The Political Ones

The semi-annual defilthifying of my apartment grows worse

fan I know, I know, we live in a city. A big one. A humungous one, even, that affords many excellent niceties only a larger metropolis can offer.

Still. Still...

This week's heat finally forced me to attack my most-loathed chore as a (rental) householder: the replacement of several slats of my jalousie windows with gigantic, ghetto-ready box fans. Yeah, it's stunningly unnattractive, but when the mercury hits a certain point, I'll do almost anything to increase the flow of air in the hideous stank soup that is the air chez E-Z-Bake Ovenâ„¢. In fact, I'm typing this naked right now!

It's always a narsty job, but the sheer amount of filth that must be wiped off the windows pre-removal seems to have grown exponentially in the past few years. Have we crapped up the environment so that things are that much dirtier? Or have we perhaps crapped up the environment so that it's that much drier, creating barnloads of extra loose dirt to swirl around before settling in my apartment?

More importantly, can I use this turn of events to double-up on ire and take umbrage against my next-door neighbors' use of gas-powered leaf blowers to blow the dirt off of their driveway? And what's up with those retards, anyway? Does someone not understand that all they're doing with those mother-humpin' leaf-blowers is shooting a bunch of filth arrows in the air, to fall to earth they know not where?

They're falling in my apartment, you environment-killing assholes! Yeah!!!

And I've got the spent pile of sodden paper towels to prove it...

xxx c

Photo by ♫axime via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Cheering the Hell Up, Day 07: Why I love Global Warming

inconvenient poster 1. Longer BBQ season.

2. Incessant worry over impending doom excellent for weight maintenance.

3. Oceanfront property in Stockton!

4. Hurricane/tornado/storm coverage makes good swirly patterns on Doppler Radarâ„¢.

5. Heavy winter clothes aggravate delicate Celtic skin.

6. Disproportionately large feet look better in flip-flops.

7. Warmer weather = more cool summer salads.

8. Costs less to heat spa.

9. Costs nothing to heat swimming pool.

10. Turns earnest, dull politicians into superhot slideshow presenters*.

xxx c

*Go see An Inconvenient Truth. If you live in NYC or LA, go THIS WEEKEND!!! It's moving, it's gorgeous, it will make you feel like you're a part of something bigger. Which you are, by the way, in case you didn't know...

Blow up your TV

When you calibrate your afternoon not by the subtle changes in the play of light through your office window but by the shifting of the shrill Judge Judy into the 'shucks, ma'am' sucker punch or Dr. Phil...

When you feel your ire rise as basket-base-football cuts into The Simpsons and back-to-back repeats of King of the Hill...

When your evenings are filled with the wall-to-wall hum of America's Next Top Apprentice to the Surviving Bachelor

When you have seen every episode of every Law & Order in all three franchises at least twice

When you can spot the new edits to accommodate additional commercials in Columbo and the Quinn-Martin ouevre and anything that used to be on HBO

When you let your sister and your clients and your best friend since high school (in town for three days only) go straight to voicemail because Ryan is announcing the Bottom Three

When you cannot remember the last time you spent a day without television

Maybe it's time to spend a day without television.

Maybe it's time to spend seven of them.

A whole week doing something else One day at a time. (With Bonnie Franklin and Valerie Bertinelli.)

Besides, there's always TiVO...

xxx c

A smaller footprint, a bigger impact

globes in a french museum I think it's a good thing that Earth Day falls hard on the heels of April 15th in this country. Like it or not, that paper trail left by months and months (and months and months) of spending affords one a stark look at one's true politics.

And enlightenment is rarely pleasant. I still remember culling my old, big-time-ad-gal tax returns a few years after I'd left the corporate world. I was by turns mystified and horrified at the profligate spending I managed to justify while high on the Korporate Kool-Aid. I spent how much on many nights in a row? Or worse, I gave how little away? Clearly, I am the Asshole of the Universe.

My life is much, much simpler now, but I'm also more awake. (Old people sleep less, you know.) Of course, the more veils lifted from your eyes, the more unavoidable what still needs to be done: the blessing/curse of awareness. There's no turning back, only a weird, muddly phase of running in circles, scratching one's head, figuring out what happens next.

So here are my observations, along with some figuring (I'll spare you the annoying scratching that came in between). Nothing's written in stone: I'm sure more hindsight will point out additional follies and better/stronger/faster opportunities for growth, but it's a start, anyway...

PROBLEM #1. I use way too much gas.

My 2004 Corolla supposedly gets 35 MPG (32 city, 40 highway). Not as bad as SUV Nation, not as good as electric or hybrid. Declining auditions (boo hoo!) and increased work from home (yay!) have gotten my annual mileage down to around 7,000, but The BF drives us around a lot, so I probably still burn up at least 10K miles' worth of fossil fuel: too, too much.

Alas, L.A. is not a walking city. When I can, I run errands in nearby Larchmont (or in Silver Lake when I'm staying at My Country House). But I can't hoof the 10, 20, 50 blocks I used to clock in New York and Chicago because more often than not, my destinations are even farther than that, and public transportation is too slow since the buses (and connecting buses) are caught in the same heinous snarl.

If I were more alert and my fellow Angelenos more considerate, I'd buy a (used) bike and cycle more often. As it is, I get a little nervous just crossing the street. Too many people (especially those from SUV Nation, you know who you are, motherfuckers) blowing through too many red lights.

SOLUTION: Honestly? While co-habitation would shave 40 or so miles off of my weekly log, I think the only way to substantially improve my ecological footprint in this quadrant is to move to a smaller/more navigable burg where I can bike and/or walk and or take public transportation more readily. I'm down with that, although I still have to get The BF on board. (To be fair, if I lived in My Country House, I'd probably find L.A. more liveable, too.)

PROBLEM #2: I spend way too much on television.

This isn't as obvious a "green" issue as burning up petroleum, but there are larger ecological implications to turning over such a substantial portion of my time and entertainment dollar (over $90/month) to canned, passive entertainment. I'm not supporting my local community of artists; I am helping corporate America (and, by extension, all the thoughtless waste and consumption it promotes) to maintain its stranglehold on the world.

On the other hand, it's the best way I know to stay plugged into what mainstream America is doing and thinking. That, and The Sopranos fucking rocks.

SOLUTION: Get rid of one of my cable boxes and dump the premium channels. (After Sopranos is over, of course.) Or figure out an exact thing I could treat myself to with that money which would help me to create, rather than mindlessly consume.

PROBLEM #3: I spend way too much to be fit (especially since I'm not).

Three years ago, I got an incredible deal on my local Gold's Gym. But even at the low, low price of $120/year for my membership, it costs me 60 bucks per workout. Plus I have to drive there. Plus gyms suck major heinie.

SOLUTION: Give myself until renewal to go. If I don't, quit and use free weights at home. And walk more. (See #1.) $120 is $120. Don't flush money down the toilet! Untreated money is bad for the metropolitan water supply!

PROBLEM #4: I spend way too much on groceries.

This one is a little tougher. Since I make virtually all of my own food from scratch, and since my gut is kind of delicate, I spend more both to get quality ingredients and to find things that are appetizing. Believe me, before I got sick with Crohn's, I was dandy-fine with living a tiny-footprint life on brown rice, vegetables and tofu (with the occasional Filet-O-Fish Extra Value Meal and salt-n-vinegar potato chip binge for variety), provided, of course, there was booze, and GOOD booze, at that. (Really, what's the point of drinking shitty liquor? If you need to pass out that badly, hit yourself on the head with a hammer and be done with it.)

When I'm in a flare, I also have a hard time determining what I'll be able to eat. I was doing fine on almost-normal people food when, a few days ago, I fell off the SCD wagon and stuffed my face with three three THREE pieces of bread. Now I'm back to Baby Tummy (sucks) and with a fridge full of undigestible matter like salad, strawberries and members of the onion family.

Besides, making a smaller impact on the earth will probably entail spending a little more for products from sustainable growers. So my food expenditures will likely rise if I start taking all this peak oil stuff seriously.

SOLUTION: Spend more on what I have to, and get back in the habit of going to my local Sunday Farmer's Market.

After all, it's within walking distance...



On hummers, moral rectitude and paying the rent

hummerbird.jpg A couple of days ago, I read a brief article/interview with Tim Robbins in this month's issue of Los Angeles magazine. Mostly it just reinforced my impression of Robbins as a smart, talented guy whose impressions of himself are exactly the same, only more so, but there was one item which caught my eye.

Despite the popularity of his 1992 political mockumentary, Bob Roberts, Robbins elected not to release a CD of the original songs created for the film for fear that they might one day be used out of context by the very people he was satirizing. I think of this very real possibility for artists every time I listen to (gulp) the Dr. Laura show on my local yak-radio station, KFI*. Because while some of the musicians whose songs her engineer plays as bumpers might be alright with the implicit endorsement of a rather inflexible if well-meant credo, others would likely be aghast.

I suppose there's no way around it in radio land. I'm not familiar with fair use rules on commercial radio, but I'm guessing that if you or your station pays publishing clearinghouses ASCAP and BMI**, you're allowed to bumper away.

In advertising land, of course, it's a different story. When I started out as a copywriter in the early 1980s, the first uses of boomer pop as boomer bait were just turning up. Naive young pup that I was, I remember being surprised when some people actually took umbrage at the co-opting of "art" for commerce. Me? I figured if someone wanted to sell their shit, that was their own damned business.

I'm [of] divided opinion now. Obviously, for many years I've made my own livelihood has depended upon either shilling directly for The Man or, briefly, filing papers and designing PowerPointâ„¢ presentations for him. I've written and acted in commercials for plenty of superfluous consumer crap products, and in my last day job, I designed the company's greatest presentation ever for one of the most insidious marketing tacks it's been my distaste to come across. On the other hand, I had my limits: I've always refused to work on tobacco products and feminine deoderant products, finding them equally morally reprehensible.

The new limit, it seems, is the Hummer.

While it's unlikely that I'll ever be asked shill for Hummer, plenty of musicians have been approached about it. Poor, struggling, indie musicians, whose tuneage has the gloss of rebel cool Hummer would like to co-opt for its ads. And apparently, they're saying "no" in droves, even the starving ones. "We figured it was almost like giving music to the Army, or Exxon," said one member of a D.C. group, Trans Am.

I'd chalk it up, some of it anyway, to political correctness, only the amounts that were being thrown around were too huge to dismiss, especially for starving artists. They start at about $50K; one went up to $180K. That's a lot of scratch for anyone, but especially for people whose mode of transportation often doubles as their home.

My tolerance level for SUVs falls far short of the Hummer. After years of driving in steel canyons created by the piggy hugemobiles of the drivers surrounding me, I am over the high clearance vehicle, period. If you drive one, basically, you can go fuck yourself. (I make an exception for minivan drivers, who are actually choosing a responsible transportation option for hauling rugrats and for light truck drivers who actually use their truck beds to haul truck-appropriate items.) Tax 'em, make 'em park in the "c" lot ghetto, bar them from carpool lanes unless every seat in the motherfuckers are occupied.

On the other hand, I briefly dated someone who drove an SUV. I've never established a no-fly rule on SUVs with my agent. There are, fortunately, good men out there who still drive sedans (cf The BF) but as money gets harder and harder to make, will it get harder and harder for me to exercise my moral principles? It is one thing to be Tim Robbins and turn down the money; it's another to be an indie rocker or someone with three kids to support or me, in transition, and do it.

I have an audition today for Philip Morris. That's Philip Morris, not its parent company, Altria Group, which also manufactures various food brands. The client declined to give out specific information, a common practice with a new product. So when I got the call, I confirmed with the proviso that if it turned out to be a tobacco product, I was out. Unfortunately, I won't find out what this mysterious new Philip Morris product is until I drive out to Santa Monica and sign the NDA to audition for it. Which means that I might drive 25 miles out of my way today for nothing.

Oh, well. At least I'll be doing it in a Corolla.

xxx c

*More on my love/hate of the strident, inflexible Laura Schlessinger later...

**Bonus little-known fact: I am actually a member of BMI, owing to a filthy little ditty I wrote with Ana Gasteyer about our twats.

UPDATE: The audition was not for a tobacco product, but an anti-tobacco message. I took it, still conflicted, but secure in the knowledge that (a) my getting it is a million-to-one shot; and (b) I'm heading to SXSW the day of the callback, turning that million-to-one shot into a billion-to-one shot.

Photo, "Opinion," by Evan G. via Flickr.

Quotation of the Day: Shacking Up Edition

Y'all thought I forgot about List Wednesday again, didn't you? From The Alternatives to Marriage site...

"The Ten Most Common Ways Unmarried People Introduce Their Partners (in order of frequency):*

1. partner (also life partner, unmarried partner, domestic partner) 2. boyfriend/girlfriend 3. significant other or S.O. 4. the person's name without a descriptive word 5. friend 6. husband/wife 7. roommate or housemate 8. lover 9. spouse 10. sweetie or sweetheart"

xxx c

* according to interviews conducted by Marshall Miller and Dorian Solot for Unmarried to Each Other: The Essential Guide to Living Together as an Unmarried Partner. To read the full list of over forty words unmarried people use to introduce their partners, check out Unmarried to Each Other.


bride mannequinsThe farther away I get from my (failed) marriage, the more clearly I'm able to see it. My own particular marriage, yes, but also my relationship (no pun intended) to the institution itself, which usually fell somewhere on the spectrum between "cautiously optimistic" and "no fucking way." I can't say I'm agin' it entirely, because I'm not; I'm sure it works great for some people. Somewhere. A couple of them (ha!), anyway. But more often I've seen (me, personally, Colleen) how marriage doesn't work, how, instead of becoming a safe harbor of commitment within which two people can grow and flourish without fear of capricious abandonment, it becomes a justification stick couples take turns with to beat one another, and even themselves, about the psyche (metaphorically speaking, of course; hitting = bad). Even the marriages that look good from the outside may be rotten on the inside; I couldn't believe the number of people who were shocked, shocked, I tell you!, to hear that my own marriage, which had been rocky for years, was ending.


I'm not here to crap on marriage. Well, mostly I'm not. Like I said, I think two mutually consenting adults should be free to do whatever the hell they want as long as it's not going to hurt anyone else or significantly damage my property. Note I did not say "piss off anyone", you see where I'm heading with this, because there are plenty of things two mutually consenting adults could do (in the privacy of their own home, even) that would send certain other people into fits of apoplexy, like, oh, say, marrying someone they might have showered beside in the locker room after P.E. instead of someone they met, oh, say, in a titty bar. Or a church meeting. Or online. Or wherever the hell.


What really pisses me off about marriage is what pisses me off about most things that stick in my craw: it's not fair. Specifically, it's not fair that some people (i.e., the ones who might meet in a titty bar) get to do it while others (the ones who might shower together after P.E.) can't. Period. I mean, I have lots and lots of issues about marriage, but I freely admit those are more about me hating the sound of the cage door slamming shut than Marriage as it might be practiced by non-lunatics (who, for the record, come in both the titty bar and P.E.-showering variety).

No, the fairness thing is different. It's not fair that my wonderful friends O-Lan and Halldor can be married while my other wonderful friends Ann and Susie cannot. They've been together the same amount of time; longer, even. They own property. They're raising a terrific kid.

Moreover, Ann and Susie probably wouldn't give a crap about getting married even if they could. They're not exactly flag-wavers for most of the dominant paradigms, Susie's corporate gig notwithstanding (well, how else do people afford health insurance?). But that's not the point; the point is (all together now): It's. Not. Fair.

So I'm clicking around on the SAG Pension & Health site, waiting for the nice lady on the other end of the line to give me authorization for 10 more shrink visits since a certain anniversary has apparently triggered some sort of mini-meltdown, and I stumble on a motherlode of links about alternative partnerships, and the creation, dissolution and legality of such. Makes sense: if you're crazyy enough to be an actor, chances are you're queer, off-kilter, or both.

My favorite of the sites, the Alternatives to Marriage Project (a.k.a., has its own mongo cache of fun links, including: "Famous People in Unmarried Relationships (Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are only the beginning!)"; jokes ("why don't melons marry? they cantaloupe"); and separate sections on being polyamorous and/or marriagefree ("as free as the wiiiind bloooows...").

44899508_beda70a2b2But my favorite-favorite link brought me to something I'd never heard about: The Marriage Boycott. Basically, The Marriage Boycott is a solidarity movement: straight couples refusing to marry until gay couples are allowed the same privileges. Which, at first glance sounds kind of silly, who's gonna care, right? Until you think it through, at which point is gets kind of genius: it makes the personal the political in a really huge way, which can be useful in (a), converting potential grandparents who are sticklers for their offspring's offspring being legitimate to the Side of Good or (b), getting Aunt Agatha and the mah-jongg crew to wake up and smell the Sanka.

Of course, to be maximally effective it'd help to have some extreme types sign on, your Town & Country demo, your Tri-Delt debs, your future ex-Mrs. Donald Trumps, but every little bit helps.

Anyone care to propose? I'm ready and willing to turn you down.

For the cause, of course.

xxx c

Flickr photos "Drunken Brides" and "Drunken Bridesmaid" by LightsOutFilms

Quotation of the Day

Calling all Californians

I'll confess straight off: I'm not exactly super-hot on marriage as in institution. I succumbed once, it didn't take, and the entire experience left me with big questions about the codification of relationships.

And yet. And yet...

Until every gay person has the same right to parent a child that the most irresponsible straight person has now...

Until all gay couples in primary relationships have the same rights to shared property and access that straight, married couples have now...

Until the whitest, uptightest, far-right-est person in America doesn't give a rat's patootie who sleeps with whom in whose bed and where they send their kids to school in the morning...

...I've gotta say, we need this to happen.

I was deleting those emails about calling the Governor's office to urge him to sign AB 849, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (come on, people...there's a FLOOD, here, fer criminy) but after reading this eloquent plea from John August, renowned screenwriter, generous blogger, gay father, I finally called today.

The number to the Governor's office is: (916) 445-2841.

If that's busy, you can try one of the local numbers (he's got branches!):

Fresno: 559-445-5295

Los Angeles: 213-897-0322

Riverside: 951-680-6860

San Diego: 619-525-4641

San Francisco: 415-703-2218

It's the right thing to do and offers an excellent glowy-feeling-to-effort-expended ratio. I highly recommend it.

xxx c

UPDATE: That spineless weasel. Call anyway. Register your extreme displeasure. I swear, how many times in one week do I have to be ashamed to call myself an American?

Quotation of the Day/Katrina edition

Found in the comments section to this rant on Steve Gilliard's The News Blog against Bush, his administration and his many supporters:

Steve: I understand your anger, but this is not the time for finger pointing. It's the time for calm, moderate, actions like putting the entire Bush administration on a chain gang and sentencing them to clean the streets of NOLO on their hands and knees for the rest of the their miserable, ugly, wasteful lives.

, Citizen K

xxx c

[thanks, Ken]

On punctal plugs, fatty acids and healthy fears of elective procedures

As I: (a) must needs wear contacts on occasion to pursue That Hobby That Provides Me With Health Care; (b) am cursed with two of the driest, flattest eyeballs on record; and (c) am rather vocal on the discomfort this combination produces, my long-suffering optometrist has been suggesting for years that I consider punctal occlusion as a means of relief...for both of us. (He has also started suggesting that I entertain the idea of bifocals, which is even more galling, albeit for entirely different reasons.) While I'm sure none of you would take issue with the insertion of soft plastic or silicone inserts into one of the three eentsy-weentsy ducts that supply lubrication to the eye while you were wide-fucking-awake, I, an admitted crank, have a bit of a problem with it. And Lasik? Why anyone who wasn't 99.9999% blind already would let a complete stranger cut a flap in their eyeball with a burning-hot laser, while they were wide-fucking-awake*, is so beyond me it's crossed the International Date Line twice, stopped for pizza and laid down for a short nap.

Actually, it's the cavalier attitude most of the medical profession seems to take with elective surgery that really blows my mind. I'm not surprised civilians want tighter tummies and freedom from the tyranny of corrective lenses, but I am a little blown away that there are so many people who've sworn an oath to first-do-no-harm who apparently believe it's enormously helpful to slice and dice someone to feelings of self-fulfillment. And I'm not talking about the saints who give poor little deformed children a shot at some kind of a life; I'm talking about people spending years of their life in med school to learn how to make Michael Jackson's face even scarier. Didn't we all see that Twilight Zone episode where they only had to hire four actors to make the point about everyone being beautiful in their own special way?** Where is the love, people?

The thing is, some doctors are just plain rotten and NO doctor knows everything. Sure, they take that oath thingy and I'm sure most of them really, really mean it***, but still, just because they went to school longer than you did doesn't mean they know everything. Remember, this is the same brotherhood that used to think Thalidomide was a good idea for pregnant ladies. So while I'm really, really careful about the doctors I'll let anywhere near me, I'm equally careful about what I will and won't let the elite cadre prescribe for me. So far, I've done fine hanging onto that gallbladder, uterus and large intestine; on the other hand, I really wish I'd followed my gut on hormonal birth control, the little purple ring that sent me into my first bona fide Crohn's flare.

My bottom line is this: there is no silver bullet. I'm a firm believer in Newton's Third Law of Physics and the wisdom of Blood, Sweat & Tears: everything, from vitamins Tom Cruise is pushing**** to the prednisone that saved my bacon back in 2002 to that baby aspirin old Doc Shafton warned my mother about, is going to do something else besides the thing you took it to do.

Still, sometimes you gotta do something about your flat, dry eyeballs. The least invasive procedure wins my vote, and in this case, it looks like increasing my ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids could help the dryness factor. In fact, since I'm pretty sure increasing that ratio could help, period, I'm seizing this eyeball thing as my opportunity to cut back on bad fats, slow my caffeine creep, and generally reverse the long, slow slide into total physical neglect I've been enjoying for months now.

Maybe it'll work; maybe it won't.

But we'll see, won't we?

xxx c

*Especially people in CALIFORNIA, where there are EARTHQUAKES that happen WITHOUT WARNING, including DURING YOUR SURGERY. If you must slice & dice, go somewhere where you're pretty much guaranteed the ground under your doctor's feet won't move in mid-flap.

**Or, for that matter, the other one where they didn't have to pay any actors at all to make the point.

***This includes the Boneheaded Yet Otherwise Highly-Skilled Colorectal Surgeon who neglected to tell me how advanced my Crohn's was until it was so far gone he felt it appropriate to sketch pictures at my hospital bedside of the new rectum he was going to build for me. Remember, surgeons like to cut; that's what they do.

****For the record, while I think Tom Cruise is an utter asshat for dressing down anyone who has found blessed relief from chemical imbalance through the miracle of SSRIs, when my shrink wanted to put me on anti-depressants, I researched causes of depression on the Interweb and found enough natural ways to keep the demon at bay that I could let the talk therapy do its thing. But, unlike Mr. Couch-Jumper, I fully understand the concept of YMMV. Tom Cruise = Scientologist nutcase; communicatrix = product of hippie-60s upbringing. 'Nuff said.

(Felix and) Oscar

Somewhere back in the 1980's, someone shanghai'd my Oscars® and turned them into a who-cares fest. At least, that's all I can think after (half-)watching 3+ hours of Hollywood crapping all over the Kodak Theater last night. For too long now, the only thing fun about the Academy Awards® has been the parties, and I think that sentiment goes double for those unfortunates sitting captive in the audience. Most of them look like they'd prefer gum surgery over being stuck in a big red candy box watching Josh Groban rip it up with Beyoncé. At least the periodontist offers high-quality intoxicants.

Do yourself a favor and quit trying to be hip. You can't: the hip train has moved on; it no longer stops at network stations. Either move the whole shebang to HBO and let the freaks run the show or go back to the old-school faux glam that you do better than anyone.

But whatever you do, for chrissakes, 86 the "creative" award presentation. The humiliation of receiving an award at one's seat is exceeded only by not receiving one on the stage with the rest of the nominees.

My vote? Pull the plug on the whole free-televised thing, put it back in a big restaurant, serve shitloads of booze and make it a pay-per-view event. The farther Oscar® gets away from his closed, dinner-and-booze-fiesta roots, the more he acts like Felix: precious, overly-organized and about as much fun as watching glittery, registered-trademark paint dry.

xxx c

Tools for change

I may be passing smart about some stuff but I'm a political dunderhead, so my head is still reeling from a pair of articles I found this morning via Maximus Clarke's The Situation Room. Both offer fascinating insight into the current political climate in America, which is reason enough to read them; additionally, one offers some sound suggestions for the left if we ever plan to participate in the governing of our country again. The first, by Lew Rockwell, is a dissection of the American right's move from DIY conservatism towards the state-legislated variety we're currently enjoying. He calls it "The most significant socio-political shift in our time" and I think he may be right. I'm old enough to remember the Reagan Years, I'm even old enough to have voted against him...twice, and while there was certainly a budding conservative or two knocking about in the Delta Gamma house, there was nothing like the rabid hatred of the left that reared its ugly head in the last election. Our baby Republicans were tolerant and even respectful of the more (ahem) iconoclastic misfits in their midst, and none of us were very enthusiastic about authority meddling with our pursuit of anything, particularly happiness.

Rockwell starts with the 1994 Congressional elections. He quotes "a stunningly prescient memo" by fellow Libertarian, Murray L. Rothbard, who called the trouncing of the Democrats

...a massive and unprecedented public repudiation of President Clinton, his person, his personnel, his ideologies and programs, and all of his works; plus a repudiation of Clinton's Democrat Party; and, most fundamentally, a rejection of the designs, current and proposed, of the Leviathan he heads…. what is being rejected is big government in general (its taxing, mandating, regulating, gun grabbing, and even its spending) and, in particular, its arrogant ambition to control the entire society from the political center.

I have to say that while I voted for Clinton twice, I was stunned by what seemed to be either complete hubris or complete blindness to historical context. We had just come off of eight years of hero worship and four more of wishful thinking: did he really think all of those people who voted Republican suddenly wanted sweeping social reform and a two-for-the-price-of-one presidency?

Building on Rothbard, Rockwell goes on to suggest that the Monica Lewinsky escapade was the galvanizing force in realigning middle class loyalties:

(T)his event crystallized the partisanship of the bourgeoisie, driving home the message that the real problem was Clinton and not government; the immorality of the chief executive, not his power; the libertinism of the left-liberals and not their views toward government. The much heralded "leave us alone" coalition had been thoroughly transformed in a pure anti-Clinton movement. The right in this country began to define itself not as pro-freedom, as it had in 1994, but simply as anti-leftist, as it does today.

There's been much talk of how the Democrats dropped the ball this last election, of how the Republican party walked away with the prize because whether you liked it or not (and apparently, roughly half of the voters didn't), they at least had a platform. Jingoistic or not, they stood for something, family values, national security, apple pie and Chevrolet, and by wrapping it all up in God and country, they staked out the patriotic high ground as "real" Americans and branded dissenters as hedonistic, America-hating scum.

Rather than getting our undies in a bundle about conservatives and their newfound fundamentalist fervor, the second post on Clarke's most excellent site suggests we take a page from their book, co-opt their rhetoric and reclaim the moral high ground.

Clarke references a terrific article by Davidson Loehr which Clarke found via Digby's blog. Loehr makes the case that the various flavors of fundamentalism is more similar (strict gender roles, no separation of church and state, strongly homophobic, etc.) than different (Christian, Muslim, Jewish), suggesting that fundamentalism is rooted in something far older than religion. In other words, we're hard-wired to survive, survival way back when meant some pretty strict rules, and the rules laid down by fundamentalism speak to some primal human need that must be addressed:

When liberal visions work, it's because they have kept one foot solidly in our deep territorial impulses with the other foot free to push the margin, to expand the definition of those who belong in “our” territory.

When liberal visions fail, it is often because they fail to achieve just this kind of balance between our conservative impulses and our liberal needs.

Over the past half century, many of our liberal visions have been too narrow, too self-absorbed, too unbalanced. This imbalance has been a key factor in triggering recent fundamentalist uprisings. When liberals don't lead well, others don't follow. And when society doesn't follow liberal visions, liberals haven't led.

What's wonderful about this is that understanding this basic human need means we can address it rather than (hopelessly) fighting it:

Just as it's no coincidence that all fundamentalisms have similar agendas, it's also no coincidence that the most successful liberal advances tend to wrap their expanded definitions in what sound like conservative categories.

Like, as Loehr points out, JFK and his challenge to young America. Or MLK invoking God's name in the interest of inclusion.

It's tougher to invoke God when you're not a believer, but as Digby says:

...we can do this by using our sacred political symbols to illustrate what we believe in. People use the Bible and that's just fine. But it isn't the only game in town. "This Land Is Your Land" can bring a tear to the eye as well. And if (Loehr) is correct in that religion is being used in service of something far more primal than we realize then there is definitely more than one way to skin a cat.

Meow, baby.

xxx c


The Fundamentalist Agenda, by Davidson Loehr Evolutionary Theology, from Digby's Blog Fighting Fundamentalism, from The Situation Room

"...and a little blog shall lead them."

My activist friend, Judy, who keeps me abreast of all important demonstrations, underfunded causes and Nefarious Evildoings of the Neo-Fascist Regime in Their Neverending Quest for Global Domination, is the one who pressed me to see The Corporation this summer. (Frankly, I would have preferred to see Riding Giants with my then-boyfriend and his surfing buddies, but I could sense that relationship was on the decline and felt my time might be better spent with actual friends who genuinely gave a crap about me.) Judy, ever the organizer, assembled a mini-caravan of people from our old workplace and my final Day Job, a stint in the research department of a large media-buying concern here in Los Angeles. Because while the company was home to many of the kinds of disenfranchised people you usually find doing monkey work in L.A. businesses, actors, photographers, radical lesbian feminists with multiple piercings and Interesting Hair, it was also a powerhouse media shop full of incredibly smart, wildly capable advertising mavens, and one of them had been interviewed for The Corporation, a documentary about the rise and rise of the corporate structure in America. (She was also very unkindly skewered for her zeal in various reviews, but we'll let that go for now.)

It was too long by a good half-hour and even the new seats at the NuArt haven't the heavenly, George Jetson-level of ahhhh that the ArcLight's do, but The Corporation kicked some serious documentary ass. In a surprisingly balanced way, it explained the trajectory of the American corporation from its (very) humble beginnings as a legal construct designed to protect and nurture fledgling businesses to the unassailable monolith it is perceived by many (including, in some instances, me) to have become.

Now, I do not hate business. Or advertising. Or money or power or Republicans. (Religion I'm a little shaky on, but since I've met some really cool, super-tolerant and loving people who are, in fact, devout followers of various religions, I'm trying to keep an open mind.) I think few things are inherently evil and none of the aforementioned (with the possible exception of religion) could begin to qualify. But as an observer of the media all of my life (both my grandfather and father were in the advertising business) and a player for a good chunk of it, I can absolutely agree that things have gotten out of hand, that the lust for money/power/total world domination has spiraled out of control and something needs to be done to shift the balance of power, especially in this country.

So how do you dismantle the corporate structure? How do you pierce the impregnable, scale the unscalable, attack the unassailable? How do you bring Goliath to his knees? (See? I do so like the Bible!)

With a David. Or rather, with a million billion zillion Davids. Only David, it appears, is manifesting in our time as the blog.

It's been all over the blogosphere for months and it's all over the mainstream media these days. Well, mostly. Time missed the boat with its annual cover, but ABC News and now Fortune have essentially anointed bloggers as People of the Year. We seem to have hit critical mass, and if my own usual place on the techno-assimilation scale is any example (I'm in that slim slice of the pie between Early Adopter and Mass Assimilation, kind of like the freaky, tail-end 1960-64 part of the Baby Boom I'm also in), blogs really are ready to hit the mainstream now. So even with the story about blogs, blogs are leading the way, which gives me hope.

The trick to toppling the reigning power is to find its weakness and expose it. To everyone. The corporation's weakness is not its bottom line but its unassailability, its Death Star-like way of sealing itself into an invisible sphere with a sheer face that makes it virtually impossible to attack. The secret, of course, is not to try to fight fire with fire, but with, say, darts or the Millenium Falcon or tickling, in the exact right spot.

I think the naked emporer construct is really the best metaphor* for the way blogs work vis-à-vis corporations. The Kryptonite Factor, which I discovered via Hugh MacLeod who discovered it via Rick Bruner who discovered it, I believe, via Engadget, was basically an exposé of a flaw in the ubiquitous mac-daddy of bike locks, the Kryptonite, wherein one bike enthusiast figured out you could bust the unbustable with a Bic pen. Kryptonite gets wind of the blog unrest and posts lame morsel of non-response on its corporate website (westandbyourproduct; ourproductisgreat). Blogosphere is outraged and goes wild; story gets picked up by the majors (New York Times, AP); Kryptonite is ultimately forced into action, admitting culpability by offering to exchange any affected lock, free. From the Fortune article:

"It's been, I don't necessarily want to use the word 'devastating', but it's been serious from a business perspective," says marketing director Karen Rizzo. Kryptonite's parent, Ingersoll-Rand, said it expects the fiasco to cost $10 million, a big chunk of Kryptonite's estimated $25 million in revenues. Ten days, $10 million. "Had they responded earlier, they might have stopped the anger before it hit the papers and became widespread," says Andrew Bernstein, CEO of Cymfony, a data-analysis company that watches the web for corporate customers and provides warning of such impending catastrophes.

I doubt that the goal of most blogs is to bring anyone down. There are as many reasons for writing blogs as there are bloggers. Well, that's not true; there's probably more like five or six reasons, and variations on a theme. But from my brief time in the blogosphere (8 months reading, 2+ blogging) I find that the blogs I frequent have two things in common: a clear voice and an honest intention. Transparency is key in the blogosphere, which is I think why the old school marketers are having kind of a rough time figuring out how to cash in on this whole blog thing. I spent years in advertising wrestling the twin demons of spin and obfuscation, and ultimately, I got plumb tuckered out.

Problem is, that's almost the sum total of weaponry in the marketing arsenal, and it's no longer enough. Blogs may be small but we wield the mighty sword of truth, and we'll wave it as we please.

The bike lock is buck naked.

xxx c

*I'm forever dancing through fields of metaphors, (punctuated by parenthetical remarks) trailing ellipses in my wake. Sigh....


Fortune: "Why There's No Escaping the Blog" ABC News: "People of the Year: Bloggers"

Citizens of the world, unite

With the latest death count from the earthquake/tsunami passing 52,000, even a normally ethnocentric cocooner like me can't help but be moved to action. Maybe it's the sheer magnitude of the devastation. Maybe it's my embarrassment by the shamefully inadequate response by both our news sources (the lead story on the radio news just now was of property damage from flooding in, get this, Southern California) and our government ("stingy" doesn't begin to describe the paltry amount of initial aid we're sending) that's getting me off my ass. Or maybe it's just because this time, I know someone, my friend and fellow blogger, Evelyn Rodriguez, who was caught in the middle of the storm (her leg is broken, but she and her boyfriend are both alright).

Whatever the reason, my usual neat-'n'-tidy donation to the Red Cross didn't help and my extra blankets and clothes are apparently too far from the source of need to be of much help just now. So I figured what the hell, I'd do a little praying (I absolutely credit the prayers made by many friends and friends of friends for my pulling through the Crohn's onset over two years ago).

The answer, or part of it, anyway, came in a flash: get the U.S. to donate the amount we'd be spending on inaugural festivities to the relief effort. Atrios pointed out in a post today that as a country, our initial pledge of $15 million in relief was shameful next to the $30-40 million (plus security) that's earmarked for the inauguration, so I'm sure that's where the idea came from, but ordinarily, I'd say "harrumph!" and go back to my coffee.

Instead, I wrote two letters, one to President Bush, one to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, asking that as a start, we scrap the festivities and donate the money to relief as a pledge of solidarity with our brothers in need. God knows I won't make much of a difference (and leading a crusade is not in my nature) but perhaps if the few of you that read me do the same with your own elected officials, we can get some action.

I'm posting my letters to cut and paste, if you like, but feel free to write your own.

To President Bush:

I'm sure that you are as saddened as the rest of the world over the devastation that the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunamis have wrought upon our friends in Southeast Asia.

I've been following the news with a growing heaviness of heart, not sure what I can do to help beyond the usual donation of money to relief organizations. The magnitude of the tragedy is so huge, I feel like extra attention must be paid.

While I was praying for the victims, an idea came to me: why not donate the money we as a country would be spending on our upcoming inaugural celebration to these people in need? Surely, we can't feel like celebrating on such a grand scale while there is so much suffering we could ease with a small sacrifice on our part?

I think that both the citizens of our great nation and the citizens of the world would be greatly served--and moved--by this simple act of generosity.

Please consider making this gift to the world in its time of need on behalf of the United States. Not only would it be a fitting and gracious gesture, it would be an extraordinary legacy for an American president to leave.


Colleen Wainwright

And to Senators Boxer & Feinstein:

I'm sure you've been following the news of the devastation in Southeast Asia with the same horror and heaviness of heart as the rest of us.

I must add my own voice to that of thousands insisting that additional U.S. aid be sent to the victims.

As many have pointed out, we are sending but a fraction of the amount we will be spending on our upcoming inauguration--festivities that are somewhat inappropriate given the pain and suffering that hundreds of thousands will likely still be reeling from as they attempt to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Why not send the right message to the rest of the world and start by donating the amount we'd spend on the inauguration and having a simple swearing-in ceremony?

I hope you'll consider this type of measure specifically, and support the donation of greater relief in general. It is high time that Americans start recognizing we cannot be citizens of a truly great nation unless we are citizens of the world as well.

More links I've found interesting and/or helpful below. I hope all of you who are reading are well and safe, along with your loved ones.

xxx c


Up-to-date info and aid resources from Send an email to the President and your elected representatives here. The latest NASA photo of Mother Nature's fury (which is also the JPEG above left). Evelyn Rodriguez blogs about the devastation from Thailand.

UPDATE: Evelyn Rodriguez has posted a post-tsunami update from Bangkok. She's on her way home Thursday and her knee was just really cut up (she's on crutches) but not broken. Hey, I'm a shitty reporter with a flair for the dramatic. Evelyn, I'm just glad you're okay and coming home soon.

Buy now, pay later

black friday As if the disturbing display of consumptive zealotry to the left above (found at Drudge via my new-favorite blog, Gawker) wasn't enough incentive, an excellent post this morning on Eschaton has me pondering the heretofore unthinkable: a gift-free holiday season.

Hecate's point is to use a shop-out in protest; as he says in the headline to his post, "All I Want for Xmas is Fair and Verifiable Elections." Which ain't a bad gift. I'd sleep better at night knowing that the rightfully chosen candidate was presiding over our fair country for the next four years, even if I didn't vote for him. (Okay, especially if I didn't vote for him.)

But thousands (or hundreds...or dozens...) of people picketing...Diebold HQ? Maybe not so impactful. Thousands of consumers putting the Visa on ice? Now there's an interesting proposition:

This year, I'm urging everyone I know to refuse to spend money for Xmas as a protest. Stay out of the stores. For Goddess sake, don't run up credit card debt. Give your family and friends the gift of your time and attention rather than a new sweater that they won't wear or some object to clutter-up an already over-cluttered life. But just not buying isn't enough. You've got to contact the retailers and credit card companies and tell them: I'm not going to be buying Xmas stuff and I'm not going to be charging Xmas stuff until this country has a system in place that ensures fair and verifiable elections. Reader Kate has done the research and discovered that The National Retail Federation “is the world's largest retail trade association . . . .” Write to Their Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs, Katherine Lugar. Here's her contact info:

National Retail Federation 325 7th Street, N.W. Suite 1100 Washington, D.C. 20004 Phone: 1-800-NRF-HOW2 Fax (202) 727-2849

Write to your credit card companies and tell them the same thing. You can find the address on the back of your latest bill. And, heck if you're really angry about this last election, write to the large department stores that you patronize, or at least cc them on your letter to the National Retail Federation. CC your Senators and Congressman or Congresswoman as well.

I will also have to write to my beloved agent, assuring him that his annual Guitar Center certificate will be on its way once the mess is behind us. He is one of the real Christians, so I'm sure he'll understand, but it makes me feel terrible just the same.

xxx c

P.S. An interesting skew on the boycott issue in an excellent post from Fact-esque (via Eschaton) as well. S/he points out that a targeted boycott of, say, Wal-Mart might be more focussed and effective and serve the additional end of bringing attention to the nefarious practices of one of America's ickiest retailers.

P.P.S An even better suggestion posted at Eschaton by Thumb: go small, go local, go green, go etc. As a small business owner of sorts myself, I'm surprised I didn't think of it (except that I'm still in Thanksgiving coma).

I'm sure there is a dandy local gee-tar shop in L.A. that would love my gift certificate biz. And I don't think Harry & David is a big-box giant. (Not sure about their labor policies, though. Damn. I love those pears...)

Screw family togetherness

Okay, that's not exactly how I feel. And I'm not an advocate of stirring up trouble, really. Hell, I barely have any family left to throw up against the metaphorical wall, anyway. Alcoholism, workaholism and ridiculous squabbling over money have reduced my once-vast clan to a small (but fantastic, generous and hardy) few (for whom I am extremely grateful, thankyouverymuch).

Plus, because of our family dispersal pattern, I'm celebrating this holiday with a few geographically (and otherwise) desirable friends who are as whack-job liberal as I am, so I don't anticipate any need for backup.

But Atrios has such a great post on how to deal with, um, non-likeminded relatives of the loud and/or bellicose variety that I had to hook y'alls up with the link.

And I'm copping his fantastic strategy for dealing with the choice issue for my non-holiday use, as well:

(Additional note: If the issue of abortion comes up I'm at the ready with a line of question I've had some recent successes with: Ask them to guess where the US ranks in infant mortality rate. Tell them Sweden, with the lowest infant mortality rate, ranks #1. Press them to guess where the US falls after that. Really, get their best guess. The correct and highly embarasing answer for these self-rightious, Holier Then Thou, save the babies at all costs crusaders is . . . 41st. Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate. Let them chew on that.)

Woo-hoo! An abortion post on Thanksgiving!

Happy-happy, everyone!

xxx c

"And on the seventh day, God created Darwin"

Nothing like a little cheery news from Yahoo! about the separation of church and state going to hell in a handbasket to make your morning:

DOVER, Pa. - When talk at the high school here turns to evolution, biology teachers have to make time for Charles Darwin as well as his detractors. With avote last month, the school board in rural south-central Pennsylvania community is believed to have become the first in the nation to mandate the teaching of "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power.

Sweet! But it gets better:

The revision was spearheaded by school board member William Buckingham, who heads the board's curriculum committee.

"I think it's a downright fraud to perpetrate on the students of this district, to portray one theory over and over," said Buckingham. "What we wanted was a balanced presentation."

Buckingham wanted the board to adopt an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins," as a supplement to the traditional biology book, but no vote was ever taken. A few weeks before the new science curriculum was approved, 50 copies were anonymously donated to the high school.

Although Buckingham describes himself as a born-again Christian and believes in creationism, "This is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone else," he said.

Nah. It's that Anonymous Donor Guy. Um, gal. Yeah, it's her fault. Those broads are so pushy: give 'em the vote, all of a sudden they think they own the joint.


Why John Fleck won't be home for Christmas

Lest anyone think that the next four years will be business as usual, I'm posting this op-ed piece my friend, performance artist/actor and NEA Four activist, John Fleck, sent off to The Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Advocate:


I grew up in Cleveland. For the last 20 years in Los Angeles, I've survived fairly well as an actor/performance artist. Always, I return home at least once a year, usually for a holiday visit to my 5 brothers & sisters and 12 nieces & nephews living in the Strongsville, Brunswick area. However, I just notified my family I won't be coming this year. It breaks my heart. But, as a gay man, Ohio has clearly disowned me. How can I call it home anymore?

What has truly poisoned Ohio for me is the passage of Issue One stating that Ohio will recognize marriage only between a man and a woman. To compound the injury, it also states that the state does not have to recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships.

The burning issue for Ohio voters was morality, not the economy, recently earning Cleveland the designation of America's poorest city. Not the dubious morality of being lied to by a born-again administration for invading a sovereign country that harbored no immediate enemy killing over a 100,000 of its citizens and 1,200 of our men & women in uniform.

Morals aren't mentioned when discussing the 46 million Americans living without health coverage or the one out of five American children living in poverty. And of course, morals are another issue when turning over national public wild spaces to Oil Companies or giving away the publics airwaves to a few corporate behemoths.

But morals are the issue when it comes to 2 gay people loving one another and wanting some recognition of their long term commitments. Given that the faith-based Republican Party now controls every branch of government, when will a woman's right to choose be next on the chopping block?

Marriage itself is not my issue. You heterosexuals have tainted that sacred concept to the point that I don‚t want it. But to deny my neighbors, a gay couple who have been together for 21 years with 3 children, even the slightest bit of dignity and legal protection of their union; to deny them a civil union contract that might enable them to get health insurance for their children or the right to see one another in the hospital if one of them falls ill is truly morally repugnant.

So I urge every gay man & woman not to return home to Ohio for the holidays. We're not wanted. Perhaps our families will call others and get the word out that some of Ohio's brightest and loveliest won't be returning home this holiday season. But make no mistake about it. We're not leaving for good. Once we get over the betrayal, we will return soon, and in force with marching boots on, because this is a fight for the soul of America. I believe gay rights is the foremost civil rights issue of this decade. Let the battle begin.

I think that a big, fat increase in activism might be the silver lining in the cloud of this painful election.

I sure as hell hope so.