Some Friend’s Favorites, and (I promise) The Last Reposts!

by And the White Lion Roars!

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Grub Song and September Honeysuckle

 
It’s been an eventful month for us, so it’s been awhile since I’ve done a questions and observations post. There have been crises within my family, health wise and otherwise, the deaths of beloved animal companions, a wedding speeding to fruition that has been in the works for three years, and on and on. Sort of like life, I suppose. And life is good. I’ve written in the past about honeysuckle and the languid, sensual feelings in brings in me in summer. But Texas gets hot in summer, and often dry. We’ve had a bit of rain this summer, which ended today, thankfully, and the heat, though some records were broken here,  not nearly as record breaking as last summer. And last week I was walking with Abigail in back of our property, and I noticed the heavy sensuality of that smell. I looked to the fences, and here, mid-September, the honeysuckle bushes had developed a new set of blooms. Yes, September has been a hard month in many ways, but seeing and inhaling those lusty blossoms made it seem as if the good parts of summer would go on-even as the weather moderates.

I do have some questions, however, as is always my way here at questionevrthing.blogspot.com:
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1. In the washroom at my office there is a cabinet where tissue is kept. There is a lone roll with a sticky note on it that says, “Do Not Use This Roll In Case We Ever Run Out.” What does that mean, exactly, for the day we really do run out? Are we allowed to then use that one roll-and then what would we do the next time, since the saved roll would then be gone.

2. In recent early mornings, Abigail has left the apartment in full prey mode. She barely takes the time to do her business, she goes straight to one corner of the yard and starts digging up grub worms and eating them. As disgusting as that may be to us humans (or at least this human) she seems to enjoy it, and I would bother about it if I weren’t out in the wee hours in my jammies with my dog. But she doesn’t do that any other time of day. So I’m wondering if grub worms are nocturnal and only come near the surface at that time of day, or is there some kind of sonar-like whale-song, that Abigail hears that draws her to that one spot?

3. Here is one for any friends who are into physics. I am a science groupie more than a scientist, and physics has more math involved than I could grasp. But it occurred to me the other day that the famous equation devised by Einstein (E = MC2.) (Sorry, I’m not sure how to do hyper-script here.) The speed of light in this equation is said to be, if I recall, the “universal constant.” Nothing can ever go as fast as the speed of light. So, if this question seems pedestrian, I apologize, but how then, can it be squared? I understand that numbers are infinite, but a ‘universal constant’ should be constant, No?

4. I got an iPhone 4S for my birthday. The “S” in that name stands for “Siri,” the personal assistant included with the program who can remember notes, start internet searches, dial numbers, and any number of fancy things. My question is, why can’t I name my own assistant? I asked Siri where she got her name, and her reply was, “That is a good question.” This phone was not cheap, and I do believe I should be able to pick the name of the person who has done an internet search for me on where to dump a body, and fussed at me for cursing at her.

5. Someone I know is having an affair. Thinking about this person’s behavior made me wonder something about the way society looks at people who cheat. How many stories have we all heard about the lonely, bored man who feels his wife doesn’t understand him, and he uses that line to get another woman to sleep with him. She then becomes the “other woman,” and in her eyes the wife is evil and wrong for not understanding and appreciating that man who is so good to the mistress, etc. Why doesn’t that same approach work for a woman who is looking-or maybe not looking, to cheat? I believe I know the answer-when a woman feels she is not understood or appreciated, she tends to turn to girlfriends for a place to blow off steam and get advice about how to make the marriage better. If women used that “My husband doesn’t understand me” line to catch a fling, she would still be considered wanton (not that anyone in the 21st century uses that term.) But it seems to me that there is a double standard, even with all the freedoms that the “sexual revolution” gave women when it comes to seeking comfort in an outside relationship. I don’t know if that’s as much a question as an observation. Feedback appreciated.

6. I do talk frequently about dogs, and cruelty to animals here. I guess it would be no surprise that I find bullfighting, dogfighting and cockfighting about as loathsome as any activities humans could devise. But I was recently reading an article about the 100th anniversary of the actor James Cagney’s birth. I have loved Cagney for many years, and read his autobiography back in high school. The writer of this article quoted something that Cagney said in that book that hit me hard. Cagney was born and raised in abject poverty and violence in New York City. Some of his friends became gangsters, some died, and some went to prison. He said that when you grow up in circumstances like that and you see an opportunity to make a buck, you take it. You don’t ask questions, you don’t think about wrong or right. I thought of this in relation to dogfighting. It seems to me that every time I’ve seen people being arrested for dogfighting, or watched an Animal Police program in which dogfighting rings, or homes with dogfighting paraphernalia were found, it was in the dankest underbelly of the inner cities in places like Detroit or Houston…places so poor that the people who live in them have no hope of ever having anything better in their lives. Life is pretty cheap in those places, and while I still can’t stomach the notion of fighting dogs, I believe it is because I have never experienced the lives these people live. I once read a book called “Random Family” by Andrea Nicole LeBlanc in which poverty was so ingrained in this ghetto family that they believed they actually had no choice but to become criminals, drop outs and teen aged mothers. No politician goes to those places, and neither do most of the people I know. That’s why I can say I’ve never met a mean pit bull. I don’t travel in the circles where people believe they may not feed their family if they don’t make some money somehow, and therefore if their dogs aren’t mean enough to win a fight, they might not eat. There are so may things about the culture of poverty that must change before anything can get better for the people or the other animals who live in those places.

7. Is education really the key? I recently saw former Florida governor Jeb Bush on a morning talk show discussing education. He talked about how to better teach the poor so that they can pull themselves out of poverty. And then he proceeded to spout all the simplistic answers that get no one anywhere toward improving the system. His blame landed squarely on teachers, and tenure and teacher’s unions. I could tell by listening to him, and so many others like him, that he has no idea how to teach people out of poverty. He’s probably never been to what used to be Cabrini Green in the slums of Chicago, or the 9th Ward in Houston to see just how deeply the culture of poverty goes, and how hopeless the children there become. I’m reminded of a line in a movie by Lawrence Kasdan from 1991 called Grand Canyon.  In one scene Danny Glover, one of the stars, is talking to his nephew who has been falling into gang activities. He asks the young man, “Do you want to be doing this when you’re 25?” The boy says, “I ain’t gon’ make 25.” That line was so deeply profound for me-and comes back to me when I see things like this interview with Jeb Bush…you can’t just walk in and perkily tell some kids that if they get an education everythi

 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Bliss Here

 
I ride the city bus to work. On Friday’s we start work early and so I take a bus that comes an hour earlier. Once in awhile there is a man who walks his dog past the bus stop. The first few times I saw them, she had one of those cones around her head. Considering that I wear my love for dogs plainly on my sleeve, anyone I see walking a dog who will allow me, I pet them. This gentleman is no different-his dog is named Chili, and she is so gregariously friendly that the first time I met her she left some scratches on my wrist because she was so eager for pets. Chili is a pit bull. It turns out that Chili and her dad live in the same apartment complex that I do. Sometimes when I take Abigail out very early, I don’t bother with a leash because I know there won’t be anyone around. Last week I was mistaken-Chili and her dad were also out. Chili didn’t have her cone on, but she was wearing a t-shirt. I wanted to ask my neighbor how she was doing, but I was a little concerned about Abigail, who doesn’t mind playing with other dogs, but like to assert her dominance first. I wasn’t worried about Chili, just that Abigail’s barking might wake someone up early. I was right-Chili was on leash, and Abigail did a little sniffing, and then started barking, teeth bared. I had her sit, and Chili just started wagging. Abigail barked some more, and Chili just continued to wag, let me pet her, and look confused that Abigail was being mean. If any stereotype of pit bulls was true, Abigail should have been breakfast for Chili.

Another neighbor of ours has a beautiful mixed breed dog named Shingu. I’m not sure if I’m spelling that correctly; it is Korean for “friend.” Shingu’s mom worked in Korea for awhile as a teacher. All they really know about her is that she is part Lab. She is a beautiful rust and black brindle, with a long muzzle, sort of like a German Shepard Dog. Shingu does not live up to her name-she is very aggressive, especially with other female dogs like Abigail. Not long ago the couple that owns Shingu had a stray adopt them. They named him “Chance.” Chance is a beautiful white pit bull, and he and Shingu seem to play very well together. Our complex has a dog run, and one night recently they were in the run when Abigail and I were having our evening walk. I took her into the run to play some, and Shingu immediately began to make her unwelcome. Shingu’s mom put the leash on her, and Chance and Abigail just sniffed and ran around like normal dogs. Shingu kept barking her disapproval of Abigail’s presence, even while being held back with the leash by her mom. Abigail didn’t have a problem at all until I reached down to pet Chance, who just looked at me sweetly and wagged his tail.

The truth is, I’ve never, ever met a mean pit bull. I’ve seen them at the local dog park, I’ve seen them out walking in the neighborhoods and park trails. I’ve heard the lies about them being “time bombs,” “unpredictable,” and “dangerous.” I’ve also watched some of the “dog police” programs on Animal Planet, and seen the type of places that those type pit bulls are raised, and I don’t go to those places, nor, and this is the most important part, do I travel in circles with people who mistreat dogs to make them mean enough for dog fighting. I have been horrified when I see how the females are bred, how the dogs are treated and then disposed of like so much trash. I’ve seen the bodies of pit bulls that have been tortured and burned and shot, and it breaks my heart because I have personally observed that a pit bull, like any other dog, raised in a loving environment, becomes a loving dog. I’ve also heard many, many stories recently about pits being shot by police, or imprisoned and euthanized simply because they are pit bulls-with the explanation that they were not a clear and present danger, but because of the “potential” risk they posed. On July 19, Bradley Ralko wrote in The Daily Beast about police raids in which dogs are killed. He wrote of a raid on a wrong house that turned out to be the house of the town mayor, and the mayor’s two Labs were both shot, one as he ran away from the chaos of the police kicking in the door. There are also daily stories posted on Facebook of police shooting the pit bull pets of neighbors of the homes the police are going to. The article in Daily Beast told of other breeds that have been shot-all the way down to a Chihuahua who weighed only five pounds. Please remember two things-these are police officers who are armed to the teeth, wearing vests and long sleeves and boots. The idea that the family pet posed any real threat other than a possible distraction from the job at hand, is a tad unbelievable. But also remember that humans domesticated the wolf that became the dog we now know in part because they could “guard the camp.” In return, the dogs got fed, and had a safer place to raise their young-it was an evolutionary win-win. They have been our ‘best friends’ ever since-until now. We have made them in the image we wished, and then turned and blamed them for being so compliant. The media bear some blame in all of this-and hyper-reactive people and local legislators who freak out when a story is presented of a dog that hurts someone. The fact is that it is rare for a dog to bite for no reason, and it is also true that pit bulls are not the number one in dog bite statistics in this country. Yes, when they do attack, they can do great harm. But those attacks are almost never the dog’s fault, they are typically caused by something that is done by the human who is bitten. I’m sorry-I am broken hearted when a child is harmed by a dog, but I can almost always see where the parent of the child or the owner of the dog was really at fault, not the dog. Children can be taught how to approach a dog without making the dog feel threatened.  If a child is not taught properly, then the child is in danger when in the company of ANY DOG. Any dog will bite if it feels threatened, particularly in it’s own territory-WHICH HUMANS BRED THEM TO DO. And it is small dogs that are more likely to bite. Remember, every bite is potentially a crime, or a threat, but not every bite is reported, nor does every bite require medical treatment. When a Chihuahua bites, people are more likely to blow it off and put a band aid on it. People may think it is “cute” and say that “he thinks he’s a Rottweiler.” Whenever a patient comes to a medical professional with a dog bite, just like a gun shot wound, it must be reported. And that is where the statistics come from. According to the article in the Daily Beast, there are a couple of thousand dogs killed by police every year. This is not near as many as die from being raised in horrible conditions in puppy mills and dog fighting rings, but all are the result of either ignorance or a deep lack of respect and understanding of the special relationship that humans and dogs have had for thousands of years. Not to mention the human misunderstanding of what our place atop the evolutionary food chain really means. It doesn’t mean we count more than other animals-it means we have a greater responsibility to respect and care for animals which may lack our ability to self-actualize, and approach life in a rational, honest way. If we were honest about dogs, and what we have done to them, how we have harmed them, and what they have given us, then the bliss-less ignorance that leads to the cruelty I would love to eradicate might disappear from human behavior. Because, always remember, ignorance is a choice. Parents, remember that children are born ignorant and it is your job to teach them about life. How to be safe and unafraid is a huge part of that teaching. Do your job, and your child can avoid being bitten by a strange dog. Teach them when young never to try to pet a dog without asking the owner if it is okay. Teach them not to come at a dog too fast, and not to come at a dog’s face when attempting to pet them. These two actions alone will help prevent a child being growled at, nipped at, and potentially bitten. I wish I could run a training class for law enforcement that would stop the unnecessary killing of dogs that do not present a threat. I can’t help wondering when the rule that allows killing a living creature for the potential threat it poses moves up to humans. We could all be killed under such a rule, because any one of us could be pushed to kill if we felt threatened enough.

1. Dogs in a Deadly Crossfire, The Daily Beast.com Bradley Ralko, July 19, 2012
2.

Best Answer – Chosen by Voters

the top three breeds known to bite are dachshunds, chihuahuas and jack russell terriers …

“Seems the smallest dogs ranked the highest when it came to human aggression. The top three biters, in order, were the Dachshund, the Chihuahua, and the Jack Russell Terrier.

This is the findings recently published by the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science from a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.”

 

3. Victoria Stilwell Shares Tips to Stop Dogs From Biting

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, hosted by the AVMA to help stop the nearly 5 million dog bites that happen every year in the United States. Last week we spoke about dog bite prevention with former AVMA president Dr. Bonnie Beaver, focusing more on the human behaviors that might trigger, or prevent, dog bites. This week, we want to focus on canine behavior, and what dog owners can do to prevent their dogs from biting. In this podcast, Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer and host of Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog,” shares training tips to help prevent dog bites.
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Road Not Taken

 
I had a birthday week-before-last. I turned the big double nickel. Fifty-five. A number that makes me cringe as none ever has. Not thirty, forty or fifty made me feel so odd. Not old, but odd. As if it is time for me to stop thinking I’m a young person trapped in a middle-aged body, and just deal with the fact that I’m middle aged now. Whatever that means. It’s just a number, right? I’m still the same person-the girl who gets the dirty jokes, and loves to take long walks on tough paths. Literally and figuratively. One of the gifts that I got was a pair of walking shoes, for rocky paths. They are by a company called “Keen,” whose name may mean “keen,” or I guess it could be the founder’s last name, but they really are keen! They are also waterproof, and anti-microbial, and I’m not supposed to wear socks with them. So yesterday I decided it was time to use these new rock/trail walking shoes for something other than walking the concrete paths that our beloved city has created for us.

We live in Fort Worth, TX, and have a trail system that goes all around the city based on the Trinity River. It is called, for obvious reasons, The Trinity Trails, and several smaller trails that Abigail, my beloved dog (whom I sometimes refer to as my copilot here in Zeus’ Chariot) have narrowed it down to two that we like to use the most. Each of them have some feature that we really like-one has creeks easily available for her to drink from when she gets hot toward the end of our walks. This one has more walkers and dogs, and fewer bike riders; as I’ve said in other posts, when one is walking, the bikers are the least friendly and most selfish users of the trails. The other one has many, many more bikers, fewer walkers, and even fewer dogs. But it has great canopies of trees that cover the trail with shade, so it is usually much cooler, even in the heat of a North Central Texas summer. This is the one we use the most. It is a bit longer, 4.36 miles vs 3 miles. So we get a better workout. It is also closer to where we live, so we don’t have to drive as far to get there.

When we walk either trail, Abigail is wont to come home covered with burrs. I mean COVERED. The time-before-last that we walked the favored trail, she had burrs so heavily in her coat that I could not brush them all out. She had tried to use her paws to remove some of the ones around her face, and it only served to mat her hair over her eyes, and I butchered her poor hair by cutting them out, but there was no other way. I was clearly not a professional groomer, which was commented on by some of our neighbors the next time we saw them. So last week I went to the groomer and had her buzzed, 1/4 inch all over, leaving only her Schnauzer-like eyebrows. It changed her look so completely; I never knew she had a white, spotted Ermine-like “stole” around her shoulders. She also has a very rounded muzzle, which, without her beard, when she smiles or yawns, she has a gaping, toothy smile, a bit like a pit-bull (a breed I love.)

Abigail’s Ermine Stole

So, the no-longer-a-burr-magnet, Abigail and I took off the concrete path (hereon I will call it the path, and the rocky trail we were on, the trail.) It was kind of fun; more hilly, so we were burning more calories. (I’m sure only I think of that. But there were also NO trees to speak of, only bushes. And brambles. And twisted limbs that had fallen from trees and been moved toward the trail by floods or the people who cut the trees to make the paths. I noticed after awhile that there was not much actual “trail” at all, just indentations where a few people had pressed down the grasses. We would find rock croppings that we climbed up; her much faster than me, since I had my fanny pack, her leash, and my iPod playing a shuffle of all the songs I have recorded there. I pushed through some briers and brambles, and noticed a burning sensation on my ankles. I looked down and there was a series of long scratches on the bottom of my legs.

My shorts-yes, my shorts, were COVERED with burrs. These aren’t the kind of burrs that stick you like a needle and burn when you pull them out…these are the kind that stick to you like some super-velcro, and do not want to come out. Ever. How they jumped up on my shorts, I don’t know, but when I saw them all the way up there, I thought perhaps they were not plant matter at all, but some alien life form that could actually jump. I’ve also been sneezing ever since I got home, so maybe these alien life forms can also blow some kind of allergen into our faces by which they will one day control all of mankind. The thing about my keen shoes is that, without socks, they stuck to the insides and outsides of the shoes, and made the red ring around  my ankles by rubbing into my skin with every step. But I traversed on, poor Abigail being almost invisible in the thickets, and panting from heat and exertion. The one thing about this trail is that civilization is never far from view. When we got to the top, there were rooftops of fine homes clearly nearby. When the trail started to run out, we were right next to a golf course on one side, and the Trinity on the other. There were several beautiful homes, with excellent fences and pools just after the golf course. But there was no path left to take. There was one part of the water that was full enough of rock for us to climb down and over the other side. Abigail, of course, climbed right down, but the downward slope was pretty much only peat-layers and layers of leaves from years of blowing and dampness. Quite slippery for a large human, so I had to sit down and do a crab walk down. If Abigail were human I’m sure she would have found it quite amusing. I was only a tad worried about awaking a sleeping snake or giant spider. I’m afraid of neither, but if they are threatened, they will protect themselves, as would any living thing. I’m sure they would see me as a threat. We’ve had what is now being called an “epidemic” of West Nile Virus in our area, and several deaths, so when I caught a mosquito on my arm I quickly flicked it away, being certain that near a heavily shaded river would be the one place that a mosquito might carry the virus. There was no blood when I got him, so I figured I was safe, but when I got home there were other bites on me. So now we get to see if I have, as I’ve always insisted, a super immune system. I’m absolutely sure that I’m not allergic to poison oak or ivy because there were so many vines twisted into the vegetation on the ground, that there had to be something there that could cause a rash! But no spiders or snakes woke up, and my Keen, waterproof shoes got me across the rocks, while Abigail drank up in the creek water. This was my first chance to look at her, and she was covered, literally covered, with the same burrs that I was covered with. So much for helping her with burrs by cutting her hair. I suddenly realized that I had removed her protection. She kept trying to get them off her face, and they were only going into her eyes. I took some time to get them off the area around her eyes, and some had gone into her eyes, which couldn’t have felt good!!! We got to the other side, only to learn that there was no other side that led back to the trail itself. The only choice we had was to turn around and go back the exact same way. It was hot-leaving the path meant leaving the canopy, and the sun was burning down pretty hard by now. The funny thing is that when we left home the temperature was below 80. We’d had a fairly cool start to the day for midsummer, but now the sun was winning that battle. Sweat, scratches and burrs make for a great burn on one’s skin. One thing I had figured out is that in order for Abigail not to be strangled by the leash was to take it off. Brambles, briers, branches and burrs do conspire to hold the leash and confuse a dog so that they only become more entangled as they try to get around the thatch that holds them. So I had taken the leash off, and was carrying it. When we got back to the creek, Abigail scampered right over to wait for me. The trouble was that getting down the creek was much easier than getting back up. I finally had to throw off the leash, and taken out my earbuds, which had been yanked out of my ears several times already by these conspiratorial alien life forms. Or vegetation, as the case may be. It was okay though, because Leon Russell and Bob Dylan were starting to wear on my nerves and disrupt my problem solving skills, much as I love them both. I sat down again, and had to hold the bars of one of those fine fences in one hand, and a tree root in the other to jump back and climb up the creek side. Abigail waiting patiently by, probably wondering why it takes us humans so long to go such a short distance.

Interestingly, once we got back to the trail it seemed  much easier and shorter. But I couldn’t have felt sorrier for Abigail. I’ve never seen a dog covered head-to-toe with so many burrs. Normally when we do a trail walk, she is so happy just going for a ride that on the way she hangs her head out the window, like any normal dog would. Then on the way home she is so tired, that she gets a drink and lies down all the way home. Today, she couldn’t lie down because of the burrs all over her little body. I had them too, but I felt more sorry for her because I chose that route, she didn’t. But she never left my side, and when I was struggling to get up a rocky slope, or down one, she just waited for me. That is why she is my copilot ;I couldn’t ask for better. So I got home and took my clothes off, and started trying to get the burrs out of her. I’m almost done, nearly 24 hours later. She still has a few left on her face, and one bunch left in her right ear.

My husbands rather sarcastic comment when he saw us was, “I bet you’ll never do that again.” My response back was, “Hell, yes I will.”  But I might wait til after a freeze takes care of the burrs. Or maybe I’ll find some rocky trail that doesn’t have living, breathing burrs on it. I wonder where that is? Yellowstone? The Yukon Territories? Wherever it is, I know that no matter how hard the trail, my copilot will hang in with me to the end.

But I also have to say, that taking the road less traveled by, does make a big difference; sometimes it hurts. But sometimes it’s keen.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Impromptu

 
 What a week it has been. The great struggles of the people who want to believe themselves to be active in the political sphere has been reduced to chicken sandwiches. We’ve been at war in this country for nearly twelve years, and the poverty and jobless numbers have increased exponentially over the last twenty years. But what we want to protest is a chicken mogul who gives his money to anti-gay groups? I am pro-marriage equality. I am a firm believer in the Declaration of Independence, which says that “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.” Oh, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees all people of “equal protection under the law.” This alone should be enough to hold S. Truett Cathy (the founder of Chick Fil A, which is now embroiled in this protest) to not allowing his restaurants to become the segregated lunch counters keeping gays out of their restaurants. As a wealthy man, he is certainly allowed to give his money to whatever cause he chooses. But those who are gay and those who support the Fourteenth Amendment and know and love, as I do, many people who are gay, not to spend money there. Mr. Cathy says that all people are treated with dignity and respect in his stores, which is amusing-he is certainly happy to take money from gays, while his money goes to a group, the Family Research Council, which has been certified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC.) The SPLC is the group that used law suits to essentially break the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980’s. They have monitored hate groups ever since, and their word is highly respected among those who believe that not all terrorists are Islamic.

I have struggled mightily with how to feel about this one. I have never liked the food at Chick Fil A. It is overcooked, too fatty, too expensive, and not really worth the price in poor health for me. Now I know I would not eat there ever again because I don’t want my money going into profits that go to hate groups.  And the screeching on both sides is verging on ridiculous considering the problems this country faces right now. I don’t believe that any mayors need to try and stop Chick Fil A’s from being built in their cities, which would be a violation of the owner’s First Amendment right to free speech. For those who don’t follow this blog, and haven’t read the constitution, the First Amendment says that THE GOVERNMENT can’t tell Americans what we can and can’t say. On the other hand, those on the right who claim that being against marriage equality is to be for “traditional marriage as discussed in the bible.” When I was in the church, we were told repeatedly that the bible teaches “one man for one woman for life.” I’m sorry, but I’ve read the bible cover-to-cover several times, and nowhere does it say that. The truth is that from earliest civilization, marriage has been a financial transaction between two fathers in which one father gave a piece of property-land, livestock, children, for some piece of property from the other father. That’s it. The white dresses and rings and fortunes wasted on weddings that we celebrate in this country were an invention of European culture. It has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that is said in the bible.

On June 4th of 2011 did my first photo installment for this blog regarding how it bothers me that we haven’t protested this intractable period of war that we have been in for the last decade plus. The right screams about government spending and deficits, but they want to keep bombing every country in the Middle East except Israel. Many people who scream and scream about all government help to the disadvantaged, never say a word about the corporate welfare that goes to billionaire corporations such as Monsanto, Exxon-Mobile, the Koch Brothers and Massey Energy (coal.)

We should be protesting the movement to create a military award for drone controllers-the military pilots who use remote controls to bomb locations with drones, when these strikes kill indiscriminately, and often include children and wedding celebrations. Many have said that the only reason we aren’t protesting our wars in the Middle East is because we don’t have the draft, as we did in previous wars. But since we can bomb without leaving the video arcade, we don’t need to risk the actual lives of our soldiers. These wars are much more expensive, but fewer American military boots are on the ground. That does not mean, as we know, that fewer lives are threatened, because this sort of warfare has created a larger anti-American sentiment among the people whose families and neighborhoods have been the targets of those anonymous bombs.

I’m not actually digressing from my original point regarding the protests, both pro and con, of Chick Fil A, but there was a photo going around Facebook this week that showed Chick Fil A protesters juxtaposed with civil rights protesters from the 1960s, and the caption said, “In Forty Years, You Are Going to Feel Really Silly.” And I daresay that it would be true, if the people who are protesting for Chick Fil A had the capacity to see themselves as being silly in their choices. The number of Americans now in favor of marriage equality is rising, not falling. Since Harvey Milk called gays to come out before his murder in 1978, and more have, more and more people know that they know people who are gay, and they have come to realize that gay doesn’t mean “child molester,” it doesn’t mean freak, killer, deranged or damaged; it doesn’t mean proselytizer. This is why we haven’t heard crazy stories from military personnel about gays trying to recruit them since they can now serve openly in the military. I once knew a young man who was known by all of those around him to be gay, and he finally came out. I asked him, “When did you know you were gay?” He told me that he knew when he was seven years old and developed a crush on Leif Garrett. This was one of many times that my understanding of homosexuality not being a choice, but one is born that way, was reinforced. What seven year old has any concept of that man’s answer to my question? And if it were a choice, who would choose to live with so much derision and hatred from so many who are in charge of public legislation and perceptions? Who would choose to feel as if there is something “wrong” with the way one’s sexual desires are expressed? I never asked, at nine years old, to suddenly develop fantasies about Sean Connery. But it happened, all by itself. I didn’t choose it.

I must, however, take a moment to offer a kudo to Mr. Cathy. In this day of super pacs and “secret” fortunes being spent by anonymous donors in order to achieve certain political ends, with the full blessing of the Supreme Court of the United States and their 2010 Citizens United decision, at least Mr. Cathy said out loud and publicly what he believes and why his money is going where it goes. I’m sure he may regret it now, considering the media frenzy it has garnered. But this will balance out in the end. Those who don’t wish to support hate groups and anti-equality legislation in a country in which equality is constitutionally guaranteed can stop eating at his restaurants. Those who think they are showing the world what it means to live the fantasy of the biblical view of marriage can go eat all the deep-fat fried chicken and deep-fat fried waffle cut potatoes they want. I choose to believe that equality will win out in the end.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Racing the Train

 
I’ve heard alot this week about how seriously threatened the US corn crop is by the current drought. I know that farmers can have some bad years at the hands of Mother Nature. That is why they have crop insurance. I am deeply, and passionately against farm subsidies, and corn is one of the biggest beneficiaries of government welfare, which means that what I am about to suggest will probably be anathema to most American corn farmers-this would be a really good time to stop putting high fructose corn syrup in everything we buy. It is not necessary, it is unhealthy, it is making us fat and diabetic (not alone, but it is a real contributor.) Rather than just raising prices on the corn we buy in the store remove this devilish secret ingredient in so many of our food, all the way from the bread, ketchup and barbecue sauce we eat, along with hundreds of other foods. I would honestly be unsurprised to pick up a bottle of vinegar or a jar of pickles and find this poison ingredient on the list.  That will help us all in both the long and short term.

There has also been a huge kerfuffle about when exactly Mitt Romney left Bain Capital. Now, I know that not everyone is a political junkie like me. And many are asking if this even really matters at all. Here is one example that I can give of why it should matter. Romney is saying that after 1999 he was no longer involved with Bain or any of the businesses in the US where the American workers lost their jobs and the jobs were sent overseas. But I caught a stickler in this argument today: Romney has frequently used the name Staples (office supply store chain) as an example when he is defending his chops as a job creator in this country. But Staples was purchased by Bain Capital, it was after 1999, when Romney claims he was no longer involved with the company. He only took a leave of absence when he left Bain to run the Olympics. There is evidence that he was involved-attending board meetings and signing off on documents. I am watching his interview with NBC right now, and he seems nothing but sleazy. And he also claimed that he should be allowed to have it both ways-he said he should get credit for creating jobs with Bain even after he “left” there in 1999 because he helped start the company and get it going. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. Is he running for “Sleazeball in Chief.” He also seems to want to have it both ways on his visit to the NAACP convention this week; “I’m a great white guy for deigning to attend this black meeting,” but then when he visits his wealthy white donors later ON THE SAME DAY, he accuses the black folks of only wanting free stuff from the government. The man needs to decide who he is, and be that.

There is a commercial gnawing at me. It is a commercial for Men’s Wearhouse about donating an old suit, get 50% off your next purchase and the old suit will be donated to a man trying to get back into the workforce-a noble effort in this time when so many are out of work. I’ve been hearing the commercial all week but didn’t actually stop to “see” it until today. At the beginning it shows a group of buffed up, shirtless white guys on a corner with placards advertising…something (the writings on the placards are not shown.) These fashionistas are wearing ties over their muscled chests-nice touch. But the commercial ends with someone fitting two “out of work” guys. One is black and one is Hispanic. Does anyone but me see the message here?

Sorry folks. Nothing has been funny to me this week. But much has been absurd.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

It’s a Conspiracy, And I Can Prove It!

 
Back to my questions format. It’s been awhile, but there are so many things to question right now. What an eventful week-President Obama’s health care bill was declared constitutional by a conservative chief justice. And I’ve waited til now to comment on this. I’ve actually tried to give myself a bit of a political news hiatus, but like any addict-it keeps DRAGGING ME BACK IN!!!*** I’m almost amused by the people who keep insisting that they don’t want to see their hard earned money paying for people who are out of work or otherwise can’t afford insurance. Some of these people who can’t buy their own insurance may work for a small business that can’t afford to provide insurance for all its workers. I ride the bus in the morning with a woman who works for a doctor’s office; she gets no healthcare, no sick days, no vacation time-no benefits of any kind. This is quite a dilemma for very small businesses and their employees. If she or one of her children get sick, they would have no choice but to go to an emergency room, where they cannot be legally turned away. But the people who must use the emergency room as a primary care physician do not always get the best of care. They are sometimes given something for pain and told to go see a specialist. And the truth is, we are already paying for those people in higher medical care costs, and higher insurance and drug costs. I do compare it to government mandates to buy auto insurance. Someone challenged the validity of this position in a conversation on the day of the Supreme Court ruling by saying that driving is a choice, and therefore the auto insurance mandate does not apply to everyone. But someone who chooses not to drive can still be walking down the street and be hit by an uninsured motorist, and have to pay their own medical expenses. The thing I’m not sure that people think about is that everyone knows someone who has been hit by an uninsured motorist, has had to file on their own insurance, and then the victim of the uninsured motorist saw his/her premiums rise, or their policy get cancelled because of an accident that was not even their fault. We all pay higher premiums for drivers who do not buy auto insurance, but that same link between the cost we pay for healthcare and insurance, etc, is rather abstract and intangible. My question is, what was Chief Justice Roberts thinking when he wrote his opinion in a way that allowed it to be called a “tax?” Was he throwing the right a bone for their campaigns-a booby trap for Obama: “See, the democrats will raise your taxes!!!”

And by the way, why can’t the Obama campaign make the distinction between Mitt Romney as a “job creator” and a “wealth creator?” There is nothing wrong with the latter-it plays within a system that we have created, it makes lots of money for himself, and his investors, but it frequently does not create jobs. In fact, it frequently eliminates jobs by downsizing or sending them overseas. That is what the president needs to capitalize on (excuse the pun.) We need a job creator to create jobs in America. Not Singapore.

Next question: Once again, the people telling women what to do with their uteruses, whether before, during or after conception are still middle aged white men. Consider the law about to be passed in Mississippi this weekend, unless it is stopped by a federal judge, that will make it impossible to get an abortion in that state by forcing the only remaining abortion clinic to close, has been touted all over the media by these same kind of white men. On May 10th, Time Magazine published an article entitled “Are You Mom Enough?” The guy whose work informed the article is Dr. Bill Sears, who advocates breastfeeding a baby until the age of two, sleeping with your children, and wearing them in slings around your body wherever you go. Some of this, I have no problem with. Entire clans traditionally slept together in one room-but do working mothers need anything else to feel guilty about?

When hominids first dropped out of trees and began to walk upright across the African savannas, did they worry much about how many ounces of water they drank a day? Or did they drink when they could find it, and be very grateful for every sip before being chased away by a predator looking to feast on their meat?

Speaking of eating, I am very concerned about the unnatural foods we put into our bodies. I am a firm believer that the closer your food is to where and how it originally looked is, the better it is for you. So imagine my shock when we recently had a breakfast at work for someone who was leaving, and the breakfast included biscuits and gravy from a large fast food chain. There was provided something to put on the biscuits called “honey sauce.” I wondered what that could be, so I looked at the ingredients: honey, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, water, natural and artificial flavor.Are you kidding me??? Why not just honey? More proof of just how powerful the farm lobby is in this country, and the power of farm subsidies for corn farmers. I promise you, though I won’t share the name of the business with you here, I will never eat anything from there again.

And again-I heard that some group that calls themselves something like “A Bunch of Mothers” is boycotting Oreo because they put out a rainbow filling in honor of gay pride month. To them I say, good. Your kids don’t need to eat Oreos anyway-they are already overfed, under-active, and malnourished. Do they really need to eat chocolate cookies full of something called “edible oil” and sugar—or is it HFCS (high fructose corn syrup?)

I recently saw a commercial for a mechanic’s technical school called Universal Technical Institute. I couldn’t help thinking that I would never want to have a degree from a place whose initials are an abbreviation for “Urinary Tract Infection.” Can you imagine the conversation? “I graduated from UTI.” “Really? Graduated from what to what?” On that same note, not long ago I saw an ad in a magazine for tampons that come in a resealable package. I get it, I really do. But I shuddered at the thought of putting one away for future reuse. That will definitely get you a degree from UTI, won’t it?

Lastly, a couple more political comments/questions. We’ve been hearing alot lately about the so called “Fast and Furious” program devised by the ATF to track the movements of guns sold in the US. Now the republicans in congress who wear aluminum foil on their heads to keep the aliens from exercising mind control have devised a conspiracy in which the Obama administration planned the whole botched program in order to prove that the ready availability of guns cause mayhem and murder in order to take away the Second Amendment right of American citizens to bear arms. Really? Sigh…..Really? On January 8, 2011 Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, along with nineteen other people at a grocery store in Tuscon, AZ. She survived, but four others did not, including a child who was born on 9-11. There was some talk that after an event like that, perhaps the government should look into banning the 34 bullet clip that the gunman was able to buy (NO ONE EVER, EVEN AFTER THAT, MENTIONED ELIMINATING GUN RIGHTS, JUST CERTAIN TYPES OF AMMUNITION) in order to mow down that many people that quickly. No legislation was ever introduced-it was just the media talking. So now the Justice Department and the ATF are colluding to take away our guns based on the fact that 200 Mexicans have died from our weapons being bought in the US, transported to Mexico and used in their drug wars? Congressman Issa, I really thought you were smarter than that.

I can think of several times historically that the press has been used by the government or a corporation in order to further a program that they wish to pursue. The most recent was the use of Judith Miller of the New York Times to push the notion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The press was also used to discredit Jane Fonda, Ralph Nader and Rachel Carson. But now, in 2012, when we know what a terrible waste of time, treasure and human capital the war on drugs has been, when we have now had at least three presidents who admit to having used drugs in their youth, suddenly the press is telling tales of young men being made violent by pot!!! They are suggesting that Trayvon Martin, the seventeen year old who was shot by a neighborhood watchman, had pot in his system when he allegedly ‘attacked’ the man who shot him. When the Florida cannibal incident occurred they said at first it was the fake THC in the new drug called “bath salts,” but this week they said it was not bath salts but marijuana in his system when he attacked a homeless man and chewed off the man’s face, and was ultimately shot by police. Speaking as a child of the seventies (wink, wink) either they are buying pot that is dusted with something else, or this is one of those planted stories to justify the continuing drug war and the president’s breaking of his promise to stop prosecuting people for possessing small amounts of pot, but in experience, and that of most people I know who have ever tried pot, it makes one mellow, not violent. Maybe hungry. Maybe a little horny. But not violent. So my last question for the day is: Is the press colluding with the government again on this one? Why?
***Al Pacino in the movie “Godfather Part III,” 1990

Sunday, June 17, 2012

But I Was So Much Older Then…***

 
When I was a pre-adolescent, and member of a large Baptist church, my sisters and I would talk amongst ourselves about the conversations we constantly heard around us with elderly members, and how we would never allow ourselves to become the kind of old people who sat around and talked about our aches and pains and medications, and how much it can hurt to get older. And when I started this blog in 2009, I intended it to be about politics and religion-not about life in general, not about dogs and music, and not about getting older. But sometimes life gets in the way, and plans change. This year I will turn 55. That number sounds daunting to me-more than 50 did! It struck me this week that people who were born in the same decade I was are now turning 60. I just got a new knee in March. Now, I can say that my surgeon told me was not used to saying to a person “as young as you,” that I needed a new knee. That helped some, but there is still the looming prospect of 55 and then 60 that take my breath away. 
 
I talk to alot of people on the phone in my work. Sometimes I hear a woman’s voice, and think she must be rather “old,” and then I find out that she was born around the same time I was. At what point do our voices begin to sound “old?” But I also spoke to a woman the other day who was born the same year as my mother, and she sounded considerably older than my mother. Is that perhaps because this woman had health issues that aged her, or do I not see my mother as old as she is? Her voice is my mother’s voice, no matter what? It’s hard to say. Now when my girlfriends and I get together, there is always some time spent talking about our medications, our pain, the slowing of the motility of our guts and the vaporous indignities that creates. 
 
Not many of my high school classmates have died, but a few have. But many have had some terrible health problems-diabetes, heart and lung problems, others have had joint replacements or have arthritis and need new joints. Most have silver hair, or much less hair than we remember. Someone recently posted photos from a class get-together, and one of my good friends asked us when these other people got so old. I felt differently-I still see the people as I remember them from “then.” I still feel as I did “then,” except better in some ways. Yes, I inherited my dad’s jowls, which make my mouth look thin and frowny. I have some turkey neck. My hair too, is salt and pepper and the hairline keeps moving backward. I didn’t know that was supposed to happen to girls. My lashes and brows are getting thinner. Of course, my hair has been graying since my 30s, but I covered it up for years. Yes,  I have joint problems, but on the one hand, I have also reached a point where I don’t much care what other people think about what I do or say. I once weighed 300 pounds, and was always a chubby teen, and as a result of having lost over 100 pounds, and the ever present pull down of gravity, I have ugly thighs and bat wing arms. But I wear shorts, and sleeveless tops, and if someone has a problem with that, it is their problem. There was a time that I would never, ever go without sleeves because I knew people would be looking at my arms. Now would be a good time for me to go and try to make it on Broadway or in Hollywood, as I always dreamed of doing when I was younger, because I have lost the self-consciousness that made me too afraid to take that plunge when I was young enough to be (maybe) successful. Thank you, Kathy Bates and Roseann for showing me that heavy women could be successful in performing arts!*** I wish your fame had come in the mid-1970’s.
 
This is the hard part of reaching “a certain age.” It is the time that we spend too much time looking back rather than ahead. We think of the love we rejected, the job we turned down, the comments we made and the fights we never apologized for, and there is regret. My first marriage broke up in 1995, and it took many years for me to stop feeling like a failure. Having been raised in the church, I’d been taught, “In order to get a divorce, you must consider divorce an option.” So for 11 years, my first husband and I did not consider it an option, and we believed we had chosen rather to work through our problems. I didn’t consider him leaving me for another woman an option either, but that was something I was not in charge of, and  another story altogether. Back then, I used to say that the only thing I feared was dying with regrets. But now regrets are ever-present. I regret that I was too afraid of failing to go after what I believed my career would be. I regret that I didn’t have children, though I adore my stepsons, and their children. But if for some reason my husband and I were  no longer be married, I would be the one left alone because there is no blood between us. My husband’s side of the family would be afraid that keeping a relationship with me would be uncomfortable for my husband-I get that. I regret the cost to my health of having grown so large when I was young enough to make my middle years super healthy. I regret many times that I’ve said something hurtful or angry. Words cannot be taken back, and sometimes in the things I’ve allowed to make me say ugly things, I turned out to be in the wrong.  I regret that I haven’t been more active in fighting either for or against the things that are important to me. I’ve signed lots of petitions, I’ve given money when I’ve had it. But there are so many things I could have done that I didn’t-I’ve never got involved in politics at the precinct level, which could have led  to a greater ability to make a real difference. 
 
More than personal regrets, I look at the aged among us, and wonder if our wonderful, amazing advances in medicine are doing people any great favors by keeping people alive so much longer. Yes, some of the people being kept alive have the will and resources to make their “golden” years truly golden; they are the exception, not the rule. But there are aspects of aging that are beyond our ability to control. My father will turn 73 this year, and is in intractable, unfixable pain. The drugs they give him to control the pain have terrible side effects, and make him not want to take them. This is true of many drugs that allow our lives to be lengthened-it is not the job of medicine to address quality of life issues. The elderly miss their friends who have died, and when they outlive their children they never recover-even if the children were elderly when they died. We now have new guidelines about preventive health measures for the elderly-no colonoscopies without cause for people over 80, limiting pelvic exams for women over 50, etc. My mother finds this appalling. And while I see the point of looking at numbers and reducing the number of tests run brings the cost of medicine down, I also see her point-preventive care catches cancers earlier and saves money too. But which is the right answer? I’m guessing that the people who write these guidelines didn’t ask anyone over 80 how they felt about them. Many of them tell me that they would not object to not being kept alive simply for the sake of being kept alive. Before my father’s health began to decline, my mother used to visit  nursing homes with her friend every Monday, and she told me over and over that many of the residents felt that they didn’t see any real reason to be alive anymore. Sadly, sometimes it hurts to be old. 
 
In the past the word “crone” was not a pejorative. But now it is. We don’t value the old for their wisdom, and the lessons they learned in their younger years. I look at my stepsons, nieces and nephews (who are all just about grown now, and some have children of their own) and wonder why they don’t see how similar my life was  to what they are going through-I could save them so much pain. But I am old enough to know the truth-my mother felt the same way about her 5 children, and could not keep us from the necessity of learning the lessons on our own. My friends and I have been where the kids are now, and can look back and see where we screwed up, but we don’t get do-overs, and the kids don’t want to believe that choices and mistakes are repeated generation to generation. That may be the cruelest cut of all. 
 

***Song “My Back Pages,” Bob Dylan, 1964
Kathy Bates, actor from such movies as “Fried Green Tomatoes,” and the recently cancelled TV series, “Harry’s Law”
Roseann (Barr) comedian, actor, political activist

Friday, April 13, 2012

Incense and Peppermints*

 
Last year I remember a post in which I talked about how early the honeysuckle bloomed in the field behind our apartment complex, and how languid the smell made me feel. This year we had almost no winter, and the weather has been very warm, we’ve also had enough rain that our region of Texas has been lifted officially out of its drought. The honeysuckle is particularly thick this year-more so than last. When Abigail and I walk back there in the evening, the fragrance makes me wish I were a better poet. There is something about the words of a poet that do more justice to that perfume than a blogger or essayist. Although I think I agree with C.S. Lewis when he said, “I am so coarse, the things the poets see are obstinately invisible to me. For twenty years I’ve stared my level best to see if evening, any evening, would suggest a patient etherized upon a table. In vain. I’m just not able.” I’ve thought the smell could be described as something like wine, but it is really heavier-more like a liqueur. When the creek behind all that vegetation is full, and humidity and gnats are abundant, it sometimes reminds me of a languid, Gothic movie set in the bayous of Louisiana, where there is almost always Voodoo afoot, and willows and cypress knees give a foreboding look to set the mood of the story! But I can’t even take that idea and make it into a poem.

I’ve considered going out and taking pictures of these bushes, heavy with flowers, they are certainly beautiful, but that would not be my words expressing their beauty. In viewing, they speak for themselves, only without the incense, which makes the sensuality of the experience possible. This afternoon as we walked, the bushes were covered with a plethora of black and orange butterflies. They weren’t monarchs, but they had the same coloring. Butterflies on a bush would hint that the perfume attracted them, wouldn’t they? But I didn’t have my camera, and still would not feel I had the power or skill to convey what that vision made me feel. On the walk back, instead of the numerous black and orange butterflies, I saw one very large, solid black one that really caught my eye. He (or she) was alone. It made me sad about the stories I’ve read, more than once, including once this very week, about how black dogs and cats living at shelters have a harder time getting adopted. I thought of Ralph Ellison’s metaphor in “The Invisible Man” in which the character Kimbro teaches the narrator that in order to make white paint really bright, add a drop of black paint.  How is it that great writers are able to explain the connectedness of all things in ways that can  stay with us in such powerful ways? It was probably thirty years ago when I took American Literature classes in college, and that one point from that book still resonates with me. I have at least three teachers, one high school and two college, to whom I am more grateful for the reactions I have to great writing than I could ever express.  Just thinking about them on this warm humid evening, when my walk takes me back to that place of the liqueur perfume, and it makes me want to run to the local animal shelter and adopt all the black dogs.

*Song title by band Strawberry Alarm Clock1966 
Collected Poems of C.S. Lewis, “A Confession”
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot, 1920
“The Invisible Man,” novel, Ralph Ellison 1952

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I’ve Been Proven Right

 
My blog posts frequently try to use humor to make some points, and I often use lists of things that amuse, bemuse or befuddle me. There have been lots of those things since my lasts posts, but they all seem so shallow compared to the absolutely disgusting nature of the battle for the republican party nomination this year. I mean, what does it matter, in the big picture, that I was saddened to realize that I have a GPS that I never need? I go so few places that I seldom go anywhere that I don’t know how to get to.

I was planning to ask why we in the United States need all those British chefs coming over here and cursing at us in order to make our restaurants successful? We are a nation of cookie cutter chain restaurants-we don’t, as a rule, give a shit what food tastes like-we just want it to be cheap and plentiful. Are the “Brits Behaving Badly” in our restaurants simply getting us back for winning the revolution and overthrowing their monarchy here?

I was also taken aback when I noticed on the wrapper of a Hershey bar that I bought-it was made in Mexico! What about Hershey, Pennsylvania-the city of chocolate streets and chocolate sauna treatments? I couldn’t finish the bar once I saw that. Is there no job in this country that is too sacred to outsource to another country?

But all that has come crashing down as I’ve watched the republicans desperately claw for a party nomination that will not matter to them one whit come November 6 or January 20 of 2013. President Obama gets mixed marks from me, but all-in-all, I think he’s done a good job, especially considering what he’s been up against.

What frightens me is that there are about ten or twelve million people who will vote for one of these three men, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney. I have never in my life seen such a rag-tag collection of liars and scoundrels-but they are exactly what the right has been asking for. Not in the sense of, “Please sir, I want some more,” but in the sense of “Aright, you, you asked for it, now you’re gonna get it!” In 2009 and 2010, I watched many stories about tea party gatherings across the country. My mother participated in some where she lives.They were mostly women, bad spellers, upper middle-aged, fat and white. I said “mostly,” not all, so please don’t say that I’m painting them all with a broad brush and saying that all tea party activists are one way or another. I’m a firm believer that an engaged, informed electorate is crucial to having a country governed by people who are worthy of their titles. But these folks were not informed; they watch only Fox News, which does not inform as much as it inflames. Fox is known for telling its viewers not to watch any other channels because “they won’t tell you the truth like we do.” Which is a crock-dictated by Fox’s fear that their viewers will become informed and abandon them for their lack of truth or balance. No one channel tells the whole truth, and one MUST get one’s news from more than one source, then sift through the blather to find the truth for ones self. This is why Fox viewers consistently demonstrate in studies that they are dramatically more uninformed about the real news of the world than viewers of any other news service.

All that aside, and what may appear to be an ADD rabbit chase, I have said for years, even when I was a practicing, though doubting Christian, that the bible (and pretty much all other holy books) were written by men in an effort to keep women in “our places.” Ever since the republican victories in 2010, I have been proven right. Homosexuals are also among those whom religion has been meant to keep under control, and I’ve written about gay rights before; this is about a war on women. Since 2010, an election that was purportedly about the economy and what a bad job President Obama has done in restoring jobs to this country, all these newly empowered republicans have done is intensify its war on women and gays. Utterly dishonest attacks on Planned Parenthood, designed to offer low cost health services to low income women, has been under increasing attack,and is being portrayed in the media as a giant abortion machine, though abortion is only about 3% of Planned Parenthood’s activities, and it gets very little funding from the federal government. Publicly funded media is also under attack and threat of defunding, though the truth, once again, is that NPR and other such organizations get very little money from the federal government. It is being attacked because it is “liberal.” I know this because my mother says so-though I have personally invited her to watch any program or news show on PBS and point out anything they say that is “liberal.” She refuses-back to the Fox dictum not to watch any other channels because they don’t tell the truth as Fox does.

Now we have a big argument going on about whether or not insurance companies, not churches, should provide coverage for contraception to women who work for, again, not churches, but institutions owned by churches, such as universities and hospitals. I would venture to say that not every secretary at Notre Dame University is Catholic, and insurance companies should not be denying health care of any kind to women of any kind. This is not a First Amendment argument, though it is being promoted as such by the white men who wish to force their beliefs on every woman. Whatever happened to your god being a personal god who wants a personal relationship with believers? Whatever happened to human free will to choose to follow the dictates of your faith or not? Whatever happened to the belief that morality can’t be legislated at all, particularly to unbelievers. Child birth is a health care decision, the United States in 2010 ranked fortieth in the world in maternal death rates (women who die within 42 days after giving birth.) So deciding to have a baby can be a life and death decision. We also have an economy in which having two parents working is no longer a “choice,” it has now become a necessity in many cases to have two incomes. Birth control is a health care choice, and not simply a narcissistic way for a woman to have time to “find herself,” through a career. It has been nearly fifty years since the advent of the pill, and people have used some kind of prophylactic or another for hundreds of years. But suddenly, in this war on women, birth control, and forty years after Roe vs. Wade, a woman’s right to choose are in the forefront again. AGAIN!!! Get used to it, conservatives, this has already been decided-women can choose to prevent pregnancy, and if she chooses to, can end a pregnancy.

I would like to note that the very definition of conservative means keeping things as they have always been, and this is a highly unrealistic way of looking at the world. A conservative friend of mine once said to me, with great angst, the Obama wanted to “change America!!!” I’m fairly sure I know what this fundamentalist, tea party, deep South conservative really meant, and the advance of the rights of women is included in my assumption. I remember another conversation with her in which she vehemently criticized a woman who had dropped off her baby at a “Safe Baby” site. She said, “If you can’t take care of a child, you shouldn’t bring a child into the world.” Really? This was a child that was not aborted. Parents were probably not using birth control, which now social conservatives are saying is a bad thing. So when the child is born in these cases, who takes care of it? There was, as is so often the case with these conservative positions, no logic to the argument whatsoever. But the greater point is that there is nothing in the world that doesn’t change. I must add, that I was in a conversation with a conservative friend who is a woman last night, and she said that she disagrees with her party on these issues, so, again, I can’t paint all conservative women with a broad brush. There was also the news story of the wife of a conservative legislator in Virginia, where a law was passed through their legislature and then pulled, forcing any woman who wanted an abortion to undergo a vaginal probe, who denied her husband sex because of his involvement in this legislation. Go Lysistrata!**

Women, I must add, have become quite angry in the last couple of weeks, about just how far these overwhelmingly white, middle aged males are willing to go to put the proverbial thumbscrews to women’s rights. Even conservative women, by and large, have benefited from the advances produced by the women’s movement from the 1960’s and 70’s. And over, and over and over again, studies prove that when women can plan the timing of their pregnancies and the size of their families, the children they have, the women, and the whole world benefits from it. Education and birth control have made, at least in part, the world a better place. But for at least one of the men currently running for president, that is the problem. He calls our president a “snob,” because he wants every American to have the opportunity to go to college, and when people go to college they come out liberal. There is no way to type how funny I find that whole line of thought, especially when this man has three degrees, including an MBA and a law degree. So I guess higher education doesn’t always turn one liberal. Or even smart.

The last point I’d like to make here is that the very use of social issues, whether it is gay rights or women’s rights, or the liberality of Hollywood-whichever old red-herring  is used to stir up the social conservative base, this is always an act of desperation from the right. It has worked for them in the past, but maybe the anger among conservative women will break that cycle this time. I don’t care to hear one more word about what Mitt Romney thinks about the federal bailout of the auto industry in 2008. I would like to know what he thinks of the bailout of Chrysler in 1980, under a republican president. The result is the same-Chrysler came through its crisis, became profitable again (for a time) and paid back the money to the government, with interest. But why doesn’t anyone ask Romney about this? There seems to be no one who is willing to call them on this hypocrisy. But the desperation in the move away from talking about the economy and focusing on the “culture wars” is obvious: they can’t get Obama on national security issues-he has won that battle, often using the same methods that liberals hated in President Bush. The economy is getting better, in part because of decisions made by Obama, and in part because these cycles occur naturally and economies routinely move up and down. The right has nothing on which to win against Obama, and so they convince the base that he is a foreign born Muslim socialist, who will force all white people to abort their babies, and will take all the surviving children and send them to re-education camps to turn them into gay socialist Muslim terrorists.

***Lysistrata is an ancient Greek play, written by Aristophanes, in which the women of Athens deny sex to their husbands until they cease fighting a war.  This same tactic was recently used by women in Liberia successfully. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Where Does All the Poo Go?

 
As a dog lover, and dog owner, I am trapped in a huge conundrum regarding picking up after Abigail when she “does her business.” I have the plastic bags, and I usually do pick up after her. Sometimes she goes into places that make it impossible for me to “do the responsible thing.” There are many dogs in our apartment complex, and some do and some don’t. We have a couple of neighbors who behave like Rumpelstiltskin when they see dog droppings on the ground. One threatens to call the police every time, and blames every illness on dog droppings left to collect bacteria, which then becomes airborne and flies into the noses of every old person and small child to make them sick. I do realize that solid waste can be full of bacteria, and there are times that exposure could make one sick. I’m not sure if poo in the grass can produce flying spores to infect people walking on the sidewalk, but I try to be responsible, and I try to smile and nod just enough to keep these two neighbors from ripping themselves in half. I did recently have the experience of going out to a big hill on our property with my 5-year old granddaughter. She wanted to roll down the hill, and me to roll with her. It was loads of fun-making me feel dizzy, just like spinning when I was her age. Then she moved over to another section, and laid down to roll, and I noticed that if she had rolled there, we would have had an unhappy walk back home. Game over-I don’t want to play in poo. So I started picking up at least one other pile each time I picked up one of Abigail’s. But I also thought about all the animals and humans who have lived since the beginning of life on earth. There were no water treatment plants, there were no toilets or landfills for the kitty litter. We simply expelled our liquid and solid waste, and let nature take it’s course. Bacteria are part of that process. So are snails, which I’ve observed making use of many of those piles of poo, especially after a heavy rain. It doesn’t just sit there making people sick, it gets broken down and reused by “Mother Earth,” and when she takes care of things, she makes it useful again. We spend all of our days walking on reclaimed poo and evaporated urine. Every living thing, including microscopic organisms produce waste after they take in nutrition. It isn’t something to be afraid of, or to snicker at. It is part of life. I still don’t want to play in it, or have my grandchildren play wear it home on their clothes.

There is a great deal of road construction going on in my neighborhood. I’ve commented on this before, but as I pass by the construction areas I notice giant tanks of something called “non-potable water.” I looked this up, though I had an idea what it was before I Googled it. It is water from the water treatment plant (read: sewage) that is not considered drinkable, but can be sprayed onto construction areas as needed. Now-a quick lesson what is known as “the hydrologic cycle.” That undrinkable sewer water gets sprayed on work areas, it evaporates, goes through the cycle, falls as rain into our water sources, gets used again by the people who provide our drinking water. It’s all the same water. And it’s still the same struggle for me about whether to be a zealous poo picker-upper.

I do think the sheer numbers of living creatures converting energy  and eliminating its waste is the crux of the problem. I think about our local dog park and all the dogs running and playing-and urinating there. If owners weren’t picking  up after their dogs, it would become a giant sewage swamp. I read an article by a scientist recently that suggested earth needs to lose at least one third of its population in order to be sustainable. I’m sure that number involved waste products in its equation. So, I’ll keep picking up when I can-and when she goes where I can’t get it, well, no one will step on it there either. But the bigger question still remains. Sigh. Sometimes all we get are questions. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

YeeeeeeHaaaawwwwww!!! Chicken Feet!

 
This weekend marks the beginning of the one-hundred-sixteenth Fort Worth Live Stock Show and Rodeo. For people from Fort Worth, that’s a big deal. It’s a fair in the middle of winter, with rides and horribly unhealthy, delicious food like funnel cakes. We get to walk through hundreds of pens and look at animals that will be auctioned at the end of the two week show. There is a rodeo, for those who enjoy such things. It brings lots of money into our local economy, and it’s a throw back to when the country, and largely, states such as Texas, were driven by an agricultural economy. When I was a teenager, it was a much cheaper date than going to the theme park, and it was fun. I was very different as a teenager than I am now. Not only in that gravity has pulled all my body parts downward, but in the way I look at the world. I was a fundamentalist, anti-evolution believer who has since majored in science in college, and left those religious roots behind. It hasn’t been too many years since evolutionary biology found that the birds we know are the descendants of some of the more fearsome dinosaur/raptors. My mother, one sister and Mom’s brother used to take her mother to the Stock Show Rodeo every year until she died in 1998, and they have continued to go to the rodeo every year until this one-2012. I lived in Illinois from 2000-2008, and Mom took us to the rodeo with her in 2009. My husband had never seen a rodeo, so she thought he would enjoy it. We did enjoy it, though neither of us could see ourselves going every year. But I was struck by something very interesting, the feet of all the varieties of chickens and roosters. They did exactly look like the feet of dinosaurs. It was truly amazing to me how we could see the history of these birds in how they look today.

I also had another of those “Aha!” moments while listening to the news recently, the conversation being about jobs and our economy. It was brought up how many jobs are being replaced by technology. This is a fear that I remember hearing all the time when I was growing up, and it is apparently true. And becoming truer. And completely out of left field, I was tackled by and unexpected thought-this is another reason to reduce our population. My argument for having fewer children usually has to do with depletion of resources. But I also think it is fair to consider that the children we are bringing into the world may not be able to support themselves because too many jobs are being replaced by either computers or robots, which are cheaper and don’t require health insurance, vacation pay, or retirement pensions. No one wants to bring a child into the world only to starve, and the more people on earth, the greater stress on natural resources. And now, the fewer jobs available to support themselves and their families.

I try to be aware of manners. I used to love reading books by “Miss Manners,” and one of her repeated premises in her books was that the most important thing about manners isn’t knowing which fork to use (furthest to the left goes first) but being aware of how my behavior makes other people feel. Once we are comfortable enough with each other, and have a feeling of trust, I can drop that wall and talk about things on which I know we disagree…politics, religion, what season is best, sports teams, music, whatever. But when two people meet for the first time, the old saw “Never discuss politics or religion with coworkers or people you don’t know well.” The importance of these admonitions came full blown to me on New Year’s Day, when we were unexpectedly sharing a gathering with a couple we had only met once before. Before the day was over, the female half of that other couple had offended us on breaking these all important rules of etiquette. First, when the black coach of a certain football team was shown on screen, her male friend commented that he didn’t think this man was a good coach. “She” said, “Oh, I guess they were just filling their black ratio.” Now why would any reasonably intelligent person believe that remark was okay? Ever?! Then, in a discussion about a job her son had lost due to a freeze on federal hiring. Both of them said together, “We can blame Obama for that.” Now, they said it as if they assumed that everyone in the room agreed, which they could not possibly have known. And for that reason alone, such a comment should never have been made. But since if anyone reads this post, I’m assuming we have a level of trust and I can feel free to speak-the right has spent 2011 accusing government workers of being the giant leaches that have pushed out economy to the brink of the great abyss, why would they complain? Oh yeahhhhhhh, because trimming the size of government in this case affected one of theemmmmmmmm. Lets just leave politics and religion out of the conversation when with people we don’t know well. But in the meantime, your hangnail is not Obama’s fault.

Every now and then I have to chew some tablets created to help with heartburn. Now it almost nauseates me to use the brand that makes those awful commercials with people being slapped in the face by their food. I’m amazed that the FCC hasn’t shut those commercials down for their very phallic nature; there is one with a woman eating a corn dog that suddenly starts slapping her in the face-the message seems very clear. One is ribs-come on-am I the only one who’s noticed this? ?e’s not being slapped by a whole rack of ribs; just one rib. Again with the phallic symbol. Uh-oh-what if it is just in my head.

The other day I was buying some groceries, and I found myself inexplicably drawn to the cosmetics section. I picked up a lip gloss named “Forbidden.” The rebel voice in my head said, “Sez who?” I was determined to buy that lip gloss just to show whoever put it there that I was not to be forbidden. But in the end, I couldn’t.