Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Would Look Over My Half Glasses Sternly

If I heard these words from a student, I would look over my half glasses sternly.

Obama: A Man Who's Cast Tough Votes


Posted by: Brian Faughnan

Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 10:16AM


I was curious about Barack Obama's record of casting 'present' votes in the Illinois legislature, so I decided to go back and look at some Senate transcripts from his first term to see what more I could learn. I was surprised at what I found.

At least in his first two years in the Senate, Obama seemed to have an unusual problem just casting votes -- physically. Sometimes he simply missed the votes (recall his debate admission that he is very disorganized. Other times he cast votes, but later said that he had accidentally voted the wrong way. Some highlights:

March 14, 1997 Thank you Madam Speaker (sic). Will the sponsor yield? I let this – I voted to have this bill come out of committee, because I think it was useful to have this kind of discussion on the bill, and I think the Senator has good intent… So although I did vote Yes to get this out of the committee, I – as currently constituted in light of the discussion, I think that it may – I will probably vote in opposition to the bill.

March 18, 1997 This is actually on the previous bill, 1076. I pressed yes, but my button didn’t come up.

March 19, 1997 The – yesterday on Senate Bill 1000, I should have – I was trying to vote Yes on this and I was recorded as a No. Just wanted to have that in the record.

March 20, 1997 Yes, Madam President. On Senate bill 700, I should have pressed a Yes vote; pressed a Present vote. I’d like that reflected in the record, please.

May 13, 1997 Yes, Mr. President. I was off the floor and I was wondering if we were going to go back on 2nd reading. I’d ask the body for 2147. Move it from 2nd to 3rd.

May 28, 1997 Thank you, Madam President. My button seems to be sticking. So I was recorded as not voting on that; I would have voted aye.

October 30, 1997 Thank you, Madam President, Members of the Chamber, the sponsor. Let me start off by just saying that – I want to apologize to the sponsor because the – I’m originally recorded as a – as a Yes vote on this, and it’s an indication, I think, that I wasn’t paying sufficient attention. I do have concerns on this bill, and I just want to express those concerns very quickly…

November 14, 1997 Thank you, Mr. President. I had the same problem on Senate Bill 493. I’d like to be recorded as a No vote.

[Later that same day]

Thank you, Mr. President. On Senate Bill 452, I was out in the hall when the vote came up and I didn’t get back here in time. I would like to be recorded as a Yes vote.

May 22, 1998 I apologize, Mr. President. I was off the floor and missed House Bill 1706. I just wanted to record that I would have voted in the affirmative.

I haven't looked at the rest of his tenure in the Senate to determine if this problem continued after his first term (1997-1998). But it certainly is odd.

There's a maxim among Members of Congress that you can't go too far wrong voting for a bill that fails, or against a bill that passes. In either case, half the people are happy because of the outcome of the vote, and the other half are happy that you voted with them. No one can hold anything against you.

Was Obama trying to take this one step further, and actually vote 'both ways?' If so, then it was a master stroke to hit on the idea of voting 'present.' That's a lot simpler than constantly explaining accidental votes.

This article is from www.redstate.com.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Time That I Went To Mongolia

Well, I promised I'd tell you about the Times That.
So here's a bit about

THE TIME I WENT TO MONGOLIA (insert Space Odyssey music, of course)

Well, I should mention I'd never flown before.

So by the time I took a bumpy puddle-jumper ride from Ft. Wayne to Chicago, my tummy was, well, a little upset. Which it tends to in travel anyway, because, as my mother puts it, I'm high strung. Which means that when I was little, every time we'd get ready to visit the grandparents in the state away, I'd puke the night before out of sheer excitement.

It was a rite of passage, the first time I managed not to puke upon packing for the trip to Michigan.

But anyway, by the time my group boarded the largest plane EVER in Chicago, destined for Beijing, well, I was pretty excited. And nauseous. Have I mentioned that?

Here's the thing. Once you get on a major international flight, you can't get off. That basically was the only problem.

Because I didn't know it then, but I was about ready to get airsick.

Let me mention again - nonstop Chicago to Beijing. Which means hours - and hours - and hours - in a small space with a baby in the row in front of me screaming WAY-JA WAY-JA WAY-JA for hours. And hours. While being the sickest I've ever been. Ever. What that means is, sympathetic girls from my group surrounding me while I threw up into an air sickness bag while the five year old several rows back was doing fine.

SO humiliating. The flight attendant kept stopping by anxiously to make sure I was okay. Apparantly I was looking pale. HA! My brother frequently makes remarks about my complexion, usually like this: "wow, you make that slug over there look tan." So when I look pale, well...

But we finally arrived in Beijing, and of course it was only after I used the airsickness bag that the Dramamine I'd taken finally set in. So from Beijing to Ulaan-Baatar, that world famous okay I'll explain it: Ulaan Baatar is the capital city of Mongolia. In fact, really, it's the only city in Mongolia.

Oh. Right. And Mongolia is here:

It is cosily tucked between China and Russia.

Memories from Mongolia? Burning a fire in a stove with dried dung. Repainting a fence with the only paint available: lead. Washing my hair in a frigid Mongolian river. Watching a Batman movie dubbed into Mongolian on a tv in a ger (yert) on the outskirts of the city. Buying a wool rug from the open air market for less than $60. Meeting abandoned children who'd been left on trains or doorsteps. Seeing a martial arts demonstration by the Ulaan Baatar police force. Climbing a mountain and finding piles of rocks strewn with blue fabric on the top (blue is a lucky color and is often attached to offerings to the divine - ie, the rock piles. I think they were like prayer piles of rocks.) Finally getting our picture taken with a real, live Mongolian camel - which, by the way, are much much shaggier and hairy than the camels in the Middle East. Oh, and almost getting stranded in Mongolia because China demanded we have travel visas for our three hour layover in the airport, at the last minute. Oh, and mutton. Lots. And lots. Of mutton. Or, to quote "The Hobbit," "mutton yesterday, mutton today, and blimey if it won't be mutton tomorrow." Oh, and playing sheep knuckles. Yep. It's a game you play. With sheep knuckles.

I know what you're thinking. But yes, sheep have knuckles.

Random trivia about Mongolia? Well, the world's tallest man lives in Mongolia with his wife, who's about two feet shorter than he is. And Mongolia used to be Communist, but isn't anymore since the fall of Communism in Russia. And many Mongolians' claim to fame is still Ghengis Khan. And make no mistake about it, they are fiercely proud.

So yes, I've slept in a Mongolian ger, and used an outhouse with no door, and yes, I've eaten an unidentifiable meat that I think was beef heart but I'll never know - which is probably for the best. And yes, I've had jet lag that plagued me for three weeks and experienced reverse culture shock, which is why, after emptying my room a third time for Goodwill, mom finally asked, "how much are you getting rid of, anyway?" And yes, I've seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dubbed into Mongolian, and yes, I was surprised when I could read some of the Mongolian signs, and then realized that my Greek studies were paying unexpected dividends.

And yes, sometimes, I miss being away from home.

Ode - To My Crockpot

Oh, Crockpot.
Your simmering ways.
How you bubble and stew while the
world spins, unaware of
what you conjure inwardly.

Oh, Crockpot.
You wear the apron
when I am sick and sniffling,
keeping my husband from
having to cook
two days in a row.

Oh, Crockpot.
You lure the dogs into thinking
that it's for them, and we laugh,
knowing that it's not.
It's for us.

Oh, Crockpot.
You clean up so nice and bright, so
I don't even have to use the dreaded
scouring pad.

Oh, Crockpot.
I'd love you even if you hadn't come with
a little red mini Dipper -
but you did. Don't worry, I won't
forget it.

Oh, Crockpot.
You're the best twenty-eight dollars
I've ever spent at Wal-Mart. How
could a kitchen ever live without you?
You're the chef, we just turn your dial.

Oh, Crockpot.
You fed us yesterday and then again today,
when I had roast leftovers for lunch.
You silly Crockpot. You just can't give
enough - and we'll never forget it, or that
weird time you batted your eyes at us
and we had to remind you that we're just friends.

Oh, Crockpot.
You came into our kitchen with your settings of
high, low, and "warm," and we knew our days
would never
be the same.

Oh, Crockpot.
May you and I never part.
Love is not love which alters when it
crockpot roast doth find, nor bends with the
remover to remove (the roast): oh no, it is
an ever-fixed mark on high, because I never
put the roast in early enough to warrant switching you
to low.

p.s. yes, I'm still sick and highly medicated. What's your point?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Time Out!

"Yes We Can" has devolved into "Maybe Not."

The myth of one nation transcending party lines seems, today, rather like the exposure of the emperor's new clothes. No purple states here. Still blue and red.

And why anyone thought unity could be achieved during an election year still eludes me. It's simply not intellectually honest, it might not even be healthy, and it's most certainly not human nature.

Yesterday, our political leaders - who you and I elected into office - announced an agreement "in theory" over the proposed bailout. The market went singing happily on its way. But it all underwent a Chernobyl-esque meltdown last night, turning into a brawl.

On one hand, we have a presidential candidate who is committed to being in Mississippi tonight for a scheduled debate. On the other hand, we have a presidential candidate who has publicly announced he will not be attending the debate unless a negotiation for the financial bail-out has been reached. The former candidate insists the American people want to know what the candidates think during this crisis, that the debate is a priority. The latter candidate has appealed to the former to join him in working in Washington during this crisis.

Here's the deal: it will take a lot - a lot - of people working together to get some kind of bail-out plan passed, not just one Senator of either party. But this situation is financially comparable to when a hurricane is about to make landfall - only for the entire nation. So it is arguable that it is appropriate to suspend campaigning to deal with it, as McCain has done. And keep this in mind, too: McCain's strength is in debating. Obama's weakness is in debating. McCain has every reason to capitalize on the opportunity in Oxford, Mississippi tonight. Obama should have every reason to avoid it. Instead, McCain is in Washington, and Obama is in the South. And the poor networks have no idea if they're airing a live debate tonight or not.

Let's sort this out: McCain is possibly giving up an opportunity to appear well in the debates. Cynics can accuse him of using this situation to show his prowess, but that goes against the statement he issued acknowledging that bipartisan talks at the White House yesterday devolved into a yelling match. Additionally, one can question whether he's doing his duty as a senator, or flexing his muscles to advertise his leadership skills. But it seems unlikely that the public would be more affected by not seeing him - at work in Washington - than by seeing him - in a debate. So it would be poor strategy for him to go to Washington simply to appear noble. The conclusion left, then, is that perhaps he honestly thinks he needs to be there during this crisis. An unusual campaign move, perhaps, but it's an unusual time in our economy.

Now, the Democrats know that McCain has said he won't attend the debate if a negotiation hasn't been reached. So they have the option of working for that negotiation or against it. Well, there are competing motives here: get a solution passed by tonight? Why? McCain will have gone to Washington AND shown up at the debate. Wait for a negotiation til Monday? Then McCain will have missed the debate and Obama can be the one left standing at the podium saying "where's my opponent?"

At this point, I'd like to shout "Time Out!" And I'd like to point my finger, raise my eyebrow, and declare that every bottom sitting in the seats of Congress was placed there by the American people - and if they can't stop acting like Kindergartner's, they'll be removed by the American people. This is not a time to toy with a financial crisis for personal gain. If they fail to address this gaping problem, then perhaps it's time for them to lose their retirement funds, or health insurance. In the famed words of parents everywhere, "I don't care who started it. Finish it!"

For additional coverage, see: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-09-25-bush-candidates-bailout_N.htm

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Time That...

I've decided to write several pieces on unusual situations. The time that I went to Mongolia. The time that I saw Prince William in a Scottish pub. The time that my grandparents took me out west and Grandma spilled soda in Grandpa's lap. The time that I moved three times in four months. The time I ran through an airport in high heels. The time that I sent a card to Kensington Palace. The time that I graduated with a two dollar bill stuck in my bra during the ceremony. The time that I went to the horse races. The time I held a woman whose mother had just died. The time that I helped tear down bathroom walls and said the dreaded word "oops."

The time my husband got arrested.
After staring at grape gum colored walls of a lobby of a jail for about twenty or thirty minutes, they let me ransom my husband out of the can. A sullen looking sergeant with the biggest nostrils I've ever seen accepted the bail (bribe) and finally let me have him back.
John met me wild eyed and shaking and I gave him some peanut butter M&M's, since chocolate helps people who've been around dementors. Azkaban has nothing on that County Detention Center, which, incidentally, has about a dozen awards displayed - for best float in the Christmas parade.

Now, I appreciate our law enforcement officers. They would help me if I was being burgled. But when they arrest a sweet young man for missing a court date for a traffic ticket and an un-updated driver's license, I have to wonder if they're making up for budget cuts. Let's see: meth, pot, gangbangers, illegal immigrants. Yep. Speeding and not getting a new driver's license within thirty days of moving to the state. One step removed from being the Godfather.

So my poor sweet little husband was wild-eyed with fear and despair after three hours in the slammer. After all, he had to pee in a cell with no window, a metal toilet, and security cameras in the corners. And all he had to sit on was a mat on concrete. John has the disposition of a golden retriever - happy, laid back, friendly to everyone. Cellblock 913 is no place for golden retrievers. And John looked like a sad puppy.

And the thing is, I LOOKED like a wife getting her husband out of jail - home sick, and receiving a sudden call, I could've been a guest on Maury or Jerry Springer. At least I didn't puke in the car from the migraine I had - I threw up right before I left home. Purple oatmeal. (There were blueberries.) And do you know how weird it is to have to stop at a gas station and ask for directions to the detention center? "OH, you mean the jailhouse?" was the response. The attendant gave me suspiciously clear, efficient directions. I raised my eyebrow slightly. I'm surprised he didn't say "tell them Daryl said hi."

Well, that's what's going on at our house. I'm on monster antibiotics the size of Yugo's. At least "The Office" starts tonight, and last night we watched "Run, Fat Boy, Run" that I got through my beloved Blockbuster online. Simon Pegg from "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." Absolutely loved it. Stupid title, but hilarious.

Last night, on discussing the ridiculous first year of marriage it's been, I said, "at least I'm not pregnant," to which he heartily agreed, especially after my addiction to pregnancy tests. You know you're addicted when it's weird not to pee on a stick.

Make sure your old tickets are paid and your drivers license addresses up to date, people.
It's a jungle out there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Somebody Just Gave Up

I have certain expectations of award shows.

I expect to see plenty of couture gowns, some of which I will love, some of which I will hate, all of which I will watch with interest and analysis.

I expect that the humor will be spotty but at least attempted.

I expect that some of the shows or actors I cheer won't win, and some will.

I expect to be entertained.

At least there were a few stunning gowns. But I think the tense mood of the Hollywood crowd spilled over and sucked the funny out of the room. Everyone's brokers had been receiving hundreds of texts from anxious stars over the weekend, fearful of where their paychecks for "Daddy Daycare" and "The Ant Bully" had gone.

Hollywood, always fresh out of rehab, looked like it needed a drink.

The show was a bizarre string of bad ideas. To have five reality TV show hosts "host" the Emmys was nothing short of disastrous. An Uma-Oprah joke would've actually helped buoy the situation. The absurd musical montage of famous TV theme songs sung by - whose idea was this? Josh Groban was neither clever nor pleasant. I never want to see Josh Groban contorting his face to do the "South Park" theme again. His high tenor vibrato is for misty-eyed arias that figure skaters will perform to, not "Cheers" or "M*A*S*H." Then, of course, the forced "funny" ensembles that obviously hadn't rehearsed, couldn't see the teleprompters correctly, and looked like they'd even been making Teri Hatcher cry backstage - the "Desperate Housewives" bit, the appallingly bad "Laugh-In" bit, and the continual reappearances of the reality TV hosts who were lined up reality TV-style to receive their awards.

Now, watching any award show during an election year, or any year in which a Democrat isn't in office, will render political statements. Unfortunately, nobody actually got really mad and screamed or said anything extreme. Instead, everyone just made sideways references in snide tones, or urged people to vote. The Republicans there - and there are some in Hollywood - seemed to know that the Emmy's aren't a political fundraising rally and kept to things like TV. But my favorite line recently on politics and Hollywood came from Hollywood - "Get Smart," to be exact, which is a hilarious movie. On a plot to blow something up in Hollywood, the Russian criminal mastermind responds to his subordinate's concern on what will happen to the stars: "oooh, no. What will the world do without the razor-sharp wit and political advice of celebrities?", rolling his eyes.

Whoever was the mastermind for the Emmy's apparently, on about Saturday night, sat back and shrugged, and said, "Well. Wall Street's bust, the presidential race is close, I've got an ulcer and Josh Groban's voice singing "The Jefferson's" theme ringing in my head. I give up."

Oh, and did I mention that "30 Rock" won everything and "The Office" won nothing? Here's my beef with that: I know few people who watch "30 Rock" and a lot of people who watch "The Office." Also, the former is quirky, yes, but it's another sitcom. "The Office" changes the whole way comedy is done on TV, and is a watershed show that will be examined for years to come.

Next year, let Michael Scott's party planning committee handle the award show. Red and white streamers would've been a big improvement over the giant "classic" sets from old shows placed to remind all the actors how important their contribution to TV is.

Emmy, we know we like TV. Right now, we just like TV a lot more than we like the celebration of it. Emmy, watch out. On the last night of ball in Yankee stadium, and at the beginning of pro-football season, a lot of people last night voted you off the island. When the public is stressed about the biggest financial crisis in decades, we don't want your preaching. We just want to laugh. Guess we'll stick with our favorite shows to do that.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

What sets Sunday apart in your life? Is it getting up early to attend church? Do you spend time with friends on that day - is it set apart for family - is it a day that sports are on?

This eye-catching headline asks the question of where Sabbath and culture meet:

Reclaiming Sabbath might aid our faith http://www.umportal.org/article.asp?id=4120

The secularization of time has created a kind of push back to reclaiming sacred space and schedule. High-church traditions are pulling in numbers of my friends and colleagues.

For me, Sunday traditionally has been a day for sermons, naps, family, and a large shared meal.

That shared meal changed a bit since I grew up and moved away from extended family. Large tables of fried chicken were miles away, grandparents and cousins no longer near.

Now I crave the Eucharist. I love rich sermons, but I've found a fundamental shift in my posture towards Sunday over the past five or ten years - Sunday is a day for sermons, and family, yes - but Sunday is the day on which we take the Eucharist.

I miss it when I've missed several Sundays in a row. My spirit feels enfeebled and impoverished. I miss the quiet, Christocentric ritual that draws me out of my feelings and conundrums and centres me on a tangible, outer expression of the faith.

Now, when I miss a Sunday, I miss the Eucharist.

What do you miss? I hope you're able to say.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Water. Video. Party.

It's fall, which means I rhapsodize eloquently to all who will listen about autumnal virtues, oaken colors, and the many joys of pumpkin patches.

It's fall, which means I have bronchitis.

Which is why I just banged a large cup on a table and shouted "water!", like a prisoner. To my sweet husband, who looked surprised, then mocking.

You there. Get me water. With lots of ice.

I've been trying to watch the latest episode of my super favorite show "The Closer," through devious means, since I have neither cable nor DVR. But some versions are so much quicker to load than others, why, why?

So anyway, while "The Closer" buffers, let me tell you about a party I'm planning.

An Office party.

For the season premiere.

Of "The Office."

I'm telling you now in case you want to use some of these ideas for next week's prime time event of the century, nay, millenium. Also because I'm disgruntled and bored WHY WON'T YOU BUFFER?


Here's what's a-happenin'.

John is going to burn a cd of various songs from the show: Andy's Rockin' Robin, the Dunder Mifflin ad tune, Michael's song intro for the Dundies, "Ryan started the fire," etc.

I am going to kidnap the watercooler from work and use it as a prop for the party.

Snacks will be from the episodes, and a prize will be awarded to whoever can guess the most snack-to-episodes correctly, like so: is an awesome blossom featured in: "Performance Review," "Goodbye, Toby," or "The Client"? and so on. Snacks will include specific foods from the episodes: grilled cheese, mixed berry yogurt, etc. No roadkill goose, though.

Guests will be forced to dress like members of The Office. Given my red hair, I may have to be Meredith. We'll see.

The centerpiece for the table will be a George Foreman grill with bacon on it.

Perhaps we'll have beet salad.

Oh my gosh, I just finished watching the episode "Time Bomb" of The Closer, Season Four - the most intense episode of that series I've ever seen. Will Pope needs to lose his job.

Sweet husband brought me water. The Party Planning committee is hard at work.

But "Time Bomb" was a cliffhanger.

Monday, September 15, 2008

On What Everyone Should Read A Little Bit Of, and Other Thoughts Ending in Dangling Prepositions

When I was young, my mother bought a set of Lucy Maude Montgomery-appearing books called McGuffey's Readers, and she taught me to read with them. I still remember coming across the poem "Try, Try Again," which basically boils down to the line, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," which is why I still hope to keep a house plant alive sometime soon.

In the midst of learning to read from these primers, my mother gave me this bit of wisdom: "if you learn to read, you can learn to do anything." Even today, I think she's still surprised sometimes how literally I took her - and still take her, now. And it's the kind of pithy statement, that, if you really reflect on it, will make you want to volunteer at literacy clinics every weekend. So when she stumbled upon me reading Shakespeare for enjoyment in my teens, she still seemed taken aback at this child my parents bred.

Reading, after all, is the great equalizer. In college I read theology texts while taking bubble baths; I read Greek texts of ancient Scripture (learning a new alphabet is like learning to read all over again); I read new recipes for mulled cider and one called "Lee's Mom's Recipe for White Bread" that Grandma handed down to Mom, who gave it to me. I have no idea who Lee is, or who his or her Mother is. When I stand in line at the grocer's, I skim fashion and gossip mags. When I was little, I thought the height of erudite thinking was Reader's Digest, and about age nine, I starting tearing out stories I liked and keeping them, especially one about a baby who was born so early he could fit in the palm of an adult's hand, or a margarine tub. He lived. I kept that story for a long time. It still doesn't seem like a bathroom without a spare Digest floating around somewhere. I've read many Agatha Christie mysteries, my parents pointed me toward "A Year in Provence," Dad introduced me to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and Mom was the first person to know that at some point in my life, I'd appreciate "At Home in Mitford." Last winter, when the washing machine wasn't working properly, I Googled the symptoms, read the likely cause, shouted it to my husband and brother, who were working on it, and enjoyed the almost immediate repair. When my (now) husband proposed, a series of letters were found throughout the day, so that I not only heard my proposal, I read it. And I have the habit of people three times my age: I try to keep relatively up to date on my obituary reading, because I used to work in an area nursing home. Now I get paid to read: I proofread, I read books for reviews, I proofread some more, I read news and headlines, I write, and then I read.

Reading is the great, simple threshold that brings the subjective and objective together. One reads a word on a page - one cannot dispute the presence of the words, even if one engages in philosophical meanderings on language and meaning. But the objective words either take root in the reader's mind, or, like the seed cast in the parable, fall by the wayside.

It is the words that take root that end up forming the mind somehow - altering thinking, curving thought processes, challenging opinions, eliciting deep responses to beauty, coaxing forth laughter.

Some words are heavier than others. Not only in what they convey, but in how they do it. It takes discipline to read words laden with significance through the course of a whole written work.

So if you're reading these words, here's something I'd like to share: my life has been enriched most profoundly by the simplest words, and the most complexly organized, more than the ones falling somewhere in between. "Jesus wept" says more than many theologians will ever say. But Thomas Aquinas expanded the foundation of my thinking more than many fellow Protestants ever will. What I know is this: a well-balanced life and a well-balanced habit of thinking partakes, occasionally, of rich, dense sustenance. There is no substitute: you can't get your protein from alternative sources in this instance.

Some written word is so heavy, it's like lifting weights with your frontal lobe. But when you slowly become accustomed to that amount, you add a bit more, then a bit more. Then you realize
"if you learn to read, you can learn to do anything." Reading itself won't make you courageous, or holy, or humble. But the written word can inspire courage, or form holiness, or invoke humility. And you will be surprised what you can learn - in the abstract, not even how to keep house plants alive or how long to let bread dough rise - if you try. Try again.

Some of the heaviest lifting I've ever done:
Alvin Plantinga
St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica
Okay, and a biochemistry textbook.

Alvin or Thomas, the choice is yours. If you haven't challenged your mind in a while, you may find it doesn't fit into its gym shorts anymore. Get back on that cognitive treadmill. Stretch those muscles - er, synapses. If you're lucky, you will be silenced by the thought of others. That is as it should be.

Thomas Aquinas never finished his theological writing. Late in life, he had a vision of God that caused him to declare all his writings to be "straw" - a daunting statement when you've read some of it. Because his straw is better than most brick or stone.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Red & Blue Fashion

There are certain items in style that I Won't Do. Crocheted red, white and blue vests with stars on them, for instance. My friends studying to be teachers took vows never, ever to wear denim jumpers with cardigans bedecked in apples, 1-2-3's, and A-B-C's.

And after post - after post - on women and politics, there's one aspect that I haven't admitted yet that is ridiculously fun.

Fashion watching. I am one of those people who has stopped you, a stranger, in the women's room to say "hey, cute shoes!" or "awesome bag!" or "great jacket!" Yes, yes, I've also been stopped in gift stores and, once, an airplane aisle, for comments on my shoes and purse.

So it feels a little bit like "Project Runway" - a really fun show, by the way - whenever the news comes on. Not so much with Hillary - she never quite escaped the shadow of lawyer-dressing. But Michelle Obama, then Cindy McCain, then Sarah Palin have allowed me to sit back and enjoy a runway of a different kind.

Michelle Obama has a great, classic-yet-modern sensibility that had GAP stores running out of the dresses she wore. She's like an updated Jackie O, and it's fun to watch what she wears and she pairs it with jewelry, etc.

Cindy McCain has been a little more hit and miss - she had been doing the business suit with huge glittery - real - bejeweled political brooches. I didn't like that as much. But a couple of recent events have shown a great side - when she sported the black ONE t-shirt, and her stunning gown at the convention. And I don't want to hear the estimate of what her ensemble cost, critics: voters aren't paying for it, she runs a company, she can wear what she wants.

Sarah Palin's glasses have made as much of an impact - sorry, Jennifer - as Aniston's haircut did in the late 90's. I've never heard so much spec speculation. They're okay. What I really like, though? Her shoe choices. Someone commented, "have any other women in this election gotten so much attention to their shoes?" Answer: no one else's have been this cute. Especially the red ones. Of course, I have a standing policy with myself to always have at least one pair of red shoes in my closet. She's done well, too, with her jacket-skirt combinations. I spent a while this morning "googling" the cute blue jacket she wore for part of her Gibson interview. Can't find it anywhere yet.

I wonder what Condoleezza Rice thinks of all this. Her boots made headlines a few years ago, as Secretary of State. They were super chic, too. I wonder if she rolls her eyes and thinks, "pundits on policy and fashion. Now these women are experiencing it, too." Or if she smiles to herself and thinks, "that's right. We can run the country and look smashing doing it."

Old school 60's feminists aren't always comfortable with this discussion. But no one's arguing that anyone should get elected on their fashion choices. But women aren't compartmentalized as only leaders, or only fashionistas, or only policy makers. And for women who enjoy being more than one of these?

Well, their mark will be all the more lasting. No matter who's wearing it, chic is chic - red or blue.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seven Times Seven

So "This Is Reverb" has a seven theme today, and I like it.

I also liked the movie Se7en, though admittedly creepy and suspenseful.


Apophatic beauty (a-uh-poe-fat-ick)


Michael will date Holly (and in a later season actually marry her).

Phyllis will run for some sort of public office after her party success.

Jim will, or will have, propose/d to or married Pam.

Karen will get the position now vacated by both Jan and Ryan.

Dwight and Angela will get back together as if nothing ever happened to Sprinkles.

Oscar will host a Pampered Chef party after Dwight starts an online beet jelly company.

Ryan will be assigned to Dunder Mifflin by a temp agency yet again.


Jane Austen

Margaret Thatcher

Amelia Earhart

Queen Elizabeth I

Lady Jane Grey

Agatha Christie

Vera Wang

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Common Sense Proverbs & Foam Fingers

"Haste Makes Waste"
"A Stitch in Time Saves Nine"

"A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned"

I was in my twenties before I realized how much sense classic proverbs make. No, really. Basically, John Maxwell took every proverb stitched onto a wall hanging in the
early 20th century, put them in executive, masculine verbiage, and made millions off Aunt Hattie's maxims.

Common sense is so rare.
Especially when you turn on the news - from about two weeks ago, til early November. Oh, common sense, how we miss thee.
Statement on the environment? "Haste makes waste."

(fast-paced culture encourages disposable items)

Statement on disaster relief? "A stitch in time saves nine."
(mend things early or the job will be bigger later)

Statement on economics and retirement funds? "A penny saved is a penny earned."
(lower taxes to help ensure wealth)

You'll notice that campaigns are currently embodying ye olde poeme, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," with everything from running ads to ensuring labels stick to opponents. And you'll also observe a veritable smorgasbord of fallacies. Big fallacies, little fallacies, tall fallacies, short fallacies, everybody has a fallacy. So let's review a few basic informal fallacies in discourse, so that you can point and say, Ack! A fallacy! Kill it, quick! no matter which side you're on.

1.) the ad hominem. This means attacking the person instead of using a logical argument. Everybody always says they'll never do it but then they all do it eventually anyway. (How's that for a hyperbolic example of an ad hominem?) And there's a fine line between analytical inquiry and ad hominems sometimes. For example, for better or worse, not only are candidates' religions under scrutiny, their denominations are now examined with a fine-toothed comb. It can be somewhat helpful to know the general worldview of a candidate; that is appropriate. What is not appropriate in rhetoric is statements like the following: "Obama eats babies and hates the Bible" "Palin prayed about God's will in foreign policy one time, which means she is going to lead us into innumerable, indefensible wars all in the name of the Divine, just like Hitler."

2.) the straw man. (not to be confused with "the scarecrow" from Wizard of Oz.) This refers to when a person beats down a substitute argument and then pretends they've defeated the real argument. Like this: "I'm sure you're saying A (even though they may being saying B), and A is flawed in this way, therefore you're wrong." Or like this: "Your foreign policy is flawed, therefore your economic policy must not be good, either."

3.) the slippery slope. Note that the slippery slope has a closely related, legitimate argument of sequence. The slippery slope, however, is the illegitimate assumption of sequence. For instance: "If you elect A, the country won't be safe, we'll all be bombed out of our houses, we'll all be forced to memorize the Koran, and the U.S. won't ever really exist again." A legitimate version might be this: "If you elect A, foreign policy will take a drastic turn from it's present course; the results of this are difficult to predict, but could possibly lessen the security of our borders...etc. etc."

4.) the appeal to emotion. Now note that fallacies sometimes flock hand in hand like mischievous pixies. The slippery slope example above is full of emotional language. A straight forward appeal to emotion? "My dad saved a puppy once. Isn't that sweet? Now vote for him." Or, if the McCain campaign were to run constant footage of Piper Palin straightening her baby brother's hair during her mom's speech. That would also be straightforward appeal to emotion. Caviat: some legitimate arguments, illustrations and examples will inevitably render an emotional response. But it is not their primary purpose to evoke emotion to gain a result; it is, rather, a byproduct.

5.) the hasty generalization. pretty self explanatory.
Now, another category entirely also exists: the shock jock method. A rather unfortunate example is found in Ann Coulter's statement that she wishes the ability to vote would be taken away from women. Why? Because they vote in Democrats. Wow, Ann Coulter. Wow. Well, saying that kind of thing pays for your vacations, manicures, and luxuries, so I guess it's practical for you, anyway. But while we're on the subject of womens' rights, I wish somebody would remove your right to be given a microphone.

So there are a few of your basic species of fallacies. But as you get ready to put on your foam finger, paint your face, and do the wave at the season's upcoming political debates, don't forget that ever-important accessory: yep, I'm going to say it. Wait for it. Here it is: the thinking cap.

Let's clear something up: critical thinking is not the same as negative thinking. I just wanted to put that out there. Critical thinking just means analytical thinking. And it is EVERY AMERICAN'S DUTY TO ENGAGE IN CRITICAL THINKING TO THE BEST OF HER OR HIS ABILITY. Wow, it just feels so good to say that.

Ways to avoid sloppy thinking (ie, making yourself look like an idiot):

*expose yourself to the source, not the commentary on the source. Please, don't make me listen to an argument that starts like this: "well, I didn't actually hear the candidate's speech, but if what I hear about the candidate is right, then I could never vote for them." Wow. That is both lazy and intellectually irresponsible. Your brain is a valuable natural resource, people. Be a good steward of your cognitive environment. Failing to do so is as bad as walking around with toilet paper on your shoe or lipstick on your teeth.

*expose yourself to the source, not the commentary on the source. You wouldn't believe how much goes on in government and politics that is never reported, or surfaces briefly and then disappears. Example: a few years ago a certain president was at a Latino news briefing about immigration. It was a diverse gathering, to say the least. The president was encouraging brotherhood among cultures and practical ways to approach the undocumented immigrant problem. The only place I ever saw coverage of this? C-Span. I wouldn't have known about it if I didn't stay on the channel for a few minutes.
*expose yourself to the source before you listen to the commentary. Why?

"If the headline is big enough, it makes the news big enough." - Citizen Kane

Also from Citizen Kane:
Charles Foster Kane: Are we going to declare war on Spain, or are we not?
Jed Leland
: The Inquirer already has.
Charles Foster Kane
: You long-faced, overdressed anarchist.
Jed Leland: I am not overdressed.

So ready your barbecue, prepare your debate night tailgating shindig. Put on your foam finger and jersey and enter into the fray. Just don't leave common sense behind.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bang Bang: A Time for Swords, A Time for Plowshares

“I'm the deadliest woman in the world but right now I'm just scared ****less for my baby.”

It may strike some readers as strange, but the fact of the matter is, a few basic words are popular both to this fall's election and Quentin Tarantino's comic book-esque revenge films, Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2. Maternity. Violence. Womanhood. Guns.

And that quote? It comes from a part of Kill Bill Vol. 2 in which the main character, known alternately as "The Bride" and Beatrix Kiddo, is being chased down by another female assassin. Unfortunately, the assassin finds her in a bit of an awkward spot - waiting for the results of a home pregnancy test. Kiddo pleads with the woman to check the result for her, and they fumble, attempting to decipher the symbols on the stick.

She's pregnant.

Kiddo acknowledges that they both could kill each other there, on the spot, but explains that she's just found this out, that she has a lot on her plate, and that they can fight another day: will the other assassin please - just go?

She does.

Tarantino's cartoonish, spaghetti western, Asian-influenced revenge films show that violence and maternal instinct can sit together comfortably: The Bride is getting her revenge on Bill for killing her entire wedding party, leaving her for dead, and leaving the fate of her baby unknown.

In the midst of the garish scenes of violence, in which Monty Python-esque blood spurts like a water fountain, one of the only scenes that truly disturbed me was the moment Beatrix wakes up from her coma - and feels the flat stomach where the pregnant stomach used to be. The camera doesn't budge for several grueling minutes as The Bride wails and sobs.

It is that one shot that propels the rest of the movie forward. Because at this point, it's not a matter of hateful revenge; it's a matter, the audience realizes, of justice, too.

And let me tell you something, as a woman: you find you can't blame Beatrix in the least.

True, most women aren't assassins. Most women aren't assassins whose chances of happiness and freedom are shot dead in a southwestern church. Most women don't mete out justice with samurai swords, either.

But most women will tell you that a strangely powerful instinct kicks in when anyone under their roof is threatened, harmed, or killed.

Do I blame Sarah Palin for owning guns?

Not a chance.

In fact, this is what Angelina Jolie said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly from last spring:

Do you worry that people will have a hard time squaring this gun-toting character with your role as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador? They do seem quite incongruous. "I am a strong believer that without justice there is no peace. No lasting peace, anyway. I'm somebody who's very curious about the International Criminal Court and supportive of following through on the arrest warrants in Darfur. I'm not somebody that just wants to hold up a white flag and say, ''Let's all just get along.'' I think people that do horrible things should be held accountable. I don't think like in Wanted — which is an action movie — people should [just] be killed. I think there should be trials and justice. But the idea behind Wanted is not that she's an assassin that just likes to kill people. It's that, if you ran into Hitler before he did everything, and you knew, should you shoot him? And I would. These assassins are getting lists: They find out who is going to slaughter other people ahead of time and they remove them. So that was the side of me that identified with her. But it is a confusing thing, certainly for rights activists. Don't read too much into it. I am holding a gun, but there are so many people that have done so many horrible things... Pol Pot died a grandfather in the jungle, most likely of old age. Never was punished for what he did."

Clint Eastwood is one of our most famous Republicans. Did you talk politics with him on the set? "Actually, we don't disagree as much as you'd think. I think people assume I'm a Democrat. But I'm registered independent and I'm still undecided. So I'm looking at McCain as well as Obama. Clint can teach me about things domestically and I'm more aware of some things internationally. So it was less a debate and more things we found interesting."

So we have Angelina Jolie, Sarah Palin, and Beatrix Kiddo.
Women, guns, maternity, violence.

Recently, when watching "John Adams," I noticed the point at which Adams' wife Abigail, at home on the farm alone with her children, grabs a rifle to see who's coming up the road. Fortunately, it was a group of patriots, and not the nearby British army.

But she grabbed the gun first.

You don't have to be on the frontier to know that evil exists.

“Before that [pregnancy test] strip turned blue...I was a killer who killed for you. Before that strip turned blue I would have jumped a motorcycle onto a speeding train...but once that strip turned blue I could no longer do any of those things...because I was going to be a mother.”

Beatrix didn't want to take part in evil anymore when she found out she was pregnant. But she did fight evil until, in her life, it was dead, and she was able, miraculously, to return to being a mother.

And she used a sword to do both.

Hits & Misses

Palin, Obama, McCain, Biden, Palin, Obama, Palin.
Let's think about something else for a moment, shall we?

Like how much I loved this:This is Miss Pettigrew. Actually it's Frances McDormand, who's also in the upcoming "Burn After Reading," which I can't wait to see - thank you, Coen brothers, for enriching all our lives. "Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day" came out as a relatively small film from Focus Features. And I loved it.

You will love it if:

A) you like art deco sets

B) you like Wodehouse

C) you like "The Importance of Being Earnest"

D) you like the sets in Hercule Poirot adaptations
E) you like old black and white movies, especially the Powell-
Lombard "My Man Godfrey."
F) you don't blanch at a couple of tushes.

G) you like swing music soundtracks

H) you've ever been poor enough to be hungry
. Miss Pettigrew is hungry throughout the movie.

Well that's half the alphabet, but you get the point. This movie is delightful. I'm not sure how many men will appreciate it - you'd have to appreciate A-G, and be in that politically incorrect "
chick flick" mood. I think it's more a sense of humor thing, and less a gender thing. If you like "zany madcap romps" with heart and meaning, especially anything made before 1945, well, you'll enjoy this film that is actually based on a novel that was originally going to be a film in the 30's, then the 50's, but didn't actually make it to screen until 2008!

"Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" is a definite HIT.

This, however? Not as well loved. People, why is it that if the Democratic party runs an African American, it's diverse, but if John McCain chooses a female VP candidate, it's petty manipulation aimed at female voters? Let's be consistent and give them both the benefit of the doubt, or the cynical examination of our jaded experience. Inconsistency is always a definite MISS. Either assume that Obama's melanin is an advantage, and that Palin's ovaries are an advantage, or that both of them should be considered apart from their embodied existence. I think it's reasonable to posit that both race and gender lead to fresh experiences brought to bear on their respective positions. Neither needs to be a liability. And neither needs to be considered as a manipulative ploy.

Blockbuster Online, however, remains a HIT. If you like to rent movies, or tv shows, or anything not stocked by your box store-ish neighborhood rental spot, this is for you. I suppose Netflix might work, but I haven't tried it. I do, however, love Blockbuster Online. For a set fee a month, you have the option of always having out one, two, or three movies. You log in to the website, search for titles, and add them to your queue. A movie shows up in your mailbox. You keep it for days, weeks, or (yes, I've done this) months. You simply put it back in your mailbox when you're done with it, and when they receive it, they send the next one on your list. It's spectacular for British mystery shows that I'd never find on the shelves of an actual Blockbuster, or for old black and white movies I'd never find on the shelves on an actual rental store, or for when you're like "oh I need to watch that but I'll forget what I wanted to see once I actually get in there," instead you can go online and add it to your queue so you don't forget. And by the way, queue is pronounced "Q" and it means line, like in line, like when British people say that "queue up" for the bus. Basically, if you watch "The Office" you've had all this explained by Kelly Kapoor in the episode where they're all taking bets on things because they're at a competitive loss after March Madness is over.

Which brings me to my next HIT:
"The Office" Season Four.

YIKES, what a HIT. So John the husband and I went to Wal-Mart to spend our entertainment budget on this set that came out last week.

But Wal-Mart wa
s out.

So we drove further, to Best Buy.
Best Buy only had one left. And lucky me, it was the special edition, which included a t-shirt, water bottle, and cause wrist band for only twelve dollars more. And if you've seen any of last season, you'll appreciate that the shirt, bottle and band were all commemorative "Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure."

Not only was Season Four great, the special features for Season Four, on disc four, are so good they almost make you forget that a writer's strike interrupted the show midseason.

Here are a couple of my favorite "The Office" summer withdrawal sites:

As I like to say this fall, the best thing to come out of Scranton isn't Joe Biden, it's Michael Scott.