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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting my Jennifer Westfeldt on

I want to make sure I see everything Jennifer Westfeldt has ever done (I know, I'm a pathetic groupie), and this week, I got a chance to get a lot closer.  (To be fair, I try to see all the movies that lots of people made, like Jeff Goldblum, and Chris Cooper, and a bunch of other folks too.)

How to Lose Your Lover (aka "50 Ways to Lose Your Lover") from 2004. I've had this movie on my radar for awhile. Alana's school was shut down due to a power outage, so I found myself at home with some time on my hands ("found time" as they say), and thought I would take the opportunity to wrap some holdiay gifts and watch a movie I hadn't had time for. 

Anyway, somewhat surprisingly, she's actually not the best thing about this film, and I think she's a little wasted in it (like they told her not to overdo it and she's a little muted, which for her is not a good thing, IMHO). But Paul Schneider (who I've seen in small parts in larger movies, like Brad in The Family Stone) is terrific as the lead here, and it's a really funny, charming movie. It's definitely low budget, which is not a problem at all for me, and the writing is sharp, and the actors do a great job. I always think that independently-produced romantic comedies are better than the Hollywood ones, because they're always funnier and more romantic. The idea of being totally honest to run someone off is reminiscent of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, but the concept is used to better effect in this movie and doesn't feel nearly as stilted as it did in Kate Hudson's film. The movie didn't go quite where I thought it was going, which is a bonus, and it has great kissing too.  The first half is a little stronger than the second half, but not enough to spoil the experience.  Overall it was offbeat fun!

Before You Say "I Do" from 2009 wasn't as good.  I hadn't realized it's a Hallmark movie, and (I assume) because of that, it's pretty saccharine.  But not bad.  Again Jennifer is rather generic, almost like any pretty 30-something could have done this part.  The adorable David Sutcliffe, as the male lead, makes the mythical perfect guy believable - sensitive, devoted, romantic (I most remember him as a yummy policeman boyfriend in a few episodes of Private Practice).  It's a sweet little fairy tale about True Love; certainly not memorable, but also not painful (like other Hallmark movies I've watched recently).  One minor complaint is wasting the talents of the lively Lauren Holly as a key secondary character - she's given way too little to do, and is improbably paired up with a nice, but dorky and rather ugly guy at the end - she deserves better.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Cyber Monday Shopping Spree

I got Borders and Barnes & Noble gift cards for my birthday and Hanukkah, plus some cash, so I went on a spending spree, buying tons of books and movies that I've been wanting, some for quite awhile.  I'm a "member" of both stores, so I get free shipping and at both websites (though Amazon tends to have the best prices and the best selection of used books - I'll have to get gift cards to Amazon next year!)  Here's a recap:

Hunger Games Trilogy Box Set by Suzanne Collins.  (I'd rather wait for the paperbacks, but that could take a couple of years, and the price was really good - $31 for all 3 books.)

Serenity (DVD) and Serenity Movie Companion book, plus both volumes of the companion books for Firefly.  [They have 3 graphic novels, based on the series, which aren't really my cup of tea, but I got the novelization of the movie at the library and enjoyed it enough to consider buying it during my next shopping spree.  Side note: I hadn't realized that the series and movie had companion books until I followed a link to the most recent graphic novel, based on the character Shephard Book.)

Used books that have been on my wish list for awhile: The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman, My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman, and The Diamond Lane by Karen Karbo.  I also got Michael Kinsley's latest book, Please Don't Remain Calm.  I also got both volumes of the Tiny Tyrant books for Caleb.

Still to be purchased:

Griftopia by Matt Taibbi
Kings of Madison Avenue: The Unofficial Companion to Mad Men
The First Man in My Life: Daughters Write about Fathers edited by Sandra Martin


By the end of the next weekend, I'd gotten all three of the books above, as well as 2 books for the TV series Battlestar Gallactica, plus a cute book called The Lazy Intellectual.  I also ordered some magazines, since I got (almost) free subscriptions for (again) doing an online survey - The Atlantic, Time, Food & Wine, and Kids Sports Illustrated (I plan to donate all but the first one to Temple Concord, since the magazines in the library are ancient - this is something I've been considering for awhile, since I can get free gift subscriptions to both Newsweek and The Week when I renew for myself; this almost seems better).  As usual, I've gotten completely carried away and probably need to STOP SHOPPING now!


I didn't stop shopping completely, but I slowed down a lot.  I picked up a few more items over the next couple of weeks, though my gift cards are empty now:

Mostly Martha - I've wanted to buy this for ages, and finally added it to my collection.

Why We're Liberal by Eric Alterman - I finally got a 40% off coupon at Borders (I'd been waiting and waiting for one to arrive in my Inbox) and since my gift list was completed, I treated myself to this book that had been on my Wist List for a couple of years.  Hopefully it will be balm for my battered liberal soul (along with Michael Kinsley's book).  Good reading to gird myself for the next 2 years of political theater.

Light - I just loved this gorgeous kids' book that I'd gotten at the library, so I snapped up a used copy for just a few dollars on Amazon.

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue - I heard the author talking about her new novel, Room, on NPR.  That book doesn't really appeal to me (despite being short-listed for the Booker Prize), but when I went to look into it, I came across this collection of stories she wrote previously, feminist rewrites of classic fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty.  I found an inexpensive used copy and thought it should be part of my collection.  [I read about half of it and wasn't really that enthralled - not quite what I was expecting.]

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Clay Park tainted by recent events

The news has been abuzz about a local girl who went missing on November 19, the day after she came home from college for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Then the news confirmed that her body had been (clumsily) hidden in Clay Central Park.  Her ex-boyfriend was arrested, and the police said he killed her at her house and dumped the body in the park.

Awful on so many levels.  I'm not nervous about the park, but I'm completely skeeved by the place - it's tainted now, by the terrible things that human beings do to one another. That park has always been a spiritual place for me - always brimming with the best God has to offer. Now it will always be a reminder of a family losing its own gift from God.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Walking Dead v. Mad Men

Entertainment Weekly's cover story this week is the new AMC series, The Walking Dead.  I knew the show was doing well, but on cable, that can mean 2 million viewers per episode.  Imagine how discouraged I felt to read that The Walking Dead is getting about 5 million viewers a week, which is DOUBLE the number of my beloved, multiple Emmy winning Mad Men

As I've said before, I think zombies are boring (generally, they seem to be an excuse to splatter the camera with blood).  Larry is watching the show, but I'm not, though I know the basic plot, especially now that I've read the EW piece.  I know that it's better than the average zombie offering (the cast and writing is quite good), but I'm genuinely surprised to find out that the show is getting such a wide audience.  And I'm bitterly disappointed that it surpassed (in fact, it lapped) Mad Men.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I can't remember ever celebrating in a less festive way for Thankgiving.  Everyone was blue, I suppose, since it was the first holiday we were all together since the funeral in July.  In additon, relations were strained in general, over accomodations (we were in a hotel in East Brunswick) and schedules (for example, Beth asked Larry and I not to make plans on Friday, as we had last year, so that we could spend the day together, but then she filled her schedule with visits and activities that separated us*).  Also, though Larry and I fought hard to cook dinner, Beth and Bobbie insisted on buying the food at the kosher deli.  It wasn't bad food, but we heated it up and sat down to eat it with little fanfare.  It ended up feeling so uncelebratory (if that's a word), and we didn't even go around the table and say what we were thankful for (though we did that on Friday night, and it felt forced and superficial).  We also "celebrated" Hanukkah and Lee's 50th birthday on Friday, with more purchased food, but that was similarly underwhelming.  Just a very unsatisfying holiday all around.

* This is not a new issue, and, in fact, played out exactly as I had expected it would, based on many previous get togethers.  It feels like a variation on my own family's tendency (embrace the idea of getting together, but then not being available to spend time during that get together), though for completely different reasons.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


One of the secretaries walked into my "office" today (it's really a cubicle that's been constructed in half the room that serves as the mailroom) and said "Look at all this!"  I guess I have too many decorations in my office space (though I don't think so - some photos and a couple of maps, and now my poster of the window).  It made me so mad - I'm stuck in this shitty shared space with no window and no privacy (both of which she has!), and she feels free to criticize my decor?  Sheesh.  Way to rub my nose in it.  Why?????  I just said "it's so dreary."  I was proud that I didn't say "fuck off."  Mean Girls are everywhere.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Recent movies

I've actually seen a number of movies over the past couple of weeks, in the theater and on video:

Tangled was adorable.  Lively, funny, and sweet, with a wonderful active heroine in Rapuzel.

Megamind was also really fun.  The kids were enthusiastic, but I hadn't wanted to see this odd animated feature that has been marketed aggressively for many months.  But I laughed out loud several times, and enjoyed the cracked fairy tale atmosphere of the bad guy who becomes the good guy by the end (similar in Despicable Me, though only in theme, not in any story details).

The Losers (2010) was surprisingly entertaining, considering it completely bombed at the box office (this is the witty offbeat action movie that The A Team should have been).  A very sexy sex scene and a couple of  f-bombs were unexpected, considering the PG-13 rating (though ultimately not unwelcome).  The script, by Peter Berg, is full of the sly humor that is his trademark.  They certainly left themselves room for a sequel (the movie is based on a comic book), but they aren't likely to do it, unfortunately, considering the film's lack of financial success.  But I'd love to see the delicious Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Zoe Saldana together again.

Framed (1990).  An older movie made by HBO starring Jeff Goldblum and Kristin Scott Thomas (I love them both!!!) as con artists.  She left him holding the bag in Paris, and after a stint in prison, she comes back to involve him in a new con.  Funny and charmingly offbeat, though not as romantic as I would have liked.

Purple Violets (2007) written by, directed by and starring Ed Burns, with Selma Blair, Patrick Wilson and Debra Messing (and a couple of brief scenes with Elizabeth Reaser and Donal Logue).  The parts were better than the whole - some fun scenes and moments and a clever storyline, but the characters were stiff and cliched, and mostly the prodigious talents of the great cast were wasted.

Caprica (2009) was another disappointment.  I watched a 2 hour video which was the first two episodes of the series, packaged as a movie.  I really wanted to like it, but I thought it was mostly boring and uninvolving, despite a good cast and some intriguing plot points about religion.  It's certainly nothing like Battlestar Gallactica, which completely sucks you in from the very first minute.  And it certainly wasn't as interesting as it should have been, considering it had such great material to work from not to mention a built-in audience who were dying to know what happened before that big explosion that started the series off with such a literal bang.  I like both Eric Stolz and Esai Morales, and I think they are both servicable here.  Polly Walker was a surprise, as the head of a polytheistic religious order and [SPOILER ALERT] closet monotheist, and hers is probably the most interesting character introduced, and would be the only reason I would continue to watch the series.  I thought the teen characters were poorly written and poorly acted, and were the most compelling reason not to tune it further.

Sick Around the World (2008) is actually a Frontline episode from PBS, a terrific and fascinating examination of the healthcare coverage in 5 countries - UK, Switzerland, Germany, Taiwan, and Japan.  Everyone should watch this!


Monday, November 22, 2010

New scarf plus haircut

Wearing the scarf that Lisa gave me, plus got a haircut yesterday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Making latkes at Concord

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Taibbi on the Tea Party and Wall Street

Awesome interview with Matt Taibbi on Alternet, covering some of the topics in his new book (which I must read), Griftopia.  Here's a couple of excerpts from the inteview:

It’s the same mindset [as Russia in the 1990s], whether it was the guys at companies like Countrywide who were pushing people into bad loans when they qualified for good ones, or the banks who were immediately taking these loans and selling them off to pension funds and insurance companies knowing that they were going to explode, or the hedge fund guys who were intentionally creating masses of crappy loans to dump off on other people, or the ratings agencies who were rating stuff that they knew was crap. Then at the very top you had companies like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank that were basically getting the taxpayer to buy this stuff through the bailouts, knowing that it was severely over-valued. It was the “let’s get what all we can right now before it all blows up” mindset that you see in a third world country.

There are things that are troubling on the horizon. In researching the foreclosure story that I just wrote, one of the things we learned is that there’s a long way to go down for these mortgage-backed securities. A lot of the banks, the Federal Reserve and the government still own billions and billions of dollars worth. And they’re recognizing that at par or face value, the reality is they’re probably worth five or ten cents on the dollar. So eventually, there’s going to be some kind of reckoning there.


Friday, November 19, 2010

New clothes

Alana took this photo of me in the shirt and scarf that Jeannie sent to me for my birthday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

2010 election & American exceptionalism

Michael Kinsley is one of my very favorite political writers; his 1995 book, Big Babies (a collection of columns) made a huge impression on me and I still refer to it.  His post-election day column on the Politico website was featured in The Week magazine.  Here are some highlights:
. . . Everybody will be talking in the next few days about the “message” of the elections. They mean, of course, the message from the voters. This is one of the treasured conventions of political journalism. Yesterday, the story was all about artifice and manipulation, the possible effect of the latest attack ad or absurd lie. Today, all that melts away. The election results are deemed to reflect grand historical trends. But my colleague Joe Scarborough got it right in these pages last week when he argued that the 2010 elections, for all their passion and vitriol, are basically irrelevant. Some people are voting Tuesday for calorie-free chocolate cake, and some are voting for fat-free ice cream. Neither option is actually available. Neither party’s candidates seriously addressed the national debt, except with proposals to make it even worse. Scarborough might have added that neither party’s candidates had much to say about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (except that they “support our troops,” a flabby formulation that leaves Americans killing and dying in faraway wars that politicians won’t defend explicitly). Politicians are silent on both these issues for the same reason: There is no solution that American voters will tolerate.
. . . This conceit that we’re the greatest country ever may be self-immolating. If people believe it’s true, they won’t do what’s necessary to make it true. The Brits, who suffer no such delusion (and who, in fact, cherish the national myth of being people who smile through adversity), have just accepted cuts in government spending that no American politician — even a tea bagger — would dream of proposing. Maybe these cuts are a mistake or badly timed, but when the British voted for “change,” they really got it.

Every time I strike this note, which I guess I do a lot, I hear from people calling me elitist or unpatriotic. Here is my answer: If you think a friend is talking nonsense or behaving in a way that damages both of your long-term interests, it is not elitist to say so. To the contrary, it is treating him or her like an adult and an equal. As for patriotism, if you think your country is in danger, how is it unpatriotic to say so?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Best Teen Fiction 2010

I got an email from Amazon with their editor picks for the best books, and I was a bit surprised that Mockingjay was not on the list.  But upon further reflection, I think they may be trying to highlight some good books that deserve more attention - I certainly plan to check out some of these. 

Editors Picks

1. John Greene
2. Jennifer Donnelly
3. Lauren Oliver
4. Catherine Fisher
5. Adam Rex
6. Pittacus Lore (James Frey)
7. Nancy Werlin
8. Phillip Reeve
9. Josh Berk
10. Paolo Bacigalupi

Suzanne sent me the YA fiction best sellers for the year from the same site, and there's no overlap.  Of course Mockingjay is #1 on that list.  And Stephenie is second (Breaking Dawn came out in paperback after 2 years as a hardcover - I bought it myself!)
1. Suzanne Collins
2. Stephenie Meyer
3. P. C. Cast
4. John Grisham
5. James Patterson
6. Richelle Mead
7. Candice Bushnell
8. Cassandra Clare
9. L. J. Smith
10. Maggie Stiefvater


A week later, Amazon sent me their Fiction & Literature lists (editor's picks & best sellers) and there's alot more overlap.  Somewhat surprisingly, the only book that interested me was #1 on both - Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.  The others just didn't seem like my cup of tea.  Oh well, guess I'm stuck with the teen books for now.  LOL.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Health update

At my spring (semi-annual) appointment, my doctor wanted to put me on Zocor because my cholesterol is slipping toward a worse number (it's been borderline for many years), but I wanted to try to improve it on my own, before starting on a drug I would have to take for the rest of my life.

My LDL number was fine (121), but my HDL was to low (41, and it should be 50 or more), so I looked on the internet and found some recommendations for raising my HDL - more red wine, more fish and good oils, etc.  I also talked to Mark VanAlstyne, my PT, who had lowered his cholesterol 40 points with some diet changes and the addition of fish oil, red rice yeast and COQ10 supplements.  So I took all 3 of those almost religiously for the last 6 months.

I got my new numbers this week, and I was so disappointed.  My LDL went down by 30 points (!) to 89, and therefore my overall number is lower as well (176), but my HDL, instead of getting better, actually went down a few points (39).  And my trigylceride number, which I had not really looked at before, is off the hook - it should be around 150 and mine is 250. 

These figures (low HDL and high triglyceride) are not good, and put me at higher risk for heart disease.  I'm clearly not going to be able to get where I need to with diet and supplements (though this is really annoying - I eat so much healthier than the average American!!)  Anyway, Zocor, here I come.

ADDENDUM  12/17/10

Oddly, I never heard from my doctor, who called me shortly after my spring appointment to recommend Zocor, so I called the office myself to see what she was thinking now, with these new numbers. 

I ended up talking to the Nurse Practitioner, who said the HDL number is greatly affected by exercise (obviously, I should get more than I do) and the triglyceride number is only accurate if it's measured after fasting.  End result - no drugs yet (thank goodness) and we'll look at the numbers at my spring appointment, after I take a fasting test.  Fine with me. 

I guess whatever sense of urgency my doctor had in the spring has faded.  The Nurse Practitioner said that the standard keeps changing, so perhaps that's why there's no strong concern now (plus my LDL got much better).  The truth is, my numbers aren't that bad, and they aren't getting worse, so maybe I can avoid medication for awhile longer. 

The NP made a few diet recommendations - low fat dairy [done], avoid white wheat flour [done], avoid fatty meats like fried chicken wings, bacon, sausage, and deli [done], and egg whites only [that's a hard sell, we'll see about that].  The fact that she's suggesting diet changes that I made years ago is part of the reason I've been frustrated - I already eat much better than the average American, so there's only so much further I can go using that route.  I do plan to continue with the supplements I was taking, since they helped my LDL so much.  I'm assuming if that trigylceride is better with the fasting test, I can stay off the meds for now.  Here's hoping.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Crazy week

It's such a crazy week, I made myself a full page list with multiple colors of ink.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Simplicity v. complexity

Some great commentary by Digby this week, somewhat in response to something Matt Taibbi wrote:

I think he's right that the world is about complexity and that the Tea Party is yearning for simpler times. (Conservatism usually is...) But the answers about how to deal with the complexity aren't simply technocratic, they're philosophical and ideological. And the combination of the three are what people are, in the end, voting for. The average voter can no more be expected to master the details of credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations any more that they should be expected to master particle physics or brain surgery. There is always going to be a need to entrust certain things to experts and elites, whom they charge with mastering the details on their behalf. Not everyone can be conversant in the arcane workings of high finance and they shouldn't have to be. That's supposedly what we have government for.

Our core American belief systems are still struggling along, fighting it out. They aren't especially useful, but they aren't where the problem is. What's broken down is down is the institutional system that forced elites to work at least somewhat on behalf of the people. Government, clergy, journalism, high finance, the legal system, the military, all of it, has stopped functioning properly. I don't know what the reasons are for all of this (although I know someone [WaPo's Christopher Hayes] who's writing a book on the topic which I can't wait to read.)

The ideological question for the people simply comes down to whether or not you believe that society is better off with a government mitigating the sharp edges of capitalism or whether you think society is better off without it. The practical question is what to do about the fact that however you come down on that question, the elites who are running the institutions you depend on and believe in are corrupt.

Basically, everyone's confused and agitated because both capitalism and government are failing the common people. And nobody really knows what to do about that.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Stood up again

I attended the annual meeting of the American Medical Writers this past week.  It's a great conference, packed with terrific presentations and classes.  I've been to Atlanta, Louisville, Dallas, and now Milwaukee.  Next year, the conference is in Jacksonville, FL, which should be nice. 

The very first year I was there, I met a really nice woman named Angela.  We had a lot in common and we talked so easily, it made the conference even better. We stayed in touch after the conference, and, the following year, we made plans to meet for dinner the first night.  But when I got there, she said she was busy with her own, local group, and I never really talked with her again, beyond saying "hi" when we saw each other in the hallways.  I was, of course, completely taken aback by this development, and still have no idea what happened to chill our promising friendship.

Then, the next year, I met another interesting woman named Christine, from my own regional group.  We stayed in touch after the conference, and even met for lunch in NYC in April.  We made plans to meet at the conference this year, but she never showed up for the regional dinner, as arranged, and never called, texted or emailed me. 

I can't believe I'm 2 for 2 at this conference.  I keep meeting ostensibly friendly, interesting women, who disappear into the ether the very next year.  Weird and discouraging.

Side note: I met two interesting women at this year's conference, though neither acted as overtly friendly as Angela or Christine, so I have no expectation that those acquaintanceships will flower into something lasting (we exchanged email addresses, but there was no deeper connection that I noticed).  I still have hope though!  And FB makes staying in touch, especially in a superficial way, so much easier.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Always moving the conversation to the right

Digby got off on a rant in response to commentary on the election regarding a third party, presumably in the middle, which includes really rich people [like Bloomberg], because that's the only kind of candidate who could win without party backing.  Below are just some excerpts, which may be confusing, but I really liked a few of the points that she made and I wanted to include them.

Oh dear, here comes another attempt at a Mushy Middle Party for people who only exist in the imaginations of extremely wealthy celebrities and political pundits. They're calling it "No Labels" . . . a bunch of people who just want everyone to be "sensible" (ensure that wealthy people are taken care of) without all the muss and fuss of dealing with the hoi polloi who actually give a damn about anything.

. . . Ok, first of all, Murkowski rebuked "partisanship" for about a month because she needed Democratic votes to win. But she is a conservative to the core. So is Inglis (who had a 93.4 rating with the American Conservative Union.) They were both exceedingly loyal partisans, voting with the Party on all major initiatives, who were challenged by people who ran as outsiders with a whole different idea about what being "partisan" should mean. There's a reason why the Tea Party gave itself its own name.

Unfortunately, instead of waking up the cognoscenti to the radical nature of the far right, these events have led them to take the easy way out and simply declare that hardcore conservatives are actually "centrists" now, further marginalizing liberalism. As you can see by that interview with Matt Miller, nobody except a hippie like Sam Sedar ever characterizes someone like Barack Obama as a centrist -- even though that's exactly what he is. The push is always, always to the right whenever anyone starts bellyaching about partisanship.

Bob Inglis may be a decent person compared to the right wing kooks of the Tea Party, but he is as ideologically right wing as they come, despite what Parker [on Parker-Spitzer] says. (The fact that she uses his belief that climate change is real as a sign of his "centrism" should tell you everything you need to know about how far the goal posts have shifted.)  Ideology in the political establishment is only relevant to the extent that it properly represents elite interests. (That can be from either Party, of course, although since the Democrats stand accused of electing a secret Muslim Socialist president, I'm guessing they are no longer considered reliable.)

What these people really seem to care about is temperament and style --- an ability to fit in smoothly with the ruling class, to make it seem effortless, to make the rubes feel comfortable and make them feel good about being elites.  (They really are the ones they've been waiting for.) They want someone who isn't overly passionate, who doesn't raise his voice, who takes care of business and move on to the next problem without a lot of political drama. What they want is a white version of Barack Obama and since, like Nixon going to China, only a conservative Republican can be that without provoking a backlash from conservative Republicans, a conservative Republican is what he must be.

Unfortunately, we live in a democracy and the rubes of all political stripes are up in arms. They want somebody whose going to fight for them. I don't know who that's going to be in 2012, but I'd be shocked if some plutocrat with a load of bull about "what works" catches fire any time soon. Nobody believes these people know "what works" anymore except a bunch of deluded Antoinettes babbling about centrism. They've never been more out of touch.


Monday, November 08, 2010

"Government is not like a family!"

Terrific blog post by Digby at Hullabaloo about inappropriate metaphors.  She starts by quoting a column by Gene Lyons on Salon.com [which I put in italics to differentiate Lyons' comments from Digby's]:

"The American people are ahead of their government and their politicians on this," [CNN's John] King said. "Because, Ali [Velshi], you know this, over the past two or three years every family in America has had to make incredibly difficult choices and do things they didn't want to do. And so they look at Washington and they say why won't you do things that you don't want to do, why don't you ... do something about this and be grown-ups?"

Yes, it's perfectly obvious. The thing to do is cut government spending, reduce demand, put more people out of work. Prosperity will come roaring back.

Look, Obama asked for this. "Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions," he said, announcing the Bowles-Simpson commission during his 2010 State of the Union. "The federal government should do the same."

Because the U.S. government is just like your family. And your family can't run deficits, can it? Apart from mortgages, auto and education loans, credit cards, stuff like that. Not to mention that it's the government that actually creates and maintains the money supply. Otherwise, yeah, your family's exactly the same as the Social Security Administration, the Pentagon, the National Institutes of Health, all those. So get out and build some highways: pay as you go.

[This is Digby's commetary:] My head explodes every time I hear any of them use this stupid family metaphor. . . . It's dumb. America isn't a family and managing a national economy isn't like managing a family budget. It isn't like a business either (the second most common stupid metaphor). The government has a completely different set of responsibilities than other human organizing entities, and democratic government is designed to completely upend the authoritarian model of family, church and business and put the "kids" in charge. Forgetting that is what gets us into trouble.

It would be very helpful to people's understanding of how their world works if they understood the differences between our various organizational models instead of conflating them. It's confusing rather than enlightening.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

I feel sad about the turnout at the last couple of WRJ monthly meetings.  I tracked the turnout during the time that I was president, and we always had more attendance in the fall than the spring.  The numbers this fall have been more like the usual spring turnout.  Such a shame, because the programs are terrific.  Everything I've been involved with at Concord seems to suffer from the same problem - it's really difficult to sustain involvement.  I don't know if there's any magic bullet - more communication is better, and certainly personal contact helps.  But even with that, everything seems to lose momentum after an inital burst of interest.  Discouraging.


Saturday, November 06, 2010

Weekend movies

With my birthday party, I did a lot of cooking and cleaning in the kitchen, so I had a chance to watch some of the videos that I picked up at the library.  All 3 were wonderful independent films, with great casts and provocative, unconventional stories.  They also had more in common than they initially seemed to have - all 3 involved troubled adults who are rescued by their relationship with unrelated children.

The Girl in the Park (2007) - Sigourney Weaver gives a tour de force performance as Julia. a guilt-ridden woman who has never recovered from the loss of her daughter in a park when she was 3.  15 years later, she meets a troubled young woman who she becomes convinced is her long lost daughter (a really strong performance by Kate Bosworth).  Alessandro Nivola (Junebug) has a small but pivotal role as Julia's bitter grown son.  The story does not transpire quite as expected and I loved the ending, which avoids being too sentimental or too predictable.

Adam Resurrected (2008) - a difficult movie to watch, of course, as all Holocaust movies are, but this is new take, focusing on the recovery of survivors more than on their experiences.  Jeff Goldblum plays the guilt-ridden Adam Stein, whose family perished while he survived.  He helps the other patients in a special sanitarian, but resists treatment for his own crushing sense of despair, until he meets a young patient with whom he forms a special bond.  Another life-affirming ending that avoids sentiment.  A sad, but thought-provoking movie about the lingering cost of psychological trauma.

Leo (2002) - yet another movie that doesn't conform to expectations.  Joseph Fiennes is astonishing as the title character, a quiet, intense man who was recently released from prison after serving 15 years for murder.  We learn his story slowly through flashbacks.  The movie is beautifully filmed (even more impressive for a first time director and first time screenwriters) and features wonderful performances by many world class actors, including Sam Shepard, Dennis Hopper, Mary Stuart Masterson, and most especially Elizabeth Shue as Leo's guilt-racked mother.

At my book club meeting last week, someone said that American movies are terrible, and I said, not if you watch independent movies.  These 3 are a rousing confirmation of my statement.- all interesting and satisfying in their own ways.  The only thing I don't like is the titles, which are all flawed for various reasons.  Just a minor quibble, though.


Friday, November 05, 2010

Sibling story on NPR

Back on October 14, I responded to an NPR item posted on Facebook, soliciting stories about relationships with siblings: "NPR wants you to tell us a story about spending time with your siblings. Do they drive you crazy? Or do you love every second of it? How has the dynamic changed over the years? We may contact you for a series that is in the works."
Still smarting from my experience in July, this is what I wrote:

They drive me totally crazy. I live in the east and they both live in the west. They never visit me, and when I visit them, they always have meetings and events that they mysteriously could not reschedule. They give tons of lips service to how important it is to maintain our connection, but I'm the only one who puts my money where my mouth is. They're both certifiable and they both admit it. I love them to death, but I mostly want to kill them!!!

Today I was contacted by NPR about participating in the story.  Super cool, but ACK!  I will have to figure out how to communicate my frustration in a diplomatic way!

ADDENDUM 11/8/10

Today I had a phone interview with Lauren for about 10 minutes.  She asked a few questions about our childhood and adult interactions, and hopefully some of it will get used in the series, which will be broadcast the week of Thanksgiving.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Post-election hangover

Still dragging today, and feeling sad and discouraged.  Maffei's seat is now unsure - votes from Wayne county put his opponent, Anee Marie Buerkle, ahead, so now they're counting absentee ballots and such.  If he ends up losing, I'll be seriously bummed. 

Listening to the Republican spin is completely infuriating - this is a repudiation of Obama, this is a clear call for a course change.  The impact of the unemployment rate (9.6) is conveniently ignored.

The NY Times has a fascinating article today about the systematic plan implemented by the Republicans back in January 2009 to take back Congress - raising money and recruting candidates and targeting Democrats whose districts' demographics had shifted.  So it's not all about the mood of the country.

I did enjoy Obama's press conference yesterday afternoon - he was humble, but determined to do what can be done.  He also noted that both Reagan and Clinton had to give "this same speech" - the point being that they both got re-elected after midterm losses by their party.

I heard other commentators talking about this as well. Even F.D.R. suffered a severe midterm defeat in 1938.  So that's encouraging, especially after hearing poll data this morning saying that Obama would lose to Romney and Huckabee if the election were held today.

And the Republicans have a daunting task ahead of them - not just trying to advance their agenda, but also trying to wrangle the strange bedfellows they've created by embracing the Tea Party and libertarian elements of their base.  It will actually be fun to watch the infighting.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Election commentary

Digby, as always, has some interesting comments, especially regarding the spin and "lessons" we'll get from the pundits after this election:

The MSM are going to make a big deal out of . . . Alan Grayson being generally rude and aggressive as reason for their losing his race, but they will be reflexively hippie punching and wrong on the facts.

Regarding Grayson, we have a little controlled experiment. His neighboring first term Democratic congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, in a very similar district, took the opposite approach to Grayson. She ran as hard to the right as she could get away with, never had a controversial thought much less uttered one, was rewarded with big money and support from the DCCC --- and she lost too. This race was bigger than both of them. Florida is turning hard right.

At least Grayson went down fighting for something instead of being a sell-out to the lowest common denominator. I'll always be grateful for what he said and did these past two years. The country should thank him too --- the Fed audit wouldn't have happened and I'm not sure they wouldn't have been able to keep the foreclosure fraud cover-up going a lot longer than they did without his intervention. We will miss him.

And my favorite comment of hers:

Of course the fact that Obama is still in the White House when a large number of them seem to think they were voting against him today is bound to be confusing and upsetting anyway. But then, that's their natural state.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Yes, I'm depressed

Midterm elections 2010

I'm going to be 48 years old in a couple of days - I've spent 30 years as an "adult" involved in voting and engaged in the political process.  And most of that time I've watched voters make completely illogical choices, without any sense or guiding philosophy.  Throughout those years, Americans consistently and often overwhelmingly support liberal policies, but don't necessarily vote for the people who promote those policies.  The healthcare reform from last year is a perfect example - the majority of people support the provisions of the bill, but the bill itself was demonized, and legislators who voted for it distanced themselves from it during the recent campaign instead of pointing out all the very positive elements of it.  Another example - exit polls show that only 24% of voters blame Obama for the current economic situation (Wall Street tops the list for 35% of people and  29% blame former President Bush), but this election is clearly a repudiation of the Democratic party and Obama because they haven't fixed the economy (though many voters think government can't fix it and shouldn't be involved in it, but still the government should have fixed it - or something like that, I get a headache trying to follow their convoluted logic).

We all knew it would be a bad night, but in some ways, it's worse than I expected/hoped, though with a few lights in the darkness:  Harry Reid squeaking out a win yet again, and the Dems retaining control (barely) in the Senate.  And my own fine Congressman, Dan Maffei, retaining his seat in a fairly conservative district, and Bill Owens winning north of us.  Also Gillibrand won her 2 year term in the Senate.  And Tancredo helped get a Democratic elected as the governor of Colorado.  Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer won in California, and Patty Murray in Washington state.  I heard that the Blue Dog Democrats are pretty much a vanishing breed, and then I got this interesting statistic in an email, confirming it: 94% of the Progressive Caucus won, compared to only 47% of the Blue Dogs.  Sarah Palin had a "60-40 night" - she's still a political force, but her endorsement is not a guarantee.

The most alarming result is several swing states turning a deeper shade of red, especially Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which will influence the 2012 Presidential election. Also 19 state legislatures changed from Democratic majority to Republican majority.  As for the House, the Repugs gained at least 60 seats, even more than Gingrich engineered in 1994.  Discouraging doesn't cover it.  Insult to injury: Feingold lost and Obama's Illinois Senate seat went to the Republicans.  There are fewer women in Congress now than at any time in 30 years (since I started voting!)

Why do the Republicans get all the breaks???  Bush was the most insubstantial president elected in modern memory, and then 9-11 happened and he was given a free pass to do all sorts of crazy shit (invading Iraq just being the craziest).  Now the Repugs get to ride a wave of anti-incumbent fever into the majority right when redistricting will happen.  Even Reagan ended up with an insane amount of legislative leverage after the assassination attempt.  Just seems like we miss all the pivotal moments (though Clinton got very lucky re economic growth, but what did he do with it - "reformed" welfare - hardly a top progressive agenda item).


Monday, November 01, 2010

Election commentary

I'm not a huge fan of Joe Klein (he of the Anonymous book authorship), and this isn't exactly encouraging, but he's makes some coherent points on his blog at Time magazine:

The Republican Party is likely to win a major victory tomorrow. But I'm not sure how big it will be. A cause for uncertainty is the nature of modern polling. Too many polls are done on the cheap, robotically, these days--and, as Michael Blumentual points out here, more than a few of them don't call cellphone users, who tend to be disproportionately younger. Another cause for uncertainty is the amorphous nature of the Tea Party--it can stage fist-shaking rallies but can it get out the vote as the more proven sectors of the Republic Party, like the evangelical community, can...and how amped are the evangelicals, whom we've not heard much from this year, anyway? A third mitigating factor is the President's relative popularity: 48% favorable v. 48% unfavorable, according to the latest CNN poll*, much better than Clinton or Reagan at a similar moment in their presidencies. A fourth mitigating factor is the continuing unpopularity of the Republicans in Congress (even more unpopular than the Democrats) and widespread public skepticism about their (same old) solutions.

But this is still likely to be a big Republican year. Why?  Because they, at least, have a coherent philosophy that has always had resonance with the American people: lower taxes, less government, fewer regulations. And the Democrats have run one of the stupider, more cowardly campaigns ever: They can not--or will not--explain the landmark legislation they've passed in the past two years. In many cases, they've run from what they've done.

There is a fundamental disconnect here: the Democrats passed legislation willy-nilly without giving the slightest thought, it seems, to how that legislation might be explained. This was especially true with the financial and health care reform packages. Why haven't the Democrats settled--as Republicans undoubtedly would have--on 3 top line talking points that would explain what financial regulation does? Health care reform was always going to be a heavy lift, since 80% of the American people are satisfied with the coverage they have--but why should senior citizens know more about Medicare spending cuts in the bill (which will largely result from a more efficient system, in which electronic record-keeping will reduce the need for duplicative procedures like, for example, blood tests) than they do about the $250 each of them has received to fill the prescription drug donut hole? As it has evolved this year, the public knows all the bad things about the bills that have passed--including more than a few "bad things" that aren't in them--but they haven't heard the plus side of the story.

Tina Brown has a good column today about the President's need to be a more theatrical pol. We all know about the President's demeanor; it was the calm that got him elected after his opponent panicked in the midst of the financial crisis in 2008. But there is a need for him to be more blatant about his successes. I know it would probably bust the No Drama canon for Barack Obama to show up at some elderly person's door with one of the gigantic Publishers' Clearing House checks for $250--and some donuts--to announce the closing of the donut hole, but it would certainly lead the evening news (and the elderly are about the only people left who watch the evening news).

I'll have more to say about the elections once they're over. But with the Republican refusal to offer any plausible alternatives on the economy, financial regulation and health care reform, this campaign has proved a reversal of the old cliche: you can't beat nothing with something. Which reminds me of a banner featured by one of my favorite saloons of the 1970s, New York's Lone Star Cafe: too much ain't enough. The Obama Administration offered too much legislation and it wasn't enough to convince the public that Democrats were working in their best interests.