Thursday, July 29, 2004

the music of politics

So I was thinking tonight, while watching Kerry's acceptance speech, about how many of our country's problems we could have avoided if we had a requirement that our Commander in Chief be able to correctly pronounce the word "nuclear." Say what you like about Kerry, but at least he would never ask a question like "Is our children learning?"

That said, I am feeling something akin to battered spouse syndrome in this election:
"I know I said I'd give you health care before, baby, but this time I really mean it. I'll never lie to you again baby. I love you. I do. Don't give up on me. This time I really will respect you and your rights."

And did anyone notice the music playing when Kerry took the stage? That's right, Springsteen's "No Surrender." I suppose the idea was to emphasize the verse: "There's a war outside still raging. You say it ain't ours anymore to win." But of course, the refrain repeats over and over again "Well we made a promise we swore we'd always remember. No retreat, baby, no surrender. Like soldiers in the winter's night with a vow to defend. No retreat, baby, no surrender." So which is it—we can't win the war or we'll never retreat or surrender? What a perfect rallying cry for the candidate who wants to be understood, at once, as a decorated veteren and an antiwar protester.

Here's our political quiz for the day: What other presidential candidate used a Springsteen song in his election bid? Think "Born in the USA"...that's right Ronald Reagan. I admit I was having a sort of PTSD moment last night with the Springsteen in the background and all of that flag waving in the foreground. But at least Kerry (or his handlers) seems to have understood what the song is about, as opposed to Reagan whose inability to comprehend basic rock lyrics should have been a giant red flag. The man thought "Born in the USA" was an unproblematically patriotic song and the Beach Boys shouldn't play on the mall because they "attracted the wrong element."

You know, it's hard to believe it was twelve years ago already when I stood outside for three hours in Madison, Wisconsin waiting to see Bill Clinton on his campaign trail (when he finally arrived he actually admitted he was three hours late because he stopped for burgers in Milwaukee). The music playing when Clinton took the stage was Jesus Jones' "Right Here, Right Now," on the face of it a good anthem for regime change:
Right here, right now
there is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
watching the world wake up from history

The song, however, is really about the fall of the Berlin Wall, not necessarily the event Clinton would want to evoke.

How about a candidate that plays Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" or Leonard Cohen's "Democracy":
I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Maybe then I could muster less ambivalent enthusiasm.

All of that said, I was going to write that I would vote for a trained seal if it was running opposite Bush, but then I realized, the seal would not, in fact, need to be trained to get my vote.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Meghan Daum

I guess her two books were pretty big, but I stumbled across her website, and I wanted to share it. Check out her take on L.A.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Don't you love this bumpersticker? Let's hear it for

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

National Brotherhood Week

Okay, I know my blog is increasingly characterized by a "what the hell is wrong with people" tone, and for that I apologize, but seriously--what the hell is wrong with people? What's with the Republican hysterically homophobic approach to political commentary these days? Is it a byproduct of a party that has drifted so far from anything resembling the truth or even the pretense of acting in its constituents' best interests that the only strategy left is grade school name calling? "Never mind the economy, you're a homo?" "Never mind the occupation of Iraq, we just need to make sure those queers don't legalize their relationships?" Good lord. Let's all join together for a rousing take off on the old Tom Lehrer song.  Altogether now: "Everybody hates the queers."

Monday, July 19, 2004

the grammar of LA

So watching the news last night and the progression of our latest fires, it occurred to me that before I lived in LA I never called trees and brush (that is, vegetation) "fuel."
There is a particular grammar to LA. On the east coast or in the midwest, "smog" and "valet" are not verbs—as in "Are you going to valet your car?" or "I need to get my car smogged."
Before I moved here, one of my friends summed up the east coast/west coast cultural differences by saying that on the east coast they say "man" and on the west coast they say "dude." Since I have been here, I have developed a theory that American English is in the process of becoming a tonal language like Chinese. Two California teenagers can hold a 20 minute conversation in which the word "dude" stands in for about 50 other words depending on inflection and facial expression. "So he was like duuuude. And I was like DUDE!" 
All of which, to me, is positively charming compared to the latest from our Governor. "Girlie men"?! For god's sake. And the best that Nuñez can offer is "Certainly my mom and my sister aren't happy"?
On an unrelated note (except in that we are talking about grotesque politicians), check out this piece  on Bush. It's not new (from May) but is very well written—and by a conservative no less. I particularly like this bit:
"The cynical game these shape-shifters have been playing in the Middle East is too Byzantine to unravel in 1,000 pages of text. But the hypocrisy of the White House is palpable, and beggars belief. If there's one American who actually believes that Operation Iraqi Freedom was about democracy for the poor Iraqis, then you, my friend, are too dangerously stupid to be allowed near a voting booth."

Friday, July 09, 2004

Ten Oxherding Pictures

I am overdue for a meatier post, I know, but in the meantime, here is some zen verse. How can you not love this line: "This heaven is so vast no message can stain it."