Sunday, January 24, 2010

What Happened This Week

Well. It's been quite a week.

What may be the most progressive state in the country elected a REPUBLICAN to fill Ted Kennedy's seat for two years. Teddy is spinning in his grave.

The Supreme Court declared that corporations have the right to spend as much money as they want to elect candidates who will do whatever they say.

A court in Kansas began a trial that will no doubt end in a verdict that will announce to right-wing extremists that they have free reign to murder abortion providers and get off with only a few years in jail for doing so.

The world is going to Hell in a hand basket.

What do YOU think?

It is time for us to get off the dime.

"Somebody came along and said liberal means soft on crime, soft on drugs, soft on communism, soft on defense, and we're going to tax ya back to the stone age, because people shouldn't have to go to work if they don't want to. And instead of saying 'Well, excuse me, you right-wing, reactionary, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-education, anti-choice, pro-gun, leave it to beaver trip back to the fifties,' we cowered in the corner. And said 'Please Don't Hurt Me'"

From The West Wing, Season 3.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Curse of the Twitter Generation

I recently received a message (I will not disclose the source), part of which was this:

"Your gf of 3 years has over 8,000 in savings and is having a hard time financiallly after her divorce but always pays her bills on time and has never defaulted. a company her and her ex hired to split their property left them holding the bag for 21000 with no project to sell after they failed to check on codes and my gf told them they don't have it until the house sells or if they had done their job and they had lots to sell, when they didn't check code they didnt know the land couldn't be divided so the company did all this work for nothing."

(This quote is copied word for word--no editing by me)

I simply have to ask: Is this some new foreign language that I was, up to now, previously unaware of?

Be aware that I recognize most of the words in the above quote.

Also be aware that the above quote contains over 100 words, and by my count, 2 periods, 1 comma (not counting the one in one of the numbers, and one apostrophe. If I need to point out to you where the missing punctuation should be, then you shouldn't be reading this blog.

Also worth noting is that only one word is capitalized, at the beginning of the quote.

I could go on and on, but I won't. To detail all of the rest of the spelling, grammatical, and syntax errors would take a much longer post than I am ready to right write now (I did that on prupose!)

Who or what is to blame for this rapid breakdown of communications skills in our society, a breakdown that is becoming more and more apparent every day?

One word: Twitter.

Twitter is the ultimate culmination of the natural progression of a society that has progressively learned to be as brief as possible in its communications.

Think about it. We went from writing letters longhand, to typing them, to word processors, to phone calls, to e-mail, to instant messages, and now to twitter. Our method of communication has progressed to the point where we must learn to be as brief as possible in hopes of keeping the attention of others.

Is there any wonder why the attention span of the current generation is so short?

Just because more is sometimes less does not necessarily mean the opposite is also true.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It Has Happened

They've done it. Those DUMBASSES in Massachusetts have actually decided to send a teabag Republican to the Senate to Ted Kennedy's former seat. Ted must be spinning in his grave right now.

And it's time for the Dumbocrats to do something about it.

It's time for them to get off their asses and stop acting like a bunch of battered women who don't know how to stand up for themselves.

It's time for them to stop believing in the myth of the "supermajority". The so-called "filibuster proof" 60-vote majority. The thing that that caused the Dumbocrats to give up so many of the things they wanted to do with the health care "reform" bill in order to maintain it. The thing that never really existed.

Note to Democrats: You need to take the gloves off. Republicans haven't played by the rules for the last 16 years. Time to return the favor.

Here's what to do:

Step One: Strip Joe Lieberman of every single committee chairmanship he has. He hasn't been a real Democrat for years now. Time to show him the price of betrayal.

Step Two: Stop acting like you're still the minority party.

Step Three: Start doing what you were elected to do--change things! Your party's leader, Barack Obama, rode a wave of popularity into a landslide election. The second after he was inaugurated, you began a program of business as usual.

Step Four: Start telling the Republicans to sit down and shut up. They've been doing it to you since 1994. If you keep letting them do it, you're going to find out how it feels to keep losing elections.

If you wanna see what the inauguration of President Sarah Palin looks like (shudder), please keep doing what you're doing.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Breaking the Barrier

Yesterday, I listened to the NPR program All Things Considered's coverage of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. One of their reporters, Jason Beaubien, was detailing efforts of doctors to treat the injured outside a hotel operating as a makeshift aid station.

At this point, some context is necessary. This was the day after the quake. Mr. Beaubien, who at this point had obviously been seeing tragedy after tragedy unfold right in front of him, happened upon a young girl. She was badly injured, wrapped in bandages, and unable to speak or even move, such were the extent of her injuries. It's a scene that is impossible to describe over the radio, but he did his best. And then his voice began to break, and he was barely able to continue his report.
(You can hear his account here.)

I realize that professional news reporters are supposed to be able to erect a barrier between themselves and the news that they are reporting. To report the news without being affected by it. And, to a certain extent, they are able to do that. They have to, if they want to be able to continue their chosen profession.

But being a reporter does not and cannot mean you can turn your emotions off. Emotions are, and have always been, more powerful than intellect. We as a species have always been slaves to our emotions. We can no more shut them off than we can switch off individual sections of our brain.

And yet that's exactly what we seem to expect most of the people who report the news to us. We expect them to be emotionless automatons, reporting on the worst tragedies without so much as batting an eyelash.

I for one was touched to hear a professional news reporter demonstrate that the news affects everyone. Even those who report it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Extraordinary Woman

Miep Gies died yesterday at age 100.

If you have no idea who she was, I'm not surprised. She was not a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination. But there was one thing she did that may be one of the most defining literary moments of the 20th century: She saved The Diary of Anne Frank.

(I should mention at this point that my own mother died on that very date eight years ago. A coincidence, I'm sure, but a significant one to me.)

Perhaps more importantly, of course, was the fact that Miep Gies, along with a few others, hid Anne, her family, and their friends from the Nazis in a secret room for over two years.

She did not have to do this. It would have been much simpler--and safer--to do nothing. She could have, like most non-combatants of Nazi-occupied countries, simply kept her head down and gone about her daily life. But instead, she helped hide these people, brought them supplies, and kept them informed about events of the war. And, after they were discovered, she attempted to bribe the authorities to release her friends, without success.

Of course, as was typical of ordinary people who do extraordinary things, Ms. Gies did not believe herself a hero for her actions. Mostly because she believed she didn't do enough, and could have done more.

Human history is full of examples where great tragedies have occurred because otherwise good people stood by and did nothing. Miep Gies was a hero because she tried to do something to stave off one of those great tragedies. And, when she finally couldn't do anything more to hold back the tide, she made sure to preserve an important piece of evidence detailing that tragedy, perhaps in the hope that she could keep something similar from happening again.

It was an act that forever changed the world.

My mother, in her own way, was a hero too. While I know of nothing that she did in her lifetime that changed the world on a similar scale, I do know that she taught school for most of her professional career. The schools she taught in were often in some of the worst neighborhoods this city has to offer. She often fought an administration that was more concerned with politics than educating students. And, when her cancer finally progressed to the point where she had to give up teaching, she volunteered as often as she could for various charitable causes. Believe me when I say that it wasn't easy for her.

And yet, nothing my mother ever did probably changed the world on the scale of Ms. Gies' actions. And yet she was a hero to me. And I have to say this: Miep Gies, you were and are a hero, if not to yourself, then definitely to the rest of the world, even if they don't know it. I hope that somehow, somewhere, you and my mother are able to meet and spend a few hours together. If you had ever met in this world, I think you would have liked her. I know she would have liked you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Simpsons

I guess The Simpsons turned 20 yesterday.

I didn't watch it.

I haven't watched it for quite a few years now.

I will admit, I was a regular viewer a long time ago. I'm not any more.

Still, I have to respect the achievement. A half-hour animated sitcom has managed to survive 20 years. 20. Years. Most TV shows are lucky if they manage to last seven. Few get past the first season. If nothing else, the shows suffer from the fact that the actors in them age past the point where they can be believable in the roles they play (See Beverly Hills 90210 for possibly the most egregious example).

I considered it a major achievement when E.R. went 15 seasons. Of course, the show, like many others that lasted so long, underwent major cast changes throughout its run, to the point that none of the original cast members were in the last four seasons as regulars.

But The Simpsons has endured. 20 seasons, with all of the original cast members present, and unaging (only possible with a cartoon.)

It's quite an achievement. Unequaled in Prime Time TV. And while I don't watch it, I respect it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Garbage Cans

In case you didn't know, I live in the city of Toledo, Ohio.

There's not much to know about it. It's the home of the Toledo Mud Hens, possibly the most famous minor league baseball team in the world. It's also the home of Tony Packo's, the most famous Hungarian hot dog restaurant in the world. It's also the home of Jamie Farr, the actor famous from M*A*S*H, from which show the above mentioned things derived their fame.

I might also add that Packo's deserves its fame (you GOTTA try the Hot Dog Sauce). The Mud Hens, maybe not so much. Seriously. How much fame does a Minor League baseball team (even a Triple-A team) deserve?

(And I would also add that Jamie Farr sold out his home state by being a spokesman for the amendment that allowed casino gambling to invade our state. I will never watch another episode of M*A*S*H).

But my beloved city is suffering under the current economic crisis. Jobs are scarce. Tax revenues are down. And there is a flight from the city to its suburbs.

But we have new garbage cans!

The city is hard at work giving every house two new garbage cans that can be emptied by automatic trucks.

These cans are huge. They are over four feet tall, and made of very hard plastic. No normal human can possibly lift one of these things when it's full.

This situation is lose-lose. City sanitation workers that lose their jobs to these automatic trucks will no longer be able to pay taxes that, among other things, help maintain these trucks. And when they break down, there won't be workers to clean up the overflow of trash that will result.

I have NEVER been able to understand the rationale behind basing economic recovery strategies on REDUCING the number of available jobs.

If you can figure it out, I'd appreciate if you'd explain it to me.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Bowl Nobody Cares About

For those of the 3 readers of this blog who care, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is playing right now.

That's right. It started at 8 PM on Monday, January 4th. It's also on Fox, and is up against the new season of The Bachelor on ABC, Heroes on NBC, and some popular CBS sitcoms.

It features two teams: The TCU Horned Frogs (that's really their name) and the Boise State Broncos.

Both teams are undefeated. But no one really cares.

Boise State is a member of the WAC, which might as well be short for the Weak Athletic Conference. of the nine teams in this conference, 5 have losing records this season and only two (Boise State and Hawaii) have winning non-conference records.

TCU plays in the Mountain west, whose 9 teams have a combined record of 61-51 overall. Not exactly what you would call football powerhouses.

But the two teams in the bowl are both undefeated, and since neither conference gets an automatic BCS invitation, they were given the two at-large BCS invitations. Mostly so both conferences would shut up about wanting a playoff system in the top college football division and go home with the huge payoffs they get for playing in a BCS bowl.

Now all the BCS has to worry about is some MAC team going undefeated...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Insidiousness of Movie Piracy

There is a certain website out there--no strike that--there are dozens of websites out there--that allow recently released movies to be viewed--very easily--on-line.

Most of these movies are very poor quality, often featuring copies of movies filmed by illicit video cameras snuck into theaters, and they often feature poor sound quality and terrible pictures. I don't watch them mostly for that reason (among others). Recently, however, I came across a website that allowed full viewing of the new movie Avatar. The FULL movie, with all the bells and whistles, including not too bad quality sound and picture. The only thing missing was the 3-D.

I didn't watch it. I won't watch it. I can't accept that it should be watched. I paid good money to watch it in a theater, with full surround sound and real 3-D. And I CERTAINLY won't link to the site. I don't imagine it can be too hard to find, if anyone is determined enough.

I have accepted that this kind of outright piracy is what is and will be killing movies. Seriously. Why bother to expend the time, money, and effort to make a blockbuster movie when less than a day after it comes out in theaters, it can be viewed on-line for free?

I realize that these concerns, or some like them, have been raised before. And will be raised again. My point is that it seems like this has been happening more frequently in the last few years, and it is getting worse.

If anyone has any idea what to do about it, I'm listening.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


And may I say, I-to-the-fucking-O!

Ohio State = Rose Bowl Champions!

Life is good.

I think we may have an early contender for best sports moment of 2010.

And now, may I present: Carmen Ohio, featuring the late great Woody Hayes. Woody, you would have been proud of your team yesterday!

(No, you weren't seeing things: Woody was a good friend of Richard Nixon. I don't hold that against him.)