Saturday, May 28, 2005

The News IS All Bad

Sorry I’ve gone missing again… Been having some upheavals in my personal life. Readers of my private journal have been gagging on THAT hairball for the past few days…

But even a small nervous breakdown can’t keep me totally away from the news, or what passes for news in 21st century America. I’ve come to suspect that this is a huge part of our problems as a nation: what passes for news. I recently finished reading Bad News, a book written by Tom Fenton, a CBS news foreign correspondent whose career spanned five decades—from the sixties through to the first years of the new millennium. He broke into the news business during what future generations might call the "Golden Age of Television News." Those days when serious, fatherly figures like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley sat behind the news desks, looked into the cameras and deadpanned the "who, what, when, where and how" of the world into our homes, where we were most likely to be found before, during or after our evening meal. In those days, television news was a public service required of every network, with the enlightened hope that this awesome new medium could be used as a tool to educate the American people about the increasing complexities of the world in which they lived.

Fenton’s book was mostly a whiney diatribe, proclaiming that the demise of his particular specialty—foreign news—has led to all things evil in this country, including 9/11. He insists that if foreign news bureaus hadn’t been depleted or closed down as cost-cutting measures after the end of the Cold War, and if editors back home had not developed the practice of purposely omitting unpleasant or upsetting foreign stories from the broadcast line-up in order to boost or maintain ratings, the American people would not have been so blind-sided by the events of September 11, 2001. At least, we would not have been shaking our heads and crying, "Why do they hate us so much?" We probably would have had at least some inkling about the smoldering anti-American sentiment abroad.

He does have a point. With the advent of cable television, with its all-news formats creating the 24-hour news cycle, the Big Three networks—ABC, NBC, and CBS—suddenly found themselves competing for viewers in an arena where, obviously, there were big bucks to be made (after all, CNN seemed to be rolling in dough…) The news departments were designated "profit centers," where they had once been public service. Their mission changed from serving the public to entertaining it; and that, in one fell swoop, spelled the end of any meaningful news reaching the eyes of the American people.

During the nineties, we tuned in, rapt, to day after mind-numbing day of the O.J. Simpson trial, wailed for months over Princess Diana’s fatal car accident, allowed the dissection and ultimate impeachment of President Clinton to dominate our media for six years…. While the Balkans were exploding, Africa was eating itself alive, Osama Bin Laden was cultivating Al Qaeda cells all over the world (and our own nation), North Korea was slithering up the nuclear ladder. While the world around us writhed in the throes of changes that would affect each and every one of us on a daily basis, we created and glued ourselves to soap opera after national soap opera. Real news can be ugly, it can be unpleasant, it can be challenging, it may make you think.

With a whole new field of players to chose from, Americans were increasingly choosing that which did not depress, outrage or challenge them. We chose entertainment over news. And now, that is what "news" is all about. To our huge detriment as a people who, arguably, possess the power to choose those who lead us into this shrinking, volatile, delicate world.

Call this installment number one of a short series on "Bad News" (with a nod to Tom Fenton for borrowing the title of his book…)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ahem...Rome IS Burning...

I’m SO glad that a little old-fashioned bipartisan cooperation has short-circuited the "Nuclear Option," for the time being. Now I won’t have to write the entry I’ve been stewing over for the last several days. I was revving up to blast BOTH parties for engaging in a gratuitous political pissing contest, while the business of government fell by the wayside.

Due to the Herculean efforts of what the press, in their infinite quest to exploit partisan differences, almost inaudibly refer to as "moderates," the senate can resume business as usual. Perhaps they can start to address issues that really matter to the American people, like energy prices, health care costs, the exodus of American jobs to Asian markets… On second thought, I fully expect they’ll take up some other non-issue, so that they can continue fiddling while Rome burns…

Monday, May 23, 2005

May Shower Flowers

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May showers bring?

Very damp, beaten up flowers.

Here are a few that have survived the monsoon...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

"Do as I Say..."

In a comment on my last entry, Jackie (Pixels, Politics, Posies, & Pussycats) says: "This country has always been better at "Do as I say, not as I do..." Why?

I think it's because we give people the freedom to dream. To imagine what a "Great Society" would really be like, and inspire others to get behind them and push through changes that take us closer to that goal. However grudgingly, we hear voices like Susan B.Anthony's, Harriet Beecher Stowe's, Cesar Chavez's, Eugene Debs', Martin Luther King's; because two hundred years ago, some very gifted and inspired men made it the law of our land that our government not be allowed to silence them.

Still, we have never made it easy for the dreamers and the movers. We've jailed them, lynched them, banned their books; we've murdered them in cold blood. When, eventually, years later, their dreams become reality, we embrace them, glorify them, build monuments to them. Oh, we can become so puffed up with self-righteous pride on those rare occasions when our higher call finally triumphs over our base human tendency for violence, fear, and domination of the weak.

Now, we presume to take those few and hard-won examples of brilliance and compassion, and goose-step across the world, insisting that all other nations on earth follow our example of freedom and high respect for human rights. Or we will literally hold a gun to their heads until they do. Or worse. Meanwhile, the ideals of the Great Society continue to be attacked and eroded here at home, even by our own government. How quickly we tire of compassion for the weak, elderly, and indigent; equality for those who don’t think or look like us; freedom to express views that are not the same as our own.

Why are our international relations dominated by the dichotomy of "Do as I say, not as I do?" Because we have managed, kicking and screaming, to do a few things right over the centuries. But, typical to the human race, we now feel compelled to take those few instances of "rightness" and use them to club the rest of mankind into line behind us. Does this not sound suspiciously like the beginning of the end of all the dominant human societies that have crumbled over the millennia---Egypt, Rome, Napoleon’s France, the British Empire, the Soviet Union? Perhaps if mankind could somehow learn to truly become a great society before taking that philosophy abroad, we might meet with ultimate success rather than ultimate ruin. Based on human history, I’m not holding out too much hope.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Isn’t it interesting that our Republican Secretaries of state and defense are marching around Iraq, calling upon the minority Sunnis to abandon their violent insurgency and put all their political eggs in the new government’s basket… Even as Republicans in our federal government are vigorously pursuing the course of assuring absolute power for the majority party, and absolute subjugation of the minority opinion? This would be the "Do as I say, not as I do" school of spreading democracy throughout the world…


*I somehow missed the info on the new job!! What's the story?

*And what's the new job. ?????????????????? Inquiring minds and all that.

*A new job???? Did I miss something after you mentioning an interview?

*WHAT job?

Since inquiring minds want to know…

The job interview I mentioned a couple of entries ago blossomed into a job offer. I started work—with much fear and trepidation—this past Monday. The job is at a little restaurant that will be opening early next month in what our city fathers are trying to develop as "Old Town." Not too apt a name for it, as it looks like this will be entirely new construction…while the UGLY buildings erected early in the last century along Highway 30 through town will remain an eyesore. There’s even talk of some guy trying to sneak in a topless bar on the main drag, a block from the high school. I’m hoping that idea goes nowhere, as it would also be only three blocks from my house.

The bottom line is that I really don’t WANT to work for anyone else anymore, but I have to. After the debacle with our property taxes this past month, we are broke; and I still haven’t been able to scare up any May events for Café de la Rue. Unfortunately, the bills do not stop coming in even though I have a month of no income. We just took out a $20,000 loan on a new truck…and we haven’t sold the van yet, so we still have a monthly payment on it. Hence, I need a job.

What’s tough about getting a job, for me, is that I have no interest in doing anything but restaurant/food service work. I tried for years to put that ungrateful, low-paying, back-breaking world behind me. But, in the end, in spite of all the frustration associated with it, it’s all I really like to do. However, when you get to be "of a certain age," there are not too many places left in the industry that are willing to take a chance on you. These days, restaurant work is a world of young people and immigrants (legal and otherwise.) I made up my mind to go out and put in applications at the several little restaurants that are threatening J to open in town over the summer, just to see what would happen. Wonderof wonders, I was hired at the first one I applied to. And I feel pretty good about it; they hired fifteen out of over a hundred applicants. I made that cut, anyway. Though I’m sure that if this was not Scappoose, if it was some place closer to the urban center of Portland, I would not have stood a chance in hell of even a second glance. It was really pretty funny…I actually concentrated on looking "ageless" for those interviews. Swapped out my "old lady" glasses for a pair with more contemporary frames. Didn’t include my job history way back to the beginning. My DOB was a carefully guarded secret until after I was hired.

Even so, I’m not completely reconciled to the idea of having to go back to work. I had been away from that world for over a year, and it was starting to feel pretty good. I struggled with it for a really long time; but over the first couple months of this year I was finally feeling like I had found my equilibrium in the world of "semi-retirement." And then, BAM, a big old fist came down from the clouds and snatched that away from me. God forbid I should get too comfortable with any circumstance in my daily routine. Someone up there apparently wants me to stay flexible…to continue to respect the unpredictable nature of this thing called "life…" Every time I start to think, "I’m too old for that s**t anymore," someone throws it at the fan just to get me running again.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Where Have All The Bloggers Gone...?

I just finished reading a post that spurred me to write this one. The post deals with the writer’s growing despair over the fruitlessness of her blog. She started her AOL journal apparently with the intention of making a worthy contribution to a chosen cause. But, she has all but "given up" the blog, due to lack of readership, lack of response, the feeling that she’s just one of many small voices out there piping up about the same issues…none of which have discovered the right combination of words or ideas to really spark forward movement in the battle. I’m sorry she’s discouraged. Her journal has spurred me to action in many small ways. Too small, apparently, to make it worth her time to continue. I don’t mean to pick on a fellow journaler. Who can write when the inspiration is gone? But I feel somehow diminished by her decision.

This "brain drain" from AOL journal land is reaching a dangerous crescendo. Last month, I posted an entry remarking on the growing numbers of journalers who where hanging up their pens (keyboards?) That entry got twice as many comments as most of my posts…people assuring me they weren’t going anywhere…people expressing relief that I wasn’t going anywhere… Yet the attrition has continued. Part of it, I’m sure, is that folks—especially in the East and Midwest—are busy crawling out from hibernation after a particularly brutal winter. Easy enough to sit and clickety-click the hours away when it’s blizzarding outside, but who wouldn’t want to get outside and stretch their legs and their souls once Spring finally beats Winter into submission?

The tragic part of the mass exodus is the writers who are cashing it in because they believe no one is listening, or that those of us who ARE listening are not important enough to keep them engaged. Many of the more compelling voices in journal land come from the world of academia. Their entire lives are played out among people who share their beliefs, concerns, and value systems. They can network with folks like themselves simply by stopping for a conversation in the lunch room or by picking up the phone. They don’t need the ethereal connection of the blogosphere to know that their beliefs have not alienated them from the world to the point of bitter isolation.

But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who inhabit quiet little two-horse towns, where our political and social beliefs would land us in the pillory or worse, if suchthings still existed? What about those of us who, for whatever reason, have not been able to rise to the challenges of our intellect, and are stuck in unfulfilling jobs where the buzz at the water cooler revolves around reality tv and which cubicle drone is sleeping with whom? What about those of us who are starved for intelligent voices of reason, the likes of which have been culled from the audio and video airwaves? Apparently, there are too few of us to bother with. We don’t constitute much of a market, so no one feels the need to connect with us.

"Coming to Terms…" started out as sort of an "S.O.S." for me. I had to find a way to let someone into the world inside my head, or implode. Eventually, I met with a sort of limited success. Connected with a core group of three or four women who read my ramblings, chanted responses to the questions in my head that had, up until that time, been merely rhetorical cries to the universe. And I, in turn, would go to their journals…counsel when I felt I could, agree enthusiastically with things I never knew I believed till I saw them written with someone else’s hand, click out the "atta-boys" when someone stretched beyond themselves and did good. I became a member of a community, and I thrived in it.

I may have stuck my foot in that success, though, when I started posting political rants before last year’s election. I found I had a gift for it, and a NEED for it, so I have just kept at it. Unfortunately, some of my most cherished journal friends did not want to go there. I can respect that…political and religious controversy are two of the surest ways to kill friendships. But I have gone to the point of no return with the political opinion pieces. They are part of who I am. On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to quit posting pieces about other aspects of my life, either. It seems you get no respect in journal land if your blog is not "about" something. Apparently, one’s life can only be "about" one thing at a time. So, here I am now, neither fish nor fowl. Too opinionated for the ladies that just want to write about relationships, kids, and tv shows, and not sophisticated enough for the political movers and shakers. How like me to finally find a community, then kick myself out of it!

What is the point of all this? Am I going? Am I staying? Am I mad at everyone who is leaving? I don’t know. I have no intention of quitting journal land. As I have said over and over again, I will always need to write. And this is as good a place as any to do that. But it used to be better. And it makes me sad that we so longer seem to understand the value that the sense of community had for us. Perhaps I just measure the worth of journal land with a different scale than everyone else uses. I hope I don’t have to abandon the venue in order to find what is fast slipping away from us here. If it indeed does exist anywhere, which I am beginning to doubt…

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What I Did On My Mini-Vacation

Yes, I have been MIA from journal-land for a couple of days. I went out of town over the weekend...camping at the coast, once again. And since the Oregon State Parks still do not provide internet connections (we can't expect TOO much technological savvy from a state-run agency that is challengedto the extreme by the daunting task of keeping the johns stocked with toilet paper), there are times that I just need to choose vacating to the natural world over maintaining my umbilicus to the blogosphere.

The weather was neither completely delightful nor completely crappy. We didn't have the idyllic conditions with which we had been blessed on our previous outings of the last six months or so, but it didn't rain too much, and that is always a plus on the Oregon coast this time of year. I had decided that I was going to get in at least one weekend of vacation during the month of May--the last month until November that I would be completely free of any commitments (or so I thought...) So, I personally packed up the trailer, my dog, and whatever accoutrements I thought I would need, and headed out to the coast on Thursday afternoon, with the husband slated to join me after he got off work on Friday.

The 90-mile drive out was, for the most part, uneventful...except that about half-way there, I encountered the ominous "wreck ahead" signs.  The ones they save for particularly horrific accidents that cause closure of the highway in at least one direction, if not both. Seems a full-size pick-up took it in its head to cross the center line and smash head on into a lady in a mid-size Pontiac. The truck flipped, and the Pontiac shot off the road, down an embankment, and bounced off several trees. I learned later that the lady in the car was killed, barely a mile from her home. Sort of a solemn note upon which to start off a vacation...

Still, I felt I was on a mission: to prove to myself, if not to anyone else, that I was "okay" on my own. I very competently pulled into the campground, found my reserved site, and proceeded to go through the procedure of setting up camp. Didn't realize that this was the first time I was going to attempt to back the ensemble up with the brand new (to me) pick-up. Suffice it to say that the rig did not respond the same as it did with "Big Red" the van. With the result being that, on my inaugural attempt, I ended up nearly climbing a tree, first with the trailer, then with the truck, then with both as I tried to pull out and right myself for another crack at it. Embarrassing? Oh, yeah...but in the last couple of years, I have learned to plow right through what would, at one time, have been paralyzing discomfiture. What, after all, is your choice when you are dealing with challenging situations all by yourself ? You have to develop that rhinoceros hide and just go for it. And so I did. But I sullied my reputation, a bit, with my campground neighbors.  Imagine, if you will, the "blamma-blamma-blamma" of a diesel engine churning away for twenty or thirty minutes while an inept driver attempts to situate herself in her allotted campsite. Annoying in the extreme, no?

Dog and I eventually settled ourselves to our satisfaction, and got down to the business of camping. Dog moped around listlessly, looking as if her last friend had just died, until we partook of the obligatory beach walk. To Lucy, the only reason to go camping is so that the dog can go to the beach. And of course, simply walking on the beach is not nearly enough; one has to endlessly chuck some object--ball, stick, frisbee--so that dog may get as completely full of sand and seawater (inside and out) as possible before she can be literally dragged back to camp. Where she then drinks gallons of water, eats like a horse, and then passes out cold. The dog's life just doesn't get any better than that!!!

As for me, I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment of setting up by myself, making my own little dinner, and starting my own campfire. I had the brilliant idea of digging out my guitar, which I have not touched in at least ten years, and dragging it along to entertain me at my solitary fire. The poor old thing was a little the worse for age and neglect. It was covered with a film of fine, gritty dust, the strings were spotted with rust, it smelled mildewy and slightly "zoo-ey" (an unfortunate bonus of storing things for years where there are likely to be cats poking around...) I didn't uncrate it and immediately start playing like Segovia; but a little "muscle memory" did take over, and I managed to crank out an old song or two that I had learned a million years ago: "Diamonds and Rust," "Cats in the Cradle..."

I also finished reading a book I had ordered online several weeks ago. This was a satisfying accomplishment, as, for some reason, I have lately been buying books, getting halfway through them, losing interest and setting them aside. It helped that this book was only 237 pages long. Still, I felt like throwing a little party when I turned the final page.

I wish I could say that my entire weekend was filled with these ego-boosting little victories. But things kind of went downhill in a hurry when husband arrived on Friday evening. As usual, he couldn't be prevailed upon to leave work even fifteen minutes early to do something I wanted to do. This is a little game we have played for twenty-nine years---under no circumstances do you let the wife believe that anything she wants, does, or has is ever any higher than a tired second on the husband's priority list. I don't even know why I let it bother me anymore. I suspect that if it didn't bother me, it probably wouldn't happen. I guess every marriage has to have its degree of dramatic tension to keep things interesting. It's just that I was having such a good time by myself, and our little bullshit games just really took all the wind out of my sails. Then, on Saturday night, I tried to address some of the issues that have been concerning me about our business, and things really deteriorated. He decided that he has somehow become the official Café de la Rue handyman, and he's not happy with that being his "only" role in the business. I don't know where he gets this stuff. I had asked him to do some repair and reconfiguration work in the trailer because I thought he enjoyed doing that kind of thing. (Generally, he's never happier than when he's doing something that involves noise, sawdust, and power tools.) Next thing I know, I'm treating him like a janitor. Sometimes you can't win for losing...

So, there is the story of my weekend. It wasn't a great success. And to top it off, I had to come home and get ready for the first day on the new job. A situation that I've faced way too many times over the years...and have learned from experience that a certain amount of fear and dread is completely warranted. I've stumbled into too many bad employment situations to remember, and they have left their indelible mark on my psyche. Ah, but that is a story for another post...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The I-5 Drive

If I had a nickel for every time I've traversed what they call "the I-5 Corridor" between Eugene and the Portland area, I'd probably be a rich woman.  Or, at the very least, debt-free.  I can pretty much put the car on auto-pilot and just let it find its own way down or back. 

In the winter, the sky is a uniform lead gray and is usually spitting some kind of precipitation, for the seven or eight meager hours of semi-daylight we are alotted. In mid to late summer, everything goes faded brown from lack of water.  On those days, the trip can run the gamut from perilous to hypnotically monotonous. 

But this time of year, when there are showers and sunbreaks, thunderheads and "sucker holes" (big patches of blue sky between storms), rainbows and cloud creatures, it can be like a 2 1/2 hour blockbuster on a REALLY big screen... 

Monday, May 9, 2005

Hellish Haircut Redux

A couple of weeks ago, I succumbed to my annual April madness; once again, despite the fact that I was still grappling with growing out the haircut from hell from a year ago, I made the dire mistake of paying someone to take a scissors to my locks. In truth, it was an attempt to tweak said haircut into something more resembling the style I was originally after that tempted me to once again seek "professional" help. Since, in the ensuing months, I had also discovered that I personally could (and did) do nothing but compound the damage with a scissors or coloring bottle in my hand… I hushed the voice of past experience, and of my own free will, seated myself once again in the Chair of Mystery. The one where, the minute your butt touches the nauga-hide, you speak in some unknown tongue that is undecipherable to anyone wielding a sharp instrument within twenty feet.

Last year, "I want my hair to look exactly like it does now only shorter" translated to, "Give me a wedge. I want to look like a thirty-something soccer mom from ten years ago." This time around, "Layer the bangs back into the rest of my hair, but DON’T layer the back" obviously sounded like, "I’m really dying for a seventies’ shag." Like the one I got in 1973 when I finally ventured to have my long, stringy hippie locks cut upon my graduation from high school.

If anything, this haircut has been more of a disaster than last year’s. It’s three weeks since my temporary loss of sanity, and I have still not figured out how to control this mop. Forget making it look how I want it to look. It never looks the same way twice. I’d be perfectly happy to let it do whatever it wanted to do, at this point. But it doesn’t seem to have figured out what that is. And I’m just too old to encounter a different person peering back at me from the mirror every day after I hang up my blow dryer.

As I was formulating this rant, I searched for a recognizable celebrity that I could point to and say, "That’s the haircut I got." At first, I thought Debra Winger in Urban Cowboy.

Nope…that was more of a longish, curly cowgirl thing. Okay…Sally field in Smokey and the Bandit.  No, no…that wasn’t quite it either. How about Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. Dream on, old girl…. It came to me last Friday when I was trying on new glasses after my optometrist appointment. On a lark, I tested out a pair of aviator frames. And there she was, staring back at me from the mirror…Billie Jean King. From right around the time of the Bobby Riggs Tennis Battle of the Sexes thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I admire and respect Ms. King for her unrivaled contributions to women’s sports; but let’s face it. She didn’t exactly cultivate the mystique that this forty-something queen of hot flashes is burning to emulate.  Anna Kournikova, maybe.  But not Billie Jean King.  The thing is, if I can’t look like Julia Roberts, I’d rather just look like me. Unfortunately, it looks like even me is too much to hope for these days…

Friday, May 6, 2005

A Picture Is Worth....

Many Moved by Photo of Soldier, Iraqi Child
At first glance, I was convinced this link would take me to a Bush Administration PR picture of an American GI captured in a Kodak moment, dandling an Iraqi tot on his knee and handing her a chocolate bar.
I was unprepared for the image that clicked to life on my monitor when I went to the story. A startling, gut-wrenching photo of a heartbroken soldier snuggling a bloody bundle from which protrude the top of a small, dark head and a pair of tiny feet.
A picture like this can be spun a thousand ways, pro- or anti-war. For those who support the war--Abu Ghraib, Gitmo...any stories of our military’s inhumanity will evaporate behind the strength of this one image.
For those of us who have abhorred the war from the beginning…all we can think is, "What have we done? What have we done to that country,  to those children…and to our own young men whom we have sentenced to a lifetime of such memories?"

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

My Life So Far (This Week...)

I lead such an exciting life. Today, I went to a job interview. I hate job interviews. There was about a six-year span of my life when all I DID was go to job interviews. And get jobs. And leave jobs. I hopped off that merry-go-round four years ago when I started my business. But I currently find myself with time on my hands and the need for some extra cash, so a-hunting I will go. I’m almost hoping for no success…

Don’t think the business isn’t going well, though. The highlight of my week—and this is why I say I lead such an exciting life—has been the discovery of an important ingredient for one of my pastry pocket sandwiches, on sale at a local discount grocery store for a quarter of the regular price. That will improve my food cost on that item by over 6%. Woo-hoo! I almost high-fived the entire staff of the store. Of course they thought I was crazy…buying 37 one-pound packages of Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing mix. "Um…making a BIG meal…?" asked the clerk. "Don’t ask…" I giggled as I scraped my 37 bags back into their boxes and danced out of the store.

The highlight of my husband’s week happened at the same store. Hubs and I cannot live without ice cream. Proximity to the nearest Dairy Queen has been an important element in all our home-buying decisions.. After we joined Weight Watchers, a life without our daily ice cream fix stretched on before us, bleak and arid, until we discovered "Skinny Cow." Low-fat ice cream that actually tastes like something besides sand and ice crystals suspended in watered-down milk. Husband swears he would never have made it to goal without Skinny Cow.

Suddenly, just after Christmas, Fred Meyer stopped carrying Skinny Cow. Husband was horrified! He marched to the service desk to complain. They told him the company had…gasp…discontinued the product; he nearly fainted. He emailed the company. They sent him coupons…for everything else they sell, but were sorry, they would no longer be making the half-gallons of ice cream that husband lived for every day. He was crushed.

When the discount grocery store put up a "coming soon" sign at the empty storefront down the street, husband counted the days until the Grand Opening.  It was his last hope for Skinny Cow. (This little chain of stores sells stuff like manufacturer’s overruns at big discounts.)  We sauntered nonchalantly into the new store on Saturday, hardly daring to get our hopes up.  Wonder of wonders…Eureka! There in the freezer case resided carton upon carton of husband’s life’s blood. For less than half the price we had been paying at Fred Meyer.

We bought eight cartons. And another six last night. Along with my 37 bags of stuffing mix. I’m sure we already have quite the reputation with the store staff… But we are happy little campers tonight!

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Yesterday, I followed an AOL link to this New York Times article-- GOP Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases. Why are the most important essays on the most frightening right-wing power plays relegated to some minor headline or back page? Oh, excuse me…whatever made me ask that question? Given the conservative strangle-hold on information these days, I should be shocked that the article ever even made it to the Welcome Screen.

The article provides a blow-by-blow account of conservative (read Republican) efforts to eliminate the liberal bias that is supposedly poisoning Public Television. They will accomplish this by packing the upper echelons of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with right-wing sympathizers, including a White House staff member who was contracted to write new guidelines for judging the content of PBS broadcasts, and a former head of the RNC. A plan is being enacted to appoint ombudsmen to oversee the content of PBS shows. And, apparently, the search is on to find appropriate conservative-leaning programming to "counteract" the supposed liberal bias that currently exists at the network. Overrun the field with members of your own team, change the rules, and fill the airwaves with your own story as if it was gospel. Sounds like the typical Republican agenda.

I would like to believe that the actions of conservative CPB board chairman Kenneth Tomlinson are simply a matter of economics. He knows which side his bread is buttered on. Washington is currently in the grips of the right wing, and Congress provides PBS funding. Would that his turning of the screws on PBS programming was motivated purely by the need to appear attractive to the guys who hold the purse strings. But I can’t help but believe there’s more going on here than that. Yes, Tomlinson was originally a Clinton Administration appointee to the CPB board. (It’s unfortunate that the Democrats’ inclusive politics often come back to bite them in the behind.) But Tomlinson hit the jackpot with the advent of the Bush Administration. What kind of bartering went on in the back room when he was offered the CPB chairmanship in 2003? What agenda did the administration place before him in exchange for the appointment? So much of the current right-wing success has been created by their ability to control the media. It would stretch credibility to believe that the Republican administration would miss an opportunity to bring Public Broadcasting to heel.

I’m not a huge consumer of Public Television. I watch "Antiques Road Show" and documentaries from time to time. During the horrendous hype leading up to last year’s presidential election, The News with Jim Lehrer was the only TV news broadcast I could stand to watch. It carried a somewhat mature treatment of national events, so I didn’t feel like tearing my hair out by the roots or throwing some heavy object through the television screen during the broadcast. I am, however, a devout fan of Public Radio. And, according to the New York Times article, I have the greasy fortune of the Kroc family to thank for giving NPR a modicum of financial independence that will keep it safe from a right-wing occupation…for the time being. But that doesn’t mean I am not seriously concerned that the last outposts of broadcasting that even suggest the liberal point of view are being overcome by right-wing interests. We can no longer hope for balance at any one outlet. We can only hope that there will be some media left, somewhere, that will do more than spout right-wing Republican propaganda. State-run media? It’s coming, folks. In fact, it’s already here.

Monday, May 2, 2005


To anyone and everyone out there in journal land:  After you read this, please inform everyone you know who uses AOL as their ISP--

This morning, I received this email from some guy identifying himself as AOL Security:



Dear AOL member,

               Hello, my name is Steve Baldger, on behalf of the AOL Security Department. We regret to inform you that there was detection of online abuse activity.  To safeguard your account from possible termination please visit our website at

When I copied and pasted the link into my browser, it took me to what looked like an official AOL screen, requesting ALL my credit card information, including the "secret code" on the back.  I was suspicious from the very beginning, because the email did not come with the official AOL blue envelope icon.  I tried replying to the email, and the message popped up that the sender was "not a known AOL screen name."  That really freaked me out.

But the screen looked SO official, I very nearly complied with the request for my info.  Instead, I went on "live billing chat" with some nice person named Wayne, who assured me that this message was NOT generated by AOL, and that I should forward it to the TOS department.

If you have received or do receive a similar email, DO NOT give out your information.  Forward it to  

This is very scary.  It chills me to the very core to think I could have fallen for this, and then God knows what would have happened.