Thursday, March 31, 2005

"... the coffins were all in order...."

A few days ago, a lefty friend of mine contended that the reason the recent anti-war protests commemorating the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq received very little coverage on the news was that the Bushies have the broadcast news in their pocket. (This was right after I read yet another conservative bloviator who insisted the network news was liberal, except for Fox, which was "fair and balanced." Ho-hum.)

I suggested that maybe there was another reason for the paucity of coverage: People, even people sympathetic to one or more of the causes, tended to view protest marches as anachronistic.

The Washington Monthly's Christina Larson has expanded and expounded on this view in "Postmodern Protests -- Why modern marches matter only to those who march."

Regarding one of the counter-inaugural protests, the “Women's March and Funeral Procession,” Larson reports:
As with most demonstrations today, the march wasn't planned to accomplish a concrete result by demanding the passage of a particular piece of legislation. Instead, its organizers had focused largely on two things: affirming the protesters' right to protest, and enriching their experience of the protest. While in the past a march was judged successful if it affected a political outcome, today's protests are judged on how they affect a protester's sense of self.

This "Free To Be, You And Me" school of protest is enough to set my socialist ancestors spinning in their graves like tops. Amending labor laws so that they and hundreds of their countrywomen wouldn't have to jump out factory windows in flames was enough enrichment of their experience. But as Larson illustrates, as various movements became more established, with offices and staffs, marches became more about getting together for some kind of activist trade show.

This is great on a social basis. It's lonely sitting behind a computer all the time. But for those of you who are amazed that United For Peace and Justice got such a big turnout in New York the day before the Republican Convention and yet Bush is still president and there's still a war going on, Larson would like to remind you:

Protesting for protesting's sake serves a market. But so do rock concerts and tractor pulls. If today's marchers want their efforts to mean a great deal more than that, they would do well to recognize the real reason why the marches of yesteryear are remembered. It wasn't just about the messengers. It was about the message.


The week before the Inauguration, I received e-mails about several scheduled protests for that day. One was "Turn Your Back On Bush," where you were supposed to, you guessed it, turn your back on Bush when the presidential motorcade passed you. This prompted more than one comedian to say, "You know he's going to get out of the car and say, 'What y'all lookin' at?'" The jokes about the protest had more of a rebellious feeling than the protest itself.

Which leads me to believe that the best way to protest on that day would have been to work on your act. Or in this case, your message. And it can't just be "throw the bums out." It's gotta be about what you would like to see happen when "our" bums get in.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mighty Middle Manifesto

I thought this guy was me, then I realized I wasn't a guy.

In other news, work is a bitch, but things are generally okay.

Still reading "Before the Storm." I wrote this down to look it up: "Immanentizing the eschaton." I Googled it and as far as I can figure out, it means either "living in the moment" or "living in a fantasy world." Apparently, this expression has been around for years and I'm just finding out about it now. Talk about middle aged. Oh well, at least I've got an iPod.*

*Full of classic rock, funk and Ramones.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Strindberg and Helium.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Before the Storm and During the Rain

On a very miserable day, I'm about three quarters of the way through a bag of Teeny Beanies and Rick Perlstein's biography of Barry Goldwater, "Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus."

I'll link you to Glenn Garvin's review of the book in Reason. I agree with a lot of the review and will use it for talking points on my review later. I know it's good for talking points because when I read it I kept talking. I kept saying "Yeah" and "Hmm."

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Easter Cats

Pongo and Phoebe
Originally uploaded by brunobaby.
These are our "Original Cats," Pongo (1984-2001) and Phoebe (1984-2004).

I adopted them in March 1985, when they were six months old.

Yes, Pongo had two different-colored eyes.

Also, like many white cats, Phoebe was deaf. Or maybe just very stubborn. But she did have eyes in the back of her head.

They both lived to a ripe old age because we made life so good for them that they would have been crazy to leave. We should all have it so good.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Breathing Instructions

Due to a problem I'm having with Flick'r, I'm unable to upload today's catblogging photo.

Meanwhile, Amanda at Pandagon (hey, that kind of rhymes) rips hilariously into a Cosmo article on "What Your Man Is Really Thinking." The "Comments" are funny, too, from both guys and gals ("Frought with puppies"...I'm gonna use that one somewhere.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Keep The Feds Off My Body

Due to work responsibilities yesterday, I was apparently the only blog in the universe not to weigh in on the Terri Schiavo story. But to sum it up:
  1. I'm writing the script for my living will;
  2. Those Conservative politicians who are using this woman as a marionette and playing on the hopes and pain of her family...I hope there's a special place to roast their asses in the hell in which they believe.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Street Fair!

I'd first suspected it on my way home yesterday when I saw all the "No Parking Saturday" signs. Then when I went out this morning, there they were: The Sock Guy, the Gyro truck, the $5 handbag people, the Mozzareppa* mobile.

Oh sure, it was cold, and the Shiatsu massage people's customers were getting their massages in down coats. But there's always something about the first street fair of the Spring that gives you the feeling of having made it through another Winter.

*Mozzareppa: A grilled cornbread patty with melted mozzarella cheese in the middle.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Write Chicks

Political Animal continues the debate about the dearth of women in the Op-Ed columns and political blogosphere:

In any case, I think the overarching question this brings up is one that Shakespeare's Sister and I have also discussed — but then dropped because we ran out of steam: what are "women's issues"? Isn't the war in Iraq a women's issue as much as a men's issue? How about abortion? Is that a women's issue? Or is it equally a men's issue?

I haven't been blogging long enough to consider myself a "political blogger"--don't know if a guy in a similar position would say that, unless he's got a "besieged regular guy" personna like Ray Romano--and my interest in politics has been peripatetic over the years, flaring in times of stress as if it were excema.

But this whole argument does sound like similar discussions I used to hear and have in the 80's about women and stand-up comedy.

Around 1984 when I was first starting and when Women's Comedy Night was a fad in several (un- or low-paid) gigs throughout the New York area, I would have MC's and club owners telling me:

"Come back again; we need more women."

But what about what I was doing onstage? And what about when you don't need more women; will I still be funny?

I got that question answered for me later in the 80s, when I was actually a lot funnier and more experienced and the answer was, "We already have a woman this month." (I was a single woman at the time and I found that for other purposes most guys need a woman more than once a month.)

Another comment that I got was that women comics did "women's comedy." So I'd be thinking, "What's feminine about the subway? Is it because it goes underground and in and out of tunnels? Is the tunnel the woman and the train the man?" Thereby making it a lot more Freudian and a lot more intellectual than making drunken people laugh warranted, which is probably why I quit.

But who am I to speak? I know about show business, not politics. Politics isn't show business, right?

Yeah, right.

The other obstacle I had with comedy is the same as one I'm having now: getting an audience!

If you're reading this now, and especially if you have a blog, site, show, whatever, that you're promoting, how do you promote yourselves?

Forget about women being afraid to blow their own horn. I've never had a problem with opening my mouth. The question is, "What is the sound of a mouth opening in the forest if nobody hears it?"

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Test-Driving the Obligatory Friday Catblogging

Originally uploaded by brunobaby.

Knife Moves

I had read on Apartment Therapy a few months ago that a good chef's knife was the essential tool for the serious home cook. That made sense to me, because I'd been cutting carrots with a steak knife and they would fly all over the room. And there's only so many things you can make by throwing everything into the food processor and setting it on "mulch."

So I went shopping for a knife, but on my reconnaissance missions to Bed Bath & Beyond's cutlery department testing the grip and weight of each specimen, I felt like a renegade member of the Manson Family and I was still clueless about which one to buy. Also, I was getting a lot of conflicting advice on how to safely hold a chef's knife from my friends.

"You're not supposed to pick up the knife with your fingers sticking out. You're supposed to curl your fingers under themselves and then pick up the knife...Oh wait, it's your other hand where you're supposed to curl your fingers." That and a couple of stories that ended "...but it grew back" convinced me that I'd better get some hands-on instruction.

The New School's Culinary Arts Center has a variety of one-day Recreational Cooking classes. I love that term: It makes it sound as if you're going to be lobbing arugula over a net. I signed up for the Chef's Knife Workshop. It met last Saturday at The Inn on 23rd, a townhouse converted to a B&B. When I got there, the owner was conducting a class in the dining room on how to open your own B&B.

My classmates and I, about a dozen young professional women, were ushered into the kitchen where Chef Richard Glavin and two lovely assistants gave us handouts on how to select, hold and sharpen a chef's knife and the difference between a chef's knife and similar knives. We were packed in elbow to elbow with each of us getting a little square of cutting board and an eight-inch knife, but I did not lack for individual attention. While we were practicing chopping, Chef Glavin said, "Now this lady is going to be here all night," and handed me an implement that looked like Excalibur.

But it worked like a dream. And the only problem I had with it is that I was afraid to get my other hand too close to the blade. But if you're holding it correctly and pay attention, you're actually more secure than you would have been if you hadn't held your hand close to the blade.

When we finished slicing, dicing and julienning the various vegetables and fruits that were handed to us, we all sat in the dining room and got to know each other over a bowl of Portuguese Potato Soup, with green salad and fruit salad, washed down with wine and cheese. We bombarded Chef Glavin with culinary questions, such as what All Clad pot to start off with and how long do various foods keep fresh.

"Well, if you keep a head of lettuce for a week, it won't be fresh." Oops, busted.

Also, when it comes to purchasing a professional knife, Bed Bath & Beyond and Macy's Cellar may have good sales, but you want to go to a place where the staff can help you select one that's right for you. Broadway Panhandler in Soho is one place that can do this, and I've just read that they're having a free knife skills workshop on Saturday. Couldn't hurt to have more training. Meanwhile, I'm hanging on to the food processor.


In Michael J. Totten's latest column for Tech Central Station, he links to an April 2003 article by The Washington Monthly's Josh Marshall:

The conventional wisdom on the anti-war left and the paleo-conservative right hewed a little too closely to the Arab nationalist party lines in Damascus and Cairo. The Middle East, they said, is a hornet's nest that we best not rile up.

Although Josh Marshall is a liberal who has been critical of US military action in Iraq, I wouldn't classify him as part of the anti-war left. And I'm familiar with the cited article about the neoconservatives' mission to transform the Middle East--an area that needed transforming bigtime--because when I first read it two years ago, I printed it out and read it several times and e-mailed it to everyone I knew, both those for and those against. I wanted everyone to read it because it expressed pretty much the way I felt:

The audacious nature of the neocons' plan makes it easy to criticize but strangely difficult to dismiss outright. Like a character in a bad made-for-TV thriller from the 1970s, you can hear yourself saying, "That plan's just crazy enough to work."

But like a TV plot, the hawks' vision rests on a willing suspension of disbelief, in particular, on the premise that every close call will break in our favor

Also, I didn't perceive Marshall as saying we should leave well enough alone. In the "hornets' nest" analogy, he's actually encouraging the idea of debate, just expressing that once we start the action, there will be no going back:

But doing it as the Bush administration now intends is something like going outside and giving a few good whacks to a hornets' nest because you want to get them out in the open and have it out with them once and for all. Ridding the world of Islamic terrorism by rooting out its ultimate sources--Muslim fundamentalism and the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, and poverty--might work. But the costs will be immense. Whether the danger is sufficient and the costs worth incurring would make for an interesting public debate. The problem is that once it's just us and the hornets, we really won't have any choice.

I've been enjoying Michael Totten's blog for the past two years and even when I don't agree with him, I always find him intelligent, articulate and able to see a broad spectrum of gray in a very black and white polarized time. However, I don't post there because with some of his regular commenters, if you're critical or doubtful in any way about the foreign policies of the Bush Administration, you might as well be marching under a sign that says "Bush=Hitler" on the way to pick out party favors for your lesbian wedding.

It was one of the reasons I got my own blog. I didn't want to get shouted down in a crowd. So now I'm part of a crowd of kabillions of people who have a blog.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Heads Up: Blogs To Get Treated Like Political Ads

Here's a heads-up if you have a blog and haven't heard about this yet.

The Federal Election Commission wants to pass legislation that will treat blogs as paid political advertising. This will almost certainly impede freedom of expression, since nearly everyone has a political opinion these days.

The Online Coalition is writing an open letter to the FEC voicing its concerns and asking that it "grant blogs and online publications the same consideration and protection as broadcast media, newspapers, or periodicals by clearly including them under the Federal Election Commission's 'media exemption' rule."

This is a left-right coalition of blogs, and I saw both Michelle Malkin and Daily Kos on the list.

Go to their site to have your name added to the letter.

In fact, go there even if you don't have a blog...I see a lot of names with no URL.

Phone Toner

The other night, I had a dream that I got a message on my cell phone that said, "Out of Toner." I had thought this was strange, since I don't use my cell to print anything, but everybody said, "Oh, you have to refill it right away."

So I ran all over town looking for a place that sold Phone Toner. I did find a shop next to the Central Park Boathouse. But there was a huge wait, since the sales clerks said I could not refill the phone myself and they were very busy. It was frustrating, since it was a really nice day in the dream and I wanted to walk through the park.

Then I woke up and it really was a nice day, and I returned pants.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Rosie O'Donnell Has A Blog Now

Gawker says formerlyROSIE reads like haiku. I think that if you read it out loud in Rosie O'Donnell's voice, it sounds like her stand-up routine.

My favorite is the bit about Son of Sam:

his name was david berkowitz
i saw his picture in the paper and was shocked
he looked like someone I went to high school with
a kid with crazy hair and beige clothes
nearly normal

i thought about him all night
and the next day - he was the only
topic discussed

long island - new york -
you are one of 2 things
catholic or jewish
there was one protestant in Commack
jean soul
i thought her an oddity

i cannot tell you how shocking it was to find out
in real life
the jean souls are in charge

so one of the neighbors was babbling
and I listened entranced - mothers
still can have all my attention
mother me and I am yours

“my god - I heard berkowitz and the shame - son of sam a jew? - I
thought I would plotz - then I heard it - ADOPTED son. Thank god we
don't have to claim him!”

she did not want to carry the shame
the association
unreal and absurd as it was
she did not want son of sam on the list of jews
can you blame her

Rosie O'Donnell pressed a lot of personal issues down deep inside of her to succeed in show biz, and one day the pressure cooker exploded. I hope her time away from the scene helped her to get centered and that she'll come back with the comedy.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Moose Tells Donkey to Pick Its Fights

The DLC-related blog Bull Moose tells the Dems to pick their fights, and the Ambassador to the U.N. shouldn't be one of them:

Democrats should certainly be the opposition party, but should carefully pick its battles. For instance, the Moose holds no brief for John Bolton. But think about how the Republicans will frame the debate - the Democrats are for the United Nations and the Republicans are for the United States. The donkey should think before he leaps into opposition. Fights with the Bushies should strengthen the party, not weaken it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

At Least It Ain't Michael Bolton

John Bolton has been nominated as US Ambassador to the UN. Democrats want to contest this. The Washington Post's Anne Applebaum doesn't think they should. Here's why:

The United Nations is not a popularly elected world government; it isn't even a collection of well-meaning people who just want peace. It is a group of
different agencies with different agendas, some of which are relatively effective and some of which are ineffective or even dangerous.

I agree. And besides, those extra ten stories? They can convert them into co-ops.

Just Do It!

Josh Marshall goes all Doctor Phil, and I love it:

To my thinking, the prime objective of preventing the president from
phasing out Social Security is preventing the president from phasing out Social

And furthermore:

Spin has its limits. You show voters that you have direction and conviction and values principally by having them. And for all the short- and medium-term political handicapping, I believe that's what they are doing right now.

Now, if I just substitute the word "me" for the word "Democrats," I can get up off my lazy conflicted ass and get something done.

Likewise, Michael Tomasky at the American Prospect advises the Dems, move to the left, move to the right, stand up sit down fight fight...

I’ve been writing lately about the internal discussions Democrats and
liberals need to have to understand and update their core philosophy and
communicate it to voters more effectively. Those discussions are vital, but
they’re only one side of the equation. There’s something else Democrats need to
do, which isn’t nearly so complicated. They need to fight.

True, the unexamined life is not worth living. But the too-examined life makes you walk into walls a lot. And lose.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


So I'm watching NY1 news this morning over my coffee, and they're talking about the feud between rappers 50 Cent and The Game. And I'm thinking, there's a rapper called The Game, and then U2 has that guy called The Edge.

I'm gonna change my name to The Brew.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Tougher Than Ever To Survive

The LA Times recently ran a series of articles on how the American family has become less economically secure over the past three decades (thanks to Political Animal for the heads-up.)

I thought it was just people like me having this sort of trouble, 'cause I'm a beatnik, a starving artist, a Norma the Nonconforma. But these articles profile families from the upper middle class to the working poor who all seem to have experienced some of the problems, and learned the survival skills, that the starving artist subculture has long lived by. And it's wise that they should learn them, because loyalty, hard work and commitment are not rewarded as they were in my parents' day.

Since this has been a gradual process over the past thirty years owing to a number of factors, you can't just blame it on Bush or the liberals or the bossa nova. But the Bush Administration's "Ownership Society" will push this further over the edge: "Hey, we're not indigent...We're entrepreneurs!"

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