Thursday, October 30, 2008

George Will In Top Form

I read George Will at least once every two weeks, when he arrives in my mailbox on the back page of my Newsweek. I look forward with anticipation to the Anna Quindlen weeks; not so much with the George Will weeks. I like George Will fine. I'm pretty sure my liking of the electoral college system is due to a column he wrote in defense of it when I was younger (I'd put myself mid-teens), and I was not only swayed then but remain swayed now - even though I'm very very liberal. I'll get into my liberalism and why, in spite of that, I want my nation's highest office to move slower than molasses in most instances at some point, but right now I'm going to hang a right turn and get back to George Will. Because George Will is inflamed. He is incensed. And he is, aside from the periodic weeks of craziness that come with my Newsweek (about a month ago, he was deriding the idea that people should vote by mail, something Oregon has done for about a decade, along with mailing out handy-dandy cheat sheets, because it will lead to lazier voters), incredibly on the mark - at least in regard to McCain. Which should come as no surprise, given his ire toward the Arizona Senator has been growing for quite some time and written about thoroughly.

His current article at the Washington Post, which is not a replica of the article appearing in the back of this week's Newsweek (that one deals with the economy along with gas prices and foreign relations and, oddly enough, Franklin Roosevelt), is about many things. It highlights, once again, the ridiculousness of the Palin pick. It offers anecdotal evidence of McCain's black-and-white world view. And it lambasts both public finance for campaigns and limits on the amount of money a single campaign can collect from donations. What George Will does here, what he is continually able to do even while taking into account his moments of insanity, is to make me reassess an issue I was previously on the fence about. The electoral college was one such issue; and now campaign finance becomes another. I've always been on the fence about the spending frenzy the Obama campaign has waged. I've liked (even been enamored) with Obama since 2004; I remember the Boston DNC well. One day, my Newsweek is telling me about up and coming politicians and political figures and profiles a guy I couldn't care less about named Barack Obama; a couple of days later, I'm watching an electrifying key note address and frantically trying to find said Newsweek article again - digging, sometimes perilously, through the recycling to see if it had possibly missed the previous curb deadline (for the record, it didn't). But something about the amount of money he amassed and the way he spent it left me unsettled. Part of this is rooted in pragmatism. At some point, the Republicans will probably have an electrifying star like Obama; in which case, the tide will have been turned and Democrats will be inundated with ad after campaign ad and not have enough funds to launch any kind of counterattack - successful or no. Ronald Reagan can't be the only one. But there is a deeper issue at root here. We all know the studies that proclaim we are incredibly susceptible to advertising and its message. I'm not so great with advertising; I get it from my father who thought that Buddy Lee, the creepy doll, was advertising Levi's. That isn't even his most ridiculous advertising offense. I have those moments a lot too, where I'll assume my preferred brand is the one being advertised even when it is, to the not-insane viewer, clearly not.  But even I don't think I'd manage to turn many McCain ads into ones about Obama.

What I am incredibly susceptible to, though, is starting to like something (a song, a movie, a television show) that I had originally hated simply based on repetition. I'm not proud of it, but I've become fond of such songs as The Macarena and even Baby One More Time (which is apparently the Britney Spears' single's revised name, as Jive Records thought Hit Me, Baby, One More Time condoned domestic violence; the things you learn through a quick internet search). What I'm saying is, had I been living in a state in play and not my tried and blue Connecticut, I'm not entirely sure that if I'd started off with a vague disliking of a candidate - or even outright hatred - a constant barrage of ads for that person would not change my mind. If McCain had more money, I may have *gasp* ended up voting for him! Well, probably not. But the fact remains that if we are as susceptible to advertising as studies show, and if the government has mandated that the amount of air time for one candidate has to be granted the other, how is it in any way fair or democratic to have one person out of the two dominate the game? If we outright acknowledge the effectiveness of ads of any type, it seems strange to shrug at the effect these ads may have on picking the next president of the United States.

Now, I know that logically some of the most powerful of ads have only been used once - or in moderation. After all, the daisy ad from Lyndon Johnson only ran once, but it helped cement Johnson's win. It helped Johnson's case, of course, that Barry Goldwater was a nut. And I respect George Will's thought that "Government may not mandate equality of resources among political competitors who earn different levels of voluntary support". I even agree with it. I love the idea of being able to contribute whatever little bit I can to a campaign I support, and to know that I and others like me can help a candidate we believe in. I love that donating to a campaign is a direct way to participate and become entrenched in that campaign. I love people getting passionate about politics, and any way for them to do so is - in my book - a wonderful thing. And I love that it does not matter what level one can contribute; that just contributing can make a person feel empowered and energized and enfranchised. George Will is right; support cannot be mandated. Support cannot be punished. And so I suppose that George Will wins this round. I think I may have come around to the idea that limits on campaign spending only limits democracy and our direct contact to the democratic process.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Whedon Speaks

Joss Whedon speaks about Dollhouse:
Basically, the Network and I had different ideas about what the tone of the show would be. They bought something somewhat different than what I was selling them, which is not that uncommon in this business. Their desires were not surprising: up the stakes, make the episodes more stand-alone, stop talking about relationships and cut to the chase. Oh, and add a chase. That you can cut to. Nothing I hadn't heard before on my other shows (apparently my learning curve has no bendy part) but frustrating as hell given our circumstances - a pilot shot, scripts written, everybody marching together/gainfully employed... and then a shutdown. Glad I was for the breathing room, but it's hardly auspicious. So back into the writer cave I went, wondering why I put up with this when I can make literally dozens of dollars making internet movies.
I love the man, and the line "apparently my learning curve has no bendy part". Anyway, you can read the rest of the trials and tribulations of the show here

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weirdest Situation Ever

Connecticut has some odd laws on the books still, dating back to our Puritanical days. But one will most definitely take the cake for weirdest offense ever anywhere, and that is this: according to the nightly news (channel 8's, I believe), if a same sex couple who have already entered into a civil union take part in Connecticut's newly legalized (but not available until around November 10) same sex marriage laws without first dissolving their civil union, they will be in violation of the state's bigamy laws. How friggin' odd is that? Being a bigamist by marrying the same person! Ah, Connecticut. How I love thee!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Message To The Youth Vote

Just in case someone has been living under a rock and subsequently has been missing out on Jay Smooth:

My cyber-crush on this guy continually grows.

Playing For Change

On my birthday, I indulged, had a bit of cake, and spent much of the rest of the evening on the couch trying to stop the world from spinning. In that state, my father decided that I could watch Bill Moyers. On the Journal, Bill had on a man who traveled the world, recording music from different countries and recording songs, old and new:

Although the idea of connecting people and changing the world through music is very much a 1960s, flower-child idea, and although this kind of movement is incredibly and naively idealistic, there is something thought-provoking about the film and the idea that lives can be changed and the world can be bettered by an acknowledgement of interconnectedness that is exemplified by music. Mark Johnson, the film maker, says it well when he said, "We all know the world is changing. And we get to decide if it's changing for the better or if it's changing for the worse." And it is incredibly moving to see "Stand By Me" sung and played by such a wide breadth of people:

What is also wonderful is Johnson's commitment to bettering the communities he visited by building music schools there. Johnson says, " now it's a chance for kids to get together, to have something positive to look forward to. And what we're doing with this foundation is we're going build hundreds of schools around the world. And installing them all with recording equipment and cameras. So that people can log on to the internet and they can watch recitals and concerts in the schools we're building, to kind of break down that whole distance barrier."

Sunday, October 26, 2008


After a weekend that vacillated from the truly horribly depressing and pretty okay, I'm thinking this story is right what I need: a dog who risked his life to save some kittens. Aw. Good dog!

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Girls Say Yes" A Big No

I'm more than slightly appalled by this poster, much in the way I am offended by this ad:

 found on some of the blogs I frequent. As I am by the
ads I've seen and the random other sites (one proclaiming Sarah Palin is a VPILF) and images produced that make Sarah Palin nothing but an object to be fucked (or reducing her to those fuckable body parts). No bones about it, the left is certainly better than the right when it comes to issues facing women, when it comes to combating sexism, and when it comes to the rights of people like Lilly Ledbetter and rape victims, and the list goes on and on and on. But the images above still reduce women and still reduce men; and it is profoundly disturbing to me to see "I only sleep with Democrats" and "Girls say Yes to boys who say Obama", because it once again makes a woman's power about her sexuality and it makes men nothing more than slaves to their libido. Reasoned discussion won't get those boys to change from Republican to Democrat, but a girl promising to say 'yes' will! And that is disgusting, because it operates under the assumption that (a) boys are so easily manipulated they will vote for Obama for some action when they would have otherwise voted for McCain, and (b) offers women up as prizes to men who vote the "right" way.

The original poster the one at the top is 'revitalizing' was edgy, and pushed boundaries.
victoria over on the BUST Magazine thread about this very topic summed it up when she said, "the original poster was edgy and effective. Not only was it a time of opposition to war, it was also a time of increasing awareness and acceptance of the sexual agency of women". I still find the poster problematic for many of the same reasons, but I also see some value in it that I do not see in the current incarnation. All the newest poster does for me, along with the bevy of images that reinforce the point, is to demonstrate how little we've actually progressed when it comes to thinking about women's sexuality. It is demonstrably for the man's pleasure in these adverts; and it is more of a bartering system, a tit-for-tat, than it is an actual expression of healthy sexuality. And that is deeply problematic. Women have the right for their sexuality to be their own; men have the right to not be treated like brainless sexaholics. Unfortunately, we have not yet gotten that message. If only the first poster had said, "Girls say 'Yes We Can' to Boys Who Say Obama". Then it would have been a true reimagining of the original image. It would have updated the idea and the vision, and actually demonstrated progress and respect for men and women alike.

"It Seemed As Though I Did Most Of The Driving"

This video answers that eternal question: what would happen if John McCain hired Hollywood directors to produce his campaign ads. I know I've been wondering that for some time. I find the John Woo one to be a bit lacking, which is too bad because it is first, but the Kevin Smith and Wes Anderson ones are hilarious and spot on. I love the discussion of Obama as Lando Calrissian in the Smith parody:

This one, I just find hilarious:

Intensified Allegiance

So, in my drunken state last night, I came up with an analogy. Never mind that I don't like analogies. This is going to be a good one:

Imagine you are putting money down on a fighter. You analytically look at his (or her) record. You examine his or her style of fighting. You know which punch he or she uses most often, and what little tricks (like rope a dope) she or he has. You like the fighter's record; you like the fighter's devotion to the sport. You even kind of admire the fighter. But even with the money down, you are not truly and purely emotionally invested in the win. From an intellectual standpoint, yes; but emotionally, you're still on the outside.

The day of the fight comes; your fighter is getting beaten badly. Not from the opponent. They're pretty evenly matched. But from the audience. Cups are flying. Peanut shells are hitting the fighter (miraculously, only your one), and the opponent is getting a few good hits here and there. Now, some fans who were rooting for your fighter have crossed lines and are rooting for the other fighter. Some fans are now rooting for your fighter mostly because of the peanut shells and the cups, and the amount of trash being thrown. And some fans are still with their fighter, because he or she has done very little wrong and certainly didn't tell the audience and refs to throw shit. But you are now emotionally invested in this fight in a way you hadn't been previously. Now, you want your fighter to win, and you want them to win badly. Your allegiance is intensified because of the amount of shit your fighter has to deal with in addition to fighting the actual fight. You didn't come to the fight thinking, "Well, trash is going to get thrown because (insert reason here), so I'd better support them." Your reasons were already set in stone. But actually and fervently and passionately wanting to see them win stems from this; it is merely icing you neither anticipated nor wanted on the cake you'd been eating.

That is why I ardently supported Hillary Clinton, and why I'm now becoming more and more aligned with Obama. In the beginning, I could honestly say that I liked their positions. I'm socially liberal; and I'm a pump-primer as opposed to a trickle-downer. Plus, McCain's "Bomb Iran" song scared me. But with the crap Hillary dealt with in the primaries, I desired her win partially to shut up those who would malign her based on her gender and who worried about her cleavage or wrinkles or menopause - or even how she reached the upper levels of politics (that one irritates me because it isn't like she married a Kennedy or a Bush or a Rockefeller; she married a guy from Arkansas whom she then assisted in his own political aspirations). But I had wanted her to win before. Now, Barack Obama is ahead of John McCain in the polls; but the "baby momma" stuff on Fox News, the Obama Bucks, the monkey dolls at McCain rallies, etc., makes me want him to win all the more. I want him to win, because I've always wanted him to win. But now, I want him to win even more. It is unexpected icing on an already-baked cake.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stop Pushing Daisies From Becoming Fertilizer

Pushing Daisies is my show for the fall; well, that and NBC's Chuck. Which is why the news from on high, that Pushing Daisies is getting beat in the ratings department by the likes of even the new Knight Rider remake, disturbs me so. I love the show's odd mix of fairy tale charm and morbid happenings; it is like Tim Burton meeting Dr. Seuss. Pushing Daisies, aside from its entirely charming title, is a show I probably never would have watched had it not been for a trip to the New York Television Festival with a good friend of mine. We saw the pilot, after spending an inordinate amount of time in a Turkish restaurant, getting turned around, developing a blister (well, that was just me), and making a break for the bathroom. All of that, the confusion, the blister, the bladder issues I will invariably have as an old woman, was worth seeing this bright, beautiful, witty, fantastic, and deadly world projected onto the big screen. From there, I was hooked.

Some back story, for those interested in potentially picking up the remote. The show is difficult to explain; a woman who writes for my local newspaper tried to, after explaining she was prematurely mourning the show's demise. It was so muddled even I, an avid viewer of the show, became a bit perplexed. So let's start with the easy part: there is a narrator. We begin almost every episode via the way-back machine, to see exactly how the characters we are following as adults came to be by seeing how they behaved/were treated as children. Ned, the Pie Maker, has by far the saddest tale - and since he is the main character, he has more of these way-back moments dedicated to him. But he, Chuck, and now Olive have all had them. Ned is, as I said, a pie maker, referenced frequently as "The Pie Maker". Which quite logically leads to the part where he makes pies and sells them at The Pie Hole, where Olive Snook works. Ned has another gift beyond being able to make delicious baked goods, and that is the ability to bring the dead back to life. He can only keep the dead alive for 60 seconds, though, or someone (or something) of comparable value (flowers for fruit, squirrels for birds, and fully grown humans for other fully grown humans) dies in that formerly dead thing's place. Once re-alived, one more touch from Ned will return them to the grave forever. Enter Chuck, otherwise known as Charlotte. She was dead, and then re-alived and kept alive by Ned, as she was his childhood sweetheart. He discovered her due to Emerson, who makes his living as a private investigator by taking on murder cases and splitting the profits with Ned in exchange for Ned's use of his dubious talent. Confused yet?

What makes the show is partially in the weird interweaving of the various characters (like, Olive takes pies to Chuck's aunts, because the aunts don't know Chuck is no longer dead and Olive doesn't know Chuck has ever truly been dead) and the strange mythology and partially in the way the show handles those weird interwoven relationships. And also, the strange quirk of language, a facet I just love. The show is a bit soap operaish, in the way that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a bit soap operaish. Pushing Daisies has star crossed lovers in Ned and Chuck, forbidden to touch ever again; but they both make the best of that and live their relationship as fully as they can under the circumstances. It is also a show where secrets (like Ned accidentally causing Chuck's father's death) come out rapidly. These characters can act stupidly; they make mistakes, and they see the world differently. But they are oddly mature in their interactions. Instead of seasons' long mysteries, the truth is willingly exposed quite often, and in an interesting way.

What I really love about the show, though, is the state of whimsy. Olive and Chuck, one wanting to be with Ned but barred due to Ned's disinterest and one wanting to be with Ned but barred due to instincts of self preservation, form a sweet friendship. Ned and Emerson have an odd friendship, as do Olive and Emerson. And while the other main characters (included here are Chuck's two aunts) are filled up to their eyeballs with quirk, Emerson is a needed character: disillusioned, caustic, and obsessed with money, he acts as the audience stand in. Even with Emerson, though, the twisted fairy tale aspect of the show is its clear selling point; a take on the question, what does happen after the Prince kisses the Princess and they ride off? What does 'happily ever after' look like in a world fractured by death and murder and mayhem? And most importantly, how can we make it sweetly funny, and also touchingly morbid? Bryan Fuller fulfills all of those to the hilt. So watch the damn show, and let Jim Dale fill you in on the happenings and the rest of the world fill you in on the charm and wonder of this forensics fairy tale.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Identity Politics

A while ago, I was accused (or, more accurately, diagnosed) by one of my friends of subscribing to identity politics because I like Hillary Clinton. My indignation of such an accusation has not yet entirely dissipated, and that is partially because I like Hillary Clinton for a variety of reasons wholly separate from her gender and partially because claiming someone has engaged or is engaging in identity politics is a way of diminishing their opinion. Claiming that I engage in identity politics is a way of silencing me, and my experience. It is a way of dismissing my view and my concerns and my point, because if all of those things are intrinsically linked to my being a woman and my politician being a woman, obviously I have very little of substance. That angers me, as a feminist, as a political junkie, as a voter, and as a citizen of the United States. I know why I like Hillary; I know why I like Barack Obama. And to claim that someone knows better than I strikes deeply of paternalism and signifies a deep lack of respect for me as not only a woman but as an informed individual. Why do I bring this up now? Well, because Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama has opened up a shitstorm of controversy, much of it aimed at the idea that of course Powell endorsed Obama. After all, they are both black. Colin Powell has been hit with the same diminishing stick I have been hit with previously. And what offends me more than being treated as something of a brainless wonder who merely follows her ovaries to a woman politician is how the people who dare label others with the identity politics stick never seem to check their own privilege.

White men have the luxury of rarely having their reason for voting one way or the other be determined by the fact that they share testicles and skin color with the politician of their choice, both because white male politicians are ubiquitous in politics but also because being a white male is the default. It is a position of power whose biases have gained a certain amount of invisibility. If a white man is voting for John McCain, there is not a media-wide *wink-wink, nudge-nudge* about it. We do not quibble over whether or not Joe Lieberman endorsed John McCain out of racial solidarity, even though Lieberman has a liberal domestic policy record, even though he supports abortion rights and the rights of homosexuals to adopt and to be protected from hate crimes. We accept that Joe Lieberman and John McCain are friends; we accept that Joe Lieberman has chosen to support McCain because he honestly and genuinely believes a McCain presidency would be the best thing for our nation. That is a privilege Colin Powell, another isle crosser, has not been afforded. That is something women for Hillary were not afforded. That is something African-Americans supporting Obama have not been afforded. It has seemingly been forgotten that African-Americans have long been a solid base for Democrats; it has also seemingly been forgotten, what with all the accusations flying around about PUMAs, that if Barack Obama loses this election (though that is becoming more and more a faint possibility), it won't be the women voters' fault but the white men who support Barack Obama to the tune of 33-37%. Obama is roughly splitting white women's votes, like Al Gore before him. But it will not be the white men who are blamed. The meme has been set for white women to take the fall; white men's negative impact very rarely enters into the media's consciousness, let alone the general public's consciousness, when it comes time to discuss the polling. White men are afforded that; white men are deemed to concentrate on more important things than gender or race. They have a leg up on women and African-Americans in that for every election until this one, both of the major parties have had white men at the top of the ticket. White men do not have to question whether or not they are playing identity politics, because even if they are it is indistinguishable due to that fact.

I often wonder if men may play the identity politics game more often than not; it seems that women and African-Americans would be more used to looking beyond who we look like, or who we share procreative organs with. We often have to find some other reason to vote for the candidate, even if it is as simple as figuring out which of the two white men we would most want to have a beer with. When Pat Robertson accuses Colin Powell of engaging in identity politics and only endorsing Obama because of the shared color of their skin, I wonder if Robertson will vote for McCain in this election because of the shared color of their skin. I wonder if the reason some white men are so quick to cry identity politics is because they suspect they see something reflecting in others they recognize in themselves. That is actually the same question I have with some conservatives, who talk about the Democrats being corrupt while they shove military contracts toward Haliburton. I have the same question about Democrats and gun restrictions, and whether they want to keep guns out of people's hands because they recognize what they could potentially do if they owned one.

Mostly, though, my view of the identity politics cry is that it is a simple and easy way to discredit someone else's argument, opinion, and experience. It is like a weird game of chicken; whoever cries "identity politics" first wins. A professor I had used to comment that once something became a moral argument, there was no use arguing it any more, because a line had been irreparably drawn in the sand; once someone says something is morally right - or morally wrong - the argument is stymied. Same too in this way. The clarion cry of identity politics is often not a genuine and analytical assessment, no matter what those trumpeting it will claim. It reveals an inherent bias, and a will to shut down discussion; it undermines the conversation, and allows the crier to reign on top, his credentials unquestioned and his motives found pure from such dastardly motive.

Monday, October 20, 2008


The majority (all five of you) have spoken, and the blog roll will now be organized by most frequently updated instead of alphabetically. Hopefully, I'll be able to find ze blogs easily! I'm also contemplating breaking up the blog roll by subject matter, as the amount of blogs I've added seem to have gotten cumbersome. Friends, feminists, economics, other... It is just an idea I had to make my blog even more cluttered, so that it resembles my life even more.

(Fictional) Feminist Icon: Elle Woods

Yes, Elle Woods. Now, I know. She's very pink. She's very girly. She applied to Harvard in order to get her guy back. She won her court case using 'girly' knowledge like how long it takes a perm to set. Guess what? I see her as being incredibly feminist and Legally Blonde being about the creation of that feminist. Before I talk about what makes Elle Woods a feminist icon for me, I'll talk about the issues of such an assessment. One, Elle is very white, very rich, and her story plays to the conventional themes of the romantic-comedy set - those being Girl loses (or just likes) Boy; Girl tries to Win Boy Back (or possibly just for the first time); Girl garners attention of New Boy; Girl figures out Boy is a jackass; Girl ends up with New Boy, happily ever after. It is one of the classic romantic tales, utilized in such great films as French Kiss. Those things are problems. As is its lack of racial diversity, and the use of a certain feminist stereotype (though I must admit I love Enid's inclusion in the movie, and her radical feminist/lesbian ways). Perhaps the most problematic aspect of the film for me is Elle's video admissions essay, and the fact that the all white, all middle-aged board decides to accept her due to her Playboy Bunny-esque ways. It plays right into so many stereotypes without debunking any of them, and that is most definitely a problem. A close second is the film's portrayal of homosexuals, from the militant Enid to the fashion- conscious Enrique Salvatore to Enrique's boyfriend, the effeminate Chuck, to the requisite gay man in the nail salon.

So why is Elle Woods a feminist? One, she upends stereotypes. There is an overwhelming perception that being 'girly' is good for getting guys, but that it is frivolous. "Girl things" are generally looked down upon; those interested in girl things are also generally looked down upon. In the hierarchy of life, girls are supposed to be girly, but being girly means not being taken seriously. Being girly is not what it takes to get ahead in the 'serious' world of jobs. Being girly means an inherent lack of ability to be anything else. Boys who are interested in girly things, like pink nail polish (second letter), are derided or looked at as weird because they should know by a certain age that girliness is lower on the chain than what boys "naturally" have access to, and that is masculinity. And Elle is subject to that view. Elle is dumped because she's more of a Marilyn, not a Jackie. Salespeople attempt to take advantage of her because they simply see her as a dumb blonde with "daddy's plastic". But Elle, from the first moments of the film, turns that knowledge base around into a weapon. From her leading questions about "half-loop top-stitching on the hem" on a dress made from low-viscosity rayon, later noting, "It's impossible to use a half-loop topstitch on low-viscosity rayon. It would snag the fabric", Elle is able to turn the tables on such people - and demonstrate how a knowledge base outside of what we normally think of as one of the "acceptable" ones can be useful and demonstrate intelligence just as any of the others do. Throughout the movie, Elle proposes that girly girls can be smart law students too. That intelligence does not necessarily codify itself in the usual language. That there is something inherently wrong with thinking that a beautiful girl should be satisfied with just being a beautiful girl, and that we should not take these women seriously.

Another aspect of the film I love is Elle's relationships with the women around her. Her sorority friends aren't mean or catty, even if they aren't the brightest crayons in the box. They help her achieve her goals, and celebrate her successes with her. If Elle Woods wants to go to law school, they all will help her go to law school - even if it is completely beyond them why she would ever desire it. I also like her relationship with Vivian; though it begins coldly at first, what with Elle wanting Warner and Vivian being Warner's fiance, it eventually defrosts. There are moments of cattiness between the two girls; but Elle's sweetness and genuine goodness eventually wins over the other girl. I generally see their relationship as an indictment about what the nature of competition between women over men breeds. It breeds resentment, it breeds ugliness, and it undermines what could otherwise be fruitful relationships. Their friendship also discusses something else prominent in society; Callahan treats Vivian as a glorified secretary, and treats Elle better only because he is sexually attracted to her. The girls develop a tenuous solidarity after acknowledging Callahan's treatment of Vivian; and although the movie does not delve further into it, it does demonstrate the dichotomy women in society often fall into. It shows the dismissiveness women often face in the upper echelons of society, where being serious and following the rules still will not shelter a woman from sexism.

A different relationship worth noting is Elle's friendship with Paulette; Paulette's former companion kicked her out of the trailer they shared, having followed "his pecker to greener pastures", and Paulette is "a middle-aged high-school dropout with stretch marks and a fat ass". What Elle gives her isn't Elle's Brooke Taylor exorcise tapes. Elle doesn't focus on remodeling Paulette, but on making her happy. First, by getting Paulette her dog back, and showing off her own legalese. And secondly, by continually bolstering up her friend's self-esteem. Paulette gets her happy ending without changing as well. What is also interesting about the film is that Paulette's troubles aren't ignored; when they first meet, Elle "spills" about her day. But then Paulette gets her turn. And her life is much worse. She doesn't have the opportunity to hire a Coppola to direct her admissions essay to anywhere. And although the film doesn't outrightly demean or decry Elle's narrow focus on how horrible life is, the movie does take pains to right Paulette's life as well. She isn't simply the nail technician there to be Elle's sounding board. She has a life and troubles of her own; and getting back Rufus, Paulette's dog, becomes a mission for Elle as well as for Paulette. 

Elle's biggest problem in the film, though she does not at first recognize it as such, is not that Warner Huntington III dumped her; it is that no one in her life takes her and her ambitions seriously. From her advisor to her parents, from her Harvard classmates to her best friends and first law professor and Warner himself, no one believes that Elle has the intellectual capabilities to get into Harvard, or succeed once she arrives there. Her mother would rather focus on Elle's history as a beauty queen. Her friends initially think she's taken leave of her senses, before coming together to help her succeed. Her advisor doesn't think there is anything to impress Harvard in her transcripts (on that one, she may have been right). And her classmates focus on the fact that she does not fit the traditional Harvard mode. She doesn't fit in because she is not outwardly serious. Her language is peppered with phrases like "truly heinous", and her voice is very much a Valley Girl voice, with the traditional squeaks and bubbly inflections. But she begins to make her mark. She makes friends with David; she makes friends with her ex-boyfriend's fiance; she impresses Emmett. And when she feels as though she did not get a coveted internship based on merit, discovering that her law professor was more interested in her as a "piece of ass", she quits. She doesn't play the game to get ahead due to her blonde hair and big boobs. She wants to be - craves to be - assessed based on her own credentials.

Which is why I think the final court scene is so important. Elle's fashion sense had been muted during her venture into the 'serious' work of her internship. She was still more stylish than Vivian, but she dressed more conservatively, with panty-hose and in black suits. Her return to court in her pink suit represents a new balance for Elle, a woman who will embrace her pinkness and her ability to rock the court house. And her Cosmo girl knowledge, mocked and diminished as being frivolous and girly and not worthy of her more serious colleagues, is the key to the case. In the end, Elle can still be passionate about "hair care" and be on her way to being a partner in a law firm by the time she's 30. And she can dismiss Warner as being a "bonehead"; because in the end, Legally Blonde isn't about a girl finding a guy, or doing something to keep a guy. It started out as that, sure. But over the course of the movie, Elle discovered she could be more, and she wanted to be. She craved, like most people, to be taken seriously. In the end, even without changing the basic core of who she is and how she reacts, she is.

(Part 1 of the series)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Should Never Take Cold Medicine

Cold medication makes me all wonky, so the rest of my Sunday is going to be spent with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles marathon on ABC Family. But there is an exciting interview with Joss Whedon on the Dollhouse front that I couldn't help but post. I especially like this part:
nature versus nurture is something I've spent a lot of my life thinking about. And I've always been a nurture guy. I've always felt, "You're shaped by your environment, and the terrible, terrible things that your perfectly reasonable parents do to you". And then I had children, and they came out very much themselves. There are definitely things I can do to mess them up, and I'm doing my best, but they are who they are.

"It Will Not Only Electrify Our Country, It Will Electrify The World"

Colin Powell on why he is supporting Barack Obama for president:

I like many of the points he presented; I like how candid he is with the Republican Party's further shift to the ideologies of the far right. I like how he expressed disappointment and disgust with how the Republican Party and the McCain campaign have run against Obama. If Colin Powell believes John McCain to be one of the most inclusive individuals he knows, I believe Colin Powell's assessment. I'm sure he would know. But I do like how he points out that no matter John McCain's actual ideas about race, he has allowed race to be injected into this campaign in a negative fashion. I also enjoyed his retort to the idea that this is only about one African-American supporting another African-American's bid for the presidency, in that if that had been the case his mind would have been made up months ago.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Time Hurries On

For a while now, a certain Simon and Garfunkel song has been playing endlessly in my head. "Leaves That Are Green" is the song, and it is due to mostly to one lyric:
I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song
I'm twenty-two now, but I won't be for long
Time hurries on
And the leaves that are green turn to brown
Here's a video of it:

As sad and melancholy as this song is, as my birthday approaches and as I won't be 22 for long, the song takes on more meaning. It is in one of the last lines of the song: "That's all there is". This is all there is, and hopefully next year I'll find a cheerier song to transition from 23 to 24 with.

Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner

John McCain and Barack Obama roasted themselves and each other at the memorial dinner, and it was John McCain who went first:

Barack Obama was pretty funny as well:

I'm incredibly partisan; but I have to admit that although I think Barack Obama had the best line of the night, that being "And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't think I'd ever run for president", I thought John McCain's speech hit many more funny moments. He had an easier time of it; he could be self-deprecating in a way it would be difficult for Barack Obama to be, because McCain's campaign has eff'd up so often in the past weeks and months. The reason why John McCain's speech worked better was because at times, I really was frightened he was going to do something crazy instead of funny. Like when he started off talking about this being "as good a place as any to make a major announcement"; when he switched it up to the ridiculous, it just further highlighted how potentially true that moment could have been, and how good it is that - even if only for pretend - McCain acknowledges it. I also found his roasts of Bill and Hillary Clinton hilarious. I'm a fan of both of the Clintons, but the best humor comes with a hint of truth and I don't think anyone can deny that it bothered Bill greatly that Hillary lost. It probably bothered Hillary greatly as well, but she seemed to move on more quickly. McCain's humor - "strict constructionists", driving away "anti-Clinton conservatives" - did well there. It had an edge to it without actually crossing the line into meanness. So too did his Keith Olbermann comments. I like Keith. Not as much as some, but I find him to be a fun guy to watch and he's got some of the best suit and tie combinations I've ever seen. But I laughed hysterically when McCain mentioned Keith Olbermann being in a padded room if McCain managed to pull this off, with his "Mission Accomplished" banner. Rachel Maddow was less than pleased with McCain's roast of Olbermann, but I loved the amount of issues crisscrossing that one section. Obviously, McCain is not a fan of Olbermann - a condition possibly exacerbated because Olbermann stepped in when McCain blew off Letterman, and being on hand to step in again in the even of a McCain no show - and Olbermann is not a fan of McCain's. And honestly, I don't think Keith Olbermann can last four more years of a Republican White House without going (more) bonkers. The Mission Accomplished banner in preparation for Obama's win was a sweet burn, even for this liberal, because it played off of Olbermann's final words every night of his broadcast (no, not his Edward R. Murrow riff but the count of how many days it has been since we declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq). Rachel Maddow may have felt McCain crossed the line, but I thought he was merely dancing around it.

Obama didn't have as easy a time of it. Sure, he could have roasted on John McCain more; but McCain did a pretty thorough job of that himself. Obama also seems less likely to go for caustic humor than John McCain. His speech was at times self-deprecating; but it was never incendiary. He gently poked at Sarah Palin with the "Russian Tea Room". But he never got so far into jokes that he couldn't get out of them. McCain delved into the very depth of the issues he was facing and made them funny. But Obama is the one riding high; there is less about him to riff off of; and to make it about something else, to make it about actual issues and complaints he had about the campaign, would have had the potential to backfire. One thing I did like about Obama was his tendency to look around after telling a joke, with a "That was pretty good, right" enjoyment. He laughed at his own jokes, and it was a good thing to see. I also think that was something McCain had going for him that Obama did not. McCain had Obama as an audience, and Obama laughed hard. At times, I'm sure I laughed because Obama (or Hillary Clinton, during the Bill segment of McCain's roast) was laughing, with that great smile of his. Obama had McCain had his primary audience. And although McCain found a few things funny, overall, the guy didn't seem to be as prone to rapturous guffaws as Obama was. Overall, an enjoyable twenty or so minutes spent watching these two attempt to rack up the yucks.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"If The Love Is True, It Will Just Show Up"

The Feminist Underground beat me to the newest Target Women. I had such a streak going, too! Anyway, it is a good one about Disney princesses:

Now, as everyone who knows me is aware, I love children's films. Especially animated films, and especially Disney films. And everyone who knows me and who will go with me to these movies with me has mandated we have to go at "kiddie" times, because otherwise I laugh obnoxiously and am a great embarrassment. Pathetic, I know. However, my love for these films in no way stops me from recognizing the gender-normative and heteronormative issues present therein, and the extreme whiteness of it all. And Sarah Haskins demonstrates those incredibly well - along with illustrating how all of those empowering songs the modern Disney princesses sing can be melded into one. Which is as cool as it is freaky. 

"A Caricature Of Ordinariness"

I haven't done this in a while, but here's some Chris Hayes for the Friday:

I love Obama's face when he says, "And he's trying to suggest that a plumber is who he's fighting for" (I would consider it a classic Professor Cassidy face, along with Jessica Valenti's wonderful rendition), though I do think Obama needs to watch Moonstruck if he doesn't believe plumbers can make that much money ("We should have been plumbers like Castorini"). Beyond that, and the reason for this post, is that I am impressed by Chris Hayes' take on the matter of Joe the Plumber. When he said:
There is a tremendous gap between the mythical creature "Joe the Plumber" and the real life guy. And we see this time and time again. Sarah Palin's a perfect example. And what it shows is that the modern Republican Party and the McCain campaign and the right wing are so much more heavily invested in a caricature of ordinariness than they are in actual, real-life ordinary people,
I was nodding vigorously.

And on his own blog, he said he agreed with Atrios' take that "I really don't think the fact that someone talks to a political candidate and then gets mentioned by another political candidate in a debate is license to make every detail of this guy's life national news". I wonder how much of his position comes from the same selfish place I come to the Joe the Plumber controversy from -that being a deep sense of apathy about Joe as an individual and a resulting cynicism about mainstream media's frenzied feast:

along with a healthy sense of despair that the name "Joe" will never again simply be a nickname for Joseph (the most ironic part of the Joe the Plumber storyline so far has been that his first name is actually Samuel, with his middle name being Joe). And while I agree with Michelle Malkin in this instance, I can't help but feel as if Jesse Taylor hits the nail on the head by saying,
It isn't just the pot calling the kettle black, it's the pot wandering into the pot store and declaring all other pots black-tinged traitors to our great nation, then offering to run the pot reeducation camp to bring them in line with acceptable and decent container values.
My animosity toward Malkin has been years in the making, as she is often featured in my paper's editorial section. And maybe I should be kinder to her hypocritical turn around. After all, it is one thing to attack a side one hates with the fire of a thousand suns with such complete and utter tripe and defend it by saying, "asking questions and subjecting political anecdotes to scrutiny are what journalists should be doing". But it is quite another when a person you agree with is the political anecdote subject to scrutiny. However, this sort of thing makes me see red, and has the unfortunate tendency, given my temperament, to make me want to take the exact opposite position Malkin holds due to her double standards. But in the spirit of Chris Hayes and the Daily Show and just wanting Not-Joe the not-Plumber (apparently, he doesn't have a license) off of my television screen, I will actually maintain my philosophical viewpoint and state that Not-Joe really doesn't matter. We've lost a day in the news cycle clamoring over the facts and fictions of this one Ohioan, and I for one want it to stop. It is possible to give credence to Not-Joe's concerns, if they deserve such attention, and debate those on a national level without declaring fact or fiction about this one guy. Because I for one don't care about his record of paying taxes, whether or not he is actually buying the plumbing business, what his real first name is (okay, I'll admit to liking that one), or how much money a year he's making. Because suddenly, it isn't Not-Joe's economic philosophy that is the story, and neither is whether Obama's tax plan is or isn't bad for small businesses. It is just about Not-Joe. He should have faded away by now. So let's allow him to do that.

Air Quotes

Chris Matthews has come out hard against McCain's use of air quotes (and my favorite moment of the video, aside from Cecile Richards' eloquence, is Chris Matthews demonstrating air quotes as if they are some kind of foreign function of language most Americans have been unacquainted with) in describing a woman's health as a reason for abortion:

What is so appalling for me about this video is Barbara Comstock's inability to (or refusal to) defend or explain McCain's patronizing, insulting, and downright dismissive brush off of women's health rights. Her need to stick to Partial Birth Abortion, which aside from being a misnomer also accounts for a miniscule amount of abortions performed (.17% of American abortions in 2000), just proves to me how indefensible McCain's statement really is. There are some incredibly obvious issues in McCain's use of air quotes around the word "health" in terms of abortion: 
  1. It suggests that most women - sorry, most "pro-abortionists" - will lie about their health in order to obtain an abortion. It plays directly into the meme that feminists or other women who get abortions are in some way flighty and incredibly morally deficient - that they have gone through 21 or more weeks of pregnancy and suddenly decided that they no longer wish to remain pregnant.
  2. It suggests that the health of the already-alive person in front of McCain is less important than the birth of the fetus she is carrying. If the health of the mother is so trivial it deserves air quotes, it is because a woman's concerns are less once she is carrying a child. Everything must go toward protecting the fetus. The woman is no longer of primary concern, nor should her wishes and bodily autonomy be given any thought. After all, she decided to get pregnant; for those nine months, she now gets to be more of a glorified incubator than a person.
  3. It dismisses women who actually have serious health concerns relating to pregnancy. The air quotes McCain used invalidates these women's situation and trauma and lives. McCain's casual dismissal of health concerns for the women who carry his precious fetuses shows a cavalier attitude toward what pregnancy is and what complications can develop. Apparently in McCain's world, all pregnancies go smoothly. There is never someone with high blood pressure, or someone with Type 1 diabetes. There is never a fetus with severe spina bifida. The women who have had these pregnancies and experiences are thus cast aside, and made less. Their emotions and lives are trivialized and dismissed. In a way, McCain's air quotes places the onus for a mother's health on the mother. If something goes wrong, it is obviously the mother's fault, because the only women who get late-term abortions and who use the health excuse are those terrible pro-abortionists.
Late term abortions (21 weeks or later) account for 1.4% of all abortions in the USA. They are the focal point of the anti-choice movement simply because they are the most extreme cases. The anti-choice movement has made this a black and white issue for Americans by focusing on the stages of development of the fetus after 21 weeks; but in doing so, they blatantly ignore the area of grey that is still very much present. For instance, this diarist at Daily Kos tells her story (note: I don't get my news from here, but I do think that this person's account of what she went through and why is important to read). As did these three women. All of them exist within the area of grey McCain's policy and air quotes denies them. When McCain turns to these women and belittles their lives as simply being a part of an "extreme pro-abortion position", he is doing them, and all of us, a great disservice. As Cecile Richards rightly asks, "Since when did women's health become extreme?"

John McCain is not pro-life; and neither is the movement his viewpoint represents. A pro-life position, a true pro-life position, would not be so cavalier and dismissive of women and their right to health. It would not demean and belittle women; it would not implicitly state in their policies and positions that once a woman becomes pregnant, the fetus she is supporting becomes more important than she is and should have access to more rights than she does. Pro-life means being for the health and integrity of all life; it means recognizing that sometimes difficult and heartbreaking decisions must be made. It means supporting women. It means not simply counseling a woman or compelling a woman to keep a child or to carry the fetus to term but providing support for that woman and that child once the baby has been born. The McCain ticket and the pro-life movement in general stops short of that. Once there is a baby and not simply an unborn child, they perceive their job as being done. And that is what is so disingenuous about their position. Because to be pro-life requires more than just legislating that a woman not abort. It means giving care, like healthcare, to that child; it means providing support for mothers who could not afford to take care of their child. In order to be philosophically pro-life, that would be the position McCain would have to take. Instead, he and Sarah Palin and countless others come off as sanctimonious, callous, and out of touch.

And as a bonus, they and their hardline position regarding late-term abortion come off as extremist, especially when people like Barbara Comstock are there to toe the line. And Barack Obama and Cecile Richards appear to be level-headed, reasonable, and knowledgeable.


One of my good friends has finally jumped on the bandwagon like the rest of us and gotten himself a blog. Good for him! In honor of this momentous occasion, I'm plugging it right here. Good luck, jjfs85!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joe The Plumber Went To Bed

Things I never want to hear again:

1) Senator Obama voted to raise taxes on people making 42 thousand dollars a year. 
-We heard it before, in the past two debates. Obama has explained it, twice before in each debate. But tonight he said something I really liked: "Even Fox News disputes it". Go Obama!

2) Joe the Plumber.
-I understand that there is Joe who happens to be a plumber out there. But I never want to hear about him again. I suppose it is good that "Joe Six pack" who got such a workout in the vice-presidential debate was put to bed. Maybe he found the local AA meetings, I don't know. But I don't want to hear about Joe the plumber again. If I find a plumber I like who happens to be named Joe, I may not hire him.

3) Bill Ayers.
-Thank God for Obama. I loved him pointing out that the debates and the last three weeks should be about the issues, not about some guy who did some despicable things when Obama eight years old. I liked that Obama said he could handle three more weeks of attacks but that the country could not handle 4 more years of failed economic policy. I also enjoyed Obama's point that McCain's focus on Ayers said more about McCain's own campaign than it said about Obama himself. And McCain claiming that he didn't care about some washed up terrorist kind of underscored his own point.

I also thought that McCain seemed to come off as petulant and very immature. I was almost out of my seat when McCain said that there were things yelled at Obama rallies that he, McCain, wasn't happy with; had I been Obama, I may have snapped, "Yeah, but at least those at my rallies aren't threatening your life". If Obama could handle three more weeks of attacks, McCain whined about the little nicks he has been subject to. If I had to take a worse or more unsettling insult, I would take the "terrorist" or "kill him" more to heart than anything Obama or Obama's people said about McCain. Obama came off as much more presidential on this particular issue than McCain did. Especially since the only negative statements I have heard about, especially John Lewis', were in response to McCain's own side's attacks on Obama.

Things I Liked:

Obama on the abortion issue. I thought that Obama embraced the shades of grey. I wish he had cast anti-abortionists as anti-choice. I wish that McCain et al. of the anti-abortion side would stop saying they would 'counsel' the woman through this difficult decision, when their policies and their votes and their Supreme Court justices would remove the actual decision from the process. I thought John McCain played into the worst memes regarding the pro-choice movement and women who have third trimester abortions when he suggested that "women's health" was an overused and false excuse exercised by the pro-choice movement.

Obama's friendly smile and reminder that an across the board freeze would limit the amount of money available for special needs education and funding.

Things I Would Have Liked To Have Seen:

I would have liked Obama to have hit at McCain and Sarah Palin a little harder. I do think that there is a point to be made about how Obama has to walk softly and appear more even keeled, that it has been working for him and to react in anger or even show too much emotion may hurt his chances of winning blue-collar white voters who are iffy on him due to his race. But when McCain started talking about Columbia and how Obama never visited that country, I so wanted Obama to shoot back that McCain's running mate just got her passport last year and apparently could see Russia from her house.

I'll leave it with this quote from Rachel Maddow on John McCain: "He looks like he doesn't want Barack Obama to be president than he looks like he wants to be president". Overall, I think John McCain is a good guy. My father made a point that McCain's temperament is similar to his own; that he gets agitated easily but is a good man. My contention is that there is a reason why my father should not be president. And McCain does seem to have the same inclination (though I would mention that my father tends to be less grumpy and has a nicer smile), and that isn't incredibly presidential. Obama does come off as presidential - and nothing like my father. I think McCain did a much better job this time around; I would put this one as a tie, though I myself was infinitely more persuaded by Obama. I like his positions better; I like his attack of the situation better. But I am a bleeding heart and a feminist. Of course, according to Keith Olbermann, most polls have the debate won by Obama. Then again, Olbermann is probably only slightly less liberal than I am.

Another Love, And Another Cause

First, the new love:

I have to admit, I don't normally like Aussie accents. I'm weird like that, I know. Most people I know swoon over them, but the only accents I really swoon over come from the British Isle. Oh, Sean Connery! And Christopher Eccleston! Anyway, I like Natalie here for several reasons. First up, anyone who makes with the grammar corrections attains almost god-like status in my book. Secondly, I love how she goes on a mini-explanation about the toothpick holders and restaurants. Mainly though, I enjoy her cool and costumed way of making such blatant racism ridiculous and mockable. Props to The Feminist Underground for finding me a new interweb love who will never know of my existence. I may beat Habladora to the newest of the new Sarah Haskins videos, but I think she wins in the long run by continually alerting me to people like Natalie. Also, check out her YouTube channel for her other videos.

Now for the new cause, found via Feministing:

What can I say? I'm a sap. And I like the idea of bettering the world through female empowerment and entrepreneurship. This reminds me of something I saw on PBS a couple of weeks ago that I had planned on blogging about, and it was a school for women. It taught them -grandmothers, mothers, and girls- how to hook up and maintain solar powered cells in order to provide electricity to their villages, giving them a skill set and also improving the way of life for those of their communities. It seemed really cool, and if I can track down the link, I'll add it. The Girl Effect seems to operate under the same premise, that improving the lives of women helps their communities and the world at large.

It Is So Unfair When Comic Strips Say True Things (Or, More Fox News Whining)

I've written on this before, but this campaign season and financial crisis has certainly energized those in the comic biz like little else has in recent years; and Fox News is again on call to reprimand every single fluff issue it can out of it. Case in point, their argument against Doonesbury creator Gary (GB) Trudeau:
Here's the comic strip in question:Now, I know it is Fox News and I shouldn't have even clicked on the link to the video that appeared as I checked my mail. But I did, and now I'm left thinking that Fox News, an organization I believe used to at least report the news, albeit with a far right wing slant, seems to be focusing all of its attention on protecting and defending Sarah Palin from these sort of attacks. First it was the heinous Newsweek cover, and now Doonesbury. Here's the problem with attacking the comic strip from the point of view of the left playing mean. One is that the right has its very own Trudeau, and that is Bruce Tinsley. Tinsley frequently maligns Obama, Biden, Jesse Jackson, feminists, teachers, academics, the Clintons, and liberals in general in his Mallard Fillmore comic strip. He is Fox News to Trudeau's MSNBC. I personally find Tinsley more offensive; one is the very way in which he chooses to draw Obama and those on the left. Another is the fact that, at least here, Trudeau is only reciting what we know about the Palins, which is less offensive on an individual scale. 

More than that, Jonah Goldberg attacks the Left for pointing out the some right wingers' hypocrisy in his comments about the Doonesbury comic strip. I think Trudeau brings up some worthwhile points in this strip, and one of them is that the Right is on the losing side of the culture war to the point where they are holding up as an example of right wing values a working woman. For a party that has for decades espoused right wing values and decried such cultural forces as the feminist movement, divorce rates, and teens having sex as being destructive and products of Leftist shenanigans, the very fact that this ticket is being presented to the American public seems to be very much an issue of capitulation. A friend of mine, in reviewing American Wife, had this to say about the nature of marriage in American politics:
I envision future first ladies to be women like Hillary, Michelle and even Sarah Palin - those who work to balance motherhood with their careers, ambitious and put together and smart. But I also think that the men running for president are going to have wives like that, because that's the kind of person they'd be attracted to.
Putting aside my ambitious goals of having more women run for president in the future (Hillary 2016! (I obviously intend for Obama to have two terms)), Sarah Palin's inclusion in that set of work-minded women shows us how far our culture has come in accepting that "family values" are more inclusive than just white, middle-class suburban housewives with the children washed and dressed and dinner on the table for the hard-working wage earner husband. Our ideals as a society have grown beyond having women in the national and private realms being Nancy Reagans and Barbara Bushes, and the GOP and the right wing in general have had to play catch up. Trudeau is right to point out an obvious fact, that the party of traditional and exclusionary family values have had to get with the program. That even with backlashes and even with continued sexism and even with all of the work we have yet to do, the Left's vision of a more perfect union has been the one to capture the landscape of our nation.

Beyond that, I think Trudeau's other point(s) should be one that we further examine. I'm particularly enthralled by the panel mentioning that Sarah Palin has "a husband... ...who loves his country so much he joined a secessionist party". While we debate whether Barack Obama serving on two nonprofit Chicago boards with a man who was involved with domestic terrorist activities when Obama was eight years old should be a controversy or not, Todd Palin's affiliation with a political party looking to make Alaska its own country is ignored. Todd Palin's membership in such a group is not only the antithesis of American values, but also a blatant example of white privilege. As is the ability to have one's pregnant daughter expect privacy, as well as not having said pregnancy reflect upon one's candidacy. Barack Obama is already regarded with suspicion due to being African-American (as well as being mistakenly labelled Arab and Muslim in some circles); if Michelle Obama had links to a party with separatist aspirations, Obama's candidacy would be over. Because he would be regarded as even more unAmerican and by a wider swath of the population than he is now. But Todd Palin's membership does not cause much of a ripple of concern, among liberals or conservatives, about either his Americanness and patriotic nature or that of his wife. That is privilege, to be counted as patriotic and 'allowed' to have this sort of activity because one is white - and a member of the GOP. I have no illusions that such a tie would have also been exploited had Obama been white, or if one of the Clintons had a relative with such ties. But I also doubt that the Clintons would be sunk in as thorough a fashion as Obama would be.

And as much as I hate discussing Bristol Palin's pregnancy, I do think the fact that the Palins can essentially say that life happens and have the pregnancy not reflect on their parenting is also a privilege of race and class. Jamie Lynn Spears was regarded as white trash by the Right after she admitted to being pregnant at 16 - by the likes of Bill O'Reilly, who seemed to change his mind about what constituted a parent as a pinhead when Bristol Palin's pregnancy came to light. Teen pregnancy is considered an epidemic of the African-American community. Bristol Palin is fortunate for her pregnancy to be merely reflective of her own life, instead of being indicative of 'those people' of a certain class and race, as is the McCain-Palin ticket as a whole. In a way, being a white, Christian, middle-class Republican is the best place to be if one deviates from the Republican lifestyle now. Because now it is not reflective of one's religion, one's education, one's party affiliation, or one's race. It is all on that person. And that is a luxury and a privilege many others do not have. I myself flip out every time Sarah Palin steps on stage because I'm aware how she does is not just reflective of her but reflective of "women". It is a crappy position to be in, and the opposite of that position is what I think Tradeau, in his own bubbling way, is trying to highlight.

On the whole, I'm not often amused or challenged by Doonesbury's take of the political process. Although I agree many times with Tradeau, his manner of expressing his viewpoints is often mundane and expected. I much prefer Non Sequitur's use of analogy and satire. Like this week's storyline:

I'm almost embarrassed to admit it took me until today to recognize the similarities between Eddie's predicament and our current financial crisis. Good show, Wiley Miller, good show.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Honestly, It Shouldn't Matter

A while ago, I wrote about Campbell Brown's reaction to the McCain campaign sequestering Sarah Palin. I liked her, but now I like her even more with her latest "Cutting Through The Bull"; I like how she brings up that being a Muslim or being Arab is not a disqualifier for higher office. I like her point about how using Muslim or Arab as slurs against Obama, who is neither Muslim nor Arab, maligns the 1.2 million actual Arab-Americans and 7 million actual Muslim-Americans we have in this country. Brown is correct in stating that it hurts these American citizens to consistently have their ethnicity or religious affiliation be utilized as shorthand for "dangerous" and "unAmerican". And I agree with her that newscasters and news organizations should not be complacent in accepting that ignorance unchallenged.

At the same time, I wonder if the campaign trail is the appropriate place to counter such an argument, on either side. Campaign trails are good for many things; but I do worry about either Barack Obama or John McCain deciding to take on this particular issue head on. I agree that creating the dichotomy, however inadvertantly, of "Arab" versus "decent family man" is not of the good. But McCain runs the risk of looking like he is trying to foster more questions about Obama (a rational concern, since he has tried to create questions about who Obama is) if he attempts to create a larger discussion about our prejudices as a society against Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans. "He's not, but so what if he was" could be taken as "He says he's not, but you and I know the truth". Obama runs the same risk. He should rightfully challenge untrue statements about his ethnicity and his religion. He is African-American. He is a Christian. He has a right for both of those aspects of his personality to be respected as truth. At the same time, creating that larger argument about Muslims and Arabs could easily backfire and be seen as a complicit admittance. This sort of thing has been used by school yard bullies for decades. I believe both candidates need to step up to the plate and defend Americans from being turned into a slur, but neither one of them should use Obama, a man whose background is already (irrationally) questioned, as an example of "but so what?" The argument needs to be shifted away from Barack Obama. The answer could go, "No, ma'am. Barack Obama is not Arab-American, but African-American. He is also a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues". It changes the response enough to eliminate the dichotomy of Arab or good citizen. It changes enough to both respond to what Obama actually is, and further explains what the issues of the campaign are. What both candidates should do, what they should feel obliged to do, is to confront the idea of Arab and Muslim Americans not being 'real' Americans without benefit of having it linked to Obama and without the question being raised at their rallies.

These two men should further the ideals of our society that all men are created equal, and that religious views and ethnicity should not automatically create suspicion. But they should do so independent of questions about Obama, because it is very easy in this world of soundbites to sound as if one is either admitting to being an Arab or a Muslim, or that one is disingenuous in that line of defense and is in actuality attempting to create more questions than provide answers. In the context of a political campaign, it is remarkably simple to have what should be stating the obvious, as Brown puts it, turn into an out and out controversy. Both campaigns, if they are smart (and I think at least one of the campaigns is smart; the other, not so much), would do well to limit the amount of false controversy they create at the moment. With 21 days before the election, both have a lot to lose in regard to this issue.

Txtng, AKA "I Didn't Have My Phone On Me"

The New Yorker has a piece about texting, starting with the question, "Is texting bringing us closer to the end of life as we currently tolerate it?" I enjoy the "currently tolerate it" part of the question; it seems so much more pragmatic and realistic than "life as we know it" does. The short answer, found in Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 (and I won't embarrass myself by saying how long it took me to figure out what the second half of that title was), is no. David Crystal, the author, concludes that texting - even the trillions of texts that have been generated, are "no more than a few ripples on the surface of the sea of language". He also states that most texters know how to spell. That's wonderful, David Crystal, but it doesn't really explain the rapid influx of people feeling that it is perfectly acceptable to use text-speak to write formal papers. One of my favorite professors alerted her students to the unacceptable nature of papers written in that manner, both verbally and demonstrated in a handout, before papers were due. She was younger and hipper than my two other favored professors, who probably just failed the perpetrators with nary an explanation. Crystal also compares the art of texting to the writing of sonnets, as being able to say all one needs to in 160 characters sometimes requires finesse and flexibility. It is an interesting conceit, that one of the banes of my existence shares properties with one of the most respected (and my most loved) forms of poetry. The New Yorker also examines how texting helps propagate the English language; English seems to be almost made for texting, what with its shortness of words and lack of diacritical marks. And so, many peoples of the world who text do so in an amalgam of English and their native language. That observation is interesting; about as interesting as the fact that a quarter pounder with cheese is just Le Big Mac in France (which is to say, very interesting... least for me).

It is the second half of the article that I really connect with, though. It is the part that speaks to how ubiquitous cell phones have become in our every day lives. Says the New Yorker:
There is no socially accepted excuse for being without your cell phone. "I didn't have my phone": that just does not sound believable. Either you are lying or you are depressed or you have something to hide. If you receive a text, therefore, you are obliged instantaneously to reply to it, if only to confirm that you are not one of those people who can be without a phone.
I am often without my cell phone. Sometimes purposefully and sometimes accidentally, but my cell phone is often not on my person. My first voicemail message ever recorded said so, telling the caller who received the voicemail instead of me that my cell phone was not on me, or I was not with my cell phone - and there was a third option there. The third option was that I just didn't feel like picking up. I revel in that third option. It has nothing to do with who is calling me and everything to do with whether or not I want to talk at that particular moment. It has nothing to do with rudeness and everything to do with an autonomy that is provided by not being subject to a machine of plastic and diodes. The first two are most often why I do not pick up, but the third has made its appearances as well. In the past, I felt nothing at letting my cell phone ring; now, though, I face in some instances a perverse sense of guilt. It is partially due to my faux-Catholic, and all too literal liberal ways (liberal and Catholic guilt are both very real); some of it also seems to stem from an overwhelming paranoid thought that the person on the other end knows I'm sitting there, watching my phone ring. I get the same sense with instant messages I have no wish to respond immediately to - again, simply because I like being alone with my thoughts for some portion of the day. The New Yorker sums up why this inexplicable guilt (and paranoia) has found its way into my life:
This is a new decorum in communication: you can be sloppy and you can be blunt, but you have to be fast. To delay is to disrespect. In fact, delay is the only disrespect.
I'm normally blunt; sometimes I border on rude. Every so often (more often than not, actually), I cross the border into outright rudeness. But I often mean no disrespect. Not answering the cell phone when it rings, not responding to a text message right away, has become synonymous with the greatest snub one friend could offer another. In a world where being without method of communication every second of every day reflects on the very stability of your character, not having a cell phone becomes an offense to every person who has attempted contact in that time frame. You (I) should have your (my) cell phone on you (me), at all times. There are certain excuses for not answering, but being in a movie seems to be the only one readily accepted. And even there, my movie-going experience as of late has been disrupted by the existence of movie-texters - those assholes who can't even go two hours without 'talking' to someone else, who can't not multitask, who can't simply allow the movie to fill up their senses and their emotions. Calls and texts that come during the dinner hours are responded to with, "I'm having dinner right now, can I call/text you back?" In a world in which one's responsibility is to be always available, I wonder where I fit in. I turn off my cell phone while entering movies. I don't answer it, or even have it on me, while I'm eating dinner or watching my favorite television shows or watching a movie with my family. I answer it while I'm sleeping for the sole fact that I forget to turn the volume off and I have never reset the clock in my room after the last power outage.

For the last month, my cell phone wouldn't ring. That meant that unless I could see its little screen light up, I missed a lot of calls. Those were excused by the fact that my cell phone wouldn't ring. At times, it would become a comedy; one friend and I spent a long time playing phone tag. Sometimes it would border on tragedy, like when I was setting up a job interview and that woman and I kept missing each other. But while I love my new phone, and the fact that I will no longer be breaking the law because I have one with blue tooth capabilities and a blue tooth, that just means there is one more place I cannot conceivably be without answering the phone. And it means that I am once again bereft of excuses as to why I am not near my cell phone, and why my cell phone is not near me. The question The New Yorker asked was whether or not texting is bringing the end of life as we tolerate it; for all of their benefits (and there are many benefits), I wonder if cell phones have not already partially succeeded in that arena. The interconnectivity of life is a wonderful thing; as is having a phone on hand while stuck on the side of the road, and being able to find a friend who drove to a different parking lot than the agreed upon location, and being able to give directions to people as they are driving. But it has also changed how we view our relationships and how we view the stability of our friendships. It has made immediacy more important than substance or desire. As wonderful as cell phones are, I miss a world in which I could be out (or others could be out) and understandably not get a call. I miss a world in which the people in front of you were more important than the person whose call has just found you. And I miss a world in which a person could stand in the middle of an open field and feel completely - though not creepily - alone. Sometimes, being alone is a good.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Paddington Bear!

I friggin' loved Paddington Bear as a kid. I even tried marmalade because Paddington liked it so much (I, however, did not like it so much). And so, while going onto Google today, I was extremely excited/surprised to see this:

Paddington Bear is officially fifty years old today. I almost feel like digging out my old books and enjoying the bear from darkest Peru, dressed almost continually in his rain coat and hat and galoshes.

Combat Zones and Women

"Women are already serving in combat [in Iraq and Afghanistan] and the current policy should be updated to reflect realities on the ground."
-Wendy Morigi, Senator Obama's national security spokeswoman.

Obama is also for women registering for the draft, even though he (and McCain) do not agree with the draft being used to mandate military service. I'm for that; I have no problem with women registering for something men have to register for. And I'm all for women being acknowledged as being in combat zones and in danger and paid accordingly, both in respect and money.

I admit to liking the idea of women registering for the draft for a couple of reasons, and they are all based in my feminism. While I would rather work to eliminate the Selective Service system, I do believe that as long as caveats and special conditions are granted to women on the basis of gender, we will never truly gain equality - in society or in the hearts and minds of its people. Barring women from serving in the armed forces is partially rooted in gender roles; I can't even begin to count the number of times I have seen editorials and letters to the editor decrying some child's mother being sent off to a war zone, to be placed in danger, with nary a letter about the fathers of those very same children. Mothers are both ignored and deified in that way. I don't want husbands or fathers being sent off to die; but as long as they are, I think wives and mothers should also be allowed to serve without recrimination and without cries about the children. I do believe women who look to serve in the military should be subject to the same combat ready requirements as men; this shouldn't be gym class, where my running the mile in 13 minutes counted the same as a boy my same age running the mile in 11 minutes. In a war zone, the enemy isn't going to care that I should have a two minute buffer. At the same time, the belief that women are wholly incapable of reaching those heights has to be eliminated as well. Not every woman would be able to; I certainly couldn't. But not every man can perform at those levels either.

The military needs to be reformed in certain respects, and in one of those respects is not only changing its Old Boys' Club feel but also understanding the changing nature of troops and the changing role of women in society. Our job is no longer to be ready with the hot toddy and a Times Square kiss after the boys come home from war. We've moved beyond that, and women who excel in the armed forces should not only be acknowledged but allowed to openly excel in the first place.

Yikes Is Right

I kind of love this video from The Daily Show; maybe I'm giving Americans too much credit, but I'm not sure that we need to be treated like kindergardeners in order to best understand the economic crisis. Props aren't always a bad thing; drawings aren't always a bad thing. I had a philosophy professor who used stick figures to better demonstrate her examples. It worked partially because she had as much fun making them and having us guess what they were as we did guessing what they were. And because there was never the feeling that she thought we were idiots. That cartoon, the domino demonstration, even PBS' attempt to explain the financial crunch, all make it seem like those on camera think that those of us sitting on our couches are somehow incredibly mentally deficient.

Which is why I have been enjoying NPR's Planet Money podcasts. These are people who do not talk down to me; that may be a product of their medium. Visuals do not translate well over audio communication, and so the opportunity to bring out the cartoons and the oversized dominoes is very much lessened. At the same time, these seem to be people assuming that those of us who are not economists and who may have had no clue about how an economy ran until about a month or so ago can at least grasp the very basic facts of the situation. And they explain everything in grown up words.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hilary Duff

Hilary Duff did a PSA about using the word "gay" as a derogatory term:

There are some obvious issues with the PSA, aside from its good intentions. There is the insult on the end about the girl wearing the skirt as a top being akin to being called gay. It was catty and uncalled for. And as much as I appreciate what Hilary Duff is attempting to do here, I much prefer this Think B4 You Speak ad:

I think this one makes the right decisions about how to approach the situation.

What I don't like about the Hilary Duff ad is that not just that it shows girls in a stereotypical setting, Girls do shop; but the catty nature of Duff's reply and actively engaging in that particular mean girl behavior goes farther to reinforce one negative portrayal of a group while defending another group. I love the second one because it places the entire analogy on who these people are and how demeaning and hurtful it is to take one aspect of a person -their sexual orientation or their name- and make it an insult. It removes any indication that the insult is based on something the person has done but something the person is, and how wrong that is.