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Things I Don’t Understand

Ha, that would actually make for a pretty long list, but in this case I’m referring specifically to two things I came across this weekend. Sometimes, while doing household-related things (laundry, so much laundry) I leave the TV on as background noise and a sort of faux companionship. Yeah, I know, but how else am I supposed to keep up with Law & Order if it isn’t continually running on the edges of my consciousness, I ask you?

Be that as it may, I had the TV on this weekend, some animal countdown program on Animal Planet (The Top 10 Blankiest Blanks), and I got distracted enough to completely lose track of what program was on until the horrifying reality of what Animal Planet was now broadcasting wormed its way into my attention span and snapped me into full awareness. I was no longer ignoring the top most power-hungry animal leaders, no, I was staring at the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, enthusiastically narrating his wife’s contractions as she was about to give birth to their first child. Which was bad enough but, it turns out, things were much worse than that. Because the child in question, the one whose birth was here being rebroadcast reality-TV style, was also the one telling the viewers in a chirpy voice over to the scene that her father, now deceased, must have been so very excited by her impending arrival.

Yes, Bindi Irwin, daughter of Steve Irwin, was presenting “My Daddy the Crocodile Hunter” here on Animal Planet for our enjoyment. How long since her father passed away? How old is this child? Apparently, old enough to host “her very first hour long television special” to quote the Animal Planet Web site, and to take “viewers on her own personal and private look at what is was like growing up with her famous dad” – except that it’s not all that private, is it? What with being marketed and broadcast by a large communications company and all. That 50-second bit was about all I could take before I lunged for the remote to change the channel. I spend my days behind a protective wrapping of worldly cynicism but I have my limits. I can’t deal with this 8-year-old child being marketed like that. Perhaps she can handle it, but I can’t. And I take the liberty to doubt that she really can either.

Her father only died, what, a bit more than a year ago? (A bad encounter with some sort of stingray, as the nice man at the zoo on Sunday mentioned while he was feeding the rays at the Amazonia exhibit.) And here Bindi is, narrating her own birth and making jokes about how her dad was so nervous he crashed the hospital wheelchair on the way to the delivery room. You can tell me this is therapeutic and a way to pay homage to her dad and remember him, and I will tell you that I will never understand this. Steve Irwin was an exhibitionist and clearly comfortable with sharing his life with the cameras, in the service of animal welfare as he understood it. But he also dragged his kids into that public glare, from the moment they were born apparently, and they did not have a choice in the matter. And now his wife, or rather, his widow, is continuing this family tradition.  So that we have his 8-year-old daughter meta-commenting on her dad’s exhibition of their family’s life and I find this excruciatingly sad and completely beyond my comprehension. I just don’t get it.

But then, I also fail to understand how having to make do with an “unsightly” communal cluster mailbox instead of your very own, personalized, traditional American stand-alone single family-home mailbox can mar your enjoyment of your new, large, many-roomed house, nay, mansion featuring a “gourmet kitchen with a center island and a double oven, twin fireplaces and a finished basement, as well as a whirlpool tub and dual shower heads in the master bathroom,” and every other luxurious amenity today’s housing market can offer. Or indeed, why this sorry state of affairs should merit a lengthy article in a major metropolitan newspaper. But it does give me something to mull, so I shouldn’t complain. It’s not as though I am forced to get my mail from an aesthetically displeasing communal, lockable mailbox – oh wait, yes I do. But, I live in a 1-bedroom condo in downtown DC, so at least I don’t have that onerous, long walk to the corner where the mailbox is located. I just have to go down 4 flights of stairs to get my mail.

Of course, I also don’t have a lovely garden and lawn, the beauty of which is sadly spoiled somewhat by the lack of my own personal mailbox at the end of my drive way. Well, I don’t have a drive way either, so that’s ok. When did mailboxes become status symbols of such import? Why are people referring to their lack of a personal mailbox as “discrimination” and saying that the post office has created a “separate class” of mailbox owners? The mind boggles. My understanding reels. I’m so glad I saw this story on Sunday – that way, I was able to go lie down on my couch when the utter inanity of all this made me feel faint. Imagine if I had been at work. Here are people who have, well, some might say that they have everything: the house of their dreams with all the bells and whistles, with things in it that I hadn’t even conceived of wishing for yet – and still there is a complaint. About a mailbox that isn’t where they want it to be. A mailbox that just isn’t pretty enough (but that is lockable, therefore being immediately more secure than those freestanding, unlockable personal mailboxes on the front lawn). Again, I don’t get it. But then, as I mentioned, I live in a tiny 1-bedroom condo with minuscule floorspace that can barely hold all of our books. Maybe I’m just bitter.

Cop-Out List Post (Thoughts before Bed)

Things I read about, think about and would like to comment on if I didn’t also need sleep so badly: Continue reading

So, Spiderman 3. Meh.

OK, let’s just get this out of the way: Spiderman 3 – meh. If I were writing this directly after seeing the movie on Friday, my reaction might be a lot stronger on the negative side but I’ve had the weekend to read a ton of other comments, reviews and reactions and I am thus bending to the middle. Because I am nothing if not easily swayed in my opinions of things that entertain like books, movies and TV shows. Continue reading

Dear Academy

My, how time flies. Although, not so much when you’re watching the Oscars. Every year, I tell myself that it’s really not necessary for me to actually watch the Academy Awards, that the show is boring, too long, not really that important, and half the time they get it wrong anyway. And every year, I find myself staggering bleary-eyed into work on Monday morning after a very late Sunday night spent groaning at the TV. This year, same thing. I am still tired and my eyes are like sandpaper, thanks to the endless, endless show. And my apparent compulsion to watch it, even when I totally disagree with the results and am bored by all those montages and songs. Those songs. Dear John. Continue reading

Red Line Woes

This week was not a good week for metro. First the 16-minute “minor” delay on the red line earlier in the week, then the shut down of Braddock Rd station for packages that sat around for hours (at least it wasn’t guerrilla advertising, see Boston), and today this unspecified “minor” delay on the red line in my direction, and only in my direction. I get to the station at 7:24 a.m. and see the train just disappearing into the tunnel. Oh well, there’ll be another one in a few minutes, right? Nope. 20 minutes later, I finally get a damn train. Is there an explanation? I don’t know, because every time the station manager made an announcement, the loudspeakers were so weak, I couldn’t hear a word. Naturally, he also made the announcements only when a train in the other direction was pulling in – just to be sure no one could understand anything. And there were many trains in the other direction. Say, every two minutes or so. While I stand there, reading the entire Express cover to cover and nearly finishing off my crossword.
Ah Metro, how I love thee.

Aaaand…it’s a New Year

Things to note for 2007:

  • Avoid encounters with unknown, big, mastiff-like dogs that want to play tug with my coat sleeve
  • If one such big dog nevertheless manages to get a hold on my coat sleeve with his slobbering mouth and large teeth, make sure to give the owner, who is pulling at the beast’s leash fruitlessly and shouting his name in vain, a true piece of my mind regarding his lack of dog-related control.
  • Most importantly, regarding such dog incidents, which are to be avoided in 2007, do not, under any circumstances, let the half-assed, sullenly mumbled, reluctant excuse for an apology coming from a dog owner already retreating far away from you slide. Do not accept it as adequate. Control your dog, sir!
  • Read more books like The Woman in White. Great story, gripping characters, Gothic touches, suspenseful 600 plus pages that read like a much thinner book (it’s done already?).
  • Stop emulating the Zoo’s capybaras in figure and habits (i.e. less lounging about munching on snacks – although straw does make good roughage – and less growing stout. Not that it doesn’t look good on the capys.).
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Ha. Ok, not really.
  • Lighten up more. Or be more cynical. Whichever works best at any given moment.
  • Write more. Because, practice, practice, practice.

The Way We Speak

Today it’s time to give some thought to language and the meaning of the words we use. I realize that this is becoming increasingly difficult, in a world where labels mean more than substance, facts are made to bow to ideology, and education, reasoning and logic are considered elitist. But it is necessary in order to remain sane and rooted to the real world where said facts can up and kill you if you’re not careful. Yelling that the mess in Iraq is just the negative and faulty reporting of the biased liberal media doesn’t help the soldiers and civilians being killed by IEDs every day.

It is important to understand the words you throw around so carelessly. Like “fascist” say, as in Islamo-fascist, a very popular designation these days among the right-wing politicians running for re-election for labelling all those faceless hordes of evil extremists Muslims who want to kill us all because they hate our freedom. Do these guys know the definition of fascism? We wonder.

And point you to this article in the LA Times (via Slacktivist) on the term “Islamo-fascists” by a linguist, who has the following to say:

[Quote] Time was when right-wingers called the ACLU a bunch of communist sympathizers. Now Bill O’Reilly labels the group and others as fascist, with a cavalier disregard for the word’s meaning that would have done Jerry Rubin proud. Of course, it’s the point of symbolic words such as “fascist” to ease the burden of thought — as Walter Lippmann observed, they “assemble emotions after they’ve been detached from their ideas.” And it may be that Americans are particularly vulnerable to using “fascism” sloppily, never having experienced the real thing close up.

But like “terror,” and “evil” before it, “Islamic fascism” has the effect of reducing a complex story to a simple fable. It effaces the differences among ex-Baathists, Al Qaeda and Shiite mullahs; Chechens and Kashmiris; Hezbollah, Hamas and British-born Asians allegedly making bombs in a London suburb. Yes, there are millions of people in the Muslim world who wish the U.S. ill, and some of them are pretty creepy about it. But that doesn’t mean they’re all of a single mind and purpose, or that a blow against any one of them is a blow against the others. As Tolstoy might have put it, every creep is creepy in his own way.

[End Quote]

Edited to add: Hm, perhaps I should have titled this post “Easing the Burden of Thought” because we spend an awful lot of time doing that in this society.  As Ganesha is fond of pointing out, we like things easy and simple and, given a choice for fixing a problem of  Difficult (but effective and good) v. Easy Quick-Fix (but not lasting or effective), we will choose Easy almost every time. Because we’re lazy easily distracted morons and/or we’re being manipulated by those who stand to profit from the quick-fix non-solutions.

I can’t quite decide which is worse. But by now I’m too frustrated to give this any more thought, so I’ll go off to You Are Dumb to read someone who’s rants are much better than mine and who reminds me that there are still some smart people left who are noticing the shit storm of idiocy we are being pelted with every day and who are making an effort to point this out to anyone who stumbles across their site. Plus, it’s entertaining.