Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Barack Obama Elementary School

Ludlum Elementary School in Hempstead, NY might be the first to rename itself for Barack Obama. The students developed a grassroots consensus, brought it to the school board and the board, in another national first, said “Hey, why not?”, and just did it.  The school is in an almost entirely African American and Latino community. It’s the sort of place where nowadays a little kid crying because he doesn’t want the doctor to give him a shot or something is now being told, “Hush up! Do you think Barack Obama would cry about a thing like that?” and so forth. I spend a workday or so a week in Hempstead and just this past week I had to stop myself from telling two twenty-something young men, “Barack Obama wants you to pull your pants up over your underwear.” I didn’t say it, because I actually didn’t know the two guys and it wasn’t exactly my business, but you can bet they hear it from their Moms.


The Angst Is Out There

Last Friday night we decided to take a break from dealing with sucky stuff and go to see the new X-Files movie on the night it opened. I’m not the X-Files freak that Mr. Yenta is. I can take it or leave it. Real life is noir enough for me, but, hey, he really wanted to go. We don’t go out to the movies often. Maybe every four or five years.  Now that movie tickets cost what I paid to see my first couple of Broadway shows I’m really happy to see them at home on DVD or whatever the current technology is. Plus you can pause them and the popcorn is also a lot cheaper. Some things, however, deserve a trip to the bigger screen.  Sadly, The X-Files: I Want to Believe isn’t one of them.

I was just kind of bored. There were  a couple of funny in-jokey moments, but those were the highlights as far as I was concerned. About half-way through, though, it occurred to me that Mr. Yenta must be hating the movie. There were no aliens about to take over the planet. There was no grand conspiracy going on. The matter under investigation wasn’t even an X-file.  I’m sorry, but having one psychic pedophile priest who turns out to have an extra-normal connection to a killer might be good enough for one episode of the show, but not for a movie. The crimes were grisly and a little bit out there, but not nearly far enough out there to justify making the movie to begin with.

I will say that Gillian Anderson looked fabulous. Didn’t she and David Duchovny start out pretty close in age to one another? Now it’s more of a May/October thing. She looked great but she’s matured into a full time pain in the ass. First it’s all, “Get out of this isolated dump in the middle of nowhere, where we inexplicably seem to live even though I’m a doctor, and get involved. A young agent’s life depends on your getting your head out of your ass!” So he does and then she gets all, “Stop right now or I’m cutting you off. Don’t even bother taking the Viagra, Mulder!” Too bad for him that Amanda Peet ended up dead so fast. You could tell she kind of had the hots for him.

At the end, I woke Mr. Yenta up – he only dozed off at the end. His review, “If they make another one they’d better be abducted by some huge, ugly-ass aliens to make up for this.”

Race card? We don’t say “Race card”, Bill

The term gets tossed around the media with no apparent thought. It’s working its way into our language and we ought to get rid of it real quick. “Playing the race card” is an ugly and racist turn of phrase. It sprung up when it became the national consensus that minorities have rights, too. It was a way of denigrating any claims of discrimination or racism. If you mean to say that you’ve been accused of racism when it wasn’t justified, then say that. And if you’re Bill Clinton, give some thought to what you might have said that ever gave that impression, as well.

“I think that they played the race card on me,” Clinton said in an interview on WHYY radio Monday, referring to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign. “And we now know from memos on the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along.”

He uses the term “race card” and then wonders why he gets accused of playing to racism or at least to racially based fears.

Clinton said that it was just a statement of fact that the Obama campaign was similar to Jesse Jackson’s in 1988, and that the Obama campaign then tried to turn the remark against him, decrying it as an attempt to marginalize Obama.

“This was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try to breed resentment elsewhere,” Clinton said.

I don’t know about that. I’m right in the Hillary voter demographic in terms of age, race and income and I was truly shocked as well as disappointed when he said that after South Carolina. I didn’t have to hear it through any campaign’s filter to find it reprehensible. I was shocked because we were having a really historic moment. Whether Obama won the nomination or not, he was most emphatically not the Jesse Jackson in the race . He was a contender for the nomination and that had never happened with a black candidate before in this country. It was good for the country, good for the party and the fact that the Clintons couldn’t rise above their own ambitions just for long enough to acknowledge the fact is what made my final decision to cast my vote for Obama. I’d been undecided right up to that point. If he honestly didn’t know how it was going to sound, then shame on him, but we do offer condolences on the loss of his political instincts. And shame on him and everyone else who’s been using that ugly phrase without stopping to think about its origins and its real meaning.

Obama’s Got Game!

Obama at playOn the way to thinking of something to blog about, we got distracted by HBO:Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. They were airing an interview and pick up basketball game with Barack Obama. Obama did well on both fronts.

In the course of the interview the air was thick with metaphor. In some cases it was kind of plausibly deniable metaphor, as when Obama reflected on the hypothetical player who just keeps shooting and shooting when he doesn’t really have a jump shot.

I don’t know if they replay these, in case you missed it, but it’s not like cable to produce a show just to run it once. It was a nice, refreshing break from politics as usual.

All Along the Watchtower

WatchtowerWe’re huddling in the house. Laying low, as it were. Why? Because about 15 minutes ago an unfamiliar car parked across the street. After a little while its passengers emerged and and sent residents into their homes faster than a swarm of killer bees. There were two nicely dressed young women and a man in a sport jacket and slacks, each carrying either an armload of something or other or a briefcase. On a Saturday afternoon, that can only mean Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’re working the other side of the street now, but they know we’re home. We were outside when they pulled up. Maybe we’ll pretend we went out the back way.

It’s gotta be rough to be a Jehovah’s Witness. You’re obligated to go knocking on doors knowing full well that no one wants to talk to you. The reason I don’t want to talk to them is that they’re so nice. Nobody likes to say, “Sorry, not interested.” to nice people. But if you leave any opening for conversation – that’s the ballgame. Whatever you were planning for the next half hour, or sometimes much longer, is out the window.

When I was much younger, I used to get involved in conversations with them. Witnesses would come to the door and they’d often open the conversation with arguments against evolution. I’d present my arguments on the other side. No one got anywhere convincing anyone of anything. The disheartening thing is that thirty-some odd years ago, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ had beliefs that were farther out there than they seem to be today. Here in the suburbs of New York, we didn’t come across too many people who had any doubts about evolution or who believed that we were in the midst of religiously prophesied endtimes. Sure, there were those who believed that wafers and wine literally turned into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, but while Catholics were in the majority, literalists were not. There seem to be a lot more fundamentalists of all types now than then.

As you get older, you realize that it’s probably a good thing that we can only guess at the future. It would have been so discouraging to know in 1970 that the new millennium would not only fail to bring flying cars, we’d be having more arguments about evolution than we had back then.

I think they’re gone now. We had a brief thunderstorm and the car is gone. They never came here at all. Did we send out some particular infidel vibes?

This beer was made for you and me

One of my new favorite blogs, Soup Is Not A Finger Food reminds us that today is the 75th anniversary of the Volstead Act Amendment. It eased Prohibition a bit by allowing for beer. Go, read. It’s history. While celebrating I happened on a map of the USA created by Etiquette Systems. a label company. Each state is represented by its own beer.

Beers of America

Click the map above to go to the original image. They have a complete list there, too, in case you don’t recognize your state’s beer label.

RIP, Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston as MosesCharlton Heston died yesterday at the age of 84. His movie career was most notable for his starring roles in historical dramas of the type that featured “casts of thousands”. That was when you had to use thousands of actual people, rather than computer generated multitudes. No matter how many roles he played, on and off screen, I, and many others, will always think of him as Moses.

Mr. Heston led a long, full life, and although I didn’t agree with him on much, he was clearly guided by his honest view of what was right. Therefore, I will not make any cracks about how I guess they can pry that gun from his hands now. Because that would be tasteless. So I’m not gonna do it.