Tuesday, February 28, 2006


My 100th post! Geeze, I don't know what to say. Which is so not the point of doing this kind of thing, isn't it? I guess I could go on about how depressed I've been lately (part "my next PET scan is coming", part "post-Olympics blues", part "I wish I had some more vacation time available from work", part "our country is going to hell", part native depression, part missing some of my best friends, part mental exhaustion from almost a year of non-stop pain, and part boredom), but who wants to read that? On the other hand, how many of my posts haven't been about that anyway, just in another form? (Well, all right, I've had more concrete/external reasons to be bummed previously, but you get the picture.)
I wanted this blog to be more amusing than it has been, but it's been kind of hard to keep my wit about me for the last 9 months, and I'm still really scared. I'm scared about cancer. I'm scared about what our President and his gang of evil-doers has been doing to others (and us as well). I'm scared for the future generation of people trying to overcome the oppression of big business, given the ascension of right wing justices in all the courts of the land. (Seriously, I think about this stuff.) I'm scared about not doing my job well. I'm scared about TBO not being happy with hers. I'm scared about my friends' well-being. And there's not a damn thing I can do about much of any of that, is there? So I also have to deal with my own helplessness as well.
Most of my relatives (on my Dad's side) would claim that I feel this way because I don't have a "relationship" with God. (They may be right, but when I look at the people [not in my family] who claim to have one and what they believe and how they behave, I can hardly respect what religion has done "for" them. From what I've seen, most "religious" believers use their faith as an excuse to be literally closed-minded [either they believe that only other like-minded believers are "worthy", or they only do what they think God is telling them to do, and therefore don't need to think about the consequences of their actions--it's God's will, right?], which I find the most abhorrent trait people can possess.) Others would claim that I feel this way because I need therapy. (They're probably closer to the truth, but I'm unsure that another equally fallible human being has the answers I might need either.) Some would claim I need both, but if I can't trust one thing (faith) or another (intellect) wholly, can I really find solace from both separately?
See? Wasn't that worth wading through the other 99?
; )

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Quarterly review

It's that time again. Time to check to see if I'm still cancer-free. Every time I get a PET scan I feel a twinge of non-denial--what if this time they find something? Now, don't get all weepy on me out there; I'm sure nothing's gonna happen. (Whew, back in denial! That's good.) The worst part is the drive home during rush hour (which in LA, of course, lasts from infinity o'clock to forever, but there are spots when it gets even worse). I'll probably be pretty hungry, since I'm not allowed to eat today and the scan's not til 3:45 (if they get to me on time, haw!). We'll see.
I guess that's about all I've got to say on this. Let's hope I get the results quickly and we all get to forget it for another 3 months!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Well, since nobody asked . . .

Four jobs I've had:
1) Bartender (3 times)
2) Manager of 20/20 video store
3) Busboy for Valle's Steakhouse
4) Telephone solicitor for Lawn Doctor

Four movies I can rewatch endlessly:
1) Murder, My Sweet--not the bleakest film noir, but lots o' fun
2) Groundhog Day (appropriately)
3) The Sure Thing--wonderfully sweet, with nice comic touches as well
4) The Road Warrior--the first movie I ever saw based solely on a review; I will be/was eternally grateful to Siskel and Ebert for giving it "2 thumbs up".

Movie I must rewatch, because I...CAN'T...TURN...AWAY:
1) Top Gun--"That's right, ICE...man, I am dangerous."
"Yeah, your old man did it the right way. What I am about to tell you is highly classified and could end my career."
"I'm too late, aren't I? You've already given up. You've got that move down, haven't you, Maverick?"
"I'm going to hit the breaks and they'll fly right on by." "You're gonna WHAT?!"


Four places I've lived:
1) Rockville, Maryland--home
2) Eugene, Oregon--school
3) Madison, Wisconsin--one summer when refuge was sorely needed
4) The South Bay, LA County, which is in its own universe. Trust me.

Four television shows I love:
1) Wiseguy--gone, but never forgotten
2) Homicide--responsible for the single most intense hour of TV ever shot
3) The Wire--first season starts slowly, but builds to the best (if not the happiest) ending I've seen in awhile
4) The Simpsons--year in, year out, the richest, most allusion-dense comedy on the planet

Four places I've vacationed:
1) Ocean City, New Jersey--almost every year when I was growing up
2) Canadian Rockies--a cool bus/train trip with TBO and the family
3) RV trip all over the Southwest--3 week family vacation when we lived back east
4) Bahstin, Mass.--one of my closest friends lives there

Four sites visited daily:
1) Daily Kos--for news and my political fix
2) My own blog--because my ego's as big as the whole outdoors (Has anyone commented today? Lemme check . . .)
3) eBay--because you can never have enough Infinity floor standing speakers in the house
4) The Grrrly Librarian--because love is hard to come by in this world, and having found it, I don't intend on taking it for granted!

Four places I'd rather be:
1) At home, working on my neverending quest for the perfect playlist for my neverending collection of music media devices
2) In my baby's arms
3) On the road, driving toward a far destination where there is no strife or stress, only friends and fun
4) Somewhere where bigots aren't

Four books I love:
1) The Lord of the Rings--reread countless times since I was in junior high
2) Revolution in the Head--a brilliant song-by-song analysis of the Beatles. I wish every group I care about had someone do this for their stuff.
3) Army of the Potomac trilogy--started me on the path to my love of history in general and the Civil War specifically. Incredible lyricism and passionate writing from Bruce Catton, filling the pages with characters and events that changed the world.
4) The Origins of the Republican Party--quite simply, the best written academic history book I've ever read. Unfortunately, Gienapp died in 2003, leaving this story (and many others from his too-soon stilled pen) unfinished.

Four video/PC games I play:
1) "Bookworm"--damn flaming tiles
2) "Railroad Tycoon"--the progenitor of all the "tycoon" games, addictive and even a bit educational
3) "Rail Baron"--based on my favorite board game of all time, this unofficial version may not even exist any longer . . .
4) Either a "Magic: The Gathering" or a "Dungeons & Dragons" game, depending on their quality

Four Albums I love:
1) The Velvet Underground, "White Light/White Heat"--opened my eyes to a new kind of music when I first heard it as an impressionable youth. No more Top 40 for me!
2) Joy Division, "Closer"--opened my eyes to a new kind of music when I first heard it as a callow adolescent in college. Or: Its hymnlike iciness lingers in the ear like molasses, drawing one into its paradoxically warm embrace.
3) Bruce Springsteen, "Darkness on the Edge of Town"--his most consistently strong album.
4) And today's #4 choice: Journey, "Infinity"--ok, so maybe I haven't given up the Top 40 forever. On the other hand, Steve Perry hadn't completely taken over the band yet, so it's not as bad as one might think.

Now can I stop thinking for the day?

It's a tragedy, I tell ya

By now I'm sure everyone has either heard or seen the debacle that was the finals of the women's Snowboarding Cross race. One of the competitors had taken so great a lead by the second-to-last jump she decided it would be fun to do a little trick and pulled what's known in the trade as a "Method Air". She also ended up with a face plant in the snow as she blew the landing, letting the boarder behind her pass her up for the gold medal.
I'm sure most people in the world are laughing their a$es off at her for what might be considered her "typical" American arrogant attitude, and really, who can blame them if they are? This was not only boneheaded, but wholly in violation of the spirit of the Olympic games. In fact, in the spirit of the ancient games, one might call it "tragic".
In ancient Greek drama, a "tragedy" had some very definite characteristics. The main thrust of the plot had to show the protagonist failing, usually in a spectacular fashion, due to some inherent character flaw. Most of the time, the protagonist would be felled by his (since most, if not all of the time, the characters were male) overweening pride, or hubris. That is exactly what happened yesterday to Lindsey Jacobellis. And in fact, if she were owning up to her action, she might be getting the same kind of sympathetic treatment that the classic heroes of Greek tragedy have been accorded over the centuries.
Instead, however, Jacobellis is trying to spin her way out of her responsibility, and it is that failure that is truly disheartening and dispiriting. Her immediate post-race interview found her trying to convince the listening audience that her Method Air was actually intended to stabilize her mid-air position to ensure a safe landing, just as she had done earlier in the semi-finals. This was completely contradicted by the good folks at NBC, who showed us her semi-final stabilizing move on a split-screen with her Method Air, proving her words false. Clearly that story wasn't going to fly, so now she claims that she was indeed pulling a stunt, but that she was simply "caught up in the moment".
Anyone finding this kind of truth manipulation a wee bit familiar? Who can really blame Jacobellis for spinning, though? It works for our top government officials all the time. It's interesting to me to see that for the sake of a sports story that will disappear into the mists of time in about a week, NBC is willing to demolish the spin of a 20-year-old snowboarder--who is obviously just radically embarrassed at perhaps having blown her one chance at a precious gold medal on the grandest athletic stage, in full view of the entire world--but is completely unwilling to do the same light digging when faced with the deadly lies and outrageous spin of our elected officials. We are all being made to suffer for their hubris, aren't we? That's the real tragedy. (Sorry to drag politics into this; it just seemed so obvious to me that Jacobellis was trying to handle the press, and that seeing her story debunked so quickly and dramatically on screen made me yearn for NBC, or someone out there in mediaworld, to pay the same attention to the truth when Smirky or Dick are at the mic.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More Olympics fun

Last night TBO and I watched the pairs skating. I've always watched it, even though if pressed I would probably say I don't really like it. But, it's the Olympics and it's what's they're showing. Now, being an avid sports spectator, I watch these things intently--even if it's something like this I'm not usually all that fond of. I learn the lingo, I can intelligently talk about axels (the skater jumps into it when facing forward and ends it going backwards), salchows (skater begins and ends going backwards), and lutzes (skater uses non-gliding foot to initiate the jump, and apart from using a different side of the skate blade is the same as a salchow), and can tell when someone screws up even if they don't fall. But skating is one of those sports that is so demanding that even the very best in the world can't be perfect all the time. Falls are pretty common, even in the Olympics.
Last night two pairs showed why Michelle Kwan is a loser. The eventual winners skated second to last, and before they skated, NBC showed us their story. Some while back, they were doing something not usually considered all that dangerous in competition: the guy skater (Maxim Marinan) was holding the girl (Tatiana Totmianina) over his head and doing a few spins down the ice. Unfortunately, Maxim began to lose his footing and dropped Tatiana. Hard. Sickeningly hard. Pretty much on her head, causing a "severe" concussion which knocked her out for a long while. It was pretty awful. She ended up ok, of course (otherwise there's no story, right?), after a short stint in the hospital. Maxim, on the other hand, was a mess. Tatiana, after all, couldn't remember a thing about it, but he had to relive that moment repeatedly in his head. Ick.
Maxim and Tatiana skated last night with that terrible memory hanging over them, and they finished without incident, understandably hesitant, but earning a standing ovation nonetheless for overcoming their fears. The other standing "o" came for the very next pair. Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao (who incidentally skated to a version of the Led Zeppelin song "Kashmir" for their short program!), were the final pair to skate and were in line to win the gold, but on their first throw Zhang Dan couldn't stick the landing and fell hard on her knees splaying out her legs severely. For a few minutes Dan was unable to skate/walk at all, as the doctor checked her out to see if any permanent damage was done. Apparently she was ok, although it was also apparent that she was indeed hurt, and they finished their program, throws, jumps, and all. The audience roared their appreciation for this display of guts and determination, and Dan and Hao, despite the fall, took silver.
This is why I watch sports. This is why figure skating is ok by me. (I hope Michelle Kwan was watching, and I hope that she's ashamed.) If these two pairs could skate--better than any others in the world last night--the one in obvious psychological torment and the other in obvious physical pain, then what other heights can we achieve?

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Olympic spirit?

Anyone watch the men's cross-country skiing yesterday? One of the favorites got into a pileup at the beginning of the race, sending a handful of skiers sprawling. The story, if you listen to the coverage now, is of his heroic comeback from dead last to finish 2nd. The story, if you were watching then, was that Estil's teammates jumped out in front to slow the pace down so that Estil could catch up. Now, I may not be up on the ethics of Olympian athletes, but doesn't that sound a bit fishy? It's one thing to have the leader in the race slow down or stop and wait for a fallen competitor to get back up--which is what Lance Armstrong did so memorably a couple years ago in the Tour de France. But to have one's teammates warp the entire race in a non-team sport? Touching? Yes--the real story should have been on the other skiers who played along, though, not on the beneficiary of their actions. Their good sportsmanship is not to be doubted.
How tainted, however, is that silver medal? Severely, imho. So what if he was a star? Part of what makes an athlete respectable, and even admirable, is their determination in the face of setbacks; to have your setback erased by the actions of others merely calls into question the whole ethical aura of the competition itself. That is not what I watch sports for--I would have loved to have seen Estil fight his way back into a fair race, even if he didn't come close to the leaders. Would it really have marked him as an inferior athlete if he could have only passed 40 other racers in a real race, instead of 70 in what amounts to a fixed one?
It's a shame he got tangled up and fell. That happens, though, in sports. The race doesn't always go to the fastest; some of the best sports stories contain tragedy as well as the elevating of someone to previously unknown heights. If this one was only supposed to be about how the favorites fared against each other, why have any more than the top 3? 6? on the course at all?
I won't even begin to talk about the US downhillers, let alone Michelle ("Ow, I'm hurt. I quit.") Kwan. Sheesh.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reply to a letter

This is what I wrote to TBO's father this morning. It's just my own quick take on the state of the union . . .
The unfortunate comparisons to what's happening inside our government and what happened during the rise of Hitler are clear, but because most of the people here still think they are free and untouched by the gov't, anyone stating them gets immediately "booed off the stage" as it were. "I'm not worried about the NSA, because I'm not doing anything wrong" is hardly the rationale a citizen in a republic should be using to excuse anything the gov't does (of course), but that's exactly what those on the right are arguing in their haste to become jingoistic bigots. The enemy (as the Nazis so memorably propagandized into "truth") in Germany during the '30s was internalized (changing from those awful Allies and their damned Versaille Treaty to the Jews), and ours has been externalized (from the actually external bin Laden and Taliban to "if you're not onboard with our jackbooted thuggery you're with them"), but the course of history is the same between the two so far. The only difference that I can see at this point is that centralized control of the media began under one gov't (Reagan) and has only now become completely warped during Smirky's reign. That it is not under direct ownership of the state has become irrelevant, but that's what has people bamboozled. "We're not fascists because we believe in a free market" is not a comforting explanation, because the effects of politicized and deregulated commerce working hand in glove with the government are exactly the same. The fact that most of what passes for the "free market" is actually heavily governmentally subsidized (think of the oil, media, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural tax breaks/gifts, for example, let alone gov't contracts in the aerospace and munitions industries) doesn't seem to register as a problem in the (probably largely unaware) public's mind. One party rule has been in place for 5 years now--how much longer will it be before people get that? In the 6th year, Hitler declared war on the world--Smirky got to do it in his first. Where's the difference, really?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Learned helplessness

Yes, Alberto Gonzales is lying his a$$ off. Yes, Smirky broke the law. Yes, the NSA (and who knows how many other agencies) are spying on us illegally and without warrant or warrants. And yet, I am unable to muster much outrage. Why? Mainly because I've been burnt out by too many promising avenues and reasons for revolt both in and out of our government either failing to materialize or petering out in a sea of equivocation and dissent. It doesn't surprise me in the least that Gonzales wasn't made to swear to tell the truth--everybody in the room knew he was going to be lying. It doesn't surprise me at all that most of the Republicans on the dais, even if they show some sort of independence in their lines of questioning (which isn't happening all that much anyway) are posturing now to show "America" that they really care. I know that when push comes to shove, they will simply roll over or act like bitches in heat when their master Frist tells them to. It has simply happened too many times--in fact, every single time anything has been voted on and passed for the last 11 years+--for me to come anywhere close to thinking "maybe this time . . .".
Why is this happening? Well, for one thing, no one is holding these slimeballs accountable for their actions--because no one is watching. And those of us who are watching remain powerless to effect any kind of change because we aren't in control of anything. We don't have the broadcasting ability, we don't have the newspapers, we don't have but one radio "network", and we don't have one branch of the government to call our own. I can write as many blog entries as humanly possible, and point to as many others as I can, that are trying to spread the message that we are being screwed back to the 1890s, but aside from maybe influencing a pol or two who want to pay attention to us, what has happened? Nothing. Those people who need to hear this stuff either don't care enough to listen or are actively seeking to destroy us. Either way, we don't have an audience of people who are "convinceable". It boggles the mind that there are at least 30% of Americans who still support Smirky and think that he's an "ok guy" who is looking out for them. That's impossible, because Smirky is only looking out for the 30 or so people in his inner circle with every breath he takes into his wretched soul. That he has connived the entire Republican party--and even some useless Democrats--that he is helping them to do anything but destroy the US is simply evidence of their own craven desires, especially if they aren't true believers. I'm pretty sure that Arlen Specter doesn't truly think Bush knows what he's doing, but it just doesn't matter enough to him to act on that belief. He knows that the right wing is ascendant, so regardless of whether he's on board with their platform or not, he recognizes that they are organized and winning. He was supposed to be "pro-choice", wasn't he? So how does he square that circle by voting for Alito? He's a Senator of the United States, right? So why will he participate in the whitewashing of Smirky, Gonzales, and the spooks in intelligence as they subvert the entire Constitution? Does he really want Smirky to be our dictator? Does he really think that's not what is going on? (I'm not even going to bother with Hatch, Kyl, or the rest, because they are obviously mere lapdogs of the ruling junta).
We are in the death throes of our democratic way of life--and don't let anyone tell you that democracy equals capitalism, because it doesn't. Anytime someone tries to tell you that a free market is the same thing as free speech, call bullshit on it. And that's what most of Smirky's gameplan has been about, from day one. He is not a Christian, for God's sake--how can he be and have so little regard for human life? He's just a greedy little pig, snuffling his way to the magic gold rings of power, money, and ego boosting. His business cronies are using him to gut the Constitution for their benefit, all the while claiming a mantle of patriotism, as if those two weren't mutually exclusive. Can anyone seriously look at or listen to Dick Cheney or Karl Rove and not believe that they are completely soulless? Can anyone really listen to anything Smirky says--and then watch his subsequent actions--without realizing that he's clearly either a) the stupidest man ever to hold that office, or b) a sociopathic pathological liar?
But what does it get me to know all this? Sooner or later, due to decades of deregulation and tax code changes, all wealth in this country will be concentrated in the hands of a few white Republican men, who will control the reins of everything we eat, see, or do, in addition to all the regulatory bodies needed to maintain that control. Or has that already happened? We don't have many people in view who are willing or able to challenge the ruling class, and hey, as long as I can go to Wal-Mart to buy pencils for a nickel less than I can anywhere else, who cares that I make half of what I made before the plant closed down?
Wake the fuck up, people! All politicians are not the same--it does matter who's in charge. Corruption does matter, and it's only the Republicans who are corrupt. How can it be otherwise since they are the ones in control? No one is stupid enough to pay off a politician that can't do anything, and the Dems are not only out of power, they are almost out of spine. After the disgrace of the Alito vote, I have little faith that this combination of Dems is of much use to the country, and by 2008 (since by all accounts, not enough will change in 2006) it will probably be too late to arrest our decline.
The problem is that the public has no independent mode of mass communication left to it, and the political "game" is becoming more and more rigged against us regaining one. Without a means of communication, truths will die unheard and unnoticed, especially amidst the sea of propaganda that now dominates the airwaves and the print media. The last thing left is the vote, and if the electronic voting machines are actually getting "fixed" to reach a particular result, we don't even have that.
I wish this were all hyperbole, but it really isn't. Every day I see or hear something more depressing regarding our media and the state of our union. The more I see the headlines on CNN, in the Times (NY or LA) or the Post, or hear on NPR, not match up with what I know is happening based on my own observations, the more I realize that even these last beacons of supposed objectivity are failing us. The more I tune into CSPAN to check out what the Dems on the Hill are up to, the more I realize that the rhetoric isn't helping. A rousing, blistering, but most of all, truthful questioning--even from Joe Biden--on Gonzales gives only a momentary frisson of pleasure, immediately undercut and blown away by Sessions's pandering statements like, "I'd like to join in congratulating you on this office. And you are uniquely qualified and capable of handling this docile committee which you've inherited." I mean, what's the point of saying something like that?
It's no fun living through the demise of a culture of freedom like our country has enjoyed--even with all of its faults--for this long. Knowing that there are people in this country that have not a single iota of caring for others makes me both angry and despairing, because those are the people who need the kind of help a liberal society offers. Unfortunately, they have seemingly no reason to think so, because there are plenty of idiots out there willing to tell them that they're ok in their racist, bigoted (or maybe even just selfish) ways.