Monday, July 31, 2006

Hooooooo-boy...

This blog has just GOT to be bogus. (Via Running Scared)

This is gonna be a loooooooong week...

There's another heat wave rolling toward the northeastern US. Why should California and the midwest have all the fun? Surely NYC is up for a few more days of 100-degree weather. Right?

Man, am I nervous about the coming week. Especially with Kevin "Denial Ain't a River in Egypt" Burke as the man ultimately responsible for this city's power grid. Note this little nugget of comedy gold:

Burke says despite the failure of 10 out of 22 feeder cables in northwest Queens, the area's power network has a better performance record than others around the city.

"Despite the failure of 10 out of 22 feeder cables." BWAH!

The NY Daily News weighs in on the matter, faulting the Public Service Commission along with Con Ed. It points to a report by attorney general Eliot Spitzer that Con Ed's feeder cables have had a tendency to fail; seven cables went down in 1999. Spitzer has said that if elected governor, he'd whip the Public Service Commission into shape, and he'd have the authority to do so. Bloomie notwithstanding, New York politicians are hopping mad at Con Ed.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

"I was a Republican until they lost their minds"

So sayeth Charles Barkley, who wants to run for governor of Alabama in 2010 as a Democrat.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the blackout...

Kevin Burke, Con Ed's CEO, is trying to do damage control. Uh...Kevvie? It's nice that you want to win back our trust, but don't you think you should try to UPGRADE YOUR COMPANY'S INFRASTRUCTURE first?

Back from the Poconos!

Yes, I needed that extended weekend. Le Sweetie and I joined friends at their cabin and spent the time hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and visiting an amusement park. The hiking, swimming, and horseback riding were cool. The amusement park...well, it wasn't Great Adventure, but hey. Last time we were there, we went to a different water park that was really nice, so perhaps one day we'll go back there. I came home to find that the electricity was still here. A good sign!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

One bright side to this whole week

On Thursday, I leave for the Poconos, where friends have a cottage. Out in the picturesque wilderness, where things are usually dark for a reason (i.e., it's night and you're out in the middle of nowhere). After camping out at Le Sweetie's for four days, I get to spend more quality time with Le Sweetie (and friends) without having to follow the Con Ed follies on NY1. Yaaaaaaaaaaay!!!

Okay, time for some perspective...

Northwest Queens may have spent a whole week suffering in the heat and darkness, but it seems we're not alone. See Parenthetical Remarks for more. Meanwhile, Dusty over at It's My Right to Be Left of Center is experiencing brownouts and oppressive heat over in central California.

Misery shore loves company, don't it?

Dear Con Ed: You suck.

Yes, NYC's power company, Con (Artists) Edison spent about a week bungling and lying and bungling some more before they finally got all the power back up in northwestern Queens. For some, the power first went out on Monday, 7/17. As mentioned earlier, this blogger gal noted that something was, well, not right on Tuesday as her AC grumbled its way through the night in 100-degree weather. Boy, was that fun. As it turns out, my apartment was experiencing a brownout, and the power grew dimmer and dimmer and dimmer.

Wednesday, the power was almost gone, Astoria was in the dark, and I came home to a fridge full of spoiled food and melted frozen spinach. With cooking not an option, I found one restaurant that was still open. I walked there and back with a flashlight in hand. It felt like camping, only without the s'mores and Girl Scout leaders singing folk songs.

No, there was no looting or burlary. Just a lot of really pissed off people walking around on a humid summer night.

Oh yeah, I should add that at one point I called Con Ed to get some automated message telling me that they were working on the problem and to call back tomorrow. Con Ed claimed that 2,500 people were without electricity. Who were they trying to kid? Five neighborhoods--Astoria, Woodside, Hunter's Point, Long Island City, and Sunnyside--were without power. Only 2,500? There's a Con Ed plant right in Astoria. Couldn't they have just looked out the window?

It wasn't until Friday that the company admitted that--WHOOPS!--the number of people without power was closer to 25,000. They'd based their initial count of 2,500 on the number of people who called them. They conveniently ignored the people who'd tried to call but couldn't get through because the lines tied up with other irate customers. Meanwhile, city councilmen Eric Gioia and Peter Vallone Jr. and Assemblyman Michael Gianaris were fuming. Forget able-bodied, healthy folks like yours truly. As Gianaris pointed out, the loss of power was actually life-threatening for some.
"They [Con Ed] acted recklessly by releasing numbers the knew were false, and people's health was put at risk....We had diabetics who couldn't keep their insulin in the refrigerator. We had seniors in highrises who couldn't get food and water."

There was also the risk of accidents because the traffic lights weren't working. Con Ed is very, very lucky that nobody suffered heatstroke or was hit by a car.

Although Bloomberg seems miffed at Con Ed for playing coy with the numbers, he still praised the president, Kevin Burke. Burke, meanwhile, kept a low profile until the following weekend. Power wasn't even fully restored to all of Queens until today.

Angry? Me? Hell yes. Con Ed has been dishonest and inept through the whole crisis. Bloomie, though he tried to play nice, admits that if he'd known the true extent of the blackout, he would've devoted more resources to it sooner.

At one point, I called the office of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and spoke to a very nice man. According to him, Con Ed had been given 3 billion dollars to upgrade their systems. So what did they do with the fucking money, anyway?

Seriously, they should bring criminal charges against the company for reckless endangerment and, possibly, criminal negligence. Yes, I got my power back over the weekend and I'm still pissed off.

Well, as of today, Queens has all its power back...just as Staten Island suffers a power outage. This time, Con Ed says 10,000 people are affected, which no doubt means the actual number is much, much higher.

Hang in there, S.I.! With any luck, your electricity will be restored before Labor Day!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why there's never any blackout blogging...

For one thing, there's no electricity to make said blogging possible. That said, my neighborhood of Astoria, Queens was in the dark for about a week. I had a brownout in my own apartment starting on Tuesday, meaning that my 60-watt light bulbs were operating at 10 watts and all my food was ruined. And this dragged on from Tuesday until Sunday or so. AAARRRRRRRGGGGGGH! There are still about 3,000 people in Woodside who still haven't gotten their power back, and it's been over a week.

Luckily, I had Le Sweetie to provide me with a place to sleep that had electricity and A/C, but it still sucked to see my neighborhood (along with four others) in the dark. I'll offer more opinions on the con artists at Con Ed and the mayor's response to this fiasco later...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

GRRROOOOAAAANNN...

Can't Bush just keep his mouth shut for the rest of the presidential term?

Here's the scoop from CNN:
During a joint news conference Saturday in St. Petersburg, Bush said he raised concerns about democracy in Russia during a frank discussion with the Russian leader.

"I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same," Bush said.

To that, Putin replied, "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy that they have in Iraq, quite honestly."


I imagine Putin desperately trying to keep a straight face as he spoke.

Via Mockingbird's Medley.

Another day, another Republican does something illegal

Peter Coors, former GOP Senate candidate and scion of the family that makes crappy beer, has been arrested for drunk driving.

Coney Island, baby!

Spent yesterday in the sun in fun, sunny, funky, exciting Coney Island! Le Sweetie and I were there for the Village Voice's Siren Music Festival, a free event starring cool indie bands on two different stages. We met up with several friends and spent the afternoon listening to music, eating hot dogs, and, of course, going on the rides.

The Siren Festival is set right in the middle of Coney Island's Astroland amusement park, home of the world-famous Coney Island Cyclone. Every time I visit Coney Island, I take a few minutes to gaze longingly at the Cyclone. The coaster seems to beckon silently: "Come on...jump aboard! You know you want to!!!"

Le Sweetie doesn't quite share the coaster love. In fact, he needs someone (usually me) to hold his hand. He also needs to keep his eyes closed. In fact, this time he decided to pass on riding the Cyclone and I jumped aboard with a friend.

C'mon, doesn't this picture make you want to head for the nearest amusement park?

(From the Rollercoaster Database.)

Now, on to the bands. The Stills and Stars were quite good. This year, Montreal bands ruled the band roster. Understandable, as Montreal seems to be the hawt new music scene in this decade, as Seattle and Minneapolis were in years past.

But the most intriguing bands on the bill were Celebration and the heeeeee-larious Man Man. Le Sweetie describes the latter band as "Zappa and Beefheart leading a carnival band." Of all the Siren acts, they are the ones I most want to see again.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A fitting song for our times...


No one is united
All things are untied
Perhaps we're boiling over inside
They've been telling lies

Who's been telling lies?
There are no angels
There are devils in many ways
Take it like a man

The world's a mess it's in my kiss
The world's a mess it's in my kiss

You can take it back
Pull it out of the fire
Pull it out
In the bottom of the night
Pull it out
Chords of red-disease
Drag on the system
Drag on my head and body
There are some facts here
That refuse to escape
I could say it stronger
But it's too much trouble
I was wondering down at the bricks
Hectic, isn't it?
Down we go
Cradle and all

From "The World's a Mess (It's in My Kiss)". Words and music by John Doe and Exene Cervenka. Recorded by X.

Mind you, X guitarist Billy Zoom has since become a born-again Limbaugh listener (sigh), but it's still a great--and very appropriate--song for the beginning of the twenty-first century. Even if it was recorded in 1980.

Crybaby Conservative Alert! (And other stuff, too)

Apparently, the Young America Foundation refused to issue press credentials to a reporter from CampusProgress.org and said they'd also deny credentials to The Nation and Alternet. Here's the whole story. What's YAF afraid of, anyway?

It's all over again deja vu as the American people decide the GOP has overstayed its welcome. And just twelve years after that great GOP sweep. That long-term Republican majority didn't last long, did it?

This is just stomach-wrenching. Even the tabloids think it's repulsive. (Via Debsweb)

What can I say about the Israel/Lebanon/Hamas/Hizbollah conflict that hasn't been said before? It's really making me nervous. Best case scenario? It's one of those Israeli/Arab conflicts that doesn't last longer than a few days. Worst case scenario? Don't ask.

She speaks!!!!!

"I and my former colleagues trusted the government to protect us in our jobs." So said Valerie Plame yesterday, at a press conference with her husband, Joe Wilson. They have now filed a civil suit against Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. For three years, Plame has remained silent while her husband took her case against Bushco to the American people.

Lest anyone think this is a victimless crime, I should add that Plame specialized in nonconventional weapons and had extensive contacts in the Middle East--contacts who may well be dead by now. Novak, the guy who blew her cover, even admitted as much. And yes, wingnuts, she was indeed a covert operative. The CIA said so. Former CIA agent Larry Johnson has more, for anyone non-Kool Aid drinkers.

Amazing how the extremists will go into a homicidal rage over The New York Times but conveniently overlook the outing of a CIA agent. Gee, you don't think that outing a CIA agent specializing in WMDs somehow hurts national security?

Authoritarian test results

That's Ms. Liberal Airhead to you.

(Via The Green Knight)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Someone slept through his geography classes.

Tucker Carlson weighs in on immigration:
Tucker Carlson: Those may be -- nationally those stats may be correct. You may have -- you may be counting Hispanic immigrants from Puerto Rico or Cuba, but those two countries make up less than 1 percent of the Hispanic immigrants in Dallas, Texas.

For the kazillionth time, Puerto Ricans are NOT immigrants. Puerto Rico is NOT a foreign country. It's a US territory; hence, Puerto Ricans are US citizens.

This is common knowledge...or at least it should be.

Maybe wearing those bow ties interrupted the blood flow to Li'l Tucker's brain all those years. First Paste-Eating Pete, now this.

(Via Eschaton)

What happens when a right-wing doofus can't recognize satire?

Well, he might read a story in The Onion about a lady named Caroline Weber and how thrilled she is to be getting an abortion. And he just might blow a gasket.

He might then respond with a strident, rather humorless post. Something along the lines of:
Miss Weber, you have killed your child, which you admit is a baby/human being, intentionally. That does make you an admitted murderer. I'm not going to "condemn you to hell", I'm going to pray for your forgiveness and for the suffering which you will endure when you realize what you have done. Every baby you see from that moment on is going to wake you up to the realization that you killed your child.


Needless to say, he might then get a flood of comments, all seeking to educate him as to the facts: namely, that the article was a humorous piece in a paper that specializes in humor, that Caroline "Yippee, I'm Having an Abortion!" Weber does not in fact exist.

Confronted with these undeniable facts, he would then have two choices: either own up to his mistake, uttering "Sorry, my bad," or go on the defensive. As it turns out, our right-winger took the latter option:
Needless to say, a few people wanted to let me know that I was a dolt for thinking that her article was real. As a matter of fact, call me a dolt, because in the beginning I really did think it was real. Why? because I meet women like her in the field all the time. Anyway, I wrote the blog in a way that was meant to point out how psychotic the pro-abortion movement is.

Which is beside the point, of course, as it is common knowledge that The Onion is a satirical paper. If our right-winger had read the rest of the publication, he may have figured this out.

But he couldn't stomach the fact that he might have goofed, so instead he became angry and defensive, griping about all the mean people who responded to him. He has also chosen not to allow any more comments on his blog.

Of course, you can still read the comments and post your own responses via Haloscan. Just go here.

Oh dear. It seems The Huffington Post has picked up on this latest blogospheric knee-slapper. Congratulations, Pete--you are now an internet celebrity! In case you're annoyed by the attention, relax. Your fame should only last about 15 minutes or so.

When It's Time to Change, You've Got to Rearrange...

...Hence this blog's sunny new look. I was just in a really summery mood.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dear Mr. Chertoff: You're joking, RIGHT?

So why Homeland Security cut NYC's funding by 40 percent? Well, it seems this city doesn't have any assets worth protecting, while other states do. That's right, the Empire State Building is not a national asset, but our country's petting zoos, flea markets, and popcorn factories are.

See, there's something called the National Asset Database, and according to this database, Indiana is one big ol' bullseye for terrorists, with 8,591 "assets." What kind of assets? Well, it has Amish County Popcorn. I didn't know the Amish even made popcorn. The company's owner could come up with only one explanation: "Maybe because popcorn explodes?"

Le Sweetie suggests, "I think they should also delist 1600 Pennsylvannia Ave as a threat since they're obviously not doing any defense for this country."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!!!



Okay, which paragon of business and marketing savvy thought that this ad was appropriate? "White is coming?" What is this, Birth of a Nation?

(Via The Hackenblog)

UPDATE: The offending ad has been withdrawn.

Syd Barrett, 1946-2006

R.I.P.

Monday, July 10, 2006

News from an evil parallel universe

Why was Ken Lay taken from us so soon? Jon Swift thinks he knows.

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, here's a short, short story starring Bush and Chirac. Poppy's boy sure has a way with heads of state, doesn't he?

Via Elayne Riggs, I have found out about something called PayPerPost.com. Yes, in the future, we won't need advertising mascots or has-been actors selling. We can get a bunch of mouse potatoes instead. Saves advertising dollars. Whoopee!

Truly horrible. So what exactly is the US doing to stamp out al Qaeda. Are they going to shut down any more CIA programs?

Over at Parenthetical Remarks, fun for the blasphemous.

Kansas is a really weird state

It's right in the middle of the country. It doesn't seem to have any lakes or rivers or any bodies of water whatsoever. It's a state where little girls get swept away by tornadoes and ending up in weird countries where people practice witchcraft. A Mediterranean gecko has been spotted there. And a Republican husband and Democrat wife are running for the same seat in the Kansas legislature.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Slashiest Administration in American History



WARNING: This post is rated NC-17 for adult language, squicky theories, and hot, sweaty sex stuff. It should not be read by kids, overly serious political bloggers, or anyone with a weak stomach.

A-HEM...

There's a curious underside to the Bush presidency, one that his most vehement moral values voters refuse to acknowledge even as they struggle to justify their loyalty. It's something that the 36 percenters don't dare speak of, because the very idea is not only morally abhorrent to them, but just plain icky yucky gross.

Before we talk about what that ickiness is, a bit of history: During the 1990s, when it was okay to not give a shit about politicians, I was an active, sometimes overenthusiastic member of science fiction fandom. I hung out in chat rooms. I posted to Usenet groups and AOL boards. (Yes, I was on AOL. I got smart later on, okay?) I loved The X-Files and Farscape. I thought Xena was way fun. But my favorite show was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; I cried my eyes out when it ended.

And like so many fans, I became an even more active little fan by writing...don't laugh...fan fiction. Yes, fan fiction. Nothing sleazy or shocking. No "Kirk and Spock as 23rd-century love bunnies" stories. I was an enthusiastic fan who took her fannishness a couple of steps further. There are still some fan stories of mine floating around the Web, but I've since moved on.

If you explore enough fan fiction sites and read enough zines, you get an idea of the kinds of things devoted fans are writing about their fictional heroes. In fact, there is a lot of interesting, smartly written fanfic out there: short stories, vignettes, novels, parodies. There is also plenty of dreck. There are fan stories for every TV show, movie, Broadway musical, game, or comic book you can think of. There are, allegedly, fan stories using cereal mascots, although I have never been able to find them. There is Minesweeper fan fiction, Pong fan fiction, and even fan fiction based on real people. There are fanfic archetypes, including the infamous Mary Sues. There are also innumerable subgenres, the best known being slash.

Slash, for those unlucky enough to have never encountered it, is fan fiction pairing two characters of the same sex--usually male. The term comes from the fact that the characters' names are offset with a slash, as in "Kirk/Spock," "Duncan MacLeod/Methos," "Mulder/Krycek," or "Timon/Pumbaa." Pairing characters in homoerotic settings is referred to as "slashing" them. Slash writers are almost always female. It's kind of weird how that happens. I mean, it's not like guys get off on lesbian porn or anything like that.

Yes, if you are unfamiliar with fandom, you will find yourself thinking, "These people have way too much time on their hands."

A new subgenre has emerged, called real person slash, or RPS. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, with its male eye candy, helped to stir the imaginations of RPS authors. Here's one article on an RPS story that pairs Morrissey (waitaminnit, isn't he celibate?) with a member of Franz Ferdinand. For what it's worth, the FF dudes seem amused.

And what, pray tell, does all this have to do with the Bush administration? Well, much as it pains me to admit it, this is the most slash-worthy administration we've ever had. Never mind the failed gay marriage amendment. Never mind all the GOP's cozying up to the religious right. You'll find more gay subtext in today's government than in a whole season of Xena: Warrior Princess. This has led to lots of Fun with Fotoshop in the blogosphere.



Politician slash remains a sub-sub-sub-genre that most fans don't want to acknowledge, but it's hardly new. Take PrezSlash 2000: That's the Ticket, for instance. In 2004, John Kerry/John Edwards slash enjoyed brief popularity. Historically, Dem politicians have been easier on the eyes than their GOP counterparts. But now, with Republicans controlling the government, writers are coming to see the slash potential of our commander in chief and the stud muffins in Congress. In an administration that's declared open season on homosexuals, there have to be some deeply closeted, self-hating gays, and thus potetial for all kinds of angst-ridden poli-slash. And there are currently writers looking to fulfill this potential.

Current Affairs is the fanfic site that proclaims, "Make a political statement. Slash a politician!" Again, in case anyone thinks these people belong on an FBI watch list, "slashing" refers to writing gay fiction about them.



Who better to imagine in a slashy setting than Rick Santorum, a man whose behavior just screams "closet case"? Weathering the Storm stars Santorum and Louisiana Senator David Vitter. Vitter, you may recall backed the gay marriage amendment because "I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one." And that goes for his constituents who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina. Anyhow, another story in this series has Tom DeLay sneering as he confronts Li'l Ricky regarding "the love that dare not speak its name."

Still, nobody has paired Bush with Rove--you think there's something behind the TURDblossom nickname perhaps? Nobody's paired Cheney with anyone or anything. Most bizarre of all, nobody's included studly rent boy turned GOP attack dog Jeff Gannon in their stories. Perhaps the intrepid wordsmiths at Current Affairs should take note of this and get their imaginations to work.

Orrin Hatch springs cokehead record producer from jail

Yes, Senator Orrin Hatch is a professional recording artist in his own right. In fact, he's Mormonism's best-known musical figure since the Osmonds, and you can sample his artistry at his official Web site. There, you'll find out about how his parents, despite being very poor, always made sure their kids had seats at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. You'll also learn that he wrote a song for his friend Ted Kennedy and that he started writing poetry at Brigham Young Unviersity. Orrin Hatch is a career politician with the soul of an artist. Maybe that's why he was moved to help R&B producer Dallas Austin, who was busted for cocaine in Dubai.

Or maybe it's because they have the same lawyer.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I guess this is a step forward for gender equality...right?

Via Rox Populi. If there's ever a Deuce Bigelow sequel, Ms. Fleiss will surely make a cameo. LA Weekly has more.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Senator Smarm strikes again!

Joe Biden, SHUT UP!

Oh, this is gonna make the Texas GOP real happy

Even though Tom DeLay's not running for re-election, it seems the Republicans are stuck with him. As you may recall, the little weasel won the Republican primary but dropped out of the race a month later. This prompted Democracy for America to send him a bunch of farewell cards and rubber chickens. Well, a judge has ruled that he can't get off the ballot. The Texas GOP can't replace him. He's the Republican candidate whether he likes it or not. Even though he may be wearing a prison jumpsuit before the next election cycle.

His opponent, Nick Lampson, has got to be dancing on air right now. As one unfortunate DeLay constituent puts it:

In a charming and delightful twist of fate, Republicans must now "Judge Shop" for an "Activist Judge" to get their way. I mean, even Republicans will have to admit that's funny.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Snif snif...I'm almost moved to tears

Herman B. Hayes of Conservatives for American Values offers some words of comfort regarding Ken Lay's passing.
Most people don’t know that Ken “Retirement is for Losers” Lay was a leader in the fight against obesity in the elderly. By keeping so many ex Enron employees from collecting pensions, Ken Lay was doing them a huge favor. Old people with money have a tendency to get lazy, and getting lazy makes old people fat. Everyone knows that if you are fat and lazy, God will kill you with a huge heart attack. I do not know how our Good Lord chose to take Ken “Not Like Fred Sanford” Lay, but I doubt it was a heart attack. I cannot bring myself to watch the liberal media tear this great man apart, and I am not sure that I need to know how he died.

Makes me regret my earlier snark regarding Kenny Boy. I'm such a mean socialist sometimes.

On Ken Lay

I don't mean to speak ill of the recently deceased, but wouldn't it be nice if the money from Ken Lay's estate was distributed to his employees--you know, the ones who lost their pensions because of him?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

War on terror? What war on terror?

From the NYT:

The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday.

The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.

The decision is a milestone for the agency, which formed the unit before Osama bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush pledged to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."

Yes, this is a unit that was formed under the Clinton administration for the sole purpose of finding bin Laden. And under Bushco, it's been shut down.

So WHO is soft on terror?

Super-special July 4 post!!!!

For July 4, we turn our attention away from picnics, fireworks, and holiday sales. People, we've got a national identity crisis with our national anthem. According to a Harris poll, two thirds of Americans don't know all the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner." I know what you're thinking: "What're you talking about? Everyone knows the words to that song! We've been hearing it and singing it since elementary school. It's sung before every baseball game. Besides, it's only eight lines long, so how can you not have it committed to memory by the time you're twelve?"

Um...erm...only eight lines long? Not quite. In fact, the original song consists of four verses of eight lines each--32 lines total. And while most people do indeed have Verse 1 committed to memory, Verses 2-4 are never sung and remain unknown to most Americans.

For the record, the complete lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner" are as follows:

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'T is the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

A complete history of "The Star Spangled Banner" can be found here.

Okay, you can see why most people stick with the first verse.

"As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses"? Sounds like a tongue twister in the making.

"Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution"? Mixed metaphor alert! Mixed metaphor alert!

"No refuge could save the hireling and slave"? Uhhhhhh...let's just say this lyric reflects the time period its composer lived in and leave it that, okay? And avoid singing it anywhere above 125th Street in Manhattan.

The National Anthem Project, founded by patriotic music teachers, aims to teach kids about the song's history--goofy mixed metaphors and all.

The other main challenge--aside from memorizing the lines about footsteps causing pollution--is actually singing the song. This is harder than it looks because "The Star Spangled Banner" is a song of swoops and dips, one that even professional opera singers have difficulty mastering, and if you're an untrained singer with a voice like an out-of-tune foghorn, you'll be struggling with the melody and hoping your voice won't give out. (Of course, if you're really such a lousy singer, you'll never be called upon to sing at any public anyway.)

As a spokesman for the National Anthem Project puts it: "It is a very challenging song, you are right about that. But that is why we want music teachers helping young people deal with it." Just think, one of the kids they're reaching could become the next Whitney Houston, belting out the national anthem in the midst of a sporting event, thus helping to lift the national spirit during a time of war.

Conversely, they could also become the next Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr--celebrities who botched the song. Barr's then-spouse, Tom Arnold, defended her, saying, "Most people can't sing the song. She represented those people. She sang her heart out." Carl Lewis, who was actually trying for a singing career at one point, simply--what's a good word to use here?--overreached. Yeah, that's it.

Periodically, people have suggested replacing the national anthem with another one--a song easier on the vocal cords but no less patriotic. "America the Beautiful" is one possibility, "This Land Is Your Land" is another. But these discussions have never gotten past the "wouldn't-it-interesting-if" stage, and until then, Americans will continue to sing about flags waving through savage nights and perilous fights. Even a polluted footstep can't keep Old Glory down.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Notes from my hometown

Before I was a city girl, I was a small town girl. The small town in question was Red Hook, in Dutchess County, New York, right across the river from Woodstock. The area's scenic delights, apple orchards, pretty houses, and antique stores bring lots of visitors from New York City on the weekends. However, the lack of anything much to do was enough to drive this small town girl out of town before boredom took its toll.

My mom still lives in the area (which is about the only reason I ever go back). And periodically, I'll stick my nose in to get an idea of anything new happening in my hometown. Actually, several things have happened since I left: They built a multiplex theater, a Dunkin Donuts, and a Pizza Hut. There were plans to build a Shop Rite, but that didn't happen. And so far, no Starbucks; in fact, Red Hook is probably the only town on earth that doesn't have a Starbucks.

Traditionally, Dutchess County has been conservative. Never mind that its most famous residents were Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Poughkeepsie was right-wing enough to make a list of liberal-unfriendly places. (There are a whole bunch of reasons not to move to Poughkeepsie, but that's anough story.) It's worth noting that the list in question is from the 1990s.

Supposedly (and this information comes mainly from a political mailing list), Dutchess County is turning bluer. And Eliot Spitzer will be marching in this year's July 4 parade with the Dutchess County Democrats up in Hyde Park. Maybe I'll start following the news in my former hometown more. Spitzer in Dutchess County? Wow.

Golden Girl sued for slander...

...And some other stuff as well. The plaintiff is someone with the gigolo-esque name of Dirk Summers; the defendant is Rue McClanahan, aka Blanche on "The Golden Girls."

The facts of the case have the distinction of being both muddled and thin, perfect for the Hollywood climes from which they sprung. Whatever golden age that there was for the couple seems to have gone sour over plans to create and develop something called the Elan Vital Wellness and Longevity Centre (there is no indication that the name of the project will be optioned to a B grade science fiction film).

To boil things down: Summers (no relation to Buffy) claims that McClanahan was supposed to cough up $10 million so that they could borrow another $40 million against it to get the epic experiment in Wellness rolling. Somewhere down the line, McClanahan got the impression that Summers forged her name on escrow and bank documents and subsequently stole $200,000 from her. That's where the allegations of libel, slander, defamation, and free-ranging reputation hackery supposedly come in.

Without any response to the original lawsuit from McClanahan, the trial court awarded Summers $3.7 million based on Summers' version of the story. The appellate court set it aside because she wasn't served properly. So now the ride round the legal merry-go-round begins yet again, this time with the opportunity to hear McClanahan's side of the story.


Oh yeah, and Summers says he was romantically involved with McClanahan for 17 years. Why do I have a feeling Blanche would've never stood for this boob?

But what about Jerry's kids?

Oooooops, wrong Jerry Lewis. Actually, I'm rather relieved by this. The Jerry Lewis in question is a Republican congressman involved in yet another lobbying scandal. (YAWWWWN!)

I'm baaaaaaaaack!

Well, I've returned from a fun-filled four-day weekend in the Poconos. Le Sweetie and I have friends who just bought a cool-looking 1970s-style A-frame cabin. The cabin has a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, living room area, and loft area. Weather in the 60s/70s and no humidity. What could be better summer weather than that?

And it was all water water water! those four days. Canoeing in the lake. Playing at the water park. Swimming in the pool. Getting a sunburn on my back. Oh, who cares about the sunburn? We had a blast and can't wait to go back later this month. There are more water parks and even a water-slash-amusement park in the Poconos. In other words, more fun to be had up there.

I'm wondering if we could work in a little retail therapy at some point and check out a gift shop or two...Alas, the main shopping hubs seem to be the occasional strip mall, outlet store, or ubiquitous Wal-Mart. But this being the Poconos, there has to be a cute gift shop around there somewhere...