Sunday, May 30, 2010

Settlin' Into Summer


That's the sigh of the severely contented, breathed forth from a corner of the (cool) darkened basement, a nearly empty Detroit Dwarf at my right hand, and the quiet hissing of the baby monitor letting me know that The Rozzle is away in la-la land. Guess that means summer's here!

Seriously: I know summer doesn't start officially - calendrically! - for nearly another month. But, I've been on a school schedule for as long as…well, let's just say "forever" and have done with it, yes? So, for me, summer is a 16-week season that lasts from roughly the second week of May until the last week of August. And, after a bout of some typical coolish, rainy weather, we here in the middle of the L.P. have been blasted with a (frankly quite welcome) heat wave. It finally feels like summer, with the high humidity and ominously-droning Junebugs, and I can pretty much have a beer any ol' damn time I feel like it. Beer! Breakfast of champions. Beer! It's what's for dinner.

(Just heard a TAL podcast about the #1 party school, and all the kids who flock to Natural Light for it's cheapness…all the while admitting that it tastes horrible. Shit, I'm glad I'm past that age! I want to pay ten or twelve bucks for a single six-pack…and have each beer be akin to nectar of the gods!)

Other good things of this early summer:

1) Had a wonderful, LONG fucking overdue visit from Stephanie (formerly of Sweet Water Journal, and where tha' fuck ARE you with that, what?) who blew into town for good wine and good conversation and…oh yeah! A surprise shower for a mutual friend who became surprise preggers. Whoops. God DAMN those percentages printed on the box! Lull ya into a false sense of security every damn time… Anyway, loved having her here, wish to holy hell she and hubby would just move BACK to Michigan and have done with the fuckin' prairie, already!

2) Roz has been just phenomenally sweet and (more or less) agreeable lately. I think she likes having us both home, to serve at her beck and call. She has shown a newfound fearlessness that apparently comes from being (almost) 3, which I like a lot, the most obvious manifestation of which was a recent camel ride she undertook with Papa at the zoo a few weeks back.

3) Miss Tessmacher recently accepted a 6-week (!!) summer teaching position at Unnamed But Totally Obvious Northern Music Camp, and we're working out the deets as to how that'll affect Rozzle care, what with MY 3-week summer class overlapping her absence. We'll work it out…which is, I guess, what working parents do all the time, right?

4) I've been in a blissful news-free zone since school got out, which means I've been avoiding politics as well. That's good, because I can really get my underwear in a bunch about that stuff. Better to not give a shit, right? RIGHT?!? (Oil spill? WHAT oil spill???)

I had more I thought I'd write, but my beer is empty and I stink from my recent walk, so it's nigh into the shower with me. Be well, y'all, and go to Kiss Online to check for summer tour dates near you! Rock on.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gettin' Down To House Biz-ness

So, the semester is officially over. Big, BIG "Yay!" I didn't find it particularly onerous, but still…nice to be done. Now, some work on the house can begin in earnest!

The thing is…even though our new house is 94 years younger than the old house…the previous owners didn't really do squat while they lived here. The place was grossly dirty when we moved in…GROSSLY. Dirty. No exaggeration for comedic effect, there. Just…yucky. Heavy draperies with so much dust on them, it had actually become a kind of cloying, greasy substance. Ick. Especially considering it's mostly human skin. Double ick.

My mom was lamenting the scratches on the cupboard doors…only to find out, while cleaning them, that they WEREN'T scratches. What looked like scratches in the wood itself was actually light scratches in…the scum and scale that was coating the wood. Ewww! Once she got the scum cleaned off, the wood itself was perfect.

The yard is the same way. Now, I'm no Chem-Lawn enthusiast. Truth is, I'd be fine to do NOTHING to the yard, and mow what grows. However, it's choked with so many dandelions and other weeds, the grass is having a hard time growing. Grass grows more slowly than weeds, so by eliminating the weeds and encouraging thick, healthy grass, I'll be mowing less often. A tradeoff, perhaps? A couple of applications of Scott's per year, vs. the carbon footprint of mowing tall weeds every 4th day.

Luckily the house doesn't need any of the behind-the-scenes work that the old place did. No worries about the foundation, no need to rewire…it's all surfacey stuff. So, I'm trying to get a handle on the lawn, and the place is now pretty clean, and we're UNPACKED! I mean, really, completely unpacked. I need to mount some shelves in a small room in the basement for tools & such, but at least those 4 tubs are IN the room where they belong. Very cool. Now it's all about picking paint colors, and getting ready to eliminate the sloppily-applied, dull-as-shit neutral white that offends me from every wall, and get some vibrancy into the place. Photos to come.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Defining The Hatriots

I'm guessing it's a pretty common phenomenon to reach middle age and start to think about The Good Ole Days. Even if they weren't really all that good when you first lived 'em, there comes a day when a person wakes up, looks around, and thinks: "Holy fuck, how in the world did we get HERE?!?" Or, y'know, something like that. The thing about this happening during middle age, of course, is that (once again, I'm just now noticing) it's precisely at this point in your life when you have enough years "ago" to make comparisons between then and now, and the wisdom to make some sense of the comparisons. So, even though the '70s were really pretty sucky, I can look around at all my students with little cell phones metastasizing out of their crania and think "Wow, remember when 'talking on the phone' was the only thing you could do? You couldn't drive and talk, couldn't walk and talk; you could only…talk. That was really a lot better than now, man I miss the '70s!" That's the kind of thing I'm talking about. I go through this with TV a lot too: 3 channels (well, 4, but who the fuck watched PBS except kids on Sesame Street?), snow in between, had to get the fuck UP to change the channel, and they all went off the air at 2:00am to the sounds of the Banner. MUCH better than 4,000 channels of nothing to watch on digital television!

Speaking of TV: the news is something that I really miss. Oh, I know, there are lots of things right now pretending to be the news, but it really isn't. I mean The News, delivered authoritatively by Walter Cronkite or Huntley/Brinkley. Severe-looking men in comb-overs and eyeglasses mail-ordered from Bud's House of Soviet Eyewear. They delivered the news each night, and you listened and you believed them. Nowadays, the "news" is a 24-hour marathon, delivered by overcaffeinated dudes with spiky hair and slutty women who (apparently) need a reminder that their blouse has at least two more buttons they should be using. It's talking heads, opinion-based blathering that merely poses as news. And it seems like most of us either don't care or are too dumb to notice the difference.

The other thing about current "news" is that it's drifting farther and farther into the territory of divisiveness. Because, I guess, arguing sells. And so we're treated to Fox and MSNBC, Anne Coulter and Chris Matthews, neither one of 'em any kind of newsperson, but they sure do stir up a lotta shit. And we likes us some shit stew here in these United States…which, lately, are anything but. We like to sling shit at each other, and we like to watch other people sling shit, and sometimes it seems like we're just generally pretty crabby and insular and ego-driven. We're divided by great philosophical issues, and any attempt at reasonable mediation is seen not as a strength, or a desirable attitude, but rather as cowardice and indecision. And no one seems to believe this more strongly than The Hatriots.

Who are The Hatriots, you ask? They're a particular group of people who really seem to hate our country, but they shield themselves with a faux super-patriotism. Instead of admitting that they can't seem to work with the system we have, they try to trump the system with a patriotism that isn't real…only, they're too insular a group to recognize this. In this way, they are borderline schizophrenics: they have trouble accepting reality, which is manifested in their use of incoherent word salads and persecutory language. There's no "real" definition of a Hatriot, but I've cobbled together a list of their most common characteristics:

1) The Hatriots have a misplaced sense of longing for "Ago." That's what made me think of this in the first place, and why I started the post with a paean for The Good Ole Days. Hatriots, unable (or unwilling) to accept the modern country in which they live, yearn for a time when the country was "better," or "simpler," which really means they long for the past. Even when the past wasn't necessarily better, or even simple. It's an easy argument to make, though, when you don't wish to deal with the present.

2) Considering arguments, Hatriots use weasel-words and slippery-slope logic to obtain the results they want. Specifically, they paint with broad strokes to follow these paths. A poll that finds 51% of people are against something becomes "most Americans" becomes "Americans." "Recent polls show that Americans do not want this health care bill!" That's bunk. So is the idea of claiming "home turf" on ideas and concepts that are really pretty universal. Andrew Breitbart says of his father: "He expressed his conservatism by working 16-hour days at the restaurant and never complaining." That's not conservative, dude…that's just a good work ethic, and you don't get to claim it with that sort of slippery-slope reasoning.

3) They wrap themselves in the flag to promote their ideas as "American." This is one of the most prominent characteristics of The Hatriots, and it follows the idea of unassailable logic. If you claim something is American, and promote that idea with fierce flag-waving…well, who can argue with it? The whole POINT of Hatriotism is to pull a black-is-white switcheroo to mask the true nature of the beast. This is similar to trying to argue what does or does not constitute "Christianity." Every third person has a slightly different definition, and of course everyone else's definition is wrong.

4) Using that idea of faith-based logic as a springboard, The Hatriots don't recognize that there IS no such thing. "Faith" and "logic" are mutually exclusive, such that there reaches an eventual end point beyond which The Hatriots cannot be refuted. Bob MacGuffie, a Connecticut organizer for tea party group Right Principles, said it best when he claimed "They can't debate our message and that's their problem."

5) Most Hatriots can't understand the difference between faith and logic because, frankly, they ain't that smart. And that's the thing with Hatriotism: a claim of being patriotic is intended to trump intelligence. In the world of The Hatriot, being "smart" is seen as a handicap; they revel in anti-elitism.

6) Because of this widespread lack of real intelligence, many Hatriotic desires are mutually exclusive or oxymoronic. A Hatriot who decried the Federal Government's salvation of General Motors might conveniently forget that his father was a GM lifer and relies on his pension to live. Or, a Hatriot might slam government intervention in business, but gladly take his farm subsidy payment.

7) Hatriots, as a general rule, are more certain of what they are AGAINST than what they are FOR. I think this is because they recognize subconsciously that the things they ARE for, aren't really possible. So, they take the easy, lazy way out, and kvetch about this or that, complain complain complain, yadda yadda yadda…using tons of words and week-kneed "logic" to overwhelm you into not noticing that they haven't said a single thing that they WANT. Only the vaguest terms will do: "Well, I want government out of my back pocket." Yes, but that again is something you are AGAINST: government. What do you want INSTEAD? Do you WANT to abolish Social Security? What happens when YOU want to retire? How's YOUR nest egg? No, it's much easier to rail against "problems" than to try to "solve" them.

8) All this talk of arguing - with or without logic - reminds me that Hatriots seem to prefer arguing and insulting to discussion. In any tactical circumstance, that's a sure sign of a weak position; hence Roosevelt's slogan "Speak softly and carry a big stick." People who speak loudly (and insultingly) often don't HAVE a stick, figuratively speaking. Thus, it SHOULD be appallingly easy to beat the shit out of Hatriots with the truth…but, then again, they generally don't acknowledge the truth.

9) Speaking of truths: Hatriots tend to disavow them. While "truth" can mean different things at different times, something that shows up as "true" that goes against what a Hatriot wants/needs to believe is wholly disregarded. It's a "trick," or "lamestream media lies." Even better: Hatriots game-saver is to change the whole direction of the discussion, get you trying to refute other points, and soon you've lost the original nugget of discussion altogether.

10) In combating undesirable truths, Hatriots will denigrate legitimate things with catchy (but empty) pejoratives: "lamestream media," "Communist News Network," "Retardicans," "libtards." Former Gov. Palin is a master at this, which only serves to demonstrate the mutually exclusive desires of Hatriots: she decries unflattering news as coming from the lamestream media, but she desperately needs them in order to further her career. If I was in charge of a mainstream media conglomerate, my first editorial memo would read "Sarah Palin does not exist." This tactic of puerile insult seeks to make something out of nothing, like the evangelicals who tried so hard to make Kiss an acronym for "Knights In Satan's Service." Didn't work then…won't work now.

So, there ya go. NOT patriots. NOT in support of their country. Looking instead to the past, in search of a country that probably never existed in the first place. They are country HATERS. Hence: Hatriots.