Powered by Blogger

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More needless fear

Why is the media hyping the swine flu? I wondered if I needed to be worried so I read this CDC FAQ. It's just a kind of flu. It's no more contagious than any other flu, it's no more deadly than any other flu. I haven't heard ANYONE on the news say this, after days and days of coverage. I did hear Sanjay Gupta say that the seasonal flu kills 36,000 Americans every year - he was obviously trying to provide some perspective, but of course he's reporting from Mexico City, so the fact that he went down there belies his words. "PANDEMIC" is such a scary word. But where's the reassurance and the calm?


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter switches parties

I can't believe I moved away from Pennyslvania right before all the coolest stuff happened!! This is great news - with Al Franken, the Dems now have 60. But no excuses - get something done!


Monday, April 27, 2009

Piling on

I watched Obama on TV tonight, reassuring the nation that there's no need to panic over swine flu (though the CDC has no director and the U.S. has no Surgeon General), and I just thought, "this guy can not get a break!" There is just no end to the crises - every time he gets a moment to focus on one thing, another thing pops up.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mel Gibson

What a dick. I'm very disappointed in him. He's all "Vatican II is too liberal for me." And he's got 7 kids. I guess men get to a certain age and they just can't help it - they have to trade in their wife in for a younger model.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Rebranding Hate"

Hate groups are enjoying a surge in membership, what with the economy in the toilet and a black man in the White House. This revolting Newsweek article includes many chilling paragraphs. Here's one:

Some civil-rights activists are more worried about the racists they can't see than the showboaters trying to draw attention to themselves. "We're not going back to the '50s," says Mark Potok of the SPLC. "The country has moved forward in remarkable ways. But with that breakthrough comes something of a backlash." It's the loners, he says, who are most worrisome: "The lone-wolf idea is much scarier than the big-plot idea. Big plots don't succeed because these guys cannot keep their mouths shut."


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Publishing mug shots

This article from Reason Magazine was excerpted in The Week. It made a big impression on me. It's seems a harmless guilty pleasure to look at the mug shots of our neighbors, as well as celebrities - which are now published on websites official and not. But the author of the article notes that this phenomenon completely violates the principle of "innocent until proven guilty." It's troubling that we assume if someone gets to the mug shot stage, there must be a "reason." Very thought-provoking.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Susan Boyle

I'm so torn about the current obsession over this British phenom. I'm glad that she's generated a conversation about looking natural and about not "judging a book by it's cover." But my question is, why are we so surprised that someone who is unattractive has a shining singing voice? We've been conditioned to think that only beautiful people are good at anything. We see a frumpy woman take the stage and we just assume that she'll humilate herself and be pathetic. It's such a sad commentary on our culture. I'm glad that she's getting her moment in the sun, but her success just illuminates how thoroughly shallow we've become.

P.S. Of course, she promptly got a makeover.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A different kind of "green party"

Loved this discussion on NPR about ideas for greener kids party - wasting less, having fun with less stuff. I have to get the book the next time I order from Amazon.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Torture memos

I have incredibly mixed feelings about Obama's decision to limit prosecutions of those involved in torturing prisoners, though of course I thoroughly support his position that the policy makers, and not the implementers, should be the focus of our censure. However, the issue has given rise to a disturbing debate about how to "keep America safe." Many commentators, starting with Dick Cheney, have asserted that we are weakening our security by revealing what was done in the past. I was particularly repulsed by Peggy Noonan's remarks over the weekend, where she stated that "some things in life, you have to just keep walkin'." I'm more of the "sunlight is the best disinfectant" school - history has not been kind to cover-ups. Canadian columnist Heather Mallick says it well.

ADDENDUM 4/23/09

Russ Feingold has gone ballistic on this issue, including Ms Noonan's casual attitude.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

New obsession

Am I a science fiction buff? Definitely not! But I fell in love with Battlestar Galactica, based on great writing, great acting and great storylines. Now I'm just as obsessed with Serenity. I heard about it awhile ago - heard it was terrific, and wanted to see it, but didn't get around to watching it until this weekend (and great irony - rented it more for my son and his friend, who both got bored and went outside to play while I was riveted). The writing is terrific and the casting is perfect (including a few familiar faces that surprised me). It's also an interesting and unusual story about how it came to be - Firefly was a short-lived TV show by Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (neither of which I watched, but I knew they had devoted fans). Once the show was cancelled, Joss Whedon put together a feature film, though it took a couple years, and that film is Serenity. I haven't seen the TV show (all 14 episodes!!) but I sure will watch it now (I already ordered the DVD from Amazon).


Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Are you protesting taxes or irony"

I thought Jon Stewart's report on the tea party tax protests was hilarious. Watch "Tempest in a Tea Party" video at the site (4+ minutes). The comment above is in response to collecting a million tea bags and then (wastefully!) throwing them away.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea bag parties part of new anti-intellectualism

Super intelligent column by Stuart Whatley on HuffingtonPost about the latest wave of anti-intellectualism, typified by tax protesters. Here's an excerpt:

A prudent question [about Glenn Beck video]: just how serious are these resurgent anti-intellectuals? Hardly anyone in the video even flinched when the woman seriously called for books to be burned. One wonders if there's anything you couldn't say in these settings. "Kill all puppies?" "Grab your guns?" "Let's burn this mother fucker down?"

Anti-intellectualism is defined by, inter alia [latin: among other things], abject paranoia of the perceived educated elite -- which, in the US, is a group that's been growing for decades alongside steady economic growth, fueled by innovation. Granted, this is all very simplified, few would deny that the driving force for America's economic growth now is educated innovators. This, sure enough, will drive any future economic growth as well. Manufacturing has moved across seas, and regrettably much of American brainpower in the past few decades has been directed towards the financial sector. But that may be set to change, and the alternative is not retrogression towards willful ignorance or a widespread, intentional drop in college enrollment -- it is simply a shift in focus towards science, math and technology, whereby education remains as important as ever.
. . .
The sad fact is that there is simply no place for this type of wretched anti-intellectualism in America anymore. It can be expected from the margins, but it's troubling to see it embraced and validated by more mainstream entities. This movement represents the lost and left-behind. And, pitifully, it's a one-way street. It is not as though there are educated or "intellectual" people who crave ignorance and despise knowledge. Anti-intellectualism is a purely circumstantial outlook, whereas education or knowledge acquisition is indisputably a normative societal goal. Thus, it is no surprise that anti-intellectualism is promptly defenestrated [thrown out the window] as soon as alternative options become available. It is, in short, a last resort, knee-jerk reaction to abject desperation.


My friend Stessa sent this post from DailyKos - these two pictures tell the story.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Marley & Me"

Wow, what a huge disappointment. For starters, it's way too much "me" and not nearly enough Marley - all the scenes from the previews, with the dog being adorable and causing trouble, come from the first half hour of the movie. After that, the dog is barely present - the movie is about the people - their jobs, their miscarriage (!), their kids, their marriage difficulties, their move from Florida to Philadelphia. The dog reappears toward the end so that he can get old and die. This movie is NOT for kids - mine were bored for most of it and then VERY upset at the end. I feel cheated - this movie was completely mismarketed. I'm sure the book is a terrific read, for ADULTS. To present this story as family entertainment is just wrong. Shame on everyone involved.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Obama speaks in native tongues

I can't find the exact remarks (though I searched online quite a bit), but I know that he said things in the native languages of several countries that he visited on his tour of Europe. I know he's not fluent in any of those languages, but I still applaud the symbolism of addressing people in their own language. It shows respect and it demonstrates that not all Americans are as small-minded, anti-intellectual, jingoistic and dismissive of others as GWB.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 10, 2009

White House seder

How delighted am I that the Obamas held a seder in the White House? Extremely!


Thursday, April 09, 2009

"The Great Derangement"

Devoured Matt Taibbi's latest book on the airplane ride back to Syracuse. It was exactly what I expected - totally intelligent, thought-provoking and just a great read. There were so many paragraphs in it that I loved - here's one from the afterward, which he wrote during the election, in the fall of 2008, which captures the general theme of the book:

In the end, politics is not about pigs, or lipstick, or middle fingers surreptitiously raised during debates, or whose Mom once shook hands with a Logical Positivist in the fifties, or who waves his flag the hardest, or puts his "Country First," or any of that. Politics is about who gets what. And that's something we don't talk about that much anymore, busy as we are shouting at each other and screaming at the TV and generally being fat, stupid suckers while the thieves in D.C. rob the store.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Planned parenthood

I'm rather staggered to realize that in the last two weeks I've learned of four women having unplanned babies. All but one are married. All have children already - this is the 3rd child for two of the women, the 4th for one and the 5th for another. I feel bad for them all, and I wish that abortion was not such an unacceptable option. For all but one of these women, the additional child is a serious burden. I'm sure all will manage, and all will take good care of their new child, but it's frustrating to know that so many women are struggling when they don't have to.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Congressman Maffei on The Colbert Report

This piece on The Huffington Post has a summary and the video (7 minutes). Fun. And I give Maffei a ton of credit for being so game. (And Colbert is just a riot.)


Monday, April 06, 2009

"Jane Eyre"

A terrific cast, but it reminds you just how cliche this story has become and just how deriviative every other novel for women is. I didn't realize how long ago this was made - more than 10 years (1997)!


Sunday, April 05, 2009

"How to Be Lost"

Devoured this book on the airplane ride to San Francisco after my friend Nadine recommended it on goodreads. It's Amanda Eyre Ward's second novel, so I must immediately read her first one!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

"What Just Happened"

Shockingly dull movie, considering the cast and the storyline. Not sure how they managed to take two weeks in the crazy life of a Hollywood producer, and produce such a snore. The main point seems to be that creativity is squelched in the Hollywood movie-making process (what a revelation!), but the two characters who most represent creative integrity in the film (the Actor and the Director) are complete assholes who act cruel and crazy. It's such a muddled message, and everyone in the movie is so unappealing and unsympathetic, that you walk away just shaking your head. Should have been smart, sharp and fun, instead it's a waste of time (well, maybe not a complete waste - the performances are good, especially Catherine Keener as the ball-busting studio head).


Friday, April 03, 2009

On and on it goes

Really shocking story about a black family harrassed by a white cop in Dallas. Of course, if the black man hadn't been a famous professional football player (Ryan Moats), this story wouldn't have even made the news. Just knowing that this happens constantly, all over America, regardless of the race of the family in the White House, is discouraging as hell. The scene virtually mirrored the one in the movie, Crash - which was ridiculed as bleeding heart pablum. Now we know better.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

"Fashion Face Off"

I got really annoyed hearing Michelle Obama compared to Carla Bruni - both thrust into the political spotlight, both from modest backgrounds, both fashion icons. Uh, sorry, but Carla Bruni is a trophy wife and Michelle Obama is anything but. Her husband is not going to ditch her for a younger, sexier model - she's the real deal and he knows it! Any comparisons between these women ignore their substance completely.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Family movie night

We watched Surf's Up. Terrific movie. All four of us liked it very much. Not sure why it wasn't more of a hit.