Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Barack the Magic WHAT?"

By now we have all heard this ridiculous version of the song "Puff the Magic Dragon." This is a very beloved children's song written decades ago. Does Chip Saltzman really think this is funny?

For these shallow, small-minded folks - including the most small-minded and big-mouthed Rush Limbaugh - to be this disrespectful to Barack Obama is actually the real joke. Obama is a Harvard and Columbia educated man whose intelligence could run circles around all of their small brains put together. And the only thing outweighing Limbaugh's lack of intelligence is his lack of class.

Thank you, Peter Yarrow, for speaking up and saying that you too are disgusted. As one of the original writers of the song, he certainly didn't appreciate it being turned into a racist joke. In a post on Huffington Post, Peter said:
"The sending of a Christmas greeting by Chip Saltzman to the members of the Republican National Committee that includes a recording of the so-called parody, "Barack the Magic Negro" is not only offensive, it is shocking and saddening in the extreme. It flies in the face of America's deeply held hope for a new era in which common ground and mutual respect characterize the exchanges between our national leaders.

I and my co-writer of "Puff," Lenny Lipton, have been eagerly awaiting an end to the mean-
spiritedness, outright disrespect and bigotry that was commonplace prior to this last presidential election. What might have been wearily accepted as "the way it was" in the campaign, is now unacceptable. Obama is not a candidate. He is the President-Elect, and this song insults the office of the Presidency, the people who voted for him, as well as those who did not -- and taking a children's song and twisting it in such vulgar, mean-spirited way, is a slur to our entire country and our common agreement to move beyond racism.

It is almost unimaginable to me that Chip Saltzman who sent the CD, would seriously be considered for the top post of the Republican National Committee. Puff, himself, if asked, would certainly agree."

If Saltzman is elected to this post, it will say volumes not only about a lack of intelligence, but a lack of character as well. Bigotry is never funny and certainly should not be rewarded. In respect to our next President of the United States, this is completely unacceptable.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Weird Things You Hear

I went to a favorite used bookstore today, two days after Christmas. The store was incredibly busy - even in this economy people still like to read and buy books, especially used or cheaper ones. The lines were long and the shelves were overflowing. I came in with a couple bags of books to sell. It is always painful to part with books, but I did find one to buy too.

As I was getting ready to check out, a fellow shopper was heading out the door and talking to his friend. He said he really wanted to find a particular book that was said to be "a cross between 'Marley & Me,' and 'The Silence of the Lambs.' " This sounded so odd to me. Could two books be more different? I loved the endearing story of the rambunctious Labrador Retriever in the first story, and the second example was a well-crafted thriller that grabbed your attention until the end. So how would someone be able to mesh these two stories into one?

I really should have followed the guy out the door. As strange as the concept sounded, it would have at least satisfied my curiosity - or at least allowed me to glance at how this story would be done.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

As I write this on Christmas Eve, it continues to snow on top of the couple of feet already on the ground. I love the snow at night - it sparkles and falls quietly, peaceful in a usually noisy city.

One of my favorite Christmas Trees is in Rockefeller Center in New York City. It lights up the city and brings crowds of people to see it. The massive tree glows of different colored lights and it too brings a quiet peace to that city.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, or Chanukah, or Kwanza - my wish for all is for Happy Holidays and a very blessed, happy, and healthy New Year. May 2009 bring the joy and peace that the season brings each year.

Rockefeller Center, New York City
(Photographer unknown)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shoe Throwing Games

We've all seen the shoe throwing incident a few times by now. Of course, there are so many Americans that would like to have done the same and were - quite honestly - rooting the guy on. It isn't like he pulled out a gun. It showed the true frustration we have all felt over the mess this guy has made of EVERYTHING! Do we really blame the Iraqi journalist for doing what we all felt like doing? Especially when Bush is doing some kind of victory lap in a country that we shouldn't have been in in the first place, and has been messed up beyond belief. Seriously, victory in this situation isn't even possible.

Bush, in his usual smirky and smart ass way, just laughed it off. He didn't bother to read up on the actual meaning of what throwing a shoe at someone and calling them a dog means in that culture. Just as he didn't bother to look at that culture in the first place.

The funniest thing is the video game that was created just hours after the incident happened and all the people playing it...

As far as I'm concerned, the guy should not serve any time. He did throw something at a world leader (and I say that lightly), so give him a fine, maybe a slap on the wrist. But do this realizing that most of us would have much rather given him a firm handshake and a high five.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let it Snow?

Living in Minnesota in the winter can be quite a challenge. The weather can change so quickly we often joke that we don't know how to dress. In the week before Christmas, it is colder and snowier than it has been for years. The last few days have been treacherous driving, slippery walking, time spent trying to push stuck cars out of thick ice, and frigid temperatures. I woke up this morning to a temperature of -6 degrees (yes, below zero), with a windchill of -37! My car whined when it started as if to say it was a little too cold for it too - even in the confines of the garage.

I admit, I like the snow. Although the driving is nerve-racking at times, and the shoveling is hard on the back - it is beautiful. It can be so peaceful and quiet at night. But to have this much, this soon in the season - with temperatures so cold - is a little unsettling.

It is indeed beginning to look at lot like Christmas, maybe too much so? So, forgive me if I hear the song "Let it Snow" and frown just a little bit. And forgive me if I shake at the cold temperatures, no matter how many layers of clothes I have bundled up in. Alas, it is all part of the territory in this very tundra-like state. I try to see the positives and hope that maybe December will be our worst month and not the beginning of a very long, cold winter.

In the same spirit, I couldn't help but laugh at this truck driver. He too was trying to make the best of all this powdery stuff. He gets major points for not only celebrating the season, but for doing it in such a fun way:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fixed News and Hall & Oates

It is best to watch different news stations and get different viewpoints as they are all a little biased. The one I don't care to watch is Fox News, or "Fixed News" as they are often called. It is the television equivalent of "The National Enquirer." With sensationalistic babble that is always way out of proportion, I only know a couple of misinformed people who watch it. The quotes these folks pull out of thin air are always quite - there is no other way to say this - crazy.

There was only one token liberal on Fox, Alan Colmes, who was continuously used as a punching bag by everyone else.
Although he was obviously outnumbered, he put up with much more than I would have. He was the better half - although a weak one -of the news duo of Hannity and Colmes.

Another duo more familiar to me from the 1980's was Hall & Oates. They reunited for this song "honoring" Colmes on the "The Daily Show." I do believe they have redeemed themselves (even from the Swifter commercial) with this hilarious take on one of their old songs:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"A Thousand Splendid Suns"

As with most writers, we read....and read. I often look at reading as not only an enjoyable past time, but also look at authors as mentors who stimulate ideas and help us to use our imaginations in an intelligent way.

Books can reach you on many levels, especially well-written books. The book I finished recently, "A Thousand Splendid Suns," by Khaled Hosseini, did reach me on many levels. Set in Afghanistan, and spanning a thirty year period, it was educational and helped me to see a culture that is very different from my own. Focusing on a friendship
amidst a great deal of pain and loss, it reminded me of the incomparable tie of friendship. The way women were treated - and still are in many areas - allowed me to realize the fortunate upbringing I had being born in the United States - where I've always had freedom and have never been treated as property. Lastly, written by a true storyteller, it reminds me of how good writing can really touch you. I hope to read many more stories by this author in the future.

The book's title was based on a poem by
Saib-e-Tabrizi, a seventeenth century Persian poet (translated into English by Josephine Davis). I thought it was beautiful and really depicted the authors love for the city of Kabul as well as his hope for the future after so much destruction.

We all know how a place can stir deep emotions and evoke rich memories. I have not visited this particular place, but it does sound beautiful. And I know we all have our own special place held in our heart that stirs the same feelings:
"Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains
And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies
Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes
But I love her, for knowing and loving are born of this same dust

My song
exhalts her dazzling tulips
And at the beauty of her trees, I blush
How sparkling the water flows from
Pul-I Bastaan!
May Allah protect such beauty from the evil eye of man!

Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise
For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven
From the fort with sprawling walls, A Dragon of protection
Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls

Her laughter of mornings has the gaiety of flowers
Her nights of darkness, the reflections of lustrous hair
Her melodious nightingales, with passion sing their songs
Ardent tunes, as leaves
enflamed, cascading from their throats

And I, I sing in the gardens of
Jahanara, of Sharbara
And even the trumpets of heaven envy their green pastures"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

After the election was over and Barack Obama won, I was really hoping that Sarah Palin would go away. It was quite frightening just how close she got to the second most important office in the country. It was just as frightening that she really thought she was qualified for this position.

comedic interviews - especially the one in front of turkeys being slaughtered - are still being talked about. I was just really hoping she would go back to Alaska and govern or whatever it is she really does there. Instead, she is still out there when her fifteen minutes really should be over. Most intelligent people realize this woman should never have gotten as far as she did. And most intelligent people are pretty fed up with all her shenanigans. But, the woman has become a celebrity in her own mind.

One of my favorite blogs, Margaret and Helen, posts comments quite often about
Palin. Some folks - most folks - wholeheartedly laugh and agree with her. I am one of them. Others scorn her for digging into Palin too much. Of course, this is the small percentage that think she is wonderful and well-qualified and hope she runs in 2012. These are also the people who watch Fox News, I suspect, and believe everything they see on television. The idea of studying something themselves or actually cracking open a book or reading different newspapers doesn't really occur to them. But my question is, how is this woman so important to the Republican Party? As Helen stated in her most recent post about Palin:

"Clinging to what’s left of its dying reputation the Republican party has credited her with the Chambliss win down in Georgia. Delivering that win makes Palin the new Republican torchbearer. I don’t know about you, but I am impressed. If Palin can get an old white guy re-elected in Georgia, I would imagine walking on water is right around the corner. But maybe she’s not really carrying the torch as much as she has struck a match and is now playing with fire."

Yes, indeed. Isn't it time to go back to work, Sarah? And aren't you supposed to be working in Alaska? I understand you still have not returned to your office as governor. I think the taste of the limelight was just a little too sweet for you and you just can't let it go. For the majority of us, though, we are happy to let you go. There must, at the very least, be some moose hunting to do or more babies to have. So, please, bundle up in some of those designer clothes and stay in Alaska. Give the limelight back and move on. Please.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Stampede to Shop?

Everyone who knows me knows I am not a Wal-Mart fan. I have heard too many stories of how badly they treat their employees, the aisles are crowded and not esthetically pleasing to me, and I find it to be rather dirty and unkempt. I just avoid the place altogether - no matter how great of a sale they are having at the moment. I prefer other stores that are a little classier.

Crowds of people are no new thing on "Black Friday." It has been going on for years. People wait in their cars all night and stand in line for hours to be the first to get a good deal on some junk they probably don't need anyway. The difference is that usually there is some level of order - and class - to the situation. I know, Target, for instance, will only let in fifty people at a time and hire a lot of extra security.

Wal-Mart, in their usual upstanding and caring way (and, yes, I mean that sarcastically) didn't seem to bother with the extra help - even though they knew the crowd was a little too large in the first place. A person was killed! And all to get a good deal on a television - or whatever it was they just had to have?

In the The New York Times' article on the incident, Wal-Mart did their usual dance when questioned:
"A Wal-Mart spokesman, Dan Folgleman, called it a 'tragic situation,' and said the victim had been hired from a temporary staffing agency and assigned to maintenance work. Wal-Mart, in a statement issued at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., said: 'The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families at this tragic time.' ”
Really? Let's see - if I saw 2,000 people banging on the windows and out of control before the doors were even opened, I have to say I would have done whatever needed to be done to get the situation under control before the huge crowd took over. As a man was killed while people were rushing in to shop, "the safety and security of our customers is our top priority" sounds like a script written to quiet down the media.

I realize there should be some accountability from the savages that stepped on this poor man. But there should also be major accountability from the company that let it happen in the first place. I'm sure Wal-Mart could spare a few bucks to open later until the situation was more adequately handled. More security could have been brought in, bullhorns could have been used. They LET it happen when they saw that the crowd was out of control.

We've seen Wal-Mart in the news over and over again. They have had cases of discrimination, and cases of trying to sway employees on how to vote - and vocalization against the
Employee Free Choice Act. The company is also known to keep their employees at 38 hours per week so they don't have to pay health benefits, offer very low hourly wages, and a host of other immoral treatments.

The company seems to make a practice of sticking it to someone who deserves justice or fair treatment. The worst - until now - was the case against Debbie Shank, the woman who was brain-injured and, after winning a litigation, was taken back to court by Wal-Mart to recoup the money awarded. Just once I would like to see Wal-Mart do the right thing.

And people taking shopping as a recreational sport? My response to that - get a life. The frenzy that was created over buying something cheaper than normal is utterly ridiculous. I realize the economy is terrible right now. We are all struggling and prices being lower on something we want is a draw. But at what price? Isn't it still just stuff? This is a human life, a young man who died in a really horrific way.

As for the victim of the stampede, my prayers go out to Jdimytai Damour's family. He was only 34 years old and was a temporary employee hired as a maintenance worker. Why was he put out there in the first place?

Maybe this incident will make people think twice about shopping at the chain now. There are many other choices and this just adds to their already damaged reputation. Besides, most of us have too much useless plastic crap anyway, and Wal-Mart sells the best crap of all.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Another Senseless Attack

Every time there is a terrorist attack somewhere in the world, the rest of the world holds its breath. These are senseless acts committed by people who represent evil in its worst form. There is no compassion and no rationalizing with them as their one goal is to cause terror and destruction.

After September 11, 2001, Americans understand what it is like to have this happen on our soil. And just as other countries prayed and watched as we suffered, we pray and watch as others suffer. There are always the positive stories...the people who make it out, the miracles, the hope that follows. But we do not forget the tragic stories, the senseless deaths, and the pain.

My heart goes out to the people in India. May you know that others are thinking of you, praying for you, and applauding your determination and strength. Terrorist acts may cause unexpected pain, but they will never kill our spirits. This is not a trait reserved for just one country, or one city. This is a human trait. With all the bombs, fire, and destruction, this spirit will never be extinguished - and we will never give into the fear. Try as they might, the terrorists will never win.

People light candles in Bhopal, India, to pay tribute to
the victims of the Mumbai terror attacks. (AP Photo)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Count Goes On

As most of the counts in the election have been long done, the one here in Minnesota between Al Franken and Norm Coleman continues. First Coleman was way ahead. Now he is only a bit ahead. I have a feeling - and hope - that Franken will come out as the victor.

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Franken a year or so ago at a book signing. He was down to earth, personable, and very friendly. Even more importantly, he had good values and was extremely intelligent. Many forget that the once player on Saturday Night Live was also one of the main writers, has written several books, and went to Harvard.

After all the ridiculous things that happened in the election process - like people not knowing to fill in the circles and checking or putting dots in instead - the recount continues.

When I came across the article in the Twin Cities Daily Liberal about The Chateau, a high rise building near the University of Minnesota, it really made me think. The 290 residents of this
building did not get to vote - and I too wondered if Franken might have - just possibly - already been ahead if they could have. What started as Coleman being several hundred ahead has dwindled down to a couple hundred. I hope it continues to dwindle down and Franken becomes the victor.

I don't really care what kind of denial Coleman states in the allegations against him. I don't really care about the hateful, dishonest ads he produced. I live in Minnesota and have seen first hand how he has handled many situations. No one has to convince me of anything.

Out to dinner a couple of weeks ago at a popular spot in Uptown, the waitress pointed out that Franken was sitting by the window having dinner. She stated he was a regular and a nice guy. As I looked over, he graciously stood up for a photograph with a well-wisher and then sat down and had a quiet dinner with his wife. There was no pretense, no hoopla. What I saw - and remembered - remains to be true. He is a good guy who wants to work as a senator for the people and make some positive changes. I thought how Coleman probably wouldn't be seen in such a "regular" place - or if he did, it would most likely be a much more expensive restaurant on someone else's dime.

My vote is for Al, and I hope despite all the junk going on with this recount, that he comes out on top. It has been too long since Minnesota has had a politician we can be proud of.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sarah's Big Turkey

As almost everyone has seen the video at this point, I'll pass on showing it yet again. But, for Sarah Palin to hold an interview in front of turkeys having their necks broken...does this woman have an ounce of class? She seems oblivious to what is going on behind her - or does she simply just not care?

As a vegetarian, I really don't care to see animals slaughtered. On the other hand, I respect that people like what they like and should eat what they want to eat. However, holding an interview in front of turkeys being killed while you have just pardoned one doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

My question is: Are there any animals that this woman respects or likes? She clearly doesn't care about endangered species (such as polar bears) and seems to have no qualms on shooting and hunting other animals just for sport. There is clearly no love lost, and I really feel sorry for any domesticated pet who might find its way to her doorstep.

Geez, lady. Get a grip, would you? After your seven "exclusive" interviews, this one really tops it all off. Like the racist rednecks in the south who continue to fly the confederate flag- get a clue: "You Lost!" And please, move on. There are much more important things going on in the world. And the last thing any of us needs to see is a bumper sticker with your name on it for 2012. This makes me want to lose my lunch more than the whole turkey incident.

Maybe you should go back to school, learn to read some books (especially before you write one....now that is a whole other blog!), and take some etiquette classes. Designer suits and spike heels do not make someone classy, and librarian glasses do not make someone smart. And as far as the whole redneck thing, I'm not really sure how you unlearn that one. But, really, in this video on turkeys - the only real turkey is the one conducting the interview.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Elation is Still in the Air

A mere two weeks after an historical election, people are still elated. In my lifetime I have never seen people who are so happy and full of hope. The message sent to the world is phenomenal, the message to our own country too long coming. There was one report of a college student who said "The smart guy won!" There were others who yelled and cheered, jumped up and down, and cried (I was one of them).

He won't be a perfect president, because he is a human being. He will make mistakes. He will irritate us at times, I'm sure. And we know he is walking into a huge mess that will take a great deal of time to work through. But he is a smart, educated guy that not only brings his intelligence, but is slowly building a strong, diverse team - including some strong, intelligent women. He brings bright ideas to the highest office in the United States and a hope this country has not had in a long time.

I will never forget the nervous excitement. I have never felt so proud of my fellow Americans for not only getting out there and having their voices heard, but for having the courage to elect someone who isn't the same old white guy with the same stale plans. And, finally, someone who isn't just looking out for the wealthy population.

There were many images from around the world when he won. Many tears, many yells of joy. But, this picture is my favorite. It shows the genuine joy that the moment brought. One few of us will ever forget:
Students at Howard University celebrate on hearing that
President-elect Barack Obama won the presidential election,
in Washington November 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Monday, November 10, 2008

All in the Name of Religion

Wars are started and maintained in the name of religion. Judgments run out of control, and compassion seems to be severely lacking. The latest is Proposition 8 passed in California. Isn't what is really being fought for just plain and simple love? Isn't this all about letting people live their lives?

I am a heterosexual woman. I have also been married and it didn't work out. Over half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce. Needless to say, heterosexual couples certainly don't have the institution of marriage all figured out. I was actually told by a fellow Christian once that, because I am divorced, I will always be committing adultery no matter if I marry again or not - so I may as well just live with a man since I am sinning either way. What? My fiance is a different color than I am - just a few years ago WE couldn't be together either. And the Mormons fighting against Proposition 8 - aren't you the folks who believed in multiple wives years ago? Is that Biblical too?

God makes us all a certain way and he is gracious and forgiving to all of us. As a heterosexual, I certainly don't have all the answers and I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I know many straight people and I know many gay people. I know gay couples who have stronger relationships than many of my straight friends. Why can't people show all people love and compassion - and not vote against something that doesn't affect them in the least?

One of messages in the Bible is that we are not to judge and we should treat others the way we want to be treated. It is a cruel, lonely world - if you are fortunate enough to find someone to love we should celebrate it, not condemn it. Isn't it time we stopped condemning peope in the name of religion? It isn't about religion or government - it is about people following their hearts. Do people really think they are so superior that they have all the answers? I mean, really, none of us will know what the real deal is until the day we meet our maker.

God gave us the Bible to learn from and understand history. He did not give it to us to use as a weapon. Proposition 8, once again, shows fear of the unknown and how people think they have to crusade against something that has absolutely nothing to do with them. It is time we appreciated people for their differences - whether it is their lifestyle, their religion, or anything else they do that doesn't hurt anyone else. It is time people opened their minds and let in a little light. There is so much pain in this life and clearly not enough love. Why would we want to strip anyone of the chance to enjoy a loving relationship just because we don't live our lives exactly the same way?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Same Place, New Eyes

It is always interesting when friends or family visit from a different area of the country. From day to day, you do the same routine, drive by the same places, and pass the same landmarks. But, when company comes into town, you suddenly discover things you didn't pay attention to in your own backyard. You are told of the beauty of the lakes near you, the wonder of the waterfalls, the parks and gardens, and the two very different cities right next to each other. Things you take for granted that are mere steps from your home.

It is like traveling to a new place while you are still at home. The pictures taken have a new freshness to them, the sparkle off the lake water seems to glisten more than normal, and the people seem friendlier than you ever imagined (...well, except for the drivers).

It reminds me of when I came back to Minneapolis from the east coast. I had so longed for the mountains and the ocean outside of Boston - and was not disappointed. But I ended up coming back to the Midwest. I retrieved my belongings from the storage locker, and found a new apartment - once again by the city lakes. (I often say if I can't be by the ocean, at least I can be by water.) I came back with a whole new appreciation for everything in the Twin Cities.

People visiting often apologize after you drive them around and show them the sites, as if it is an inconvenience. I always have the same attitude: It is fun, interesting, and helps you to see things in a new light. It truly gives you a new perspective for what has been right in front of you all along.

I am all for travel and have lived in many cities and traveled to many places, and plan to do much more. But often times there are things in front of you that only people from out of town can really show you. You drive right past it not seeing the true beauty or the humor - they help you to see it through their eyes and it is new to you all over again. It is like being a tourist in your own city.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Please Say It's Goodbye, Sarah!

After Obama's win last night, I have to say that McCain made a very gracious speech after his loss. It seemed like the old McCain, not the sold-out one. I noticed that Sarah Palin stood idly by, very quiet, just waving her pageant hand at the end of the speech. I'm sure she wanted to talk - there must have been one last negative word to spew - but her eyes looked rather teary, if not a bit surprised. I think this disillusioned woman really thought she was a shoe-in. As far as I'm concerned, she got way too close.

So Sarah, please go back to Alaska. And take the "First Dude" and your brood of children with you. And please give up these 2012 aspirations, as I suspect you won't be any more qualified in 2012 as you are now. Your Barbie doll look with tight skirts and spike heels, little knowledge, and arrogance like none I've seen before have sickened many women. You truly did take us back 100 years and any educated, intelligent woman just plain didn't like it or appreciate it.

We wish you well - but go back to your mooseburgers, or perhaps the allure of a television talk show, but leave the politics to women who stand for women's issues, support other women, and have an intellectual curiosity when they don't have all the answers. Your lack of these things have insulted us all. Leaving with your very low approval rating, the only thing you ever really appealed to was the men staring at your legs. This is all fine and good - and quite human - but not to run our country.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Wins!

I am choked up, thrilled, and excited...for the hope, for the message this sends to the world, and for a new beginning. Beyond that, I only have one word, "Yea!!"

Monday, November 3, 2008

One More Day...

There is only one more day until we can all cast our vote. The lines are long, the anxiety is high, and the debates continue between Democrats and Republicans. One has to wonder if anyone will sleep tomorrow night at all...

It is my hope that we will indeed have hope and a new president who will make some positive changes. It is my hope that things will start to change, start to mend, and start to grow. That the economy will improve, that people's lives will improve, and that the country will become one United States again.

I know I will be up very early tomorrow to stand in line. I also know there will be little sleep, if any at all, tomorrow night. We all need to cast our vote. We all need to have hope. And we all need to recapture our dreams. We have a strong leader in Barack Obama and it is my hope that his intelligence, drive, and outstanding qualities will win out.

In Memorium: Madelyn Dunham

Just one day before the election, Madelyn Dunham, Barack Obama's grandmother, died after an arduous fight with cancer. I thought of her sacrifices and support of her grandson - how she made his life stable and helped him to blossom. Most importantly, how she always believed in him. To quote author George Eliot: "What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"

My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

This photo shows Obama in 1979 during his high school graduation in Hawaii with his grandmother Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham.

Obama and his grandmother in 1979 (Photo: AP Photo/Obama Presidential Camp)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Expose the Hypocrisy of the McCain Campaign

I'm frankly quite tired of Sarah Palin's constant sarcastic attacks on Barack Obama. Who is she, really, in comparison? He is so intelligent, so classy, so grounded - and just seems to be a natural leader. This was sent to me awhile back. I'm not sure who the original author was, but it is good and puts it into words very well:
"I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight....

If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic' and 'different.'

Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, you're an American story.

If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, and you're a maverick.

Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

Attend five different small colleges before graduating, then you're well-grounded.

If you spend three years as a community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, help register 150,000 new voters, spend twelve years as a Constitutional Law professor, eight years as a State Senator of a district of 750,000 people, chair the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend four years in the United States Senate representing a state of thirteen million people, sponsor 131 bills, and serve on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works, and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

If your resume is: Local weather girl, four years on the city council and six years as the mayor of a town of 7,000 people, two years as governor of a state of 650,000 people, you're qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

If you have been married to the same woman for nineteen years while raising two daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.

If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, left your ill wife, and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

If you teach responsible, age-appropriate sex education, including the use of birth control, you erode the fiber of American society.

If you staunchly advocate abstinence-only education, while your teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're responsible.

If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, you don't represent America's family values.

If your husband is called 'First Dude', has a DWI conviction, didn't register to vote until twenty-five, and was a member of a group that advocated secession of Alaska from the USA, yours is the quintessential American family.

And, finally, if you're famous for your quick temper, you're the one to have your finger on the red nuclear button.

OK, much clearer now." ...Enough said.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another Opinion on Writing About Politics

After posting my piece on writing about politics, I came across an entry in author John Scalzi's"Whatever" Blog, which addresses the same issue. I guess other writers do indeed want to talk about politics. A written piece, in any form, is a writer's creative expression and opinion. I like what he says about it in his blog:

"Why yes, fiction writers should write about politics, if they choose to. And so should doctors and plumbers and garbage collectors and lawyers and teachers and chefs and scientists and truck drivers and stay-at-home parents and the unemployed. In fact, every single adult who has reason enough to sit down and express an opinion through words should feel free to do just that. Having a citizenry that is engaged in the actual working of democracy matters to the democracy, and writing about politics is a fine way to provide evidence that one is actually thinking about these things."

"Do readers really think it’s wise that writers, of all people, stay quiet on the matters that affect their lives and the lives of their families, friends and nation, because some person they don’t even know might feel slightly discomfited, and doesn’t have the wit to separate a work of fiction from the largely unrelated real world concerns of the writer?"

So, hold our tongues? I think not. We are, quite fortunately, a free country and if we are outraged, we should say so. If we are distraught, we should say so. Our current political situation calls on both of these emotions and speaks loudly to the fact that we should say what we think and comment on what is going on around us. We are privileged to live in a place where we are able to do this without reservation and without punishment.

Some Funny Comments from a Feminist

There is something very significant about funny comments made by an 82 year old woman. This was on "The Daily Dish" by Andrew Sullivan. From her blog, "Margaret and Helen," which celebrates her sixty year friendship with her best bud, Margaret, Helen Philpot really does say what a lot of us would like to. From working extensively with elderly people, I know the older you get, the less you care about what people say about you - and the more you speak your mind. This is often with little or no editing involved. In this case, no editing is needed as this lady is an outspoken gem:
"My name is Helen Philpot. I am 82 years old. My grandson taught me how to do this so that I could “blog” with my best friend Margaret Schmechtman who I met in college almost 60 years ago. I have three children with my husband Harold. Margaret has three dogs with her husband Howard. I live in Texas and Margaret lives in Maine."
Helen goes on to share some not-so-complimentary comments on Sarah Palin:
"Sarah Palin is an ignorant, ranting, whining bitch. There I said it. But lots more are thinking it. Please take your ridiculous hair, your over lipstick-smacking mouth, your Lenscrafter look smarter glasses and your poorly fitted designer jackets back to Alaska. And when you get there, shove a piece of the pipeline up your considerable ass. I’ll be damned if we’ll put our children’s future in your hands. And the same thing goes for McCain - the ass wipe who gave her this national platform effectively pushing the woman’s movement back into the dark ages - knowing McCain that might have been his plan all along."
Feminism has no age limits. Here is an older woman who is a feminist, and a vice presidential candidate who doesn't know the meaning of the word. Helen Philpot does indeed have solid experience and could probably teach Sarah Palin a thing or two.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Politics and Writing

When I started this blog, I knew it would be writings on many different subjects. Since my main passion is writing, I knew that would be the biggest focus.

With the current political environment in this country, however, I have found that everything to date has been about politics. This bothered me at first as, yes, I am interested and involved in politics - and am definitely opinionated - but I thought I had drifted from my main focus.

Turns out that it is hard to not talk about politics right now. There is so much going on, so many things that are bothersome, and we have a country that is in such turmoil in so many crucial areas. How can someone not speak up about this? Especially a wordsmith?

One of the places I love most in my city is The Loft Literary Center. The Loft is a great place for writers - they have classes, workshops, great writing studios, and are adjacent to Minnesota Book Arts. It is an environment very conducive and supportive to writers.

In the latest issue of the Loft's paper, "A View from the Loft," the front page article is titled "The Loft: Then and Now." I remember the old place...a small building in St. Paul where people sat on the floor and an idea to unite writers grew into a full blown literary center. When they moved to downtown Minneapolis, it became the center it is today - a dream to the writing community.

As I read the article, I realized that the political connection to writing has always been there. As Jim Moore states in the article, in the 1970's the environment wasn't all that different:

"We assumed that there was a strong connection between what was happening politically in the country and what was happening in the artistic world. It made perfect sense to those of us who were involved with the Loft at its beginning that if we saw policies or institutions that were inimical to artistic and literary freedom, we would oppose them....At that time, what we loved about the period was that we felt we had the right to speak out and that in speaking out we might make a difference."
After all, how does any creative person not speak out when our rights are threatened? If someone like our current Republican vice presidential candidate gets into office, think of what could happen to our rights - both creatively (she already tried to ban certain books in her hometown) to women's rights (which she doesn't seem to support at all). We don't all have the same beliefs - everyone is different. Truth is, freedom also includes artistic freedom and to remove that with any sort of censorship or barriers is not only stifling but isn't what this country is based on. Writers know this and we are always listening. As Mr. Moore states:
"Without quite knowing what we were doing, we were listening, almost unconsciously, to what was happening all around us. That is what writers do, of course."
Writers indeed observe, comment, and live things twice. We ruminate over things, we discuss things, and we write our thoughts down. To a creative person to have that threatened takes away our individual right to free expression.

I may not be a starving artist, but I'm not rich either.
The last eight years have left everything in a mess and most of us hurting financially in some way or another. Everyone I know is craving an intelligent, educated leader that represents true change. It is time an administration looked out for regular people - be it a painter, a musician, and, yes, a writer. America is a rich country made up of a diverse group of people. It is time we celebrated the differences and expressions and gave everyone a fair chance to obtain their dreams.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Great Idea from an Obama Supporter

Barack Obama has always had an especially close relationship with his grandmother and grandfather. When Obama was ten years old, he moved in with Madelyn and Stanley Dunham, his maternal grandparents. They helped in raising him to be what he is today. His grandmother, who he frequently quotes and remains very close to, is seriously ill. Naturally, he took some time off from campaigning to go and visit her.

In response to the question about the $150,000 spent on clothing by the RNC, an idiotic comment was made stating that the real issue was that Obama should have flown on a commercial flight to visit his grandma (a bit unsafe for a presidential candidate). An Obama supporter put together this great idea in response to this comment:
"I created a special Obama-Biden donation page in response to (Brad) Blakeman crossing the line, mocking Obama for "taking a 767 campaign plane to go visit Grandma." It's a way for people to send Blakeman a little message, and far more importantly, make a donation specifically in honor of Sen. Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham."
Here's the link: http://my.barackobama.com/page/outreach/view/main/EightDollarsSixtyCents

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarah's Personal Way of Stimulating the Economy?

The news came out today that Sarah Palin has spent over $150,000 of the Repubican National Committee's money on clothing. While it is understandable that she is in the public eye and has to spice up her image, isn't this a bit extreme?

First of all, Ms. Palin makes very good money. She is not an "average folk" as she likes to say. According to a quote from the Washington Post, Governor Palin and her husband make a pretty healthy salary:

"According to the Washington Post and a March 2008 financial disclosure form reported elsewhere she makes, as governor, $125,000 a year in salary, plus about $60,000 in reimbursable expenses. Her husband Todd Palin earns $93,000 a year. Neither have any credit card debt."

Seriously, who needs to spend this kind of money for clothing? And to spend money donated to the Republican National Committee when you have a salary at this level?

I certainly have nothing against any of these department stores - they are good stores with classy clothes. But, I could never in a million years spend $150,000 on myself, friends, and family altogether. And she is criticizing the Obama family? At least Michelle Obama is more sensible in her clothing purchases - and at least she uses her own money to purchase things of this nature. And I'm sure Hillary Clinton purchased her own attire as well.

Second of all, this once again shows the hypocrisy this woman seems to stand for. The dishonesty and finger pointing at others when she continues to take advantage of every opportunity she can is a list that seems to go on and on.

With the struggles most people are facing in the current economy alone, even the most dedicated Republican might have a bit of a problem with this one.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Hatred Continues

One of the cool things about America is that it is a country made up of people from all over the world. Unless you are Native American, we are all from someplace else at some point or the other in our backgrounds. The diversity in this country is what makes it interesting and I, for one, really enjoy that we have many different cultures and backgrounds. We should celebrate this - not label, not generalize, not point fingers. For one race, class or sex to think they are better than the other is beyond understanding to me.

For the first time in our history, we have an African American running for president. And he is doing extremely well - much to John McCain's chagrin. Barack Obama is well educated, has a calm demeanor (fitting a leader), has promising ideas, and is so much more intelligent than our current president there is simply no comparison. For people to look down on him because of his race is ludicrous - especially since he could run circles around most of them.

The lashing out toward Obama from the Republican side continues to get more and more appalling. People yelling out violent suggestions, along with the lies being spewed, never seems to stop.

At the latest stop in Minnesota, Norm Coleman and Todd Palin stand idly by while a sign saying something as sickening as this is displayed: "Charles Manson was a Community Organizer?" At what point will this stop? It not only shows no class, it is absolutely repulsive. To ignore this when you are on the stage and say nothing to denounce it is as disgusting as the person in the crowd holding the sign up.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Short Comment on the Last Debate

In the last debate between McCain and Obama, the senators once again seemed to show their true colors: Obama, cool and blue, McCain, not only red, but red-faced.

McCain's anger was apparent throughout the debate, many times looking like he was ready to blow. His aggressive attacks toward Obama did not provoke him enough for the reaction that McCain wanted, but he never stopped trying. He was accusatory, biting, and yes, seemingly desperate. When Obama calmly explained the very logical connection of his associations - and who he really goes to for advice - McCain seemed to be seething.

Obama showed a calm, cool tone that screamed leadership. McCain just looked like he wanted to scream. His eyes were darting and angry, and his smiles were sarcastic. With all this rage, is this really what people want in the oval office at a time when our country is crying out for change and strong leadership?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Do They Really Not Know They Are Taped?

The dishonesty in this election has gone beyond ridiculous. Sarah Palin seems to take it to an art form - both in just downright lying and in denial. Does she really not realize that she is on tape for the opposite of what she says?

McCain seems to be doing the same thing. From his hypocritical statements about Obama regarding his associations (when he has the same ones, or worse) to the whole Letterman fiasco - all the contradictions are played out on various news channels. They really seem to have no idea that they can be disputed by simply running a tape.

As for Palin, she seems to only answer in rehearsed speeches that don't really make any sense. A favorite funny man - in Monty Python, various movies, and hilarious writings - John Cleese states it quite well:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Enough Games

I've lived everywhere from the midwest to the south to the east coast, and places in between. I've traveled extensively - both overseas and throughout the United States. I was raised to be very open-minded and have always seen people as individuals. Generalizing is dangerous - and ignorance, racism, and sexism is just downright stupid.

The current race to the White House just seems to get dirtier and dirtier. When Hillary Clinton was running, we saw some sexism. Unfortunately, sexism continues to be so rampant in this society, it is almost acceptable (except for women, that is). When Sarah Palin entered the picture, she accused people of sexism as an excuse to not answer legitimate questions. This is not acceptable.

She also has been the dirtiest player to date - slinging mud at Obama, digging up old accusations that are greatly exaggerated, and just inciting scary and dangerous behavior at her rallies. She seems to be the mouthpiece for McCain. Of course, McCain has done his own damage as well. The worst was McCain referring to Obama as "that one" during the last debate. Was it racist, disrespectful or both? He didn't look at him and has shown zero respect throughout.

Perhaps if the Republican side of this election was not so desperately playing these games - and actually talked about the real issues - intelligent, educated people would actually take them seriously. Maybe the Republicans should realize that the American people are not interested in games and mud slinging. We are interested in cleaning up the massive mess that the last eight years of Republican control has created in the first place.

Obama has shown class and the true traits of a leader throughout, and his theme has remained constant. Change indeed - and classy, intelligent change at that.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ponderings on the Debate

I watched the vice presidential debate last week with a sense of confusion. I knew it would be a strange debate: an experienced senator of many years, an expert on foreign policy, debating someone who can't answer simple questions - like what magazines and books she reads.

What it turned out to be was a candidate who answered the questions with knowledge and experience, against another candidate who answered the questions in a rehearsed tone, often answering a completely different question altogether.

As it dragged on, I knew Sarah
Palin was so practiced she would only answer questions that she felt like answering and would instead flow into a prepared speech that had nothing to do with the subject matter. It was comical at best. The same words used over and over again: maverick....reform...often completely out of context. Her folksy answers and down home cuteness, right down to winking at people, was ridiculous for a vice presidential debate and I can't believe people fell for it.

Yes, comical it was...until she really showed her cold side. This self-professed Christian and mother showed zero compassion when Joe
Biden showed a vulnerable side with his heartfelt story that brought a tear to my eye. When he told of the loss he had experienced years ago of losing his first wife and daughter, and not knowing if his sons were going to make it, he choked up and had to catch himself. When done, there was no body language showing any sympathy from Governor Palin, no kinds words as simple as an "I'm sorry," or "That had to have been tough." Instead she showed how rehearsed she truly was and went right back into a prepared speech and ignored his heartfelt revelation altogether.

Her lack of intelligence, lack of qualifications, and total arrogance to all of it have been shown repeatedly over the last few weeks. But now she has shown a coldness that moved beyond all of it. How does a supposed Christian woman, mother of five, show so little feeling to a father who has lost a child and fears losing his other children after a horrific accident? Or was she just working so much on memorization that if she got off of it she would lose what little train of thought she had?

Once again, she was
embarrassing to women when she could be making history in a great way. The cute act was actually very cold and unfeeling - and the experience act was just a memorized mess that refused to answer the questions, was unresponsive to anything around her, and mocked the whole process and the people who are truly qualified.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Wrong Woman for the Ticket

I've always stood up for women's rights, always been strong and independent, and always supported myself and worked hard for a living. For a candidate to just throw a woman on the ticket purely because she is a woman - who is clearly not qualified, nor bright - is insulting to women.

Sarah Palin is clearly not a good choice for the position of vice president. Her sarcastic attitude and boasts about being a hockey mom is all fine and good for a PTA position - but for the Vice President of the United States? Are you kidding me? Especially at a time when our country is in such a mess - with two never ending wars, with the financial crisis...after dealing with the worst president we have ever had?

With her extreme ideas and failure to stand up for important issues that women face, Sarah Palin takes women back 100 years. I look at the other vice presidential candidate standing with Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and see a man who is more for women's rights than the woman standing next to John McCain.

Sarah Palin is a sensationalistic pick at best. I would still be proud as a woman, however, if the choice was an intelligent, well-educated pick who represents women in a positive way. I do not see this with Sarah Palin. What I see is a former beauty queen who is an extremist and cares nothing about women's rights. And I see someone with little experience and too much arrogance to see that she doesn't get it.

On August 29, 2008 a press release by the
Feminist Majority Political Action Committee commented on the selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate:
You can’t attract Hillary voters and women voters with a woman opposed to what Hillary stands for. Sarah Palin strongly opposes women’s abortion and family planning rights. She is a proponent of teaching creationism in schools; a global warming skeptic, and an opponent on key environmental issues, such as protecting the polar bear in Alaska and is for oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Sarah Palin stands with John McCain, who is opposed to affirmative action for women in public employment, public education and public contracting, is opposed to legislation fighting wage discrimination for women (the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act), is opposed to the Violence Against Women Act, authored by Senator Joe Biden, and has a zero rating with women’s rights groups.
This doesn't even mention the appalling practice of charging rape victims for rape kits - a cost of up to $1,200 - while she was the mayor of Wasilla. How can a woman have so little compassion for other women going through something so horrible?

Palin is no Hillary Clinton - not even close. And it is downright scary to think of her one step away from the most powerful position in the country at a time when our country needs strong leadership.

Monday, September 22, 2008

On Women Voting

Everyone has the right to have their voice heard - and everyone should speak their mind. Until 1920, women did not have the right to do this when it came to voting. It is a right we did not always have and it should not be taken lightly. Even with all the excitement regarding the elections this year, I hear women state that they are not going to vote because it just isn't worth it and why should they bother...

Why should they bother?

Because voting is a right that we didn’t always have in the United States…and many women in other countries still have little rights at all. This true story explains what women went through to be able to vote prior to 1920:

The Night of Terror, 1917

"Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.' They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

The warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food - all of it colorless slop - was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy. The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.' We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women." - Author Unknown
Source material

Study the issues, vote for what you believe in, and stand up for your rights. These brave women fought hard for something we take for granted. If you really want to see change, you have to do your part - and honor the struggle that women in our country's past went through just to go to the polls and have their voices heard.