Thursday, September 30, 2004

Jon Stewart -- I mean, John Kerry, he's our man!

I choose to remember this from the 2004 election season: Jon Stewart arguing to Rudy Guliani that in the debate tonight John Kerry showed consistency in voicing his support for the war while he criticized the way the war has been managed. When Guliani insisted that Kerry had contradicted himself and failed to present a strong opinion on the war, Stewart admitted, "Maybe it was just my tv."

Let's go to Wisconsin!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Canvassing in Wisconsin - Ride the Bus for Kerry!

This is where I'll be this Saturday. Who's with me?

Link to sign-up: http://volunteer.johnkerry.com/event/view/?id=20720

Saturday, Oct. 2 at 9:00 AM at:

Kerry HQ
57 W Grand Ave
Chicago

and

DPoE HQ
826 Custer
Evanston

[IllinoisforKerry.com Event:] Your help is needed! We need canvassers for a trip to Wisconsin to assist the campaign there. Of all the battleground states near Illinois, Wisconsin needs to the most help. Come be part of regime change! Volunteers will ride the bus to southern Wisconsin. Bus travel expenses, lunch, and all necessary training will be provided.

Please RSVP back to NIKerryTravelers@yahoo.com. Your RSVP should include the following information for EACH traveler:

Full Name:
Cell Phone:
Board Chicago/Evanston:
I can drive X people:

Link to sign-up: http://volunteer.johnkerry.com/event/view/?id=20720

Volunteers are asked to arrive at their respective locations at 9:00 am to get checked in with the coordinator.

Bus leaves Chicago - Kerry HQ - 57 W Grand Ave. Chicago @9:30 am
Bus leaves Evanston - DPoE HQ - 826 Custer in Evanston @9:30 am

Canvassers will probably be back in Chicago/Evanston by 8:00pm Saturday night. Volunteers will be responsible for paying for their Saturday dinner.

If You're Not Registered to Vote In Illinois, Your LAST DAY TO REGISTER IS THIS TUESDAY OCT. 5th

Registering takes just a few minutes -- register now at:

http://moveonpac.org/vote/?id=3855-1235313-ThDFQolA5Nc6CjlRgJIsdw


Once you've filled out the form, print it out, sign it, and be sure to mail it in. This is your LAST CHANCE to register in Illinois to vote in the Nov. 2nd presidential election.

If you live in Illinois and you aren't registered to vote by next Tuesday, you do not get to help decide who wins the presidency.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Finally, the sun has stopped!

Finally, the sun has stopped! We have had such sunny weather in Chicago, for weeks now, that I grew tired of it a while ago. Why this relentless, bright weather? Every day, every day clear skies, clear skies. I'm serious. If I wanted sunny weather all September long, I would have stayed in California (where I was born and raised).

Finally, the sun has stopped and the rain has come out. I felt so happy getting caught in a rainshower this morning. The wind blew cold-wet raindrops against my glasses as I beamed up at the gray-white sky. This is the Chicago I love. Today I feel fine!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Depression

Depression is partly genetically determined: you inherit it from your parents. I'm serious. Depression is a mental disorder that has a chemical component and you have to be biologically predisposed to it or it won't manifest. That's why people can undergo the exact same stressors and some will become clinically depressed while others won't. Maybe people without depressive characteristics respond to stress by drinking or eating poorly or overcommitting themselves to too many projects. People with different mental disorders might respond to stress by going manic or delusional, etc. And then there are those of us that just go into depression.

It's a chronic condition and like other chronic conditions, the symptoms can be alleviated with treatment. Mine is greatly helped with medication and therapy, but like other chronic conditions there are good days and bad days. On the bad days, the depressive symptoms "flare up" : the despair, the crying, the anger, the self-hatred, etc. On those days, you just have to tend to the symptoms and take it easy on yourself and just do whatever it takes to make yourself feel better. One of the most effective short-term ways to reduce the depressive symptoms that I've found, is exercise.

Yes, believe it or not, on days when I've taken my meds but still I feel like complete crap and the demons of doubt take over and I just want the pain to stop, the best thing I can do is get myself to a gym and hit the cardio machines. I put my feet and arms through the motions of the machine, an emotional zombie unable to break the frozen stare that masks the feeling of desperation underneath. I'm convinced that my life is bleak and will never be anything but bleak and as many times as I've failed all I have to look forward to is more failure. I suck.

But after maybe 15-20 minutes, the exercise prompts my body to produce more stablizing chemicals, like dopamine and endorphins. Slowly, my mind begins to turn from the really bleak, hopeless focus and the negative mind chatter stops. I become distracted by what's in front of me ("is that parking lot open now?" or "wow, really small kids are in that karate class"). Between 20 and 45 minutes, the mask begins to thaw and I finally start to feel a bit more human. By the time I get off the machine, the worst of the gloom has lifted and I'm able to go on with my day without the punishing mind chatter. At least for a while.

Maybe when I start the exercise, I'm so bad off that I actually start weeping as I operate the cardio machine. I have, in the past, just bawled during a workout. Yes, at Bally's. Yes, so what. I am one of the world's great weepers. I'll cry just about anywhere, I don't care. I've opened up and wept on the el, while standing by a flower bed on Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile part), while walking down the street downtown during rush hour, in church, at a live music performance (watching, not performing, although I'm sure it's just a a matter of time..) and at several of the major airports throughout the U.S. Oh, yeah, I have no problem with public crying in broad daylight.

But crying on a cardio machine doesn't last long. As the machine works my body, the chemicals start to straighten out (serotonin, dopamine, endorphins) and by the time I'm done with an hour workout, the depression is better. The improvement is temporary and it could be slight, but I can rely on it. Thank god.

Besides that, the depression just has to run its course, like a herpes outbreak or a bad arthritis day. You treat the symptoms, take it easy on yourself and don't bother trying to elicit sympathy from people who don't believe depression is chronic condition. Anyone who deep down thinks you should just snap out of it (concentrate on something else, make a decision to have a good day, etc.) is not your ally at this time. Avoid talking about your depression with them.

I wish I had a good depression website to recommend, but I don't. Does anyone else?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Dating, Part Four: 22 1/2 Years of Failure

Am I just incapable of falling in love? Is it possible that this is the one problem that I can't solve, no matter how much money I spend, no matter how many approaches and techniques I try, no matter how many decades I work on it?

I've been dating since I was 15. Here's to twenty-two and a half (22.5) years of failure.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

God #$%^-ing Dammit, Moore Is Right!

I hereby declare before all of Blog-dom that I am done whining. From here on out, I just keep on marching (canvassing, etc.). Michael Moore is totally right: the rightwingers NEVER give up, not even for a SECOND, not even to straighten their hypocrisy-dipped bowties...or something...I don't know...I'm worked up...

Republicans never believe they're whipped, even when they're whipped. Maybe "God" IS on their side, so what? We have Al Franken.

So that's it: any more hand-wringing and nay-saying goes on only in my head. FORWARD! To Wisconsin!

Who's with me?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Put Away Your Hankies - a message from Michael Moore

Dear Friends,

Enough of the handwringing! Enough of the doomsaying! Do I have to come there and personally calm you down? Stop with all the defeatism, OK? Bush IS a goner -- IF we all just quit our whining and bellyaching and stop shaking like a bunch of nervous ninnies. Geez, this is embarrassing! The Republicans are laughing at us. Do you ever see them cry, "Oh, it's all over! We are finished! Bush can't win! Waaaaaa!"

Hell no. It's never over for them until the last ballot is shredded. They are never finished -- they just keeping moving forward like sharks that never sleep, always pushing, pulling, kicking, blocking, lying.

They are relentless and that is why we secretly admire them -- they just simply never, ever give up. Only 30% of the country calls itself "Republican," yet the Republicans own it all -- the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and the majority of the governorships. How do you think they've been able to pull that off considering they are a minority? It's because they eat you and me and every other liberal for breakfast and then spend the rest of the day wreaking havoc on the planet.

Look at us -- what a bunch of crybabies. Bush gets a bounce after his convention and you would have thought the Germans had run through Poland again. The Bushies are coming, the Bushies are coming! Yes, they caught Kerry asleep on the Swift Boat thing. Yes, they found the frequency in Dan Rather and ran with it. Suddenly it's like, "THE END IS NEAR! THE SKY IS FALLING!"

No, it is not. If I hear one more person tell me how lousy a candidate Kerry is and how he can't win... Dammit, of COURSE he's a lousy candidate -- he's a Democrat, for heavens sake! That party is so pathetic, they even lose the elections they win! What were you expecting, Bruce Springsteen heading up the ticket? Bruce would make a helluva president, but guys like him don't run -- and neither do you or I. People like Kerry run.

Yes, OF COURSE any of us would have run a better, smarter, kick-ass campaign. Of course we would have smacked each and every one of those phony swifty boaty bastards down. But WE are not running for president -- Kerry is. So quit complaining and work with what we have. Oprah just gave 300 women a... Pontiac! Did you see any of them frowning and moaning and screaming, "Oh God, NOT a friggin' Pontiac!" Of course not, they were happy. The Pontiacs all had four wheels, an engine and a gas pedal. You want more than that, well, I can't help you. I had a Pontiac once and it lasted a good year. And it was a VERY good year.

My friends, it is time for a reality check.

1. The polls are wrong. They are all over the map like diarrhea. On Friday, one poll had Bush 13 points ahead -- and another poll had them both tied. There are three reasons why the polls are b.s.: One, they are polling "likely voters." "Likely" means those who have consistently voted in the past few elections. So that cuts out young people who are voting for the first time and a ton of non-voters who are definitely going to vote in THIS election. Second, they are not polling people who use their cell phone as their primary phone. Again, that means they are not talking to young people. Finally, most of the polls are weighted with too many Republicans, as pollster John Zogby revealed last week. You are being snookered if you believe any of these polls.

2. Kerry has brought in the Clinton A-team. Instead of shunning Clinton (as Gore did), Kerry has decided to not make that mistake.

3. Traveling around the country, as I've been doing, I gotta tell ya, there is a hell of a lot of unrest out there. Much of it is not being captured by the mainstream press. But it is simmering and it is real. Do not let those well-produced Bush rallies of angry white people scare you. Turn off the TV! (Except Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers -- everything else is just a sugar-coated lie).

4. Conventional wisdom says if the election is decided on "9/11" (the fear of terrorism), Bush wins. But if it is decided on the job we are doing in Iraq, then Bush loses. And folks, that "job," you might have noticed, has descended into the third level of a hell we used to call Vietnam. There is no way out. It is a full-blown mess of a quagmire and the body bags will sadly only mount higher. Regardless of what Kerry meant by his original war vote, he ain't the one who sent those kids to their deaths -- and Mr. and Mrs. Middle America knows it. Had Bush bothered to show up when he was in the "service" he might have somewhat of a clue as to how to recognize an immoral war that cannot be "won." All he has delivered to Iraq was that plasticized turkey last Thanksgiving. It is this failure of monumental proportions that is going to cook his goose come this November.

So, do not despair. All is not over. Far from it. The Bush people need you to believe that it is over. They need you to slump back into your easy chair and feel that sick pain in your gut as you contemplate another four years of George W. Bush. They need you to wish we had a candidate who didn't windsurf and who was just as smart as we were when WE knew Bush was lying about WMD and Saddam planning 9/11. It's like Karl Rove is hypnotizing you -- "Kerry voted for the war...Kerry voted for the war...Kerrrrrryyy vooootted fooooor theeee warrrrrrrrrr..."

Yes...Yes...Yesssss...He did! HE DID! No sense in fighting now...what I need is sleep...sleeep...sleeeeeeppppp...

WAKE UP! The majority are with us! More than half of all Americans are pro-choice, want stronger environmental laws, are appalled that assault weapons are back on the street -- and 54% now believe the war is wrong. YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE TO CONVINCE THEM OF ANY OF THIS -- YOU JUST HAVE TO GIVE THEM A RAY OF HOPE AND A RIDE TO THE POLLS. CAN YOU DO THAT? WILL YOU DO THAT?

Just for me, please? Buck up. The country is almost back in our hands. Not another negative word until Nov. 3rd! Then you can bitch all you want about how you wish Kerry was still that long-haired kid who once had the courage to stand up for something. Personally, I think that kid is still inside him. Instead of the wailing and gnashing of your teeth, why not hold out a hand to him and help the inner soldier/protester come out and defeat the forces of evil we now so desperately face. Do we have any other choice?

Yours,
Michael Moore
9/20/04
www.michaelmoore.com
mmflint@aol.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Great Shows Tonight

Tonight I spend the evening in Wicker Park at these excellent events:


The Sheathens perform as part of Estrojam 2004!
Tuesday, Sept. 21
6:30 p.m.
at Filter
1585 N. Milwaukee Ave. (north/damen/milwaukee)

And then I'm going to see -

Nice Peter
Tuesday, Sept. 21
11:00 p.m.
The Double Door
1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Go here for a coupon for free admission before 10 p.m.

See you there!

Monday, September 20, 2004

I Love James Spader

CNN on the Emmy Awards last night: In a mild surprise, James Spader of "The Practice" won best actor in a drama, defeating "The Sopranos' " James Gandolfini and "Without a Trace's" Anthony La Paglia, who were considered the category's favorites. Spader's character is in a new show this fall, the "Practice" spinoff "Boston Legal."

I love James Spader. And that's all I have to say about it.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Hey, Let's Go to Wisconsin!

I spent Saturday going up to Wisconsin and canvassing for John Kerry. I have leftist friends who don't think Kerry is going to do much better than Bush, and my heart still belongs to Dennis Kucinich, but I can also face reality and do what needs to be done. To me the worst case scenario isn't Bush winning the election. The WORST case scenario is Bush winning the election and me knowing I hadn't done everything I could to prevent it.

So up to Kenosha, Wisconsin I went in the car of another fledgling canvasser who was generous enough to offer me the ride. There are several groups that head to Wisconsin every weekend. Some of them are with Move On PAC, some are with the Kerry campaign, others are led by other organizations, and some canvassing groups are just concerned individuals who are driven by the need to do everything in their power to stop Bush's re-election. My group was organized by two such individuals. They just decided one day to do the absolute maximum that was in their power to get Kerry elected over Bush. And they started organizing canvassing in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is called "the swingiest of the swing states" because it has a large population of people who don't vote straight party line. They vote Republican one year and Democrat the next and they choose candidates on a case by case basis. Since Illinois is strongly pro-Kerry, this is the most useful thing Chicagoans can do: go to Wisconsin and work on getting out the vote for Kerry. I'll say it again:

THE MOST USEFUL THING CHICAGOANS CAN DO TO ELECT JOHN KERRY IS GO TO WISCONSIN AND GET OUT THE DEMOCRATIC VOTE THERE.

On Saturday in Kenosha, Wisconsin I did this: went house to house and asked if they were voting Democratic. If the answer was no, I said, "Thank you for your time" and moved on. If the answer was yes, I asked if they were registered. If they said no, I offered to send someone by to register them. If the answer was yes, I offered them an absentee ballot form so they could vote ahead of time. I made notes of all addresses covered and answers received. Voting absentee is the best guarantee to make sure your vote is counted.

It didn't take the whole day, I didn't have to try to convince anyone or get into arguments, and I got free pizza, soda and cookies back at the volunteer station.

At this stage in the game, most people know who they're voting for. The best thing we can do at this point is identify the Kerry voters and MAKE SURE THEY VOTE on Election Day or absentee, although "undecided" voters will get repeated visits as well. Here's an inspiring article on the presidential election "ground war" of canvassing. Join the ground war against Bush!

As I went house to house in the eerily cheerful sunshine of Kenosha, Wisconsin, I knew that other canvassers were doing the exact same thing in Racine, Madison and other cities in Wisconsin and all across the United States. All information gathered is coordinated with databases that match people with their pro- or contra- Kerry status. People who call themselves "undecided" will receive a follow-up visit next weekend. People who call themselves pro-Kerry will receive a follow-up visit or phone call on Election Day to make sure they voted.

Oh, the stories volunteers came back with. Some encountered staunch Republicans looking for a fight. I caused two sisters to realize each was voting for a different presidential candidate and left them at the beginning of a good argument. Another volunteer talked to a house-bound person who was grateful and glad to be able to apply for an absentee ballot (Democratic). Not all the experiences were good, not all of them warmed your heart, but it will all pay off.

So, hey, let's go to Wisconsin! I'll be up there again on Saturday, October 2nd, but it will also be critical to be up there on Election Day. Don't set yourself up to regret that you didn't do everything you could to vote Bush out of office. Consider the following:

WALKING PRECINCTS (like I did): contact Regan at reganburke@hotmail.com.

PHONEBANKING: If you have a cell phone, you can help make voter ID and persuasion calls to Iowa and Michigan (starting tonight) and to Ohio (starting next Monday 9/27). From the campaign office at 57 W. Grand. Contact Mike Kaufman at mikekaufman@mac.com ASAP!

VOTER REGISTRATION: Thursday, 9/23 at UIC-Halsted el stop on the blue line, 3-7 p.m. Saturday, 9/25 at 4100 N. Lincoln Ave. 4-7 pm. Tuesday, 9/28 at Loyola el stop on red line, 4:30 - 7 p.m. Contact Amanda at amandaazcona@yahoo.com.

DEBATE PARTIES: Watch the presidential debate Thursday, 9/30 8 pm (on all major networks) at a Debate Party. Join the Kerry supporters at Frankie Z's, 435 N. Clark, or host your own Debate Party. Go to www.johnkerry.com/events/ for details on hosting a Debate or House Party. Debate/House Parties are great for getting more people to volunteer and/or donate money, eg. to the DNC.

ELECTION DAY: Take the day off work! We must make sure all Wisconsin Kerry-supporters actually VOTE. Dick Durning is organizing people to go up to Wisconsin on Election Day. Contact him at rdurning@aol.com.

Make sure no one can accuse you of not doing everything you could to keep Bush out of office!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

My Dad: International Man of Mystery

In his retirement, my father (an almost-68-years-old, 5'6", quiet Mexican American man) has developed the tradition that every autumn he takes a trip to a part of the world he has never visited (my mother doesn't like to travel. Like me!). He chooses the country in the spring, researches it through the summer (using the Internet, libraries and travel books), and always goes during the first two weeks of September. He has had stunningly good luck in somehow managing to attract the most helpful and obliging tour guides, drivers, hotel concierges and vendors. His target countries have included England, Singapore, Egypt and Russia. He has seen the pyramids and Mao Tze Tung's tomb. He has walked the entire length of the Samarian Gorge on Crete (7.5 hours) and explored the deep catacombs of France (scary!). He has offended a Skukuza elephant and a London newspaper vendor. He has made friends with camel drivers and housekeepers, and now he's befriended street vendors in Livingstone, Zambia.

My dad has also developed the habit of meticulously documenting his trips and he sends the entire familia installments by email as he goes. Rudy Rodriguez just returned yesterday from his latest trip to London, South Africa and Zambia. What follows is my favorite travelogue installment yet.

Begin Rudy Rodriguez travelogue

The currency in South Africa is the Rand, in Zambia it is the Kwacha and, of course, in London it is the pound. The Rand is approx 6.4 to the dollar, the pound is almost 2 dollars per each pound, but in Livingstone the rate of the Kwacha is a whopping 4,808 per US dollar. Examples of Kwacha exchange are as follows: 500 K is US 10 cents, 5,000 is $1.04 and 50,000 is $10.40. I say that to say this:

Last Sat I went looking for souvenirs at an old market in downtown Livingstone. This market sells mostly souvenirs. It is a terrible looking market in that about 50 vendors are squeezed into a small space the size of half a city block. The covering on top is old tattered, dark grey cloth. But most of the souvenirs are handmade and are quality work. Here I did some serious shopping and used my pulga ["flea market"] bargaining skills as follows: a very nice hand carved walking cane for 10,500 Kwacha (US $2.10), small wooden elephant, 10,000 K ($2.00), small wooden hippo, 5,000 K ($1.04), etc., etc. So, I was pleased with my purchases. Curiously enough, one of the young vendors kept asking for my writing pen as a trade for some of his items. Then I remembered that bartering is done at some of these markets. They especially want things from the US and are even willing to take used items.

The next day, Sun., I had to pack to leave. I had several things I needed to discard as per my "wear & toss" policy. I came up with a plan. I gave some items (umbrella, head phones, tongs, etc.) to a hotel employee that had been helpful but then I saved the other items. On the way to the airport I gave the hotel shuttle driver 6 Rand that I had extra from So. Africa so we could stop at this same market, especially since it was on the way.

I took my bag of items and quickly walked to the market to give them away to the vendors that I had bought souvenirs from the day before. First I gave a pair of grey trousers to one fellow, then a pair of swimming trunks to another, then a travel clock, 4 pens to 4 different guys, 2 pencils to two, a poncho to another. I had four baggies of candy to give to the children that I had seen the day before but on this day there was only one small toddler so I gave him one bag and the other bags went to the vendors (it seems that even on Sun the children go to school). Needless to say once the vendors saw what I was doing they gathered around asking for something, anything. I felt kinda like a Santa Claus! They realized that I was giving the things to vendors I had dealt with so they would point to their wares to remind me that I had bought from them. I looked for the old man that had sold me the nice walking cane but he was not around. His "next door neighbor" sensed my predicament and promised to give the clock to the old man.

This made a hit with these folks! They were most appreciative and some offered me items from their stalls but, of course, I refused. Then I asked them to allow me to take their picture. They were most obliging and 5 of them even posed as a group! All of this only took a few minutes and it also was appreciated by my shuttle driver who then went out of his way to help me at the airport.

I had fun doing this! And I got the impression that by doing this I made friends for life!

Now to deal with this jet lag! Its night here but its day time in London and So. Africa!

That's it for now.

Rudy/Beco
Wed, Sept 15, 2004
2:00 am

End Rudy Rodriguez travelogue

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Discharged

I was officially "discharged" from my last job, which means fired. It's okay. It's happened before, it might happen again (why not?). Here's how I've been doing.

Discharged

I curl myself around laziness
twirling my time through sunny days and sleeping in
celebrating my freedom with friends
coasting on their employed status

Despair crouches in the clouds,
coils at the bottom of the bottle of anti-depressants
wavers in the silence
underneath the airplane's buzz.

What's the difference between pretending to feel content and feeling content?
I'm doing one or the other.
Optimism inhabits my psyche like a flagpole stuck in a shallow grave.
If the wind doesn't blow too hard, it might withstand.

[end of poem]

Hey, here's another question for anyone who can help: My boss and I parted very amicably, agreeing the job just wasn't working out. I've applied for unemployment, but since I was "discharged," they have to interview me about why I was fired. I guess there's a chance I might not be approved for unemployment if they don't like the reasons I was fired.

Who has advice for me regarding how to answer their questions, what to expect, how to make the best case for receiving unemployment, etc? I don't have savings to cover my expenses, so this is very important. I appreciate any input! Please respond here or click on the email link to the right. This interview is on Monday. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Achieving an odd kind of peace of mind

(See yesterday's post for the Garrison Keillor piece I'm responding to.)

So maybe Election Day comes and we've done our absolute best and the worst happens anyway: Bush gets a second term. Maybe (as Garrison Keillor says in his article below), the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of U.S. democracy. Keillor says that no republic in the history of humanity has survived this kind of power concentration. So we won't be able to sustain it either. There are a few scenarios. One is that if the government withdraws enough support of the working class poor (and the poor that aren't even working), they will become desperate and angry enough to do whatever they can to make their voices heard. A people with nothing to lose is a dangerous people and the "Haves" (which would include educated leftists like myself, however unemployed) will be targeted. What's to stop them?

Another scenario is that the rest of the countries in the world decide they've had enough of this overgrown toddler of a two-century-old nation, and decide to combine their weaponry to put us in our place. Now it's true that the United States has more military power than all the other countries in the world combined, but if all the other countries in the world did combine their forces, we would be in a bad place. But, someone might ask, how likely is it that every single country in the world would want to curb our strength? I'd say it's as likely as George W. Bush is to alienate every single country without exception. And four more years of Bush will certainly get us there.

One way or another, the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few cannot be sustained for long. History shows us that when empires reach their pinnacle of power, wealth and political arrogance, they begin to decline. Our nuclear stockpiles have been accepted thus far by the rest of the world because such acts as founding the United Nations showed our sincere desire to be a force of international support and development. We have served other countries well in the past. But now we've become a renegade force, a vigilante nation that carries out its own agenda regardless of what any other country thinks, and regardless of what every other country does think at this point.

I feel like we're on a train hurtling towards a collision, with a driver who is unreachable, and all we can do is try to brace ourselves for the impact. We can shout, pray or organize, but we can't really stop the crash from happening. We can only hope that our closest friends and family aren't hurt too badly, or hope that a merciful source of aid will show up to take care of our needs after the collision.

Are we really that powerless? Does the United States of America really have no choice but to fulfill some destiny of zenith and decline? Is it simply part of the growing pains of being a fledgling nation? Because we certainly are a fledging nation, in spite of our technological advancements and our status as a "developed" first world nation. So we have a marginally effective "democracy." We're still in our childhood compared to most other countries (like China).

So maybe, if I step back to look at the big BIG picture, everything is where it's supposed to be: the U.S. has had amassing of power and wealth, followed by altruistic foreign policy, followed by the belief that we know what's best for the entire world, followed by using our Big Stick wherever we like, followed by pissing off the whole world and much of our own population. Maybe what inevitably follows (especially if GW is re-elected) is civil conflict and/or external international opposition and discipline. Maybe there's no avoiding this. Maybe it's time to just hold on tight and hope that external discipline is accompanied by a lot of first aid.

Looking at it this way actually gives me some peace. It's like when I panic over some negative development in my personal life, thinking I'm doomed, until someone points out that this development is perfectly natural, common and often unavoidable in most people's personal lives. Maybe this is just the way a nation develops when it manages to achieve the kind of power the U.S. achieved early in our history. The Roman Empire, the British Empire, etc. all went through it. Maybe it's just our turn now.

Responses?

Monday, September 13, 2004

We're Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

The following was written by Garrison Keillor of "The Prairie Home Companion." It appeared in the August 26, 2004 issue of In These Times.

We're Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore
August 26, 2004


Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today's. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach.

The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. "Bipartisanship is another term of date rape," says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we're deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy: the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president's personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear; fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn�t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it's 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn't the "end of innocence," or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn't prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn't made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we're not getting any younger.

Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It's a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.

End of Keillor piece.

In addition to commenting here, you can go to the In These Times website to comment on this article.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Scholarships for Young Women of Color

The following text is from the Third Wave website. I'm just passing along the information.

Third Wave Scholarships

Know of any young women of color (30 and under) activists, cultural workers, artists, etc. who are in school either part time/full time who want to apply for this scholarship? Third Wave Foundation Scholarship Program is available to all full-time or part-time students, age 30 and under, who are enrolled in, or have been accepted to, an accredited university, college, vocational/technical school or community college.

The primary criteria to qualify for a Third Wave scholarship is vigorous engagement in activist work and financial need. The Scholarship Committee prioritizes applicants who have limited access to financial resources and whose civic, community, or cultural work shows a commitment to social justice. Within our scholarship grantmaking, the Woodlake Fund provides scholarships for young women of color who prioritize social justice and the work done in the spirit of justice and equality over academic performance, and who integrate social justice into all areas of their lives.

Students applying for grants should also be involved as activists, artists, or cultural workers working on issues such as racism, homophobia, sexism, or other forms of inequality. The amount of each scholarship is decided after careful review of the student's financial aid report.

The number of scholarships awarded depends on the amount of each award. Scholarships range in amount from $500 and $5,000 each. Our deadlines are April 1 and October 1.

DEADLINE: October 1 for Spring 2004

ELIGIBILITY:

1. Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in an accredited university.

2. Under the age 30.

3. Demonstrate financial need - Primary criterion.

4. Be full-time or part-time.

5. Be involved as activists, artists, or cultural workers working on issues such as racism, homophobia, sexism, or other forms of inequality.

APPLICATION PROCESS:

1. Application Form available at:
http://www.thirdwavefoundation.org/programs/scholarships.html

2. 500-word Essay

3. Official Transcripts (and high school transcripts for college freshman).

4. Two letters of recommendation.

5. Copy of Financial Aid Report from school

6. Copy of parent's/guardian's most recent tax return (or your own if you are completely economically independent from parents/guardians.)

The number of scholarships awarded depends on the amount of each award.

Scholarships range in amount from $1,000 to $5,000 each.

QUESTIONS: Contact Third Wave Foundation at:

Third Wave Foundation
116 East 16th Street, 7th Floor  New York, NY 10003
tel: 212.675.0700
fax: 212.255.6653
http://www.thirdwavefoundation.org

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Keep Hope Half-Conscious

Thanks to everyone who responded to my S.O.S. message yesterday. I got plenty of responses here and in private emails. While it sounds like some of you share my doubt and fear, most of you seem to have a firm grip on the optimistic opinion that George's supposed 11-point lead isn't entirely true and doesn't indicate the beginning of the end. I particularly appreciate Lenora Warren's link to the latest poll results from Democracy Corps and Zogby as presented by Daily Kos. And Kos links to a site called Polling Report that gives an even more detailed and good-for-the-Democrats look at several polls, right- and left-generated. Thank you, Lenora!

Even though some of you share my doubt, the most disturbing response was from an anonymous respondent who commented that s/he has been negatively affected by President Bush's legislation and has decided not to vote at all. That action/non-action still strikes me as the most suicidal of the alternatives. I wish s/he had left an email address so I could respond.

September 11th

THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Kerry-Edwards: I'm afraid, so afraid

Is it all over? Is the double-digit lead George Bush attained after the Republican convention the beginning of the end? Is the American majority really going to re-elect one of the worst presidents in U.S. history because he seems more like someone they'd like to share a beer with?

I don't want to believe that Americans are that short-sighted, superficial and afraid of John Kerry's perceived intellectual aloofness. I don't want to believe we are, for the most part, "that stupid." But maybe I've been foolishly optimistic to think we could really vote George Bush out of a second term. Maybe I've been totally unplugged from reality to think John Kerry or anyone else could convince a majority that he would do a better job as president. Maybe I have underestimated the average American's distrust of big words and patrician oratory.

Oh, god, I'm supposed to canvass in Wisconsin next weekend. I've volunteered to go door-to-door and talk to swing voters about John Kerry. How am I supposed to do that when my political morale is in the toilet?

It's all over, isn't it? Even though they said no president had ever recovered from approval ratings as bad as Bush's were in May, so close to an election. Even though they said no president in our history had ever been re-elected for a second term who had the kind of approval ratings that G.W. had last spring.

Is it time to start preparing myself for the worst? Does anyone out there still think Kerry can beat Bush in November?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Cable Channel for the Unemployed

Does anyone remember a Simpson's episode in which Homer is out of work and is sitting around watching tv all day, and he watches a channel called "The Unemployment Channel" or the "Channel for the Unemployed" or something like that? Homer watches it announce, "Coming up: How to Win the Lottery!" That's the kind of TV I need right now...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Unemployment - Getting Creative

My last day at my job was Friday and yesterday was a holiday, so I count today as my first official day of unemployment. My first priority was applying for unemployment benefits at the office in Evanston. There's some scale that determines how much you get based on what you were earning, but it tops out early. So if you earn anything over some very modest amount, you get a set amount that's nowhere near what you were earning. My monthly expenses swelled in my two years of earning $40,000/year, so the $326/week I'm going to receive from unemployment isn't going to cover it. But I still said yes when they asked if I wanted federal taxes deducted from my checks (10%). If I had said no, I would have to pay those taxes on April 15th, so I figure just take it out and get it over with. I hate owing big sums on April 15th.

As I came home I calculated and re-calculated. I looked at my monthly budget: the expenses that are fixed, the ones that are flexible and the ones I can cut. I determined my bare bones, survival only needs. Besides rent, health insurance, utilities and food, these include things like my Bally's membership (there's no getting out of that one for another year), renter's insurance and monthly payments for my Apple laptop. I determined that there's a $600/month shortfall between my bare bones needs and what unemployment will pay.

What do people do with that shortfall amount? I mean besides trying to find a new job as quickly as possible. I have some savings, but if I have to pay $600/month out of them, they aren't going to last long. The bad news is that I'm alone and have no one else with whom to shoulder expenses. The good news is that there's no one to fight with as I make decisions about this situation. I might have to make some interesting financial moves in the next few weeks and I don't need anyone saying, "We can't afford that" or "That will never work" or "If I can live on canned beets, you can live on canned beets."

So, it's time to get creative. How else to bring in CASH without drawing federal government attention to myself?

Music. Childcare. Writing. These are the first things that come to mind as being sources of CASH. Under music is performing at venues, selling recordings, street performing, joining a working band (like a wedding band), and figuring out how to sell my original songs. Under childcare is babysitting, part-time childcare and...that's about it, I think. Under writing, well, it's time to investigate how I might sell articles/stories/poems/essays/etc. to online and print publications.

And "miscellaneous" would be things like selling that almost new $60 flamenco skirt I bought to take one class. I guess I have a lot to do. And, of course, anyone else's input is more than welcome!

Okay. My tasks are clear. It's a good thing I don't eat as much as I used to. And this all takes place at the same time that I figure out what I want to do as a day job and then find that job (no more secretarial work, please). It's got to be possible. This has all got to be possible. Why wouldn't it be possible? I now have all day, every day to do it. It's like being retired...

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Big Fat Deal

And now for today's blog discovery: Big Fat Deal is totally cool. The blogger calls herself "Piegirl" and states on her homepage:

"So what's the Big Fat Deal? Well, at the risk of getting all mission-statementy, I think it's important to call attention to issues of weight in the media, pop culture, and society. If we can convince at least one teenage girl that Ashley Olsen isn't "the fat twin," we will have done our job."

Well done! I feel like I could read this site all day. The most recent post draws attention to Renee Zellweger's weight gain to film "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason." It has never stopped bothering me that Zellweger was ever cast as Bridget Jones in the first place. Like there aren't plenty of talented, size-14-already actresses who would have been perfect for the role?? Why do we have to get a thin woman to stuff herself up to the size that so many women are naturally, and then make a spectacle of her gaining and losing weight to make two Bridget Jones movies? It's the stupidest film-making move ever. And then of course, there's the insult that an American woman had to play this role, as if there aren't plenty of English, size-14-already actresses that -- oh, never mind. Did Zellweger playing Bridget Jones bother anyone else or is it just me?

Anyway, the site is great.

Friday, September 03, 2004

On My Final Day: Ode to Another Bad Career Decision

big bucks
work sucks
in flux

(the boss)
nitpicks
this chick's
best tricks

day long
job wrong
I'm gone.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Music, more music!

Okay, here’s the deal: I’m leaving my comfortable secretary job this Friday and plan to spend this fall figuring out what I want to do to earn a living and then getting a job doing that, AND spending a lot more time on my music. The Alice-in-Wonderland, catch-22 part of it is that being on unemployment will give me plenty of time to compose and practice and get really good, but it will also limit my funds so that I can’t afford to pay the guitarist and percussionist I usually peform with.

I’ll book some gigs for the next few months, but I need your help. Here’s the plan: I’ll cut my instrumentalist staff in half, using only a guitarist on my performances (preferably Neal Alger) and sacrificing the percussion. At my performances it will become more important than ever for the “pass-the-hat” part of the evening to bring in at least $50 so I can pay the guitarist (preferably, Neal Alger) for the gig. I’ll sing for free, but without the comfy corporate job, I can’t afford to perform unless I can earn the amount it will take to pay the guitarist.

Can I get your cooperation? I’ll have to figure out some way to make this pitch known to the audience without offending anyone. I’ll also accept donations even from people who can’t be at my performances, so I can earn enough keep performing (want to send a check right now?). I’ve also had to put my full-length CD plans on hold, until I have a steady paycheck coming in again.

I had a great time at Uncommon Ground Café last Sunday and it totally reminded me that I love to perform and there are people out there who want to hear my songs. So let’s do this! Let’s make some music…

Anyone who would like a CD of my performance last Sunday with Neal Alger at Uncommon Ground Cafe, EMAIL ME. It's just $6 for almost an hour of music and sardonic comments!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I like helping people move

I'm not trying to be nice or generous. Why would I do THAT?  I'm just telling the truth:  I really do like helping people move.  Lifting and carrying, especially up and down stairs, is a great workout: it works my arms, my legs, my back, everything.  It's muscle resistance and cardiovascular exercise at the same time. It's a VERY nice change from going to the gym every day, every day (yes, every day, even weekends, even when I'm on vacation).

In addition to the fitness advantages, the extra benefits are being part of a team -- I love teamwork -- getting fed, and getting to eat junk food without guilt. I helped some friends move last year and it took ALL DAY. A squadron of us loaded a moving van and some cars, drove out to Oak Park, and unloaded a moving van and some cars. They fed us donuts and pizza, which were wonderful because I could eat them without guilt because I was burning so many calories all day long. How often does that set of circumstances happen? Only on moving day! By the time the move was done in the late afternoon, we were all SPENT.  But guess what?  The next day everyone was sore as heck, except me!  I felt great!  I love helping people move. It makes me feel strong and healthy. I feel like a 5'2" secret weapon mover...