Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Spin Doctor Spins Again

Bill O'Reilly has an amazing ability to oversimplify, shift blame and miss the point. Apparently the Occupy Wall Street protests are a communist plot:

Funny, I always thought the right to protest against injustice and corruption was an integral part of democratic society:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Moving to Brattleboro...

"I got a new job," said Rob. Mark was too lost in his own thoughts to notice. There was silence for a little while, except for the white noise of running water coming from the kitchen faucet.

It didn't really matter anyhow. It wasn't the type of job that Rob could get too excited about. It was a job. It was available. For some, having found a job after searching so long would come as a relief, as a source of pride. But not for Rob; not in this particular case. He had merely mentioned it to Mark as a statement of fact. But, as he sat there thinking about it, he slowly started to realize all the wonderful things that this fact implied. First of all, he'd be moving. Even if what he'd be doing up there wasn't all that thrilling, at least he'd get a change of scenery. And Brattleboro was definitely more vibrant than his hometown.

"Shit, I'm gonna need a coffee table. And a bureau!"

Even if Mark had heard what Rob said, he remained outwardly expressionless and unresponsive, just quietly sketching in his sketchbook. He mused on coffee tables.

"I could make pieces of it out of paper-mache!" Mark suddenly realized, completing his thought. "Oh sorry, what did you say?"

"Nothing, it doesn't really matter," Rob shrugged. It was his turn now to be absorbed in thought. Minutes passed and the sound of the running water was starting to really irk him. "Really, can we turn that off?"

"Why?" wrangled Mark. "We might as well leave it running. But whatever, you were saying something..."

"Eh, I was just thinking about stuff I need to do before I move."

"Have you told your parents that your moving?" Mark asked, his face still buried in his notebook.

"I'm reluctant. I don't think they're going to approve of my choices. Sometimes it kinda feels like Cindy and I are Romeo and Juliet. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but you know what I mean."

"Don't worry about it dude, your parents may be from a different generation, but I'm sure when they were your age they thought exactly as you do now."

"I dunno, do you you think they made some mistakes back then that they're trying to protect me from repeating? But even if that's the case, why would they do that? Wouldn't it be the natural thing to let me make my own mistakes so that I might learn from them? Besides, there's no chance we're making a mistake. Cindy and I both agree that this'll be the best way to prove our relationship can last. Besides, we'll be saving money. It's just pragmatic. It's also pretty exciting to think how much this move is gonna change both our lives!"

Melinda came in through the front door. She made a thumping noise as she set her bags down on the hardwood floor. Pausing, she tilted her head to the side and scrunched her forehead a bit, obviously confused by the sound coming from the kitchen sink. "Is the water supposed to be running?" she asked, annoyed.

"No, we're just sitting here listening to it because we want to go mad," Mark quipped. Rob chuckled. The noise slowly enveloped them all. It washed over the entire room. Like staring into a magic eye puzzle, Rob loosened his focus. The noise started to change and shift. For him it sounded a bit like thousands of squeaking bats. It may have been weird, but it was somehow comforting...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Note to self

Make shepherd's pie one evening this week!!!

But Mel's a vegetarian

...maybe try making it with chicken instead?

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Death of a Salesman

I feel somewhat uncomfortable celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden. News reports all seem to focus on the joyful crowds and everyone cheering the death of a terrorist, or lauding the President's decision, or perhaps praising the effectiveness of the military. However, all this media coverage of such a 'proud moment' makes me wonder if I'm the one with a cold heart. Have I've forgotten all the victims of 9/11?

Who cares if it was legal to kill him. Was it ethical? It sounds strange to hear that justice has been served. Outright killing a man doesn't sound like the kind of Justice I learned in my middle school Civics textbook. Even if he's responsible for something as horrible as the death of thousands of Americans, in a society in which we cherish equality and individual rights, is it correct (ethical and logical) to just go out and shoot him? Doesn't that contradict the moral basis on which our judicial system was supposedly founded? It all just seems to me like a case of revenge thinly veiled as righteousness.

But, to be honest, I don't actually know if a trial would have really been better or resolved anything. I think we all agree he would have been found guilty, and killed somehow no matter what. Indeed, maybe a trial would have just delayed the inevitable. Not to mention that legal proceedings automatically imply detaining him at some physical location, which could have potentially been a security risk in itself.

There probably isn't any right answer. It must have been a really tough call, and I don't envy President Obama for being the one to make it. I do hope it was in fact a difficult decision for the President, one that he weighed heavily. Otherwise, he'd be just as barbarous as the man he killed.

Isn't it funny how one man (as a symbol of one particular event) has turned us all paranoid? I admit that even I sometimes feel brainwashed by all the terrorist hype. 'How are they gonna strike next?!'; 'Are we safe?!' Unfortunately, Bin Laden's death won't remove the everyday threat. And, our retribution doesn't really change the fact that thousands died in the collapse of the Trade Center towers, and thousands more in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor will it strengthen our economy and erase our military-industrial-sized national debt just knowing that the most wanted man in the world has been eliminated. So again, what's all the celebrating about?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I'll Get There

Even though the thought had for a long time been dancing around in the back of his brain, Rob suddenly awakened to the fact that his job applications were due. The very concept arrested his hand, and the fork with it, midway to his mouth.

The ravioli, however, were delicious. Glistening with olive oil, and peppered with garlic and oregano they must have been. Admittedly, he couldn’t taste much. For him, they were like greasy mush in his mouth. But oh so glorious. The texture…

I should really get to those applications he thought.

With a full stomach, he lay on the couch staring at the ceiling. Nothing seemed to move. It was peaceful and quiet…except for the low muffled sounds of a youtube video in the background. Slowly the noises around him sharpened and pierced his brain, like tuning a radio station out of the static. There was rupturous barking. The dog often barked at the leaves blowing across the yard. Knowing this, Rob didn't twitch a finger. Slowly things settled back into a blur and he sank into the couch.

The lamp buzzed. Light seeped through a crack in his eyelids. Ugh. I need to edit my resume. Maybe I’ll bring my laptop here.

But there was still the matter of the dish. The water numbed him as it ran over his fingers and down the drain. The steam rose up from the sink, condensing on the window, the tip of his nose, his eyelashes. He could feel the wetness of the air with every gulp of breath. He could also sense a hint of garlic wafting from the remaining ravioli in the pot. Shame to let them go to waste. He didn’t like them as much the next day; they were never so mushy.

Maybe I can send cover letters tomorrow. What’s another day?

Rob took a large bite out of his motivation, chewing it well. The episode of Planet Earth was coming to an end. Whoever did the filming was a genius! The cinematography and colors were breathtaking, mesmerizing. The flying fish were too. Isn’t it fascinating that birds and fish would independently evolve similar physiological traits? He felt himself trailing off into a downward spiral of thought.

No, I should do the emails tonight (He knew he wouldn’t make time to do them tomorrow). But first I should pee...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Beauty of Public Access TV

First off, if you care at all about public broadcasting, take the five minutes to tell your representatives that we need to protect its funding:

Seriously, if public radio and TV have ever enriched your life in any way, do something to let Congress know what important resources they are. Not only do they provide vital sources for education and information, but in an age of corporate media it's nice to have an alternative point of view.

Now, having got that out of the way, let's move on to the real reason for this post. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with public broadcasting. However, given my last post on the paltry condition of current television programming, I thought it appropriate to showcase the fresh and innovative content gracing the airwaves of late-night public access TV. For example, one of LA public access' finest gems is "Let's Paint TV," hosted by John Kilduff. As the name would imply, it's a show that teaches viewers about oil painting. But it is oh so much more than that...

It's broadcast live, with absolutely no editing. The cinematography and special effects are zany, bordering on epileptic. Kilduff is always dressed in a suit covered in paint splatter. With only 30 minutes per episode, he does his best to cram in as much as possible. Activities often include painting (which is a mainstay, but often becomes ancillary), running on a treadmill, interviewing guests, taking live calls, cooking a meal and playing ping pong. What's truly amazing is that he does all this simultaneously! It's a bewildering flurry of activity.

It gets even better.  While occupying himself with such a wide array of activities, and gasping for breath with each stride on the treadmill, John somehow finds time to impart his artistic vision and thoughts on the creative process. The man is full of nuggets of wisdom.

And then there are the callers, which are poorly screened. In fact, they're not screened at all. The person responsible for screening simply isn't doing his job, either because he's lazy or he thinks it's funny. Of course some of the callers offer comments, opinions or artistic insights. Many just pressure Kilduff to speed up the treadmill. And all of them seem to take the opportunity to give a shout out to their gang or make lewd remarks. Yet through it all, Kilduff manages to keep the spirit upbeat. Perhaps it's his unflinching positivity that abets his viewers. In any case, it all makes for one entertaining half-hour.

Sounds pretty great, right? But in fact it's so much better than one can possibly imagine. You have to see it to truly understand. So, here's a sample clip:

History Doesn't Sell Like It Used To

What ever happened to the History Channel? I mean, where's the history-related programming??

Admittedly, I don't watch TV anymore. I've lost interest. Once upon a time there was a channel called TLC ("The Learning Channel") and there was always something interesting on. However, at some point TLC dumped the educational programming in favor of shows about home make-overs. TV was never the same again. MTV gave up on the music. "Reality" shows became all the rage across the networks. Given these trends, even Roseanne began to look like quality television.

But even while TV-land was decaying into a barren wasteland, there were at least two or three channels that remained bastions of hope. The History Channel was one of them. I mean, sure they were a little heavy on WW-II programming, but at least they mixed in plenty of other marginally entertaining stuff. Granted, the History Channel was always populist history, but at least it was history. Now I'm not even sure what to call the channel. There's just no history to be had. Every time I happen to catch a glimpse, there's a show on about aliens, bigfoot or Nostradamus and the apocalypse. So much for that, I guess. Just another nail in the TV coffin.

But, let us not despair! At least there's the internet! In fact, the internet has pretty much replaced TV for me. It's where I get all my news, information and entertainment. And, there's PBS. Thank goodness for that too. Let's hope they don't screw it all up by cutting federal funding to public broadcasting.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Want

It's been a while since I've had the freedom to say what I want.  My last Blog was a controlled environment, a political tool.  The last time I had a truly "free" blog was  in college. I definitely said whatever popped into my head back then. Most of it was of questionable taste, to be sure. I mean, I was even more naive then than I am now.

But honestly, it feels really good to know that I can once again say what's on my mind. I suppose I could have done so with my previous blog, but certainly at my own peril. As a Peace Corps Volunteer and guest in a foreign land, I was a sort of cultural ambassador. I had to be mindful of how my words and actions affected the community at large. Writing a blog for such a varied audience has its own set of unique challenges. Not only were my friends and family reading, but so were my local colleagues and other host-country nationals. Understandably, with such a wide readership, my words ran greater risk of crossing cultural bounds, possibly causing a ruckus. Sometimes it was difficult to accurately portray my thoughts and experiences while still being culturally sensitive. But then again, everyone is biased to some degree, and trying to be perfectly objective will always be difficult (if not impossible).

The Peace Corps always passively loomed the threat of termination over our heads with the thought that a volunteer might turn her community against herself, the organization and (by extension) the United States of America all because she managed to say "the wrong thing" on her blog, something that offended one of her host-country national colleagues or community members. Therefore, with my last blog I was careful what picture I painted. Of course I was honest, but at the same time, I was always careful to never come off as too negative, or too whiny. I felt I wasn't just speaking for myself, but the whole institution supporting my work. Therefore, I couldn't always tell it like it was. In fact, I had to censor large portions of my experience in Romania, or I had to water things down considerably. I didn't want to risk putting forth opinions and material that might reflect poorly on my host community, the Peace Corps or the USA.

Now, I don't mean to imply that I'm secretly a controversial individual who up until now has been restraining my more indecent tendencies. Far from it. I'm simply happy to have a new creative space. I'm relieved to be free of the overbearing responsibility I had in writing something that would make everyone happy. That just sets the bar way too high. This is a blank slate. And I can use this slate to express myself however I want. I'm no longer speaking for or on behalf of anyone else. 

Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest. And, think what you will of the things I post here -- of course, I'm sure you already are, and I certainly encourage you to do so. I just don't have to care anymore!

Well, maybe I'll care a little ;-)