Monday, January 30, 2012

...are you talkin' to me?

i got an email from newt gingrich!

i mean, i think i got an email from newt gingrich. it came to my email address, after all.

come to think of it, though, it started out "dear conservative..." ...and, uh, the thing is, i'm not exactly a conservative. what i am, in fact, is a liberal.

so, if you think about the political spectrum in terms of "liberal" on the left and "conservative" on the right, picture me standing in left field in a beautiful, all-american baseball stadium, and gingrich standing in the parking lot on the far right side of a dog-fighting ring in georgia.

i hope that helps.

back to the email...what else is newter saying?

"As I write this, Barack Obama and the Democrats are raising thousands of dollars per hour, waiting for a Republican nominee to emerge. He's a radical, secular socialist who wants to reinvent America in the image of the faded, decrepit Republics of Western Europe."

hang on. i may be biased here, but i'm also well to the left of barack obama. which is how i know he's neither a radical (much to my chagrin), nor a socialist. as for the "...faded, decrepit republics of western europe," wouldn't the failed communist regimes of eastern europe be a more apt comparison? i mean, if obama really is as far left as gingrich would like us to believe (which he totally isn't), then surely barack must be a red-loving, failed communist-statist.

why has newt-the-historian-and-reagan-conservative failed to make this connection? could it be because he's actually a revisionist historian and not remotely a reagan conservative? as if being a reagan conservative were actually something to embrace, rather than run from, screaming.

and before we leave the subject...why does newt hate europe so much? aren't some of those countries among america's allies? i'm no cartographer, but i'm pretty sure they are. is it really a good idea to insult them like this?

you know, i'm starting to think newt and his emailing minions made a mistake. several of them, in fact.

"I believe that a second term for Barack Obama will be a disaster for this country and I am committed to beating him."

i have no doubt that newt actually believes this. but most sentient creatures and several varieties of mushrooms believe the exact opposite. especially if newt is as committed to this endeavor as he was his first two wives.*

(* was that a cheap shot? nah. especially since newt is selling himself as a holier-than-thou roman catholic convert, blithering on about the sanctity of hetero marriage. historical note: newt raised a ruckus over bill clinton's blowjobs at a time when newt himself was happily hypocritizing in an affair of his very own. no, when you look at it that way, it's not a cheap shot. at all.)

thinking back to newt's glory days in the house, i recall him leading his party to remarkable lows in civility and willingness to govern via compromise. in fact, i see a direct line from the newt-led 104th congress to today's hilariously hostile, nonfunctional government, as well as the chasm of contempt between the right and left. these are not fond memories.

maybe i'll respond to this email and let newt know i'm disinclined to send him money or volunteer for his campaign. unless he'd be willing to negotiate (gasp!) some sort of compromise.

for example, in exchange for a few minutes of my valuable volunteer time, he could put me in charge of his email blasts. without irony, i would do nothing more (or less) than quote the candidate (in context!), and solicit support on that basis. all the way to the convention.

this would be consistent with newt's stated desire to run a "positive campaign, based on the issues."

it's a high-minded goal, one befitting a serious candidate with serious ideas, like putting poor children to work as janitors, or drug-testing people applying for unemployment, or building a permanent colony on the moon.

this way, voters would know exactly what they were getting with a newton leroy gingrich candidacy.

it's a straightforward, strait-laced, straight-talking strategy, with newt providing the content.

what could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

random variability as seen through a prism of love

the odds of any of us being born are stupidly small.

there are just too many uncontrolled variables requiring perfect synchronization, dusted with a generous layer of faerie dust, to predict any of us.

so it follows that the odds are smaller still that a couple decades after an improbable birth, any of us would follow a path leading to a random meeting with a person with whom we will fall in love.

think about it. if any one of a zillion variables changes anywhere along that path, the chance meeting never occurs. you walk down the opposite side of the street. you dawdle over a text message. you get hit by a bus.

you don't meet your person, love never blooms, everything changes. this is true for all of us, every day, but we just don't notice it. or we choose to ignore it because it's too big and too mind-boggling to tolerate much scrutiny.

somehow, amidst all this improbability, my friend rob met ronna. they had enough variables working in their favor that they fell in love twenty-some years ago. they stayed in love, mostly, changing together over time the way people must if they are to keep that little flame flickering.

because, again, any one of infinite switches could flip the wrong way and the love would be gone. politics could come between them, or religious beliefs, or a cute young thing from the steno pool, if there were such a thing as steno pools any more.

or, just by way of random example, something in the environment or a quirk of heredity or i-don't-know flying too close to the sun could one day lead to ronna discovering that she had breast cancer.

she and rob, not being the kind to let a little thing like that come between them, would wage all-out war with it, hammering it down and away and out of their path. they would do what strong, intelligent people can do to control the variables that come at us too fast and too numerous to count.

they would fight, furiously, for a good long while.

still, the cancer would take ronna from rob on a recent friday. it had the power to do that.

but it was powerless to take the love.

"you will see each other again in your dreams...where you'll both be bright-eyed and happy and healthy. may those dreams be more real than this reality."

Monday, January 16, 2012

armed and genderous

Happiness is a warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun, momma
When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm
Because happiness is a warm gun, momma
Happiness is a warm gun
Bang bang, shoot shoot...

~~john lennon

i don't mind guns.

it's people i don't trust.

people and guns are a bad combination. anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is lying. or foolish. foolish liars with guns are an even worse combination.

"chicks with guns" (the concept and the book) is only slightly less disquieting than "children with guns," or "monkeys with guns."

women, see, are the life-affirming, life-giving, life-worth-living side of humanity. our better half in more ways than one should attempt to count.

put 20 million guns in their hands, and what do they become? what do we become? irredeemably dangerous. frightening. and, best avoided by creatures that prefer their bodies unpunctured by fast-moving metal.

"but, guns are for protection! women deserve to feel safe from other people with guns. people with bad intentions. you know, men!"

this argument seems valid, until you look at the fine print. the part about 30,000 u.s. gun deaths each year. the 17,000 suicides, and the 1,000 accidental deaths-by-gun.

when you put it that way, being anywhere near a gun doesn't sound like such a good idea. it sounds about as safe as petting a ravenous mountain lion. or befriending a masked man with a chainsaw. or fracking a volcano.

or indoctrinating the next generation of gun-toting tots...

Some of the more haunting images are those of moms with their kids.

In one image, a woman who lives in Healdsburg is seated on her bed with her daughter. The woman, named Lake, holds a stainless-steel Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum. Her young daughter, Ruby, sits behind her and holds a vintage cap gun. Both stare impassively at the camera. Another portrait shows a woman in Houston, cradling her naked young son in one arm and holding an Ithaca 20-gauge side-by-side in the other. The woman told McCrum, "I'm eager to teach my boys everything I know."

if she gets started on that lecture now, those boys should be ready to go out and shoot living things any minute. heads up, y'all.

if we're being honest here (and we are), we should agree that guns are made to kill and maim animate objects. and if we can agree on that, we can also feel the dissonance of turning women into steely-eyed weapon wavers, a hair-trigger away from something horrifying and permanent.

men, historically, are the hunters and killers of all things with a pulse. back in the days of mammoths and saber tooth tigers, you could make a case for weaponizing the males, so the women could focus on perpetuating the species. now? not so much. the threat of extinction is no longer imminent, so men with guns kill things for fun, or because they're drunk, or because they're stupid.

until proven otherwise, we should agree that men can't be trusted with anything more dangerous than a plastic butter knife. and that the women are too smart, too civilized, too invested in the future of humankind to set their sights that low.

or maybe that's just whistling past civilization's graveyard.

Author and satirist Christopher Buckley called the book "a serious work of cultural iconography, and visually stunning, alternately sexy, arresting, haunting and mesmerizing."

visually stunning and haunting, certainly. indicative of our culture's cheerfully homicidal nature? definitely. sexy? um, right. nothing says "sexy" like a woman with a gun in her hand and a look of vacuous indifference or calculated menace in her eyes.

upon further review, it occurs to me that if you mentally photoshop out the guns, most of the women in "chicks with guns" actually are sexy. but then, they'd have to change the title of the book to something like "random chicks in fields," or just "chicks." which would be kind of odd.

the conclusion, then, is that that the chicks with guns should stay far, really, farther~~and i'll stay over here with the living things that don't care to be shot or shot at or even have a gun anywhere near them.

we can agree to that, yes?


Friday, January 06, 2012

truth is a maverick, and other foibles

“You can’t hide from your record of making this country bankrupt, from destroying our national security and making this nation one that we have to restore with Mitt Romney as president of the United States of America!” ~~john mccain

i don't know why i let this kind of thing bother me. i really don't.

yes, i do.

it's because i was taught early in life to tell the truth. or risk a swift beating. it's not the best rationale for truth-telling, but it stuck with me.

a couple decades ago, john mccain seemed to have a stubborn streak of the truth-telling in him. while his colleagues on the right were busy defining down the concept of "facts" and "reality," mccain would get all contrary and say something like, "no, that's not right, and i'm not going along with it."

that's not a direct quote. but it does capture the essential mccainness that earned him the "maverick" moniker among his admirers.

compare that with today's mccain, who has sold his soul to the loony-fringey sarah palins of the world. to the point he will blame barack obama for bankrupting the country, destroying our national security, and oh-i-don't-know, cooking up endangered species in the white house kitchen.

as if everyone wasn't painfully aware george w. bush did all of it first, and far more efficiently. with a monkey grin on his face.

the fact that mccain has endorsed a candidate who would take us back to the glory that was the bush years perfectly illustrates how the old maverick is now not much more than an old barn horse ambling from fence to fence, hoping someone will feed him a carrot.

mccain used to be someone whom you could admire, sort of, if you overlooked his cognitively dissonant politics and the fact he was a lousy pilot.

one day, though, it seemed like senator maverick woke up believing the hype. overnight, probably during the 2008 presidential election, he jumped his own shark into the land of self-parody. from that moment on he's been kind of a sad charicature, an unfunny punchline who doesn't get the joke.

the lesson here is that it doesn't take much, or long, to fall from prominence and relevance to absurdity and bewilderment. this is especially true if you walk away from the qualities of character that made you interesting in the first place.

mccain's vanished integrity (and empty ranting) really isn't worth a moment's dudgeon. it shouldn't bother me in the slightest.

but for some reason, it does.