Thursday, July 27, 2006

My Prophet

Okay, so I'm not religious. I call myself agnostic because it is a quick way to say who I am. I'm not sure what/who is out there and I'll never be sure. I'm not taken in by charismatic people who seem to know what they're talking about. (It's important to note that I am not saying most religious people are taken in by just anyone. I'm simply making the point that it is a big deal for me to think so highly of one person based on his beliefs and actions - not on first-hand knowledge.)

This is why, if I had to choose someone to respect and admire unabashedly; someone who, if I were ever to see him, I would probably detect some sort of gold-ish haze around him, it would be Utah Phillips. The link connects to a wikipedia article about him, which, if you're interested will give you the details on the man I might actually call my hero.

I've never been one for heroes. I don't like words that I can't define. What is a hero? Is it someone we admire? There are many people I admire. That can't be it. There has to be more. Let's look at examples of heroes. Phillips speaks about the fact that children today have heroes who are made-up people. Spider-Man, Barbie (kill me now). Whatever happened, he asks, to grandparents, Babe Ruth, actual people?

Okay, so Utah is guiding me through the hero conundrum. Should heroes be people we aspire to be? People we respect and admire so much that we model our lives on that person? I think I may have just answered my own question. Thanks Utah.

Here's another shard of glass. I don't have heroes because I don't model myself after anyone. I have always tried to be my own person (often to an extreme extent). I don't wear crazy outfits or die my hair different colors, but I always try to be the most honest version of myself. As I've grown I've realized this isn't always possible. But in any given situation, I can shift to the most honest version that particular situation can hold. I'm malleable. Yay me.

At least that's what I aim for. Okay, sorry about the tangent. So I wouldn't call Utah a hero. I don't aspire to be a labor reformer. I don't want to get people riled up and make a scene. I don't like to embarrass people. But I admire people who do.

Utah does it in my favorite way. He is an unassuming activist. He is modest and thoughtful. He is joyful and likes to laugh. He sees the beauty in the world and in people. He is brimming with stories and music. He has unthinkable amounts to share with this world.

I'm going to include the two quotes that led to this post. I hope you'll go buy some of his stuff.

  • "Following the path of least resistance is what makes the river crooked."

  • And, the one that calmed me after a rough day:

  • "Little kids are . . . assholes. But they're their own assholes. When you grow up, you're someone else's asshole . . ."

  • Check out

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006

    This Could Shock (and Awe) You

    If the 2008 election was upon us and McCain was running against Hillary, I would vote for John McCain. Please, hold your gasps.

    But wait! She's a "feminist," you say. She should jump at the chance for a woman president! First of all, that's ridiculous. If a qualified minority ran for president (like Shirley Chisolm), I would expect him or her to get a fair shot at office. But she or he should never be judged on the basis of their minority status (positively or negatively).

    So let's look at Hillary and John. She's a "Democrat," he's a "Republican."
    Both voted to invade Iraq in 2003.

    Both support different kinds of guest worker programs for illegal immigrants (though Hillary's position is a little wobbly).

    BOTH are self-proclaimed "anti-abortionists." Hillary believes that criminalizing the process would not abolish abortions, McCain has said he would have signed the South Dakota legislation banning all abortions but, unlike South Dakota's law, McCain believes pregnancies resulting from rape or incest should be legal. As for Hillary, she is again wobbly: "Research shows that the primary reason that teenage girls abstain is because of their religious and moral values. We should embrace this — and support programs that reinforce the idea that abstinence at a young age is not just the smart thing to do, it is the right thing to do. But we should also recognize what works and what doesn't work, and to be fair, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs. I don't think this debate should be about ideology, it should be about facts..." Yes. Ultimately she admits there may be a problem with abstinence-only education. But to give it any credit at all is criminal in my eyes.

    Both expressed opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Hillary, however, does not believe in (?) same-sex marriages. She supports civil unions but also supports the Defense of Marriage Act.

    Hillary supports making flag burning illegal *without* an actual amendment.

    She PROPOSED the Family Entertainment Protection Act, a bill that would prohibit the sale of violent video games to anyone under 18. She has called Grand Theft Auto a "major threat" to morality. More on that in another post.

    Do I feel betrayed by Clinton? A little. Okay, a lot. Maybe she's justdesperatee to get elected. But I don't think so. I think she's finally showing her true colors. And I would take a "Republican" over a "Democrat" any day. At least McCain journeys over to the light. Hillary is being dragged over to the dark side. It's taking over. I don't want to see her in office. I think she would disappoint a lot of people.

    Saturday, July 22, 2006

    In Response Jason's comment on the last post. First of all, yes, I mis-wrote about the exfoliated cells. Thanks for clarifying.

    The other comment though (about the conservatives' outrage over embryo destruction) deserves a second look.

    Many stem cells go to research because there is a surplus of embryos from the new and "exciting" ways to get pregnant. Some women donate their eggs for science, some use them for themselves (in vitro fertilization). The point is, this surplus either sit in a freezer (those poor, cold non-things!) or they are thrown away. A donation center cannot keep the embryos forever. When women begin the process of trying to get pregnant this way/donating eggs, they have a lot of paperwork to fill out. One of the questions invlolves the use of her surplus eggs. They can choose to throw them away, donate them, or freeze them "indefinitely." Wow! Look at that freedom of choice!

    The irony (and I'm not using it the way Bush did. What do we think he meant? Irony= the weird thing is...?) is that Bush has two daughters who were created through "unnatural" means. Laura took fertility drugs. Though Laura did not have to go through the petri-dish process, would she have? Does Bush believe that playing god is okay when it comes to creating babies?

    I wish Bush would address this discrepancy. How can you be outraged about donations of eggs for science (which may cure some diseases that affect actual children), but not even address donations for fertilization? These donations are creating the surplus. It's the fertility clinics that are running out of space. They are the ones that need to throw the eggs away.

    Thus, it seems to me that Bush would rather throw away "potential life" than use it for research.

    Another clarification: the bill would have increased government funding of stem cell research, which may not seem like that big a deal (private funding, right?). The truth is, however, that no lab can do this kind of research without assistance from the government.

    Thursday, July 20, 2006

    Just Say No

    We should be so proud. Our little president just vetoed his first bill! Though the number of vetoes varies with each new president (Cleveland had 414, Adams and Jefferson, none), for a two-term president in modern-day America, Bush's record is ridiculous. It's reasonable, however, when you look at the House and the Senate.

    Anyway, this is not my point. The bill the president vetoed? It was a bill expanding stem cell research. I know. He thinks they are all little babies, even though you can't see them without a microscope. They're potential humans. But so are the cells that come off in the shower. Should we remain unclean to suit Bush's ideal? Should Bush's beliefs keep the US from advancing science? I wonder if he's thought of the competition angle. China's got no problem with using stem cells. They'll clone first! They'll cure countless diseases first! Oh no! Doesn't Bush love the US? Maybe we should argue nationalistically.

    The best point here is that these stem cells are not human. They will never become human. The majority of them, due to the fact that they can be used for NOTHING will be destroyed. Who benefits from that? A non-life is now in the trash. We're back to zero.

    So congrats, Mr. Prez. You took a baby step. You stood up to your back-scratching yes-men in Congress. Wow. You're such a big boy. But what happens when you get Alzheimer's?

    Oh, and if you ever touch the German Chancellor again, she'll use the other moves she learned in rape prevention class. Why don't you stick to massaging Tony Blair? Oh, sorry. Probably too gay for you.

    Saturday, July 15, 2006

    Too Much

    Is it something in the weather? People all over the world are angry, nothing new there. This week, they decided to do something about it. Iraq, Pakistan, Israel, Lebanon. You'd think they planned ahead.

    I'm not trying to make this all into cotton candy, though the texture of the events is the same. I'm simply baffled.

    On the homefront, some interesting stories I've read this week:

    • Republicans in Congress are, indeed, trying to find a way around the Supreme Court ruling on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. They are interpreting the decision in a way that forces Bush to get approval from Congress before he unfairly tries the inmates. Others claim the decision means that Bush must give the inmates a fair trial. Let's hope the latter wins this one. If we're out there spreading democracy, what gives us the right to act like a military state? Just another thing to add to the ever-growing list of American hypocrisy.

    • Valerie Plame is suing Cheney and Rove for ruining her career. Finally. I'm not optimistic that she'll win, but anything is possible.

    • The Senate voted against a minimum wage increase (it's still $5.15/hr). (They voted to give themselves a wage increase. Surprised?) Though this happened awhile ago, I was just indignant until I heard a recent Slate podcast called The Gabfest. They talked economics which, admittedly, is not my forte. Apparently, the reason it's stayed so low for so long is, ostensibly, a fear that job opportunities will decrease, especially for young people. If minimum wage goes up, it devalues the people making higher wage and will even (gasp) manage to poke the rich. Though this may be true, it is also true that inflation provides for at least some sort of increase. Though, as Emily Basilon on The Gabfest mentioned, minimum wage is meant to give less educated, younger people a place to start their careers (McDonald's, here I come), it's also a fact that many, many (a majority?) of minimum wage earners are 30 and above. You cannot live on $5.15 an hour.

    • The House Appropriations Committee did not recommend a funding increase for abstinence-only education. Yeehaw! The fact that we're even wasting money on this worthless and harmful program is ridiculous. Kids are going to do it. Let's teach them to be safe and smart. I'm trying not to even get into American sex education overseas. It's too horrid and naive to fit into a bullet point.

    • From Women soldiers are being raped by their co-workers in Iraq. No solution has been found. Once women are raped, if they come forward, they are seen by doctors without Plan B or appropriate tools to test for disease. Then, (if they're lucky) they're taken to a different location. Women are being raped out of combat. We've come so very far.

    • In local news, here in Tampa, Veterans for Peace were finally granted access to public schools. Army recruiters have been allowed the lunchroom and other key places in schools for years now. After appeals to the fair and balanced, both points of view, claims of the school board were denied, Veterans for Peace chose a different tactic. They claimed they would provide alternate career opportunities for kids. The school board couldn't pass that one up, but made V for P promise they would not distribute and/or talk to kids negatively about the war or the military (they have to "steer the conversation" the "correct" way). For the past few years, V for P have set up outside of schools, to reach kids as they exited schools. A spokesman for the organization said that they would simply continue on the outside, even as they gained access to the inside. In this way, students will finally get both sides of the story. Ain't Florida grand?

    • And, finally, Ted Stevens is an idiot. Not really news, but... in an effort to promote a hierarchy of internet speed, Stevens called the internet "a series of tubes." The Daily Show quoted this and other ridiculous parts of Stevens' speech in front of the Senate beside a picture of Grampa Simpson. Wow.

    Those were just a few things that caught me this week. There's so much going on, it would be impossible to bullet everything.

    Oh, and another note on my previous post. My ultimate issue is not with the show, but with Salon's article. My pain was augmented by the fact that the commercial I was forced to watch was for Project Runway. My question is: how do those commercials work? Was that commercial targeted to readers of Broadsheet? That would be the ultimate irony: on my way to read a (choppy) article complaining about another article stereotyping feminists as closet Project Runway fans, I watched an ad for Project Runway, which was targeted toward the feminist readers of Broadsheet.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Oh, Salon

    You have failed me for the first time. In a half-hearted article on Broadsheet,"Women Rabid Over 'Runway?'" indulged in a little wit. Maybe not wit, maybe it was a little foreplay, or even a simple accident. I'm not sure what it was. I went to the site, using a link to the article which, I assumed, was about the ridiculous nature of Project Runway. I was prompted (of course) to watch an advertisement to enter Salon (their way of generating revenue). I was shocked and a bit amused to note that the ad was for . . . what else? Project Runway. The article turned out to be a childish reaction to an article from Columbia Daily Tribune columnist Pete Bland, "Stay Away From Women and their Runway." Bland's article talked about all his 'feminist' friends who were obsessed with the show. Rebecca Traister's article on Broadsheet quoted heavily from the article and wrapped it up with this: "Put succinctly: this column was dumb." I was thoroughly disappointed and confused (if amused) at the coincidental (?) marketing ploy.

    I think the show is ridiculous, though I have friends that watch it. I'm not sure what people get out of other people being catty and stupid. I find it embarrassing. But my hope would be that Broadsheet could dig a little deeper into the appeal. I don't understand why they think a simple dismissal is enough.

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    Dead Man's Plot

    I saw Pirates of the Caribbean 2 last night. The action sequences were incredibly creative and original, the overall tone was whimsical and fun, but the plot was stilted and convoluted. In a 2 hr and 30 minute movie, there were too many things left unexplained and too many unnecessary scenes. There are four writers credited on IMDB, and I'm sure there were more who worked on it. It felt slapped together and cut up and edited. As I sat there, jolted from one scene to the next, I spent most of my time trying to catch up. I finally just sat back and released the plot from my brain, knowing it was no use.

    Ah, trying to wax poetic. I'll stop. I enjoyed the movie, but I wouldn't see it again. I feel cheated by the ending and, really, by the movie in general. The action sequences were enough to keep me going, though, and that's saying a lot. I hate action sequences.

    No doubt some will disagree with this pseudo-review. Sorry I'm not more specific, but I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't seen it. I guess I'll wrap it up with this pretentious, ugly bow: the writers wrapped the plot in a very pretty box, then cut the bottom out of the box. There were still pieces, glimmers, of story, but it was drowned in voodoo and superfluous "mis-haps."

    But Orlando Bloom is still ridiculously gorgeous.

    Working . . . With Children

    Why do interviews with working mothers usually involve questions about their children?

    A particularly annoying, self-aggrandizing Slate podcast brought this to my attention. The new Washington Post radio station (really? do we need this?), did an hour-long program about Slate writers, featuring interviews with several columnists and editors (the Washington Post owns Slate). After an interview with a male writer, who is also a father, in which his children were not mentioned, a female writer was questioned repeatedly about being a working mother. How does she do it? What happens to her kids when she works? The bulk of the interview was about the trials and tribulations of balancing motherhood and work. To be fair, my aggravation was augmented by the fact that the interviewer was ridiculously energetic and a horrible speaker. She mis-pronounced names and mixed up facts on more than several occasions.

    Alright, so one interview. Annoying, but no big deal. But the next day, I listened to another interview with a female writer. Almost half of the interview was about her children and (yet again) the "balance" required. Both interviewers were women as well.

    I know mothers and fathers have different roles in their childrens' lives, but this is ridiculous. Though some people still do not accept that women can work with kids at home just as well as ment can, it has been a fact of life for more than three decades. I wonder if, during World War II (when the government wanted and needed women to work, thank you Rosie), there was such a big fascination with a working mother. Sure, it was a novelty at first, but women were expected to work, to serve their country. Now, it comes across as a choice.

    Though it may come from admiration, by asking these accomplished women about their children and the "balance," these interviewers are perpetuating the idea that this working mother thing is still a novelty. It's been going on for awhile now. I think they know what they're doing. It is a decision, but it's a decision fathers make as well.

    Maybe even more importantly, the answers these women give to questions like, "What's it like being a working mother? How do you balance your work and your family?" are pretty boring. There's nothing interesting about a regular, modern woman doing her job and loving her family. Just as there's nothing interesting about a regular, modern man doing his job and loving his family.

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    The Little Guy Plays With the Big Boys

    I just read a short synopsis of today's papers on Slate. A story on the New York Times front page caught my eye.

    Apparently, schools, fire departments, and other public entities are "hiring lobbyists to make funding appeals to Congress on their behalf."

    They are reportedly seeing a return on the tax money spent on this venture, and it is proving to be a lucrative process.

    I am all for this. We need to learn to play their game, so we can reap the benefits. I think we should all hire lobbyists. Hell, we should all become lobbyists. Maybe we'll force a change in the system.

    I know a lobbyist who is tremendously influential in Florida law (he's even written some of them). Lobbyists are becoming the ghost writers, the Karl Rove's. They are the ones who get things done. Let's all take a page out of the "Florida town," which gets 285.83 dollars for every dollar spent in taxes. Can you imagine what we could do with that kind of money?

    I think it is a very good use of our taxes. If this is how the system is going to work, we need to learn to play along. Of course, it gets a lot more depressing when you think about the money it takes to hire a lobbyist to fight for you. LOBBYISTS: teach free classes, set up a pro-bono system like lawyers (is there one?), help this cause!

    Of course, that will never happen. Lobbyists are hired to fight for causes. How many ideals can these people have? (My friend and his recent actions are excluded from that nasty comment.)