30 November 2005

Morning Routine

So every morning my son gets up and he wants to make pancakes. Some days it isn't possible, because he doesn't get up until 8 a.m. and we have to leave for school by 8:25 a.m. However, if I can get him up by 7:30 a.m., he invariably wants to make pancakes.

I tell him, "Jesus Fucking Christ, we've had fucking pancakes five fucking days in a row. Aren't you goddamned tired of the fucking pancakes yet?"

OK, maybe I don't say that. This morning we had pancakes and turkey bacon and I made an omelet with avocado and cheddar for myself. I first had one of those in Cleveland Heights. Or maybe it was Shaker Heights. Hard to say. I'd never heard of such a thing before, but damn it was good.

My son insists on mixing the batter, although I measure all the stuff out for him. He also insists on pouring the batter on the griddle and flipping the pancakes. My role in the process is basically to make sure he doesn't burn his arms off on the stove. The best part is that he uses chocolate chips to make smiley faces on all the pancakes.

29 November 2005

Do they know it's Christmas time?

My son has been asking why everyone is decorated for Christmas. I tell him I don't know. He thinks Christmas is coming in a few days because all the decorations are up everywhere we go: in stores, in airports, on buildings...even cars are starting to sport those annoying grille wreaths.

For years of course, culture watchers have commented on and mainly lamented the sprawl that is the Christmas season. Target had their Christmas decorations out beside their Halloween costumes this year. It's unbelievable. If Thanksgiving weren't stuck at the butt end of November, Christmas preparations would really begin in earnest after Halloween.

Christmas, which like most Christian holidays, just happens to fall near a pagan celebration and just happens to parallel a few pagan traditions, is something I celebrate more as a cultural event than a religious one. In fact, I would argue that even for many moderate "believers," Christmas is more a cultural event than a religious event, although they would argue vehemently that's not true. Capitalism long ago overwhelmed this holiday, and now even slogans such as "Jesus is the reason for the season" are more marketing pitches than heartfelt sentiments. There's no other way to explain the massive consumer gorging that takes place between "Black Friday" and Christmas Eve. Many stores can make over half their yearly sales in this period, which lasts about 30 days.

I, too, will be contributing to the yearly bacchanal of commodities -- don't get me wrong. There's much that's wonderful about the holiday season -- in general people have a warmer glow about them, friends come together, and people seem more willing to help other people -- but I would ascribe that feeling more to the emotional high we get as consumers under capitalism than to any commitment to religious dogma -- otherwise, those feelings would last all year long.

If you blink, you miss the latest Florida horror story...

It was only yesterday I was talking about the laundry list of abuses against humanity Florida foists upon us. Now here's the latest, just in:
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) -- Authorities are searching for the parents of a 3-month-old girl who died last year after her parents allegedly gave her lethal doses of vodka to quiet her crying, police said.
Makeisha Dantus died in 2004 but her parents were not charged until last month. By that time, they had disappeared.

WTF? I'm sure this parenting method isn't endorsed by right wing idjits like Dobson, by postwar baby guru Dr. Spock (not the vulcan, fools), or by now-hot sleep expert Dr. Ferber. Jesus H Christ on a popsicle stick, why the hell did it take a year for authorities to figure this one out?

It's not too late. However, I'm thinking that even a newly formed Confederate States of America wouldn't want Florida. Maybe Cuba wants it. Let it go....

Harris Teeter on the Brink

So there's this old roller-rink on Kalorama Road in Adams Morgan that's been vacant for several years. After the roller skating died out, it was a concert venue, a sound stage, housed a restaurant, maybe a few other uses, but basically in the ten years I've lived in Adams Morgan, it's been deteriorating and abandoned looking (although technically not abandoned as parts of it were occasionally used...).

About 2 years ago, the supermarket chain Harris-Teeter started negotiations -- this past February they actually signed a lease -- with the corrupt Jemal group, who own the building and many other buildings in and around DC, and anyone familiar with neighborhood politics should realize what that meant: a great fight erupted in the community over whether the supermarket idea should go forward.

On the one hand, supporters have been pretending that the new grocery store wouldn't signifcantly increase traffic and parking issues in an already congested neighborhood; on the other hand, opponents have argued that issuing a liquor license to the grocery store would create a 39000 square foot "liquor barn" in the heart of Adams Morgan (I'm thinking the whole time "and that's supposed to make me oppose it?").

The condo marketeers have already been touting the new grocery store as if it's a done deal:

The idiotically named "Lot 33" project on Euclid Street lists Harris Teeter as the first benefit to living in Adams Morgan.

The also Jemal-owned 1700 Kalorama Lofts project touts the new store as well, through a link to a Washington Business Journal article.

And this piece of cloying drivel from "Washington's Best Addresses" realty:
Tucked away on a quiet residential street, this fabulous location is just around
the corner from all of 18th Street's yummy restaurants & trendy nightlife! Plus, a Harris Teeter grocery store is slated to move in less than two blocks away! What could be more divine?

I almost threw up reading that, but the entire description of the property is stomach churning. Whoever writes that company's descriptions is either hopped up on goofballs or marketing to an audience with chemical imbalances. "Yummy restaurants"? WTF? Yummy? Isn't there a child labor law against having middle school kids churning out copy?

Before this post veers into another diatribe against condo developers and the morons who buy from them, I'd better get back to the Harris Teeter. The zoning hearing is today, and I suspect that since the BZA is pretty well useless and in the back pocket of developers, the project will go forward (and I say that as a supporter of the project).

Here's why I like the Harris Teeter project:
  • fresh seafood
  • good selection of cheese
  • beer and wine
Here's why I don't:
  • more assholes with sweaters wrapped around their necks or waists traipsing through the neighborhood
As far as automobile traffic goes, I'm hoping they initiate some one-way street maneuvers. If DDOT would stick a nice "Do Not Enter" sign on the end of Kalorama Road so 16th Street traffic couldn't come down Kalorama, I'd see far fewer Maryland license plates, and that would make for a far safer street.

28 November 2005

I'm willing to think outside the box on nationbuilding.

A while back I laid out my plan for U.S. improvement, and it was a simple plan. The intervening months have only strengthened my position, making it readily apparent that much pain, suffering, and sheer idiocy could be reduced in the U.S. if we simply allowed the Confederacy to secede. Florida in particular is a hotbed of idiots. I have here a few examples:

1. Man beats family to death on Thanksgiving [cnn.com]

MYAKKA CITY, Florida (AP) -- A 20-year-old man was arrested Sunday in the slayings of his parents, younger brother and elderly grandmother, whose bodies were found bludgeoned to death in the family home, authorities said.

2. Teacher/student sex! [cnn.com]

(CNN) -- In a last-minute effort to keep herself out of prison, a 25-year-old middle school teacher pleaded guilty Tuesday to having sex with a 14-year-old.
Debra Lafave, a former remedial reading teacher at Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace, Florida, pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior, and was sentenced to three years of house arrest followed by seven years probation. She also must register as a sex offender.

3. An inordinate amount of child abductions/murders [cnn.com] [bbc.co.uk]

Item 1. SARASOTA, Florida (CNN) -- It took five hours of deliberation Thursday for a jury to return guilty verdicts on murder, kidnapping and sexual battery charges for Joseph Smith in the February 2004 abduction and slaying of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia.

Item 2. An eight-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and battered has been found alive in a Florida rubbish bin. [bbc]

4. Children shooting children [cnn.com]

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A teenage girl suspected of shooting a classmate on a school bus Tuesday morning has turned herself in to Miramar, Florida police, a spokesman said.
Police are not naming the 17-year-old but said her mother helped police find her safely, spokesman Bill Robertson said. He added that the girl was accompanied by two friends when she surrendered.

5.The Terri Schiavo Debacle. [bbc.co.uk]

But Kenneth W Goodman, an ethics professor at the University of Miami, says religious conservatives are pushing laws that would make it difficult to withdraw care even when a patient's wishes are clear.

  • The Kansas state House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a measure that would require a guardian to obtain court approval for the withdrawal of care. The law was championed by abortion opponents and disability advocates.

  • The Alabama state legislature has drawn up the Starvation and Dehydration Prevention Act, which prevents the removal of a feeding tube without written instructions from the patient.

  • A Michigan state legislator has proposed a law that would bar adulterers from acting as a guardian for an incapacitated patient.

And in addition to proposed changes in state law, legal experts say that the intervention by both the Florida legislature and the United States Congress
could set a precedent for cases in the future.

6. The Future Bush the Third.

7. Some of the dirtiest dirtbags in all of college football.

27 November 2005

Reaching for the Golden Shore.

The week I was in California, we were staying at a small motel on the outskirts of the town my mother-in-law lives in, about 30 miles from Santa Barbara. It was a modest low-slung motel, the kind that you would never stop at if it didn't look kept up. The kind they don't build anymore because it's much easier to stick a pre-fab four or six story concrete block up and smash down a parking lot around it. One story motor lodges are such a waste of space, right?

This particular motel had beautifully tended roses scattered across the grounds and in the morning we'd come out to the car to drive to Santa Barbara and we'd be surrounded by the short mountains of the Coastal Range, the sun breaking across one end of the valley to throw shadows on the hillsides on the other end. The strong-angled hills create sharp contrasts and highlights in the sun. Avocado and citrus trees grow in the valley and up the hillsides, and local residents often set up roadside stands where you pay on the honor system. We bought lemons as big as grapefruit 4 for a dollar. Avocados were 2 for a dollar.

US 101 spends much of its time near Santa Barbara running parallel to Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. Sometimes they merge. You look out at the Pacific and the oil rigs and the Channel Islands. Surfers in their wetsuits dot the waters just south of Carpinteria. At night the only things you see are the lights on the oil rigs.

Everywhere along the western edge of the Coastal Range it looks like the hillside is either getting ready to slide or just did. In La Conchita a massive landslide last year killed several people. The mounds of earth are still there covering the houses and white crosses stand on top of the mounds. La Conchita is about ten blocks long and three blocks wide, nestled between the 101 and the base of Red Mountain.

La Conchita is an established community that dates to 1924. Northwest of Los Angeles, at least once you get clear of Thousand Oaks, development slows down a bit. It's not like Orange County, where development has turned that county from an orchard into a nightmare -- or the place of our television fantasies (which are curiously much whiter and wealthier than the real Orange County). Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties have strong environmental groups that put the brakes on much ill-advised development. The trade-off however is that in Santa Barbara, real estate prices are beyond belief (not that Orange County is a cheap place to live, either). Check out this nifty 2 bedroom for only $1,020,000.

26 November 2005

Now back East...well, at least partly.

The view from her hospital window is stunning. Low buildings poking out between tree-lined streets until you reach the curve of the shore. The ocean in the background, centered between two hills, the Santa Barbara City College barely visible on the right hill's slope. The bed, though, is on the other side of the room and only visitors can see the Pacific from the hospital room. I tried to describe the view to her, but she didn't seem terribly interested. It's very hard for her to talk, and her face betrays almost no emotion, except when her grandchildren are close.

We went out on the roof patio one day when she was able to move in a wheelchair. As hospitals go, it's an inviting place. From the patio you can see the mission, the Pacific, and the tiny one- or two-bedroom million dollar homes that dot the ground. My son was busy breaking open horse chestnuts that he'd picked up in Oak Park earlier. He thought the insides looked like brains. My mother-in-law sat passively, looking tired, but following the conversation. Every now and then she would clap her hands repeatedly to get the baby's attention.

She would clap and the baby would turn to her and smile, two tiny teeth halfway shoved out of her pink gums.

Our son, who's too old to have the pure innocence of wide-eyed wonder, drew picture after picture for his grandmother, dictating the titles to his mother: "One Eyed Alien" and "Rainbow Happy Monkey." He drew pictures of his sister. He drew bananas and named it "The Meal: Bananas" because he likes that painting by Gaugin. He taped them up all over her hospital room's walls. Her walls within his arms' reach are covered in taped up crayon drawings.

On Thursday night, when he and I left for the last time, she hugged him as best she could as he sat beside her in the bed. He probably won't see her alive again, and there is something beautiful in his drawings he created for her that are exactly like the drawings he creates for us on any other weekend: there's a consistency that can't be touched by sickness or death and a constant renewal of joy in simple creation. It won't last in him or in anyone else, but it will never go out of this world.

18 November 2005

Take to the Sky

Tomorrow we will be leaving for California on a not-a-vacation trip. My wife's mother is very ill and we're going to visit her. It's been a long struggle over the past few years with a lot of hope and even more disappointment, but it appears we're dwindling down to end-of-life options. Her mother worked hard her whole life and never planned to retire -- in both senses of the phrase "plan to retire." She felt she'd keep working until...well, she'd just keep working. However, that hasn't been possible and while she'd been relatively energetic the last few years, even that didn't last. This fall has been rough.

As difficult a trip as this one will be, we will also have two young children with us who don't really understand what's happening and quite frankly as far as the older one goes, won't sit still long enough to spend proper time with my mother-in-law. Which means I will most likely have to shepherd the kids around somewhere. But we've been through that before.

The weather of course will be beautiful and not appropriate at all for dying. My mother-in-law worked all her life providing the same critical care she now needs. In some ways she's fortunate to be in the same system in which she used to work; the doctors, nurses, and staff all know her. I don't know. We've had years, ever since the first diagnosis of late-stage cancer, to come to grips with this time, but no one ever really comes to grips with the finality of it.

All you can do is be there.

17 November 2005

Two Peas in a Pod

Remember back in the heady days of 2000, when George W. Bush campaigned claiming that he would "restore integrity to the White House"? Remember when the scope of Presidential wrongdoing consisted of getting a little on the side? Man, those days are long gone. It may be true that Bush hasn't been sniffing at any interns, but wouldn't you rather have a randy President letting off a little steam in private than a nutcase whose megalomania has led this country into war on false pretenses?

Last weekend Bush attacked his critics as only Bush can: he insisted on a version of reality that anyone with any interest in reading archives can readily discover is a boldfaced lie. Bush is a pretty good liar, though, and for four years he got away with it. However, now support is crumbling in Congress for the idiot king. Perhaps he knows his base is a rabid group of true believers with little interest in corroborating facts. Perhaps he, in his words, "misunderestimates" their intelligence, because a majority of Americans now believe that Bush is not "honest and ethical." That's pretty harsh if you're the President who supposedly was coming to restore integrity to the White House.

Which brings up a blast from the past, and a man no one can say was an idiot. In fact, his machiavellian mastermind plots impressed right wing zealots like Dick Cheney to no end...the man who insisted he was not a crook despite all evidence otherwise, Mr. Richard Nixon. Apparently some newly released documents shed even more light on Nixon's shady dealings, in this case relating to the Vietnam War:

In a memo from the meeting marked "Eyes Only, Top Secret Sensitive," Nixon told his military men to continue doing what was necessary in Cambodia, but to say for public consumption that the United States was merely providing support to South Vietnamese forces when necessary to protect U.S. troops.

"That is what we will say publicly," he asserted. "But now, let's talk about what we will actually do."

Typical stuff from Nixon, who left office in disgrace in 1974. But how close is Nixon's attitude to that permeating the BushCo White House? Even as special prosecutor Fitzgerald tied the Valerie Plame leak to the highest aides in the executive branch -- and Libby fingered Cheney himself in his personal notes -- Bush first claimed he would fire anyone connected to the leak, then revised that to say he would fire anyone convicted of a crime, and now one wonders if he won't vow to fire anyone who has exhausted his appeals...

Bush has shown a remarkable ability to assert utter untruths as fact. In light of a fruitless search for Saddam's phantom WMDs, Bush claimed with a straight face that "we found them." The man has no shame.

Update: I just saw this piece in The Nation, in which Robert Scheer links Bush directly to Nixon:
Clearly on the defensive, Bush now sounds increasingly Nixonian as he basically calls the majority of the country traitors for noticing he tricked us.
The article is a good short read and a clear refutation of Bush's claims that Congress "saw the same intelligence" that he did.

16 November 2005

Maybe we should talk about the weather...

One clear indication that we simply do not have enough news for 24 hour news channels is the increased hype given to the weather these days. Yes, there is dangerous weather. However, I think we need to make a distinction between bad weather and natural disasters. The Asian tsunami of last December was a natural disaster. Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster. A storm front is not a natural disaster, even if it does spawn some tornadoes. Forecasts of rain should not call for extended coverage on any news channel.

Local broadcasters also have to realize that snow in the forecast doesn't warrant more than 1 minutes of air time. It snows every year. Get used to it. One foot of snow in Denver does not mean that the Washington metropolitan area had better brace itself for a blizzard of Biblical proportions.

24 hours news channels are unwatchable. I re-discovered that basic fact of life this past weekend while holed up in Pennsylvania with access to cable tv. CNN Headline News, which has always been nothing more than a 1/2 hour news broadcast repeated over and over (the only interesting bits being the sports updates and the "Hollywood Minute"), is as vapid as ever. CNN itself apparently believes that running file footage while morons talk qualifies as "news." Fox hardly even pretends it's a news channel, instead presenting the most saccharine "patriotic" fluff pieces alongside scare stories and unhinged commentators. MSNBC is beneath notice.

Imagine what would be possible if any of these news channels took their mission to inform seriously. Imagine an actual investigation into the Bush administration's criminal activities rather than trotting out a "liberal" and a "conservative" to debate whether anything actually happened.

One of the great lessons of the past 20 years is that conservatives learned much earlier than liberals that the media has no interest in truth. Ironically, conservatives took to heart the French poststructuralist ideas that there is no truth, that we live in a reality based on competing interpretations -- readings if you will -- of the text of lived experience. Rather than the truth, they understood, the consumer wants to be entertained.

Entertainment can go a long way toward disarming allegations of wrongdoing. You've been accused of a misdeed? Get a partisan talking head to argue either that it's a lie or that what you did wasn't even a misdeed. Put the news in question by attacking the institutions that produce it. Turn the entire episode into a circus for the consumption of the audience. CNN's "Crossfire" mastered that technique, as did the McLaughlin Group and a host of other Sunday talk programs. "Crossfire" was already in decline when Jon Stewart fired the coup de grace into its quivering body, pleading with them to just "stop it. Because you're hurting America."

15 November 2005

It'll be just like that movie Cocoon.

So there's this new study out claiming that daily exercise can add "up to 4 years" to your life. Four years? That's it? I want to outlive my donut-munching, soda-quaffing, tv-watching, lardass neighbors by 10 to 15 years, not 4. It hardly seems like time to gloat.
People who engaged in moderate activity -- the equivalent of walking for 30 minutes a day for five days a week -- lived about 1.3 to 1.5 years longer than those who were less active. Those who took on more intense exercise -- the equivalent of running half an hour a day five days every week -- extended their lives by about 3.5 to 3.7 years, the researchers found.

The good news is you only have to run 2.5 hours a week to see the benefits. That's only about 2.5 more hours a week than I currently run, so I'm almost there.

14 November 2005

Some thoughts on paid holidays

This past weekend, which by the way was a long weekend for me thanks to DCPS taking Veterans Day off and all. I didn't have Veterans Day off, so I took vacation. Well, wait...officially I have Veterans Day off, but where I work -- Land Grab University -- Veterans Day is celebrated the day after Thanksgiving. Or perhaps more accurately, the day after Thanksgiving is a holiday "in lieu of Veterans Day."

Now I pity the folks who have to work the day after Thanksgiving. By and large, that means service industry and retail, but it also includes various places where jackass executives think it's fitting to have people come in for one day after perhaps the most significant "family" holiday of the year (and yes I'm putting it above Christmas). To be totally realistic about what these jackass executives are thinking, I'd have to say that pretty much they don't expect anyone to work on the Friday following Thanksgiving -- they expect to extract a vacation day from you.

My sister now works in retail and ever since she started that job she hasn't had the Friday after Thanksgiving off -- but that's only because EVERYONE ELSE IN THE USA has the day off to go shopping. Unless you happen to work at an organization outlined in the above paragraph.

Now I will give Land Grab University some credit here, in that in an atypical move they've made the day after Thanksgiving a holiday, reducing the stress of having to use a precious vacation day -- but how ridiculous is it that the holiday is basically a swap out for a federal holiday?

Here's a list of holidays I want to have in addition to the ones I already have:
Columbus Day
Veterans Day
Election Day (Presidential years only)
The Mondays following Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and Superbowl Sunday
Flag Day
Bastille Day
1st Day of Deer Season (don't hunt, but got used to the day off growing up in Pennsylvania)
Cinco de Mayo
St. Patrick's Day
Winter and Summer Solstice
Vernal and Autumnal Equinox
Fat Tuesday
Arbor Day
Earth Day
Valentine's Day
Ides of March

I would not petition for April Fools Day, because some of the best jokes include gluing a co-worker's ass to something.

Essentially, I want to see our 11 holiday days increased to something like 30.

11 November 2005

Pat Robertson: Wig-Flipper Extraordinaire.

Well, the good reverend is at it again. Calling for the assassination of foreign heads of state was only the beginning for wacky Pat Robertson. Now he warns that God's wrath will fall upon the sane people of Dover, Pennsylvania, who voted the inquisition off the school board. Here's Robertson's pronouncement:

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."
"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of
your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.

Now that's some funny shit. Actually, the voters voted anti-science zealots off the school board, not God, but Robertson is not really one to do proper research. Personally, I'm an atheist, but I do know my Bible, and it seems to me that Robertson's God is the Old Testament God and not the New Testament God.

Why is it that all religious whack jobs turn to the Old Testament when it's time to smite their enemies on earth? Maybe it's because you don't find a whole lot of "I will kill you!" coming out of Jesus's mouth. Samson killing hordes with the jawbone of an ass? The first born sons of the Egyptians being offed in one night? David knocking dead Goliath? All Old Testament. And all those damn diet rules that Christians don't really seem to mind at all -- ever see a Southern Baptist turn down a pulled pork sandwich? I didn't think so. But they'll quote chapter and verse the restrictions on homosexuality.

Now what do you have in the New Testament? Aside from Revelations -- a book that proves that LSD has been around a hell of a lot longer than we think -- you have stories of Jesus turning water into wine so people can keep getting drunk; Jesus raising people from the dead, not killing them; Jesus telling the people to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's (that is, keep clear the difference between state power and religious power -- either that or something to do with establishing gaudy gambling casinos), etc.

So, Dover, be ready in case anything might happen. Anything. Maybe. Because that's how God's work is best understood by these freaks: anything that happens could be a sign taken for wonders. If a new school board member stubs his or her toe getting out of the shower, that's God working right there.

10 November 2005

Obligations and Deadlines

Dupont Circle was quiet this morning circa 7:00 a.m. I sped by the Circle, the wind behind me for a bit, then full in the face and it felt I was pedalling through syrup. Luckily that didn't last too long.

I've got a lot of questions to answer, and a rising dread to deal with. They're related. On the one hand, I have a few obligations I've been ignoring and they're becoming a bit more pressing. On the other hand, I have real "big picture" issues, like finishing my goddamned dissertation.

Pretty much by all estimates I should have been done with my dissertation sometime in 1999, maybe 2000. Coursework finished by 1997, major exams out of the way that same year...a good student with access to the Library of Congress would have finished.

But not me. I had to go and get married in 1997 -- that kind of distracted me from my studies. Then I had to go and get a full-time job because I was sick of going tens of thousands of dollars into debt every year. Working full-time in a non-related industry and trying to finish your dissertation don't go together very well. On top of which, I was still teaching a class at the university every semester. What did Edna St. Vincent Millay say?

Can I make more mistakes? Sure. Bought a house, a fixer upper. It's hard to do literary research at the fucking Home Depot, friends. I won't complain too much about the house, though, because that was a good move in the greater scheme of things. But I really piled it on with kid born in 2000. Note to all PhD candidates out there: you will never get two hours of unbroken reading time once you have kids. Oh yeah, decided to add another kid for good measure this year.

So you know I really didn't do any PhD work between 1999 and 2003. Now I'm working to finish up because the university has this "deadline" or whatever they call it. Apparently I have to be done by next April or they're kicking me out. I'll be done by then; I only have a bit more to write. However, there's a catch:

Did I mention that my wife is also finishing her dissertation? And her deadline is this December. We were really bad for each other's academic aspirations, believe me. In other ways, we're great, but as far as keeping one another on task, well, that hasn't exactly been our dynamic. So this fall I've been taking the kids on lots of weekend outings so she can write. Of course, I can't, and that's where the dread is coming from. Even though I have only a little more to write -- I estimate about seventy pages, maybe ninety, I actually need to get writing it. I need time.

Time is not your friend, unless of course you're waiting out an ebay auction or holding the ball with a big lead. Time doesn't really give a shit if you're trying to finish your dissertation (which by the way is why we had kids in the middle of all this: we weren't putting our lives on hold for some degree in a field that its unlikely we'll ever be employed). Time wrinkles your face, softens your belly, thins your hair, and loosens your jowls -- whether or not you write the dissertation.

So I think I'll stop this post now, before I start going on about the "Rosebud Theme"...

09 November 2005

But...which is the way back to Kansas?

One of cultural critic Raymond Williams's great contributions to the field of Cultural Studies and literary criticism was his fleshing out of the ideas of dominant, residual, and emergent strains of ideology -- all of which function in society and overlap at any given time. In Kansas, you can see this principle play out in the school board decision to shelve broadly accepted scientific standards in favor of a mysticism that is antagonistic to scientific inquiry. Williams reminds us that while the dominant may be most widely disseminated and guiding most sectors of society, the residual still exercises power:
A residual cultural element is usually at some distance from the effective dominant culture, but some part of it, some version of it -and especially if the residue is from some major area of the past-will in most cases have had to be incorporated if the effective dominant culture is to make sense in these areas. Moreover, at certain points the dominant culture cannot allow too much residual experience and practice outside itself, at least without risk. It is in the incorporation of the actively residual -by reinterpretation, dilution, projection, discriminating in­clusion and exclusion-that the work of the selective tradition is especially evident.

In other words, the dominant must assimilate some aspects of the residual in order both to gain what remains from the residual's cultural power and more importantly to ensure the residual, through exclusion, doesn't develop a powerful bloc of adherents who reject the dominant and therefore undermine its power.

Clearly, residual forms -- remember when the church was so dominant that people left England for the colonies to escape its collusion with state power -- include religion, even though the dominant in our culture is a secular democracy. Religion remains a guiding force in many people's lives, although for quite some time culturally we've been able to differentiate between religious belief, the exercise of the rule of law, and scientific inquiry. In Kansas, that compartmentalization has disappeared and we are back to religious doctrine setting the limits of scientific research. Next up: Galileo admits Sun revolves around the Earth.

Much of this mess could be avoided if we had an opposition party in the U.S. Perhaps the tide is turning, with Virginians rejecting Kilgore, but I'm not so optimistic; Kaine ran as Republican-lite, and very few Democrats are willing to take strong stands for principle. They've basically surrendered the ideological field to the Republicans and now content themselves to argue over which piece of the field they're allowed to play on. We seem to be in a moment when, as Yeats would say, "the best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Music to accompany: Billy Bragg's "Ideology"

UPDATE: At least voters in Pennsylvania, in a local school board election, dumped the yoyos who were trying to foist gussied up creationism on schools there, CNN reports:
DOVER, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Voters came down hard Tuesday on school board members who backed a statement on intelligent design being read in biology class, ousting eight Republicans and replacing them with Democrats who want the concept stripped from the science curriculum.

That's right. Eight out of nine school board members were up for election. All eight incumbents went the way of the dodo, so to speak. Looks like more evidence for natural selection to me.

08 November 2005

Kilgore, Kilgore Uber Alles!

So apparently Bush attended a Kilgore rally out in Virginia. I think this photo is from the rally:

I'm not sure which one is Kilgore. Here's what a Washington Post reporter has to say from her interview with one of the attendees:

Mary Bria, 58, a consultant from Midlothian, said she came to support Kilgore with a red-white-and-blue kerchief around her neck because she identified with his values.
"We’re conservative by nature," said the grandmother of 10, who recently moved to Virginia from upstate New York. "And we live our lives pretty conservatively. And Virginia has a history of that."
Asked what about Kilgore represented her values, she said "fiscal responsibility and family values." While even some Republicans questioned whether appearing with Bush was a great idea while the president’s poll numbers are so low, Bria looked around at the rock-concert-like environment and shook her head.
"They say the Bush bear market is over, so it’s a good time to buy. I am a strong supporter of the president."

The Bush bear market? This analogy explains a good bit about how Capitalism has co-opted every component of our culture. Serious dishonesty can be explained in terms of an economic downturn. Pathetic. And she calls herself a values voter. The best part about these fools is that every time they open their mouths they get dumber. Case in point: she presents herself as a believer in "fiscal responsibility" then turns around and announces she's a "strong supporter of the President." Hasn't she been paying attention? This President has sold the future generation into hock to pay for his Middle East adventures. How can you even talk about Bush and fiscal responsibility in the same sentence without choking on your vomit? I'll tell you how: stick your head so far up your ass you can taste your dinner.

07 November 2005

This will probably bore all three of my readers.

First, a view of the game. It's opening kickoff, the last time Wisconsin would see the game tied...

After the game we headed to the Creamery, where $2.10 (tax included) will buy you this (and that's my hand, not my son's little hand):

Two dollars and ten cents, tax included, OK? And it's made right there. What you see in my hand is a little number called "Apple Cobbler Crunch." I chose it over the "Peachy Paterno," which I must add is very good.

No trip would be complete without an attempt to steal student mail. You never know when parents are going to send a cash infusion. He uses the stick as a diversion tactic.

Rifling through several hundred mailboxes helps you workup an appetite, so we had to eat some pizza and watch the very satisfying stomping of Virginia Tech. While it's true I hate Miami, I can't fathom why Va Tech was ranked above #5 ever. They're the UCLA of the East. I didn't take a photo of us eating, but after the meal we wandered out to the intramural athletic fields where we parked our car and took one last photo with the stadium in the background.

PSU v. Wisconsin, Part 2 (by popular demand)

I will begin by patting my own back, thank you very much, for my call of the PSU v. Wisconsin game. My prediction that Calhoun would have 65 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving proved to be a bit optimistic (for Calhoun that is). The Penn State defense held him to 38 yards rushing on 20 carries. My friends, that's an average of 1.9 yards per carry. He did manage 48 yards receiving. I called 95 total combined yards; he gained 86 combined yards.

And my friends, I was there.

Through feverish phone calls I managed to locate two tickets and a parking pass gratis. Pictures will follow, because I know everyone's excited. Anyway, the long and short is that I didn't have to sell either kid and in fact took my son to the game with the second ticket. After the game he got along great with the college kiddies as we traversed the campus. As for how I actually got the tickets, the simplest way to explain it is that the town I'm from is close to Penn State and full of Penn State season ticket holders and I'm still close to many people in town. I spread the nets wide for this one and luckily caught something around 1:30 p.m. Friday.

04 November 2005

Can We Please Impeach this Asshole Now?

Bush, whose grandiose war plans have driven this country into record deficits -- what kind of economic policy is it anyway to cut taxes AND go to war at the same time? -- now applauds as the non-indicted Republican members of Congress hand him a budget targeting those who are unlikely to vote for him anyway:

Bush didn't make too much of the veto threat issued in his name, instead thanking the Senate for the cuts to health care programs for the elderly, poor and disabled while leaving food stamps untouched.

"Today, the Senate took an important step forward in cutting the deficit," Bush said in a statement from Mar del Plata, Argentina, where he is attending a conference. "Congress needs to send me a spending-reduction package this year to keep us on track to cutting the deficit in half."

If you were serious about cutting the deficit, Mr. President, you wouldn't be spending billions in Iraq you fucking fucktard. Oh, and the veto threat? It's because Congress was considering cutting subsidies to insurance companies. What the fuck is going on in America?

And if you were keeping score, here's what this mean-spirited budget would accomplish:
The Senate bill is estimated to trim $36 billion, or 2 percent, from budget deficits forecast at $1.6 trillion over five years. The cuts total $6 billion for the plan's first year, with deficits predicted to exceed $300 billion.

Can you say drop in a bucket? The well-kept media, by the way, bury this news deep in their reports, if they report it at all. It would be interesting to survey U.S. citizens to see how they think budget dollars are divided up. I'm willing to bet most of them would think that cutting welfare entirely would balance the budget or create huge surpluses. Fucking morons.

PSU v. Wisconsin...wish I was there.

I was going to post something really soul searching and intense, but that's too much work. Instead, I'll explain why it is that Penn State will beat Wisconsin this weekend: Wisconsin relies on one player, Brian Calhoun, and Penn State will shut him down. I'm suggesting he rushes for 65 yards and maybe picks up 30 more in receptions. Calhoun accounts for 21 of the Badgers 42 touchdowns this year.

Penn State's defense is better than any the Badgers have faced this year. PSU has given up an average of 16.1 points a game this year. The next toughest defense the Badgers had to face was Michigan's, which gives up 19.2 points per game (and Penn State's average would be even lower if Lloyd Carr hadn't been given 2 more seconds to score an extra 6 points).

I'm trying to sell one of my kids to get tickets to the game, but so far no luck. I may have to sell both.*

At the very least, I'm probably going to have to drive to Pennsylvania to watch the game. Around here, the television programmers seem to think ACC football is actually watchable. If it hadn't been for all the Big East defections, the ACC would remain a one team league (why do you think that dirtbag Bowden joined the ACC back in the early nineties? -- so he could pad his win column).

*OK to be honest, I'm trying to get tickets for free or at least lower than face value.

03 November 2005

House for Sale in Adams Morgan

Last night I was coming home and saw a "For Sale" sign up in front of a neighbor's house. That's not terribly unusual, since in the six years we've lived in our house I would say that seventeen houses on our block have changed hands. These are all two story row houses, and for the most part they've been sold to youngish (30 and below) couples, many of whom now have a child or two. However, this particular house-for-sale surprised me, because the people who live there have been mainstays of the block for decades.

In retrospect, I should have seen it coming: they own a car repair shop up the road and developers have been buying up all the little businesses such as theirs in that area to make way for another "luxury loft" project. Their grandchildren used to stay at their house all the time and played with our son nearly every day, but at the end of the summer, the kids and their mother moved away to North Carolina. I suspect they're probably following their grandchildren. Still it's a shock.

As far as block seniority goes now, we'll be one of the "long established" residents, with just over half a decade's tenure. There's one man on the block who lives alone in the house in which he was raised. After travelling the world in the U.S. Army and raising his own family, he came back to take care of his mother, who has since died. He is probably in his late seventies. He and the family moving away contain much of the institutional memory of the block, remembering a time when Adams Morgan contained light industries, gas stations (plural), a lumber yard, a roller rink, and of course segregated schools.

Maybe it's the Faulknerian in me, but when I talk to these individuals and they paint the neighborhood as it was 30 or 50 years ago, or to tell you the truth even 15 years ago, I understand Faulkner's statement that "The past isn't past. It isn't even dead."

Two Dynasties in Decline

Two men born into wealth and their consorts.
The main difference is that Charles doesn't have the authority to abuse political power.

02 November 2005

Rub a Dub Dub, Three Thieves in a Tub

Check out these three crooks. It's Rick "Pick Up Pennsylvania School Tax Dollars for my Virginia resident children" Santorum, Bill "Blind Trust Means I Didn't See Them, Not Didn't Know About Them" Frist, and Trent "Segregation Is A Proud Tradition" Lott.

I'm not sure if they're watching Frist debut his new hand puppet show, or if they're declaring that with Alito on the bench they'll finally be able to reverse these pesky instances of judicial activism like Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education.

While it's true that Republicans (and a particularly virulent brand of Republicanism) control all three branches of government today, the recent unanimous Senate vote and House voice vote to honor civil rights icon Rosa Parks this week signals that the so-called "Conservative" movement recognizes an overplayed hand: a few years ago a snarling Trent Lott, buoyed by his backers at the Council of Conservative Citizens, would have ripped into Parks as a Communist dupe, and the now-indicted Tom DeLay would have done the same. At least now they've been cowed into crocodile tears, even if they continue to work toward the consolidation of power behind the scenes.

It bears repeating: Conservative ideology is always a rearguard action against social progress. Women's rights have advanced despite conservative attacks; minority rights have advanced despite conservative attacks; science has advanced despite conservative attacks. Trust me...100 years from now we'll all be laughing about the Kansas State Board of Education.

01 November 2005

Halloween, Halloween.

That was good Halloweening last night. We handed out some candy for a little bit then headed out ourselves to the block party at Lanier Place, where they close the street off and many of the houses present some elaborate decorations (although I will say that this year it seemed fewer residents went overboard). Then we came home, handed out candy until about 8:30 p.m., shut off the lights and put the kids to bed. Our son is too little to care really about digging through the candy he received -- in another year or two he'll be accounting for every little "fun size" (read miniscule) piece of candy he gets, but this year he was more interested in handing out candy to trick or treaters than getting candy.

Even with lights out, we still received visitors through 9:30 p.m. At least most of them were in costume. Last year we had lots of teenagers showing up wearing jeans and t-shirts and carrying Safeway bags. Real effort there. My favorites though are the parents who are good and liquored up when they take their kids around the neighborhood looking for candy -- and the parents have their own bag, too.