Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie time!

Django UnchainedI have so much to write about lately and so little time and motivation to do so that I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment. Suffice it to say that it’s been a fun December, plenty of family and friend time, and more fun to come in about a week.

Oh, did I mention that we’re heading to Miami to go to the National Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama? I’ll write more about that soon (at least that’s the plan), but it’s just been a little crazy with things to do and people to see. It’s been a lot of fun, but I need some downtime interspersed in there to recover from all that socializing, so I’ve been neglectful here.

After not writing about several things that have happened and upcoming events, I’m prompted to write now because of the movie we saw today: Quentin Tarantino’s latest, “Django Unchained.” My mind is still roiling with this movie, and I need to get some of this out or I’ll be up way too late tonight!

Whew. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. I’m a big fan of Tarantino, and “Pulp Fiction” is right up there in my top five movie list. I need to see Django again to be sure, but I came out of the theater thinking that I just might have liked this better than “Pulp Fiction.” It really is that good.

It is very gory and graphic; if that sort of thing bothers you, you will not enjoy this movie. But if that sort of thing bothers you, why would you want to see a Quentin Tarantino movie? That’s one of the things he is known for, and his movies remind me very much of Sam Peckinpah’s movies, but with more blood. What is probably more disturbing and much harder to watch is the brutal treatment of slaves. Tarantino shies away from none of this. The N-word is used liberally and often. The floggings, the inhumane treatment, the complete lack of basic human is very disturbing.

But I welcomed Tarantino’s brutal honesty. This is part of our history, and it is wrong to ignore it. I think he does an amazing job with making this terrible story uplifting, by using a combination of righteous vengeance and humor.

Yes, there were many moments that induced laughter. One of the things I love about Tarantino is that he can make you laugh at some of the most horrible things. There were moments of genuine humor in this movie, including the scene with the raiders wearing bags over their heads (a precursor to the Klan) and the big shoot-out scene with bullets ripping into bodies. Not funny, you say? If you go see this movie and don’t give a little burble of horrified laughter at that scene, I’ll buy you a beer. I wasn’t the only one in the theater laughing, so it’s not just me and my warped sense of humor.

The cast is simply amazing. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Don Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson were all fantastic. Lots of cameos (I won’t list them here...see if you can spot them!) that had me thinking, “Oh, that’s so-and-so!” And, like Hitchcock, Tarantino always makes an appearance. It’s a fun one here, mate!

The music is also fantastic. The Django theme was co-written by Ennio Morricone, who is the guy who wrote the music for the Eastwood spaghetti westerns; I’ve read that this is Tarantino’s homage to those movies. There is plenty of modern music in there as well, and it works well despite the anachronism. The scenery is stunning, with beautiful mountain views. The visuals are wonderful (Django reflected in a mirror reminded me of Andy Warhol’s Elvis prints...the shadows cast by Django and others are cool...the blood spatter on cotton bolls...the blood-drenched plantation house walls.) Even the titles and graphics are fun and reminiscent of “Pulp Fiction.” (Watch for the Mississippi scroll!)

This movie isn’t for everyone. Ken’s Mom asked if she could go, and we cautioned her that it was graphic and bloody. She still wanted to go...and she loved it. She was glad she went, and we were glad she joined us! It’s a long movie, two hours and 45 minutes, and we were all riveted. I didn’t even break open my Reese’s Pieces, because I was spellbound. For anyone who likes Tarantino or this style of movie, I honestly cannot recommend it enough. It is brutal, funny, upsetting, uplifting, stone cold righteous, and glorious.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

How many times?

Grief eyeI hesitated to even write about this, because I think it’s still very raw for a lot of people. I had CNN on for about two minutes today, and I couldn’t stomach it. I’ve read a few things online, but have generally stayed away from the subject.

I also hesitated to write about gun violence because I’ve written about it before, here.

And here.

And again, here.

I’m tired of writing about it. I’m tired of being outraged after another violent attack using guns, ranting about it here, saying that something needs to be done...and nothing ever gets done. I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall, shouting into a void, taking over Sisyphus’s job and pushing that boulder up the hill, over and over and OVER. I’m tired of it.

This time it was kids. Twenty kids. All of them either 6 or 7 years old. When I was 6 years old, I was playing on swings, riding my tricycle, running around outside like a little crazy person, and asking for a G.I. Joe for Christmas. These kids will never know the joy of such play. Because they’re dead. Twenty dead kids. Jesus fuck, people, what is wrong with us? Even harder to wrap my mind around is the kids who witnessed this. You’ve probably seen the picture of the police leading the little kids across a parking lot, some of them crying, all of them looking frightened. The one that really got to me was the little boy with his hands up to his face, a look of disbelief and horror in his eyes, as a little girl stood there with her arm around him and her head down. The dead children were robbed of their lives; the survivors have been robbed of their innocence. Life kicks the shit out of all of us, but it generally happens over a period of years, giving us time to come to terms and assimilate it into our broader worldview. A 6-year-old witnessing his or her friends shot multiple times has precious few tools to cope with such a thing. There is no perspective, no years of experience, no context, no philosophy, little ability to comprehend the sheer insanity of such a thing (if that is even possible). I don’t know about you, but if I saw one of my friends take a bullet to the brain, I would be horrified, and it would fuck me up. Can you imagine what it would be like for a 6-year-old?

Cry me a riverI’ve done my best to stay out of any discussions about this on Facebook, because I sensed my potential to absolutely lose it. One person was arguing that the problem was that the shooter lacked “interpersonal communication skills.” Mike “The Huckster” Huckabee said that it was because we’ve taken God out of our schools. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said that now is not the time to have this discussion. I’m seeing the usual claptrap about how this is a “complicated issue.” I understand how issues can be complicated, nothing is black and white, only shades of grey...but
twenty dead kids? I’d say that’s pretty simple, wouldn’t you? I’m seeing the argument that the citizenry has a right to arm themselves against a government takeover. Really? You’re going to hold off the American military with a basement full of weapons? Tell me more about how you’re going to take down an Apache helicopter with your precious little arsenal. Please. I’m really interested to find out more.

President Obama, please force this discussion. Democrats, please introduce bills to ban assault weapons, high capacity clips, and armor-piercing bullets; introduce a bill to ensure that anyone wanting to buy a gun has to undergo a background check; introduce a bill to mandate a waiting period; introduce a bill to limit the amount of ammunition that an individual can buy. We limit how much freakin’ pseudoephedrine a person can buy...why can’t we do that for ammunition?

It’s time to stop just giving this issue—and it IS an issue—lip service and do something that will make a real difference. I tried a while back with a White House petition, and I didn’t get the 25,000 signatures needed to have them address it. There are new petitions up, and one is approaching 100,000 signatures, so it will be addressed by the White House. Maybe the time is right that something will finally, finally be done.

But it is an indictment on our country’s basic decency and sanity that it took twenty dead children to do it.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wild Weekend for the ‘Wood Gang

Chris Isaak Nov 12Not this coming weekend...the past one. I’m a little behind!

At the risk of screwing up the Space-Time Continuum, I’m going to work backwards on our weekend.

On Sunday, we headed down to Indianapolis for a Chris Isaak concert. We’re both big fans, and it was the third time I had seen him (I don’t know how many times Ken has seen him, but he got to see Chris in San Francisco before he hit it big), but we had never had a chance to see him together. We weren’t disappointed. The venue was the Egyptian Room, AKA the Murat Theatre, at the Old National Centre downtown. I lived in Indy for seven years, and had never made it to the Murat before, so I was happy to finally get there! It’s a beautiful venue. More about Chris in a moment.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast called the Nestle Inn (pronounced like the verb, not the chocolate company). I found it online, and it’s a beautiful old home with very nice rooms and amenities. They have a gorgeous and comfortable library, and I noticed one shelf full of books about Frank Lloyd Wright, so I was impressed. It is on Massachusetts Avenue, which is the heart of the arts and theater district. When I lived there from ‘89 to ‘’97, it was kind of a rough area, but they have really developed it into a vibrant place with lots of galleries, theaters, and pubs. It’s right by downtown, so would be a great place to stay if you’re going to a Colts or Pacers game, too. We ate at a place called The Rathskellar, which is also in a historic building, and serves German and American food. The food was yummy, the portions were huge, and the place is gorgeous, with lots of dark wood and a really nice atmosphere. They had a live band playing when we were there, and it was sort of gospel-tinged Christmas good that they had me dancing in my chair!

Nestle InnThen it was onward to the Murat and Chris Isaak. As I said, he didn’t disappoint. He looks fantastic, sounds even better, and we had a total blast! He played several songs from his latest CD, “Beyond the Sun,” which was recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis and features songs from famous Sun Studio artists like Elvis, Jerry Lee, and my favorite, Johnny Cash. Chris did songs from each of them, including the highlight for me, “Ring of Fire.” At one point, Chris came out into the audience, and ran by where I was dancing over by the wall...I patted him and he grabbed my hand, so I can now say that I touched Chris Isaak and he touched me back. *swoon* Chris and his band are great performers, open and funny and obviously having a good time playing music and grooving with the audience. It was such a treat to see him again and be reminded of how much we love his music. We listened to him all the way down and all the way back, and had a blast.

We were only there for one evening and left around noon the following day, so we didn’t have time to do anything in Indy other than eat and go to the concert. My friend Jim and his new wife Sarah were at the Colts game, so it didn’t work out that we could hook up...but I told Ken that I would love to go back for a weekend this summer and spend a little more time there. It really is a great city that has done a lot to rehabilitate downtown since I lived there. It’s one of the Midwest’s sports meccas, hosting several basketball tourneys and one Super Bowl. I look forward to going back and seeing my friend after quite a few years. Ken is going down for a business trip in the spring, so it’s possible that I could tag along. We shall see. Anyway, just a great visit, great concert, and great city! I love you, Indianapolis!

ND #1Now, let’s back up to Saturday. We had an ND hockey game in the late afternoon, and were hoping to see the whole thing before we headed over to Brothers Bar & Grill by the ND campus to watch the ND-USC football game. Usually we watch away games at home, because we get a little loud and crazy (and I get super nervous), but we decided to be out and about to watch this particular game. Because of what was going on with the BCS (both Oregon and Kansas State had lost, ND was ranked #1, and if they won, they would be going to the national championship...still with me?), this had the potential to be a really great game and a really great celebration, so we decided to spend it with other loud and crazy fans. After the second period of the hockey game, I was checking Facebook and saw that Brothers posted that ESPN was there to film crowd reactions, so when Ken got back from a pit stop, I said, “If we want to get a decent seat, we should probably go now.” So we did, and sure enough, ESPN was there, and the place started filling up fast. We were lucky to get two bar seats in front of a TV!

If you pay any attention to sports at all, you have seen that Notre Dame did indeed beat long-time nemesis Southern Cal to go 12-0 on the regular season and maintain their #1 standing in all the polls. The crowd really did go crazy, because we knew this meant that we’re going to the national championship. Ken ran over by the ESPN cameras and shouted “We’re #1” and “We’re going to Miami!” and we just about died of laughter when we got home that night, watched SportsCenter, and saw him on there. That night, Ken booked a flight to Miami and a hotel room for a long weekend. Now it’s just a matter of getting tickets. I will say more about that as we find out more, but I think we have a pretty good shot at getting a couple. Keep everything crossed for us!

This isn’t going to be a cheap endeavor, and I initially balked at going...but Ken said, “When will we get a chance to do this again? There’s no guarantee.” That was all it took to convince me. To see our team go 12-0 and play for the national championship, and to think of how much my Dad would have enjoyed this season and about how we would have talked about it at length...okay! We’re going! 

More to come! In the meantime, here was the scene at Brothers after ND clinched the win AND a shot at the championship!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Feelin’ Irish

Irish #1You all probably know by now that I’m a Notre Dame fan. I didn’t go there, but I grew up watching ND football and basketball games with my Dad. It’s a pretty big deal in our little city, because it’s the largest employer in the area and brings in millions to the local economy.

We’ve been fortunate the past couple of years to get tickets to all the football home games (thanks to Andy!), and this season has been almost unbelievable. We have somehow managed to go undefeated so far, and after Kansas State and Oregon were upset this past Saturday, we moved up to #1. Like, in the country. WOW! The football program has had a lot of ups and downs over the past couple of decades, but suddenly everything started clicking. The wins haven’t all been pretty, but we somehow managed to find a way to get it done.

Now we’re facing the very real possibility that we might have an undefeated season and play for the national championship. I don’t want to get ahead of things, because we still have to face USC in Pasadena this Saturday, and I know they’ll be out to play the spoiler. If the status quo prevails, we will probably play Alabama for the championship in Miami.

We talked about it, and decided that if we can get tickets (Ken’s new workplace has season tickets, so they might have a good shot at getting them), we will go. We want to go to whatever bowl game they end up at, and we’re hoping it will be the championship! Tickets won’t be cheap, and I was kind of balking at that, but Ken said, “We might never get a chance to see this again.” Considering that it’s been almost a quarter of a century since they last won a national championship, it’s hard to argue that point. So we’ll see what happens, but fingers are crossed here at Nutwood!

I’ve been a little emotional about all of this. Some people say, “It’s just a game.” I understand that, and I realize that in the large scheme of things, Notre Dame playing for and possibly winning the national championship is low priority. However, I’ve been a fan for forty years. Some of my happiest memories with my Dad were of us watching games on TV together as he explained the game, penalties, and strategies. We were even able to attend a couple of games together in the past few years. During the season, we’d talk at length about the players, the coaches, and games past, present, and future. If Ken and I were watching a game at home, I’d call Dad up after a particularly great ND play, and he’d say, “I just told your Mom that that’ll be Beth Anne!” We’d go a little crazy about the great play and then go back to watching the game.

I remember Dad saying that he hoped Notre Dame would win one more national championship before he died. That wasn’t to be, but I know how pleased he’d be at the season they have had this year, and how excited we’d both be to talk about the possibilities of a championship. As happy as I am about this season, there is a bittersweet aspect to it. I miss being able to talk to Dad about it all.

If we really do get to go to the bowl game, I’ll be cheering for two.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Duty now for the future

EducationWith the election over, I’ve been getting caught up on issues of Time. Okay, a lot of the articles there were about the election, and I’m currently on the special double issue commemorative election issue. But this isn’t about all that, believe it or not!

One recent issue was about the future of education in our country, and I found it fascinating. It should go without saying that we have a real problem in that area. We are falling farther and farther behind in our skills compared to other developed countries, and a high school diploma is no longer a guarantee of literacy and basic skills. Even a college diploma does not mean that a student will graduate with critical thinking skills that allow them to reach beyond the immediate and obvious.

One of the topics this issue focused on was online classes. With the advent of computers and faster connections, education is more accessible than ever, especially to those in remote areas or poorer countries. There is a bit of an explosion at the moment in MOOCs, massive open online courses, and top-notch universities like Harvard and Stanford are participating. I’ve signed up for a couple myself on Coursera, when they become available: one taught by Ezekiel Emanuel (yes, brother of Rahm) on health policy and the Affordable Care Act, and one on vaccines taught by Dr. Paul Offit. I won’t get college credit for these, but that’s okay. I just want to learn.

However, these online courses are shaking things up a bit in academia, and some accredited colleges are starting to accept transfer credits for such courses through non-accredited portal sites such as Coursera. If we want to get back up to speed and become more competitive, we need to explore all options in order to reach as many people as possible. What is fascinating about many of these online courses is that they are rethinking the way subjects are taught, or at least paying attention to what past studies have shown. Rather than 45 minutes to an hour of straight lecturing, the instructor will teach for a few minutes and then engage the students in asking questions and getting feedback. They will be tasked with figuring out a problem, or discuss the concepts just presented. This makes sense to me, because I truly believe that the way we learn is changing. When I was in college, I would sit for an hour and take notes (unless it was lab time, which was always fun and hands-on). Handwritten notes! O the horror! Now I find myself getting constant input. If I’m reading something, I’ll stop after a few minutes and check for info online; I’ll pay attention to a news story on TV; I’ll watch a video I’ve come across. I’m 50 years old, and MY brain has been changed by these sorts of stimuli. How must it be for someone half my age, who grew up with such input? If you want people to learn, you have to figure out the most effective way to convey your information, and that has changed considerably in the past few decades.

I often hear older people talking about how they didn’t have computers when they were in school, and they learned just fine. Times have changed, people. The computer is an essential part of learning, whether it’s to get a syllabus for a class, research a paper you’re working on, submit that paper, or check your grades. This starts in grade school. Computers are no longer a luxury; they are an essential part of the learning process.

I believe that we need to commit to rethinking our system, and figuring out the best way to teach kids, from preschool through grad school. This involves more than money, though. My question is how do we change the culture so that we foster a love of learning? I’m all for tech schools that teach specific skills for specific jobs. Our jobs are becoming increasingly technical, and as we (hopefully) continue to expand manufacturing, we can rely on an increasingly educated and stronger middle class. But how do we promote that sense of learning beyond job needs? How do we instill a sense of curiosity in kids, one that leads them to explore and learn and grow beyond their imagined boundaries?

I still believe there is a place for four-year degrees in which you are able to take a few electives beyond the requirements for your major. Because of my high school class ranking and advanced placement tests, I was able to test out of something like 28 credit hours for English and German. I almost regret that now, because I wish I would have taken more electives! (But it was a good thing for Mom and Dad’s bank account!) Online courses can be wonderful for someone like me who still wants to learn, but has no need to get the degree or cannot justify the fees involved. As we continue to develop these online courses, it can also be wonderful for kids who hope to further their education by getting a scholarship, or for young women in countries with oppressive attitudes towards women’s education. There really is no downside here.

Beyond fostering an attitude of the joy of learning, I believe we need to condemn the opposite attitude. I’ve written before about the bizarre tendency lately to dismiss facts and numbers if they don’t jibe with your personal reality. This needs to stop. To be completely frank, part of that needs to involve keeping religion out of the science classroom. I’ve written about that, too, so I won’t go into it in depth again, but it’s long past time that we stopped treating creationism/intelligent design as a valid scientific theory. It is not. It is a religious belief. People can believe whatever they want to believe, reconcile their beliefs with scientific fact in whichever way they choose, and they can teach those beliefs in their home and in their churches. No one is stopping them from that. But they must not be allowed to push those beliefs in the science classroom. I am not exaggerating when I say that our standing as a nation invested in scientific and medical research depends upon it.

Our duty now awaits us.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Post-game analysis

Obama cool2I’ve been reading a lot the past few days about the campaign, election night, demographics, and post-election freakouts. Cut me some slack, guys. It’s my thing. Or one of them, at least.

Here is a great read called How a Race in the Balance Went to Obama, which appeared in the New York Times. I enjoyed it a lot, and I look forward to a book about this campaign. It fascinated me on a couple of levels.

First, the demographics and campaign strategies were just amazing to me. Team Obama built a database of potential voters, and targeted them for registration based on algorithms they had developed to find people who might support Obama. They registered hundreds of thousands of new voters in this manner. I believe that both the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns will be studied as models of how to run a campaign. I don’t blame President Obama for getting choked up when thanking his team...they were awesome in the truest sense of the word. Their strategy was almost flawless: build the narrative of Romney being an out-of-touch plutocrat in the summer, when Romney was still trying to regroup and refresh the coffers after a brutal primary campaign. It worked very well.

The demographics are also fascinating. No real surprises, other than minorities, women, and youth expanding enough to offset the slight loss of Obama’s white supporters. Hispanic voters were HUGE in this election, coming out strong for Obama, and that lesson seems to have sunk in almost immediately with the Republicans, as moderate voices like Sean Hannity—hahaha I just cracked myself up there!—admitted that they need to rethink their hard stance on immigration. The truly big story here is that many conservative voices are saying that they really need to consider being more inclusive. Gee, do ya think? They’ve been all, “Yeah, we think 47% of you guys are takers and moochers, we don’t want all of you to have the right to marry that MOST of us do, and we think all you women who want birth control are a bunch of sluts...but hey, can we count on your vote?” What the hell?! It’s kind of funny when you think about it.

It’s that sort of disconnect from reality that brings me to my second point about what really struck me in my reading. I recall reading on election day that Romney told reporters that he had only prepared one speech: a victory speech. I figured it was just a show of bravado, trying to project confidence as the polls started closing and the votes started being tallied. Not so. He really had not prepared any sort of a concession speech, because he really thought he was going to win. By all accounts, he was completely gobsmacked by his rather decisive loss, as were his wife, his running mate and his wife, not to mention his staff and supporters. They ALL thought he was going to win.

I’m really not sure what was going on there. Was their internal polling really that bad? Did they just choose not to believe all the external polling? Did he really feel that sort of inevitability—as Ann put it, “It’s our turn”? Did his campaign try to hide the bad polling results from him, or brush them off as invalid? To what end? Did the ClusterFox spin delude millions of Americans? (That last one was a rhetorical question.) It all smacks of gross incompetence to me. And I’m seeing so much of this denial of reality happening lately. If you don’t like a poll result, ignore it. If your personal beliefs don’t allow the possibility of evolution, ignore thousands of books and scientific papers and hours of research on it. No no no...don’t read them! That’s dangerous. Better to just ignore them. If you don’t like the facts of something, or a truthful quote on the matter, just say, “I don’t believe it.”

I have honestly never seen such an obstinate refusal to accept facts, math, and reality. There is very much a tendency to lash out at those who have been an advocate of reality all along; just ask Nate Silver. I’ve seen people lash out at me for providing facts. As someone who kinda digs rational thought and thinks that reality is the best place to be, this is very bizarre to me.

I would say that the Republican party needs to do more than start relenting on the immigration issue. They need to grow a pair and start repudiating those within their ranks who dismiss science, rationality, and reason. Stop kowtowing to these voices of unreason within their own party, and stop treating anyone who isn’t a white male as “the other.” I would think this would go without saying, but...there I go again. Being all rational and junk.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hit me baby, one more time

Obama eagleAhhh, what a glorious evening was last night, and what an enjoyable day today.

I’m tired, because I was so wired last night that I was up until 4 am. I did next to nothing today, other than reading through the analyses and various takes on what happened, the demographics, and so forth. I kept the TV off all day, I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, and I just enjoyed the moment as I read my fill. I didn’t even spend a whole lot of time on Facebook, reading various reactions. I needed the time to regroup, take it all in, and let out the mental breath I’d been holding for about two freakin’ years! Whew!

I gave myself 24 hours to gloat, and I’ve posted a few items today that were definitely of that ilk. I’m not a mean-spirited person, for the most part, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ecstatic that President Obama not only won four more years, but did so by beating one of the most cynical, mendacious candidates I’ve seen in some time. There have been times when I felt rather sorry for a losing candidate; I even had a twinge of that in 2008, because despite my anger at McCain for foisting the Grifter Palin upon us, he gave a decent and honorable concession speech.

Not so Romney. For some reason, he refused to make the phone call to President Obama for about an hour and a half after the race had already been called by the networks (if not Karl Rove, haha). When Romney finally did give his speech, I found it to be perfunctory and stiff, and it reeked of the attitude that he truly felt that he was entitled to win, and in fact, believed up until the end that he would. Most accounts say that he had not written a concession speech, only a victory speech. I believe this might be a classic case of hubris and nemesis. I can cut him some slack on the tone of it, I suppose; it’s not easy to lose. However, McCain (as well as Hillary Clinton, when she conceded the Democratic nomination to Obama) showed that concession speeches can be gracious and that the person who didn’t win can do so with decency and strength. Romney’s concession speech showed little of that.

It’s all a moot point, of course. Mittens is toast. I would be very surprised if he runs for office again. The endless parsing of the votes and the breakdown of the demographics have already begun. (Note to Republicans: your white guy base is dwindling.) It’s been fascinating to watch not only the demographics, but the hilarious freak-outs of various right wing pundits and “celebrities.” Donald “The Dorito” [thanks for the nickname, Holly!] Trump called for a revolution (at least until someone apparently told him that that might be considered treason, and he removed that tweet), batshit crazy bobblehead Victoria Jackson cried that America had died, and pants-shitting draft dodger Ted Nugent called Obama supporters pimps, whores, welfare brats, and “subhuman varmints.” I would like to give the Republican party a word of advice: until you start condemning these wingnuts, calling them out for their hyperbole and hatred, and start signalling that you do not find such rhetoric acceptable, you are going to continue to hemorrhage supporters. As long as you continue to build your coalition on white, conservative, religious-motivated voters, you will continue to hemorrhage supporters. And unless you let go of your death grip on your bibles and your religious-based social attitudes, you will continue to hemorrhage supporters. Don’t believe me? Fine. Just keep going the way you’re going. In about a decade or so, we’ll see how that is going for you, okay?

Another interesting takeaway from this was the rise of the statistics gurus. My own “personal” guru (at least the one I’ve been reading since the last election) is Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight blog. For the past three months or so, it has been a daily check for me. It’s even become a joke among liberals who were wigging out about Obama’s chances for re-election: Keep calm and check Nate Silver. Nate took a lot of flak from the right wing pundits (and even a few on the left) who felt that gut instinct would triumph over statistics and math. Peggy Noonan (insert Seinfeldian ‘Noooonan’ here) based her declaration that it was going to be an overwhelming victory for Romney on seeing lots of Romney yard signs in a particular neighborhood. Mm-hm. Maybe they feel that their jobs are threatened? No worries...the world will always need talking heads. But the complete refusal of so many to accept the polls and/or the math—and even the reality—was rather mind-boggling to me. Nate, who bases his statistical model on all the polls that are taken, both nationally and statewide, was fully and completely vindicated when he successfully predicted the outcome of every single state. (Florida still hasn’t been called, but it seems that Obama is going to win it.) In the last two elections, that makes him 99/100 when it comes to calling the states. I think a whole lot of people owe Nate Silver a big fucking apology today!

As for predictions, I made mine back in early September, with a political email group I am involved with. Here was mine:

Obama 326
Romney 212

Obama wins OH, PA, WI, CO, NV, VA, FL, NH
Romney wins NC, IA, MO

The only one I got wrong was Iowa. If I had made my prediction more recently, I would have put Iowa in the Obama camp, as well, but that’s the problem with making your prediction so early on! Again, they haven’t called Florida yet, but it looks likely Obama. When that happens, it will be Obama 332, Romney 206. I’m more than a little pleased with myself! But I owe it all to Nate Silver. So for those who kicked sand in Nate’s face, just stop it, you guys! Leave Nate alone!

So that’s that. This concludes my period of gloating, and now I’m ready to move on and help to make shit happen. I don’t wish Mitt Romney or his family any ill, but I can honestly say that I’m very glad he lost. I did not find him a likable candidate, nor an honorable one. (Please note that I specifically used the word ‘candidate,’ not ‘person.’ I don’t know him as a person, so I don’t feel that I can make that inference.) There is plenty of work to be done, and I hope that our legislative branch will get off their asses and start doing it. I foresee many letters and emails in my future, as I try to keep their feet to the fire.

After all, we all want what is best for the country, right? I think we can all agree on that. We might disagree on how to go about it, but as Joe Biden said in his debate with Paul Ryan, “Facts matter, Martha.” Just ask Nate Silver.

Obama dinosaur

One picture

Donkey kick

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Game time

Hoosiers for ObamaWhat a long, strange trip it’s been. After a seemingly never-ending campaign, we’ve come down to the end of it, and it’s just a matter of waiting for results to roll in. I’m hoping we’ll get a clear picture tonight, and based on all I’ve been reading, we will.

I think my guy is going to win, but of course I’m nervous and anxious anyway. I’m not going to go into polls, momentum, demographics, or anything like that in this entry. It is what it is, and time is winding down. I can say that although I will still enjoy reading political books and analysis, I’m looking forward to not being all but consumed by the latest polls and reporting. My brain will be happy for the reprieve.

It’s been a weird day for my emotions. I started out almost giddy, in a high state of hilarity and laughing at silly things I found online. Then I moved into determination, as in “We’ve got to win this.” Then I was feeling a little sad, because I love this stuff, it’s been fascinating, and in some ways I hate to see the excitement end. Now I’m just trying to be patient as we start to wait for results. I think it’s a safe bet to say that I will end up shedding some tears tonight.

In the meantime, I’m sporting my “Hoosiers for Obama” t-shirt, and I’ve got a pork roast going for pulled pork sandwiches tonight. Seems like good comfort food for tonight, and maybe barbecue, cole slaw, and baked beans will work some mojo on North Carolina and turn it blue again!

I also find that I remain in awe of our right to vote. We have our share of problems with our voting process (Can we please get rid of the abhorrent Citizens United? And can we follow the lead of other countries and ban advertising? What a horrible waste of money.), but I will always be grateful that I am able to cast my vote as a free citizen. I take it seriously, I do my best to stay informed, and I feel that it is an honor that should not be ignored or dismissed. I will never understand anyone who doesn’t care enough to vote, and it makes me question their intelligence. I’m not kidding.

So batten down the hatches, folks! It could be a bumpy ride tonight. I’m going to do my best to keep my adrenaline in check and not completely wig out. I hope you are able to do the same!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fear turns to loathing

Obama and hurricane survivorI’m sitting here with my foot elevated, because like an idiot I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing today, and missed an entire step going out into the garage. I seem to have given myself a mild ankle sprain. It hurts like a mother, and I’m doing my best to make sure I can handle some walking tomorrow, because we have a chance to see Notre Dame go 9-0 by beating Pitt! So I’ve iced, wrapped, elevated, and Advil’d, and I’m hoping that it will be okay enough that I can handle the walking tomorrow. Maybe we need to buy a little wagon, and Ken can pull me behind him! I just laughed at that mental image.

Anyway, this is a good time to do an update. This could very well be the last one I make before the election, so I’ll try to make it a good one. I’ll warn you that I am pissed, so proceed at your own risk.

Before I get to that, let me say that I’m thinking of the people on the East Coast, and sending special thoughts for several friends who have had to deal with Sandy and her aftermath. Our good friend Raquel, in particular, is having a rough time of it, as she lives in the Village and has been without power since the storm hit. She’s been able to go on walkabout to charge her phone and find wifi, so has let us all know that she and her Mom are okay. She has also maintained her sense of humor, and I don’t feel ashamed to say that she embodies all that I love about New York and New Yorkers: tough, but with a heart of gold. Love you, Raquel, and I hope they’re right about you getting your power back TONIGHT!

Having said that, I’ll segue into why I’m pissed. While President Obama was busy getting shit done, looking all presidential and junk, and meeting with his new BFF New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Romney was left twiddling his thumbs. Out of decency, he canceled his campaign events. Well...sort of. He decided to go ahead with a rally in the quaint little village of Kettering, Ohio, but changed it from a campaign rally to a “victory rally.” Ostensibly, it was to help raise supplies and funds for hurricane victims. A couple of things, though. A) The Red Cross specifically says on their website to NOT send food or clothing. It takes up too many of their resources to sort and catalog the items, and a monetary donation is absolutely the best way to help the organization and the people it is trying to assist. But ol’ Mittens is like the honey badger. He doesn’t give a shit. So he collected items and talked about how they were going to box them all up and drive them to a donation site. And 2) because this was a last-minute shift in focus, they wanted to make sure it looked like they were rolling in item donations, so the campaign went to Walmart and spent five grand buying supplies to stack on tables. When people were told that they needed an item to donate in order to gain admittance to the rally and said they hadn’t brought anything, they were told to “grab something off the table” and then present it as their donation.

I honestly don’t know when I’ve seen such crass opportunism as Romney and his campaign are displaying. This even trumps (HA! Get it??) the Paul Ryan “I’m barging into this soup kitchen and washing clean dishes whether you like it or not” moment. As I’ve written before, I’ve got a super duper double viper Bullshit-O-Meter, and this entire campaign reeks of bullshittery.

But THAT isn’t what pissed me off the most, believe it or not! What really did it for me, and sent me from fearing what Romney’s policies would do to our country and the economy and actively disliking his  persona into the realm of genuinely loathing the man is another Ohio-related incident.

He told the crowd at a rally in northern Ohio that he “saw a story” about how Chrysler is thinking of moving all Jeep production to China. This, in a state that relies heavily on the auto industry. GM and Chrysler spokespeople immediately responded saying that that couldn’t be further from the truth; what they ARE thinking about doing is expanding production in China, which indicates a sign of health for the companies. They are not closing any U.S. production facilities. Even the Chrysler CEO had to weigh in and say no, this is completely untrue.

But Mitt the Honey Badger don’t care. He released TV and radio ads repeating the exact same BIG FAT LIE. This, despite immediate and forceful refutation from the companies themselves.

So what was it about that that pissed me off so much? He needlessly scared people. Panicked workers were calling into their workplaces wondering if they were still going to have a job. In a state where the auto industry means so much—and unemployment is lower than the national average, thanks to the auto bailout—he was purposefully trying to frighten people. What kind of an asshole does that?? These are people who are worried about their families and their livelihood, and he’s scaring the bejeebus out of them in order to score cheap political points.

All those people who think he’s an honorable man? Do you want to change your answer? To me, an honorable person doesn’t pull such a cynical, asshole move on people who are scared. An honorable person does their best to reassure those who are hurting and scared, and works his ass off to get them the help that they need (please scroll up to see that picture again).

Well, if there is any sort of redeeming aspect to this, it is that his actions and words speak of desperation. I am not taking anything for granted, but these are not the tactics of someone who is winning. They are those of someone who is losing.

As well as the tactics of someone who is a Loser. Capital L Loser.

For a little comic relief, please enjoy this clip from “The Daily Show” that had both me and Ken laughing out loud...especially the end!

Friday, October 26, 2012

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Once upon a time2Six years ago, I decided to jump on the blog bandwagon. I had always been interested in what I could do online, and back in the day, I even had a “web page” on AOL. But a few years ago, publishing a personal blog became very easy, and I thought I’d join in.

A lot has happened in six years, both good and bad. I’ve gained many friends, but I’ve lost some people who were very dear to me. But life goes on...because that’s what life does, as long as you’re living, and that’s about as profound a statement as you’ll get from me tonight!

I am very fortunate to have met quite a few of you in person over the years, and I can truthfully say that I have never had a bad experience. Quite the opposite...meeting some of you for the first time has been like meeting a long-time friend. I feel honored to have the readers I do, and that so many of you have stuck with me this long.

It seemed like a good idea at the time to start a blog, and I’m still glad I did it. I don’t update as often these days, and I don’t comment on other blogs as often, but I still enjoy writing here and reading elsewhere.

Thanks for continuing to read about our adventures and occasional tribulations. You’ve all been supportive in both, and I appreciate it more than you could ever know. I love you guys. I really do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Romney angryIn my previous entry, I wrote about why I support President Obama. In this entry, I’m going to write about why I do not support Mitt Romney.

I could go into detail about the many of his policies with which I disagree, or about how I disagree on a very basic level with his vision of our country, especially concerning those who are less fortunate; I could also talk about his embrace of trickle-down economics, even though that cute little experiment has failed miserably for going on four decades now. Honestly, what does it take to get people to understand that lower tax rates don’t create jobs and drive the economy? It’s all about demand for goods and services. So there are deep philosophical differences I have with Governor Romney.

But as I was thinking about all of this, I realized that I could distill my dislike for Romney into one simple phrase: he lacks a core.

He may have that when it comes to his faith, and he probably has it when it comes to his family. When it comes to policies, however, he has no core. We’ve seen his frequent changes over the years in almost everything he’s dealt with. NBC published a fairly lengthy article on Romney’s changes on foreign policy over the years. And that is just foreign policy! It doesn’t include his many changing stances on marriage equality, abortion, and as far as I can tell, virtually every other issue he has encountered in his entire political life. As the saying goes, you’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.

This goes beyond simple evolution of stances on issues; I think we all grow and learn and change as we get more experience. For example, I’ve written before about my change from supporting civil unions only to full-on support for marriage equality. However, you won’t see me changing my stance on that again...ever. That was the culmination of years of thought, the exchange of ideas, and simply knowing and loving several gay people over the course of years. No...Romney’s changes happen frequently, and oddly enough, seem to coincide with his political campaigns. As candidate for Governor and Senator of the decidedly liberal Massachusetts, he took a moderate, even left-of-center stance; in the presidential primaries, he moved far to the right according to the dictates of the far-right factions of today’s Republican party; as the Republican nominee, he is distancing himself from those remarks—some made just weeks ago!—in order to court the moderates and independents. His head is spinning faster than Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist.”

I can appreciate the changes that people experience in their lives and that cause their stances on issues to evolve. What I can’t appreciate, and actually abhor, is anyone who engages in crass attempts to change the core of their convictions based on popular opinion, or based on what particular bloc of voters they happen to be courting that day. I find this sort of blatant ass-kissing deplorable. It speaks very strongly to me of the character of a person, and makes me question their ability to make proper decisions. I’ve always hated a bullshit artist, and I can spot them a mile away. Mitt Romney reminds me of drunken frat boys trying to get into my pants in college, saying whatever they thought would appeal to me in order to get there.

America, Mitt Romney wants to get into your pants. Show some respect for yourself and walk away. You really don’t want to take that Walk of Shame on November 7th.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why I support President Obama

Obama2I really need to stop apologizing at the start of every entry for not updating sooner. It’s the new normal. I’ve been pretty absorbed with polls and articles about the election, but I’m also on the verge of burnout, so I’ve been trying to balance it with some general reading, quiet time, and fun things like Notre Dame games. I find myself growing increasingly disillusioned with news channels and journalists (other than my real-life journalist friends, who seem to have their shit together more than many of the national journalists!), and I find myself withdrawing from much of it other than the political blogs that I read. But we’re getting close to the dénouement, aren’t we? And I am delighted to get to use the word ‘dénouement.’

Anyway, I thought that as part of my advocacy, I’d lay out exactly why I supported Obama in ‘08 and why I am still supporting him in this election. In no particular order....

  • I am a woman. I truly believe that Obama accepts women as equals and supports our right to equal pay for equal work. The very first piece of legislation he signed into law was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which promised exactly that. He also supports our right to choose, our right to affordable health care (more about that in a moment), and our right to control when or if we become a parent.
  • I am a scientist. President Obama has launched a campaign to promote STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for America’s youth, encouraging kids to get into these fields in order that we can continue to compete globally. He is probably the most science-friendly President we’ve had in a while, and I believe that these areas are where our future lies. I also love and support arts and music education, but I think an extra emphasis on science education is sorely needed.
  • I am a former health care worker. President Obama was able to do what has been needed for some time: pass comprehensive health care reform. Millions more Americans will now be able to get health insurance, and preventive care will be a part of that. Electronic medical records will result in less duplication of tests, and outcome-based payments will start to move us towards a focus on wellness and outcomes rather than inefficient fee-for-service payments. Is it perfect? No. (Personally, I’d like to see single payer insurance, such as Medicare for all.) But it is a very good start, and we can continue to build on it. Joe Biden was right. This was a big fucking deal.
  • I care about the less fortunate. Unlike President Obama’s opponent, I don’t feel that the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax are lazy moochers who feel entitled to government handouts. I believe the majority of them are hard workers who are doing their best to provide for themselves and their families, but need some help from the rest of us. The sad truth is that it is almost impossible to support a family of...say four...on minimum wage. I do not begrudge them the help from our government, or paying taxes for that purpose; that is part of its mission, to promote the common good. This is probably the greatest difference between the two candidates and the two major parties: a “we’re in this together” attitude vs. a “you’re on your own” attitude. I want to see ALL Americans succeed and grow prosperous, and I believe that President Obama shares that wish. I do not sense that from his opponent.
  • I want to stop waging war. I know it is sometimes necessary. But I want a President who pursues diplomacy first and considers military involvement a last resort. I want a President who considers all the options (such as monetary sanctions), and doesn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to conflicts around the world, one who understands that war is not to be worshipped or glorified; it has real costs, both human and financial. A President who, in his or her youth, didn’t protest in favor of a war, even as they were avoiding it themselves. President Obama has increased benefits to veterans and their families, including increased money for college tuition, an increase for the VA budget, and tax breaks for firms that hire veterans.
  • I want to see an increase in jobs. President Obama has a plan to invest in infrastructure, education, and clean energy. All these things will create jobs. The most important driver of job creation is demand; consumer confidence is up, housing starts are up, and continuing the middle class tax cuts (as the President wants to do) will allow the biggest group of consumers to continue to drive that demand.
  • I believe in equal rights for all Americans. I was heartened when President Obama came out (so to speak) in support of marriage equality. Sure, ol’ smilin’ Joe might have forced his hand a little sooner than Obama was prepared for...but that was a good thing. The Democratic Party then added marriage equality to its platform, so it was a win-win situation. It’s high time we stopped treating a portion of our citizens as less than other citizens. It’s not right, and the Obama administration is on the right side of history on this one.

I originally became a supporter of Barack Obama when I read his book The Audacity of Hope. I felt that he had a reasonable and cogent vision of how best to guide our country. I still feel that way. I believe he will continue to govern for every American, not just the rich ones, and not just his own supporters. I see nothing wrong with asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a few percentage points more in income taxes and lose a few loopholes that allow them to game the tax system. I see everything wrong with giving the wealthiest Americans more tax breaks and asking the middle class to take on more of the tax burden. Prosperity for all doesn’t come from letting rich people keep more of their money. They are not the job creators. The middle class, which purchases the vast majority of goods in this country and creates the demand for those goods, are the real job creators. I feel that President Obama understands this.

You might have noticed that I didn’t delve into personal traits. I could have...I like our President’s rational, cool demeanor. It’s obvious that he loves his wife and daughters very much, and that’s great. I love it that he loves basketball. But I don’t base my voting decisions on such things. I base them on policy, and I mostly agree with Obama’s policies. It always made me laugh when I’d get emails from online friends saying, “Did you read this about Obama?? Do you agree with this?!?”, knowing that it was something that I wouldn’t agree with. Since when does any politician embody everything we want? There will always be things I don’t agree with, but I am supportive of the majority of his policies and the decisions he has made in his first term.

You might also notice that I did not rail against the President’s opponent. I’ll save that for upcoming entries. I want to make it clear that I am not voting against the opposition; I am voting for President Obama. We are going in the right direction, on the right path to recovery, and America needs four more years.

Oh yeah...and THIS:

Obama Rainbow Unicorn

Friday, October 5, 2012

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!

Obama I've got his backToday on Facebook and elsewhere, I noticed some of my liberal friends having a bit of a freak-out over Wednesday night’s debate. The pundits immediately declared it a crushing Romney victory...which was odd, because Ken and I didn’t see it that way at all. Immediately afterwards, I said that I’d give a slight win to Romney, both because of the low expectations for him and because of President Obama’s lackluster performance. Ken felt the same way.

Of course, the following day, teeth were gnashing and voices were wailing. I wish I could have passed some smelling salts out to folks. I stepped back for a moment, read several stories about it, and really thought about my perception of the debate. One thing became clear very quickly: Romney may have seemed forceful and sharp, but he was not very truthful. I’m being nice. He LIED. A LOT. I’m not going to list them all here. Do you know why? Because there are so freakin’ many of them! Besides, others have done a fine job with checking up on what he said. You can read about it here (Mittens is bad at math edition), here (Bullshit Contest edition), and a comprehensive list here (Lie, lie, and lie again edition). My initial hopes that people would start doing some fact checking and calling Mittens to the shed for his lies turned out to be true. The teabagger base types might have loved his chest-thumping, testosterone-laden silverback impression, but I’m guessing independents and undecideds were not quite as enamored of the display...especially when he blatantly lied about numerous things.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of one exchange in particular, in which Mittens disputed the $5 trillion tax cut claim made by Obama. Never mind the fact that the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has estimated that the tax cuts that Romney champions would amount to that over the next decade. The exchange went something like this:

Obama: blah blah blah your $5 trillion in tax cuts...
Romney: I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut.
Obama: Yes, you do.
Romney: No, I don’t.
Obama: Yes, you do!
Romney: No, I don’t!

Argument Clinic, anyone? Good grief.

Anyway, I came to the conclusion that the reason I saw the debate so differently is because I was expecting facts, and I got them from Obama. I know enough about some of the topics that I knew that Romney was lying about several things. So I was rating the winner on substance. I should have known better, because people often determine a winner based on style rather than substance. (I believe that it was also in the media’s best interest to make this a closer race than it is at the moment, but that’s a topic for another day.) Romney came across as forceful and combative, and Obama seemed listless and disengaged. I do understand part of the reasoning there...sitting Presidents should behave in a presidential manner, and all that...but he was a little too cool and detached for many people. (Although I appreciate that in him, I know that not everyone does.)

Obama chillSo some folks were a little wigged out. Obama has lost the election. Obama blew it. Romney’s going to win. Dogs and cats living together. A new Nickelback album. I finally sent an email to some friends saying that everyone needs to take a deep breath. This was ONE DEBATE in an entire campaign. Romney lied, the fact checkers are on it, and he provided all kinds of fodder for Obama ads. (Sure enough, one was released in seven swing states the very next day.) Obama is known for his competitiveness, and you can bet that he will not be that passive in the final two debates. One is a town hall format—and we know that Obama does well connecting with people in town hall formats—about domestic and foreign policy, and the final debate is about foreign policy. I wonder if Osama bin Laden will be watching that one? Oh, wait! He can’t, ‘cause he’s DEAD!

I think it’s also important to keep in mind that debates usually don’t matter. Almost everyone has already made up their minds who they are going to vote for by this time, and that seems more true than ever in this highly polarized atmosphere. There is a very small percentage of undecided voters (many of them could also be considered uninformed voters who have not been paying much attention and aren’t into politics at all), and an even smaller percentage of those are in swing states. An undecided voter in Texas who votes for Obama isn’t going to matter fuck-all to the electoral college vote, just as an undecided voter in Illinois who ends up voting for Romney isn’t going to matter. So the target audience is not a huge number of people. As for those who have already made up their minds, do you really think that debate is going to swing someone like me? Do you really think I sat there and watched that and said, “Hey...I think I’m going to rethink this Romney guy”? Not on your life. Will Romney get a bump in the polls? Undoubtedly. Will it be enough to change the trajectory of the race? History says not.

It’s time to put away the smelling salts and get a grip. Team Obama and the DNC raised over $150 million in September. Today’s job report was, overall, good news, with the unemployment rate down to 7.8%. Jobs are expected to be added for the holiday season, optimism is rising, and a majority of people feel that the economy is improving (that’s because it is). The stock market closed today at 13,600+, up almost 25% from a year ago. The facts are on our side. We’ve still got work to do, and we’ve got about a month to do it. Anyone who thinks that debate completely changed the game needs to do a little more reading, because there are more forces and influences at work here than that.

This video seems like a good way to end things today. Buck up, liberal citizens. It’s not over till
I say it’s over! Well, technically, it’s Congress who validates the electoral college vote, but...oh, never mind, just watch this!