Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ignorance AIN'T Bliss

I read today that Hillary Clinton referred to Barack Obama as "naïve" on foreign policy because he answered in the affirmative when asked whether he would meet leader-to-leader with so-called unfriendly states. Apparently, this was supposed to be some sort of trump card, a political come-uppance intended to blatantly expose Obama as an ineffectual choice to be the next U.S. president.

But...why? I hate it when I'm ignorant about things, and then can't seem to SOLVE that ignorance. I really detest ignorance, mostly because it seems to be a willful head-in-the-sand way to avoid unpleasant truths about the lives we lead and the world in which we lead them. But unintended ignorance...ignorance that seems impossible to correct...well, that bugs me even MORE, because I'm really trying to become NOT ignorant, but there is seemingly nowhere to turn for the answer.

Take spelling. As a teacher, I'm really fond of instructing a student to "go look it up" when presented with a fairly basic question. "How do you spell climax?" Well, probably it starts with either a "cl-" or a "kl-", and then you might guess an "i" or a "y" after that (but probably not an "a"), and pretty soon you've got the word. But, what if someone asks how to spell "pneumonia?" Hey, there's gotta be a first time a person sees that word; before that first time, what are you to do if you're told to look it up? I'd start with "n" and go downhill quickly from there. It's unintended ignorance: you WANT to know the answer, but literally have no idea where to start looking for it.

So, back to the comment by Sen. Clinton. I simply don't understand what it is about Sen. Obama's postion that is (by her view) naïve. What's wrong with the sitting president of the United States entering into direct talks with the sitting president of Iran? Or, hell, even North Korea? I don't get it, and I can't seem to find the answer anywhere.

I suppose some folks would refer to ME as naïve for that lack of understanding...or at least disingenuous. And, truthfully, I guess such a charge wouldn't be totally out of line. I am being rather calculating with this post, inasmuch as I have a lot of suspicions as to why Clinton said what she did. For instance, I suspect that part of the reason the U.S. president doesn't sit down with the Iranian president is that it will somehow weaken the U.S. "position" (whatever that is) and give the impression that the two countries - or at least their leaders - are equals. Well...DUH! Since when does the U.S. get to flaunt its opinion on the rest of the world? (Oh, right, since we forced it down everyone's throat following WWII...) But, seriously: how is it that the U.S. is suddenly so much "better" than Iran? Let's not forget, Iran is freakin' PERSIA. As in, home to some of the oldest human settlements on the planet. Iran was the center of the damn CIVLIZED WORLD when the U.S. was nothing but forests, mountains and plains. (Hey, throw in some swamps and we could play Magic!) So, in what way is our upstart little country of less than 250 years of age in any way "better than" Iran?

I really think this kind of thinking is a bunch of political chest-thumping by a people who desperately still want to MATTER. I honestly believe that the average American, absent the narcissistic propaganda of modern press and politics, could really give a shit where we are in the cultural pecking order of the world...or even that there IS a cultural pecking order, come to think of it. And if WE quit trying to make ourselves out to be the BMOC, maybe all these people who supposedly hate us would quit trying to show it. I mean, it's small WONDER that Kim Jong-Il is presented as more or less batshit by the press: wouldn't YOU be a little overly-defensive and hyper if the biggest bully you ever saw basically said he was out to eradicate you? That's kind of how I see the countries of the world: as individual kids on a playground, getting along most of the time, perhaps a little scuffle here or there, but essentially forming little cliques that pool their friendship and resources for the greater good. And then here comes the U.S., some outsized bully intent on telling EVERYONE on the playground that there are new rules, and everyone had better play along OR ELSE! (*Scuffs dirt with toe*) The bully actually has the might to enforce those rules too, but the problem with bullies is that eventually the little guys get pissed off and realize that they can either ostracize or outgun the bully, and then all hell breaks loose.

Okay. End of rant. I still can't precisely learn why Obama's answer was supposed to paint him as naïve, so I guess I'll have to learn to live with disappointment, ignorance...and suspicions. And I'll be a lone voice in the wilderness, calling for a stepping-down of international political rhetoric and an expansion of the very kind of even-handed diplomacy that Obama seems to desire.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Scream Until You Like It

From the book of Things No One Told Me...

• No one told me that Roslyn would scream so loudly as I try to get her down to sleep that I'd actually resort to wearing earplugs. These are plugs I bought - and did NOT use - to see Kiss from the 2nd row. How can a 3-month old baby have the volume and lung capacity of Bessie Smith and Pat Benatar COMBINED?!?

• No one told me that while being held in an attempt to induce Sleep Mode, Roslyn would thrash her head so violently that, upon connecting with my chin, I'd see stars.

• No one told me that Roslyn would be so inconsolable that, back aching and arms ready to fall off, I'd simply lay her in her crib and listen to her cry while I do situps on the floor to try to build core strength and prevent further backaches.

• No one told me how frustrated and ineffective I'd feel when trying unsuccessfully to get Roslyn to sleep. Sometimes she goes right down, sometimes she needs to fuss a little but finally finds her thumb. Lots of times, though, I hold her while she squalls and pray that she'll eventually exhaust herself to the point that, frankly, she passes out.

• No one told me that simple times would be the best. Yesterday I sat Indian-style at the window in her room with her sitting on my lap, leaning back against my chest. We watched the world go by while I toyed with her feet and rubbed her arms, and she cooed softly.

• No one told me what a goofball she would be upon waking, acting all puppy with big grins while Miss Tessmacher and I guzzle coffee like it's the nectar of the gods. Her delight at seeing us first thing in the morning, and her obvious desire to play and laugh and joyously wave her arms and legs erases the previous night's desire to leave her in a basket on someone else's porch.

• No one told me what a tongue-twister Fox in Socks was...and how she'd happily gurgle away while I read it again...and again...and again...

• No one told me that I'd give up any hope of "living" and simply resort to "surviving" one day at a time, praying for these long & frustrating weeks to pass...while at the same time desperately wanting her to stay little and angelic forever, just like she is now...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

These are a Few of my Favourite Sings

Sorry for the long hiatus...AND for the dippy attempt at humor in the title of this post. Suffice it to say that the semester is progressing nicely, Roslyn is beautiful & absolutely perfect (when she's not being a little shit, that is), and all's well with the world. Well...okay, no, there's PLENTY wrong with the world. But, my little slice of it could hardly be believably better, so I ain't gonna bitch.

What I AM gonna do is share some songs & videos with you. Fall is a good time for me to restock my car CD case; a little bit o'out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new makes me feel like there has actually been a change of seasons. I try to keep my car loaded with what I hear as "summer music" during my off-school months, and so I spend lots of time driving around and loudly singing along (off-key, natch) to the Beach Boys, Van Halen, the B-52s, assorted summery Kiss (Love Gun, Alive II, Dynasty), and a host of other good-ear stuff. When autumn rolls around, though, I try to keep pace with the shortening days by putting away the summer music and listening to things I haven't heard in awhile.

Which brings me 'round to this here post. I've been hearing lots of my favourite singers these past few weeks, and I thought I'd share 'em with you. I'm sure these are mostly well-known folks, but there may be a few gems here you've not experienced before. And maybe you needed to be reminded of the awesomeness of even the familiar people? Read on, and click on the links to see relevant tasty video goodness.

Dee Snider The lead singer of Twisted Sister has a great throaty huskiness that exemplifies what I hear as the perfect rock & roll voice. Plus, he has that great giant mane of hair; in all the early albums, when the guitarists were giving shout-outs to the makers of the equipment they used, Dee always had some loony comment for Vidal Sassoon. In fact, I've read that Dee is credited with the invention of the term "hair metal" to describe this very look. This video gives you a taste of his voice from the 2nd TS album, and also displays his bad-ass rock & roll stance.

Lou Gramm He kinda looks like a dweeby little shit, but man! That voice! Whether he's fronting Foreigner, on his own, or with the likes of Shadow King, he soars like an eagle. And, I love the red Ludwig Vistalite drums in this video! Classic 70s, all the way.

Paul Stanley If I have to tell you who he sings for, you don't know me AT ALL. Seriously. Just watch and learn.

Pat Benatar She sometimes gets billed as a has-been Queen of the 80s, but together with guitarist/husband Neal Geraldo, she's put out a new album every few years. This is an older clip, but it captures her at the peak of her cultural popularity. Her range is unbelievable; to think that she came (this close) to following an operatic path instead of the rock-y goodness she gave us.

Doro Pesch There's a name you don't see every day! She's kind of the female equivalent of Dee Snider: all blonde & throaty and full of leathery bad-assedness. She sang with a so-so metal outfit called Warlock in the 80s, but lately she has been doing all kinds of good stuff on her own.

David Readman In the 1990s, I was despairing for good metal to listen to. I tried various watered-down versions, and I even gave the so-called "Seattle sound" a fair shake. Ultimately, though, the music lacked one important ingredient: MELODY! Well, a student in 1999 introduced me to Pink Cream 69, which is the best band you're not listening to. Readman is the 2nd lead singer (Andy Deris having departed for Helloween), and this song comes from his first release with the group. Every one since has been a melodic metal masterpiece! (*makes the two-fingered metal salute with both hands!*)

Sammy Hagar Okay, again, if you don't know who Sammy is, yer living in a box. WITHOUT a stereo. From his early, cruisin'- in-your-Trans-Am days with Montrose, to a stellar slew of solo releases, and even through his Van Halen days...Sammy makes a convincing case that there really IS only one way to rock!

Dio I was so happy to see Dio make an actual appearance in the Tenacious D movie! He so totally rocks. I'm not sure Elf was the greatest band ever, but Dio has sung more good rock & roll on his own, or in bands like Rainbow and Black Sabbath, that the guy seriously deserves to be crowned King of Heavy Metal. And, like, he gave us the devil-horn salute! Dude! Rejoice.

Joe Lynn Turner And speaking of Rainbow...it may have been Ritchie Blackmore's group, but for me the band has always been more about the voice. Joe here replaced Dio in the early 1980s after fronting a forgettable band called Fandango, and this song is a testament to the power of MTV. I saw the video, I loved the voice, I bought the album. Hmmm...I wonder why CD sales are in such a nosedive? Is it because...oh, I don't know, MTV HARDLY PLAYS ANY FRICKIN' VIDEOS ANYMORE?!? MTV! MUSIC television! Gah. (*gets his Oscar voice from Corner Gas*) Idiots!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

These Dreams

Sometimes it's fun to come face-to-face with one of your dreams. Other times...not so much. Consider the following stressful scenario Miss Tessmacher and I created for ourselves this past weekend...

There's a house in our neighborhood - like, literally 3 blocks from us - that has been for sale for quite a few months now. It is something we've taken to calling our Dream House, not only because it's a stunning place but because of the sort of lifestyle ownership of the house would represent. On a checklist of things that I consider essential for ANY Dream House, I would include the following:

• All-brick exteriour. (I've never cared for the shallow "I'm well-built!" statement made by houses fronted with brick, then finished off with cheap vinyl siding. That's the American way, isn't it? You know, pretend to quality you don't really posess?)
• 2-car garage. (2-1/2 is better, to allow room for lawn-maintenance machines & the like, but I'll build a shed if I have to.)
• "Elegant" apportions. (Tough to define, but I like things like built-in cabinetry, hutches & sideboards and the like. Same with fancy-schmancy lighting, lots of trim, hardwood floors, and so on.)
• Finishable basement. (I needs me a man-room for my drums & Kiss shit, plus I'd LOVE a family room that would eliminate the frickin' idiot-box from the living room. Hopefully, it would be a wide-screen PLASMA idiot-box, but still...)
• Play-yard, but not a show-yard. (Gimme some grass to play catch with The Rozzle, maybe chuck a few horseshoes...nothing I need a ride-'em mower for.)

'Kay. Got it? So, back to this dream house...built in 1910, nearly 3600 square feet of solid-brick goodness. It has been for sale for, oh, I guess maybe a year or so now. Original asking price of (gulp!) $259,900. HAH! Everybody sing along: "Dream o-on! Dream 0-on!" But then, a few months back, the sign grew a dangler teasing "Price Reduced!" And so it was: down to $229,900. Wow! And then a few weeks after that, ANOTHER hanger-on proclaimed that it was down to $209,900! Shit! A price drop of $50k! Times ARE tough in the housing biz!

That was all under Century-21. A few weeks ago, that realtor was replaced by ReMax, and a "Take One!" info sheet that included an asking price of...wait for it...$169,900. Wha-HUH?!? Okay, THAT'S a price at which I go take a walk-through! Sadly, a few days after espying that lowlow pirce, there was a proud "Sold!" banner hung over the listing sign, and just like that the place became someone ELSE'S Dream Home. Ah. C'est-la vie.

Except...maybe not, because walking to the farmers market this past Saturday we saw that the original ReMax sign had been removed (along with the "Sold!" sash) and, mysteriously, had been REPLACED with a NEW ReMax "For Sale" sign. I looked the house up on the internet and, shore 'nuff, here it is with that same eye-widening price of $170k. I called, found out from agent L that the previous offer had "fallen through" and the house was indeed on the market. With mom, Tess & Roslyn in tow I headed over on Sunday at 3:00 for a close-up of our Dream House.

Wow. What can I say? This house is drop-dead GORGEOUS! All of the above check-points were present, along with just oodles of character. The 3rd floor is a spacious 17x45 room that would MORE than accommodate all our music crap (instruments, music library, you name it). Three fireplaces, four bedrooms, hardwood floors throughout, closets in every room, a full basement with nearly 8-ft. ceilings...the list just goes on. Sure, the house was built in 1910 so it's not without problems. There is a fair amount of knob-&-tube wiring, although not nearly as much as I had to replace in our current house. Some of the brick in the basement is crumbling into dust, a sign that water has taken its toll over the decades. The laundry is in the basement, whereas we've gotten used to a main-floor laundry. There's a fair amount of exteriour wood that would need regular painting: the back porches, the pillars on the front porch, dormers on the 3rd floor and the underside of the wide eaves. But the damn place is nearly 3600 square feet, and it's simply a showcase house.

Add to that, it's SO severely undervalued. The problem is...it's STILL just a LITTLE out of our price range. Plus, the very thing that makes THIS house almost affordable, also makes it so that OUR house won't sell for what it's "worth." And, we're coming into the fall & winter, supposedly the worst selling time of the year. We did receive a VERY generous offer from Tess' dad...without going into details, lets just say that it's the kind of offer that is both stunning and a little embarrassing in its generosity. But the taxes on the Dream House would be a significant increase over what we currently pay, and the insurance would go up, and-and-and. You get the idea. It's like the guy who can afford the Corvette, but then realizes he can't afford the insurance to keep it on the road. It's not JUST the price of the house...it's the fact that utilites will go up, and a dozen other hidden costs.

We probably COULD make this happen, if we sold our house at a loss in order to gain instant equity in this showy house that's undervalued right now. And, yeah, we could probably bite the financial bullet and stop doing ANYTHING fun and/or extravagant in our lives...but is that necessarily a life worth living? Ultimately, this IS a Dream House...but that doesn't mean there won't be another dream. In the meantime, we're kind of doing with houses what we did with weddings: taking stock of what we like and don't like, and trying to make sure that when the time to live our dream really is at hand, we know what we want and can either find it again, or recreate it ourselves.