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21
Oct
09

Machismo: Lost In Translation

Given its history and reputation as a fiery, imperial, and “Inquisitive” culture, I’ve been struck recently by Spain’s seeming disavowal of a word their language coined: Machismo. While used as a euphemism in many parts of the States for men who yearn to be toe-kickin’ John Wayne-a-bees, Spain translates it literally as “chauvinism,” and treats it as such.

I was first struck by this notion at the Gay Pride Parade I went to here in Madrid, at which there were many signs reading, “Homophobia = Machismo.” The idea seemed to be that machismo is something so looked down upon as antiquated, cruel, and ill-informed (to say the least) that it is mostly now used as a warning, as something so awful and ignorant that you would not want any association with it. The further fact that those signs constituted the first time I had seen/heard/read the word “machismo” in 2 and a half years living here also struck me as odd. After all, the image of the “Macho Man”–as literal Marlboro-man-type, or as ironically flamboyant Village Person–seems to me to be omnipresent across the pond. On the contrary, after being on the lookout, the only other context in which I’ve seen the word used is equating macho men to chronically abusive spouses.

But it doesn’t just end there. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a man at the store wearing a translated version of the biker t-shirt that reads “If You Can Read This…The BITCH Fell Off.” And, while the shirt was definitely recognizable in its design and basic verbiage, the actual message on the back (translated directly back from Spanish) is “If You Can Read This…My FIANCEE/GIRLFRIEND Has Fallen From The Motorcycle.” Comically extraneous prepositional phrases aside, the shirt’s translation to Spanish meant that it necessarily had to lose all of its anger and nonchalance about a violent act occurring to someone about whom the wearer is supposed to care. I can just imagine the first Spaniard reading the American version of the shirt: “Oh ho HO, that poor guy! He’s going to be so worried when he finds out she’s not there! What a useful shirt to let us know to alert him!”

I was just reminded of this whole thing while looking for a movie to watch. I clicked on the “Men Who Hate Women” link, only to find out it’s the movie based on Stieg Larsson’s ubiquitous novel of the same name. At least, its English name is Men Who Hate Women. Its Spanish title (again, translated back) is The Men Who Did Not Love Women. The difference is not only that hate is never mentioned, but that the verb used for the “not love” part of the title is “amar,” the deeper form of the traditional verb “querer,” which also means “to love.” The implication is that the men described in the book did not romantically, truly, deeply love women, as opposed to the English title, which implies that the men in the book harbor darkly violent distaste for women.

And so it occurs to me that there might be something to what I always called, in my younger days, “politically correct horsewallop.” What I see here is something I also remember thinking in the South: Language is power. Specifically, the type of language viewed as community-approved or acceptable sets the tone for the society, and the implications can indeed be palpable. Pulling back on said language, reserving it only for extreme cases, or just outright banning it, then, might not be such a bad thing.


To cite an example from my time below the Mason-Dixon, one day I was driving with one of my neighbors (a female microbiologist) and her niece, returning her niece back to Lafayette (the biggest little city in Cajun Country, for those not in the know). We both started teasing the 16-year-old girl about having a secret crush on one of her school’s football players, a boy who happened to be black. She slumped in her seat and grumbled, “Please. I ain’t gonna have no niglets running ’round my house.” My neighbor saw me blanch and catch my breath, and virtually ran her truck off the road so she could grab her niece and say to her what all Southerners sometimes need said to them:

“If you ever want to get out of a shithole town and be around smart, good people, you can’t talk like that. Any educated people you’re going to meet won’t like it, and they won’t like you.”

That is to say, while your average Connecticut housewife may indeed clutch her purse more closely when she sees any young minority in baggy pants walking by her, betraying some unspoken bigotry in her soul, she won’t admit that she does so; the mere fact that she knows that society frowns on it makes her disapprove of her own thoughts. It is less a case of using sunshine as a disinfectant, and more a case of constructing a polite society. Like not starting food fights in fancy restaurants (even though it’s secretly kind of fun), we don’t do it because we’re not fucking animals.

Why the sudden harsh tone? Taking the argument about machismo, for example, and its lack of perceived hilarity in Spain, let’s look at some statistics. The first 100 days in 2007, 15 women died in Spain as a result of domestic violence. The public outcry was enormous, even though the number dropped (by 6) from the previous year. Protest rallies were organized and held, and the anti-machismo posters abounded. For comparison’s sake, citing a 2005 study, at least 3 women die every day in the United States at the hand of a current or ex-partner. So, in that same period of time in 2007, barring some sudden precipitous drop in cases, 300 women died in the United States. To be fair, let’s adjust the number to show the disparity in population (Spain’s population is roughly 13% that of the United States), and the number come out to 40, over double Spain’s “unacceptable” number.

Maybe it’s all just smoke and mirrors, or maybe it’s just because Spanish men are more preoccupied with Real Madrid vs. Real Betis to save up any violent passions for their spouses, but it seems to me to be worth noting that Machismo may need to stop being funny. Cause maybe it’s already not.

30
Sep
09

Public Option Faces Death Panel, With Expected Results

And the Douchebag of the Year Award goes to...

Man, Blue Dog Democrats just can’t get enough killing into their day! First, it was Rockefeller’s “more robust” public option, then Schumer’s “less robust but perfectly fine” public option. Little do they know that Rockefeller has another one lying in wait, so they won’t have to pick up kittens on the way home to satisfy their bloodlust.

Seriously, it’s ridiculous that they voted down the public option yesterday, but we all expected it, no? And, in true ridiculous Washington fashion, the vote means nothing really for the ultimate fate of the public option. Much like a government-mandated death panel would likely entail massive bureaucracy, there are still myriad ways to include this thing (let’s call it “Grandma”) in the final bill before we libtards start freaking out for realz.

Mr. Rockefeller has also proposed another amendment, designed to look like the version of a public option included in legislation under consideration in the House. That proposal would base payment rates on Medicare for three years, but would pay a premium of 5 percent above Medicare rates for providers that also accept Medicare. (Not all health care providers accept the government insurance.)

For right now, let’s drop health care and talk education, though. As in, there’s a serious lack of it in the U.S., even in the most unlikely places. Take that woman who refused to deploy to Iraq, since she didn’t want to do so for some Indonesian Muslim-turned-Welfare-thug or whatever: she’s a doctor. Really! Like, if you went into a hospital with a gaping head wound, she might be deployed to fix it, as long as you had your long-form birth certificate.

Anyway, and here’s an elected official speaking:

“There’s a lot to like about a public option,” [Max] Baucus said, but he asserted that the idea could not get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster on the Senate floor.

So, let’s get this straight: Blue Dogs won’t vote for a public option, even though they like it, because it won’t pass because they won’t vote for a public option. Genius!

Now let’s get this guy over to Afghanistan! He can tell the public that we’re there to help democracy by putting a guy who steals elections in power. Everyone* wins!

*Except everyone.

29
Sep
09

Michele Bachmann’s Milk

Earlier in the month, Nancy Pelosi made headlines by showing actual emotion, as she spoke of her memories of the murders of Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk in San Francisco in 1978. What should have made people sit up and take notice, however, was not the Nancy Pelosi almost cried on camera; it was that she said anything about those incidents at all.

Of the journalists covering the press conference, only Rachel Maddow mentioned what only we Bay Area natives know: No one, but no one, talks about those murders. Sometimes, in hushed terms, you might hear a parent explain what is meant by “The Twinkie Defense,” or you might see a teacher gently explaining to their students why the metal detector is so important in City Hall. In general, though, the violence of that day, the riots that ensued after the bullshit verdict was announced, and the deep ripping apart of the heart of a city previously defined by its love of love…they’re just not spoken of in public. The scars are too deep, and the underlying wounds too fresh, to cheapen them by crass allusions or casual references.

So, much as the Republican leadership would probably like to dismiss Pelosi’s near-tears as Hillary-esque cynical pandering, I can vouch that they’re not. Bay Area natives can back me up: If you want to take the cynical pandering route, there are, tragically, plenty of other political assassinations to reference. Not Harvey Milk. Not Mayor Moscone. Not the Bay-Arean boogie man himself, Dan White.

There’s another reason politicians never invoke the murders of November, 1978, and it’s why the Republicans should have noticed. Pelosi referenced a horrific act of violence which was, perhaps most notably, not perpetrated by some lone wingnut, but rather by an insider, another politician, who had lost his sense of reason along with the election. By referencing Dan White’s loss of any sense of right and wrong, and the loss of lives that derived therefrom, she was sending a message to the Joe Wilsons and Michele Bachmanns of the opposition: Walk it back now, before it eats you alive.

Joe Wilson’s breach of decorum was part of the impetus for the remark, I’m sure, since it signified something more than someone gabbing when he shouldn’t have; it signified someone whose relegation to the margins of the political system has pushed them past the point of reasoned debate and into a realm of pure emotion, where anger gives the excludee’s mind permission to realize whatever fantasy they have of taking the system down. The reason for the public chiding of Wilson on the House floor, then, should act as a reminder to everyone there: The business of politics, while it may have personal ramifications, is not personal, and cannot be allowed to get personal without losing touch with healthy and rational debate, the cornerstone of any democracy.

I bring this up now, and mention Michele Bachmann along with it, because she too now has a reason to walk her rhetoric back. The murder of Bill Sparkman has to weight heavy on her head, and I mean that not in the sense that I think she has the conscience and reason to assume guilt for it. I mean that the rest of her colleagues need to make her feel the blood on her hands. She needs to rethink making comments about Obama trying to use Census data for putting people into concentration camps. What was once simply funny-through-its-idiocy chatter has now turned decidedly unfunny. It has a body count. Someone is an orphan directly because of it. His name is Josh.  He deserved better.

For anyone not familiar with the Sparkman murder, here are the facts:

Census worker Bill Sparkman was found dead earlier this month, he was naked and gagged, with duct tape over his eyes. Duct tape also bound Sparkman’s hands and feet…The word “Fed” was written on Sparkman’s chest, setting off speculation last week that the Census worker and part-time schoolteacher was killed in an act of anti-government sentiment.

Sources also told the AP that Sparkman’s Census Bureau ID was found taped to his head and shoulder area — a detail which may add to that speculation.

Bachmann has, so far, refused to answer questions about Sparkman’s murder, and has taken back up her imaginary cause of anti-one-world-currency (???), which I take to mean two things: first, she feels too guilty about the murder to comment on it; second, she’s going to go back to talk of imaginary-but-wonky threats, in the hopes the body count may stay low.

Sparkman’s tortured corpse, however, calls on her to do more. So do the people who live in poor, secluded areas in the country, people who are already underrepresented and whose hometowns are already under-resourced, people the Government may never know need help because Census workers may be too afraid now to tell them so. Every family in a rural area who might like better infrastructure, more representation in Washington, or maybe their own Post Office, demand this of Ms. Bachmann.

And now, thanks to the harsh invectives being so cavalierly thrown about by Ms. Bachmann and her ilk (yes, I’m leaving out Glenn Beck on purpose here, since he is not, in any way, expected to act as an authority figure to anyone), people think it’s funny to poll Facebook users to see if they think Obama should be killed.

That’s it. Enough.

Enough irresponsibly inflammatory comments. Enough making things up out of whole-cloth, things meant to terrify and incite the populous, things that lead to acts of violence. Enough guns at political rallies. Enough single fathers bound naked and hanged, just for doing their job.

25
Sep
09

Cheap Drugs Now! Cheap Drugs Always!

To continue my rant about what health care reform is vis a vis my experiences here with universal health care, let’s move on to a prescient (and pressing) topic: Drugs. Obama flip-flopped a while ago on drug cost reform, which is the most retarded compromise he’s made yet. Put your Twitter guns away, Sarah. With all due respect to Trig Palin, the most likeable of that whole damned family, I am using “retarded” in the literal sense, meaning that it is slowing progress.

Let me explain. I realized lately that, of all the things that universal health care has meant for me here, maybe the most concrete and loveable is the drug situation. Specifically, I have a baby who just loves to get earaches. Really. Like, 10 a year. As such, I have a house constantly full of two things: Amoxycillin and prescription-strength Ibuprofen (meant for babies with perforated eardrums). In an attempt to curb the constant earaches, our pediatrician recently put her on a daily does of the antibiotics, a course of treatment meant to last for 3 months, which means buying at least 4 bottles of the stuff. Here’s why I say I love this part of universal health care the most:

2 bottles of Amoxycillin + 1 huge bottle of baby Ibuprofen = less than 2 euros.

That’s right. LESS than 2 bucks.

Finding a way to make that sort of thing unpalatable to the masses would be tough for even the most skilled government-hater. Unless, of course, they bring up that most hated of all words: tax. Time for more math, you say?

My monthly salary, before taxes and social security: about 2200.
My take-home: A little more than 1900.

That’s right. I pay just around 13% for taxes and social security. Included in that is health care, education through college in any EU university for all of my kids, and a nice cushy retirement fund. Oh, and, most pressing for me, is the unemployment benefits, which amount to 70% of your salary for the first 4 months.

Now, granted, Spain is not someplace you move to to get rich. Or someplace you stay to get rich. But, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find people who are not middle class. And harder-pressed yet to find people who don’t go to the doctor if so much as their nose itches.

Better yet, they can afford the treatment. And who doesn’t love cheap drugs?

24
Sep
09

New Hope For An AIDS Vaccine

This is not going to be funny. This is just…well, in the words of one of the scientists, “Wow.”

A U.S.-funded study involving more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand found that a combination of ALVAC, made by Paris- based Sanofi-Aventis SA, and AIDSVAX, from VaxGen Inc., of South San Francisco, cut infections by 31.2 percent in the people who received it compared with those on a placebo, scientists said today in Bangkok. Neither vaccine had stopped the virus that causes AIDS when tested separately in previous studies.

In other words, the research into an AIDS vaccine has broken through, and is now showing promise. A lot of promise. Wow.

I may be showing my age a bit by breathing such a huge sigh of relief here. For those who are too young to remember the terror this disease inflicted on the populous, suffice it to say that it was one of the scarier disease threats I’ve ever witnessed. Not just because of its spread, nor its seeming finality, but because of the ugliness it would bring out in social discourse. The wholly erroneous, disgusting, and dangerous notion was that this disease was confined to perverts, who were doomed anyway. The thing that was especially terrifying and repulsive to me was how widespread the notion seemed, and how the idea of catching a disease suddenly seemed like a social stigma unlike any other. In no other fatal medical situation I have witnessed were so many victims blamed, dismissed, brutalized, and discarded.

I hope the possible light at the end of the tunnel in the search for a vaccine can be metaphorical here. Because the way the victims of AIDS are/were treated is not funny, and neither is the way the homosexual community is treated in the United States. Just as the experiment can now move on, after 2 years of stalling, maybe we can also push forward and recognize that civility, tolerance, and empathy are what unites us.

In short: AIDS is not, and never was, a gay issue, but rather a health issue. When it was recognized as such, and when we started taking seriously the steps that could be taken to prevent such an atrocity from happening to anyone, we moved forward, in a direction that is both productive and awesome. Likewise, being granted the right to decide how to live and love is not a gay issue; it’s a Civil Rights issue. Hopefully, when it begins to dawn on us that this is true, we can once again move forward, out of darkness, and into a place that can make us proud.

I hope the possible light at the end of the tunnel in the search for a vaccine can be metaphorical here. Because the way the victims of AIDS are/were treated is not funny, and neither is the way the homosexual community is treated in the United States. Just as the experiment can now move on, after 2 years of stalling, maybe we can also push forward and recognize that civility, tolerance, and empathy are what unites us.

24
Sep
09

Palin Became Exactly As Common Sense Would Expect Her To

So I’ve been MIA for a while because of myriad reasons: failing at life/job search, depression, travel to the US, further depression. But, hey, what is life without public journal entries, so I’m trying to get back in the ol’ habit.

The trip to the United States was both an inspiration to write, and an inspiration to never write again due to continued drunkenness. My thoughts on it were too muddled and angry to chronicle at the time, but I may be able to soon. So, yeah, my thoughts on where the US is going, and why I may never go with it, will someday be coming under the tentative title “I’ve Seen The Best Minds Of My Generation Destroyed By Consumerism.” When I’m absolutely sure I can write the entry without the phrase “free verse” entering my internal monologue, tempting me to try to rewrite the un-rewrite-ably brilliant “America,” I’ll do it. In the meantime, I have to make fun of Sarah Palin. No, really, I have to.

Why? Because I’m mean? Kinda. Because she’s a quitter and a chronic no-show disappointment? Maybe. Because Levi Johnston and his family are painting her as a shitty mom, in an article really only worth reading because it cites the son of a meth-dealer as saying Palin doesn’t cook enough (Oh, gods of irony, you are so kind)? Nah.

No, I’m making fun of her religion. That’s right. You heard me. Her religion. (Come ‘n’ get me, religious right!)

Now everyone knows Sister Sarah is a big Jesus pot. Fine. And she’s fundamentalist. Fine again. What was news to me (and, I suppose, to Tina Brown, seeing as she published it and all) was this Third Wave business. As the article states,

According to the Third Wave’s founding father, William Branham, a rural Canadian preacher, Satan had sex with Eve and gave birth to Cain—the so-called “Serpent Seed.” “Through Cain came all the smart, educated people down to the antediluvian flood—the intellectuals, bible colleges,” Branham wrote. “They know all their creeds but know nothing about God.”

The notion that being educated is not only not the most important thing in the world, but is actually the closest to Satan you can get, is inflammatory and horrifying, but, most importantly to me, revelatory. Since her introduction to the nation, Palin has pretty ritualistically shit out her mouth at every opportunity granted her. I figured, though, that a combination of nerves and non-linear thinking could lead to her word salad problem. What puzzled me–seriously, visibly, unceasingly puzzled me–was that she writes exactly how she speaks.

How can that be? How can it be that someone looks at sentences like, “But he endured such ridicule and mocking for his vision for Alaska, remember the adversaries scoffed, calling this “Seward’s Folly”. Seward withstood such disdain as he chose the uncomfortable, unconventional, but RIGHT path to secure Alaska, so Alaska could help secure the United States,” and hits “Print”? How in blazes can someone publish such an unholy mess, when they’re supposed to be an authority figure in public life?

Ah, now I understand. It’s because it is precisely not an unholy mess; it is, in fact, a saintly scramble of wordlings that kindasortayabetcha might could go together. For Jesus.

I have to remember this as I read excerpts from her speech in Hong Kong. Excerpts like these:

Personally, I’ve always been really interested in the ideas, too, about the land bridge. Ideas that maybe so long ago, had allowed Alaska to be physically connected to this part of our world so many years ago.

(IDEAS?!?!?! She thinks someone had the IDEA to shift tectonic plates, and that maybe they should do that again?!?!)

The marketplace didn’t fail. It became exactly as common sense would expect it to.

(I see where she’s going, but I think mocking the way her audience writes manuals for its products won’t win their favor).

and…

So for Alaska, which is the air crossroads of the world, to this prosperous dynamic force in the world, Hong Kong, I bring good tidings, wishes for more blessing and vibrant life and even more freedom.

So I get it now. Sarah Palin’s head is the air crossroads of her ears because Jesus won’t love her otherwise. Gotcha.

As I said, I think this is great. Hilarious also (bonus!), but just generally fantastic. What I’m seeing here is actual evidence that the people I think have no business deciding anything for anyone ever are militantly anti-intellectual. And, while I normally find anti-intellectual sentiment an abomination up with which I shall not put, in this case, I think it’s perfect. Yes, Third Wavers, ignore the old addage that “Knowledge Is Power,” and assume you’ll get by on your Christian fortitude alone. The rest of us will read books, progress, and take your money by all legal (and illegal) means possible. Far be it from me to tell you to rise up and better yourselves if you truly desire a voice in industry or politics.

Oh, and keep Twittering. For larfs. KTHXBAI.

29
Jul
09

Five Big Concerns About Public Health Care (And Why They Shouldn’t Be)

Three things are inspiring me to write this. First of all, I was asked about it. Secondly, health care is kinda sorta in the news nowadays. And thirdly, my upcoming jaunt back to mi patria is bringing back memories…and anger. Why anger, you ask? OK, I’ll start with the last part then…

When I discovered I was pregnant in the States, I was just finishing my degree and didn’t have health insurance or money. I was, however, shocked and delighted to find out that I was eligible for LAMoms, a program of public health care that focused on low-income Louisiana mothers-to-be and their small children. Hurray! And this brings me to my first point.

1. Picking doctors
Under LAMoms, I was allowed to pick my own doctor. Huzzah! And so I did, carefully researching the best OB/Gyns in the area. Turns out, none of them would take my poor ass. Finally, after cold-calling every doctor within a 100-mile radius (no kidding), I found someone who would be willing to take my gubmint insurance. 70 miles away. In three months. Which is a bit late for a first trimester checkup.

Here in Spain, I was not allowed to pick my doctor or my midwife (midwives do the delivering here). I have to say, though, it didn’t bother me for a few reasons. Most notably, I’m not really picky when it comes to doctors, and the very distinct impression given here is that every doctor is equally qualified. Plus, if you really can’t stand a doctor (which happened to me later when visiting a pediatric specialist), you can bitch and moan and change doctors. So, yes, your doctor is determined by your zip code here in Spain, whereas, in the States, my doctor was determined by my insurance coverage. Which reminds me…

2. Public insurance

What exactly is public health insurance? This is a question that should be asked more often, since I think it’s unclear in the States. I say this because I was just researching whether or not our daughter would be covered under the much-ballyhooed CHIP (children’s health insurance) program while we’re visiting. Turns out that, in the state where we’ll be visiting, there does exist a CHIP program to cover all minors. For $147 a month, per kid (capping out at around $400 a month for three or more little buggers). In short, this makes us buying travel insurance for all three of us more cost-effective for the weeks we’ll be there.

That’s not public health insurance, silly!

Spanish public health insurance is a given. It’s a right for all citizens and legal residents, rather than a privilege. And, when I say it’s a given, I mean that: it’s given. Free. Sin pagar. Punto.

As for illegal immigrants, they can go to the doctor too in the ER, for a fee. Just like all us po’ folks in the United States. Oh, and, speaking of ERs…

3. Quality of public health care

This has been a matter of substantial debate, and rightfully so. A lot of people have heard horror stories about huge lines in Canada, and lackluster treatment availability everywhere but the Good Ol’ U S of A, right? While I won’t deny that public health care = waiting, I will describe what I mean. All appointment times for doctor’s visits are what they call “orientative,” and they are granted in blocks. The doctor comes out periodically, tells everyone the order in which they’ll be called, and then the patients police themselves (I still find the Spanish queue system fascinating, but that’s a topic for another day). Given that, I have never spent more than 25 minutes waiting to be seen. Going to the ER, I’ve never spent more than 40, and that was for a routine checkup when I first landed here, was still undocumented, and was not an emergency by any stretch of the imagination (I got a bill for that visit later for 200 euros. However, the health office contacted me, since they had been notified that I was a legal resident, and rescinded that charge, all without me saying anything).

As far as the quality goes, I’ve been pretty impressed, for the most part. My prenatal care was fine, if a bit impersonal (I’ll get to why in a moment), the delivery was expert, and the recovery was brilliant (you stay for three days minimum in a private room). My daughter’s care has been wonderful, and I couldn’t ask for more to be done for her. If I did, it would get done (really, they ask all the time if I’d like to test to verify/negate my various and sundry concerns). Which reminds me…

4. Bureaucracy

This is a bit of a pain here in Spain, in that every single doctor has his/her own specialty. Your GP, OB, pediatrician, and various specialists are all different people (of course), but a lot of times they’ll be in different places around the city. I found it to be the worst with the prenatal care, since my OB was different from my ultrasounder from my blood analyzer, etc…However, I was still undocumented when they assigned me all these people, so I didn’t have a set doctor to refer me. Still, you will never give blood or urine to your doctor in the next room; it will usually be a separate appointment on a different day. Since there’s no such thing as “sick days” here, it doesn’t so much matter to the Spaniards, but it is something that would have to be modified if the U.S. were to adopt a similar system.

Another thing that is always brought up as a terrifying phrase when impending “France-ification” is feared upon us is “strikes.” Yes, the unions in Europe LOVE to strike, and doctors are no different. However, since health care is a right, and not a privilege, the doctors inform their patients of their strikes ahead of time, they only last for one day, there are always subs available, and the ER never ever closes. For example, I know that, if I want to see my daughter’s pediatrician, I can’t go on August 11, since she’ll be on strike. No joke. Which is why…

5. Driving private sector out of business?

Could never happen here in Spain. Native Spaniards, who are accustomed to the luxury of free health care, don’t like the waits or the impersonal nature of the visits. So, they virtually all currently have, or have had, private health insurance. And they can, since it’s quite cheap and doesn’t turn away anyone who may have sneezed once in 1974. So, yes, the private sector is huge here, but it’s inexpensive and inclusive. God forbid that should happen to us.

So, there it is, in a big, fat bloated nutshell. That can go get its arteries unclogged gratis at the local hospital.

18
Jul
09

Obama’s New Tack On Passing Health Care: Organ Harvest

He’s just gonna cold threaten our organs, one by one, till we pass this shit:

Heart

17
Jul
09

On Heckler, Hecklers, and Critics

I was watching Jamie Kennedy’s movie Heckler last night, something I still think is a brilliant response to the savage critiques he received after Malibu’s Most Wanted and Son of the Mask. I think it’s a great bit of revenge to, in the face of cruel and inhuman criticism, show a comedian (and interview many others) ingesting said criticism, wincing at personal slights, and looking hurt at the extent of the savagery.

And, yes, I absolutely agree that, if you don’t like a movie or comedy show, you should just leave. Change the channel. I let Carlos Mencia be Carlos Mencia, and I just go have a cocktail at the bar. Done.

It was when the documentary got into savaging critics and bloggers that I (predictably) began to lose some of my sympathy for the characters. I concede that I also yearn for the days of serious film/dramatic criticism (where are today’s Dorothy Parkers, who are knowledgeable and empathetic enough to the performers and writers to know just how to slice them up, without actually breaking them down?). Gene Shalit, Leonard Maltin, the staff of the NY Times these days…feh. And, yes, I think they should all be replaced by people who actually make movies for a living, much as the book reviews that are always the most spot-on and interesting are essayed by fellow writers.

And yet…well, the thing is…I couldn’t help but think of that line from Godfather II: “This is the business [you've] chosen.” It’s not like you made this movie, then released it, only to find that the entire world of film criticism had changed from an erudite circle of polite former screenwriters, into a gaggle of snarling beasts. And, in order to put up with said snarling beasts, you got paid. Well. Better than said snarling beasts, and sure as shit better than most of the country.

And, as far as mean “fans” go, while I think it’s rude that people go up to celebrities and tell them their movies suck when the poor people are just trying to enjoy a meal, I also think it’s enormously arrogant to think that people will never have unfavorable opinions about your work, and will instead just sit in slack-jawed wonderment at the talking pictures proferred for their enjoyment. Unfortunately, it’s a fact that the most likely response you will get will be the most negative, with the most positive following behind. It’s just how our psyches work; many studies have confirmed that we humans like to bitch about things we hate more than admire things we love.

As for the blogosphere: Yes, the internet is home to the meannest of the mean, in both senses of the word. However, it is written by the general public, and these are all people who, unlike “real critics,” paid to see your movie. If you don’t want to listen to their opinions, fine: Don’t log on and Google yourself. But don’t bitch because they have opinions that are contrary to your own, and say so.

As far as the language of online reviews goes, it has indeed gotten more and more violent and crude, especially when writing reviews of things and/or celebrities. Why, you wonder, the animosity? The answer is: It has nothing to do with animosity, and everything to do with anonymity. The internet is huge, and the blogosphere is chock-a-block with people who like to write their opinions. In order to differentiate yourself, you have to make something in your headline or tags stand out. For whatever reason, I’ve noticed that any headline of mine that includes cursing and/or references to various sorts of perversions gets TONS of hits; those that are more thoughtful get almost none.

I don’t blame readers for this. There are myriad ways to get news and information these days, and civil discourses can get lost in the shuffle. Take the awesome postings at synthesis: They are well-thought-out, highly intellectual, and, above all, well-written. That blog, along with other similar ones, consistently gets rated among the top of the internet. And yet, I will bet all my savings that Gawker beats them in page hits and ad sales. So, there’s that: Blame human nature and its love of watching brutality, but don’t blame the people trying to be heard.

And, while I’m on the subject, there is absolutely no difference between a blogger cruelly mocking a movie, and said movie star saying that the blogger is some basement-dwelling fatass who’s never held a job or gotten laid. Except the amount of people who get to see/hear the movie star say that, versus the small number of people who read the snarky blog. That balances out the comparative anonymity (and security) bloggers feel, yes? And when they lose said anonymity (like Andrew Sullivan, or others), they get well compensated for it. Just like other public figures. So they can buy bigger pillows to cushion the blows of public criticism.

So, in conclusion, here’s my advice to Jamie Kennedy:

1. Just as you say to hecklers in comedy clubs: If you don’t like what you read on the Internet about yourself, don’t look.
2. Buck up, buttercup. Those meanies out there don’t really hate you; they just love colorful language and page views.
3. Go take a look around your nice house, cuddle up to your pretty girlfriend, and remind yourself that you’re doing alright, regardless.

Thus endeth the lesson. Dick jokes soon!

07
Jul
09

My Beef With Noted Meatsack, Sarah Palin

It takes something really, really crazy to inspire me to put aside my frantic job search and blog again. I guess, for the break, I should thank Sarah Palin. Instead, though, I just find myself getting angrier and angrier with her, almost to the point of irrationality. But then I realized: It’s rational, and it’s explicable, especially in my current situation.

Here’s the deal: I am about to be out of work. As a new mother, I am in the process of conducting a metric ton of interviews, in each of which I am forced to bargain with/promise/reassure employers. As far as we’ve come as a society in terms of equality in the workplace, the simple fact of the matter is the following: It’s much harder to get prospective (or new) employers to hire you if you are a woman with small children. Period.

And then along came Womenomics, which was such a light for me to shine in these dark interviews. Its claims that women make the workplace more efficient and profitable, and that they do so best when allowed to work as women with family as a priority…well, I can’t say how often I run those statistics over and over in my head while trying to convince employers that flex time is worthwhile.

But now Sarah Palin comes and fucks it up. Why? Because she is the absolute personification of every single bad stereotype about women, and working women, that exists. Let’s run down the list:

1. She’s vain
This one’s a big no-brainer (we’ll to that quality soon, ne’er you fear). A former beauty queen, this chick is the perfect picture of a narcissist. If you need more proof, check out her family photos, in which she always looks radiant, but her very pretty young daughters look alternately pregnant (before Bristol was) or otherwise…well, not so pretty.

2. She’s dumb
She’s so goddamned resistant to learning, this one, it veritably oozes from her pores. Her complete and utter lack of any sort of ability to assimilate information, along with her vocal insistence she shouldn’t have to (since she’s pretty…see above), is perhaps the quality most infuriating to smart women, and most reassuring to sexist fuckwits (hey, Sean Hannity!).

3. She’s emotional
Dear God, has there ever been a woman in public life who made such an emotional issue out of every perceived slight? I certainly can’t remember any public woman so vindictive and petty. To add to the stereotype, she staunchly refuses to use logical arguments against her enemies, preferring instead to snark at them in true Mean Girl fashion (i.e. “Hey, John Kerry, why the long face?” “We should keep Piper away from Letterman.” etc.). The inevitable tooth-sucking savoring-every-minute face she makes after each catty remark is one I haven’t personally witnessed since high school.

4. Private Life = Professional Life
No, I’m not just referring to her constantly trotting out her children as props (see point #1), although that doesn’t help. What I really mean is that, according to virtually all accounts, this woman doesn’t have a professional life apart from her husband and her buddies from high school. Todd attends Gubernatorial meetings and acts as her top advisor, which would be kind of romantic and cute were there anyone else involved in her decision-making. But, it seems like the buck stops with him, which leads me also to…

5. She can’t think for herself
Oh, sure, she can read a well-written speech, but, apart from a script, Palin always defers to someone else’s judgment on everything. Especially her husband’s. Which is just disgusting.

6. She’s impulsive
After the whole debacle with her accepting-then-cancelling-then-reaccepting-then-cancelling at the RNCC dinner, I hoped to God someone would pull her aside and alert her to the fact that she was acting like the worst kind of flighty schoolgirl. Instead of taking the myriad talking heads’ advice that she should just do her job reliably and well for a while, she…well, she opted to up and quit. Publicly. With no explanation. Then threatens to sue anyone who talks about it. *sigh*

In short: She is absolutely the worst version of anything with a vagina. The end.




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