Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Note to Evangelical Bloggers: Become Better Storytellers

I recently had an invitation to follow an Evangelical Christian blog whose posts consist of out-of-context verses from the Bible strung together in a rambling fashion that did not form a coherent story.  Blogging is storytelling.  If  your posts don't tell a story, even if it's just the story of how your day went, they're not ready to publish.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Best Black Friday Ever

I haven't spent a dime on Black Friday in over 10 years, since Wal-Mart stopped putting practical clothes on their Friday-after-Thanksgiving sale.  I'm neither an adrenaline junkie nor a pleasure shopper, and I like to buy Christmas presents early.  The biggest reason though is that the Christmas shopping period long ago became a making-money time of year rather than a spending-money time of year.  When jobs were scarce I worked my butt off at Christmas and made enough money to live on until the end of March, when hiring would pick up again.  That's why I'm puzzled by all this fuss over working on Thanksgiving.  Twenty years ago whenever I did seasonal work I worked Thanksgiving every year except when I was a paid Salvation Army bellringer.

But this year we actually spent a fair amount of money on Black Friday.  Some of my husband's students are Afghan War vets with pickup trucks.  We paid them to haul furniture from the old house for us, a task we previously hadn't been able to organize.

They brought down the piano and a lot of the older case goods -- mostly mid-twentieth century mass-produced junk, but better built than you can find in all but the fanciest showrooms today.  The only known antique is the wardrobe my great-great-grandmother brought from England.  She was a mail-order bride whose hand in marriage was sold to pay some of her family's debts, and the wardrobe served as her trunk when she crossed the ocean.  The dresser and the cabinets have little value save utilitarian and sentimental, but after two years without a place to put my socks I missed them.

Best money I ever spent on Black Friday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Boo Hiss CBS! Thanks For Ruining the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

After 15 years of living without a connected TV, I looked forward to showing my children the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  We had CBS now, and CBS aired the parade.  All we had to do was turn on the TV and we'd see it, right?  Wrong.

What we found was a morning talk show being broadcast outdoors while all sorts of interesting parade-type things went on in the background where you couldn't see them, while the hosts chatted inanely with people whose bodies were blocking the view.  Doubtless they were important entertainment-type people, but right then they were in the darned way.  Clowns, dancers, and marching bands could be barely made out behind the guests legs, as could the balloon-wranglers whose balloons dangled frustratingly just out of camera range, cruelly teasing us with a flash of color at the very top of the screen.

After 10 minutes the children were begging us to turn it off.  I couldn't blame them.  I'd never seen worse coverage of an outdoor event in my life.  CBS needs to give the job to experts who actually know what they're doing.  It's a parade, not a blooming chat show!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

There Will Be War By 2015

The Republicans lost bigtime this election, and watching them work through the various stages of shock, anger, and denial has been highly entertaining.  But as the hangover fades in the cold morning light, the few remaining sane people left in the GOP are taking a hard look at the facts:

FACT 1:  The only groups that voted Republican were old white people and blue collar white men.  One of those groups is dying, and the not-yet-old white people are pretty Democratic.

FACT 2:   The current wave of young people, the Millenials, turned out in large numbers in 2008 and 2012 (half of them voted Tuesday, and they made up 19% of the total vote, 2% higher than senior citizens) and overwhelmingly voted Democratic.  The typical pattern is that if young people vote for the same party in three straight Presidential elections they'll vote for that party for life.  If the Republicans don't convince a lot of Millenials for vote for them in 2016, they're toast.

THEREFORE:  The Republicans are going to have to come up with some way to convince young people, especially non-white young people, that conservative, patriarchal values are necessary, relevant, exciting, even sexy.

Why?  Because in their mind there's a:

GIVEN:  It can't possibly be the MESSAGE that's wrong, only the MARKETING of the message.  "We do not need to change our values, but we do need to find ways to communicate them in an engaging and welcoming manner." (Morrissey)  Every reasonable individual (as they see it) will surely become an authoritarian, conservative Republican if the package is only sold to them in the right way.

The HELP WANTED sign is already up.  Ed Morrissey is looking for "men and women who can think creatively, produce a positive agenda that isn’t defined by an oppositional nature, and who can eloquently communicate that agenda and the values that drive it."  There's a gig for an out-of-work colllege grad with a Creative Writing degree.

But this solution runs up against

FACT 3:  People who can "think creatively" and "produce a positive agenda" tend to be progressives, not conservatives.  It's going to be hard to find a genius who can take a worldview that's defined by an oppositional nature and sell it as something else, and even harder to find people who would buy that argument under normal circumstances (more on that later).  It's a long shot.  The very fact that it's a long shot runs up against

FACT 4:  The 1% lost a ton of money backing Republican candidates who lost.  Ralph Reed was given $10 million, Karl Rove $400 million, and that's not counting Adelson,  the Koch brothers and all the other conservative SuperPacs.  Rich people don't like losing money on what they had been promised was a sure thing.  (The fact that they could stand to lose it is irrelevant. They still don't like it.)  There's a lot of very wealthy, very angry white guys out there who want to make sure that a progressive Democratic landslide never happens again on their watch.  They're not going to want to back long shots.  They're going to want to back sure things.

FACT 5:  There is only one sure, time-tested, tried-and-true method to tilt the country to the right -- war.

THEREFORE:  Some foreign grievance against the US is going to be carefully cultivated for the next year until it erupts sometime in 2014 or 2015 to frighten this country into seeking solace in the jingoistic propaganda of the Republicans, just like so many people did after 9/11.  It'll happen just in time for Obama's "incompetence" in dealing with it to become a rallying cry for the Republican presidential candidate in the 2016.  It'll happen because it's the only guaranteed way to scare that many people into changing their worldview (and subsequently their politics) that fast.

Does my conjecture sound callous to you?  It does to me as well.  Only a cold-hearted cynic would do something like that, and only a blind idiot would let them.  But lest you think the Republicans wouldn't do such a thing, consider

EXHIBIT A:  Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  Romney made his vast fortune as a job destroyer, closing down factories, shipping the jobs to China,and leaving vast swaths of the country (including the town I used to live in) that had been healthy, prosperous communities full of starving, destitute people bereft of income, jobs, and hope; yet Candidate Romney was sold to the American people as a "job creator".  Only a cold-hearted cynic would try to pull such a con game, and only a blind idiot would fall for it.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Halloween 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the Terrifying

Halloween was a little better for us this year.  We were a little more settled into the new house, and had a little more time and effort to spend on decorating the place.  Our neighbors didn't do that much.  The college students who went by on the hayride said we were the only house that put up lights and decorations, and my husband could only find four houses to take the children to in two towns.  The seller I bought some decorations from said people were under a lot of pressure this year from the churches to be "good Christians".  Apparently "good Republicans" too.  But there's nothing like oppression to breed resentment, so there's a probably a fine crop of angry teenagers coming along wanting everything they weren't allowed to have.

Only two kids came over this year, as opposed to the two dozen we had last year.  Still, it's better than the twelve years we went without a single trick-or-treator before we moved.

When the children got back, I put on How to Train Your Dragon, a wonderful movie that we hadn't seen before.  Now everyone is eager to see the cartoon Dragons:  Riders of Berk.

But all the ghosties, ghoulies, and goblins were only a momentary respite from the true horror of -- the election.  I've never been so stressed over a vote before.  I know what kind of a nation Romney would turn this country into, a nation where every state is governed just like Mississippi.  I don't think y'all want that.  I know for a fact I don't.