My Blog List

Saturday, October 30, 2010

rally to restore sanity and/or fear

When my daughter was born my pediatrician advised me not to buy any "how to raise a baby" book. He said that people write these books to make money, so one day I would read one thing and the next I would read the opposite. "Trust your own judgment," he said, "you know your baby better than anyone."

Now, you're asking, what does this have to do with the rally to restore sanity and/or fear?

It has to do with this thread I saw on Friday in the New York Times imported from the Washington Post, and which I think should be characterized as the biggest heap of doo doo, if one wants to be generous: Just who the hell does Jon Stewart think he is?

This was written mostly before the rally, not after, mind you. Before anyone knew what the game plan was, how things would turn out, what kind of people were going to show up, what type of signs they might carry. So many opinions, so many big words analyzing what's right and what's wrong about this "liberal" spoof, the intervention of comedians in politic, the message, the medium, the merit, what it means for Democrats in the coming elections and so forth. Telling mindless readers like me what to think about Jon Stewart and Colbert with big words and deep analysis encompassing the entire history of the republic: precedents, civic duty, proscenium (huh?), anathema, manufactured controversy and alarmism, political laziness masquerading as ironic detachment, bla bla bla bla bla....

Hey, people, excuse me, hello... I want to think about the rally whatever I want to think... don't feed me what to think... don't shove into my head the entire history of rallies in the Mall, and don't you dare badmouthing Colbert, or else!!

While I was recovering from the overdose of the pundits' verbosity, I heard this line streaming out of my laptop, thanks to CNN live streaming of the rally. It was uttered by the prankster Father Sarducci while he was waiting for god to give him a sign to which religion He ascribes to (not his exact words). After calling various schools of the Jesus persuasion and receiving enthusiastic responses from the crowd, Sarducci named Judaism and Islam and suggested with a heavy Italian accent: "You don't eat pork, we don't eat pork, let's build on that."

What a great idea to solve the conflict. Let's not eat pork together!

Which brought to my mind a piece I saw on the Jerusalem Post recently, where the writer Gil Shefler suggested to bring the rally to restore sanity to Israel. In his own words:

It might not bring peace to the Middle East
but it might help promote just a little humor
and good will in the region, and that in itself
would already be a great start.

There’s only one problem. How does one restore
sanity to a part of the world where it never existed?
I therefore propose calling the gathering in Israel
the Rally to Introduce Sanity.


I think it's a wonderful idea. Colbert and Jon Stewart going to Tel Aviv, 15 years after the assassination of Rabin during a peace rally. Hey, it might work out. Who knows. In the Middle East, where being sane was never an option, maybe the least predictable gesture would get everyone out of orbit. After all, when you have nothing to lose, resorting to humor is so much more humane than suicide bombing and state sponsored bombardment. Don't you think?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

hope we can believe in

Today, two men from Afghanistan moved into my office. I was expecting the move and been reading about Afghanistan to prepare myself for their arrival, so when they moved in I felt ready for the challenge. But then one of them did something very unexpected. He taped a photo of Obama to the cabinet door above his head. (not the one in this post)

This, I thought, must have been something he learned to do in Afghanistan. Hanging a picture of the "leader" to show loyalty and secure his place at work. I mean, we've seen pictures of Saddam in every corner in Iraq, maybe they do the same in Afghanistan. I wasn't sure if it would be okay to say anything. But it was just too interesting to let it pass, so I made the most innocuous comment I could come up with, "You hanged a picture of Obama."

The man turned to me and said, "Obama is the best thing that happened to America."

Then the other man stopped organizing his stuff and told me that his wife, who never voted and didn't care about voting, made a special trip to the polling station to vote for Obama in 2008.

I think I am going to sleep much better tonight.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

are men necessary?


I've been racking my brain with this question for quite some time.

Maureen Dowd struggled with this question in a book carrying this title some years ago, and I must admit that although I had read her book in my search for an answer, I am still at a loss.
Michael Moore wrote in his book Stupid White Men that the portable, easy-to-carry, aluminum stepladder "did the male population in... and made us guys as useful as an eight-track tape."

While there is some grain of truth in Moore's statement, there are still a few things I need a man for, and no, it is not what you're thinking...

It is true that I own a (wooden) step-ladder, that I can drill a hole in the wall, change a light bulb, and even check the oil level in my car and add more if it's low, BUT for the life of me, I can't twist off tight things, like the lids of jam and pickle jars or the cap of the water purifier, which needs to be opened every couple of months in order for the filter to be replaced.

The last time my daughter wanted me to help her open a jar of pickles I gave in and said "I need a man to do this," only to hear the contempt in her voice echoing in the kitchen. "You say a woman should not depend on a man to do things for her," or something in that spirit. Suddenly she cares about what I say. Fourteen year old smarty pants.

Of course, I can get that lid off, if I puncture it with a wine opener. That's how I do it when there is no man around. But I didn't want to make a hole in the lid. I wanted to keep it wholesome, perfect, and unpunctured, man or no man in my life!

So yesterday, in the absence of a judgmental fourteen-year-old in my house, I succumbed to the water filter's stubbornness. I unscrewed the whole contraption from the faucet, threw a pocket-size multi-tool Leatherman in a plastic bag (one of my most manly tools) and took it to my car. My idea was to corner a friendly man somewhere during my weekend rounds, shove the filter thingy and the pliers into his hands and beg him to unscrew the lid, so I could take the purifier back home and replace the expired filter. This is how desperate I was, and this is how far I was ready to go hunting for a pair of strong hands.

Other thingies that drive me to search for a man come in the shape of dead rats! For some unknown reason my garage is acting as a death trap for vermin. And when a dead rat manifests itself on the floor or under the stairs of the garage, nothing can move me toward its corpse. The last time I discovered a dried up rat in my garage I took to the street and called for help. I did not scream or flailed my hysterics. I just called, "is there a man around who can help me?" as soon as I spotted a male-type neighbor emerge out of a house across the street. The man, whom I knew was a navy officer, came to my rescue without a moment hesitation. He picked up the shapeless pile of rat remains and deposited them in his own trash can, so my fragile self would not have to be tormented over the contents of my own trash. Bless his heart.

I find myself thinking about the question "are men necessary?" when I have to lift or move big heavy things, read electronic gadgets manuals, or feel like eating barbecue. But most of all, I think about it when it's ten o'clock at night and I'm in my pajamas on the verge of sleep, and it's pouring rain outside, and I suddenly remember that I forgot to take the trash out, with or without a dead rat lying inside.

It would have been nice to have a man around to help with the little stuff of life. For the big stuff, I  rely on myself.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

the politics of coffee

A photo of a cup of coffee.This morning, after I dropped Eliya at Moss Landing to go kayaking with a bunch of scientific minded kids, I drove to a coastal blink-of-an-eye hamlet by the freeway and entered a local cafe known for its wonderful variety of pies.

The entire weekend crowd consisted of a young dude in a funky wool cap and his laptop. He looked up and smiled when I entered. It was a good beginning. A friendly crowd of one always makes me feel welcomed. No line. Not too many people staring, making silent judgment about the way I walk and talk and dress and order...

The girl behind the counter looked busy doing something, but I wasn't sure what. I waited for a few minutes hoping she would notice me. Eventually she did and promised she'd be right with me. After several more minutes she asked me what I wanted. I asked for a cup of coffee. She motioned toward a heavy wooden dresser behind me and insinuated in some nonverbal way that I should serve myself.

I got myself a paper cup, after paying for the coffee, and started pumping coffee out of a tall thermos. The pump went dry before the cup got half way to the top. Oh, well, no rush, I thought. I picked the empty thermos and gave it to the girl. It's empty, I said.

She took it and turned to serve another woman who materialized out of nowhere. Eventually, someone came from inside the kitchen and took the empty thermos, I guess to fill it up.

I waited. In the meantime I learned about the customer's family and friends and what she thought about a bag of granola. The customer dropped a pen. I picked it up. Then waited some more. It's a small town, I thought. No rush. One customer at the counter, one sitting at the table, and no coffee. So what? We have time. People talk, bond over family ties. The dude at the table finished reading whatever he was reading on his laptop, folded everything and left. And I was still waiting. Waiting for some coffee. In a small artsy cafe at the end of the street, a block away from Starbucks.

Oh, come on, be good. Have some patience. It's the weekend. Take it easy. Everything is cool. I kept on waiting. And waiting. Suddenly something stirred inside me. Are they going to bring the coffee, I interrupted the friendly conversation that meandered next to me. Uh, I'll get it for you, the girl behind the counter said.

She disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a cup of coffee. "Let me know if you want some more," she said, as she handed me a half-filled cup.

I looked at the half-full cup (or half empty, you decide) and out of nowhere said to her that I no longer wanted any coffee. I just wanted to leave.

The woman with the granola bag got really mad at me. She insisted that I take the half-full coffee cup because that was what I wanted, right? You wanted coffee, here it is. She frowned at me and was about to start a fight to defend the honor of the girl behind the counter.

But I did not feel like getting mad at anyone. I left the artsy cafe and drove to my favorite, always busy French bakery, where the friendly woman behind the counter poured me a cup of coffee (after I handed her an empty dispenser/thermos of French Roast) and warned me to watch out because it was very hot.

And no, as you see, it was not Starbucks.




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Saturday, October 2, 2010

America has lost its mind

Recently I saw a headline in one of the local papers toying with the idea that Boehner (House minority leader, i.e., a Republican) is going to be the next speaker of the house. It made cringe. I felt helpless and angry that America was handing me this card, again. After eight years of Bush, a short respite, and here we go again.

Eight years of watching the Republicans destroying everything I thought was good about America really took it out of me. But then came Obama and things started to look brighter, more promising, in spite of the mismanaged wars, the economic collapse, the bitter aftertaste of living under the Cheney snarl day after day after day. In the last elections America proved itself again as the harbinger of progress and renewal. But now, only two years into Obama's presidency, the mean-spiritedness of the republican party already metastasizes into every corner of our public and private spheres and threatens to take us all down into its dark nether world.

I see no difference between the mobs who burn American flags on the streets of Pakistan and the well-funded crazies who wave posters of Obama in a Hilterite mustache on this continent. The only difference you can find between the two is that the latter are fully embraced by the republican mainstream establishment.

I am so tired of being bullied by ignorance, stupidity, greed, fake hysteria, xenophobia, cynicism, belligerence, sexually repressed politicians and their blatant disregard for facts.

I tell myself that in the micro level my life will not change if the Republicans win Congress. I will still go to work every morning, drive my daughter to school, live in the same place, shop at the same stores, walk on the same beach, talk to the same people, enjoy the sunset. So what if more young Americans will get killed because of the misguided notion Republicans had that American democracy can be imposed on Muslims at gun point. So what if the wounded soldiers will get dumped on the streets because there will be no money to care for them. So what if our public schools turn into Christian madrassas. So what if the next generations will bake in an endless summer and watch the sea level rise and the ice caps disappear. So what if the billionaires get richer with our tax dollars and then rip off ordinary citizens, so what if more people lose their health insurance that the health care reform endowed them with after long and tiresome maneuvers the democrats had to pull off on the floor of the congress? So what? Life goes on... "yom asal yom basal" as they say in Arabic. One day honey, one day onion.

I can learn to ignore whatever goes on in the halls of Washington. Focus on my life in California. Then, in a month from now, when the republicans boot the democrats out of congress, I will be ready to see their smug faces ushering in their distorted version of reality. All I have to do is find a way to avoid being arrested in case I feel an urge to please myself.

Because after all, what has given the republicans an edge over the democrats in this election cycle is their freshest battle cry: "No more masturbation for the masses."

related stuff:

Slate: Socialism, masturbation and Christine O'Donnell

Masturbation hater wins senate primary


video: Karl Rove loves Christine O'Donnell