Archive for September, 2005

Sakes Alive! A *Girl*??? Naw… Cain’t be!

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Ryan Rhodes has a post about Commander in Chief, the much-hyped new show on ABC about (*gasp*!) a female President of the U.S.

Briefly stated, he says the show was terrible. To whit:

It occurs to me that, if CiC were to tank, as the first episode seems to indicate it will, a lot of people will steadfastly maintain that it’s because knuckle-dragging Americans can’t accept the idea of a female president, and they’ll be totally oblivious to the obvious inadaquacies of the show itself.

I was immediately reminded of Ellen Degeneres’ ill-fated show, Ellen. The ratings were bad, so they decided to spice things up a bit by having her character “come out”. The network then proceeded to furiously wave the banner and tout the fact that their show had the first openly gay main character in TV history.

The show was cancelled at the end of the season.

Our TVs were barely cool when the politios started decrying the failure of the show as proof positive that the neanderthal mainstream American society “just weren’t ready” for a show focusing on a gay character. How Intolerant! How Cruel! How… oh, hey, look Will and Grace is on! Uh… where was I?

Will and Grace premiered a couple months after Ellen‘s last gasp. It’s amazing how enlightened the teeming masses in America became in one short summer….

History repeats itself, and never moreso than in Hollywood and Washington DC. I have little doubt that if Commander in Chief gets canned, Ryan will suddenly seem startlingly prescient.

Note: Jeff has another interesting take on the show, here.

Some things never change.

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Things that are burnable used to be marked “inflammable”. “Inflammable” basically means “really really flammable”, but people kept misunderstanding and thinking it meant “non-flammable”.

Now the labels just read “flammable”.

This, and a post by Ryan, reminds me of when I took an Old English class in college. By “Old English”, to be clear, I am referring to Anglo-Saxon — the pre-Latinate ancestor of the Modern English spoken by Shakespeare.

Shakespeare spoke an early form of Modern English, the same language we speak today. Though his language is flowery and poetic, it can still be understood by a literate person today (barring a few archaic words, such as “bodkin”, which a modern reader would not know offhand).

Chaucer wrote in Middle English, and his Canterbury Tales is just comprehensible if you really work at it and read all the footnotes. Though linguistically interesting, it is a hard slog for the modern reader.

Old English is for all purposes a foreign language. It is the language in which Beowulf (c. 600 AD) was written (that version you read in high school was a translation). It is not even remotely comprehensible to a modern reader who has not specifically studied it.

It is therefore interesting to note certain words that, in all this time, have not changed one bit. The two that jump right out at me are “gold”, and “God”. Oh, and you might recognize the only slightly modified “haelp!”.

Some things you just don’t mess with.

Note: I would be curious to learn the OE word for the sex act. I would not be surprised to find that that, too, is relatively unchanged.

Sick

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

I wrote a haiku:

Been sick. Funny thing
The doctor’s pills look just like
Flintstones Chewables™.

That is all.

Between a Crook and a Hard Place

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

The first time I voted in a governmental election was during college, which, as it happens, was in New Orleans at Tulane University. In the national election of 1992, we of course had Bush père and Bill Clinton. On campus, (and I can only assume elsewhere), the major argument against Clinton was that he lacked character. Personally, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the elder Bush, but it was amazing to me — and I mean “jaw dropping” — that the mantra of Clinton supporters on campus essentially became “Character Doesn’t Matter!” I mean, come on… “character matters” is one of those self evident truths we hear about, isn’t it? How can you trust someone to lead you, to hold authority over you, if they lack character? Isn’t the very meaning of the word “character” essentially “can be trusted”?* I was surrounded by a large number of people who didn’t bat an eyelash voting for someone who, by their own admission, couldn’t be trusted, so long as he said he supported what they wanted. Character Didn’t Matter.

Puzzling though the national election was, I found the local elections far more interesting. On one side was a certain Edwin Edwards, otherwise known as “the Crook”. By “crook” I mean that the man was crookeder than <insert something really, really crooked here>. He was known for his bribe-taking and propensity for kickbacks and corruption of every type.* Nobody really wanted the man in office.

The other guy was David Duke. Now doesn’t the choice just seem obvious? Louisiana politics is worse than Chicago politics!

I didn’t know anybody who even considered voting for Duke, (and to be honest, Edwards did seem to be the lesser of the two evils). Until one day, I actually stumbled across someone who though Duke was the “lesser evil” and was voting for the man. “How can you vote for him?” I asked. This I had to hear.

“Well,” he said, “if Edwards is elected, he’s going to be just as corrupt as ever. If Duke is elected, he is going to be under such close scrutiny, all the time, that he won’t be able to get away with anything. Corruption is easy, but it’s harder to pass a racist law without people noticing.”

It was the first reasonable reason I had ever heard for supporting Duke. It almost had me. In retrospect, of course, the argument was self defeating. The only reason he would be so closely scrutinized was because he was reviled. For the same reason, of course, he wasn’t getting elected any time soon. Edwards won in a landslide.

The baffling thing to me was, how could a state not have anybody better than this running for governor? Everyone I knew hated both men, so how did they ever make the ticket? It seemed almost to the extent that if I had run, I could have beaten these Bozos. So they end up with the most corrupt Governor in the Union. (Edwards, by the way, is currently serving time in Federal Prison).

I look at the news surrounding New Orleans recently, and some startling things are coming out of it. In a nutshell, it comes down to this:

  • Everybody knew that, sooner or later, New Orleans was going to be hit by a big hurricane (Cat 4 or 5).
  • Everybody knew that, as things stood, such a storm would be disasterous.*
  • The politicians in Louisiana and New Orleans didn’t do anything to avert the disaster that virtually everybody knew was coming.
  • New Orleans’ own emergency evacuation plan outlined the large poor (mostly black) population that would have to be actively assisted in evacuating.
    • This plan was almost entirely ignored when it all actually hit the fan.
    • The very people who were specified as requiring help evacuating were the ones who packed the Superdome and NOLA convention center because they were not evacuated.
  • Among other after-the-fact screw-ups, the Louisiana Dept. of Homeland Security (a state agency, not part of the Federal agency) blocked Red Cross trucks full of food and water who were trying to get to the Superdome in the first days after the storm. This was happening as Mayor Nagin was on national TV demanding to know where all the food and water was.

Somewhat less universally accepted, but no less true:

  • These necessary preparations were the responsibility of the Louisiana and New Orleans governments, not George Bush*

So I guess the point of all this is that when it all came down, New Orleans was woefully unprepared for a disaster they all knew were coming. That the city is underwater may have been unavoidable, but the level of human suffering was completely avoidable. The rampant corruption of the state and city politics had a lot to do with this, as the politicians were too interested in kickbacks to actually spend time making sure things would run smoothly (or, in fact, at all) during an emergency. The negligence here is absolutely criminal.

It’s no wonder that the Mayor and Governor are screaming and pointing fingers at FEMA and the President (and each other). They have a lot to answer for.

* A quick check at Dictionary.com gives us: “Moral or ethical strength”, which is close enough for scratch.

* I recently read in a Southerner’s blog that if you wanted to put in a Casino in New Orleans, all you had to do was go to Edwards’ house and lose $10,000 playing poker. “Best damned poker player who ever lived.” Sorry, I can’t find the link.

* Literally weeks before Katrina hit, I read an article that some scientists were positing it might only take a Cat 3 hurricane to breach the levees and flood the city.

* Especially as these preparation have been neglected for decades. It’s not as though everything was hunky-dory until seven years ago or something; the timing of the storm was a pure roll of the dice.

Squashed a bug

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Not that I get a whole lot of comments here, but if you’ve tried to comment lately and been blocked, it’s because of a buggy anti-spam plug-in I’ve been using. All fixed now.

The Music Fades

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

I cannot remember not knowing how to sing. My grandmother, from whom I reportedly inherited my ability, found it remarkable that so young a kid could carry a tune perfectly the way I could — at age two or three.

When I was six or so, until I was around ten, one of my mom’s favorite “parlor tricks” at parties was to get me to perform John Williams’ symphonic theme from the movie Superman. Vocally. A capella. Basically I could “hear” the entire complex piece in my head, and would leap between instruments and music lines as various strains became prominent from moment to moment. (In other words, it was not simply the melody line — it was interspersed with a lot of background and supplementing “intrumentation”.)

Music has always been in me. An odd side effect of this was that when I was young I did not have very much interest in music. In school at an age where most other kids were buying tapes and listening to their favorite bands, I didn’t own any albums. I was high school before I really started listening to music for my own sake. It wasn’t until college that I learned to appreciate Sinatra, or jazz. Today I perform semi-professionally* with a band.

A major aspect of all this is that I almost always have music running through my head. Whether it’s one of those tunes that you just can’t get out of there until you actually hear the thing, or just a mental “replay” of something I like, it’s always there. The kicker is… oftentimes the tune in my head is entirely new. From simple melodies to fully fleshed “arrangements”, my mind frequently produces music, which “plays” through my head (no lyrics, mind you, just music). This can be frustrating, as I rarely remember them — they’re gone as soon as they’re through — and even when I do remember them, I don’t know how to write music, and therefore have no way of “getting it down”. On the other hand, they’re sort of dime-a-dozen, as I can knock out another tune pretty much any time I want to. (This is of course not to say that they’re all great, or even completely new. I’m sure that I steal from myself quite frequently.)

In college I took a creative writing course. At the beginning of the course the instructor gave us a list of things which, by the end of the semester, we were expected to have written. A short story… 10 pages of poetry… A creative journalism piece… A song. It didn’t matter what order they were done in; each week we were to complete something off the list. One day as I’m walking out of the classroom, he stopped me. “Do you know how to sing?” he asked. I said yes, and he asked if I has written my song yet. Again, yes. “Bring your song in next week.”

The next week, partway through the class, he asked if anyone had written their song yet. I put my hand up, and one other girl did so as well. He turned to the girl and asked her to sing it for us. “Uh, I can’t,” she replied. “Oh, we don’t care if you’re not a good singer,” he said. “Just give us the idea. We want to hear the tune.”

“No, really,” she insisted. I don’t have a tune for it. It’s just lyrics.

“Well, how do you not have a tune? It’s not a song without music! Just sing it for us. Come up with something.”

“I can’t”, she said again. “I can read it, but I don’t have a tune — I can’t sing it.”

The instructor*, without knowing the extent of what he had, pulled out his ringer. He took the paper from her hand and thrust it in my directon. “Here, you sing it.”

“Okay. Give me a sec.” I took the paper and read the song through quickly. Then I sang it. The sound of jaws hitting desks kept time. As usual, the tune I sang was gone as soon as it was out. If he’d asked me to sing the same thing a second time, I probably couldn’t have — but I could have sung something else. “How did you do that?” the song’s author asked me incredulously. “I don’t know, I just sang it.” I replied.

The teacher asked everyone to bring in their song for the next week. An interesting part for me was that in the next class, as various people were singing their songs, she sang hers to the same tune I had sung on-the-fly the week before. It was strange, and a bit jarring, having my own forgotten (but recognizable) tune sung back to me. It was also very, very cool. Somewhere out there I imagine this girl still has her song written down, and could still sing back my melody. I like that thought, though I have little recollection of the song and no idea what her name was. I don’t do lyrics, and that one time I got to wrap my music around a set of really nice lyrics.

Lyrics. I shouldn’t say I never do lyrics, I just do them rarely, and it’s even more rare that I do them well. Of all the songs with lyrics I’ve ever written, there are only two that are really worth repeating. Well, three… except that one of them was created in a tragic “Coleridge” sort of moment. One day several years ago I was driving somewhere, when I started singing. I didn’t know what I was singing — it was new — but it was a fully structured song, with lyrics, multiple verses, and a refrain. It was beautiful, and it was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because, even as the words came out of me, I was forgetting them, and I had no way of recording it or writing it down. As I sang a verse, the previous verse faded. The refrain stuck with me long enough to sing it again when it came up in the “arrangement”, but that, too was leaving me as soon as the song was through. By the time I was able to stop, it was gone completely, but for the first half-line: “When I hold you in my arms.”

The next day I went out and bought a cassette voice recorder. It was a waste of money, as the point of such a thing would be to have it with you at all times so when such a moment struck it would be there. Such moments are so rare, that it has never happened that way again. I now own a PDA with a voice recorder — without which I never would have written one of the two “worthwhile” songs I have now written. To this day, the lyrics are written down, but the tune exists only in my head (okay, and in an a capella “reference” recording I made on the computer when I thought I had someone to arrange it).

Music comes instinctively to me, but I have never been able to wrap my head around written music. I cannot write it, and can only vaguely read it. Another blogger once talked about being like a painter without arms. I know the feeling. If I played an instrument, I could accompany myself, or jam with other musicians, but singing involves words, which involves pre-planning. It’s difficult to jam with just your voice. (“Scat” notwithstanding. I’ve never been a fan of it.)

The singing job I have is about the best outlet I’ve ever had, but I don’t choose what I sing, and am pretty much at the mercy of my employer. I wish I could do more.

* That is to say, I still have a day job.

* Professor Zu-Bolton, if I recall correctly. Later in the semester I irrevocably convinced him that I was a virulent racist, thanks to an unfortunate discussion involving the Worst. Metaphor. Ever. What can I say, it was an interesting class.

Flood of Corruption

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

There are times when it takes a huge strength of willpower to not let loose with a vomitous stream of the foulest language that ever spewed forth from the mouth of a sailor.

From The New York Times via Darleen’s Place:

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 4 – A day after two police suicides and the abrupt resignations or desertions of up to 200 police officers, defiant city officials on Sunday began offering five-day vacations – and even trips to Las Vegas – to the police, firefighters and city emergency workers and their families.

[New Orleans Mayor C. Ray] Nagin[…] said he had asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for the trips but the agency said it could not. He said the city, therefore, would pay the costs.

He said he believed there were now enough National Guard members in the city to allow the police to take a break and still keep the city secure[….]

Officials said they expected the military, with much greater resources, to expand rescue work, begin cleaning up the city and take the first steps toward reconstruction. …

New Orleans officials said they would remain in charge.

This is the most absurd manifestation of the welfare state mentality I’ve ever heard of. “Ehh… it’s somebody’s else’s responsibility to take care of us. Y’all can do all the hard work, but we still get to call the shots.” What kind of twisted thinking can possibly conclude that now is a good time to all go on vacation?

Those bastards should get a free trip alright: to jail. Let’s start with the mayor. Who the hell does that son of a bitch think he is?

Also, as the City of New Orleans most certainly does not have the money to pay for its own rebuilding without Federal funding, anything that the city “pays for” now is actually coming out of your pocket and mine. The New Orleans and Louisiana governments completely, totally dropped the ball in preparing for this disaster, and now they feel the need to reward themselves sucking free vacations from the federal taxpayer teat?

I can think of one or two other things you can suck on first, Mayor Nagin.

Update: Sort of mixed my metaphors up there. To clarify: the “bastards” who should be in jail are the corrupt/incompetent powers that be in New Orleans and Louisiana, not the front line cops et al who are trying to keep the place in one piece. I do, however, include the cops who were joining in the looting. Those are the lowest scum in the place.

Update 8 Sept. 2005: Wizbang disagrees.

Untrue Blue

Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

Blue Flypaper has the funniest website hardest hitting liberal commentary since BlameBush.

Worth a look-see.

Hati Tip: Paw-Paw — who didn’t quite understand what he was looking at. Then again, that the best part, isn’t it?

NOLA

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

I lived there for four years (more or less).

I rode the streetcars on a regular basis, and admired the amazing houses along St. Charles Ave., and the gigantic, beautiful old trees.

One fine Mardi Gras evening I was instructed by a police officer, “Sir, get out of the tree.” I was stone cold sober at the time.

I’ve eaten the food at Jazz Fest, marvelled at the displays (ahem) along Bourbon Street, and jammed to the sounds of street performers who really knew their stuff.

I know where I got my shoes, and how many letters are in your last name.

I sang the national anthem at the Superdome. From the field, not the stands.

I watched them assemble a parade in the middle of campus, to proceed outward that evening.

I walked down streets which alternated every block: bad neighborhood… good neighborhood…

I set foot inside St. Stephen’s church, and, as assured by my mother, did not, in fact, burst into flame.

I’ve been back four times since I came back north.

I can’t stop thinking that it’s all destroyed. That the Superdome is a shit-stained hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. That Tulane campus is probably underwater. That there’s not much to ever go back to again.

I think they’ll pull it together, assuming anybody wants to live there again after it’s pumped out; but the city will never be the same.

Update: This is interesting.