Friday, February 7, 2014

First Snow

Portland decided it had to get in on all this polar vortexing action. We haven't had major snow like this in 3 or 4 years, and are supposed to be getting double what's on the ground (5-10 inches already) with some freezing rain too. Never let it be said that Oregon does anything half-heartedly.

Poor ducklets. The Great Blue Heron that is a regular around here has absconded somewhere else. Hopefully she's found a place with a little more wiggle room.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Friday, December 6, 2013

24th Anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique Massacre

24 years ago today, a man went to the engineering school at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. He separated women from men, and began shooting the women for being "feminists" (that is, he accused them of being feminists solely for majoring in a male-dominated field). 14 women were killed, 10 were injured; with 4 men also being injured in the crossfire, although they were not his targets.
It is not an event we hear much about in the U.S., but it is still a major event in Canada. Every year, at universities all over the country they hold remembrances, they have a moment of silence in their House of Commons. The event lead to galvanized grassroots organizations on women's rights, violence and gun safety; greater gun control laws; better police response during emergencies; and a government committee to study violence against women.

Required reading:


Nelson Mandela

There are rightly articles everywhere lionizing Nelson Mandela since his death yesterday. Others have said it much better, but his is a death that has hit me hard. The man was one of my heroes. He wasn't perfect by any means, but what he was able to achieve was absolutely monumental.
There are those who say he was a terrorist--interestingly those same people would probably in the next breath proclaim the rightness of resistance groups against the Nazis, even if said resistance groups targeted collaborators or were willing to risk citizen collateral damage. (Please note, I am not promoting violence, but South Africa was most definitely at war with its black citizens, and people do have a right to self-defense, and to resist against a tyrannical and oppressive regime.)
I've seen people complain that Mandela avoiding war/reprisals when he got out of prison was only doing the right thing and he shouldn't be lauded for that. Which ignores the situation: after 46 years of oppression, lack of the basic human rights, mass killings, mass torture, rape, kidnappings/disappearances caused by the police and government forces, those who resisted being imprisoned or having to flee into exile, and so on; it wasn't just doing the right thing to avoid violence. South Africa was absolutely on the brink of mass civil war. The right wing army was plotting to assassinate Mandela and re-institute apartheid. Black people were angry, wanting justice, wanting closure, wanting something for all those years of despair and heartache. And it is a testament not just to Mandela, but to all South Africans, that they managed to negotiate that transition peacefully. If it had been any other person other than Mandela leading, it is very very doubtful the outcome would have been so peaceful. Mandela came out of prison: renounced violence; instituted the truth and forgiveness trials (while still providing traditional prison terms to the worst of the lot); did as much as possible to heal the deep painful breaches between blacks and whites; and then stepped aside after his term was over, devoted his time to numerous charity causes and created a council of international elders to advise and work on issues like peace, climate change, poverty, and AIDS. And for all that, he absolutely is a hero, he absolutely does desire the praise and adulation.

Nelson Mandela's own words:
“where poverty exists, there is not true freedom. The world is hungry for action, not words. In this new century, millions of people in the world’s poorest countries—including South Africa—remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free.”

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."
If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.
If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

"I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying."

"Social equality is the only basis of human happiness."

"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."

"On my last day I want those who remain behind to say: 'The man who lies here has done his duty for his country and his people.'"

A list of articles to read on how the media tries to sanitize/downplay Mandela's radicalism, much as they have with Martin Luther King Jr:
Read/watch list on apartheid:
A list of YA/children's books on South Africa:
tribute from Bishop Desmond Tutu

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spoken from the Heart and Speaking for Myself

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush is an weird autobiographical mix. The first half of the book, is all about Bush's childhood and early career as a schoolteacher and librarian. It goes into great detail about her life, personality, etc. The second part barely skims the surface of her later life, mostly just listing people and places, little insight into how she actually felt or handled being the First Lady. And certainly little insight into her husband's presidency, although of course she doesn't ever criticize any of his actions. The years in the governorship of Texas gets barely even a chapter.
And it's fine, it's readable, but not very memorable. Bush's pretty open about the car accident she was in near the end of high school; where she failed to stop at a stop sign (because teenage driver distracted by friends, because it was night and intersection not marked well) and t-boned another car, which killed the other driver. Who happened to be a friend from her high school. She is very open about how traumatic it was, and how much that event changed her. She talks about how she never went over to see the boy's parents, as she didn't think they'd want to see her, she left a few months later for college, etc. But that after having her kids, she realized that was incredibly wrong and she should have gone. Yet there's no explanation or reason given for why she didn't seek his parents out then. Was it that they both had passed on already? That she couldn't find out where they lived (which doesn't seem possible, surely once your husband is the president of the US, you could have tracked them down)? It never says why, just kind of leaves that hanging.
And there's a few places, during the presidency on her husband's policies (although she probably wisely mostly steers clear of wading into that mess), but also in her youth, of protesting too much. She declares that no girl at her high school ever drank. Even when she's talking about how the boys drank. And then at college, declares that not one of her friends from back home ever tried drugs at college. Which, I don't know, it could be true. But seems pretty unlikely.

And I have so many things to say on the whole topic of the role of the First Lady. It's the highest unpaid, unelected position in the US. The First Lady is expected to have her own "policies' and "agendas," a huge staff (Hillary Rodham* said she had 50 people in the First Lady's office, I don't think Bush ever says how many she had), do domestic and international public goodwill tours, serve as hostess to all these events, redecorate/repair the White House, and so on. But again, not paid, not elected. And if the woman takes on too much of an interest in politics, she's castigated and pilloried for it (Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Todd Lincoln, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Rodham). But if she doesn't seem to show enough interest, she's mocked and derided for being too domestic/stand-offish/shy/etc (Mamie Eisenhower, Bess Truman, Laura Bush, Nancy Reagan). It's completely bogus. Could you imagine the shock and outrage if a First Lady decided that she wouldn't do these things? Or worse, if she continued on her own career while her husband were president? A First Lady who declared she would keep working during her husband's presidency would probably completely scuttle her husband's career.

*Hillary kept her birth name and never actually took Clinton's last name. When Bill Clinton was governor, his staff took it upon themselves to start adding Clinton to the end of her name to her documents or event programs or whatever. She fought it for a while, but eventually gave up.

It's such a contrast to then read a book like Speaking for Myself by Cherie Blair. She was the first prime minister's wife to work while her spouse was in office, as a barrister who specializes in human rights law. The Blairs were also the family with the youngest children while in office. And the British press never really knew what to make of her; she got into a few controversies for some things she said, especially for being perceived as an anti-monarchist, and for once getting the paper in her bathrobe (which, was pretty naive, it was their first or second morning in the Prime Minister's house, and you don't realize that there are going to be reporters staked outside? When the British press are some of the most invasive and aggressive anywhere? Come on.). While I have no real appreciation for her husband, I did find her book quite interesting.
As I say, the role of prime minister's wife is very different. First, she doesn't have a "title" like First Lady. Second, she has a staff of about 4, to help her keep her schedule, answer mail, and whatever else. But that's it, she doesn't need to set an "agenda" because she isn't a politician, she doesn't need to help plan events and dinners, or re-decorate the house, you know why? Because they have people who are paid to do those things. Amazing.

So anyway:

Spoken from the Heart: 2 stars out of 5
Speaking for Myself: 3 stars out of 5

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's a Music Video Kind of Day

Although I actually really loved Zeppelin, I'm not a huge fan of this particular song because it's so over-done. But Heart absolutely nails it. And you know they've nailed it when they get a standing ovation from Zeppelin plus tears from Page. That's how a homage is done.

So I hate Miley Cyrus' songs. And I've been avoiding her newest. But this country version is fantastic. And I'll pretend it's the only one out there.

I don't know what it is about Cher, but she's one of those people that gets carte blanche from me. She shows up in a waist-length newspaper shredded wig that looks like Mustafa's mane, and I say oh Cher, I didn't know that was something I needed in my life till now. Let me treasure you some more. (but, not as dirty as that sounds) Just like this video of her entrance on David Letterman where she descends on a swing while My Country 'Tis of Thee plays (the second video in the article). Because somehow, that is perfect and everything I want about a Cher entrance.

A song that's apparently huge in The Netherlands right now. And I may have listened to this repeatedly since discovering it. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Good news Wednesday

Because I think we can all use it right now. 

Maternal deaths in the Republic of Congo have dropped 50% over the last ten years:

Violent crime at a historic low:

The Killers have a new song out:

Finally gaining some momentum lately in the move to get rid of the Washington football team's racist name:

Awesome children's librarian reads to an alligator:

This is really good, you should watch it:

And finally, this is one of my favorite satire pieces on celebrities and charities. It makes me laugh every time I read it: