Friday, July 31, 2009
I have an office workmate (friend?) who is my conservative sparring partner. We love to bring in news clips and bait each other.
However, sometimes he seemed to be getting a little into the antagonism, and it was getting tiresome of arguing policy with no-one ever winning.
So I proposed an idea - "Make a Point / Yield a Point." Example:
1. Jon's make a point: People who still don't believe Obama is an American are idiots (i.e. the birth certificate nonsense)
2. Jon's yield a point: None of the current health care proposals Obama is laying out seems even close to fixing the problem
Seemed like a great way to have a conversation, perhaps for each side to learn something and become less one-sided.
Except he didn't want to play.
For him, life was all about winning, not learning or ceding. To me, this was a tad on the fanatical side, kind of scary, and even a little bit sad.
Fortunately, it was also comical - as we walked home from work in the rain, I offered him part of me umbrella. He turned it down - "I won't melt," he said.
He wouldn't even accept dryness from me. Wow.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I got on the blue line today and saw a bunch of young 20-somethings in suits and little bow ties. I sat near them, removed my Ipod earphones, and waited for the goods.
I was listening for dirt to post on one of my favorite blogs, Spotted: DC Interns, which shares true tales about snot-nosed DC interns who think they rule the world but usually don't know squat.
I waited for the scoop. But none came - they were nice, cordial and respectful.
I realized that I was, in fact, an unwitting spy for the DC Interns blog. I was eavesdropping and going to tattle on them to the world.
I'm a tool.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Regarding the endless gun control bickering:
Personally, I think we could honor the Constitution AND common sense by allowing people to have rifles in their homes.
No handguns, no assault rifles, but plain-old rifles, which can't be easily concealed or used to rob other people. You keep your family safe, and other people are safe from wingnuts packing heat.
Now let's work on more important problems.
Also, here's another look at the whole issue: Arm the Senate!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
1. Two stories on health care: Costs and Treatment quality
At this point, everyone on earth is frustrated by this painfully slow slog towards health care reform. Either Republican interference, Democratic incompetence or the sheer complexity of the issue has undermined the desire to get something new, now. At this point, I want to stop hearing about it, no matter how important I think reform is. Confidence is change is low nationally. I think we screwed this one up. (Story)
2. Cops, A Black Harvard Professor and Obama
I think everyone blew it on this one. Here's what happened:
1. Nosy / conscientious / racist neighbor calls cops because black man appears to be breaking into a house
2. Cops ask Gates to provide ID
3. Gates freaks out, acts like a jerk, gets arrested
4. Media basically blames cops
5. Everyone blames the cops for 5 seconds
6. Obama blames the cops without thinking
7. Everyone realizes the cops were OK and blames Gates
8. Obama offers to host both at the White House (classy move, actually)
This story has nothing to do with race in America. It's 5 minutes have passed. Leave it before special-interest groups grab more headlines because of it. (Story)
3. Chinese buy French vineyards
Mixed thoughts on this one. Certainly the "Japanese are buying everything" stories were a big deal a few years ago. So is it really a Page 1 story to say that a rich country is buying international property? Not sure.... (Story)
4. People work from coffeehouses with their laptops
Yes, this is the main story on today's page 1. People use places with wifi as their offices. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh. (Story)
5. Lance Armstong might not win the Tour de France
Yes, he's one of the greatest athletes in the world, but who the fuck cares about the Tour de France, anyway? They don't even win single-handed - they do it in a group called a helipad or something... The Tour de France is classy Nascar. It's watching people doing nothing. It's like soccer - another sport we can safely ignore. (Story)
(Note: I actually like soccer a lot, but it was important to make my point).
Friday, July 24, 2009
I recently was in Ohio visiting relatives. On the way home I stopped in a few rest stops. Two of the three had swastikas drawn in marker in the stalls.
As a Jew, seeing things like this are always distressing. We hope things like this will disappear, and appears only in textbooks and museums.
But I realized why this will never happen: the Swastika is just too strong a brand.
It has nothing really to do with Hitler anymore. It's become a symbol that Hitler, the media and the rightfully upset Jewish community have burned into the brains of every American.
Imagine you are an angry white man who, for whatever reason, hates blacks or Jews. All you need to do is make two swiggly lines and you've expressed yourself in a loud and visceral way that almost anyone can understand.
Counter this with something I saw in another stall - the written web address for www.davidduke.com. Someone would need to see this, maybe write down the web address, go to a computer and flip through a bunch of pages to get a gist of what Duke stands for.
Or you can just use a globally recognized symbol and send your message instantly.
Because it's such an incredibly powerful symbol / brand, it will never go out of style.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
were all over the news.
Then... nothing. The world forgot about them for a bit, it seems. I saw some of them outside the White House and took a few cell phone pics. I was shocked to see the Swastika (bottom of the left-hand pic) on an issue that had absolutely nothing to do with anything Jewish. Actually, I sort of like it.
You should listen to me - I predicted that zombie culture would reach a critical mass waay back in 2007.
Cthulhu, for those who don't know, is a fictional and ancient evil created by horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft.
Cthulhu lives a very simple existence. He doesn't text during movies, or tell bad jokes, or multitask when he should be giving you his full attention.
All he wants is one thing: the complete destruction of all life, everywhere.
So because he's straightforward and no-nonsense, in 2008 some people thought he'd make a ultimate "transparency" candidate for president. I pitched this story when I was an intern at Slate in 2008.
It didn't fly.
But the strange fascination many have with this guy continues to grow. There are Cthulhu bibs, sweaters, mittens, and more. So keep watching the skies (or the caves). You'll be seeing him on bumper stickers near you very, very soon.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
- People really do know their neighbors
- Priuses are rare
- You might see people wearing wifebeaters, baseball hats and sports jerseys discussing financial derivatives and residuals over bacon and eggs
- Fields of corn and soybeans abound
- You might hear a song on the radio called "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," and you might just like it
- Sports-themed cornhole sets are a great way to pass the afternoon
- Jesus is a big deal (see right) and adorns many a bumper sticker
- I saw an amazing capacity for kindness (clothes drives held at a truckstop BP gas station) and hatred (swastikas or David Duke slogans at 3 of the 3 public bathrooms I visited). So I guess it's pretty much like everywhere else, except different.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
This article at the Pew Research Center hits the nail on the head - young people aren't impressed with sending people into space to hop around on the moon / do loops in a rocket.
And I'm in this category most of the time. As I understand it, it is ridiculously expensive to put people in space. if there is research to be done out there, send probes and robots.
I heard it costs 10x as much to send a person into space as a robot. And why are we using 1960's technology to do these little jaunts? If we held back and invested money into some real tech, perhaps we could stop young people from yawning....
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
* Sad to report that the moving and aesthetically stunning graves at Arlington Natl. Cemetery are all stained with bird poop
* Saw an endless parade of girls going to Jonas Bros. show in Chinatown. They were making their own T-shirts with day-glo paint.
* There are only five levels between me and Obama: Me / Nancy Tyler / Jerry Young / Teresa Nasif / Martha Davis / Paul Prouty / Prez Obama / Pres/ Barack Obama
* Being in PR is strange at first, but it's getting really fun, really fast.
* Lipton Sparkling Green Tea is a poor acquisition, even if it's free
Saturday, July 11, 2009
A guy with a huge beard was telling us reverently about seeds, and about how Monsanto was bioengineering new types of crops ("Frankenfoods," they called them) and patenting seeds. This means that if you bought these super-crop seeds from Monsanto, and you grew corn, and your corn grew seeds, you didn't own those seeds. You could be sued for using them. You had to buy each generation back from Monsanto. I thought he was nuts, but in 2009 the conversation has caught up with him, especially in the movie Food Inc.
Anyway, back in 2000, Monsanto was in trouble for creating pesticides that were killing Monarch butterflies in record numbers. I wanted to do my part, so I bought a T-shirt with Monarch Butterflies wearing gas masks.
Now, there is another side, naturally, to the Monsanto hate. In theory, having an efficient system of creating and stories food makes sense. Pooling resources and having leverage looks good on paper. And yes, there are some scary stories about genetically modified crops (or GM crops) spreading their pollen into the air, and turning nearby ORGANIC crops into GM crops forever.
But there are also stories about creating rice with Vitamin A and helping to stop premature blindness in Africa and Asia (although I wasn't able to find anything credible on it on the net).
Living in DC, I also hear a lot about Monsanto. On the metro last month, I saw hundreds and hundreds of teenagers wearing orange shirts, obviously on a class tour from somewhere. I asked them where they were from and they said the Midwest - Monsanto had sponsored to send them all to DC.
I'd also see lots of Monsanto PSAs on the metro. It's a common site in DC to see multinational corporations try their PR campaigns in our subways. Here's one at right.
Their PR folks have pretty secure jobs, I think, because the general public generally does not like these green giants. For example - do a Google Image search for "Monsanto," and see what you get.
Finally, on Flickr I found a pretty cool 1955 installation of Monsanto at Disneyland, of all places.
But should you hate em? Well, start researching on Wikipedia and figure it out for yourself.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Since I'm doing lists, here's another one:
1. Patriot Guard Riders
These are the guys on motorcycles who do counter-protests at funerals and thwart the assholes from the Westboro Basptist Church who scream their "God Hates Fags" and "God Loves IEDs" nonsense. The Riders non-violently stop the Westboro folks from interfering in the funeral and rev their engines to block out their chants. Fantastic.
2. Jackie Robinson
I love this guy. There is something about breaking through the "color barrier," defying a nation of racists because it's the right thing to do, no matter who tells you to sit down. His heroism, his impossible bravery and persistence, and the fact that he was so very, very talented. He was so good you couldn't deny it. It was unassailable... it was just a truth. It all gets to me big time.
3. Louie Armstrong
For exactly the same reason as above.
4. Hot dogs
Yes, they're terrible, but wow - what economy! And perhaps it's here that started the world-crushing trend of making food that doesn't look like it came from an animal. That's power, baby. Now pass the Pepto.
5. Mel Blanc
You heard Mel Blanc all your life, even if you didn't know it. This one man did the voices of: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Beaky Buzzard, Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, Barney Rubble, Mr. Spacely, and hundreds of others. He was that good. He's like the animators of the 1930's and 40's who did thousands of flawless frames by hand, and created new art forms that still move us today. Have you ever seen Dumbo recently? You might get a little misty...
(BTW, and I'm seeing a pattern in these last few entries. People who are so impossibly good at what they do that it hurts. You have to laugh, really, to let it all sink in. Like Larry David. Or Shakespeare. Or Moliere. I think appreciating true talent and genius is one of the best traits you can have.)
6. The Founding Fucking Fathers, that's who
Growing up, I thought people who really, REALLY loved America were pretty much hicks. What's so special about this place, anyway? As I grew older and did some traveling, and actually paid attention to history articles, I realized that, no, this place is unique, and that's because of the genius of the very dead old white men that are so unpopular nowadays.
First they cast off the shackles of their colonizers and declared themselves free, and set a precedent that the rest of the world followed. But they didn't rest on their laurels, and they didn't the reins to the richest guy, or the guy with the most guns (even though George Washington was a general and all). They went back to the drawing board and created the Bill of Rights.
This was just HUGE. They took the best from the Greeks and Romans, took some Parliamentary stuff from England, used some Judea-Christian values, and mixed it up with Humanist equality and then made up some other stuff (as is my understanding, anyway). And it WORKED. Other countries do indeed envy our "freedoms," although I don't think they hate us for them like some Neocons have said. It's not perfect, but it's tops.
Now let's just get some universal health care, people.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Even six months ago, I loved Spongebob. I have a special place in my heart for good-natured, fun-loving idiots. But my inner idiot seems to have taken a holiday....
2. Most daytime kids programming
In high school, it was Batman: The Animated Series (with it's chillingly awesome noirish opening) and even a little bit of Pokeman. Power Rangers was cool if goofy. Now, the stuff looks contrived, like a copy of a copy of something that's genuinely cool. It's corporate cool. I did get a few miles from the Naked Mole Rat, for some reason.
3. Sugar rushes (except gummi bears)
4. Staying up past midnight on a work night (unless I'm hungry)
5. Short-sleeve button down shirts (although they seem to be popular when you turn 60)
Monday, July 6, 2009
Before I finished it about 30 minutes ago, all I knew about the film was, "Well, it's totally racist, right?"
Well, yes, but that's not all. Apparently this movie was one of the most important cultural artifacts from the 20th century.
Check this out:
- It was the first successful full-length feature film ever (3 hours 10 minutes!)
- It did more to influence modern American thinking on the post-Civil War Reformation than practically anything else
- It single-handedly reinvigorated the Klu Klux Klan nationwide, and introduced the "White Sheet" garb and the burning crosses. Klansman paraded around on horses in major U.S. cities upon its premiere
- It is actually a noteworthy film from a technical standpoint - it had complex and epic war battles, built an impressive simulacrum of Ford's Theatre for Lincoln's... um.... "early retirement," and pioneered techniques like the jump-cut and the facial close-up
- It was amazingly successful, earning the equivalent of $200 million today.
I was shocked, I admit, to see white men in black face playing the important black roles, and seeing "regular" blacks to represent the bit parts. Black face is something so old and so mocked that your brain almost skips a beat when you're exposed to it. Then again, the Jazz Singer used black face in 1927.
The movie is split into two parts. Part 1 is an interesting look at pre-civil war South and the horrible toll the war took on the U.S. Seen by itself, this film is barely controversial at all. It's part II that's based upon a book called the Clansman, and that's where the horseshit hits the waterwheel. Here, the classic anti-black propaganda is introduced:
1. The fear of white women of being raped by blacks
2. The lawnessness and animalistic nature of freed blacks.
In the film, for example, the "good" black housekeeper and some other loyalists are protective of their white employers, as if to say, "No, there's nothing wrong with black people in and of themselves... just as long as they are subservient and know their place in society." A pretty thin rationale, there.
Most of the film seems pretty unbelievable in terms of propaganda, especially for 1915 when the Civil War was only as far gone as WWII is today.
It can, however, use ignorance against you. I know very little about the period of Reconstruction / Reformation or what happened in the south after the Civil War ended. I recall reading that blacks actually received a huge boost in political power for a period of decades, before laws in the early 20th century rolled them back. Birth of Nation focuses on this period, depicting black freedom as anarchy. Blacks are uncivilized and cruel animals who make a mockery of the court and pervert justice. The whites, then, are nobly "rescuing" the south from the "Black Overlords" (!). If I didn't know better, I might think, "Hey, maybe this did really happen!"
Sunday, July 5, 2009
I had hoped this was the end of this tomfoolery. I was wrong (embarrassing article reprinted below):
More softball vs. kickball drama
A few weeks ago, Shenanigans reported on a heated incident between a Hill softball team and a kickball team, which resulted in the kickball team’s calling the cops on the softball team. This is hardly the first hostile kickball vs. softball scenario. And it appears the animosity is growing worse as the season progresses.
The spring newsletter of the World Adult Kickball Association’s D.C. Federal Division included a pointed missive against Capital Alumni Network softballers, and it spread like wildfire among the softball crew.
The problem stems from the fact that these kickballers and softballers have games on the same nights. And not only are they fighting for field turf, but then they wind up at the same bar, the Exchange, fighting for bar turf.
Tensions are high — and the crude newsletter hasn’t helped. In it, the division’s president, Beau Rightsell (who declined to comment to Shenanigans), refers to softball players as “trolls,” “Neanderthals” and other fine profane descriptors. He “formally declare[s] war on the CAN softball league,” telling his team, “Don’t talk to them. Don’t interact with them. And especially don’t hook up with them, unless you’re really, really desperate.” (He also encourages his team to be “twice the legal limit” of drunkenness and to urinate on the OEOB, “pass out on the White House lawn. Eat children. And die.”)
Eventually, Rightsell did apologize to CAN President Lamont Rooker. WAKA told Shenanigans: “There have been absolutely no problems between the D.C. Federal Division and the CAN softball league prior or subsequent to the issuance of this newsletter piece.” And, it added: “We fully believe it is simply high-spirited banter written in jest with no harm intended.”
Rooker told us, “I could say the same thing about kickball, but I’m not in the third grade.” He adds that he’s not worried about a future fight because “my guys are on alert that if that happens, they’ll never play CAN sports again.”
However, one softballer isn’t so sure. The situation is just “one wrong comment or dirty look from somebody getting punched in the mouth. The kickball kids will call the cops, but the softball kids will try to settle it themselves.”
Saturday, July 4, 2009
I'm a sucker for a gift shop. I have been since I was a wee one. I have vivid memories of dashing through museums, scurrying past animals in a zoo and being fidgety in my seat at baseball games. More than anything, I wanted to be in the gift shop -- the promised land of useless things, with jacked up prices and absolutely no "collector's item value." I wanted that shirt that proudly said "Cubs" in bright pink; the stuffed animal that I would lose interest in by the time we got home; the pen that I would never use.
I've since grown out of that phase, mostly. But I still, on occasion, enjoy going to the gift shop. I'm going back to Chicago in a week and thought it would be cute to get my three-year-old cousin Sophie and my just-under-a-year cousin Dominic "Future President" T-shirts. They're everywhere in D.C. and, yes, they are cheesy. But they are also adorable, so leave me alone.
While heading toward Chinatown, Jon and I stumbled upon some sort of "official" visitors center; I felt certain I would find the gifts. And I did. But I didn't buy them. Not there.
Because of this atrocity that was in the store.
My first reaction was "What. The. Fuck." I made a beeline toward Jon and demanded he take a photograph. His response? "Oh that's cute." After gut punching him, I explained why this (the T-shirt, not the gut punch) was completely outrageous.
Here is my beef with this: It is implying to little girls that being the president's wife is just as desirable goal in life as being president. I'm not some sort of crazy women's lib-type. I still expect men to take out the garbage, ward off burglars, squash bugs when necessary. But encouraging girls (even at the age required to fit into the tiny size shirt I held today) to aspire to be the woman behind the man is just sad.
My second reaction, if you were counting, was "Is this what a female president would be called? The first lady?" Maybe it's just the fact that we haven't had a female president. Her title hasn't been defined, nor has that of her hypothetical husband or partner. Perhaps, I misconstrued the message of the t-shirt. But the fact that the shirt was made in China, cost under $8 and was sold in a place that panders to Southern (sorry) tourists, I'd place money on that not being the case.
Growing up, I was always told "Don't marry a doctor; be a doctor." I'd like to think that other mothers are sending similar messages to their daughters. But when you see shows like "18 Kids and Counting," where the girls aspire to be housewives, or any of the "Real Housewives" series, where women aim to be "kept," you sort of get the feeling that my mother's teachings are not the norm.
Maybe my next gift shop adventure will prove more successful.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Apples. I don't know what kind, or care. Sometimes it's fun not to know things, y'know?
Well, apparently a lot of people actually the difference between a Granny Smith and an Old Maid (OK, I made that up).
They were appalled with my ignorance, and the fact that I was eating a mealy Red Delicious (a.k.a. a "crap apple").
They drugged me, strapped me to a chair, pried open my eyes with apple seeds, and taught me the following:
Left to right, these apples are:
- Golden Delicious, an excellent lunchbox apple, keeps well. Taste is sweet, light, refreshing.
- Grannie Smith, a very tart apple, good for pies
- Royal Gala, very sweet and "royal" tasting, sort of gala-esque (OK, I forgot what they told me about this one)
I noticed that the cut apples were browning (or oxidizing) at different rates, and he said that the sugars in the sweeter apples make them brown faster when exposed to air.
Isn't that special?
Also: All the apples were free, which made them even better.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
When grad school at Medill began we had to sign waivers allowing them to use our likeness in ads.
This ad was in the back of our Alumni marketing book.
It's us in the downtown Chicago newsroom. At the front are our esteemed profs, Marcel "Inappropriate" Pacette and Steve "Serious" Duke.
There are also some other very important people:
- Notice the gent in the blue shirt at the center. I appear to be wearing a dress shirt for some reason - I must have had an interview that day, because otherwise I'd be rocking a European-ly small T-shirt. Notice, briefly, what appears to be a bald spot. Then look away.
- See the cute blonde chick to my right? That's my girlfriend Dianna. It's strange to see us back then, before we actually started going out. We sat together as much as we could. She was far and away the cutest / coolest girl in my grad school class, but I admit I was a tad intimidated by her mad smarts / mad snark. And here we are, more than a year later, back in DC and slugging it out with the media / the U.S. Federal government. This picture was before student loans, before I got stressed out planning a graduation party for my family, before jobs and many other milestones. I met her on the first day and liked her immediately. During this period we wrote, bitched and, most important, drank like journalists. I've learned so many things about myself since then... It's been transformative, really. Besides student loans, a degree and a sweet job, I also got a sweet girl out of it. Hey - I should shill for our grad school program ($100 an hour - CV available upon request).
- At the back of the room is our friend Jess. Jess immediately reminded me of Dianna, and it took some months to get them to hang out. Now they are weird doppleganger Midwestern twins, somehow separated at birth and reunited in the newsroom.
- On the bottom left is our dear Greg Trotter, who somehow knew how to look interested and completely checked out at the same time.
- In the upper left is Dave, who is doing his classic "I'm both really interested and really distracted" ADD / Red Bull pose. Two seconds after this, he probably asked a very loud and animated question that got tons of laughs.
But did you know that his mistress bears a striking resemblance to that nasty villianess from Power Rangers?
Name: Sanford's Mistress
Favorite quote: "Do me."
Name: Mistress of Interstellar Evil
Favorite quote: "Hahahaha.... I will destroy you!"