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Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Gimme an F: “F!”
That’s right an R and then two E’s.
I need a Verse: “Verse!”
Just soul clap and sing with me:
“We want it Fri, day! ‘Cuz Friday the Verse is Free!”
Welcome back, ya’ll, to the Change I Wish to See.

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Mornings, mornings.

A few administrative items before we get started:

1. That good-for-nothing, scoundrel bird was back yesterday! It thinks my house is an aviary. Next time I catch it, there’s gonna be a misunderstanding. Whatever it’s running from outside this house has nothing on me. Me thinks it should pick its battles more wisely.
2. Yet a new phrase has brought someone to this blog. This one is worse than the last one I pointed out. So, again, follow this footnote at your own risk.¹

But we’ve got more important business…

It’s FVF.

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Politics as Usual is my baby.  It’s something I wrote and performed as spoken word not too long after 9/11: long enough for the veil of politically convenient straw-Americanism to drop, but not long enough for enough people to notice.  It’s not specifically geared for our current political climate and I’d lose more credibility than I even have if I suggested nothing has changed since.

But with this era’s lifted veil being that which made Wall Street the Oz to the government’s wizard, I figured the words still apply.  Here’s some excerpts.

Happy Friday!


some of it’s betrayal.
i’ve never been very trusting;
quick to see promises as lies with good intentions.
so it should go without mention,
that to break the modicum of trust i lease
requires an acute sense of indecency.

nonetheless, i stand here in a web of deceit
i didn’t weave, but never broke;
like in a third-party supervisor role.
i didn’t start the fire
but as i saw the flames rise,
i never cried out, afraid to cry “fire”
in this over-crowded theatre
where stage right there’s water,
and a blanket stage left,
but i plant myself in the middle,
stagefront, immobile, inept.
trying to put Iraq, Iran, Korea and the Syrians,
Israelis, Palestinians, Somalians, Liberians,
Cubans, Afghanis, Indians and Pakistanis,
South African, Haitian and West European conflagration
into the background for now;
trying to focus on us;
trying to break this cycle.

it’s been 200 years
and still we haven’t changed.
instead of answering Cornell’s questions about race,
we write about how the big millennium move
is from the Land Rover to the Range.
nobody changes the rules,
so we’re playing the same old game.
nobody dares to move,
so we’re stuck in the same old place.
and while everyone knows the truth,
we tell the lies just to save face.

we create associations for advancement,
but never administrations;
throw Puerto Rican Day parades,
but try to Americanize their nation.
we push free trade with Asia
only to shrink-wrap its culture into novelty souvenirs.
we strive to correct those quick to synonymize
“Islam” with “terror,”
but legalize the “random” searching of young men
with olive complexions and beards.

because, as usual,
we’re quick to set parameters
and slow to understand
that the only things boundaries define,
are the cracks through which exceptions slip.

but we’re stuck in a groove:
one step forward, two steps back.
every generation hoping the next one picks up the slack.
every child blaming his or her future on the past.
every visionary wondering if they’ll be the last.

it’s crucial
that in these unusually familiar times
we do everything but politics as usual.

let’s write the history our ancestors dreamed.

_____

¹Ready? “Handjob cum killing.” Not kidding. What kind of real-life Rocky Horror Picture Show madness is going on around here? I said the guy should’ve been a handjob; not that he should die from drowning in the result. For god’s sake, man.  Get a hold on your self interwebs.

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Yesterday, I heard that The Decider was staged to become The Author.

That’s right.  George is writing a book.  And it’s not just the rambling, seemingly unabridged thing we’ve gotten from huge political figures recently.  This book has a theme: the twelve difficult personal and political decisions he has made in his life.

Really, George?  Leak the story about publishing your top 12 now?  We’re about ankle high into an allegedly 100 feet deep recession.  Afghanistan and Pakistan are increasingly more like one tangled conflict-state than individual nations.  And now is the time to wax poetic and sow the seeds of love?

Anyway.

I also tripped across this throwback, thanks to Digg, that reminded me that in 1987, Tom Hanks and Dan Ackroyd rapped in a music video.  Let me repeat that.  Tom Hanks, and Dan Ackroyd, rapped, in a music video.

What does this all mean?

It means limitations be damned.  Bush is writing a book and Tom Hanks and Dan Ackroyd got paid to rap. So, obviously, I’ve been playing life shorthanded and too safe.  I’ve been doing too much risk management.  So I’m going to do one of those 101 in 1001 day list things and create a page for it.

But that’s not the point of this post.

This post is about the miserably uneducated risks I’m thinking about taking, not the substantively life-altering ones I’ll list at another time.  It’s about the things for which I’m likely to make the local news or become a YouTubular sensation.  These are things equivalent to Bush writing a book and Hanks and Ackroyd rapping.

I’ve got a few ideas to start with.  I may come back throughout the day and add more.  Certainly, feel free to suggest some dumbass stuff for me to do.  Even if we’ve never met or you have no idea what I look like.  Think about it: it makes the risk even more ridiculous if it’s not even specially tailored for me.

I’ll get us started.

1. Start a boy band. But we won’t sing, at least not with our voices.  We will sing with our pelvises.  We will lip sync to songs by other actual boy bands of TRL fame while we perform our feature talent: lap dances for ladies.  We will be America’s Best Lap-Dance Crew.  Doubt me?  There is already video footage of a trial run of this.  And yes: we had been drinking.

2. Braids a/o cornrows. I have tried this before.  I even, anti-triumphantly, allowed this to be captured as my NJ driver’s license photo at one point.  This was a disaster.  Me with braids is the very definition of “living beyond one’s means.”  I am not built for braids.  And I have empirical proof.  I looked like a dummy and the 8 hour process felt like raw, no-anesthesia, neurosurgery.  Therefore, doing it again would be colossally moronic.

3. …?

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Before you (probably) ever read this blog, it was often very different.  Not that I’ve changed, but it is what it was: back then, “readers” were people kind enough to read the links I delivered to their inboxes, people who already knew me.  And so what follows today may feel different.  It’ll probably sound more like that thing I wrote about Gary Sheffield, or that thing I wrote about Imus.

Maybe you’ve heard about it already.  This made it into the New York Post yesterday:

2009-02-18-cartoon

Credit: Sean Delonas

I suppose I should “set the scene.”

If you don’t live in the NY metro area, you can find the cartoon in its context here.  It is the meshing of two stories, one literal and the other figurative.  The literal story is that police in Stamford, CT (my hometown, actually) responded to a 911 call regarding a domesticated chimpanzee, named Travis, that had escaped and mauled a woman.  They shot Travis to stop him.  The figurative story, at its most agreeable base, should be clear: a critique of the passage of the stimulus bill.

The problem, for many of us, is obvious and actually layered.

I’ll start with facts:
1. The economy is reeling.
2. Therefore, the stimulus deal (apart from its effectiveness and so at a minimum as an effort) is considered a big deal.
3. The economy was an integral part of the presidential campaign’s homestretch.
4. Obama has been active in making the stimulus package his visibly preeminent priority.
5. The stimulus package is lauded by many as the first major piece of legislation by Obama.

What all of this means: the stimulus package, certainly by its critics, is currently being affixed to Obama.  He is its figurehead.  This doesn’t seem reasonably debatable.  Sure: the truth is that it is an idea of many.  There are many responsible for its construction and passage.  Forgive the cliché, but that’s politics, and quite obviously so.

But not in that picture.  There is no team of experts, no crowd of faces, no group of monkeys of various sizes and shapes.  There is only one.  And that one chimp, the “someone” to whom the writing of the stimulus bill is attributed, is shot by police and rests bleeding on the ground, dead.*  So let’s not insult modern intelligence by suggesting that dead chimp isn’t supposed to represent the figurehead behind the stimulus package, punished for his “crime.”

Historically, though, it should be pretty widely understood that black Americans have been analogized to monkeys.  Hell, I bet we could even find that kind of information in one of those outdated, yellowing textbooks they still force upon some of our public schools.  The comparison takes at least a couple of forms: 1) the darkness in complexion, physical features and 2) the almost, but not quite human status.  That’s the funny thing about race: it’s so often really obvious and lends itself to similarly conspicuous interpretation.

And so it shouldn’t seem absurd to anyone that many of us drew a certain conclusion: Obama is that dead chimpanzee.  Simple, right?  And it shouldn’t be odd that many of us would feel that we’ve seen such images before.  And so we get to perhaps the most finely split hair of the new millennium: the difference between being a racist and being racially insensitive.

A racist is defined by her or his motivations; it’s as straightforward as understanding that the suffix “-ist” refers to an active, outward, purposeful nature.  Someone who is racially insensitive, however, is defined by her or his ignorance.  To be clear, then, this post isn’t about racism.**  I don’t know the cartoonist, Sean Delonas, and I won’t pretend to know his motivations.  My problem is with his ignorance.

He should’ve known the conclusions many of us would draw.  The New York Post should’ve known this, as well.  And that should’ve mattered to both of them, regardless of whether they agreed with our interpretations.  It’s not about bending to every whim of any group of readers.  It’s about a cognizance of the classic stabs at black presence in America.  It’s not like we’re a secret.  It’s also not like there’s only about a thousand of us (not, of course, that that would serve as justification).

Racial sensitivity is, perhaps ironically, about acknowledging the context of your own existence.  We don’t live in bubbles, at least not solitary ones.  And with that shared residence comes shared responsibility.  It’s what grown-ups do: they mature, then they appreciate and then they understand.  We forgive sensitivity mistakes in children because they haven’t had the time to experience difference.  Our patience for adult missteps is shorter.

But maybe that’s why the tone for this post is different than it would have been years, or even months, ago.  I’m not asking for repercussions to befall the paper or the cartoonist, because while my patience has long run out, so has my desire to scream about it anymore.  I’d love, once and for all, for us to have actual conversations about these dilemmas.

The true conclusion for this entry will be posted tomorrow.  But for now, I’d really just love for any people who read this to ask how readily they forgive themselves for not knowing about a life they don’t lead.  I do it all the time.  While I can confidently say I don’t do it like Delonas did, I do it.  I do it because it’s easy.  But I shouldn’t, ever.

I think one of the biggest pitfalls for the American conscience is the notion that none of us are mind-readers; that we don’t ever really know what others are thinking and feeling and that, therefore, we’re allowed to make huge mistakes out of that ignorance, and/or that we’re allowed to demand of the very people who are very often voiceless that they scream, only in a language the rest of us understand, loud enough for us to acknowledge as alarm.

But it’s really all just intuition.  We really are just other human beings.  It’s not nearly as difficult as we convince ourselves it is.  And that’s why the constant failure to empathize hits harder, each time.  Because we could just choose to be different, to be better, but we don’t.


*On another day, I’d have time to discuss our history with police violence in this country…
**Though, I don’t believe the nouveau theory that insensitivity is worse than racism. The power of active, direct hate seems unparalleled.

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Spoiler alert: Though I am not officially a Democrat, each vote I’ve cast in a presidential election has been for one.  If you generally avoid liberally-minded photos, read anyway: mine are wildly entertaining.
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Where have I been for the last 4 days?  Where have you been?

Oh, right.  My blog; I do the answering: I’ve been celebrating.

 

Saturday:

We went back to Duffy’s.  And not only did they not run out of Stella, but I also didn’t insult anyone.  I kept my mouth shut; even when that shell of a lovely woman next to us refused to put her cell phone down long enough to acknowledge her server was alive and trying to be useful.

Then we stood out in the cold.  For an hour.  A wretched, wretched hour.

But when the cold ended, we saw surprisingly talented Angel Taylor

img_0539

 

… open for ADELE.img_05461

And Adele was amazing.  Only one other time have I seen a show where the live voice was as recorded, if not better.  The other time was seeing John Legend at the House of Blues in Atlantic City.

Adele just has such great clarity, strength and personality.  Plus, she plays the guitar and bass.  And she has an accent.  And since accents are like shiny lights your voice makes, it was great even when she wasn’t singing.  And, ooh!: she covered a Sam Cooke song!  And when it comes to Sam Cooke… oh, just go listen to something from his songbook, like “Frankie and Johnny.”

The one downer?  The 9:30 Club apparently has a policy of inclusion towards banshees, because there was a girl directly behind us unleashing the kind of death shrills that would make the grim reaper ask for a moment of silence.  

 

 

Sunday:

Sunday, bloody Sunday.

I, a 49ers fan, watched the NFC West division-rival Arizona Cardinals win their way into the Super Bowl.  I then realized that since I watch the Super Bowl, I would be watching the Arizona Cardinals play in the Super Bowl.  I will also, therefore, be drinking more than usual come February 1.

There are no words.  There are no pictures.

I also missed out on the Bloggerational Ball.  Which, jokes aside, was really disappointing.  And I wonder if the Washington (DC) Blogger meetup will make up for it tonight at RFD’s at 7.  Actually, I don’t wonder.  It won’t; not even close.  But I’ll be there.  You should, too.

But family was in town for the inauguration.  So that was cool.  We hadn’t seen each other in years.

 

Monday:

We walked the town.

Not 20 minutes out of the house, we stumbled upon the Feeding America food bank outside the MLK library in Gallery Place.  We missed Herbie Hancock.  But who did we see?  Only the coolest not-really-opera-but-sorta-adult-contemporary, talented-but-not-entertaining artist this millennium: Josh Groban.*

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And know who else?

Ok, guess.

Nope.

It was Ben Affleck; in front of a moving truck.

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We then tried to get down Pennsylvania Ave, but it was blocked (something about a historic moment, security, blah blah whatevs…).  But there was a series of protests going on in front of the White House.  One was a guy screaming about getting rid of our funding for troops and diverting it to nuclear power or something.**  Another guy was yelling incoherently but doing so while holding something in the air, which made it seem political.  And there was this –

img_05691– a big Bush-like figure in prison garb.  He looked right at me.  But still thinking about a previous post this whole weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what to think about this, yet.

We continued on.  We stopped for soup at Au Bon Pain on Penn, between 17th and 18th.  And if you’ve never ascended into hell, try eating upstairs at this ABP.  The heat, as in room temperature, actually makes the eating difficult.

Anyway, before showing my cousin a quick glimpse of what it was like to go to GW, we stopped at an ATM.  Actually, he stopped and I got distracted by some nearly symmetrical pigeons.

img_0581

Then we sauntered through GW, remarked at how no one was milling around wearing pants that said “Juicy” on the ass, and then headed up to Dupont Circle.

img_05851When we got there?  Using a felt tip pen with a plume, I signed a giant canvas copy of the preamble to the Constitution, using both my real name and “f.B” so that this picture would connect for you, who has never met me.

The picture may be sideways, but the citizenship is straight on.

A lot of people signed it.  Some took off their shoes, and in socked feet walked across the canvas in search of the best place to leave their mark.

I was told that the symbolism of this mattered.  And it did seem really cool, hence you hearing about it.  But I was told it mattered by a guy I did not know.  So, I will blame him if this country falls apart.

 

When we turned toward the center of the circle, it got slightly more progressive.

As we weeded through the fragrant cloud of pot and body odor, dozens of people were gathered to join in the newest craze: throwing shoes at the former President.

img_0590Eh.

I didn’t throw a shoe.  A lot of this didn’t make much sense.  Namely?  That you didn’t throw your own shoes.  They had a pile of shoes from god knows where that people just launched at the Bunyan-sized blow-up doll, which made the statement a little less your own.  Also, since dozens of people decided the best way to do this was to stand in a semi-circle, people were bombarded with stray shoes launched by their friends and neighbors.  Awesome for me and the fam; literally painful for that baby in the stroller.

We got bored and headed to Hello Cupcake.  I’d only ever been to Cake Love.  Now, I have cupcake options.  It’s a mad, mad world, kids.  It was a great appetizer before dinner for 13 at Etete.  Yeah, you heard me right: we squeezed 13 into Etete.

 

Inauguration Day:

It was great.  It really was.  I’ll spare you most of the flowery rhetoric.  But my mom remembers Integration Day, when her school bus was stoned by families whose sentiments were obvious.  So today?  Worth all of the administrative drama in getting there.

How much drama?  I live a 15 minute walk from the Mall.  In total?  It took us 5 hours to walk there and back home.  This frustration sparked a quip:

me: I wish we were superheroes. Then we could just fly over.

miss bianca: If we could fly, we’d be shot down.

my cousin: *snicker*

But enough complaining.  By the end of the day, we had gotten really close.

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And my cousin didn’t break his freaking neck sliding across the frozen reflecting pool.***

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Got a better Inauguration Weekend story?

Come to RFD’s at 7.  My meetup.com status says I’m gonna be there, and stuff.

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*Yes, I know you can’t see him. He’s at the piano. But the iPhone has no zoom. It doesn’t believe in it. So, if you must, be a non-believer and convince yourself I’m showing a fake picture of Josh Groban.

**I didn’t say he was smart.

***Notice where I’m not.

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                                                                                                 (Karel Navarro – AP)

Sorry Peru, but we don’t want your “dog.”

Obama was elected to bring change, some color, some style and maybe even a little Mr. Smith to Washington.  Not rats – not even culturally significant ones.  We have rats.  Obama is not some adapted version of the Pied Piper.  And we will not stand for him luring such creatures into the White House.

It was clever of you to offer so publicly, making his answer a cog in your international relations ploy.  If he says “yes” he affirms the validity of your claim that the animal is a canine (a claim repudiated by almost 2 out of every 5 non-biologists); if he says “no,” well, that’s an affront to your people and heritage.  Nice try.  But this will not be Obama’s Bay of Pigs and we will not be manipulated.  We will Hugh Grant your Billy Bob Thornton and then Dance Dance Revolution to the Pointer Sisters.

It’s not that we don’t like you and your non-dog, we’re just not ready for that kind of commitment right now, Peru.  We just got out of a really unhealthy relationship.  Give us some time; or at least a less hideous pet.

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Cliche.  Granted.  But this was on the front of the NYT Online at some point yesterday.

The press loves to talk about this loneliness.  I thought this picture captured it.  A lot of people want to be the president.  But how many really want to be arguably the most powerful person in the world?  How many people want to know that some of their foreign policy decisions will, at best, cost thousands of young lives?  Who wants to be assured that the job description includes domestic policy decisions that result in even just one more family being homeless or another child gone missing?

Bush is not Obama.  And I voted believing Obama wouldn’t recreate the Bush era.  That stroll they’re taking doesn’t mean their differences are a charade (interestingly, Obama steps forward with his left foot as Bush leads with his right).  It also doesn’t mean I forgive Bush for anything.  But they’re members of a club of 44 – that’s 44 presidents over 219 years.  That’s pretty much the definition of “exclusive.”  And it shows: in accelerated graying and shadow-laden walks.

I don’t sleep well worrying about bar results, career goals, and a one-person budget.  I talk about wanting to make a difference, a significant change.  But as of yet, I want no part of being remembered for failing, and the odds are pretty solid that that cowardice will go overlooked and unnoticed.  The memory of everything these two have done and will do, however – from falling off a couch while eating a pretzel to the invasion of Iraq, and from saying Nancy Reagan holds seances to universal healthcare ambitions – will be eternal, success or not.

So, at least for today, I’m looking at all presidents differently.  Because we all have opinions about what they’re supposed to be when the politics kick in.  But what about when that whole “being human” thing does?

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Don’t hologram me, bro!

It’s in the way Anderson Cooper says “There we go” (at the :10 mark).

 

It’s this kind of outward excitement…

 

… coupled with this kind of intensity…

 

… tempered by the remnants of an internal appeal to this kind of “Network” integrity

 

And it’s probably why the heir apparent to Wolf Blitzer’s reign over the nothing if not humble “Best Political Team on Television” considered refreshing his resume.  Not since Star Trek’s debut in 1966 have we seen such impressive visual manipulation, complete with replica silver-fuzzy-static fade-in and complete dependency on the suspension of disbelief.

But even if Anderson is over the been-there-done-that-itude of the idea and the poverty of its execution, he’s still waking up today shamed by the egregiousness of its lack of necessity.  CNN has cameras; lots of them; and mosaic mural walls of TVs; and fully interactive iPhone-like screens that with a touch and a squeeze can show you who my New Jersey county voted for in the 2000 presidential election and whether I poured my milk in before or after my cereal on the morning of that November 7.  Yet, on arguably the most significant day in American history, CNN hologrammed will.i.am.  Can a cable news network jump the shark?

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