Friday, May 28, 2010

Scientific bikinis are like regular bikinis, only more science-y. (Sweetie's Hunk of The Week, 64)

This week's Hunk doesn't know how to pronounce his own name. Meet Hunk 64,

Thorsten Kaye! That's THorsten.
With a th-.
think and thing Sure. Why not?

You don't know him without you have become acquainted with "Actors Who Dislike The Letter H," or are an expert detective, like I am.

Seriously. Those are really the only two ways to know him, especially if you're Sweetie, who swears she doesn't watch soap operas even though soap operas frequently turn up on our DVR -- turn up more frequently than The Daily Show, which I try to tape and which never tapes so that when I go to find it on the list to watch it, I can't, and I have a conversation with Sweetie that goes like this:

Me: Did "The Daily Show" tape?

Sweetie: I don't watch soap operas!

Me: I'm not sure why you'd bring that up, but now that you mention it, there are, like, 50 soap operas taped here.

Sweetie: Mr Bunches isn't wearing pants!

In fairness, almost every one of our conversations ends that way these days.

But Thorsten Kaye has really only appeared in soap operas. According to his IMDB page, he's been in soap operas since 2000, with only bit parts before that. Or at least I think they're bit parts; for all I know, "Dr. Nick Harris" may have been the lead in Shark Attack 2. (I never watched that movie, because I didn't see Shark Attack 1, so I worried that I'd be lost in the plot: Why are these sharks attacking? I need context!)

Thorsten Kaye was also in the movie that is one of my biggest pet peeves ever, the stupid movie "The [Stupid] Bone [Stupid] Collector," the movie with Denzel Washington as a paralyzed guy who solves crimes by using Angelina Jolie as his eyes and ears (and legs and arms, etc.) That movie was stupid on a lot of levels (as I very subtly hinted at there) but none were more so than the fact that the killer, in the end, turned out to not only be the last guy you'd suspect and also the guy who's closest to Denzel Washington... his nurse [AHA! SEE? I DIDN'T GIVE YOU A 'SPOILER ALERT!' BECAUSE I HATED THIS MOVIE SO BAD I WANT NOBODY TO WATCH IT AND NOW I WRECKED IT FOR YOU!]. No, it's not bad enough that the movie drops into cliches like that. To make it worse, the writers of the movie also gave the only clue or background to the nurse's being the killer during the opening credits montage, when you as the viewer are zoning out, eating your snacks and wondering why moviemakers just don't start the movie without title sequences.

The opening credits for The [Remarkably Stupid] Bone Collector are a bunch of images of newspaper articles about how brilliant Denzel is -- because in real life police investigators are not mentioned here and there and sometimes profiled in the papers; no, in real life, investigators (like millionaire industrialists) are in the main headline every single day on every single news source.

And buried in those images is a quick headline about a guy whose dad is killed or something and he turns out to be the killer's dad, so the killer (we're left to imagine) went to school and learned to be a nurse and then got himself hired by a crippled policeman without any kind of background check and then didn't immediately kill him but let him suffer for a while...

It was stupid.

And Thorsten Kaye

was a stuntman in it.

So, anyway, that's how you know him: he was in a stupid movie, or he's in soap operas that Sweetie never watches ever, ever, or...

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: you know of the apparently-secret and obviously-small group "Actors Who Dislike The Letter H."

I wasn't told in advance who this week's Hunk was, and I got up this morning to write this and didn't want to wake Sweetie up, so I had to do some detective work. Not "detective work" like "Lie in a bed while Angelina Jolie crawls through a tiny passageway and a nurse who will improbably turn out to be the killer hovers nearby," though. It was more like "Look at Sweetie's Internet Search History" detective work, going back to Thursday to find an image labeled as being from Thorsten Kaye, and then googling him to see if he matched the guy whose face has been plastered all over our desktop this week.

He did, and about as I found that, Sweetie also came down.

"I figured out who your Hunk of the Week is," I told her.

"How'd you do that?"

I explained, and said "It's Thorsten Kaye," pronouncing his name the correct way -- that is, with the "h" pronounced because I am a firm believer in Pronouncing The H.

"Torsten Kaye," Sweetie corrected me, not Pronouncing The H.

We then went back and forth a few times, with me pronouncing the H and Sweetie not, before we both got the distinct feeling that up in his room, asleep, Mr Bunches didn't have pants on, and that ended it.

But I can't let it drop. His name is Thorsten Kaye. There's an H in it. And yes, I know that I have an "e" on the end of my first name that is stupid and a silent e and that is not pronounced, but silent e is a concept that has long been recognized in Western Society, whereas silent H is not... not... a concept that is recognized by anyone outside of Sweetie, Tiffani Amber Thiessen, and my old anthropology teacher who used to say "neander-tall" instead of "neander-thal," and who drove me nuts for an entire semester with that.

Here's why I'm so opposed to a Silent H: It sounds dumb. When someone says Torsten Kaye or Tiffani Amber Tiessen or neandertall, our minds all mentally flash the way the word is spelled on a screen in our brain. We see Thorsten and Thiessen and neanderthal and it makes us think that the person talking has some sort of speech impediment.

Also, isn't one silent letter enough? Where's this going to end? Can we all just pick and choose which letters we're going to pronounce and which one's we're not? Are we not that far away from someone introducing themselves by handing us a card that has the name "Jefferson Louis Smitherton" on it and they say "It's pronounced Jon. The e, f, f, e, r, s, o, n, L, o, u, i s, S, m, i t, h, e, r, and t, are silent."

Or what about someone who decides all the letters in his or her name are silent? How long until Prince tries that one?

So let's just get this straight: Silent H is not okay. It's not a thing we're going to do, as a society. If there's an H in your name, you pronounce it. I'm putting my foot down. And I'm in charge of things like this, because I said so. So Thorsten, Tiffani, and neanderthals -- and people who want to talk about them -- say the H. Or I will be mad at you.
Reason I Assumed Sweetie Liked Him: Looking at the picture Sweetie posted:

Didn't give me much to go on. Because he doesn't wear a tie? Because he's got that pointy Adam's apple that once you notice it you can't not notice it, ever? Because his hair is kind of wavy?

I decided it's probably the hair. Or the butt-chin. Sweetie likes those.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him:
I'll ask her. Hang on:

Me: Hey, Sweetie, why do you like Thorsten Kaye and please pronounce his name with an "H."?

Sweetie: "Because he's ruggedly handsome and he has that butt chin..."

[pause while I raise my arms in victory]

..."and he's that sexy age that you just know he'd be the type that would make you do everything his way and he'd be bossy..." and I cut her off there because Sweetie was about to begin reciting from her erotic fan fiction story based on "Dr. Nick" from Shark 2.

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: First, I was right about the butt chin! And second, here's an excerpt from Sweetie's erotic fan fiction, "Dr Nick and The Sharks Of Love:"

"Dr Nick stared into the monitor that scientists use to look at things in movies. Next to him stood the sexy scientist who looked a lot like Sweetie. Her name was Sweetie. She was wearing a scientific bikini. As they both watched the Second Shark approach the boat, Dr. Nick's hand fell across Sweetie's hand when they both reached for one button. Then Sweetie's scientific bikini came off, and she realized that Dr Nick was not wearing any pants..."

America The Indolent (Publicus Proventus.)

It's the Friday before Memorial Day, and this weekend is the official start of summer, which this year means hearing more and more news stories about death on the water. From the blue-green algae blooms that have transformed Madison's lakes into puddles of certain doom to the ever-growing oil spill, it looks as though this year swimming will be something best done in the cement pond as opposed to au naturel.

I, like all good-minded people, am opposed to the oil spill, only I'm not really.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not happy that roughly 100 zillion gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, which was and still is my favorite Gulf. Only I am, a little, in a hard-to-explain-but-I'll-try sort of way.

Actually, it's not even all that hard to explain, but I'll try anyway. Here's the explanation:

I think it's good that there's a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because maybe now America the Indolent will begin to do something about our dependence on oil and our sucking up to the oil companies.

See? It wasn't that hard.

I'm not entirely sanguine about the prospects of that happening -- of America actually getting up off its collective butts and doing something, but each disaster like this brings America a little closer to the day that we do get up and do something, and I look forward to that.

21st Century America is like a teenager: it only works when it absolutely has to, and the rest of the time lounges on its bed promising to pick up its underwear someday.

We weren't always this way, we Americans -- I'm kind of including me, for a change, although not really because I'm not totally like this -- we weren't always slothful and waiting until the last minute to do something about something. In the past, we were energetic, full of gumption, throwing off the covers and hopping out of bed to do some jumping jacks and touch our toes before heading off to chop wood or build a log cabin or set out a simple set of principals that would serve to create a nation of unparalleled freedom and promise.

In the past, Americans saw themselves as having a manifest destiny, and our vigor impressed de Tocqueville and others as we looked at this giant continent and armed with little more than some horses, some powdered wigs, and some amazingly uncomfortable-looking clothes, began conquering it. We walked west, we rode west, we canoed west, and when those started taking too long we by God hammered out a transcontinental railroad, digging through mountains practically with our bare hands to get across the country faster, and when that wasn't fast enough we by God dug right through a continent so we could sail straight there, and maybe it wasn't the thickest part of the Continent, but I didn't see any other civilizations cutting themselves a path from one ocean to the other. That was us.

We didn't stop with digging in the ground, either. We laid cables across the ocean to talk to people, and then we invented powered flight so we could go look at the people we'd talked to and send messages back home about how weird the people were over there, and then, when we got a little bored with all that flying inside the atmosphere, we started up a space program and in just about seven years from when we decided to do it, we by God walked on the MOON!

And then we rested.

This country that had achieved pretty much everything it ever thought of doing, and some things it hadn't thought of doing but it did them anyway, got back from the Moon and went on break. Because since 1969, we've pretty much been taking it easy and only doing stuff when we absolutely have to do stuff, and the rest of the time we're watching According To Jim, or complaining about people who watch According To Jim.

What happened?

Where'd we lose the drive?

I, for one, blame the Baby Boomers, which is not surprising because I blame the Baby Boomers for everything, but that's only fair because they largely are to blame for everything, nowadays. The Baby Boomers began running the show around the time we got back from the Moon, and things have been getting more and more slack since they took over. The last thing the Baby Boomers accomplished -- the only thing the Baby Boomers have ever accomplished -- was getting Nixon out of office, and it took them a damn long time to do it. (Even then, Bob Woodward, Baby Boomer, had to have help from Mark "Deep Throat" Felt, a 1913-born member of the Greatest Generation.) But after that -- after bringing down a president who'd done everything to impeach himself but write up the articles for it -- the Baby Boomers gave up and no generation after them (including my own Real Generation X) has bothered to do much of anything.

Look at the world around us. How is it different from the world of 1969? Don't give me computers and cell phones. Those aren't different enough to count as an achievement. As I've pointed out before, most things that seem new or different are no more than minor improvements on ideas that already existed. Sliced bread is only bread that we've sliced, after all. It's not all that big a deal. There were computers and phones in 1969. The fact that we have better computers and better phones is neat, but hardly a remarkable achievement.

And in many respects, the rest of the world is no different, really, than it was in 1969. We still have TVs. They're flatter but other than that haven't changed as much. We get some TV through satellites, and some through cable, but that's not much different, either.

We're still driving cars around, just like my parents did, and those cars are more or less identical to the cars my parents drove. Don't believe me? General Motors had a hybrid car in 1969. So that hybrid you're so proud of that you bought when gas hit $4 or $5 per gallon a few years back? That could have been driven by Neil Armstrong to get to the launch pad.

All this not doing anything hasn't been because there's nothing to do. There have been plenty of things that the United States could be working on. That underwear in my teen's room isn't going to pick itself up, and the concerns that have faced the US over the past 41 years (a timespan that coincides with my life but I'm not taking all the blame here, especially because for 1/4 of that time, I was a baby or a toddler or little kid, and what do you expect from a little kid?) won't fix themselves.

In the past 41 years, America has faced increasing resentment to American policies overseas, resentment that grows and grows and grows, and each time we become aware that there is increasing resentment overseas to our policies (or us), what do we do?

Nothing. We sit there metaphorically playing our national Xbox and hoping that Mom stops yelling about the problem -- but in this case "Mom" is "the Mideast and Asia" and "yelling about the problem" is "attacking Americans."

So when resentment against the US began rising in the late 70s, we didn't do anything at all until a bunch of Americans got taken hostage at the Iranian embassy, at which point we got our act together enough to... vote Jimmy Carter out of office. And crash some helicopters, too, if I remember correctly.

Then, when resentment towards America began growing again in the mideast and Central America, we ignored that, too, until we had to go an invade Panama and Iraq, both in the span of not many years, with Americans paying so little attention to international affairs (and how our attitude towards international affairs was affecting us) that our government was able to ignore its own rules and set up secret arms sales, and then chuckle about it and laugh it off and forget what we were talking about when Ronald Reagan asked us all to raise our hands if we remembered what we were doing on a day in October.

Once that all came out, though -- once we had to blast rock music at a Panamanian compound and all, I may be confusing history here but I'm right about the gist of it -- once that came out, we got all up in arms again, and started doing something about it, holding Iran-Contra hearings and getting The Tower Report and promising to read it (but we wouldn't, because the only special report anyone's ever read was the Clinton one with all the dirty words.) We were, briefly, interested in government and foreign affairs, we even bombed Libya, but then Cheers came to an end and we had to watch that... and, well, we were also a little tired, by that time.

So the generation that once ousted a president for breaking into a political office, and then voted out a president for letting some of our citizens get taken hostage, roused itself again and this time, confronted with a president who'd either deliberately ignored the law or simply paid no attention to his staffers who did, just... sort of let things slide a little.

After all, eventually the underwear on the floor will be covered by t-shirts on the floor, right?

Our interest in government grew less and less; the new generation, my generation, took over and looked at the Boomers who were running the show, and we briefly got excited about HillaryCare, and got even MORE excited about LewinskyGate, even impeaching the president, before we gave up and just said to hell with it and let George Bush steal an election and then let him more or less steal a second one -- with half the country not caring that Bush was lying about Kerry and the other half being so lazy they nominated Kerry in the first place.

Don't think for a moment that we were energized by Obama, either: We didn't do that. It was done to us. Young people got excited, but young people get excited about everything, even new albums by The Fray, so that's not saying much. The rest of us didn't so much get excited about Obama as simply recognize that something had to be done, and then did the most minimal thing we could think of to do, which was to "not vote for McCain."

Our lack of energy can be shown by the fact that after we elected Obama, we started immediately trying to keep him from doing anything -- and by "trying" I mean "not trying." We let the Republicans keep him from doing anything, and didn't say much about what they were doing, or what Obama was doing, or what anyone was doing or saying or trying to do or say, in Washington. There were probably one million Tweets about Lost for every Tweet about government policy in the last two years. (And don't spoil the ending of Lost for me because I still haven't heard how it ended and I don't want to until I watch it myself.)

Politics aren't the only thing we've let slide; as our voting participation tends to drop and our government runs more and more amuck, we've let everything else go, too. Not only are we not picking up our room, but we as a nation are no longer sucking in our gut or bothering to comb our hair, as it were.

We spent no time, over the past forty years, doing much of anything about gas prices or our oil dependency, and as a result, not too long ago gas prices started to skyrocket wildly out of control. When we were confronted with that -- with an emergency -- Americans finally decided to start to do something about it. But we didn't attack it with the same urgency and determination that we'd attacked our enemies in World War II, or the problem of splitting the atom.

No, instead, we attacked it by requiring a marginal increase in fuel efficiency that will slowly be phased in (covering about 30 years, by my estimate) while exempting out some of the gas guzzlers that we love to drive, and a few of us bought hybrids and then gas prices dropped back down and there was a new Will Smith movie in the theaters, so our urgency went away and we stopped worrying about the oil thing-y.

During that time, too, we've been hearing and hearing about how eventually Medicare and Social Security are going to break the bank and bankrupt us all and we'll have only 1 worker for every 35,000,000 retired people on Social Security, and that poor guy is going to see his paycheck from Panera really stretched thin, and we've done... nothing, again. We've talked about it, and Worst President Ever George W. Bush even actually made a proposal to do something about it, but has anything been done about those things?

America responds: No. Of course not. Why would we? There's no need to act now, is there? We're not bankrupt yet, are we? Then why are you talking? I can't hear what they're saying on American Idol.

We let ourselves get dragged into two wars that were caused in part by our refusal to pay attention to how we behave overseas and in equal part by our refusal to pay attention to politics until two days before the election, when we decide our vote based primarily on who we thought looked worse in their Saturday Night Live impersonations, and while we did -- or didn't -- all those things, we also let 20% of the country slide into medical oblivion while most of the rest found themselves and their businesses strangled by increasing health costs, and even then, even when things were getting pretty bad and we had this president that wanted to do something about it, even then we didn't really do much of anything about it, paying not much attention to it at all and just going along with whatever Mad Dog Palin wants to post on her Facebook page, even then, as we let people say death panels and just make stuff up, even then we didn't act... until the health insurance companies, for some insane reason, decided to just shove it in our faces how much money they were making and how much more money they could extort from us, and only then did people rouse themselves to say something, and to watch as Congress passed a tiny first step towards actually guaranteeing a basic human right, and then, with that done, we sat back down and rested again.

What else can be said about a country whose greatest achievement, of late, is Cash For Clunkers?

All we do is bicker and sit slothfully, for 99.9% of our collective national lives. We let ourselves get distracted as Glenn Beck rants about Van Jones, and I don't even know who Van Jones is, and pay no attention to the fact that nothing is getting done.

This isn't a government-or-business, individual-or-collective thing. This is a doing nothing versus doing something thing. I'm not saying that government or small businesses or corporations need to do something; I'm saying someone does, and I don't much care who does it, but something -- lots of somethings -- need to be done. It's not that liberals or conservatives, or Democrats or Republicans, are to blame.

Well, Republicans are mostly to blame...

... but also others are, with blame being spread across the country, because we literally do nothing for most of the time. Most of our jobs even amount to doing nothing. Look at the jobs you do and those around you do. Do they contribute, or create or increase or fix? Or do they act as middlemen and investment bankers and brokers and the like, people who create a problem and then create a job to fix it and then hire themselves to fill that job?

Faced, over the last 41 years, with mounting national debt, with changes in the geopolitical landscape that make our old responses questionable, with warnings (believed or not) that climate change is going to wreak havoc, with increases in pesticides and chemicals that may be causing our kids to suffer from problems ranging from ADHD to autism, with ultraviruses and retroviruses and rising sea levels and terrorism and megacorporations creating fictional revenues to fool us into letting them go bankrupt with their money and banks deciding to lend anyone who wants it a million dollars and then let us pay them back and not even change their practices, faced with a clear warning that we are at the mercy of countries who produce oil in great-but-finite quantities and faced with strife in our own country that leads our own people to fly planes into buildings, we have done nothing nothing nothing, and we keep on doing that, paying no attention to anything of any import until we absolutely must.

And even then, we don't do much. There was a furor last year over the economy boiling over and then melting down and a rush to do something, ranging from "Throw a trillion dollars at it" to "regulate them out of business" to "bail out homeowners" to this and that and more... and now there's little hue and cry over the fact that the investment banks we blamed a year ago are more profitable than ever, and the Senate spends as much time on the NFL as it does on consumer protection.

We've been talking about gays in the military for 18 years now, and only today did anyone actually amend a bill to do something about that.

We still haven't fixed up New Orleans after Katrina, and it's already facing a new problem.

I'd blame fatigue, but how can one get tired before one actually exerts oneself? 25 years after Live Aid, there's still famine in Africa and Live Aid wasn't all that much effort for most people in the first place: you only had to sit and watch, and maybe make a contribution by phone.

We've seen, over that time, that America can act, and act decisively, when we need to. America can do stuff, if we try, just like in the old days. We took over Iraq the first time in four days; the second time, we're years into it and not sure what we're doing and not sure whether we should be doing it, and we vaguely remember something about a surge, and we sure liked The Hurt Locker even if it was a little overrated.

We could fix Iraq, if we wanted to. And we could win in Afghanistan, too. But we're not paying attention.

We went from not having a space program at all to walking on the moon in seven years, back just before I was born. So how come it'll take us the same length of time to modestly increase fuel efficiency in our cars? The Pony Express crossed the country in 10 days; is an Amtrak trip all that much faster nowadays?

In four years, we spent $25 billion dollars and rebuilt and restabilized Europe, back in 1947 under the Marshall Plan. Parts of New Orleans still haven't been rebuilt. Is it that much harder to build a city than it was to build a continent?

We could do these things, but we don't. It took $5 gas to get car companies to make hybrid cars and Americans to buy them. It took four planes crashing into our country to get us to realize, again, that there are other countries out there. It took an economic meltdown on the magnitude of the Great Depression to get people to look at their mortgages and ask what the hell the Banks are doing.

We only act when we absolutely have to, as a country, and we're getting worse. At least, in the recent past, when we did have to act, we actually did something. Now, when things get really bad, we don't even bother with that. Where's the outrage over the fact that the Gulf of Mexico now looks and feels like my garage floor? On Twitter? There's no protests out there, no companies facing lawsuits, no real effort to do anything. Obama increased the moratorium on the Gulf drilling, and we make some speeches, and then we wait to see whether Jack Bauer really gets killed off on the last episode.

What's needed is a country, and people, who will not only act when a problem occurs-- act, not Twitter-- but who will act not just to address the problem now but try to avoid the problem in the future. What changes have been made to air traffic after that volcano I can't spell shut everything down? What new security measures have we come up with after our old ones failed to stop the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber and the Times Square bomber? What are we doing to make sure that everyday Americans have enough of an understanding of financial instruments to not be caught sleeping and stupid again when investment bankers decide that $25 million in bonuses isn't enough this year and soak us again?

We used to just act, before there was even a problem. Then, we at least acted to address the problem: We busted the trusts and stopped the dirty sausage making and sent our boys and our money Over There when Europe needed help, and we tried to stop Communism even though that was a stupid goal because Communism, it turns out, stops itself.

Now, we see the problems -- tainted pet food and toys, fake financial instruments that might as well simply empty our checkbooks, poor people living in poisonous trailers in a washed-out city -- and we do nothing, barely rousing ourselves for only the most serious of the problems.

That's why the oil spill isn't a bad thing. Deficits aren't a bad thing. The economic crisis and the two wars and China practically owning us and the fact that health care reform won't really even start until after this president leaves office, those all aren't bad things, not in the long run. They seem bad now, but they're the only hope we have, ironically enough. Because if we don't have a bunch of bad things happen now, then we'll keep on not doing anything about any of these problems, and eventually we'll get hit with a bad thing that we can't fix.

We may one day not be facing oil on our shores -- we may be facing the oceans rising over our shores. We might one day not have to worry that a single person with a propane tank might try to blow up Times Square, but have to worry that hundreds of people carrying nuclear weapons are fanning out across America. We might one day not have to worry about gas costing $5, but instead worry that we've got no gas. Someday, health care costs might not merely be excessive, but might be completely unaffordable.

And then it'll be too late. Not only will we be unable to prevent the next oil spill, but we won't be able to clean it up, either. And we'll have nobody to blame but ourselves.

And the Baby Boomers. They started it all.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's okay to have a lizard in there, but don't raise your voice (Question of the Day, 70)

Why are we still being quiet in libraries?

I took Mr F and Mr Bunches to the library last week -- we go about once a week to hang out and read the cool pop-up books they have there -- and I was trying to shush Mr F as we walked in.

There weren't that many people there, and it was a Thursday night, early on. Our library has two levels. The upper level has many of the books plus a few chairs for reading, plus a kids' area and a special area for teens where they have a giant lizard in an aquarium

-- and I'm missing something, because I'm not sure how that appeals to teens --

And as I walked through there were other noises going on: The checkout thing was whirring and some carts were being pushed and it wasn't quiet, really.

The lower level has study cubicles and magazines and textbooks and things; nobody ever goes down there.

So I shushed Mr F and kept the Babies! as quiet as they can be, but the whole time I was wondering: why are we still being quiet in libraries?

Is it because people study? But people study in dorm rooms and coffee shops and on Bascom Hill at the campus and on buses, and we don't feel the need to be quiet.

Is it because there are books? Why do books = need for silence? People aren't quiet in bookstores, after all.

It's not like I'm demanding to be loud. But I do think it should be possible to have a conversation, in a normal tone of voice, in the library.

I don't even know how the quiet rule got started. All my life, people have had to be quiet in libraries.

Libraries and church: the two places people get together in public where talking in a normal voice isn't allowed.

I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 50)

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!


About the poem: I don't know why I chose it, to be honest. I was skimming around on poems and saw the title, and I really like Langston Hughes' poems (even though they don't rhyme), so I stopped to read it, and it seemed to me that the poem really captured this moment in America - -the time when so many people seem so angry, but are so angry about the wrong things: angry that a black man got elected president, angry that health reform was passed, angry that the oil spill hasn't been cleaned up... but not angry that the minority party in the government exists solely to please corporations and find jobs for itself, not angry that companies didn't have a plan in place for the inevitable disaster, not angry that the best their country can do is pass a law to force them to pay for their health insurance instead of providing health care.

Langston Hughes wrote this a long time ago, but many of the things he was upset about are still here. They're just hiding behind the flatscreen TVs and leased cars and big giant fat cupcakes that distract us and divert our anger at the wrong thing.

About the Actress: Oh, heck. What can I say that won't seem entirely superficial after that?

Vanessa Williams paved the way for women who want to be more than Miss America -- becoming the first to prove that losing the crown might be more lucrative than keeping it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

3 teenage boys + A dog = Laws of Physics will be broken. (3 Good Things From Whenever I Last Posted This Until Today)

I'm back from my trial; the jury came back yesterday and now I'm back at work and there's not even all that much mail and junk waiting for me, plus it's almost summer, so it's not like I need my 3 Good Things. But I know you can't start your day without them, so here they are:

1. We won! Two days of trial led to 40 minutes of jury deliberations led to yet-another-victory for me in yet-another-jury trial. Which made for a great 1 and 1/2 hour drive home; that's a mighty long drive if you lose, and a might fun drive if you win.

Actually, it's pretty scenic and twisting roads and I listen to good music, so it's a pretty fun drive even if you lose -- but it's way better when you win. Plus, walking into the office and having everyone ask "How'd the trial go?" and getting to say "We won" and them tell them the highlights is great.

2. Mr F and I invented "Windowball." If you've ever wondered what big-time jury-trial winning lawyers do in between days on jury trials, I'll tell you: We go swimming on our back patio with our 3-year-olds (as shown in the pictures here) and we take those 3-year-olds to pick up The Boy from his job at Panera, where we arrive 15 minutes early and have time to kill -- which is the spot I found myself in on Monday night, waiting for The Boy to be done working and having Mr F and Mr Bunches in the back seat getting restless. Also, they were wearing only diapers because it was about 120 degrees out, so they couldn't just get out and start playing or something.

Luckily for me, Mr Bunches had brought along his large (about 2' in diameter) red ball to play with in the car. He got bored with it and threw it out the window, and I got out and picked it up and tossed it back in Mr F's window -- and he started laughing and threw it out, beginning the world's newest craze, Windowball: I would stand about 7 feet away and try to get the ball through the window, with Mr F playing defense. I even got a picture:

Which is possibly the worst sport picture ever -- but it does show the ball going into Mr F's window (point for me!).

3. The Boy is OKAY! (And possibly lying?)(And making us money, so I shouldn't complain.)
The reason we had to go pick The Boy up from work is that The Boy has now gone through his third car - - this time wrecking up the Jeep that he'd only recently gotten the use of.

Our rule with the kids is that they get a car to use if (a) we can afford to buy them a used car and (b) they're doing good in school. So The Boy previously had a beat-up old red convertible that about 30 days after getting it got the door knocked off in an accident The Boy swore wasn't his fault.

The insurance company paid us $1,070 for that car -- a $70 profit on the $1000 purchase price.

After we got the payoff for that car, we used the money to put towards the purchase of a 1999 Jeep from our mechanic, a Jeep Middle was using until she recently lost the use of the Jeep for "Not Going To UW-Oshkosh" related reasons.

got The Boy's old car, our old blue car we call "Bluey," a car which The Boy had had to pay to get repaired not long ago when he was in another accident he swore wasn't his fault, only it turned out it was his fault if you define "fault" as "trying to do Tokyo-drifting-type stunts in a snowy parking lot and hitting the curb." The Boy had to pay for those repairs -- he's paying us back at $50 every two weeks, at which rate he'll finish paying for the repairs around the date when time stops completely and the universe ends.

The Boy then, with Bluey repaired, took over The Jeep, only to come home this Sunday and report that he'd been in another accident which totally wasn't his fault -- he was passing a car that "
was going like 10 miles per hour," only then the car sped up, and "there was a semi coming at him in the other lane," AND "there was a car blocking him from getting back into the right lane," and he had no choice but to go off into the ditch and get the car towed and come back home to complain that we never answer our cell phones.

That happened on Sunday afternoon -- and also I think
that exact accident happened in an episode of Magnum PI. I didn't believe The Boy about what happened (and neither did our mechanic, who asked Sweetie if The Boy had told us "the real story" yet.) I assumed that The Boy was up to no good -- especially because The Boy had two friends and a friend's dog in the car, and if you put three teenage boys and a dog into a car, you're guaranteed at some point that the laws of physics are going to be tested -- if not broken.

But it's irrelevant because everyone in the car is okay, and Today the insurance adjuster called and said we'll be getting a check for $4,700 -- or $200 more than we paid our mechanic for the car in the first place.

I think The Boy may have found himself a calling.

133 Down, 10,870 to go: Here's Mariella from Kate Nash. I don't know why. I was going to put up "Lanlaire" by La Vent Du Nord but the only videos for that song are live ones, and I hate live videos, and then I couldn't think of a single other song, and then this one popped into my head, so why fight fate, I figure?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don't mess with the Babies! (Saturday Adventures, 2)

This Saturday's Adventure:

Haircuts, Grocery Shopping, and A Pool Party At Oldest's New House!

I've always said that some adventures are more adventure-y than others. But everything's an adventure if you make it one, and everything is especially an adventure when it involves a terrifying trip to Supercuts.

We decided to get the Babies!' hair cut on Saturday morning, a process that requires that both Sweetie and I go: I take on boy in at a time and Sweetie waits in the car with the other terrified kid.

I'm not kidding about the terrified. Here's the Babies! just after we pulled up outside the hair place:

Mr F was fighting to not go inside. Mr Bunches had a more quiet resignation:

The Babies! hate getting their haircut. Mr F whined throughout the entire process -- much, I expect, to the dismay of the other guy who was in there getting his haircut. (He was a good sport about it, joking with us about how terrible it must be to be a little kid getting his haircut.) I held Mr F on my lap while he cried, nonstop, for the first ten minutes -- and then inhaled for the first time, that being the only brief respite in complaining during the entire 15-minute haircut.

"Just think," I told the other customer and the two girls who worked at Supercuts, "How peaceful the rest of your day will seem by contrast."

Mr Bunches, who's usually better, was worse this time, trying to escape my grip and complaining with only a few brief moments of relief when he was momentarily distracted by the wings of his Buzz Lightyear figure falling off; he'd stop to fix them and then go back to crying.

I pondered deliberately knocking the wings of again and again, which just goes to show you how desperate parents can get in situations like that. In the end, I opted for the less-mean and less-drastic tactic of saying, over and over, "Boy, he was better last time, wasn't he?"

I tipped the girls $11.10 on a $24 charge. They put up with a lot and did a good job:

After that, we dropped Sweetie off and headed off for grocery shopping, something I ordinarily don't do on Saturdays if I can help it... Saturday's my only full day off most weeks, and I don't like to use it for chores. But I knew I had a lot to do on Sunday at the office, and the day was already sort of shot because of Oldest's pending party later on in the day, so off we went.

First stop, at the entry way: Mr Bunches wanted to try to go hide in the bulk paper towels.

As soon as I got him back from that, Mr F tried to head out the front door (probably still mad about the haircut.) Not long after that, we loaded in 2 pounds of grapes into the cart. Mr F tried to grab some out, and I thought he might want to eat one.

Letting the Babies! eat a grape in the store raises moral implications, because you get charged by the pound. I don't mind if they snack on the stuff we're buying (they always insist on opening up the cookies right away) but I didn't want to be shoplifting-via-Babies! I ultimately caved by figuring "what's one grape, in terms of poundage?"

(Look, I didn't do all that well in my ethics class, okay?)

So I gave Mr F a grape, and he took it and threw it at Mr Bunches. Then he wanted another one, and grabbed it, and tried to throw it at someone else. I had to make my way through 3 aisles fending off his atttempts to grab more grapes, until I finally gave up and put the grapes into the nearest refrigerated display case, which happened to be the one with turkeys in it.

So, Woodman's employee who had to take those grapes and put them back, I'm sorry. But, again... desperate parents.

Absent grape-temptation (grapetation?)(Or, better, temp-grape-tion!)(Yes! I've still got it!) Mr F quieted down and sat in the cart, mostly; he tried to run off twice and eventually got belted in, leaving Mr Bunches to be my helper, a task he failed at miserably when we got to the pizza samples.

If you are with me in a grocery store, and you don't like pizza, you have one role and one role only: get your pizza sample and give it to me. Sweetie understands this. Mr Bunches does not. Mr Bunches doesn't like pizza, or following directions. So when we got to the pizza samples, I took one, and Mr Bunches was about 10 feet away. I tried to fake out the guy to take one for Mr Bunches, but he didn't just hand me one. So I said to Mr Bunches "Hey, you want one, too? Come on over."

Instead, he walked off to ice cream.

Then we got to Mr Bunches' favorite part of the store, the crayon aisle. He always gets some crayons, after which he likes to sit in the cart and take the crayons out one-by-one and look at them, before discarding them all (usually into my pocket) to focus on the red one.

With both Babies! in the cart, we began to make better time:

And, to replace the grapes, I got Mr F a "High-Bounce" Ball that he was playing with.

Those distractions gave me the chance to notice the latest of what should be another reason why I hate people:

"Honey Maid Squares?"

Pre-squared graham crackers that are (quote) "Perfect for Smores."

Attention, people: graham crackers are pre-made to break easily into squares. You can buy the rectangle ones and very easily break them into "Perfect for Smores" squares.

Our society has, I figure, 10 minutes of usefulness left.

We got home, ate lunch, and just hung out for about an hour, with Sweetie and I bemoaning the cruel fate that made Oldest, and Middle, decide to have a housewarming party yesterday. Oldest shares a house with two of her friends, and Middle recently moved in with them, too, and they all moved into a new house, and decided to have a housewarming yesterday.

Not liking houses or parties, neither Sweetie nor I were particularly enthused about heading over to spend part of an afternoon with 20-somethings who would probably start doing "Red Bull And Vodka" shots or whatever stupid thing it is 20-somethings do at parties now. But we felt obligated to go, and obligated even after Middle had to work and wouldn't be at her own housewarming party.

When we got there, I was at least relieved that the backyard was fenced, so we wouldn't have to worry too much about policing Mr F and Mr Bunches. Mr F started examining one of those yard games that people buy for parties like this and then store in their garage for 30 years until they sell it at a yard sale or give it to Goodwill:

And that held their attention until they found the wading pool that had been set up:

There were water balloons and one pool at first, and Mr F and Mr Bunches got to it before I could change them into their swim trunks. (Note: I didn't even try.)

While they played in that, Oldest showed first Sweetie, then me, around her house. This is Oldest:

On the landing to the upstairs floor at her house.

Meanwhile, the party was growing, and another group of kids had brought their own pool -- one they jealously guarded against our kids. The other two kids ("Aston" and "Honilee")(Really!) had played in the group pool while their dad was blowing up theirs. Then, as soon as they started filling their own pool, they began telling the other kids, including Mr F and Mr Bunches, that it was their pool and to stay out:

Then the Aston kid started taking the hose and spraying Mr Bunches and Mr F. Sweetie tried to intervene, but I said to let them sort it out. Aston took Mr Bunches' shirt and put the hose in it, which Mr Bunches didn't like - -and that caused Mr F to grab the hose and spray Aston, and then refuse to give it back. Aston tried and tried, but couldn't get it away from Mr F, who is superstrong.

That made Aston, who's going to have a long life if he doesn't learn to cope, retaliate by going into the garage and turning off the water -- which then got him in trouble by his dad for going into the garage. That'll show him not to mess with the Babies!

We left after that, heading home with a brief stop at Panera to get Sweetie a frozen Mango drink.

Adventure Completed!