Sunday, November 30, 2008

Call the folks in the white coats RIGHT NOW

So, first, I am in a very goofy mood. Cannot. stop. seeing. the. words. ass. and. prick. in. the. strangest. of. places. Hurry with the jacket that has sleeves facing the back.

Also, am not sophisticated enough to figure out how to black out the name and phone number of the company on this truck. I can barely figure out how to take pictures with our new camera and then transfer them to the computer. I know you are all responsible folks and won't crank, spam and generally harass these nice stucco people.

Tom was driving, I was riding shot-gun and Mom was in the back seat. Luckily for us all I had the foresight to bring a handbag and remembered the camera. Now I get to share that at which we all laughed our tushes off (still cannot end this without a preposition--I am in writing paranoia frenzy over here, dudes in the white coats):

In no way does this mean I condone defacing private property, but boy that is pretty funny.

Hope all had great T-Days. I'm busy hauling out the X-mas decor, baking (oh, what a wicked mess I am making), and trying to get ready for my meeting with my chair this week. Also, have a phone interview for a Visiting Assistant Professor appointment sometime between Tuesday and Thursday. Do you think it's more than a coincidence that the word "ass" is in that job title? Just leave off the professor part.

God, I cannot wait to get this stupid dissertation finished so I can go be an "Ass".

Christmas decor pictures coming soon. . .


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Road rage, the Amish, and Black Friday doorbusters

I knew a guy named Mike when I lived in Amish country that was a competitive cyclist and rode on country roads to train. One car-less afternoon, an Amish woman in her horse and buggy came up behind him while he was riding. The road was nearing a sharp turn and my friend sped up to avoid the danger of being pushed off the road at the nearly hair pin curve.

As he increased speed, so did the Amish woman.

It was an out-and-out race for the turn while the Amish woman yelled at her horse and flicked her whip over its ears (my friend was convinced he felt the air from the lash a time or two) as my friend peddled as fast as he could, not really believing that an Amish person was angry that he was trying to "beat" her to the bend. Mike won the race and got to the turn first. The Amish woman veered off onto another road a short distance past the curve.

Mike ran into the Amish woman on the same road again some time later, but her husband was driving the buggy that day. Mike let them pass and as they did the Amish man touched the brim of his black hat and Mike swore the wife flipped him off. Even the Amish get road rage.

Six and a half million Midwesterners are going to be driving this holiday weekend.

According to a recently released national survey, when a driver gets the finger, is cut off or tailgated, 50 percent of the victims respond with horn honking, yelling, cutting-off, and obscene gestures of their own. The only victim of my “retaliation” is my husband as I swear like a sailor and he tries to find something relaxing on the radio to distract me. People in cars can be so rude. In person, they would never get in someone’s face in a crowded line (hopefully). Unless it's someone in the “15-items-or-less” express lane with two cart loads.

Hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday week. And remember, if you are in line outside any national retailer at 4AM for the door busters on Friday, let the lady with the white bonnet go ahead of you. Despite appearances, those Amish can be nasty.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Warning: Crude Humor Below

Bob and Martha have been married for 15 years. Every morning for 15 years, Bob wakes up, farts loudly, rolls over onto his back and gets up for work.

Every morning for 15 years, Martha says, "One of these days, you're gonna fart your guts out!"

One Thanksgiving morning, Martha's preparing the turkey and gets an idea. Before her husband gets up, she creeps upstairs and places the turkey innards in his pajama bottoms, giggling to herself.

Well, later that morning, Bob wakes up and goes through his morning ritual. He screams as he goes running into the bathroom. Martha laughs, but is concerned after noticing that Bob has been in the bathroom for 3 hours.

She runs upstairs, and is about to knock on the door, when Bob opens up, pale as a ghost. He says, "You were right. You were right. I did fart my guts out, but by the grace of God and these two fingers I got them back up there again."


Friday, November 21, 2008

What's your turkey doing the week before Thanksgiving?

Odds are it's not witnessing a Sarah Palin news conference (more on that later).

Let me start by saying I am not a vegetarian. And I respect people's choices in their food and expect the same from them.

I met my first vegan (I'll call her Sally) in 1995; she was a bridesmaid in my friend's sister's wedding. We were at a restaurant two days before the wedding: Sally, my friend, her sister, their 5 year old nephew (Sam) and me.

The 5 year old wanted to order a hot dog. Sally looked at him and asked: "Sammy, do you know how they make hot dogs?"

Sammy just stared at her.

"No?" she said. "Well, a baby pig is born, they feed the pig and torture the pig, then they kill the pig, cut it into pieces and made into hot dogs." And here I thought hot dogs were all ass and lips?

I'm not a PETA person (interesting that the Daily Picasso [at left 11/21/08] is a matador), but I do think animals should be treated ethically. I'm glad California passed the referendum on confined feeding limitations (but ashamed for them that they withdrew constitutional protection for gay marriage). K-Fos (confined feeding operations), as we call them here in the midwest, are disgusting, smelly operations where food animals "live" their "lives" in the smallest of "living" spaces, crapping on each other and in general misery.

That's a horrible way to live but I can't think of a worse way to die than to have Sarah Palin be the last voice you hear before the chipper gets you. Those turkeys surely deserve a place in turkey heaven for having to suffer this hell on earth. I didn't watch the whole video because I want to enjoy my turkey next Thursday, but it does have a warning that it is graphic.

I'll be having turkey next Thursday at my sister's home outside Chicago with 20 immediate family members. One thing I know for sure and with a great sense of peace; it will not be a Wasilla Oven Stuffer Roaster.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dad's tighty whities

I can always tell I need cheering up when I start looking at my horoscope. My horoscope from The Onion today:

"While it's true that the universe works in mysterious ways, it's becoming pretty clear what it has against you."

My guesses would be writer's block and the mysterious force that is keeping my checking account balance consistently below 50 bucks. I need a good chuckle today.

Ten things that make me laugh (or gross me out, but still make me laugh):


1. People falling down

2. The "humorous" section of the greeting cards at Target

3. People bumping into things

4. Glamour Shots

5. When anyone sneezes (coughs, laughs) and farts at the same time

6. Drinkable yogurt, go-gurt, yogurt in a tube (ew).

7. Projectile vomiting (someone else doing it)

8. Extra fancy Ketsup

9. The word "shituation"

10. My dad packing a pair of underwear for the gym thinking it was his, but really it was his wife's with one of his waistbands sown onto it (sorry dad). It was either wear those home, or put the dirty ones back on. I never asked him which he chose . . .


If you have anything to add, please feel free. As I said, I need a good chuckle.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sarah Palin: America's Newest Millionaire

I read something that makes me feel like I do after I've watched a horrible movie and right before I wonder how I can get my money back. I think to myself: "I'm a way better writer than whoever wrote this screenplay."

Here's what I read today: the illiterate idiot, known as FORMER VP candidate, Sarah Palin, is cruising book agents to sign a deal for a reported SEVEN MILLION dollars. That's right. I was stunned when I read this.

After the most historic election in history, and all of the books that are in the works about our president-elect, how can she even have the gall to attempt to be literate when we all KNOW she isn't? Oh, that's right, I forgot. She's a narcissistic egomaniac (she's also a dick; just like this one). Oh, and I also forgot, she'll have a co-author. She's not writing anything. She. Can't. Possibly. String. Words. Together. Without. Using. Yoda. Syntax.

I want to start a movement (work with me, people) to protest the publishing of ANY book authored by this moron. Any ideas on how to go about this?

O.J.’s book got thrown in the trash.

Let’s send Palin’s garbage there, too.

No wonder she didn't want the Bush tax cuts to expire.

Here's the Millionairess herself pre-$150,000 of clothes, hair, and makeup:


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Egg and the Sperm: A Short Drama in Five Acts

Setting: a wood-planked stage with old fashioned floor-lights; think "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene from Young Frankenstein.

The theater is empty, save one big eared, squinty eyed Bush Jr. in the audience.

[cue lights and soft music]

Act One: Barrier methods

[Mr. Sperm and Ms. Egg on either side of a plastic curtain. They bump into the plastic curtain repeatedly.]

Voiceover: "No touchy Ms. Egg, Mr. Sperm. No touchy Mr. Sperm, Ms. Egg."

[cue spermicide]

Dr. Spermicide: "Die, Mr. Sperm! DIE!
[Mr. Sperm gags, sinks slowly to stage and dies]


Act Two: Hormonal methods

[Soft snoring as Ms. Egg slumbers off stage; Mr. Sperm wanders around stage.]

Voiceover: "No eggs here this month, Mr. Sperm."


Act Three: Combo of barrier and hormone: IUD.

[Confused Mr. Sperm and Ms. Egg dance together but fall off the stage into the orchestra pit.]

Voiceover: "No eggs, Mr. Sperm and if there were, no place for you to settle down."



Act Four: "Natural" methods

[Ms. Egg comes onto stage left, crosses and exits stage right. Mr. Sperm enters stage left and wanders around before exiting stage right.]

Voiceover: "You just missed Ms. Egg, Mr. Sperm."


Act Five: Sterilization


[Lights dim.]

[Spotlights on Mr. Sperm and Ms. Egg as they come out and do bows. Ms. Egg steps forward, addressing the audience]

Ms. Egg: "Since you try to legislate control over female gametes like we live in Biblical times, Mr. President, I humbly ask you to legislate similarly for abandoned and ill-used male gametes and move to bring back the Biblical punishment for male Onanism."

[Ms. Egg smiles sweetly. Curtain closes; music ends]


If you don't want to kill me after this ridiculous post, please visit the following link to sign a petition to help women keep the medical right to birth control.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Elephants, rats, and the merits of gargling

For almost ten years the conservative voices on the "right" in the US have mostly been in harmony. The last several months have turned their harmonious chorus of "small government," "tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%," and "let's go to war" into a cacophony of "holy sh*t," and "I'm conservative, but not THAT kind of conservative (re: Palin)" and "what the H do we do now?" All one needs to do is look at the number of high-profile Republicans who abandoned the sinking Palin- McCain, um, I mean McCain-Palin ship. Chris Buckley resigned from his own FATHER'S publication the National Review over his endorsement of Barack Obama. Just yesterday, David Frum wrote about our president elect using his middle name (as if we should fear him because his middle name is "Hussein;" get over it). A few weeks ago he got his ass handed to him by my newest hero, Rachel Maddow; (see if you can count the number of times he blinks). He's also resigning from NR. What is wrong with these people?

As the Elephants scramble to pick up the peanuts, the left leaning side of our country is finally clearing its collective throat. It's just in the nick of time. I am convinced that the increase in blogging activity and message boards on the web has expanded the extent to which Americans will go in attempts at establishing a dialogue. There are some particularly stupid people who have access to the web and in flexing their 1st Amendment rights are spewing the most ignorant crap (see this moron; like Palin, go 'way now). However, I have been finding more and more blogs by people who are rallying the troops, educating themselves on the issues, and are finding a way to stay connected to others with like minds in this hectic, economically terrifying time.

I know we won't ever completely be rid of the lowest of the low in terms of uneducated racists and bigots, but we sure can try to raise our own voices, talk to people we know, meet and greet new people ("Hiya; welcome to post-Bush 43 America. Would you like a side of social consciousness and Democracy with that?"), and do our best to keep the morons penned (pun intended) in the circus tents where they belong.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

"The clean granite of reality"

I have always deeply admired artists and the courage it takes to live your passion and share it with the world. That's why I posted on the topic of "'Wearable' paper art" recently. I so longed in my younger years to be able to express myself through a visual medium. I've always been drawn to photography; my grandmother (born in the late 1800s) was a photographer. She called it a hobby. But I know if she had lived in a different time (if women had allowed themselves such pursuits), she would have rivaled Ansel Adams.

Ansel's one of my favorites. He was gifted visually, verbally and musically. If we are lucky, we are good at one, maybe two. But Ansel was GREAT at all three. His picture "Moon over Half Dome" in Yosemite was among a myriad of others he had taken of Half Dome over the course of many months, across seasons and weather. It was a difficult location to get to, the hike was long and steep; it's hard from the photograph to get a sense of the scale, but that rock feature is enormous. It stands nearly 1 mile above the valley floor. Something about the rock possessed him. He struggled to get the image 'right.' He wrote (c 1937) what the experience of photographing the stone had given him:

" A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so clear and so brilliant that it made me see many of the things that were drifting around inside of me; things that relate to those who are loved and those who are real friends.

For the first time, I know what love is; what friends are.

Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of spiritual and physical things. Children are not only flesh and blood-- children may be ideas, thoughts, emotions. The person of the one who is loved is a form composed of a myriad mirrors reflecting and illuminating the powers and thoughts and emotions that are within you, and flashing another kind of light from within. No words or deeds may encompass it.

Friendship is another form of love-- more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptances of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality.

Art is both love and friendship. It is not charity, which is the giving of things. It is more than kindness, which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of spirit. It is a recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and all of the interrelations of these."

I am grateful for this infinitesimal spot I have staked out here on the web, which as a virtual place has nothing solid about it (no granite here). I have boxes of stories, poems, the start of three novels, and now, on my laptop, I have three screenplays. I doubt if anyone but me shall ever read them. The same mish-mosh is true of this blog. It's a pretty good snapshot of the million things on my mind that make no sense, have no pattern. I try to make sense by writing it down (sorry if I've lost you).

Words are so personal and words surround us constantly in our daily lives. Talking to someone face-to-face is one thing. On the phone, visual cues are missing, but we can still hear someone's tone and inflection. Writing on a computer screen and reading what someone else has written on a computer screen (or on a printed page) is bereft of all external cues. All that is present are the words. The audience is always a 'fiction' according to Walter Ong. In the case of a blog, (or any online text) so is the author.

Thanks to all who visit and post here. It's strange to think that my fingers touch a keyboard to create symbols and words for the thoughts in my mind and with the push of a button, there they go (all boiled down to a series of ones and zeros; after all, what is 'real' anyway?) out for anyone to happen upon. But the words you are reading right now are no longer just my words, they belong to you, too.

Happy Sunday all.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Margaret and Helen are hitting the big time

Margaret and Helen is a blog I frequent daily written by two 82 year old women. They've been best friends for 60+ years and started a blog so they could keep close touch during the election. People started "eavesdropping" on their conversations and they have had almost 1,000,000 hits since it all started not that long ago. It is a laugh riot; their commentary during the election was spot on and very humorous at the same time.

Apparently, their blog has been recognized by a New York Times and Vanity Fair contributor on in a list of the best 10 blogs by or for senior citizens. Here's the link to the article.

If you haven't checked it out Margaret and Helen, you really should.

Also, there's a list of blogs I read daily up top there on the left. Some are from family (In the Wings and Swells Inspirational Nutrition), some I have come across while reading comments by their writers on Margaret and Helen (Creative Endeavors and Apocalyptics Anonymous II). One ( is a long-standing blog (5+ years) by a mother of two that I happened across reading Feet off the Table (that one's funny, too, about a mom and the shenanigans that happen raising kids).

I may write again later today. I picked up Emma from the vet yesterday; she's getting daily sub-cutaneous fluid injections (by her loving parents), new pills to boost her appetite, and some anti-bs for an apparent bladder infection. Just what you wanted to know right? About the state of our cat's bladder health?

Anyway, yesterday was really emotional. That cat has been with me through so much in the last 13 years since I adopted her when she was 2. At night she slept ON MY PILLOW while I was undergoing chemotherapy for stage IIIB Hodgkin's Lymphoma (and she was not a cuddly cat before that time in our relationship-- things have changed). Please keep a good thought for our furry little catter.


Friday, November 14, 2008

"Wearable" paper Art: Take an Umbrella

Okay, so a few things first. This post was written after the Margaret and Helen one from this AM (November 15, Saturday). I copied and pasted the webpage below into a draft and saved it because I thought I might blog on it.

Second (and more to the point) I am not a fashionista (jeans, t-shirt, fleece, hiking shoes) nor do I particularly care for avante garde art or fashion. But this woman's stuff is INCREDIBLE in terms of looking at it as art. I think some of the most important artists and thinkers of our times have to be (0r had to have been) obsessive and maybe even a little nuts. I cannot imagine how long each of these creations took.
(click on her name and then check out her portfolio).

Wild, unreal, and completely outrageous (the head-pieces are frighteningly huge and obnoxious, but cool to look at, I think, nonetheless). I wouldn't be caught dead in any of them (I'd tear the hell out of them just trying to get them over my booty and my bosom--she's need reams and reams of paper), but they're cool to look at. My favorite is the dark blue one with the realllllllly long train shown above. EVERYTHING is made from paper!

Good Saturday to all

Emma update: our cat has officially gorged herself on wet and dry food. We took up the dishes for a while because she CANNOT stop eating. The vet called (yes, our vet called US on a Saturday-- he's awesome) and said it was a good sign that the appetite med worked. I promise, I'll stop writing about my cat, her bladder, and her *yawn* eating habits.


Congress, churches and legislation

Let me open by saying: I am not an historian nor am I pretending to be one (my Ph.D. studies are in another field), but this is how I make sense of things. Any historians (or anyone else for that matter) reading this-- if you think anything here is inaccurate, stupid, awe-inspiring (:) please feel free to post a comment.

A VERY brief summary:

On March 2, 1789, a mere two years after the drafting of our US Constitution, came the death of a mechanism by which our Constitution could have remained up-to-date throughout the course of American history. Yes, we have amendments, but the Continental Congress was so much more than that. Certain political groups have maintained this meeting, such as the DAR, but the original national congress died that day in March, 1789.

There is one notable accomplishment of the second continental congress: our constitution. Another less well known is the Ordinance of 1787, which established the means by which territories gained statehood. Some historians argue that the Continental Congress would have been (in addition to the Federal Congress) a means by which states would convene OUTSIDE the capitol to discuss matters of civic importance. Caucuses would have been held to bring legal matters to public discussion. It's important to remember that during the time of the Revolutionary War and the immediate years following it, many people had deeply held fears of a strong central government. I can sympathize.

Why do I think this is important now? Two reasons: limitless terms for our congressional and senate representatives and religious influence on our laws.

First, I think the last eight years provide ample reasons. It has taken almost 30 years for "new" blood to leak into the Congress. Some congressmen have been in office for most of their lives, pushing the same agendas, etc.

Issue one for a Continental Congress: term limits for state senators and representatives. Can you see why a CONTINENTAL Congress would be the only way such a measure would get passed? It's like raises or health care for our congresspeople; of course they are going to vote for those things in their own self-interest and against those that would threaten their monopoly on the legislative power in our country. Perhaps that is why things are so slow to change.

Issue two: State referendums. The current referendum system is a remnant of the concept of a national congress; it is now the means by which individual states can make legislative decisions. However, with the power of the "Moral" majority, our politics has become rife with religious influence in our legislative process. Prop 8 in California is an example of this. Seventy percent of the funding for pro-prop 8 advertising on Californian airwaves came from MORMANS.

Pause for a moment to think about this.

A religious group, with TAX EXEMPT status, was injecting their 'moral' agenda into a political issue on a BALLOT. A Catholic priest in Maryland has been telling his congregation that anyone who voted for Barack Obama (the pro-abortionist, not pro-choice, mind you) are not eligible to receive communion until they perform a confession. If that doesn't sound like a strong reason to revoke their tax exempt status I don't know what is. People are using Biblical Morality (while popular for Christians of all denominations), as the foundation for our Modern CIVIC laws. Hmm, let me put it another way:

Biblical Law and Civic Law. (Church and State, anyone?)

The Bible is a text written ABOUT (stories) an isolated period in civilization's history (Pharaohs, Philistines and Philippians--any of those around today?) maintained throughout history by, guess who? Those who had power.

My panties get in a bunch when it comes to power and literacy. The Bible (pretty much the only universally recognizable tome in the history of western civilization for hundreds of years) was copied in Latin for centuries. Why? Because only wealthy, educated people (usually of the governing class) could afford to own one and afford the education needed to know how to read it. Gutenberg's invention in 1455 began the literacy revolt. (An excellent source is Orality and Literacy by Walter J. Ong, a Jesuit priest.)

There's one easy way to fix our national debt issue and get money flowing back into our system: REVOKE the tax exempt status for religious groups that mix politics and preaching. Legislation needs to come from where our forefather's intended: the legislative branch not the pulpit.

PS: To all who read this post, please keep a good thought for us and our cat Emma (see picture to the right). I'm taking her to the vet today (she was diagnosed with CRF last year and has been doing okay until last weekend)-- she's losing weight, is dizzy and wobbly. Tom's at the lab and is teaching this afternoon, too, so I'm going by myself. Scared to death that my best furry friend is not going to be okay.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pumpkin Bar Recipe

As requested, here's the pumpkin bar recipe I talked about on Margaret and Helen. Seriously, they are addictive, too easy to make, and you'll want to eat them three meals a day.

Preheat oven to 350
Grease and flour jelly roll pan

In a large mixing bowl cream together:
1 C vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 C sugar

Add (and mix after each addition):
2 C canned pumpkin
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
2 C flour (add gradually)

Beat on high for a good minute after all additions

Bake 20-25 minutes in jelly roll pan (until toothpick in center comes out clean)

Let bars cool completely and cover with glaze:

Cream together:
3 oz. cream cheese softened
6 T butter (or marg) softened
1 t. milk
1 t. vanilla

Add slowly:
2 C powdered sugar

They are wicked, wicked things. Hope they turn out well, katblake.


Ten things I don't miss about the election

1. Joe the Plumber. I was so sick of hearing that phrase, and seeing that mook, and yelling at the TV every time McCain blamed Obama for his celebrity. Then people started showing up at rallies with t-shirts reading "[insert name] the [insert job/profession]." McCain was reading them back to a crowd of middle schoolers who had been bussed in for a rally in Ohio and came across one that read "Tom the Undertaker." He stopped reading them after that one.

2. Calls from the Obama campaign. Yes, you read that right. I volunteered time and donated money (what we could afford), but still I got upwards of 6 (SIX!) phone calls per day asking me to volunteer time or donate money. I have no land line and use only my cell. So every time I answered I was paying for the call. I know, I'm nit-picky, but we are graduate students living on ONE stipend (read that word as less than poverty level income).

3. Hearing the same stump speech by John McCain over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over (get my drift?).

4. Seeing the terrifying wife of John McCain. We couldn't decide if she looked like the wife of the crypt keeper or his sister. Either way, I am sure she is a lovely (?) person, but those dead creepy eyes and monotone voice ("bbbrrraaiiinnnss") scared the bejesus out of me. You can put lipstick on a zombie, but it's still a zombie.

5. Sean Hannity. Let's get something straight; I do not watch Fox news except for an occasional chuckle. But that in-bred's face got on the channels I watched ALL THE TIME because of the war between the media outlets. Which brings me to . . .

6. The constant bickering of the media outlets about who was in the "tank" for Obama. What does that mean, exactly? I got visions that they were herding all Obama supporters into some gigantic tank like the ones at Sea World, and there we would all wait, cramped and clammy, for the keepers to bring us our chum. I got really nervous when the Republicans started endorsing Obama because that meant they'd be in that tank with us. Oh, the horror of being crammed in beside that snooty Christopher Buckley, Douglas Kmiec, or Scott McClellan. THE HORROR!

7. Calls from the Obama campaign. I know I already listed that one, but it was really annoying.

8. Waiting for election day. God, I thought that day would never come. Now I feel that way about Inauguration Day (see my recent post titled "Waiting for Inauguration Day is like watching hair grow").

9. The repetition of the daily news (oh, wait, still . . .). Something mildly interesting or scandalous would happen and the media would latch onto it like it was the last morsel of food on Earth. It was the same story over, and over, and over (you get the idea). $150,000 in clothes-- need I say more?

10. Nancy Pfotenhauer (pronounced "bitch", I mean, "fo-ten-hour"). Liar; condescending woman who has the biggest stick up her bum. Go 'way now, Nancy.

Feel free to leave your thoughts on what you don't miss. I'd love to read what you have to write, too. I finally got the comment function fixed; thanks to all who let me know they tried to leave comments for the last few days and couldn't.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Decline and Fall (?) of the American Auto Empire

For three decades (yes, three) the American Auto Industry has been in decline. The pace of that decline accelerated four years ago when oil prices started to skyrocket and folks were looking to buy more dependable, fuel efficient vehicles--two things American cars historically are not. I bought my first Honda for two reasons: it was uber dependable and uber efficient in terms of fuel economy.

Two years ago, American auto dealers were reporting a steep decline of SUV sales (also known as a trend). Yet, Detroit kept making the leviathans for another two years: Hummers, Suburbans, Expeditions, et. al.

Couple this with outrageous compensation packages for employees. The current union contracts for autoworkers read something like this: work for 20 years, retire with pension, and FULL benefits including dental, health and eye insurance for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE-- oh, and that includes the fam, too. That means that if I had started working for an auto maker when I was 18, I'd be one year away from retirement. Man, oh man, did I pick the wrong gig! American auto makers are suffering from a lack of foresight and a lack of spine. Between 1998 and 2008 the auto industry paid over one half of a billion dollars for Washington lobbyists. Let's see that number again:

+ $500,000,000.00

The lobbying year 2007 accounts for almost 30 million alone. They've had to cut back a bit, you know, because of budgetary issues. "Researchers" of the auto industry claim that millions of American jobs will be affected by Detroit's demise (researchers= lobbyist groups). Ernst and Young, the lobbying group that works for Ford, also represents Exxon Mobile* and numerous financial corporations. Are you getting a picture here? Washington lobbyist groups are staying in the black by having their dirty fingers in numerous secunda mensas**. This is only one example. A good source for clear, unbiased information (i.e., charts and graphs without commentary) on how corporations are keeping Washington in their togas is:

I know that what happens to the American auto industry will affect [insert terrifyingly large number] hard-working, salt of the earth Americans. They shouldn't have to pay the price for decisions made by out of touch unions and corporate hierarchy. For that, my heart aches. But Americans will still buy cars, that they will drive, that need to be fixed and washed and fueled. So why do the augurs of Detroit's decline and fall predict millions of affected American workers? I get it, there's local businesses like restaurants, grocery stores, etc. But take a drive through the midwest sometime. There's LOTS of towns that just disappeared because jobs moved away, folks wanted their kids to get a good education (since where they were living had little to no property value) and TIMES CHANGED! Technology has improved and to support an American institution that would rather howl and throw rocks at the moon (and ask for more rocks, please) than adapt is an outrage.

Perhaps, if ANOTHER outrageous bail-out of the auto makers is passed (they've had several), we should all contact our congresswomen and men to raise Hades about where that money goes. It should NOT line the pockets of lobbying groups any more than it should provide a gentle glide to safe ground via golden parachute for incompetent CEOs who have stood by and WATCHED while Detroit fell. (Perhaps, think of them as Nero.)

I am so sick of seeing Sarah Palin on the TV (muting, covering of the ears, resisting the urge to stab self in the eye). Why isn't the news media doing ANYthing other than talking about politicians? The election is over. Democracy cut off one of the Hydras heads. Sadly many more have grown in its place. One them I affectionately call "Sarah" (for sentimental reasons).

So while many of us are trying to keep our togas on our backs, think fondly of our Washington lobbyists (for if we bail them out, we own them too), participating in an orgy of excess and greed with corporate CEOs and crooked politicians with Bacchanalian abandon. Saluté!

*Check the June 2008 Supreme Court ruling in the Exxon Valdez trial that affected thousands of Alaskan tax payers, Gov. Palin.

**Latin for sweet desert or pies.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today hundreds of thousands of families will be remembering loved ones, those who have fallen, those who are here, yet away overseas serving with pride and dignity. I remember the start of this period of agression when anti-war sentiment was considered anti-troop and anti-American. That pissed me off.

A friend of ours, Jeff, owns a bar a couple of blocks up the street and sometimes we pop in for a drink (or 2 :). He served in the first Gulf War, found out he had cancer in the femur of his right leg and was honorably discharged. He had a fund raiser not that long ago to collect money, socks, TP, and baby wipes for our folks overseas. He explained that our soldiers don't often get showers or have the proper cleaning paraphernalia for their guns. The baby wipes do double duty to provide a modicum of cleanliness and to try to keep their means of defense operational.

My dad served during the Korean War (yup, that gives you a clue to my age :).

I have a niece who was in the Air Force. She was an MP for a number of years and retired with disability. Her brother, my nephew, still serves as a Sgt. in the US Navy. David went overseas at the start of the Iraq War. He had some leave during his three year deployment, and they had their first baby just after he returned home. His wife lived alone on Whidby Island the entire time she was pregnant, thousands of miles from family and friends. They are two of my favorite people. Their girls are gorgeous, too.

A dear friend served 15 years in the navy and still does National Guard duty. I got postcards and letters from all over the world. She was convinced that one ship she worked on was haunted. She's kind of like that. I am so grateful to them all for serving our country and that they are safe.
How can I ever thank them or our people in Iraq and Afghanistan?

One way is this:

I know times are tight for us all; but think today about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who aren't/can't be here with us to celebrate post-Bush 43. May they all be home soon.

Feel free to share a story or two in the comments below.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Waiting for the inauguration is like watching hair grow

I've been trying to work on the chapter three revision of my dissertation (just sent it a few moments ago to my Chair and am rewarding self by blogging).
Ugh. Cannot wait to get my degree next May.

M&H (see blog above) had a great post today about life and the choices we make. Obviously, our country made a great choice last Tuesday (gosh, has it not even been a WEEK?!?!? The hell? How am I ever going to survive until January 20, 2009? It might as well be 2109).

But now I think it's about the other choices-- staying on the asses of our politicians to make sure they do the jobs we hired them for, getting our armed services out of harms way and leave those countries with whom we are at war with a stable structure of government (that THEY choose). Giving support to our troops once they return-- financial support for their health and their educations. We need to let gay people get married; it's a right, not a privilege allowed only the chosen. We NEED TO STOP GIVING MONEY TO GREEDY, POORLY RUN COMPANIES LIKE AIG! Do you realize they just got another $40,000,000,000!!!???? The f**k? Here's that number again:


This to the company that spent over $2,000,000 in ONE WEEKEND to reward it's CEOs and executives with massages, and pedicures and HAIR CUTS!

Larry David had a great line on the huff post a last week; waiting for election day to get here was like waiting for biopsy results. Gads, how true.

Right now reminds of the time just after I finished six months of chemo and my scans were all clear. Waiting for my hair to grow back in and get caught up on some rest.

How fast does hair grow? I think it's about a half an inch per month or something. That means if you let your hair grow, once it reaches your shoulders it's two years old.

The stock market may still be in the toilet, the housing crisis will still be with us, gas and everything else will cost too much. But one thing for sure is: except for chemo folks and men who are balding (I love you!)- we'll all be a bit harrier by the time January 20th rolls around. I know I will be; I can't afford a haircut. *

* and you bald fellas will have little extra money in your pockets.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

The idiots have landed

So, I wake up slowly like I do most Sunday mornings. I have a cup of coffee (maybe, not much of a coffee drinker) and spend the morning multi-tasking, flipping between Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Meet the Press (I miss Tim Russert) and Face the Nation while I read the New York Times online and Huffington Post (among others). One recent addition to this morning ritual is reading some blogs that I have come to enjoy thoroughly (see list above).

I'm not going to let the idiots who have hijacked one of my FAVORITE blogs spill onto mine. But, I am pissed (sorry Donna or Dad if you are reading this :).

Here's what I am repeating to myself (and will continue to do so all day today):

I believe in the power and justice of the first Amendment, regardless of how many f**kwits to which it gives voice.

I believe that our country is going to get back on track, regardless of the unrelenting forces, mostly from those whose choice for President didn't get elected who are acting like cornered, wounded, wild animals, that are trying to keep us divided.

I believe that I have seen a new America and it's beautiful again.

That's what I'll be saying to myself all day. Trying to bask in the glow that is post-Bust 43 America.

May we all come together in the spirit of peace, courage, and understanding, even though apparently, the Idiots have landed.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Post Bush 43: Day IV

There's an old saying: Don't bite the hand that feeds you. Well, in my humble estimation, I think our country feels bitten by our government to which we have fed millions of dollars while it destroyed our standing in the world and in the eyes of over half its citizenry.

It takes seeing what a mess everything is to understand (with cold certitude) that just about everything in our domestic arena has been ignored over the last eight years. Ours has become a administration focused on one thing: oil and the dollars it moves abroad. Of course, that's way over simplified. Oil has become the root of all our evils: high food prices, joblessness due to outsourcing, increased terrorism in the world, lack of funds for domestic programs, the outrageous deficit that neither I nor my children will likely ever see paid in full, oh, and yeah, the hundreds of thousands of lives our occupation of Iraq has caused Americans, Iraqis, and coalition forces. Not even to mention the flood of veterans who are coming home only half way, physically and emotionally.

Our President (elect-- although most of his policy suggestions over the last 22 months have been adopted by our current administration) and our country have a lot of work to do. What seems great to me (yes, there is a bright side coming) is that there are more folks than not who seem ready for that work.

I've recently been reading about assaults on Obama supporters by McCain supporters. One woman wrote she was assaulted by her neighbor for asking for her Obama yard sign back (which was displayed upside down in her neighbor's yard). She's got the bruises to prove his reaction. Yes, you read that right: neighbor against neighbor.

Instead of asking the same question I've been asking myself for the last eight years (wtf is wrong with people?), I'm turning over a new leaf in this dawning post Bush 43 Era. What's right with people?

People all want the same things.

We want to feel safe knowing that our government is considering its citizens in its global actions.

We want a government that doesn't lie to us (see WMD argument and the cascade of goose-stepping that resulted) or talk to us like we have the reading skills of a 5th grader. (Apologies to anyone with the literacy skills of a 5th grader reading this, or any actual 5th graders, while I'm at it :)

We want to breathe clean air, to know that the water we drink is safe, the food we eat won't make us sick.

We want to live in a country that we can ALL be proud of.

I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I sick of being afraid. I sick of being scared about what might happen. I'm sick of all of the intolerance the last 22 months has brought out in our country.

It's day four. Wonder what kind of pooch the White House is going to have running around in it? Hopefully it won't be a biter like Barney.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Post Script November VII

How about that Joe Lieberman, huh? One thing I can say for sure today, I wouldn't want to be that guy. Eeechk.

Also, check out David Letterman's Top 10 new revelations about Sarah Palin on Hi-larious

Gotta love my fellow Hoosier.


November VII

There are reasons why the Roman empire fell. Lots of folks know why. It really boils down to this: selfishness and greed.

I think on Tuesday Americans turned away from those options. We all (hopefully) know that just because Obama got elected, that doesn't mean we should expect him to do ALL the hard work. It's going to take patience, fortitude and stick-to-itiveness for us to get through the coming months and years. We are going to need to learn to get along and count on each other. No one gets a pass this time.

When you get impatient with the person at the front of the grocery line who's writing a check or needs the price for something without a bar code, take a deep breath. You've been there and know how it feels to be that person.

When you're driving on the road, try not to get angry with nincompoops who don't know how to drive.

If the end of the month comes and funds are low (or empty) look to who you have in your life, instead of thinking about the things you don't.

My husband and I have been married for just over 5 months now. We are poor graduate students who live uber modestly, but we know we are working toward our goals. More importantly, we know we have it better than some folks right now. We have each other.

Now, I know this reads hokey and cheesy, but we all have to start somewhere, sometime -- even if it's the hundredth time we've started. Keep a good thought. After all, Rome didn't fall in one day-- it wasn't built in one day either.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Do we still have to see her?

I know how that sounds. But one of the things I was looking forward to the most on November fifth was not having to hear what coffee cup knowledge Palin was spewing, what designer clothes she was wearing, which up-do she was sporting. If you need to know why, check out this clip from For some reason the entire link isn't showing up, but if you go to, click on the navigation bar tab for "Sarah Palin", it should be the first video that comes up. Wow. All I can say is wow. We all know O'Reilly defends her because she gives him a woodie. Or maybe he's just turned on by a gun toting, beauty pageant contestant who likes moose stew? Sounds about right for Bill-O.

Yeah, and dinosaurs and humans were on the earth at the same time just like on the Flintstones.

So, to avoid a litany of complaint (from this point forward), today I want to reflect on the youth vote and the amazing turnout. The first election I voted in was Clinton's first term. I was in undergrad. In the haze of my underage hubris I believed he might win or lose depending on my vote. He won, and I know my ballot didn't matter too much in deeply blue Massachusetts. Yet, I am basking in the fantasy that my vote (in newly blue Indiana) did help make a difference. Obama won my county by only 7,290 votes. Obama won the state by 26,163 cast ballots-- that's fewer people than the university I attend and at which I taught.

I had a student in one of my freshman classes last year who was from just outside Manhattan. One class day, our discussion focused on the memorial at the WTC site, and some students started talking about the war in Iraq. I didn't point out the fact that these two things are mutually exclusive because that would have started a whole new debate. Anyway, this young woman of whom I write was sitting in the front row; she was usually engaged in class discussions, but on that particular day, she looked uncomfortable. In fact, more than a few students looked uncomfortable. In a lull in the discussion, I asked the class, "Is this a bad topic for our discussion? Should we be talking about something else?" Sally (name changed to protect her innocence) reluctantly spoke up: "I don't care about the war. I know that's not a popular position, but I just don't." I was trying to hide my surprise, when she then said, "Yeah, I lived outside Manhattan the day the towers fell. I didn't care then either. I didn't know anyone who was there, and I don't know anyone who is in Iraq."

Out of sight, out of mind is what I wanted to say.

Now, I am a teacher that firmly believes in NOT pushing my views on my younglings. Never had I needed to fight the urge so strongly than at that moment. Luckily, I can think on my feet (most of the time) and was able to divert my focus to the class and not my own reaction. I simply asked, "Does anyone else feel like Sally?" More than a dozen hands slowly raised. I admit, my heart sank. Another young woman said, "I feel so much better knowing I'm not the only one. I mean, it's like bad to not care about the war and stuff." (Again from another engaged and engaging student.) Some others volunteered that they didn't care about politics or world affairs in general. Many nods of assent to those comments.

I didn't teach this fall for the first time in five years-- alas, my funding ran out but I am still completing the worst paper I've ever written (i.e., my dissertation). I understand from the news that the youth vote was critical in deciding this election. I can't help but think that some small part of me sees why those students resisted thinking or feeling anything about our country and the state of world affairs. I might have felt that way on November fifth if Obama hadn't won. I don't need to be reminded of that potential outcome everytime I still see Palin on camera. One way I suppose to avoid my gag reflex is to watch Fox as much as I normally do--rarely, just for a giggle. I guess I should take a clue from my freshman foils and just mute the TV and close my eyes everytime Palin gets airtime.

Out of sight, out of mind. I'll let you know how it goes.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Day One of a Post-Bush 43 America: Catholics and Republicans

Today was the first day in a very long time that I remember being excited to live in the US.
Today is the first day of post-Bush 43 American history.
Today feels like the first day of the twenty-first century, not just November Fifth.

I created a t-shirt on Zazzle last year: "There's no Republican in Democracy." Now, I am not putting down Republicans. Quite the contrary. Over the past several months I have come to feel compassion toward those folks. They're good people- they just see the world from perspectives I don't share.

The CCCs
As a recovering Catholic, I can't help but think about a Cursillo I went on almost ten years ago. My dear sister (I think) was worried about the life I was leading. Not a bad one, just a bit lost after a year battling Cancer. (Spoiler alert for anyone going on a Cursillo.) It's a three day retreat where you spend time reflecting on your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and the sinking feeling that accompanying such reflection is the dependable Catholic guilt over skepticism. These well-meaning Catholics send you back into the world to live the 4th day. Read: the day after Jesus' resurrection. The first day of the rest of your life.

I think this, the fifth day of November, is beyond that. It's different.
Today is the first day of the rest of America's life. No guilt. No buyer's remorse. No Republicans in the White House. Sorry to all who voted for McCain and Palin-- really.

PS: I've been following the blog of Margaret and Helen; you should check it out:

If for no other reason, read it for your funny bone. We all need a good giggle now and then. We all need to remember that we really are all in this together. Isn't that the premise of Democracy?


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