Sunday, October 31, 2010

Farewell, Facebook?

I think my interest, fleeting as it was, in Facebook has worn off.  I seem to be checking it less and less, and then responding with a yawn to most of what I see.  It's been nice reconnecting with people I hadn't seen or spoken with in years, but it's occurred to me that there's a reason why we lost contact in the first place:  we were acquaintances, not friends. If they were telling me on the phone what I'm reading on Facebook, I'd be trying to think of a good excuse to hang up -- so why engage in a timesucking exercise that involves even less actual personal interaction?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back in a rut

Sunday morning.  C-SPAN.  The smell of tinfoil in the air.  It feels good to be back to the old routine after several weeks of disruptions -- travel, moving, whatever.

Lots of bloviating about the mid-term elections, of course, and a couple of so-called journalists sitting there opining on the coming Republican blowout.  It's always moderately astounding to see people who claim to be reporters use the words "tea party" and "grassroots" in the same sentence and still manage to keep a straight face.  Yes, there's a lot of grassroots discontent, but it's not grassroots money or organizing skills that's keeping the teabaggers going.  It's billionaires playing the poor saps like a well-tuned . . . I was going to use the venerable cliche of a violin, but with the teabaggers maybe a different instrument would be more appropriate -- accordion perhaps? 

All the callers seem to be focusing in on "government waste" as the target of their ire.  None of them, however, ever provide a specific example.  Just where is the money being wasted?  Oh, I'm not saying government waste doesn't exist (I've seen it in action, like when Large Nameless Agency hosts meetings for its advisory boards at 4-star hotels in San Francisco or New York), but just once I'd love to hear a caller or a pundit give actual examples, not just vague insuations.  The usual response is to ramble on about "entitlements" and "welfare," followed shortly after by rants about illegal immigrants receiving benefits honest citizens are denied.  Ignorance and xenophobia -- definitely a toxic combination.  One of the sad things about the delusional American public is they all seem to believe that anti-poverty benefits (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, food stamps, MedicAid, etc) are eating up the bulk of the U.S. budget, when the reality is that those benefits are a tiny percentage, especially when compared to the mammoth amounts poured into the Pentagon each year.  They also never have an answer when asked specifically just what they'd like to cut first -- veterans' benefits? border patrols? Social Security payments? student loans?  They have no clue.  They're just sure there's a lot of waste, so let's cut taxes and eliminate bureaucracy. 

Earlier in the morning the topic of WikiLeaks, Iraq, and the U.S. military came up again.  It was bizarre.  The talking head was a "journalist" from the New York Times.  A caller castigated the main stream media for the totally shit job they did in the run up to and the conduct of the war in Iraq, noting the media's near total gullibility in parroting the Bush administration lies, their almost complete unwillingness to step outside the rules set by the U.S. military, and their failure to report on numerous atrocities, corruption, and general bumbling in Iraq.  This guy's defense?  Basically, "Hey, don't look at me. I was embedded with a combat unit and just reported what I saw."  In other words, "Hey, I'm proud to be a stenographer and part of a propaganda operation."  The stupid, it burns.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I was wrong about Precious Moments

They are not the most common collectible on the planet.  These are:
Electrical insulators, all made by Hemingray.  They used to be common on power lines, telegraph lines, and telephone lines.  They now fill page after page on Etsy.  I learned this while trying to find a source for the holder shown below:
We've got about a dozen Hemingray insulators kicking around the house purely by accident -- I never set out to collect them, but there were a bunch at the farm and I've never bothered to jettison any.  If nothing else, they're good paperweights.  A number of years ago my cousin Chris mentioned seeing metal stands for them in a gift shop in Michigamme that turned them into votive candle holders with minimal hassle, so I bought one.  It was the last one in the store.

So do you think I've ever stumbled across another source for those stands?  Of course not.  But Christmas is coming, and I do know someone who would actually appreciate a glass insulator candle holder, so I went looking on the intertubes -- and discovered that while there are about a zillion sites that sell insulators (and, wow, do they ever come in an amazing variety of colors) and different items for displaying insulators (nifty little LED pads that will light up the insulator from below, for example) something as simple as the holder shown above was nowhere to be seen.  There is a guy on Etsy who makes an insulator holder from used horseshoes, but (a) it's $65, and (b) the recipient I had in mind for this particular gift is not into Western themes.  Country chic, yes; cowboys, no.  

I'll confess I don't get the attraction of collecting insulators.  They're pretty when the sun shines through them, and there are some bizarre shapes (there are some that look winged), but when you can find Hemingrays in every flea market, junk shop, and "antique" store in the country, there doesn't seem to be much of a challenge involved. I have no idea why anyone would ever bother to order one from a website when a stroll through the nearest rural flea market would turn up dozens priced at about $2 each.      

On the other hand, if and when a person can find a decent stand, they do make nice candle holders. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The enthusiasm gap

Election Day draws ever closer, the political mudslinging grows more intense daily, and my enthusiasm for wandering over to an early voting location dwindles a little more with each passing moment.  The one and only person on the ballot I actually want to vote for is going to win regardless of anything I do -- Congressman Lewis is safely ensconced in a solidly Democratic district; his competition always comes in the primary, not the general.  I probably will drag my reluctant ass to the polls, if only for the reason that it does feel good after spending 4 years in Nebraska to be confident that the candidate I support will actually win, but for sure I understand why the average voter has so little desire to pull the figurative lever for anyone this year. 

Last night Ed Schultz's totally nonscientific survey question for his viewers was something along the lines of  "Has this been the most hate-filled campaign of all time?"  No doubt tonight's question will be something equally challenging, like "Is water wet?"  The various pundits and political operatives keep talking about the enthusiasm gap, and what can they do to get voters fired up enough to go to the polls -- well, how about putting some serious effort into getting candidates to stop engaging in a race to the bottom with ads that spend more time screaming "I hate Mexicans more than my opponent!!" than they do providing anything substantive to convince me the candidate has more on his or her mind than deporting day laborers? 

I would also love to see a Republican politician who was willing to admit that voting for him or her isn't going to do a thing to remove Nancy Pelosi from office.  Every time I see an ad for a Republican running for Congress, I find myself thinking, wow, are the teabaggers going to be pissed when they elect Joe Schmoe and then wake up the following day to discover that Ms. Pelosi is still representing California's 8th District.  Who could have known that voting for some schmuck in Georgia or Wisconsin would have absolutely no influence on what happened at the polls in San Francisco?  

Then again, when you have Republican candidates and office holders who seem to be in a competition to see who can provide the most blatant display of ignorance, I shouldn't be surprised they're assuming their supporters are even dumber than they are.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Early shopping

I know it's kind of early to be thinking about it, but I may have figured out what everyone's getting for Xmas from me this year.  Miniature Moonpies in a collectible box -- does life get any better than that?

Getting too old for this crap

Moving.  Politics.  Work.  You name it, I'm ready to walk away from it all.  It's been one of those weeks where I find myself thinking Ted Kaczynski had the right idea -- a crude, tarpaper shack in the woods with no television, no internet, no boxes to schlep, no co-workers, and only legacy technology like a manual typewriter is looking good at the moment (I'm not enough of a Luddite to go back to goose quills and ink made from lampblack).

The big move into the renovated townhouse finally happened, dragged out over the past week, and is still sort of going on.  The old apartment was empty by Sunday afternoon -- and it was moderately amazing just how much crap we had managed to stuff into that small space; maybe a starring role in an episode of "Hoarders" is in my future after all -- but of course we're still living with piles of boxes in inconvenient places.  Maybe if I didn't have a zillion books and a multiple-lifetimes supply of quilting supplies the whole process would be easier.  Or maybe if I wasn't a reader, I'd have turned into one of those crazy ladies who collects Precious Moments figurines and we would have been buried alive in bubble wrap by now. 

The good news about the move, sort of, was that we were relatively television- and internet-free for a few days.  No political ads.  It was wonderful.  Before I left on vacation, the only politician I was feeling the least bit mellow about was Johnny Isaakson.  I think the man is completely wrong politically, but the Senate race here in Georgia is so lop-sided that he apparently felt comfortable running nicely bland, polite ads.  They basically said "Hi. I'm Johnny Isaakson, and I share your Georgia values. Vote for me." Not anymore.  Despite the fact his opponent is thoroughly outgunned (I think I've seen ONE yard sign for the poor sap, whoever he might be, and no television ads at all), Isaakson apparently got marching orders from the Repugnican establishment -- and his ads are now attacking Obama, progressives, you name it.  Why bother? 

Of course, that is one of the characteristics of the reich wing -- they play dirty when they don't have to.  They fuck people over for the fun of it.  I've never been able to figure that one out, other than it does seem to be a sick psychological trait of bullies and cowards to kick people when they're down.  Conservative social policy seems to consist of figuring out ways to make other people's lives even more miserable than they might be now, to punish the victim for having the nerve to have been born poor or disabled or in the wrong country. 

The S.O. and I were talking the other day.  He was wondering out loud why another characteristic trait of the political right wing, especially the far right wackaloons, is to be running scared all the time, absolutely terrified and practically wetting their pants over stuff that's never going to happen --  Obama's going to take your guns away, Congress is going to start taxing all bank transactions, the government is going to forbid crosses in military cemeteries, and various other pieces of weirdness that get debunked regularly on  He said it's almost like they want all sorts of horrible things to happen to the country so they'll be proved right.  I don't think that's it -- I think Michael Moore actually nailed it a few years ago in the movie "Bowling for Columbine."  If you fuck over enough people long enough, you're going to develop a fair amount of paranoia that one of these days they'll decide to fuck you back. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A first

A Chicken Outlet store in Westfield, Wisconsin.  I'd never seen this particular variety of outlet store before, and I'm fairly sure I have no desire to see one again.  Considering some of the strange stuff I've seen in the meat cases in supermarkets, I really don't want to think about what discounted chicken parts might consist of.  In short, I may have stopped to snap a photo, but I did not venture into the building.