Friday, April 11, 2003

The Cruelest Month(s)

All this happy crap about the coming of spring cheeses me off. The popular conception of spring is balmy weather, fluffy bunnies, warm sunshine and fresh flowers and grass underfoot. Spring is the time when we turn to thoughts of luuuurrrve and happy sunny things. What a load of utter crap. I hate spring with the fury of a rudely awakened rattlesnake, and here's why:

Balmy weather brings with it the yearly Exploding of the Oaks and Pines, whereby everyone in my town must go about masked or succumb to the swirling noxious yellow clouds of pollen. When you can go outside at night and actually SEE pollen motes floating through the beams of your home's floodlights, something is very, very wrong.

Fuzzy bunnies? Oh sure, we have them. For about five minutes, and then my cat deposits their headless corpses on our doormat. We keep her in at night--doesn't matter, and no one sleeps, as she was a stray who is very much an outdoor cat and who doesn't mind letting you know it. Buy her a bell--no good. Nothing can stop her single-minded quest to herald spring by mercilessly killing every one of God's creatures in a 3 block radius. I have nursed bluebirds to health in my bathroom, held bunnies as they expired (did you know that fleas leave a dead bunny's body IMMEDIATELY after death? I do! Ask me how!), and attempted to salvage moles, mice, and even hummingbirds. My success rate is unfortunately very low. In addition, I have had the joy of stepping, barefoot, into any number of pieces of ex-wildlife. At least by summertime the survivors are big enough, smart enough, or scarce enough to avoid her wrath.

Flowers? Grass? It is to laugh. I am surrounded by pine trees. Nothing grows here except pine trees. The soil sucks, the flowers wither, and the black widow population just loves hanging out around my deck, porch, flowerbeds and driveway. Oh, and that's not counting the snakes--or at least the snakes that are too big for the cat to eat.

Okay, so what about the other stuff--the luuurrrrve stuff? Puh-leeze. Spring is the time of year where I emerge, Sta-Puff like, from my cocoon of sweatpants and comfort food and find that I can signal passing aircraft by allowing the sun to reflect off of my white, white legs. My complexion always freaks out in spring; I'm pale, untoned, and scruffy. And as for the clothing--the human being does not exist who can pull off a lime green spring sheath dress. What is wrong with bright red or blue for spring? Pale pinks, lavenders and yellows have the added bonus effect of EMPHASIZING my puffy pallor. There is no love here. I scare myself, not to mention the pilots of those low-flying planes who mistook my calves for runway lights.

And then, just as I resign myself to the inevitability of fruitless yard work, spider squishing, wildlife rescuing and resumption of jogging, we have a freaking cold snap. Oh, very funny, spring! Ha. Ha. Joke's on me, I guess. Oh, and on my toddler, who doesn't understand that 40 degrees and rain are a pretty good reason for coming inside. Whee! Cold weather AND tantrums! It doesn't get any better than this!

Spring? I hate you.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

The X-Files? Was A TV Show, Dammit

Listen to me, because I am only going to say this once (today), albeit loudly for the benefit of those of you living in soundproofed bunkers and draped in tinfoil:

Those images you saw yesterday? You know, the hoopin' and hollerin'? REAL. Yep, really real. Not staged, retouched, digitally enhanced by Peter Jackson's WETA workshop, or pulled out of Brit Hume's ass by the photoshop fairy. Okay? You got that, you bunch of mental midgets?

Perhaps you've spent too much time smoking Longbottom Leaf with your fellow sociologists, but I'm no longer interested in excuses, root causes, or medical theories to explain your bizarre behavior. So I'm going to spell this out for you:

  • You are insane if you believe, actually believe, that there is some sort of all powerful, all knowing illuminati out there pulling the strings of every government worldwide.

  • You are insane if you think that there is a top secret jewish cabal plotting to wipe out muslims, twist christians to do their evil bidding and control ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD!

  • You are insane if you seriously claim that the current administration is a dictatorship, that earth was settled by humans during an alien experiment, or that Michael Moore ever gave a rat's ass about any "people" whose initials weren't "Michael Moore's Bank Account."

  • You are merely deluded if you think that one day, somewhere, communism can work out, and that ANSWER is a grassroots conglomeration of concerned citizens with no other agenda.

  • You are deluded if you think that a government will EVER overcome human nature and result in a utopia, that people everywhere will someday spontaneously start getting along, and that Star Trek was a pretty accurate depiction of the future.

  • You are inhabiting another dimension entirely if you think "Castro's not so bad, no worse than our government," that foreigners will like and respect you for agreeing with (and one-upping) their anti-American disdainful vitriol, or that "natural anti-perspirants" actually, you know, WORK. And in that same vein--patchouli? The hell, people. There are like a MILLION natural scents that DON'T make you smell like year-old Avon pillowcase potpourri. Pick one.


If you find that you suffer any of these symptoms, there is a cure. It's called Putting Down the Chomsky. Don't delay, get help today.
Why Does Edward Said Continually Chap My Ass?

Well, aside from the fact that I had to actually read and make use of his theories to get through grad school? Because he's created an image of a people and a region based upon the false nostalgia of youth, and instead of recognizing that reality differs from theory, continues to insist on his worldview to almost the point of madness.

Here's what set me off this time. I recently came across an old article by Said, a defense of the autobiography he wrote in 1999. The idea that leapt out at me was his nostalgic view of life in Palestine (I believe he was 15 when he lived there/left), and his subsequent construction of self-identity as brave rebel, struggling against his parents' expectations as well as those of his adopted country. This isn't unusual, but I was left with the impression that Said's need to fulfill some leftover adolescent fantasy of rebellion fueled his theories. At the very least, it painted an unflattering picture of Said as an egomaniac, and this was in an article WRITTEN by Said to DEFEND HIMSELF against attacks on his AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Irony stopped by as I read the article, and we shared a special moment of laughter, as well as a beer.

I was going to just file that under Well, No Wonder and move on with my life, until this morning when I came upon this special quote (Via Sullivan):

The idea that Iraq's population would have welcomed American forces entering the country after a terrifying aerial bombardment was always utterly implausible ... One can only wince at the way weak-minded policy hacks in the Pentagon and White House have spun out the 'ideas' of Lewis and Ajami into the scenario for a quick romp in a friendly Iraq.

I hope that yesterday's reality created some cognitive dissonance for Said. I find it amusing that he uses sneer quotes around the "ideas" of others, when his own are ripe for the same treatment. And I finally wonder how long it will be before he authors a screed bemoaning the post-traumatic stress disorder of the Iraqi citizens, claiming that their euphoria was caused only by the cessation of bombardment and that it was actually just pragmatic self-preservation for these victims of white hegemony.

I used to think that adolescence was something we experienced and got over. I now find this theory increasingly disproven, especially among those whose only sense of self-worth comes from being seen as a "rebel." I'd be angrier if it weren't so pathetic.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

FIRE is on, Well, Fire.

Got two emails from Thor Halvorssen yesterday--yeah, I know they're mass emails, but I just like saying that I get mail from a thunder god--about cases at Harvard and Rutgers which FIRE calls "victories for fundamental fairness and freedom of conscience." Go read both case studies and be very very glad for the existence of this watchdog group.

I also noticed they're working on a new endeavor, speechcodes.org. Site isn't up yet, but I intend to check back.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Hi, I'm the Most Overwrought Person Ever.

In the latest Chronicle (sorry, subscription only), we have a lovely first person account of the "chilling effect" of the Patriot Act on scholarship. And who, may one ask, is the academic experiencing the chill? Perhaps an outspoken pro-Palestinian political science professor? Maybe a high-profile critic of imperialism, like Edward Said? Why no, not at all. Just plain ol' Judith Grant, associate prof at USC who teaches poly sci and--wait for it--women's studies.

Far be it from me to paint with the broad brush just by looking at Judith's disciplines. Let's allow her to speak for herself:

"I am now experiencing what American legal scholars call 'a chilling effect' and I was indeed first aware of it as a sort of chill running up my spine--a half-second of anxiety, almost subconscious, the moment I heard the act had been passed. I feel that chill again when I realize that I now pause a moment before I write almost anything."

Well, the case could be made that the pause is a good thing, in that it might let you actually EXAMINE the self-absorption apparent in this article and perhaps develop a sense of embarrassment about writing it, but I guess the chill isn't yet that pervasive. Why, may you ask, is she feeling chilled?

It seems she gets emails about politics from former students who are now abroad. They run the gamut from the reluctant American soldier to the Israeli citizen puzzled by her increasing feeling that many Arabs in the region are "crazy extremists" to the South Korean who wants to know if capitalism caused the mental illness of a mass-murdering countryman. Our good professor thinks of contacting other former students in Saudi Arabia and China, to see how they're doing, but she doesn't. Why? Well, that pesky chilling effect, why else?

"Is my email monitored, now that I have been in contact with people in countries that border the 'axis of evil'?"

Short answer: no, you self-important hack. But it goes on in this vein, concluding that:

"I hear President Bush tell the nation that the number of protestors against the war with Iraq doesn not matter, that the opinions of American citizens are irrelevant."

I must have missed the "Fuck You, Hippies" speech. Or perhaps they only aired it on Planet Judith.

Okay, so she concludes that she must now stand up and speak out about the eeeville Bush while she still can, dammit, or else she won't be able to hold her head up in class. What. Ever. This article is most instructive as an exampe of the sanctimonious hysteria and egoism that thrives on campuses. Obviously, the eeeeevillle hegemonic imperialist mental-illness inducing capitalist globalizing Bush junta will not be appeased until it can read every trite email from a no-profile academic with the hopes of crushing her freedom.

I get the impression that secretly she yearns for just a taste of real oppression, perhaps to lend legitimacy to her persecution complex. And what better indicator of a free society is there than a complete lack of understanding of what oppression actually means? Hey Judith? Chill.

Caveat: I'm not addressing the whole good/evil issue of the Patriot Act. Here's the text of the Patriot Act--read and decide for yourselves. Here's my short take: can it be abused? Yep. Can every law written be abused? Theoretically, yes. Example: NARAL's attempt to prosecute pro-life protestors with RICO. Didn't work. Why? Courts. Overly simplified point here? Probably. Do I care? Not really, because I'm more of a "wait and see" person when it comes to this stuff. And anyway, I'm all about the mocking. I'll leave that legal analysis to folks who do it for a living.
There's Someone for Everyone

And thank God I found mine sooner rather than later. Last night, after the usual ritual of dinner, war news, bath for boy and excerpts from the Wiggly Safari DVD before his bedtime, the hublet and I were relaxing in the den, reading, playing video games, and digesting the day. We were humming the last tune we'd heard from the Wiggles--the Crocodile Hunter song (click to listen to audio clip--it plays after a 15 second intro.)--and as we typically do (to alleviate the tedium of hearing the same song on infinite brain loop) we started making up words. A sample verse went something like this:

Hublet: Chemical Ali
Me: He's a dead man
Hublet: Chemical Ali
Me: He's a corpse!
Hublet: Chemical Ali
Me: Really dead, now
Both: Crikey he's so dead! Dead as a dead horse!

After we amused ourselves with variations on the theme, hublet looked at me and opined,"You know, I bet we are the only people in the whole world right now singing about Chemical Ali to the tune of a Wiggles song."

I think he's probably right. And I'm not sure how to feel about that.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Note to Baby Boomers--It's the Beginning of the End

Saw that Cher's televising her final performance ever. Guess it's about time, as the buffed, polished, and shellacked visage on my screen was largely indistinguishable from that of one of her female impersonators. When you become your own drag queen, you might want to stop with the surgery. I'm just sayin'. Could someone pass that along to Joan Rivers? 'Cause she didn't get the memo.