Wednesday, July 28, 2004

People Are Talking

I'm not much of one for current events... I almost never watch the news, unless I happen to wander into the same room as the Grandmother and something catches my eye, and I don't read any part of the newspaper except the comics and advice columns, and I wouldn't be caught dead reading a newsmagazine. I don't even have headlines on my Yahoo! Frontpage. I read the articles on Queer Day almost daily, but I really only skim the newsy bits in search of the entertaining bits.

But information filters in, nevertheless... in fact, I feel that I can gauge the importance of any event or phenomenon by how many people are talking about it in my little newsless world — how many bloggers write about it, how many of my friends or family mention it in conversation, and how much of it spills over onto the fluff channels on my television.

So, according to this principle, here is What is Going On in the World Today:

The Democratic National Convention: I haven't watched it, of course, and have no intention of watching it. I don't even understand what it's all about. Why bother having a convention if there's no debate, no voting, no candidates? (yes, I know there are other candidates, Kucinich and Sharpton and all them, but they really don't matter) I do understand the unified front, the engineered unanimity needed to combat the right-leaning tone still rampant in the nation: the Democratic Party needs to show as much confidence in Kerry & Edwards as the GOP shows in Dumb & Evil.

However, I find that I still harbor a certain distaste for the Democratic Party, its seeming inability to stand for anything, its craven snivelling after swing votes, its rather lame platform of "we're not Bush." But I will vote Democrat in the coming election. (most likely absentee so I don't have to worry about rigged voting machines — though, really, didn't we learn in the last presidential "election" that paper votes are just as easy to rig as electronic ones?) I'll vote Kerry for no other reason than because I hate Bush with a seething, burning, glittering hatred. I just wish I could like Kerry as much as I hate Bush, I wish Kerry hadn't been in the vaguely sinister and patently elitist Skull & Bones at Yale two years before Dubya was, I wish Kerry's wife weren't a rich foreigner (I like rich forgeigners, but I know how most Americans feel about them), I wish that I could believe in any of it. That would make the whole thing a lot easier.

Interestingly enough, the Grandmother (who is still registered as Democrat but hasn't voted Democrat since Jimmy Carter) has been watching the Convention in its entirety; when I came into her room yestere'en to discuss dinner, I got an eyeful of Teresa Heinz Kerry in a red suit that did absolutely nothing for her (did she think the patriotic red would distract from her foreign accent? Perhaps she should have worn blue instead, or at least had some white around the neckline to combat the sallowness that particularly virulent red brought out in her skin), nattering on about something or other. I didn't care for her rather heavy-sounding rhetoric, but then I didn't stick around long enough to find out what she was talking about. During dinner, though, Grandmother expounded a bit on Mrs. Heinz Kerry's speech:

"She's supposed to be very smart," Grandmother sniffed, "she speaks five languages or something, but her speech was very dull. Some people just aren't good at speaking, no matter how smart they're supposed to be. She seems to think that the most important thing for America is Women's Rights. I can't think of any rights women don't have, so maybe I missed something."

Translation: "She's a contemptible and unwomanly smart-ass." If Grandmother had been an adult in 1920 (but she was only 2), she would probably have been against the passage of the 19th Amendment. I think that deep down inside, Grandmother doesn't believe that women should have any rights other than those granted by their fathers or husbands... she buys into the partriarchy paradigm wholeheartedly. She therefore has the most extraordinary contempt for feminists and women who are "supposed to be smart."

Still, when I read some articles and transcripts of Mrs. Heinz Kerry's speech, I see that Grandmother had got hold of the wrong end of the stick: it wasn't women's rights that were being discussed, it was women's voices. I'm not sure, though, what Mrs. Heinz Kerry means by "women's voices"... because if she were listening to the voices of many women I know (like Grandmother), she'd be listening to a regurgitation of patriarchal Rush-Limbaugh-and-Bill-O'Reilley-influenced hooey; the rest of the women I know say pretty much the same things as the men I know. It seems to me that there's no real difference between a woman's and a man's way of looking at things... there is only the difference between ignorance and intelligence — and let's face it, Womankind has some monumental dummies in its ranks: Ann Coulter is a woman, too, you know; so're The Two Mrs. Bushes, Condoleeza and Laura ... not all women's voices are voices of wisdom.

Britney Spears: And speaking of unwise women... I don't know why she's been popping up in my world so much lately, but there she is. For one, Toby posted some really funny pictures in which it appears Britney is going down on her fiance on a balcony (don't celebrities know better than to go out on balconies? Did they learn nothing from Brad Pitt?), and then I keep seeing paparazzi pix of her in fashion and entertainment magazines walking around with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, and then Caroline and I caught parts of her Miami concert on MTV and really enjoyed it (I can't find a link that doesn't cascade pop-ups all over the place, so you'll just have to take my word for it).

I like Britney, she's so pretty and has the most delightul voice and manner, but I wish she was being discussed because her show is great or her music is fun, not because she keeps getting married to people, is publically dieting on Red Bull and cigarettes, and is generally presenting a most shocking role-model to her legions of teeny-bopper fans. I don't know where these celebrities get the idea that they don't have a responsibility to act as role-models for their young fans, particularly when they purposely courted those young fans in the first place... if Britney were marketed to adults and was of little interest to a huge Tween-girl fanbase, it wouldn't matter so much what she did... but she's not, so it does.

Still, though she isn't a great singing talent, and I don't think she does anything about her own music, she is one hell of a performer (you'll never find a drag-queen faulting a performer for not doing her own singing)... the stagecraft of the concert was gorgeous, although I do have a bone to pick with the camera editing: when there's a hot guy in tiny tighty-whiteys grinding away into a mattress during a song about masturbation, you do not pan out to the audience at that moment. Bastard! Still, the presentation of "Oops I Did It Again" as a swing number was totally neat, and her sex-kitten-lingerie costumes were to die. I loved the dancing, the dancers (that blond boy, and the one with the mohawk, woof), the lights, the colors, the complete disposability of the music in favor of the choreography and stage-design... style over substance is one of my favorite flavors!

Jessica Simpson: And speaking of Pop Princesses, the enviably beautiful Mrs. Lachey has been popping up in conversations a lot lately... most notably when my co-worker BB asked me who she is (her stepdaughter mentioned the name, and BB was dismayed to find herself so out-of-the-loop, so I had to explain). Then Graham Norton did a riff on her alleged intelligence ("her mother claims that Jessica has an IQ of 160... but I think she meant 160 jelly-beans"... and I have to point out that an IQ score of 160 is supergenius, less than one in a hundred million people will score that high); and then she was featured in a tasty layout in this month's Vanity Fair.

I don't watch Newlyweds all that often, but when I do catch part of an episode, I enjoy it immensely, especially if Jessica is letting loose one of her patented Dumb Blonde Moments; I often find myself debating whether or not she is anywhere near as stupid as she seems... the much-publicized question about whether tuna was a bird or a fish was pretty believable, and Nick seemed just as baffled as the rest of us; but I once watched her struggling with a washing-machine, where she apparently couldn't figure out how to turn it on or which of the bottles in the cupboard was the detergent... yet she knew to put the fabric softener in the little ball. Fabric softener is pretty advanced laundry-magic, and the instructions for turning the machine on are printed in big white letters under the lid. It was all very suspicious, but at the same time amusing (style over substance, again).

The War: Actually, people aren't really talking about the War that much anymore. I suppose we've gotten bored with it. But it's on my mind, nevertheless: you see, my nephew Matthew flew this morning to North Carolina for Army boot camp, and is probably at this minute getting his head shaved or being yelled at by a drill-sergeant; though it's not certain that he'll be sent to Iraq upon graduating in October (if he has the Manners Luck, which sent my father to Germany instead of Vietnam during his Army tour from 1964-68, he might not be), the current survival rate of US troops these days is a little too shaky for my comfort.

Being a pacifist, I of course am not fully on-board with Matthew's decision to enter the Army as a career, and as his uncle I am worried sick about him going into the Army in the middle of a particularly life-wasting war. But I support his decisions, and even understand them fairly well, so I just sucked up my disapproval and fear and gave him a hearty hug and told him to have fun and not get shot. These are not the words of profound avuncular wisdom I would have liked to bestow, but it's the best I could do. I forgot to caution him to not get blown up or run over, either, but I assume he'll know not to do those anyway... he's a pretty smart kid, tested in the 99th percentile on his placement exams, and is going to be trained for Army Intelligence... I try to think of the lives he'll save with proper intelligence instead of his chances of getting killed.

The problem with a war like this one is that there's no way of knowing when it's over. I mean, even if when we get Bush out of office, the war is still going to be there, and it will not be easy to disengage from Iraq now that we've been planted down there for the last year or so. A precipitate retreat of US armed forces will leave behind a situation much worse than what prevailed before we came in search of those mythological WMDs. We remember (don't we) what happened when US troops pulled out of Vietnam without so much as wiping their cocks off on the sheets first... it was very messy.


So that's what's been travelling across my brain-pan today. All terribly, terribly interesting, I know. I'll let you stew on all of that, while I get back to my work. I need to write some more meeting minutes, and a realtor is stopping by to discuss new office space for us... I am hoping he's as cute as he sounded over the phone, but people so seldom are. Here's hoping your day is full of cute guys (or gals, as you prefer), and don't take any wooden nickels.

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