Wednesday, October 30, 2002

If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.
Emma Goldman

People often say that if you don't vote, you don't have a right to complain. It isn't that simple, though. In my own state, we are about to elect a new senator. The incumbent is a spineless wonder who masquerades as a Democrat. There is another Democrat running whom no one's ever heard of, and there are three Republicans: a far right-wing religious nut, a moderate Republican who had made some terrible racist comments, and a W-worshiper. I will vote for the incumbent--the least of the evils--but not with any enthusiasm.

One need only to look at the recent Congressional proceedings regarding Iraq to realize how little true debate and dialogue there is on a national level. And who in Congress is doing anything real about issues that affect people's health and welfare? Anyone remember Dioxin toxicity? Or women's rights? Or how about the fact that if your insurance won't pay for the only medicine that works for your condition, then you're stuck with paying for it yourself? And what about the totally impossible Social Security disability system? Or child abuse?

Many of us vote, but I don't think many of us expect much to change.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

I am currently visiting a so-called "enlighgtened" community; that is, one that is known for its multi-culturalism and liberal attitudes, but I see one thing within this community that is the same as everywhere else: cats are allowed to live outside and roam the streets. Here, it appears that people think it is safe for their cats to be outside because of the heightened feeling of community and the slow driving. But it takes only one moment for a cat to wander across a sidewalk and be struck dead. Or for a not-friendly dog to get loose and attack.

Cats who live outside have short lives. They are not only hit by cars and attacked by wild dogs, they are also stolen and sold to labs. Or they are poisoned or hurt by abusers. Or they develop diseases or get wounded in cat fights. And cats who go outside must have a series of shots, which we now know can wreak havoc on the feline immune system. Cats do really well indoors. It is extremely easy to train them to use sisal scratching boards, and as long as they have a window to look out of, they are happy. "My cat insists on going outside," is what people say, but all cats can easily be trained out of this habit.

I feel sorry for the thousands of cats who are left to fend for themselves outside when their only chance at safety is to be indoors.

Friday, October 18, 2002

I'm a little surprised at all of the animosity toward former President Jimmy Carter's being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes, it's true that the North Korean government lied to him in 1994, but does that mean we should therefore never negotiate treaties with other nations? Some people think it does. Conservative--no, wait!--no spin talk show host Bill O'Reilly thinks that North Korea's behavior makes Carter's award invalid. But Carter also negotiated the Camp David treaty, and his work for America's disadvantaged people in the last 25 years has also been the work of peace.

Not that I was any particular fan of Carter. He had an opportunity to be the President for the Women's Movement--it was the peak of the Second Wave--and he did nothing at all.

On the other hand, compare Carter to two other Nobel nominees: Rudy Guiliani, who ran roughshod over New Yorkers' civil rights for years, and then became an instant father figure during a time of tragedy. And President George W. Bush, who gave a great speech right after the September 11 attacks, but who has otherwise shown himself to be totally ignorant of the geography, politics and culture of the rest of the world.

I'll stick with Carter, thank you.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

So I finally saw My Big Fat Greek Movie, and it wasn't really too funny, except for the voice-overs at the beginning, which were hilarious. The jokes were extremely broad, vulgar, and predictable, and the so-called "good-heartedness" of the film was betrayed by a kind of political-correctness neurosis that I found more offensive than if the filmmakers had just gone ahead and been politically incorrect. The only way they seemed to be comfortable portraying Greek-Americans as vulgar and stupid was to also portray WASPs as vapid and stupid. And in the end, how do the bloodless WASPs become fun and silly like the ethnics? By getting drunk, of course.

I was reminded of David Denby's protest of Ordinary People because the only salvation for the cold, out-of-touch WASPs was to have them cured by the warm, engaging Jew.

On the other hand, Nia Vardalos, whose Second City one-woman show inspired the film, is absolutely luminescent in the lead role. It would be very nice to see more of her.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Yesterday I learned that I am probably the victim of deceptive packaging and advertising. I buy organic milk and free-range chicken eggs, more for humane reasons than for health reasons. I am not vegan, though I would like to be, and am giving it thought--it is a difficult thing to accomplish--but I have been a vegetarian for about 25 years. I have discovered that the large organic dairy whose milk I buy may not really treat the cows that humanely. The cows are given more space, they do eat organic grains, and they are not shot with hormones. But it is likely that their calves are still removed from them too early, and that the male calves may be put in veal crates, one of the ugliest practices in the food industry.

Then I learned that the "free-range" chickens may not be free-range at all--that they are simply kept in less confining quarters, are not starved, and do not have their beaks cut off like factory chickens. But, according to some sources, their male chicks are still either gassed or stomped to death.

Using soy milk (something I sometimes do anyway) and buying local yard eggs are the solutions to these problems. But almost every packaged product we buy contains whey or other milk products or eggs. And thousands of creatures were mutilated, starved, stomped on, gassed, confined in tiny quarters, and had their throats cut so that the bread and snack companies make money.

It shouldn't be so complicated to become vegan.

Cal Thomas recently wrote in his column that the Chick-Fil-A company was a "godly organization." This godly organization regularly tortures and kills thousands of animals. What do you have to do to be called "ungodly"?

People should know about the suffering involved in the making of food products; the information should be printed on the package labels.

Or does anyone care?

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

This afternoon, I listened to a local radio talk show while I was in my car. The host was angry because network television didn't air the President's Monday night speech (apparently, he hadn't heard that the White House didn't offer it to the networks, an interesting subject in itself, but I digress). And he was angry that "some American men and women chose not to listen to the speech." Well, he's entitled to have any feelings he wants, but his justification was that it was every man's and woman's responsibility to listen to that speech as part of his or her civic and moral duty, blah, blah, blah.

Pardon? I have been studying the goings-on in Iraq and in the United States very carefully for a long time. I have done extensive reading and thinking and research about terrorism, oil, defense, and the strategies of our government. That doesn't mean I'm an expert--I most certainly am not--but I feel quite sure I've put in countless more hours studying and analyzing the issues than most Americans. And it is precisely because I have paid attention to the issues that I can think of a lot better way to spend a Monday evening than listening to the alleged leader of the free world. It was, in fact, my attention to the issues that prevented my voting for Bush.

George W. Bush, who was unable to identify the Taliban during the Presidential election...George W. Bush, who has never had a real job in his life...George W. Bush, who owes his last drop of blood to the oil companies who put him in office...George W. Bush, whose minions stole the election...George W. Bush...whose past is one of chicanery and dishonesty...George W. Bush, who is an ignorant philistine...George W. Bush, whose sympathy is with the people who want to force their right-wing religion on the rest of us.

I think I did my civic and moral duty by choosing to be informed and to think for myself.

Monday, October 07, 2002

Whatever happened to grammar? I turn on the television--the anchors and reporters use bad grammar. Bad grammar is in the newspaper, in magazines, and on signs. Bad grammar is even on NPR, for god's sake. Today, I looked at the stories in a respected electronic literary journal. The first two I looked at had grammatical errors in the opening paragraphs--not as part of dialect--but as narration. One of the authors was a writing teacher; the other had an MFA.

My personal pet peeve is what people have done to the poor adverb. The adverb is supposed to be a rarely used part of speech, and now, it is everywhere. "He'll head up the committee." Up? Why? "I'll print it out." Why out? And if it isn't "up" or "out" that's tacked onto a perfectly good verb, it's "off," as in "She'll copy it off."

Then there's that nasty business about "firstly," "secondly," and "thirdly." Hello! "First," "second," and "third" are already adverbs when used in the ordinal context.

Only a few minutes ago, I heard someone say "...and most importantly..." In that phrase, "important" is already an adverb.

These days, I am surprised when I discover someone whose grammar is correct.

Who said that?!

I. It was I.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Technology is a very good thing. Thanks to technology, I am here publishing these thoughts. Digital everything is better than analog (except maybe for clocks). Clearer pictures, sharper sound, higher speed, better access. I am no Luddite, but I do agree that something is always lost when we reach for higher technology, and that loss is usually something with which we are able to deal: good-looking old radios, clackety-clack typewriters, etc.

However, the one old technology that I will never give up is the use of ink on paper, especially when that ink comes from a fountain pen. I love to write. I like the way my thoughts are distributed in sync with the ink flow, the pressure of the nib on the paper, the excitement of seeing the different ink colors. I have medium blue, black, violet, brown, turquoise, a stunning dark teal, forest green, gray, and my favorite of all--the great Waterman blue-black.

My childhood fascination with stationers' shops has never gone away, although today, these shops are more apt to display tacky journals and cheap pens, rather than good-quality writing paper and ink. Still, it is a thrill to enter one.

And speaking of Luddites, here's something to ponder: Why does the Lead Pencil Club have a web site?