mainstream, and put you into the realm of the American Independent Party. Nixon was a good President, so was Reagan. But what you are pushing now is unwise and unresponsive to the nation's needs. Get back to where Republicans had workable and useful solutions to our problems, instead of just calling our president a socialist and refusing to do anything at all. It's too extreme, and too partisan, and people such as me don't like it. You may call me a RINO, but I am what the party used to be, and you are forcing me to become independent because of the ugly partisan extremism that is now the hallmark of the GOP. Please stop this trend before it is too late.

This whole endeavor is just kind of sad. In an attempt to show that they really are listening, they set themselves up for a massive failure and endless ridicule. Do I feel bad about ridiculing them here? Not at all. If you're clueless enough to put up a site like this and not expect it to be set upon by the opposition and deluged with snark, you deserve everything you get. I could tell what most of the bogus suggestions were, but as Poe's Law states, there were plenty that I wasn't sure about. That's a little disturbing. If many of your constituents have such extreme opinions that they can't be discerned from those deliberately trying to make themselves sound as extreme as possible, then something is wrong. I know it goes both ways, but I'd say that the right wing extremists are quite a bit more "out there" than the left wing.

Maybe it's time to take it down a notch, or distance yourselves from the loonies. Or maybe hire a better Web coordinator who will advise you to not put up a site that's just asking for it. Because the rest of us are happy to speak out, too.Speak out

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beth’s Music Moment – Exile Revisited

Beth's music moment6 It's been a while since I did a Music Moment! This time it's not about the body of work of one particular artist, but one particular album: the Stones' "Exile on Main St."

This past week, they issued a remastered version, along with ten previously unreleased tracks. And Beth is a happy girl.

I'm not a complete Stones freak. I don't have all their albums, and I don't pretend to know every detail about their music. But I've been a fan for...hmm, I guess over 30 years. That's retroactive, too, because I went back to their albums from the sixties, when I was really too young to know about them when they first issued them. (I got "Let It Bleed" and "Sticky Fingers"in the early 80's.) You know those memes that ask you questions like Mary Ann or Ginger, Batman or Superman? When it comes to Beatles or Stones, I'm Stones.

I've been listening to Exile and the new songs, and baby, I'm lovin' it! This is the Stones at their bluesy best. I have enjoyed revisiting this and other Stones music, because it's a great reminder of how much they're rooted in the blues. They loved performers like Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, and it shows throughout their entire career. "Exile" may have been the height of their creativity, with a fantastic blend of ballsy rock and rollicking blues. The recording of "Exile" has become legendary. Keith's rental "house" in the south of France was all business in the basement where they made the music, but a nonstop party of drugs and sex upstairs. In a recent Today Show interview, Matt Lauer implied condemnation for the drugs and sex and asked Mick if they could have made this music if they were sober. He asked Keith if it was wrong to have his young son in such an environment.

I think Mick and Keith both gave great answers to these silly questions. It was a different time, man. C'mon, Matt, get real. It truly was a different time, and it wasn't just the Stones who were doing was pretty much everyone who was making music at the time, including the Beatles, the Doors, Janis, Jimi, and on and on. It's useless to try to apply today's mores to that time. Lauer came across as a priggish schoolmarm. You don't need to glorify such drug use, but as Mick pointed out, it wasn't about the drugs, it was about the MUSIC. Put on your big girl panties, Matt, and stop judging people for what they did 40 years ago!

Anyway, whatever was going on in that mansion in the south of France, it resulted in some totally kickass music, and that is what matters. I won't go over the merits of the original Exile, but I'll make a few comments on some of the new tracks. I'm not sure how many of these were finished and how many they had to go back and "tidy up," but I heard Sir Mick say that they tried to stay close to the original sound of the Exile sessions...and I'd say that they did.

"Pass the Wine (Sophia Loren)" - a nice, rocking start to the new tracks. "Pass the wine, baby, let's make some love."

"Following the River" - starts out with piano, has a distinct gospel sound...this is a breakup song, and I'm not ashamed to say that I got choked up when I heard Mick's anguished plea: "I'll be thinking about ya, 'cause you always brought the best in me."

"Dancing in the Light" - a more upbeat song following the previous sad one...I love the line "I got that sinking feeling, whose potatoes are ya peeling?"

Mick Jagger My absolute favorite of the new songs is the shortest one, a brief taste of an instrumental. It's called "Title 5," and it is a total fucking rave-up! The preview is only 30 seconds, but the song is only 1:47, so you get the idea. Man, I wish they'd expanded that a bit, because I love that song! I had to do a little chair-dancing to that one: the Monkey and the Jerk. If you don't know them, I'll teach you. Ha!

I know that some of my friends feel that the Stones haven't made any new or relevant music in some time. I suppose that's fair enough, but that doesn't mean that they are irrelevant. It's still some of the best music ever, and for me, the Stones embody everything that is good and right and lusty about rock and roll. Maybe the guys won't get it, and I suppose some of the women don't feel it, but Mick was always sexy to me, with those weird, sinuous moves, his sexy baritone (hard and silky at the same time), and that bad boy attitude. Oh yeah, babe! And when they all kicked in with that driving beat and that hard-pounding and rhythmic bass and drum and...ummm, what was I saying? But yeah, they're smart, too. That's always hot! "It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)" is playing right now. I like it...ssssss...I liiiiike it.

Bottom line: if you already love the Stones, you'll enjoy this reissue and the extra tracks. If they really don't trip your trigger and never have, I don't see any reason for you to buy this. I pass no judgment, because music appreciation is in the eye of the beholder. But seriously, what is wrong with you?! heehee

If you ever doubt that the Stones are badass, let's revisit a short clip of Keith meting out a bit of justice to an unruly fan. If I recall, this was the first clip I ever posted on my blog, so it has a special place in my heart for many reasons.