Thursday, September 23, 2010

Clawing back to equilibrium

Equilibrium I've made no secret of the fact that the past several months have been rough for me. Although I don't talk about it much (it's not our way, after all, in my family), those closest to me know just how rough.

With my Dad's death, it was like something fundamental changed for me and in me. I've always been one to find the joy in little things, and I was dismayed to find that I had lost that. I honestly didn't know if it was gone for good, or if it was just taking a hiatus. I'd lost my joy. This was especially hard for me to process, because one of the very best things I got from Dad was the ability to find the joy in little things. In losing Dad, did I lose that, too? That would be almost unbearable.

It's taken me a while, but I'm happy to report that I am slowly but surely making my way back to that point. I find myself looking around with an eye and an attitude more like the one I used to have. Maybe it's knowing that summer is over, so I'm more inclined to enjoy the last of the warm weather. That's part of it, anyway. I find that I'm more connected to my surroundings.

The hummingbirds are still here, but only the females. The males leave first, so it's just us girls right now. The females are very active at the feeders, and I'm certain that I see their tiny bodies plumping up a bit for their long flight south. I made the nectar extra sweet this time of year so that they can bulk up.

The deer are starting to spend a lot of time in the back yard; the three fawns that I saw this summer have lost their spots. One fawn had a bum leg the other day, and I could see a bloody wound on its shoulder. I don't know if it made it. I hope so.

The raccoons are still coming up on the deck, but not nearly as much. They like to leave me "presents," but a spray is helping to deter them from that. However, when I walked out the door to get the mail this morning, one had left a lovely deposit for me on the steps. As I scraped it off with a stick, I believe I said, "Oh, you little bastard." But I laughed a bit, this point, I think they're just messing with me.

Chip or Dale2The little guy I call Piney Squirrel has been coming up on the deck a lot. He makes me laugh. He's like a miniature squirrel on speed.

The chipmunks I call Chip and Dale have also been coming up on the deck, and I've seen them come right up to the screen and put their little hands (paws?) on it, looking in. They live under the steps where the raccoon took a shit, and when I walk out to the mailbox, I look for acorns to leave for them on the steps. It's fun to see the acorns vanish. :)

I was getting ready to hop in the shower yesterday, and the power went out. After several cell calls to the power company, I found out that there had been a car accident that took out a utility pole. Several components needed to be replaced, including the pole itself, and the result was that I spent over seven hours without power. That was seven hours to read, and I enjoyed getting caught up. I finished my book club book, Kim by Rudyard Kipling. Thank goodness, because it was a struggle to get through that one. I was not engaged at all. Then I went through a couple of issues of Time, although I didn't read every article. Then I read a bit in a mini-encyclopedia about American history, specifically the early explorers. Next I started on True Compass, Ted Kennedy's autobiography. I'm really enjoying it so far (I'm about 90 pages into it). I was really struck by something he wrote in the prologue, when he was talking about finding out that he had a brain tumor. He wrote, "I respect the seriousness of death—I’ve had many occasions to meditate on its intrusions." You certainly did, Senator. That kind of choked me up.

Fawn 2009 Anyway, it was nice to sit quietly for several hours (although I would definitely have preferred to have power) and just enjoy my reading. In general, I'm in a more peaceful place. I still have moments of unreasoning and unreasonable anger. For example, apparently the pastor at Mom and Dad's church mentioned in a service what the church did with some of the money contributed in Dad's name. My initial, furious thought was, "Gee, that's great about your new communion service, but all in all, I'd prefer to still have my Dad here." Illogical and unfair? Probably. I don't care. I have a shorter temper than I used to, with little to no patience for fools. I don't let it out very often, though. I'm starting to do better with being around people. I'm pretty insular, anyway, but I had a hard time being around most people, laughing and having fun. I knew I'd get that back—I like to laugh too much to have it be gone forever!

Mostly I'm just trying to find my Happy Place™, and I think I'm starting to get back there. One of the things that I got from Dad—and I even spoke about this at his funeral service—was a love of nature. We talked about it often, and I know he was pleased to share that with me. I suppose it's only fitting that that is one of the main things that is bringing me back.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Teabaggers2 Most teabaggin' folks I encounter online seem to react badly to a few things. First is being called a teabagger, although they were the ones who started calling themselves that before someone informed them of the meaning that most of the rest of us already knew about. Second is being called a racist. As Bill Maher said, "There are two things that teabaggers hate. One is being called a racist. The second is black people." Ha!

Another thing I've noticed they don't like is someone saying that they're overly concerned about social issues or value judgments. "Oh no," they protest, "our main concern is with big government and out-of-control spending! That is what we're all about!"

I think we can put that little delusion to rest right now. Over the weekend, the Family Research Council held their Values Voters Summit. I understand that this was not a Tea Party-sponsored event, but virtually every speaker was kissing some major teabagger ass, so to speak. Many of them mentioned the Tea Party, and teabaggin'-talk abounded. Make no mistake about it. The teabaggers are firmly committed to values voting and social issues. Check it out.

Newt Gingrich:

On the one front, we have a secular socialist machine led by Obama, Pelosi and Reid. And on the other front, we have radical Islamists who would fundamentally change this country into a system none of us in this room would recognize.

This is not about religious liberty, if they want to build that mosque in the South Bronx, frankly they need the jobs. But I am totally opposed to any effort to impose Sharia on the United States, and we should have a federal law that says under no circumstance, in any jurisdiction in the United States, will Sharia be used in any court to apply to any judgment made about American law.

Actually, Newt, there already is a federal law on the books that prohibits the government from promoting Sharia law, or any other religious law. It's called the First Amendment.

Sen. Jim DeMint:

There is a relationship, and I think there is a strong faith component in the Tea Party movement. But it's very different than what I've seen before or of things like the Moral Majority. They're not pushing religion. They're not even pushing morality. They just consider bankruptcy as a moral issue.

They are most definitely pushing religion and their definition of morality. And bankruptcy is a moral issue? I know there are some people that overspend and live beyond their means. But 60% of bankruptcies in this country are due to medical bills. I've had relatives who were brought to that point because of their medical bills. DeMint and his cronies are once again painting those who declare bankruptcy or draw unemployment or get food stamps and welfare as lazy and devoid of morals.

Teabaggers3 More DeMint:

We know what’s happening in this country. We know that this idea that you need to separate your politics from your religion and from your values and from your economics, it just doesn’t work because America is the most prosperous, the most compassionate, the strongest nation in the history of the world because it rests on a set of principles that sit on a foundation of Judeo-Christian values.

Think about what Judeo-Christian values do in that environment. The people that believe that they’re accountable to God, and because of that, they’re honest. They have integrity. They care about others. They practice charity. They’re volunteers. They have a strong work ethic. They’re not only self-controlled and responsible for themselves, but they feel a responsibility for those around them. They’re committed to marriage and family and their church.

Think about a nation where millions of people are like that. They don’t need a big government to control them. These are the people that build our community and build our strength and have the vision for what works in our country. But think about a culture that doesn’t have the values, the restraint of being accountable to God.

We see it all over the world. We don’t have to guess at what it looks like, where your economy works with bribes and corruption. Your politics is completely corrupt because the people have no values and morals. And then you need a bigger and bigger government to control a violent people, a violent and disruptive people.

This is such a huge steaming pile of bullshit that it's difficult to address it all. Let's just say that I know plenty of non-religious people who have integrity and have a strong work ethic, who volunteer and help others, not because they fear the punishment of God, but because it's a good thing to help your fellow human being and your community. I would also like to mention a few "men of God": Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Robert Tilton, Ted Haggard, Benny Hinn, Paul and Jan Crouch...need I go on?

Sen. Jim Inhofe:

I didn't think it'd work at that time, but it did. It was called Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And some of you - if you are gay and you want to serve in the military, they don't ask you about it, you don't tell it, you're not doing it openly so that the problems that we all know about. And I think that they mentioned it in my introduction that I was an Army veteran, and I think any of the veterans in this room - I don't have to tell you the problems that would happen if you have an open gay situation there, where it allows people to use the military as a forum for their liberal agenda.

A forum for their liberal agenda? Oh, you mean gays who sign up for our volunteer military and go overseas to fight and die for their country? Is that the liberal agenda you're talking about, Jimmeh?

This from an NPR reporter interviewing a summit attendee:

Mr. Todd Dexter: I think the truth is, these people care very deeply about pro-life issues, care very deeply about the sanctity of marriage and kind of the moral values that we believe are the foundation of our country.

Reporter: You mean the Tea Party believes that?

Mr. Dexter: I believe so. I believe many do. It may not always be the official position. But those who go to those rallies, they very much embrace that.

Reporter: Dexter has attended Tea Party events. Pollsters bear out his assertion that no matter what slogans the Tea Party vocalizes, a large majority of their members happen to be anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage.

Former Senator and Internet sensation Rick Santorum:

And what is necessary in our society if we are to be free? Well, our founders had it right. John Adams said, our constitution is made – our constitution is made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the governance of any other. You see, we can only be free as long as we are virtuous. And we can only be virtuous as look as there are vibrant faiths in the public square.

Go into the neighborhoods in America where there is a lack of virtue. What will you find? Two things. You will find no families, no mothers and fathers together in marriage and you will find government everywhere. Police, social service agencies, why? Because without faith, family and virtue, government takes over.

I would like to know his definitions of morality and virtue. Apparently it does not include anyone who is not religious, and it does not include single parents. And darn those pesky police and social services meddling in the people's business!

Batshit crazy Rep. Michele Bachmann:

I think the one thing that these high-and-mighty types, part of the ruling class here in Washington, D.C., just don’t seem to understand – they live at the wine-and-cheese parties, you know, here in D.C. As for me, I prefer tea parties, just so you know.

No social agenda in that quote, but it shows her embrace of the teabaggers. It also highlights a recurrent theme in this summit, the "Washington elites," the "high-and-mighty types," attendin' their wine and cheese parties, actin' all high-falutin' and fancy. Like an education is a bad thing. I suppose for some of these people it is, because it makes them realize their inadequacies. That's one of the worst things, in my opinion, to have come out of this peculiar movement: the idea that it's a bad thing to be an intellectual, or to rely on logic and education rather than instincts and a religious text.

Mike Huckabee:

The basic idea is that there is no such thing as a person who is more valuable than another, that all of us have the same intrinsic worth. that no person is worth more because of his last name, or land ownership, or occupation, or who his father was or grandfather was. Or what city he came from, or what color he is, or what gender he or she may be.

We know that every life is important before God and to each other. And we know that marriage matters. We know that marriage hasn't changed, that it still means what it means.

Note the glaring omission of sexual orientation. In the Huckster's world, I guess there are no homosexuals, and if there are, they aren't deserving of the same rights, and they don't have the same "intrinsic worth" as the rest of us.

Then there is Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, who won the straw poll for the Republican nominee in 2012:

A political party that would govern this great nation must be able to handle more than one issue at a time. We must focus on our fiscal crisis and support our troops. We must work to create jobs and protect innocent human life and defend traditional marriage. To those who say that marriage is not relevant to our budget crisis, I say you would not be able to print enough money in a thousand years to pay for the government that you would need if the family continues to collapse.

To those who say we should focus on cutting spending, I say, okay. Let’s start by denying all federal funding for abortion at home and abroad. You want to find savings? Let's cut funding to research that destroys human embryos in the name of science and let’s deny any and all funding to Planned Parenthood of America.

That is all horrible, but I find his desire to end funding for Planned Parenthood especially egregious. The vast majority of clinics do not perform abortions; Planned Parenthood provides basic health care including Pap smears and family planning for millions of women. It also works hard to educate young women about birth control and STI prevention. Calling for no funds for Planned Parenthood is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. So to speak.

As if all of these things didn't make it clear that the teabaggers are all about the social issues, not just about being anti-government, part of the straw poll included a question about what issue is most important to them:

  1. Abortion
  2. Government spending
  3. Repeal of “Obamacare”
  4. Protection of religious liberty
  5. National Security

Teabaggers Vegas I think that says it all right there. I also wonder why "protection of religious liberty" is in the top five. No one--no one--is trying to stop anyone from worshiping the way they wish to. Unless it's these people who would stop a cultural center being built a couple of blocks away from the Ground Zero site because someone of a different religion is building it. Keeping this group's fundamental religious beliefs--I'm talking about the teabaggers here--out of our government does not constitute persecution. They do not get to dictate what the rest of us must believe. They do not get to legislate based on the ten commandments or anything else in the Bible. They do not get to decide what is moral and what isn't, based upon their religious beliefs.

This reminds me of Jerry Falwell's creation of the Moral Majority in the '80's, and Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition in the '90's. There is nothing wrong with anyone and everyone getting involved in politics, but these groups would insert their religion into the political landscape, and I have a problem with that. Their religion is not everyone's religion. They cannot and must not speak for all in this country. We've been through this before; they are offering nothing new.

For any teabagger who says it's not about religion and social issues, that it's all about economics...I beg to differ. The GOP is obviously courting the teabaggers, and in the process, they are taking us back to the culture wars of the '80s and '90s. The problem is that they would be the deciders on everyone's morality, not just their own.

This country is no longer the domain of rich white Republican men. We are a diverse nation, and will not and cannot return to how these people would define us. We are more than that, much more. I don't want these teabaggers running my country and discriminating against my friends because they love someone these people think it is wrong to love. I don't want them hating my friends because they look different. I don't want them censoring me because I don't believe the way they do, or dictating how I and my female friends deal with our bodies.

We've been there and done that, and I'll take progress over regress any day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Diggin’ the Factory scene

Edie and Andy I thought I'd write a little review of the movie I watched last night, "Factory Girl."

This came out in 2006, but typically, I'm way behind on things. I've had this for a while, and finally got around to watching it.

Andy Warhol is one of my favorite artists (I love Pop art in general), and several years ago, I became fascinated with his studio, the Factory, and the whole scene involved with him in the mid to late '60s. It was a highly creative and permissive atmosphere, but drug usage was rampant. From what I've read, Warhol did not condone the use of drugs in his studio, but he also didn't put a stop to it. Speed was the drug of choice at the Factory.

I'm not sure what fascinated me about it. Maybe it was because as a scientist, such a lifestyle and such behavior was so different from mine. Glamorous, decadent, creative, dynamic, highly social, free, and definitely out of the ordinary. Of course, that's ignoring the lack of focus, the ravages of drug abuse, the STIs, running out of money, and the general disconnection from anything resembling reality.

The Factory Girl in question is Edie Sedgwick, a poor little rich girl socialite who left Cambridge to go to New York to be a star. She did all that and more when she met Andy Warhol, and she became his "It Girl." She charmed everyone she met with her big eyes, beautiful smile, and long legs. She was the star of several of Warhol's movies, and worked as a model. Her look was all her own: her waif-like figure, heavy, dark eye makeup, short silver pixie haircut. Apparently she had a very troubled childhood, with a controlling, abusive father; one of her brothers committed suicide, and another died young in a motorcycle accident. One sister broke with the family and refused to have anything more to do with them. In Warhol, she found another controlling father figure, and for a while they were inseparable. As her drug use increased, they began to pull apart, and as her family money ran out (she got little to no money from Warhol), she could no longer stay in New York and moved back to her family's ranch in Santa Barbara.

Her father placed her into a psych ward, and she seemed to kick her drug habit. She married a fellow patient she met there and seemed to be fairly happy for a while. A few months after they were married, she died of a drug overdose at the age of 28.

Here are details about Edie Sedgwick's life and death.

That's the real Edie's story. What about the movie?

I found it fairly enjoyable, and thought it captured a lot of the frenetic energy of that time. Warhol coined the term "superstar" to describe Edie, and at that time, with Warhol at her side, she truly was. I enjoyed the depiction of life and work at the Factory; the art and movies were puzzling to some, but definitely new and exciting. Many of these scenes are shot as if actual film footage from the time, and that's a nice effect.

Edie I thought it painted Edie and Andy's relationship in too stark of terms. As with all things in life, nothing is completely black and white. Andy wasn't a ruthless manipulator who used Edie and then threw her away, and Edie wasn't the completely helpless victim that fell prey to his manipulations. They were both of those things, yes, but they were also more to each other. They may have used each other (and by most accounts, Warhol did use people to further his career), but they also mutually benefited from the relationship. Edie became a celebrity because of his influence, and Andy had access to her old money connections that helped make him an art sensation. He used and manipulated her; she used and manipulated him. There was also obviously great love and affection between them, even to the point of Edie dyeing her hair silver to match his wigs; perhaps she was the female version of what he might have liked to be. Of course, their relationship never was and never would be physical.

The film also touches on Edie's relationship with Bob Dylan, although the character is called "Billy Quinn." Gee, a folk singer with a familiar raspy voice, wearing a harmonica holder around his neck...who could it be?!

I liked the movie and it kept me engaged, but I'm very interested in that era and the Factory scene, and have read quite a bit about Edie and Andy (including the book by Jean Stein that focused mainly on Edie), so I'm probably a little biased on the side of liking this. It's probably not for everyone. Lots of drugs and nudity and general depravity, and it really is sad to see the portrayal of Edie's rapid decline. I thought Sienna Miller did a good job as Edie, but I wasn't as impressed with Guy Pearce as Andy. I thought Crispin Glover did a better job as Andy in "The Doors."

If you're interested in Warhol or his Factory, you'll enjoy this as a diversion. Personally, I enjoyed the half hour extra about the real Edie more than the movie, and I would be interested in seeing if there are any documentaries that deal with her and with Warhol.