pop culture


I woke up this morning like I did on Christmas morning when I was a child – early, excited, full of anticipation, yet having to wait for Mom and Dad to wake up to start ripping open the goodies under the tree.

Christmas morning came with a massive excitement hangover at about 11 AM, though, when all of the presents were open, torn wrapping paper filled the space around the tree, and reality set in.  The long 365-day wait for Christmas morning next year had just begun.

As I aged, Christmas became less and less important and the possibilities of New Year’s Eve and Day held more magic.  The idea that, as the calendar year flipped, we could each resolve to start over in some way – to change the way we have acted, or thought, or treated others, or treated ourselves.  As we know, most resolutions end up losing steam and falling by the wayside.  But the high is still there, the excitement and anticipation are still there, and the hangover takes much longer to realize.

This morning is not Christmas morning, or even New Year’s morning.  No, it’s Inauguration Day.  And it’s better than Christmas or New Years.  Today is my new New Year’s Eve 2009.  Midnight is 10 AM EST (8 AM MST), and the countdown has begun.  In place of drunken champagne toasts and Dick Clark New York countdowns, I and my loved one will be curled up on the couch, likely drinking herbal tea and eating Cheerios, watching the MSNBC feed of Barack Obama’s swearing in as the new President of the United States of America.  Ahhh.  Just writing that gives me butterflies.  Get the tissues ready.

I know so many people in this country are excited that we are electing the first African-American President, and so many people are filling Capitol Mall to watch history in the making.  I am also proud of that.  Moreover, though, I am excited that we have elected an intellectual and a visionary.  Someone that I actually trust will keep the promise to America that started over 200 years ago — that the leader of this country be a servant to the people.

Americans chose hope and optimism over fear and xenophobia.  We chose measured intelligence over folksy charm.  We chose to act and be treated like adults rather than petulant children who needed a temporary pacifier shoved in our mouths to shut us up.  We chose to choose over having the choice made for us.  Our collective consciousness has been awakened — maybe there is hope for us yet. . .

I wish, this new New Year’s Day, peace, happiness, patience, tolerance, and hope for you, your’s, and our global community.  For me, I feel one step closer to breathing more freely and sleeping more soundly for the next 4 years.

It is a fact. Women are judged more on their looks than men are.  Look around you.  Some of the fattest, baldest, most slovenly men are in positions of power in government, business, media, technology (especially technology).  But the opposite is not true.  Women have to look young and beautiful and fit, and even then may not be taken seriously.  The “local evening news anchor team” formula has even become a not-so-funny joke — the older, gray-haired, distinguished looking man at the desk next to the 20-something, fresh-faced, bright-eyed woman.  Both intelligent and articulate, but somehow a bit “trophy.”  I bet you have at least one of these teams in your city, too.

So, it did not surprise me when I heard that the RNC paid for a campaign wardrobe for Gov. Palin and family in order to polish them up and make them a bit less Cabela’s.  Our most celebrated First Ladies and First Ladies To Be have had some pretty swanky designers behind them – Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, and Cindy McCain (though I have no idea where Mrs. McCain shops, but she always looks fantastic).  So, looking good while on the campaign trail (and in the workplace) is a social expectation, not an option.

The difference is that Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Reagan, and Mrs. McCain had/have the means to pay for the expensive labels themselves.  When they can’t (or if they choose not to) they went/go out looking like Mrs.s Bush (either one) or Michelle Obama.  If shows like What Not To Wear tell us anything, it is that we women can look good and pulled together without spending a fortune on designer duds, as evidenced by Mrs.  Obama’s $150 dress that created a mini-sensation.

Additionally, Mrs.s Kennedy, Reagan, and McCain weren’t/aren’t peddling their Everywo/man credentials on the stump, either.  Quite the opposite, in fact – Jackie and Nancy quite brazenly put themselves forth as American Royalty – East Coast and Hollywood, respectively.  Therefore, their clothes and image matched their message.

So who was the Super Genius who handed campaign donations over to Niemans and Saks to try to perfect the Palins’ images when he should have hired someone who understood matching the image with their “I’m one of you” message?  Does this idiot know nothing about Branding?  I predict that Marketing and Public Relations majors all over the country will be doing their Master Theses on this one.  What a total screw-up.

The Democratic National Convention was last week, as was the announcement of John McCain’s female (not “woman”) Veep candidate.  We just passed the 88th year “since the 19th amendment struck down that restrictive rule,”  so I thought it appropriate to conduct a Week in Review of the three major female news makers of last week.

Michelle Obama

The DNC convention began with a controlled and groomed speech by Michelle Obama.  She was smart.  She was adoring of her husband.  She was a devoted family woman.  She performed as she was trained to.  However, because of her over-scripted performance, I really felt like something in her personality was lacking.

Then I read a blog post that summarized for me what I couldn’t quite express about Mrs. Obama’s speech: “We want the spouses of our Presidents to be smart, but not too smart.  Passionate, but not too passionate.  And to have opinions but not come across as opinionated.”  I, too, felt there was something of an emptiness in her words or delivery that seemed just a bit too “pleasing” and not entirely genuine.  This is how the game is played, however, and I guess she needed to play it safe.

By the way, cute outfit, but did anyone notice her traps?  Holy lord!  That woman works out!

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

I have to admit.  I’m a Hillary Clinton fan, but I would not necessarily have voted for her because there were other candidates she was competing against whose politics I related with more (particularly concerning the War to Nowhere).  After the video tribute introducing her to the stage, however, a slow burn came over me.

Damn it!

The country and, later Barack Obama, made a huge mistake by not putting her name on the ticket.  I stayed mad for days – well, at least until I Obama’s speech Thursday night.  Hillary Clinton was the best hope to get a Vagina-American into the White House.  So frustrating. So disappointing. So close. . .

Governor Sarah Palin

I awoke Friday morning to the anticipatory drone of Veep buzz.  An early report that someone name Sarah Palin was going to be McCain’s choice. Apparently, I am not alone in not having a clue who she is – the news media seemed baffled and scrambled to wikpedia and the Anchorage Daily News to explain this unusual choice.

The first thing I felt at the announcement of Gov. Palin’s selection for McCain’s VP was panic.  The Republicans did what the Democrats failed to do.  Hillary supporters now have an iron-clad reason to vote for McCain.

Then I stopped.  I started researching Gov. Palin and found the following facts:

  • She is a 20-month governor of Alaska – a state with 670,053 people.  In comparison, New Mexico has almost 2 million and the greater Sacramento area has approximately 2.1 million.
  • 2 years ago, she was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 8,471.
  • She supports gun rights.
  • She is against a woman’s right to choose.
  • She believes that global warming is not a man-made phenomenon.
  • She is for more domestic oil drilling, particularly in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Now, the last four bullets are typically conservative.  Little shock there.  But when I look at the first two points on her resume – the less-then-half-term Governor of a state smaller in population than most major US cities and mayor of a very small town – I wonder what McCain is thinking.  Surely, Gov. Palin has not encountered the kind of major decisions that most elected officials grapple with daily, and her simple lack of time on the job makes me wonder what she could possibly bring to a VP position.

With all of the Republican women that McCain could have chosen from (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Sen. Olympia Snowe, etc.), why Gov. Palin?  With all due respect to Gov. Palin, who I am sure is a very strong and capable woman, the last thing women need is some old man throwing a token female into the Second Most Powerful Position in the Country who is not qualified for the job and has a higher probability of failure should he die in office and she become the President.

So let’s see.  Pick an unqualified woman for the role, ignore all of the other possible female choices, and put her into a position with a high likelihood of disaster (i.e. setting her up for failure).  The only conclusion to make is that McCain thinks that we women (and most especially Hillary voters) will vote for anyone with a woman on the ticket regardless of her beliefs or experience.  And that, my friends, is an insult.

Good for Sarah Palin.  She is living the quintessential definition of having a “meteoric rise” to success. But shame on John McCain (A) for throwing away his opportunity to have a qualified Republican woman at his side, and (B) for thinking that “an ol’ woman will do” when it comes to luring away voters for Sen. Clinton.  It just demonstrates what little respect he actually has for women in this country.

Now that the Olympics are over, maybe I can get to bed at a decent hour.

For some reason, I was into these Olympics more than I have been in the past 2 or 3 cycles. I think it was because I was so interested in the China angle – so much controversy, so many mixed emotions on the political landscape. I simply couldn’t stop watching. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies certainly didn’t hurt. So pretty. Those Chinese sure know how to put on a show.

I even watched Weightlifting, and saw the German athlete who won the gold hold up his wife’s picture on the medal stand. Loved every bit of it. The American athletes, for the most part, seemed a lot more gracious this year, too. Maybe the USOC held “how to win and lose in front of the cameras” workshops with them all. Or maybe that was the inflight movie – the most captive audience one could find.

Yes, Michael Phelps is great. He’s a 23 year old college student, though. Youth is on his side. Dara Torres and Oksana Chusovitina, 41 and 33 years old respectively, winning Silvers? They are my new Super Heroes.

Last week, I read an interesting piece comparing Carla Bruni Sarkozy, ex-model, homewrecker, and current First Lady of France, with American First Lady candidates. The gist, if you don’t want to read the full article, is that French citizens couldn’t care less what their politicians do behind closed doors and who they choose as partners, where American citizens will only tolerate political spouses in the wife/mother/angel roles.

(A)s a rule, we expect our first ladies to act out the part of the supportive political spouse, the archetypal housewife in the ultimate white house. Look pretty, but don’t speak out of turn, à la Laura Bush. Glam it up, but always in a demure, ladylike way, like Jackie O. And if you have to speak your mind, like Hillary Rodham Clinton, then be prepared to pay the price.

It all adds to the argument about the country’s reluctance to elect a woman to the Presidency.

But, let’s put that aside for a second. Today, comes the acknowledgment that John Edwards had an affair with a campaign staffer after months and months of flat out denials and an entire Presidential campaign that basically consisted of what a devoted and loving family man he was. This admission (under increasing media pressure) adds John Edwards’ name to a long list of recent political sex scandals from both sides of the isle: (in no particular order) Dave Vitter (R), Larry Craig (R), Elliot Spitzer (D), Mark Foley (R), Jim McGreevey (D), Gavin Newsom (D). Then of course the classics: Bill Clinton (D), Newt Gingrich (R), Gary Hart (D), Gary Condit (D). It’s getting old.

It’s Not the Sex but the Hypocrisy That Torques Me

I’m of two minds on this.

The biggest part of me says that I don’t give a rat’s toenail who politicians decide to have sex with. If they cheat on their spouses, it just shows their character (callous, ruthless, virile – add whatever adjective you want). If they are gay, then they should be able to be gay in public and not choose a spouse and have the nuclear family as beards. That destroys too many lives, and for what? To demonstrate to the unwashed masses that you can make decisions on foreign policy? Give me a break.

But the slightly smaller part of me simply can’t stand all of the hypocrisy. If you make a career of taking down prostitution rings, then don’t hire a call girl for your sexual trysts. If you consistently vilify homosexuality as immoral and block legislation that gives rights to gay people (military, marriage), then don’t cruise for gay sex in airport bathrooms. And for God’s sake, if you hold your perfect little family up as your proof that you are virtuous, your cancer-ridden wife up as proof that you are faithful to her, and that that makes you different from those against whom you are running for office, then keep your penis in your pants and don’t have an affair! Is this formula really so difficult?

An Olympic Free-For-All

It occurs to me that this news is breaking on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics. Every Olympic cycle, the big scandals center around doping. In the past, I have mused that an “All Doping Olympics” would be excellent. Allow all athletes to take whatever they want, break all the records, see how fast/high/far the human body can go on performance-enhancing drugs and get it all out of their systems. Then wipe the slate clean, put asterisks next to all of the results, get back to the rules of the games, and move on with life.

I think we need to consider doing the same with politicians and sex. Let’s just all stop with the American Puritanical BS, where no one has sex outside of marriage, all men only have eyes for their wives, and all women only have sex for procreation. Let’s just have an “All Sex Campaign” where all candidates and everyone involved in campaigns can do it with whoever they want and brazenly advertise it to the media. Let them get it all out of their systems, let the American public get over their shock-and-awe, and let’s all drop the charade that anyone who runs for public office doesn’t, in John Edwards’ own words, “believe that (they are) special and (become) increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.”

Even though I love seeing my shining Teva smiling at me from my computer screen each time I log on, the show must go on. So, I’ve compiled a short list of old standbys to bridge the gap between mourning and the real world. Hence I give you:

  • Stuff White People Like — with particular attention paid to #3, #17, #40, #41, #75, & #105 amongst the many fine offerings of this site.
  • The Onion — the most accurate news on the web.
  • In Defense of Chick Flicks – just found this today and I can’t agree more. I have been raging all summer that all the multiplex has given me is a pile of Dick Flicks (Hellboy, Raiders, Batman, et. al.) and Momma Mia. What’s a girl to do? So glad I subscribe to #39, because without any #3’s in Santa Fe, I don’t know what I would do!

Before July 4th, 2002, I bought a very cool, artsy shirt online that has an image of the Statute of Liberty superimposed with the Preamble to the Constitution, and “We the People” prominantly repeated in down the sleeves, back, etc. Sounds gawdy, but it’s perfect for 4th of July.

I bought it at a time when I was rebounding from 9/11, in the midst of a strongly nationalistic streak, and I wanted to believe that this country’s people were bigger than the politicians who rumbled about a war with Iraq. Americans keep their eyes on the ball. We wouldn’t let our politicians run roughshod all over the world.

On February 5, 2003, I put that shirt in the back of my closet. I felt angry and defeated and not at all proud to be an American. Every July 4th since then, I’ve looked at the stupid thing, sneered, then chosen something else to wear to the fireworks.

This year, though, I wore it — my un/conscious recognition that this 8-year long, oppressive tunnel is finally showing signs of daylight . . .

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