Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bli Sterk, Norge.

I've started trying to write about Norway many times this week, and every time I get stuck.  I'm a political scientist, so I want to say something comprehensive and true about the political factors that were in play during this violence, but that's not what I, the person who is incidentally a political scientist, want to say, and it's not what actually drives me to write about it.  There is no dearth of writing about Norway, and I could probably just leave it alone and no one would notice.  But I can't leave it alone because it won't leave me alone.  So I thought about this and I think I know how to write about it.

My Mom spent a year in Norway after her graduation from Middlebury, making friends and taking classes and learning Norwegian.  When we were kids, she used to swear in Norwegian so even if we DID repeat what she said, people probably wouldn't know.  Crafty lady, my Mom.  Unfortunately, we eventually got older and increased our powers of persuasion, and we used them to make her tell us what she was saying.  This wasn't as satisfying as one would hope, as is so often the case with swearing in other languages; you're expecting a one-to-one translation but it often turns out that someone's getting called a moldy foot or something.  The standby for road rage was pretty good, though.  It went fy faen i helvete, du er en drittsekk, which is "the devil in hell, you're a shitsack."  We adopted "drittsekk" as a kind of family shibboleth, because we're really classy like that.  This led to a really great family moment several years later when we were visiting Norwegian friends in South Carolina and overheard a tantrum-throwing six year old call her mother a drittsekk, to our immense collective amusement.

Many of Mom's friends came to visit us over the years, and we still exchange Christmas presents with many of them.  One visit was from her host parents, and Reidar, who was a beautiful painter, went down to Little Indian Lake to paint and somehow, despite speaking no English, managed to charm the faces off some kids fishing down there.  They sent him home with a still-flopping and fairly large fish in a plastic bag (?????).  He came rolling up the front walk with this fish in a bag yelling "fiske, fiske, fiske" and we put it in the clawfoot bathtub and fed it fish food flakes for three days before sanity was mustered and we took it back to the lake.  (In retrospect, he probably expected that we would kill and eat it, as you do when you get an edibly-sized fish.  He did not realize he was dealing with suburbanites.)  All of these visits were equally great, because Norwegians are generally wonderful, and Mom seems to have befriended the absolute best of Norway, which is not surprising if you have ever met my Mom.  The longest visit, though, was from Cecilie, my parents' exchange student.

Mom and Cecile at my wedding in 2009
Cecilie arrived in Worcester in 2006, and she is awesome.  Longtime readers of this blog may recognize her as "the Weege," who came on a cruise with my college roommate and I in an incredible lapse of good judgment on my mother's part.  ("Take the underage Norwegian entrusted to my care on a cruise under the supervision of two drunks?  Absolutely!"  IT WAS FINE, DON'T WORRY, MOM.)   [NB: longtime readers will also be glad to know that Cecilie, her family and her friends are all okay.]  Cecilie and I really hit it off, and we had a total blast going on adventures and talking and hanging out.  She was also a constant source of unintentional humor.  For example, she once came home from school having removed large chunks of skin from her legs by falling off her bike.  I know that doesn't sound very funny.  Here's why it is: she fell off her bike because she was eating yogurt while riding.  With a spoon.  She and I have kept in touch and she came back to stand up for me at my wedding.  This allowed us to relive another humorous incident.  Cecilie was going to prom and wasn't interested in, you know, Googling dress size equivalents, so she just kind of ordered a dress in a size that sounded good.  I'm still not sure how she breathed at prom, because it took Mom and I both to wrassle her into it.  Who does that?  The best part is, J. Crew, whence my bridesmaid dresses came, doesn't ship to Norway, so she had to ship her dress to my parents' house and see if it fit a couple days before the wedding.  Kind of time sensitive, so obviously, she did the pick-a-size-any-size routine again.  I don't know, you guys.  It worked out okay both times though, so maybe I shouldn't mock.

In any case, we talked a lot about politics and culture, because there was a lot of stuff that Cecilie ran into that made her wonder what the hell was in the water over here, as well as a lot of stuff that she was simply curious about.  It's thinking about these conversations that make me feel so sad for Norway in the wake of this massacre.  Talking with Cecilie showed me that Norwegian culture simply does not include violence and guns in the same way that American culture does.  This is not to say that there's no crime in Norway and everyone has a faintly glowing halo floating above their heads at all times.  Instead, it means that you would not buy a gun for "home defense" because first of all a human life is more sacred than physical property and secondly, why would you stand and deliver when you could escape, stay safe, and call the cops?  Resorting to violence is simply not a thing, and in many cases, not an option, because there are so few guns.  I offered to take Cecilie up shooting with friends while she was here, and she was amazed that average people would just HAVE guns to take to the range to shoot around.  She didn't totally get what I meant when I said we could go shooting because her prevailing understanding of guns did not include random people having them.

It's hard for Americans to imagine a culture so bereft of guns and so adverse to violence.  Even if we don't own guns and even if we don't like guns, we are still bombarded at all times with violent imagery from every kind of media.  Guns and violence are glorified and held up as solutions to problems, and even when they're not being glorified, they are often treated as a common fact of life.  That is simply not there in Norway.  Now, imagine that you are in this culture, and let's even assume that you're pretty cosmopolitan and you know about gun culture in the US and you kind of get it even if you think the American gun fixation is weird.  It's still something that's Over There.  Imagine this, and then imagine Anders Behring Breivik.

Breivik's actions were shocking even for we jaded Americans.  The idea that someone would gather children around and open fire on them, that someone would fire on children swimming away in a desperate bid for the mainland, that someone would bomb government buildings...these are shocking ideas.  These are shocking ideas even to people who remember Timothy McVeigh.  These are shocking ideas to people who remember September 11th.  They are the acts of a dangerous and evil man.  But even as we are shocked, Americans should remember that this is a thousand times worse for Norway, not only because the death toll was proportionately worse than September 11th and because it happened on Norwegian soil, but because these attacks represent a leap in conception of violence so much greater than it would be for us.  We shouldn't count our high tolerance for violence as a positive, but we can understand how it would be some insulation against at least a small part of the trauma.

I read an article today that included some texts from one of the young women stuck on Utøya who survived.  She texted her mother "I love you even if I still misbehave from time to time." Her mother told her to "give a sign of life every five minutes."  For me, all of Norway is in those two sentences.  That Julie, a 16 year old, would think to mention that she still misbehaves from time to time while hiding from a gunman, seems to express such a fully realized love that my heart breaks as I think about it.  Her mother's asking for a sign of life every five minutes - five minutes!  How could you have the strength to ask your child for something so reasonable, instead of begging for continual interaction?  I could write another 10,000 words and never hit on what it is about these phrases that is so Norwegian.  They are so real, and so practical, even in the most chaotic possible circumstances.  It is my hope that that same resolute attachment to truth, strength and the Norwegian way will carry Norway through this terrible time and emerge stronger than ever.

Bli sterk, Norge.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Books Yay!: My Booky Wook, by Russell Brand

At some point, I realized that I had to accept that I loved Katy Perry and Russell Brand, and that was awkward.  I didn't really like Katy Perry and I didn't know who the hell Russell Brand was, but they were so damn cute in interviews about their engagement and eventual marriage that all my defenses were worn to the ground.  They were just so sincere and so respectful of each other, and I really liked seeing a big couple demonstrating that kind of equal and balanced relationship in public.  I also came to terms with the fact that damn it, I like Katy Perry's catchy music no matter how hard I try to resist, and you can judge me for that all you want, but there is no way I have a chance against someone who makes a music video about having fireworks explode out of your chest, which is basically the superpower I would choose if I had the option because I love fireworks, people.

After these revelations, I thought, "well, I don't know much about this Brand fellow besides his relationship with my new BFF and his propensity for wearing ridiculous pants," and checked out his autobiography.  I hate when reviewers get all existential about book covers, but the title really does tell you a lot about Brand: this isn't some serious tome about his grind to the top, but a serious and surprisingly objective look back at the imperfect life of someone who doesn't take himself seriously.  Brand is refreshingly open about his myriad fuck-ups, and he doesn't attempt to glamourize them, even as he admits the charms of that lifestyle.  He freely admits that he was kind of a shitty person for an extended period of time, and I really liked his willingness to stand up, now ostensibly having gotten his act together, and say "look, this was fun at the time but it made me a legitimately bad person and that is not a good thing."

Brand also talks about being a smart and talented person and what knowing that did to wreak havoc on his life.  I really related to this; while I've avoided fucking up on Brand's scale, I know what it's like to decide you can coast on your natural talents and then have that come back to bite you.  He rolled through drama programs and schools and environments, getting bored and resisting direction throughout, and in the end, that cost him opportunities and friendships.  It's a good warning to anyone feeling those pangs of boredom.  This is a problem that is tough to articulate, and Brand really handled it well.

This is a great summer read.  Brand is a funny bastard, and as is the case with so many great comedians, much of his best humor can come from sadness or tragedy. I'm not sure how much of this book he wrote, but my impression is actually that most of it is his work, and while that in and of itself is admirable in a time when it's much more popular to hire a ghostwriter, it also represents the gift of a talented voice.  It is always hard to understand how someone becomes famous, because most famous people take careful note of those they knew on their way who were just as talented and even sometimes harder working, but didn't make it, and Brand's discussion of the weirdness of fame is fascinating and deftly relayed.

Side note: Russell Brand recently posted a truly beautiful and insightful tribute to Amy Winehouse.  It is worth a read.  You can check it out on his website and I highly recommend that you do.

Monday, July 25, 2011

TRUE LIFE: Confucius Say, Josie is Not that Bright

Ben: I suppose we should remove the logs from Paul's yard before we clear specks from others'.

Josie: That was very Confucian of you, Benny!

Ben: *facepalm*

Josie: [some other unrelated comment]

Ben: Please tell me you know why I facepalmed you.

Josie: Because...jesus christ, that's a real thing, isn't it?

Yeeeeeeeeep.  Matthew 7:5.  WHICH I KNOW.  (Prof. LePain, please don't come to my house.)  I particularly like that I compounded my dopery by taking the Lord's name aggressively in vain.  Good job, Jos.

I, for one, look forward to hearing about this for the rest of my natural born life.

Domestication Has Its Consequences

What's wrong with this picture?
BESIDES being a violation of every photo composition rule ever.
You might have missed it, so here's a closer shot.
There's a fucking rabbit right over there.
We have all these rabbits all over the place, which would be nice if they would stop eating my goddamn dahlias, and the cats are kind of vaguely interested in them.  Every now and then, we let the cats out on the deck to see if they can catch one.  I am fully aware that sounds super mean and jerky, but the reality is that these animals are totally incompetent.  In that second picture, it kind of looks like Flyboy is looking at the rabbit, right?  Wrong.  Neither of these idiots even NOTICED the bunny.  This was not a small rabbit.  I could have gotten to it in about four running steps.  Cady spent the whole time purring and rubbing up against that post, and Flyboy was just roaming around sniffing things.  

These animals would die in about four minutes outside.  They're lucky they're cute, is all I'm saying.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What My Workout Sounds Like On the Elliptical

To Me

Like a G6, Far East Movement
Magic, B.o.B and Rivers Cuomo
Diva, Beyonce
Break Ya Neck, Busta Rhymes
Up In Here, DMX
Right Round, Flo Rida
Lose Control, Missy Elliott
Carry Out, Timbaland feat. Justin Timberlake
Blow, Ke$ha
I Wanna Go, Britney Spears
Party Rock Anthem, LMFAO
Hello, Martin Solveig feat. Dragonette
Let It Rock, Kevin Rudolf feat. Lil Wayne

To People Who Are Not Me

"..gettin' slizzered..." 
"I'm a wikie woo, I'ma I'ma wikie woo"
"hahaha riots!"
*tapping on machine handles*
*whistling bit from "I Wanna Go"*
"Every day I'm shuf-shuff'lin'"
"Cady, it's water and no pants time!"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Shockingly, Most People Can Care About More Than One Thing At Once

Yesterday, 7 people were killed in a bombing in Oslo and 84 more were executed at a Labor Party camp in Utøya.  Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian, has been arrested for the island massacre and a connection to the bombing.  Obviously, there is still a lot of information shaking out.  This is an incredibly sad and unusual violent event for Norway, and I'd imagine that the "that doesn't happen here" shock that Norwegians are experiencing today and will continue to feel is almost as traumatic as the violence itself.  I'll certainly be holding Norway in the light, and I'm sure many other Americans will be doing the same.  [NB: For those who know the Weege, she and her family and friends are all fine.]

Today, Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27.

About five minutes after the first wave of Facebook linking about Winehouse's death went by, a second wave started building, this one featuring people saying things to the effect of "that shitty good-for-nothing Amy Winehouse finally died so obviously all you callous stupid assholes will stop talking and thinking about Norway."  This is my least favorite kind of self-righteous douchery and I would like to address it.

In re: this Specific Instance
1. Amy Winehouse very obviously had a lot of shit in her life that she was struggling to deal with.  The overall tone of "who cares, she was worthless because she did drugs all the time" is so, so shitty.  Anyone who dies at 27 deserves a measure of pity.  Drug users and drug addicts do not stop being human because of their drug use.  Stop minimizing a troubled person's humanity because they did shit you didn't like or sang songs you didn't happen to enjoy.

2. Sadness is not a zero-sum game, nor is concern, nor is attention.  Norway's tragedy is an entirely different situation from Amy Winehouse.  Amazingly enough, people can care about more than one thing at once, even in different ways!

General Fuckery
Stop. Playing.  Sadness. Olympics.  There is a lot of sadness in this world and it takes a lot of different forms. That's how life goes.

Here's a test, in 60 seconds I'm going to name all the sad things worthy of consideration I can think of.

Sochi Olympics
Canadian oil sands
The debt ceiling
Darfur's reconstruction
The Greek economy
Famine in Somalia
Child soldiers everywhere
US poverty rates
No Child Left Behind
Walter Reed's closure
Guantanamo Bay
Global warming

All of those things?  Are worthy of consistent and focused consideration.  So I read about them.  They do not need ranking and even when I am focusing on one or the other intently, sometimes one of my friends is going to link me to a game or something and I am going to get distracted and think about that for a while.  You don't get to suggest that because I give a shit about Amy Winehouse passing away, I am somehow less serious or less able to be worried about Norway and its larger implications.  I don't assume you're a fucking moron who can't hold two thoughts in your head at the same time, so do me the same courtesy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'm Just Really, Really Romantic: a Phone Call with Dad

Dad: Hello?

Me: Hey Dad, think fast, what's your social?

Dad: 555-12-1212.

Me: Do you know Mom's offhand?

Dad: 555-21-2121.

Me: Nice!  I can't even remember Rich's birthday consistently, I'm impressed.

Dad: Let me just verify that. *rustling*  Yep, that's it.  So what did I just buy?

Me:  Ha ha, nothing, I'm just going down to the Social Security office to change my name.  They need your parents' socials to do it, I guess.

Dad: That's exciting!

Me: Well, yeah.  We've been married two years, I figure "no time like the present."

Dad:  Ha ha, but it's still a big step!  Exciting!

Me: My license is expired, too, so I really need to replace it so I don't get arrested.  I figure I should just change my name at the same time.

Poor Dad.  I feel like every time he thinks he has girls figured out, one of his damn children ruins everything.

Note to future brides: Even if you don't plan on changing your name, make sure you request a copy of your wedding license when you send it in.  I didn't, because I assumed that they would send me a receipt of some kind.  [NB: in Massachusetts at least, you apply for the license, the officiant signs it after the ceremony is done, and you mail it back to the state.]  This lead to two interesting things.  First, I wasn't sure if we were actually married, because in Quaker weddings, you're declaring your intentions "in the presence of God and these our Friends," so there's no real officiant and the Clerk of Meeting kind of just stands in as a wedding referee to explain what the hell is going on to the non-Quakers.  The state, however, requires that the officiant be all registered with them and what have you, so I wasn't sure how that was going to work out.  GOOD NEWS, WE'RE MARRIED!  This is particularly good because I think if I had told Rich that we were only pretend married and had to go to City Hall, he would have killed me and hidden my body in the woods.

The second interesting thing I learned is that the state of Massachusetts will jack you for $40 to order a copy of your license and it will take two weeks.  What. the shit, Massachusetts.  This is of course ostensibly my fault since I should have paid attention to the "free now, $40 later" angle, but STILL, $40?  That shit should have come embossed with gold leaf all over it.  Anyway, order your license when you're sending it in so you don't get all resentful and fussy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Life As A Human Encyclopedia

Somehow I have managed to accumulate bug bites on my toes, which is like...fate worse than death, because I lack the emotional maturity to deal with them gracefully and instead walk around dragging my feet topside down along the carpet like I'm mid-evolutionary-step and shearing all the skin off the top of my feet, making the entire problem worse.  What can I say, I'm pretty awesome.  I tend to set things like this aside when I, for instance, tell the story about the girl at American who told me - in a single conversation, mind you - about her full ride to AU as well as the fact that her doctor forbade her from using Q-tips because she lacked the emotional maturity to resist jamming them into her ear canal and deafening herself.  TRUE STORY.  In any case, I decided to take a bath last night to soothe my bug bites and carpet-gashes, and I took my iPad in there because I'm creepy I wanted to read while I soaked.  By "read" I in fact mean "switch between tumblr and Facebook while playing Words With Friends."  At one point I clicked over to Facebook and found this:

So here's the thing.  Kym has hit me with a broad range of random questions over the course of our friendship, refers to my Facebook wall as a news source, and occasionally sends me things like legal contracts saved as "sendtojosiesheknowseverything.docx."  She seems to routinely hit topics that I happen to know about, like legal crap which I can give a somewhat sensible opinion on because it's a topic that comes up on the Peoples' Court a lot, or how to react to movements in the terror alert statuses while overseas.  It was not until now, though, that I realized that she does in fact understand me as some kind of human encyclopedia to which she can turn for any and all problems, like moth identification.  Reminder: I saw this while in the tub, and it made me laugh so hard I was crying.

I guessed "luna moth" incorrectly first, by the way, then did some google-fu to figure out that it is in fact a Polyphemous Moth.  And then this happened: "JBL News!!!!! Well don't pee in the bathtub at this visual, but TJ just put some man gloves on and save the day haha"

Problem? Solved.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Books Yay!: Nobody's Fool, by Richard Russo

In my family, you go to elementary school, then you go to middle school, then you go to high school and then you go to college. There aren’t lofty decrees about it or anything, but that’s kind of how everyone assumes it will go. So far, not one of us has done this properly. I took nine years to finish my bachelor’s degree before jumping right into a Ph.D program, my brother tried a business major at a state school before dumping it for a sound engineering program (which was the exact right thing for him to do), and my sister has put college on hold to make what seems to be about eleventy billion dollars bartending while she figures out what, exactly, she would want a degree in, which I also think is super smart because college is a horrible drudgery when you’re not connecting with your program (see: nine years to finish bachelor’s degree). This whole “you will be going to college” business seems to be getting more and more common, and its rise is accompanied by sneering derision towards those who haven’t gone to college. This is, without mincing words, a dick move, and the attitude cheapens both the college and the no-college paths. College is meant to be something you do in pursuit of academic knowledge, not for business or the vague majors that colleges are selling these days. With everyone high on college as the source of all knowledge, academic or otherwise, we denigrate the careers and knowledge of those in non-academic disciplines who have the sense not to waste their time and money on degrees they don’t need or want.

What I like about Richard Russo is his ability to appreciate everyone for their quirky fucked-upped-ness, academic or no. The tension between the two worlds is ever-present in Nobody’s Fool, as the main character, Sully, works to deal with the demented sensibilities of the more “educated” powers that be around him. He’s a laid-back man who has made his life on his strength and on being able to help people, and in the latter half of his life, he’s searching for direction while being weighted down by his past. These shackles take the form of the decaying house he inherited from his father years ago and the reappearance of his son, a failing academic being unceremoniously booted from academe after failing to get tenure. Nobody’s Fool is a celebration of the everyman and the rich wisdom available to him.

Much like Empire Falls, another favorite Russo book of mine, Nobody’s Fool features a wonderful array of small town characters who bear up and wear down Sully’s spirits. His sometimes-boss is an overbearing jerk who continually belittles him, he has a faltering flirtation with several of the local ladies, and his landlady is an older woman who talks to her dead husband. I could outline the plot for you, but as with so much of Russo’s writing, the specifics of the plot – though hysterical and sweet – are less important than the one essential truth at its core: that life grants wishes and dashes hopes whimsically, no matter what you try to do to prevent it, and the only defense against this trauma is to love the people in your life who are worth it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Round Up!: Cool Games and Terrible Ideas

You may have noticed I've been posting more lately.  There is a reason for this.  Over the past year or so, people have been telling me with increasing frequency that they use my Facebook wall as a news source.  While that is flattering, it occurs to me that other people might benefit from looking at stuff I post, as well as from additional explanation.  I don't make any claims to neutrality.  I am a liberal and I will always be a liberal, but I think it's important to note that liberal doesn't mean what the stereotype reads any more than conservative means what the popular imagination says it means.  Neither side is comprised of idiots, and both are surrounded by a ton of people who don't identify either way or don't have an interest in finding out how they might identify were they so inclined.  That's an important thing to understand.

I wanted to start writing more about certain articles because they often require more examination than the original phrasing offers or just because I sometimes disagree with them, and the nature of that disagreement is important. While I will continue unpacking as many articles in depth as possible, I do need to like, make a living and go to grad school, so each Friday, I'll post a round up of articles I though were interesting throughout the week.  If you ever come across something you think should be in a round up, please feel free to email it to me!

Without further ado, here's this week's roundup!
  • My book, Rapunzel's Daughters, is Now Available on Kindle!  I have a story about an absinthe swilling Tinkerbell in there and I edited the whole shebang along with Rose and Bill.  Check it out!
  • Electric Box  My friend Ben linked me to this game last night and now basically I'm going to be busy until January.  
  • Time to Get Your Clark Kent On?  A great article from the Christian Left (...yes really) about the decline in local news coverage that has accompanied the downslide of print media and opened the door for a dramatic drop in accountability.  The author calls for bloggers of the world to unite, and get involved meaningfully with covering local government...checking sources, going to meetings, interviewing people, and providing the accountability where the mainstream media has fallen short.  
  • South Sudan Declares Independence  This sweet article puts a great personal spin on the exciting South Sudanese victory with a profile of a former child soldier who finally got to put on the "victory suit" he bought two years previously.  It's great to see South Sudan emerging from the brutal genocide in Sudan.  Hooray!
  • Dogs and Smurfs  Max Barry explains gender dynamics and feminism through the lens of childrens' books and entertainment.  I know that sounds pretty awesome, but in practice, it's awesome^bazillion. Here's a sample: "Male is default. That’s what you learn from a world of boy dogs and Smurf stories. My daughter has no problem with this. She reads these books the way they were intended: not about boys, exactly, but about people who happen to be boys. After years of such books, my daughter can happily identify with these characters.  And this is great. It’s the reason she will grow into a woman who can happily read a novel about men, or watch a movie in which men do all the most interesting things, without feeling like she can’t relate. She will process these stories as being primarily not about males but about human beings.  Except it’s not happening the other way."  See?  Get goin'.
  • What We Could Lose if the Webb Telescope is Killed  On the heels of the end of the shuttle program, there are more attempts on NASA's funding, particularly around the super-high-tech James Webb Telescope.  Through the use of infared technology, the Webb Telescope will be able to look back in time, possibly to before stars existed.  How amazing is that?
  • Srebrenica, 16 Years On  July 11th was the 16 year anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica in Bosnia.  Bodies were moved to disguise the genocidal act, but they have slowly been recovered.  On Monday, 613 of them were given a proper burial. 
  • Shame on them  The Economist points the shame finger at the Republicans for playing chicken with the debt ceiling.  I'd feel sad for the Republicans except they're earning that shit.  I do not think that "debt ceiling" means what they think it means.  
  • 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice  Geoffrey K. Pullum over at the Chronicle of Higher Education is not a fan of Strunk and White.  "Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it."  Those are words 40 through 84 of 2440.  He is not kidding.  WHEN LINGUISTS ATTACK!
  • Half of Americans Getting Government Aid Swear They've Never Used It  Cornell University (my awesome grandma's alma mater!) has a new paper out demonstrating that a lot of people getting assistance from the government don't really know it's from the government.  This is something Democrats and people concerned with the social safety net should be talking about non freaking stop these days.  [NB: I think this headline is more "scandaloso!" than is necessary; it's not like these folks are hiding the aid, they just don't know that stuff like Pell grants are government aid.  That said, some of the folks who are on food stamps and don't know they're government help should probably tune in a bit.]
  • Green Jobs Reach 2.7 Million: the "Clean Economy" Starts Delivering On Its Promise of High Paying Jobs, Brookings Finds  Shockingly, when your economy has been oil-bound since ever, attempts at freeing yourself from it pay off.  Green jobs are way up and they're good jobs.  
  • The Women of the Harry Potter Universe  Canonball has an awesome write up about feminism in the Harry Potter series and why the women who inhabit it are so exciting.  
  • Worcester Sharks Schedule Out; Josie's Schedule Now Booked  The AHL has now released its schedule, and the primary concern for me is of course the Worcester Sharks.  Sharks opening night is October 15th, a week after my Habs open the NHL season versus the Leafs in Toronto on October 6th.  Is it hockey season yet?  The NHL schedule is available here.
Let's end with some music, shall we?  I've watched the video for Britney's "I Wanna Go" about ninety seven times and it still makes me laugh my ass off...there are robot paparazzi, "Crossroads 2: Cross Harder," the line "I love dreams.  And seashells." and a Thriller reference at the end.  Enjoy!

You Are Worthless, You Are Invaluable

Let's take a moment to look at the rhetoric involving those on unemployment and that concerning job creation.

On the one hand, we have the popular conception of people on government assistance: the black (let's be honest) woman with 15 children who has them for no other reason but the government check, driving a Cadillac and shopping at miraculously fancy grocery stores between bonding time with her dealer.  The lazy person on welfare who got laid off from his job and never bothered looking for a new on.  The asshole who just wants to live off the state.

At the same time we talk about unemployment.  We have to create jobs, we have to employ people, we have to hire, hire hire.  We have to get people back to work.

I ask you, people of America, people who espouse the idea that we must hire people and shove their noses to the grind stone: who do you think stands to be employed?

Shockingly, it is the people you spend your time villainising, those you accuse of being lazy, those who supposedly go through the dangers of pregnancy for shits and giggles and food stamps.  At the same time, some of you rail on about how those who wish for more of life should look for better jobs which provide for their needs and wants.  You are basing our recovery on the ability of those downtrodden and demoralized to brush over the vitriol you have sent their way, the malice you use in your discourse, and the sneering disenfranchisement you spew with every slam on those on welfare to ignore your slander, your libel and your frank hatred to gather the strength and will to apply for you jobs and re-enter the workforce under the auspices of people who clearly hate them.

Perhaps you should think of that before the next time you assail them and accuse them of hating America.

"Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless—that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief—to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be cared for when, as, and if some fairy godmother should happen on the scene. 
You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side."
 FDR, 1936

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Two Truths About Shrimp That You Need To Know

1. Shrimp is magnificent.

2. Ina Garten's Roasted Shrimp Salad is the most glorious shrimp salad imaginable and you all need to make it.

2b. You should probably buy all of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa cookbooks because they are magic,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Meanwhile, In a News Studio Far, Far Away...

My friend Joe sent me a message today that said "have you heard herman cain's gospel album yet?"  Needless to say, I assumed this was a joke, but no, my friends...GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain has a gospel album out.  It's actually pretty good!!  He has a good voice, though the songs available on that link are kind of muzak-y gospel.  Bravo, Mr. Cain!  Please do more singing and stop running for President.

Joe and I talked a little bit about the album, and he eventually declared: "Barack Obama must respond, preferably with rap."

This is what happened in my mind after I read that sentence.

"What the hell is that?"  One of the producers peered into the monitor, his lips pulling back over his teeth as his eyes narrowed into intent slits.  "Is he...bleeding?  Cut to camera 3 until we can get makeup in there."

In front of the cameras, a drop of blood fell to the shoulder of Bill O'Reilly's meticulously tailored suit, soaking into the patriotic navy blue wool.  He shook his head slightly, flinging fine droplets across his desk.  "And when we come back, we'll be with Neil Cavuto to talk about the latest economic policy."  As the broadcast cut to commercial, the makeup team and one of the cameramen ran to O'Reilly.  The anchor was surprised by the flurry of activity, but as he put his hand to his ear to verify the makeup artist's story, he caught sight of a PA standing at the far side of the studio.  "What's that kid doing?"  The PA was clutching a sheaf of papers and staring at one of the lights.  The papers were shaking as though an extremely localized tornado was passing through, and the young man's mouth hung open, a thin stream of drool escaping onto his shirt.  The makeup team's head whipped between the PA and O'Reilly, who now had a stream of blood running from his ear.

"Guys, we have to be on air in 30 seconds, move it!"  One of the cameramen went to check out the PA while the team did what they could to stanch the bleeding and repair O'Reilly's makeup.  As the broadcast resumed, O'Reilly and Cavuto began discussing the economic squabble of the moment, only to be interrupted by a loud BANG.  O'Reilly looked up at the control window and saw half the glass obscured by a horrific splatter of greenish-yellow goo.  This was the point where Cavuto noticed that the bleeding at O'Reilly's ear had started again.  "Bill, your ear..." he began, only to be interrupted by another BANG, this one from the PA who had taken ill not minutes before.  When the two men looked in that direction, all they saw was the cameraman, covered in gore, trying to crawl towards them with a piece of paper.  Cavuto got up, followed closely by O'Reilly, and ran to the man.

"Obama...has...a rap album."

With this last missive delivered, the cameraman relaxed, smiling beatifically, and then exploded, covering the talent in a sheen of greenish bile.  As those words were spoken aloud, a massive explosion rocked Fox News.  The windows shattered, though the structure remained intact.  When the medical examiners released their report, they could only say that the cause of the combustions suffered by every member of Fox News were undetermined, but noted that if they had to take a guess, they would have said it looked like they all died of sheer glee.


I don't like a lot of poetry, but I think it might just be because I don't spend enough time looking for good poetry.  When I do find poetry I like, I tend to really like it.  On Independence Day, one of the tumblr folks I follow, Letters to My Country, posted Allen Ginsberg's 1956 poem "America," which I'm sure you've all read, but I hadn't and I like it, so here it is. 

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.
Asia is rising against me.
I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.
I’d better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable private literature that jetplanes 1400 miles an hour and twentyfive-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underprivileged who live in my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his automobiles more so they’re all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother Bloor the Silk-strikers’ Ewig-Weibliche made me cry I once saw the Yiddish orator Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have been a spy.
America you don’t really want to go to war.
America its them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Exciting Josie News: The Etsy Shop is Open!

I've been tatting for a while, and I finally decided to put some of my work up on Etsy.  Tatting is a cool old-school craft (...surprise! Josie does old lady crafts!) and it creates little pieces of lace.  I like to use color and fun design to make unusual and eyecatching jewelry.  Here are some examples of what you can find at Lost Sheep Gardens!  You can click through each photo to the shop, and there are plenty of other designs and options once you get there.
The Storm Cloud Bracelet
The Orange You Happy It's Summer Pendant
The Dripsy Daisy Bracelet
The Delicious Dahlia Bracelet
I hope you find something you like!!

Sometimes I Get Excited

I got an actual real grown-up style royalty payment for Elf Love at the beginning of the month, and even though it wasn't the million dollar payment I will obviously be raking in in the future, it was enough to get a little frivolous something from Etsy.  Check out this cool-ass pendant I ordered from Bunny X Productions:
It's called "Vein," which I like even though it is clearly a tentacle.
I love funky stuff like this.  I have talked before about my own fashion and the reality that it's simply not that exciting for the most part, but my shoes and accessories give people interesting stuff to look out and thus turn me into an instant fashion plate.  This definitely fits the bill...I love the texture, but my favorite part is the color combo. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Last Dreams of Humanity Sent Skyward

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations--explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."
 John F. Kennedy, in an address to Congress, 1961

I was talking with a friend the other day about the shuttle launch, and he said he was going to watch it so he could "tell [his] grandchildren that he saw the last dreams of humanity sent skyward."  I wanted to write today about the last shuttle launch, which is happening today at 11:26a, but to be honest with you, I'm too sad about it to really do it justice.  NASA's history of human space flight has allowed Americans to dream together in a way that very little has since the nation's founding.  I know it's expensive, and I know that many people pooh-pooh the program, but the benefit to science and technology alone has been incredible.

And that's to say nothing of what manned space flight does for the way we think about the universe and our place in it.  Sending humans into space nourishes the soul and has changed us in remarkable ways. 

"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.
Leonardo da Vinci

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Today's Point Missing Competition Winner in the How Security Works Division

See "rong, doin' it."
Iran's chief of police has criticized the domestic media's "extensive coverage" of a recent spate of alleged rapes in the country, saying it would cause "a sense of insecurity in society," RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Yeah.  I don't want to tell you how to run your clearly awesome and totally efficient police force or anything, dude, but you know what causes insecurity in society?  People actually getting raped. 

While I give Mr. Moghadam credit for novelty, this is an extension of an ongoing bunch of bullshit that women get thrown all the time.  Technically he's right - hearing about rape does make people feel insecure and that's a pretty reasonable reaction.  However, the reason it's appropriate is because it's a violent act that often goes unprosecuted and is frequently turned around to incriminate the victim.  I can't think of any crime I fear becoming the victim of more, because I know that after being violated and injured, there's more than an outside chance that I will then have to put up with the bullshit and shaming of having people ask about what I was doing and wearing and blah blah blah in the end it all just comes down to "are you sure you didn't just really want to get fucked, whore?"  That is what makes rape so much more problematic than other crimes.  No one would ask me what I was wearing if I got mugged.  No one would ask me why I had my property with me in the alley if I got robbed.  And that's how it should be, because no matter what I'm wearing or doing or where I am, none of it makes it okay for someone to rape me.   Pretending otherwise serves no one except rapists.  It promotes the idea that men are just powerless idiots who think with their dicks, which is not fair to men, by and large.  It also presumes that rape is about sex, which it isn't - it is about power and control, full stop.  It continues to argue that women are sex objects, pure and simple, and have no autonomy beyond that; all that matters is their appearance. 

I think I get what the police chief means, but it's statements like this that causes a sense of insecurity in a society - it sounds like the police chief, the man ultimately in charge of handling prosecution of your rape case, thinks you should just hush up about your rape so it doesn't make society feel insecure...and the reality is that by "society" we actually mean "men," because I guaran-fucking-tee that feeling insecure about rape is in the back of every woman's mind, 24/7, 365.  It's there because it has to be, because of attitudes like this.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Book, Rapunzel's Daughters, is Now Available!!

A while back I indulged in a little self-important puffery about Pink Narcissus Press' second anthology, entitled Rapunzel's Daughters, and I'm thrilled to announce that it is now available for sale!  It's an awesome collection off short stories that extend or twist fairy tales and legends.  I have a story in there that explores the idea of Tinkerbell as an exiled fairy queen who brought absinthe to can you pass this up??  The book has beautiful illustrations throughout, and it has been named a Highlighted Title by Independent Publisher and received positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and SF Review

Pick up your copy today either at our website or on Amazon!  If you email me with your request, I would be happy to autograph your copy or draw an amusing picture on the frontpage.  Rapunzel's Daughters will be available in the

For Those Who Have Had Enough of Silly Love [Songs]

When I talk politics with people, particularly the politics of war, I invariably wind up saying or thinking that people just need to calm down and take a moment to consider each other as human beings.  I always feel a little strange about saying it, sometimes a little strange about thinking it, because when faced with the whole world's worth of weapons, what hope does love for one's fellow man have?  There's a reason there are sayings about every problem looking like a nail when all you have is a hammer.  When the bulk of your foreign policy is military based, the military starts looking an awful lot like the only option. 

We're so far down the military-as-foreign-policy rabbit hole that it can be hard to hang on to the idea of non-violence.  That's why it's so wonderful when you can see forgiveness, tolerance and love prevail, particularly in the face of hatred and violence. 

NPR recently did an interview with a man named Rais Bhuiyan.  Bhuiyan is Bangladeshi man living in Dallas, and shortly after September 11th, 2001, a man named Mark Stroman walked into a gas station, killed two men and shot Bhuiyan in the face.  Bhuiyan was the only survivor, and has required extensive medical treatment for years to deal with the attack and still has pellets embedded in his face.  When word got to Bhuiyan's parents in Bangladesh, his father had a stroke from the shock. Mark Stroman was sentenced to death for his hate crime.  He had been targeting "Muslims and middle-Eastern looking men."   

Bhuiyan is fighting to overturn the conviction.

This is what he had to say: "According to my faith in Islam, there is no hate, no killing. It doesn't allow anything like that," says Bhuiyan. "Yes, Mark Stroman did a horrible thing, and he brought a lot of pain and disaster, sufferings in my life. But in return I never hated him."  Later in the interview, he also said something important: "I strongly believe executing him is not a solution. We will just simply lose a human life without dealing with the root cause, which is hate crime."  The reporter points out that when Stroman was interviewed in prison and told about Bhuiyan's efforts, he broke down in tears and said that “this is the first act of kindness that I’ve ever known.”

You cannot convince me that simply taking the tiny bit of effort required to just be kind to one another will not alleviate or solve a dramatic majority of our social problems, particularly violent ones.  We are social animals, and we navigate our existence by reading other people.  If we are surrounded by kindness, the need for violence and anger falls away.  Sometimes it's not easy - I am genuinely unsure if I could muster the kind of response Mr. Bhuiyan has shown here - but I can't think of anything more worthwhile.  I'm going to resolve to be more demonstrably kind in my life, and I hope you will join me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day, America!

235 years ago today, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress and a great, messy, lovely nation was born.  I love being American and I love my fellow Americans with whom I am engaged in this big project of governance, politics, baseball, fireworks (!!!), funny hats, and apple pie with.

When was the last time you read the Declaration of Independence?  Probably a while ago...I'm a political science dork and I don't exactly make a daily practice of it.  It's short, give it a whirl - it's really a lovely document and it talks about some awesome and important things.  It's good to revisit our origins from time to time.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Josiah Bartlett (NH), William Whipple(NH), Matthew Thornton(NH), John Hancock (MA), Samual Adams(MA), John Adams(MA), Robert Treat Paine(MA), Elbridge Gerry(MA), Stephen Hopkins(RI), William Ellery(RI), Roger Sherman(CT), Samuel Huntington(CT), William Williams(CT), Oliver Wolcott(CT), William Floyd(NY), Philip Livingston(NY), Francis Lewis(NY), Lewis Morris(NY), Richard Stockton(NJ), John Witherspoon(NJ), Francis Hopkinson(NJ), John Hart(NJ), Abraham Clark(NJ), Robert Morris(PA), Benjamin Rush(PA), Benjamin Franklin(PA), John Morton(PA), George Clymer(PA), James Smith(PA), George Taylor(PA), James Wilson(PA), George Ross(PA), Caesar Rodney(DE), George Read(DE), Thomas McKean(DE), Samuel Chase(MD), William Paca(MD), Thomas Stone(MD), Charles Carroll of Carrollton(MD), George Wythe(VA), Richard Henry Lee(VA), Thomas Jefferson(VA), Benjamin Harrison(VA), Thomas Nelson, Jr.(VA), Francis Lightfoot Lee(VA), Carter Braxton(VA), William Hooper(NC), Joseph Hewes(NC), John Penn(NC), Edward Rutledge(SC), Thomas Heyward, Jr.(SC), Thomas Lynch, Jr.(SC), Arthur Middleton(SC), Button Gwinnett(GA), Lyman Hall(GA), George Walton(GA)

Here's to many, many more, my friends! I'll leave you with this recording of me performing the Star Spangled Banner at a Sharks game. Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 1, 2011


It's Canada's birthday today!  Happy birthday Canada, and happy Canada DAY, all my Canadian friends.  Canada is 114 this year.  Canada is also a very interesting political landscape (oh shut up, you knew that shit was coming as surely as you know I'm going to talk about hockey in a minute).  Canada Day celebrates when the chunks of the Great White North were actually linked together as a federation and became a real live kingdom, with Britain riding political herd over it.  That's not exceptionally unique situation in terms of colonialization, but the cool stuff went down in 1982 when Canada patriated its Constitution. Not repatriated, but patriated.  Because Britain was still the Constitutional authority, Canada didn't have complete political autonomy, so they basically claimed the Constitution - with some adjustment - as being Canada's, for the sake of ruling Canada.  Cool, right?

I've been thinking a lot about Canada in the past couple years as my faith in the republic's ability to reassert itself has wavered, and there's a lot to recommend it to anyone.  A comprehensive listing of what I like about Canada would be too long and verbose for anyone of sound mind to tolerate, but here's a short list:
  • Hockey forever - the Montreal Canadiens, for rivalry purposes the Toronto Maple Leafs, the juniors system, its stature as the majority sport from sea to shining sea up there, pond hockey, hockey on Canadian currency, and fans who know how to fan properly (which is to say, not causing an aggressive and ill-timed ruckus during games and not walking down the aisles during play oh my God why why why does this happen and why won't it stop)...
  • Tim Horton's coffee and the strange existence of strawberry TimBits
  • Peter Jennings, whose news broadcasts shaped the way I consider news when I was a kid. Yes, really, he's Canadian!
  • the Canadian relationship to nature and a general understanding that you should not assault it 
  • The Tragically Hip, for not only being excellent but also excellently named
  • a willingness to shore up and preserve Canadian products and enterprises 
  • Don Cherry and his suits, even if he's getting kind of senile and crotchety and nonsensey.  (Suits. You're welcome.)
  • Montreal, and specifically Ste. Catherine Street and Spa Eastman on Sherbrooke Ouest
  • Romeo Dallaire, his attempt to save Rwanda, his openness about how badly its failure screwed him up, and his unending dedication to humanitarianism
  • perhaps most importantly, a general sense that Canada is all in the project of Canada together, even when at odds with specific neighbors or coworkers or what have you, i.e. none of this designating certain people as real or fake Canadians as is currently in vogue in the States
That barely scratches the surface of what I enjoy about Canada, but it's a good broad-strokes starting point.  I was going to post a nice picture of Canadians celebrating, but when I googled for "Canadian pride" this happened:
Well hello, Shawn Ashmore.
...and really, I think we're done here.

O Canada indeed.