Monday, February 26, 2007

Another Inconvenient Truth with Gory Consequences

I didn’t watch the Oscars, but last night as I was surfing for the news before going to bed (obviously, as this practice would indicate, I’m not one to subscribe to the “never go to bed angry” philosophy) I read that Al Gore had won an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth. If true, I should think this Oscar would most conveniently favor achieving stricter environmental regulations, a cause most noble, though I’m not sure it would have any effect on Gore’s possible Nobel.

Last night, in relation to the news of the Oscar, with the memory of the 2000 election still anchored in my brain, I advised myself to keep in mind that the category of “things Al Gore won” is one of the trickier ones. It is worthy of far more skepticism than, say, “things Kelly Clarkson won” (American Idol circa 2002) though still a tad more objectively grounded in public and/or media consensus than that of “wars America is winning.” I cautioned myself for the need to be open to the possibility that by morning the Supreme Court might have ruled that Gore had not won the Oscar after all. I am glad to report that this appears not to be the case.

There is no doubt some mysterious algorithm used to calculate the probability of different outcomes for these competitions. I know nothing of such mathematical matters (except that Fox News never calculates in base 10 and its computers don't use binary, only monetary, code). I will thus leave all calculations to the statisticians. Still (with the possible exception of the Democratic Congressional victory, though it remains to be seen whether they will actually do—or, and perhaps more essentially, undo or prevent from having done—anything) it seems to me that some kind of inversely proportionate relationship weighing the variables “importance of outcome,” “concrete or symbolic nature of outcome” and “actual outcome” has perversely determined the results of all sorts of contests ever since the turn of the century—what I sadly refer to as the turn of the screwed.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Black, a Woman and a Giu...!

The media have been going crazy talking about the potential advantages but mostly disadvantages facing an African American and a female presidential candidate. Will blacks vote for Obama? Not necessarily—for the multitudes of African Americans expunged from electoral lists and denied the right to vote, race is indeed not an issue, not an issue, that is, as far as the candidates are concerned, more of an issue where police chases are concerned. Ready, set, go! To take but one, single, individual example, the Washington Post reports that “[…] Tampa residents were among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of non-felons in Florida who civil rights lawyers contend were wrongly prevented from voting in the Nov. 7 election after state election officials and a private contractor bungled an attempt to cleanse felons from voter rolls.” Needless to say that these disenfranchised residents were overwhelmingly minorities and I dare not even mention the effects of Katrina… Unfortunately for Obama, in today's America there may very well only be one presidential race.

Could a woman or an African American be a viable candidate for president in 2008? Are Americans ready? What’s in a name? Why are the soles of my new shoes squeaking? Where did I put my car keys this time? Where oh where has my little dog gone? Oops, I digress. Back to "what's in a name?": “New Q-Poll Highlights Name Power” reports the New York Times. Is Hillary advantaged by her name recognition or does this merely point out her lack of charisma when compared to Bill and/or bind her to all of the old impeachment baggage? Perhaps Americans are growing weary of oscillating between Bushes and Clintons and want someone nude…I mean new. Sorry, Freudian slip from free association with Bush, The Emperor with No Clothes and President Clinton and the Intern with no clothes--hey, if that’s what it takes to keep the guy with his finger on the button on an even keel, I personally think such an internship should be made into a permanent post; but on that one I seem to be the minority.

Pundits have seized upon the liabilities not only of Obama’s race but also of his name and its sonorous similarities that may subconsciously evoke latent prejudices or just plain unhappy thoughts: Barak/Iraq, Hussein/Saddam or insane, take your pick or go crazy and subliminally splurge on both! Obama/Osama. However, they seem to have quite unjustly neglected to acknowledge the uphill onomastic battle facing ex New York mayor Rudy Guiliani (yet Fox continues to insist that it’s “fair and balanced”—those damn liberal media!) How can it be that nobody has yet asked “Is America ready to elect a New York Gui...?”

Monday, February 19, 2007


My husband is a certified, perhaps certifiable computer geek. Gadgets and gizmos render him all Googley-eyed. Here are some of the things he elects to do on a pleasantly warm and sunny Saturday afternoon: research the history of the supercomputer, experiment with fonts and design of PowerPoint slides to make them more aesthetically pleasing (profits may be down but the cheerful, harmonious blend of the colors of the graph will surely lift the clients’ spirits, even if they’re not getting their fair shares of the pie chart) or learn a new computer language (as if “computer” were not already a language in and of itself). He keeps talking about C++ but I think this is due to his systematic modesty and I am certain that he Excels at it. Fluent speakers have told me he has a Lisp but he is nonetheless a true computer language wizard and has always had a way with Word; so, to my mind, that cannot Eclipse the inDellible achievements of his Intel-ligence. I guess in the end it’s all a matter of your Outlook.

Lately though he hasn’t been feeling very well and as rats often carry disease and pestilence I am convinced that it simply cannot be healthy to always have your hand on a mouse. (Not to mention the enormous stress that living hand to mouse entails.) I am terribly afraid that he might have caught a nasty computer virus and am monitoring his condition very carefully. Oh Dear God, please don’t let it be terminal!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Airport Absurdities

In few places does mankind dare to display the absurdity of life and the artificial social structures we put into place as overtly as it does in airports. I believe that it must have been the airport traversed on the way to the exotic, “primitive” land and not the exotic, “primitive” land itself that (ab)originally inspired structuralist thought. Claude Lévi-Strauss must have had an astronomical number of airmiles and nobody doubts that Lacan and Derrida were flying high.

When I arrived at the security checkpoint, I had a bottle of water in my bag and was told that I could not come through with it. I didn’t see the trashcan which was conveniently hidden behind the tush of the security guard planted majestically in front of it; so I asked what I should do with my bottle. “Drink it” his colleague said. I was thirsty (which was why I had purchased the bottle in the first place) but not thirsty enough to chug-a-lug 16 fluid ounces on the spot. Nonetheless, in no mood to argue with five guys twice my size at seven in the morning, I flipped back in my mind to one of those sweet old college memories and tried to visualize a group of drunken co-eds chanting “drink, drink, drink!” No dice, there were still 12 fluid ounces left. I gathered my forces and tried again; still there remained 8 ounces. So I asked about my bottle again and received the same answer though in a less civil tone since the guard was starting to get annoyed that I was “unwilling” to throw out my bottle—I had still not seen the trashcan. I have difficulty imagining any explosive liquid that one could chug 8 ounces of in two minutes while still remaining standing let alone still standing her ground. But okay, the rules are the rules, his job is to enforce them and unicorns aren’t real even if you develop a single corn on just one foot…I get it.

Waterbottleless, I tried to walk through the beep-wildly-when-anyone-who-has-forgotten-to-take-off-his-or-her-
belt-tries-to-walk-through-it machine and again I was stopped. I had already sent my coat through the x-ray scanner along with my shoes and my bag and was beltless to begin with. I was however wearing a fleece sweatshirt over my shirt and I was asked to remove that too. What the hell was this, airstrip tease? This time I convinced myself that I should be flattered. Since I could see no material reason for this request (in both senses of the term) I decided that they must have wanted to ogle my glorious breasts. At first I imagined this theory confirmed when the fleece top that had so concerned them and whose removal was so indispensable was forgotten in the machine. When I impatiently asked if they were done scanning it and if I could have it back they had no idea what I was referring to. Then I realized that the water bottle scenario was playing itself out again with another thirsty-but-not-quite-thirsty-enough traveler and the same portly guard still standing squarely in front of the garbage can. So much for my breasts; and so much for “security.” Evidently it is too difficult for five guards to enforce beverage container disposal and watch the x-ray monitor simultaneously.

When I finally made it through security (“Wow, they must be thorough if it takes them so long to monitor just one scrawny little woman!” some poor schlub desperate for reassurance must have been thinking) I was tired and frustrated. So, looking for a way to blow off some steam, I decided to provoke a nasty quarrel with the “courtesy phone.”

Not everything at the airport was bad though. With CNN blasting in the waiting area I learned two astonishing things: (1) that Anna Nicole Smith was dead and that the cause of death would not be known for several weeks. (What a relief, how else would the news channels have had enough time to prepare the tributes she so deserved before the case was shut and closed? Now they would have adequate time to prepare these stories and maybe even a little to spare to give us a few details about Iraq as well.) (2) That Barak Obama was running for president. (I’ve got to admit, his announcement floored me.) I am also happy to report that after having had the opportunity to view the safety procedure video on the plane again (it had been a solid four months since I had seen it) I am now relatively confident that I know how to properly attach and detach the seatbelt—confident enough anyway that I think I’ll still remember how to do it next week for the return flight home.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

House Debate on Iraq War Resolution turns Anglo-American vs. Continental

Of the House debate concerning a resolution to oppose the President’s war plan for Iraq, the New York Times reports: “The debate, which was scheduled to proceed to midnight for three days in a row, was tightly choreographed. Democrats started with the war veterans, leaving many of the fiercest war critics until later. Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, for example, did not speak until after the dinner hour.”

Earlier in the week this had lead to a fierce secondary debate among members of the House Gastronomical Committee. While some committee members felt that Kucinich is best served with dessert like a good bottle of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, others felt that his distinctive flavor made him more of a nightcap, like a cognac or a brandy. They were scheduled to reconvene the following morning over breakfast to settle this debate but were ultimately unable to come to a consensus over whether the breakfast should be continental or Anglo-American style. Most agreed that Anglo-American was the politically wiser choice which would allow them to eschew criticism from those who would accuse them of belonging to the east coast elite “hate America first crowd”. However, proponents of the continental breakfast argued that it would be disrespectful to Kucinich, their vegan colleague, to hold this discussion over eggs, sausage and bacon. In the end they were sharply criticized by proponents of both camps for waffling.

Although she did not wish to comment on this rift in the House Gastronomical Committee, Representative Maxine Waters of California, (sometimes referred to as “Sparkling Waters” by those who admire her spunk), leader of the 75-member Out of Iraq Caucus, did make a passing allusion to the gastronomical sub-controversy in her statement that the resolution would be a first step in opposing the “war giant whose appetite cannot be satisfied.”

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Walk to Prevent Suicide

Yesterday as I was leaving the bank, I saw a poster that read “walk to prevent suicide.” Whereas I found the association between the place where one checks one’s account balance and suicide quite natural, the idea that the sign at the exit of bank, “walk to prevent suicide” immediately furnished the solution to this problem I found a bit bizarre. Perhaps they were desperate—tired of having to scrub the blood stains off of the floor all the time—and had decided to give this a try; maybe the corpse collectors were on strike. Before catching sight of the sign I was planning on taking the train but then I decided to walk lest I end up taking my life.

As I was walking, I wondered exactly how this helped to prevent suicide. The theories that first came to my mind, like incidental weight loss or the beneficial effects of some sun exposure during those short winter days seemed unlikely from a marketing point of view; and Bank of America is pretty good at marketing. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that it’s probably true that your suicide options are somewhat limited while you’re walking. You can’t overdose on sleeping pills (unless you are a habitual somnambulist) you can’t run your car in the garage and breathe in the fumes (unless you have an enormous garage) you can’t aim the gun at yourself as well when you’re a moving target as when you're standing still… maybe the idea did have a certain logic to it after all. On the other hand, you can walk off a cliff or directly into traffic; but then you’d have to live in a big city or near a hiking trail. What do you know, even in the question of suicide by locomotion it still all comes down to location.

Recently I caught word of a run for breast cancer. Why should one walk to prevent suicide but run for breast cancer? It actually sounds quite misogynistic. But the worst has got to be “Race for the cure”. Great for whoever wins the race, but do the losers just limp away to die? Eureka, mystery solved! When you haven’t raced fast enough to win the cure, that’s when you’re supposed to walk to prevent suicide.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Reasons Why Women Should Be Depressed

It always starts with the wallet, right? Well, think about how much money you can save when you’re depressed, spend every minute of your life in the fetal position in bed or on the couch and just don’t give a s**t about anything anymore.

Some of the things you stop buying and don’t even miss include costly hair-care products, makeup and clothing, shoes, contact lenses and contact lens solution, tooth-whiteners/straighteners, fake nails, nail polish, nail polish remover and vegetables. In all honesty, however, savings in vegetables will probably be counterbalanced and even outweighed by elevated Ben and Jerry’s costs, so this one’s kind of a fudge-it on the budget. Also, the more the Ben and Jerry’s outweighs other items on this list, the more you are likely to weigh and you may have to start purchasing clothes again. But luckily, since you’re pretty much always wearing the same grungy bathrobe (in winter) oversized tee-shirt (in summer) anyway, this will not make much of an impact and you’re probably still ahead financially. Fortunately, a significant percentage of depressed women lose their appetite too. Try to be one of those. If you can’t that’s a bummer, big bummer, literally. But since your fat bum ain’t goin’ nowhere you can ignore the rising costs at the pump, car maintenance and insurance. Movie tickets, restaurant bills, bar tabs…out, out and out! Talk about keeping up with the Jonses!

Not only do you save money; you save a lot of time too. So think about it, if “time is money,” you’re actually doubling your savings. Things you don’t do anymore and don’t particularly miss doing include bathing (you’re so unpleasant that no one wants to be around you anyway, so who cares what you smell like—collateral savings on soap, shampoo, perfume, deodorant, shower cleaner etc.) housekeeping (no one is ever coming over again so who cares?! Bye, bye Mr. Clean, our relationship is over) and of course laundry (the Tide has turned).

In many cases your employment situation is almost irrelevant. Rising healthcare costs? Whatever, you wish you were dead anyway. Did your depression start when your bastard husband ran off with his secretary? It’s all about the alimony baby. Maybe you were fired from your job because of your dysfunctionality; maybe your depression set in after you were fired. For the middle-aged, menopausal woman who has already paid off the mortgage employment is absolutely inconsequential. If you’re in your thirties you’re far more likely to be screwed but you should have thought of this before becoming depressed, idiot. Twenty-somethings can probably move back in with their parents. You hate them, they hate you. This is good; it will help you to sustain your depression. Fight for it, you’re worth it. If they start to nag you about your unemployment simply remind them that every day you are not going to work is another day you are not spending money on your commute. That’s more money in your ripped-up, holey pocket right there.

Whatever you do, do not seek professional help. This is expensive and once you get out of your depression and rediscover your will to live your living expenses will skyrocket. Quit while you’re ahead. Trust me, you’ll be much happier depressed.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Some Recent Headlines

Bled by the People, for the People

A truck bomb killed over 130 in a Bagdad market on Saturday

Contract-addiction of Interests

The General Services Administration, a government agency responsible for managing contracts for Iraq, overwhelmed with cases of fraud and incompetence, has resorted to hiring…contractors.

Don’t Ass Don’t Tail

Recent polls are showing that Americans increasingly favor allowing openly homosexual people to serve in the military. Equal rights or convenient extermination plan?

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? Classic Iraq and roll by (the most appropriately named) the Clash

If President Bush continues this East-West polarization to the point where the U.S. alienates the entire Arab world, Rock the Casbah may make a strong comeback, I mean a strong surge, (escalation?) as well.

Holey Socks Wolfman!

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz revealed gaping holes in his socks when he removed his shoes in a visit to a Turkish mosque last Sunday. Must have confused the concept of a holy site with a holey one.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Lunch Time

Earlier today, mid to late afternoon, I got hungry and went down to the deli. I ordered a sandwich, picked up a bag of Doritos and got a vitamin water—you know, something healthy to offset the processed meat and practically neon-orange-colored cheese powder on the chips. When I pulled out my wallet to pay, the guy behind the counter asked “Is this all together?” “Yes,” I answered, a bit frazzled. Though I had perhaps not made the most judicious of food choices, I felt that they more or less corresponded to the typical one-person fare. The bag of chips was “fun” sized after all! (Yippee!) It wasn’t your conventional lunch hour and so I took a quick glance over my shoulder to confirm that I was indeed the only person in the store. Yep. It was only me. There were no other prospective sandwich, chip and vitamin water purchasers in sight. So the question "Is this all together?" really didn’t make sense to me. “Why,” I asked, “do you have a layaway plan?”

It’s true, there was another place down the street where I may have found, instead of the Doritos, some Cheetos or even some Fritos if I were lucky; and I might even have been able to snatch up a bottle of B-12 instead of a C. But I was rather hungry and thus not really in the mood for any extensive comparison shopping. Still, I couldn’t help over-thinking it. Was there some kind of crazy blow-out sale at the deli down the street that everyone in the neighborhood knew about except me? Was this the mysterious reason why I was the only person in the joint as opposed to my original assumption that most people just didn’t get their lunch at 2:43? I looked at him inquisitively and perhaps a bit suspiciously. He stared at me blankly. I continued to work out the problem in my head framed thusly: “Was it him or was it me?”

I thought back to earlier in the week when I had come in at 12:06 for a bagel (lightly toasted, low-fat cream cheese, lettuce and tomatoes) a fruit salad and a Coke. Yes, a Coke, with the fruit, the low-fat cheese, and all of the nourishment that iceberg lettuce and tasteless, genetically-modified tomatoes have to offer, I had not deemed any beverage balancing necessary. Unlike today, the store was packed with 12:06 lunchers. I waited in line for 7.28 minutesa little foot tapping and key jingling all the waybefore it was my turn to pay. That time I was asked “Would you like anything else?” Sheesh, if I had wanted anything else wouldn’t I have gotten it before standing in line for 7.28 minutes? Most fortunately for me, that time, with an impatient, hungry mob behind me, my survival instincts had kicked in and directed me not to over-think the situation. Today, however, I was continuing to look at him inquisitively and perhaps a bit suspiciously and he was continuing to stare at me blankly over a protracted period of time. But damn it all, I broke first! That is, I spoke first—at least my stomach did. I had lost a proverbial battle of chicken over a chicken sandwich; and I have yet to get to the bottom of things, at least the things that don’t come in airtight bags and plastic bottles.