Thursday, August 21, 2008

Trouble in the Water

I'm waiting to see the film when it comes to the DIA around Halloween. It's a bird's eye view of New Orleans and the after effects. 3 years later and the place is still not ready. That says way too much about our priorities as Americans and as humans.

Here's the trailer from You Tube.

As the man says at the end of the trailer, "Katrina is still going on." Amen.

Check out the article by Andrew O'Hehir about the film. Also, if you're troubled about the continuing issues in the Gulf Coast region, go to Color of Change and support their effort to get a bill passed to help rebuild the region.

Monday, August 18, 2008

6 Reasons Why I Like Senator Obama for President

I typed this up originally as a Top 5 list, and they're in no particular order. It was first posted on a friend's website - Caring Bridge - who is fighting cancer. So here it is in its unamended form:

I was looking over the top five lists and decided I
could add a couple of my own:

Top 5 reasons I'm voting for
(in no particular except that they came out of my head in this

1. I love how he can blend faith into his politics w/o seeming
overbearing, arrogant, and exclusive.

2. He seems to be sincere in his
attempts at uniting the nation when we are at the zenith of our divisions over
the war, class, rights, and... (something escapes me...), oh yeah, race.

3. Building on that last theme, he is willingly wading into the race
issue with those big rubber boots that come up to his armpits and will hopefully
help America heal the wounds that have festered in the sun. I hope he's not just
paying lip service to this; I don't believe he is.

4. He's inspired me
to believe in the political process again b/c of the way he has motivated huge
numbers of kids, teenagers, 20-somethings. These guys are more engaged in the
process than I have ever seen - but of course, those of you who have seen the
Kennedys have seen this. The Millenials weren't motivated for John Kerry in 2004
- just another tired old boring white guy who's pretending to be cool. That's
why they didn't show up to vote. These kids are the future, and Obama is a great
example for them.

5. He has an energy plan (unlike the current
administration who's been promising one for 8 years - I think it's lost with
Cheney's notes from the Energy Task Force or got shredded in the Enron
documents). He has a plan to do something with Iraq as opposed to just staying
put (or joking about bombing Iran). He's actually willing to use diplomacy to
solve problems instead of drop bombs. Appeasement? Fooey. Talking doesn't mean

6. Sorry - I can't help this one - he knows how to use the
Internet and a computer.

I didn't mean to get up on a soapbox and
preach. Couldn't help it when I start talking about the inexperienced one term
senator from Illinois who's seeking the highest office in the land. Speaking of
which, here are my five favorite presidents:

1. Abe Lincoln

2. Teddy Roosevelt

3. George Washington

4. Franklin Roosevelt

5. (undecided)

These are my reasons so far in a off-the-top-of-my-head fashion without editing or anything. More to come.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Pornogrification of Our Children

I know that I've resisted this trend with my daughter, and other, more erudite writers than myself have taken on this subject with much more tact or humor than I have, but I'm beginning to notice images about women and young girls on TV more and more that are disturbing.

First, tweens and elementary school girls: (K-6)
Don't turn my six-year old into a skank! - That's what this section should be called. Check this video out from Good Morning America:

via (click on link to activate). This is a lame embedded video.

I've read parts of Celia Rivenbark's book and had a great laugh but also cringed at some of the more truth to power moments when she nailed the permissive parents for giving in to their daughters who wanted to dress like a hoochie momma. I highly recommend this book, and no, I'm not getting paid for this endorsement.

I saw this article on Salon's Broadsheet page this morning about HSM panties with the logo "Dive In" emblazoned on the front. Didn't anyone in the Disney production or marketing process say, "WHOA! Hold on a minute here! Do we want little girls wearing panties that say 'DIVE IN!" on them?" Apparently not.

MSNBC covers one more story in the long list of the decline of world civilization: when is it a good time to allow your daughter to get a bikini wax? I kid you not. Mothers are bringing their daughters in to have their eyebrows, legs, bikini lines, upper lips (and even one, the young girl's back). In the case of the girl's back, the girl didn't have a problem with her back hair but the mom did. One salon in NYC that perform these waxings will give discounts to girls 8 years and up b/c their "virgin hair" can be removed permanently removed, thereby fewer waxing visits in the long run. Short term pain, long term gain. To be fair, this is just one salon in NYC, but their owner did tell an interviewer from the New York Post that waxing should begin in 1st grade.

There's also a new book out there called So Sexy, So Soon by Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne. I'm very familiar with Kilbourne's work, especially Killing Us Softly, a video series that we have used in our 10th grade English classrooms to discuss the toxic effects of advertising on women's self image and what it can do to men's expectations for beauty/sex/friendship and everything else. In essence, advertising infantilizes and objectifies women - something many thinking people already know.

More later. Duty calls.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama or Clinton?

So now we wait.
It's a virtual deadheat between the two presidential precedents, both history-makers not budging or willing to give an inch. I believe their tenacity was what brought Obama and Clinton this far (gee, what a brilliant observation, Geoff! You'd have to really want the Presidency badly to go through the media bushwacking to get this far and not give up). Democrats now must wait after Mississippi decided for Obama and what looks to be certain victory for Clinton in Pennsylvania. Florida has decided to forgo a do-over and make the nomination process just that much more complicated.

Could it come down to Michigan? Clinton has called for a re-vote in both states - states in which she has both won where her name was the only one on the ballot, but states in which she might win an ever bigger number of delegates if the primary was redone: Florida has a large number of Hispanic or Latino voters who have (so far) stuck with her in the process; Michigan has a large union contingent which could swing Obama's way and some African American voters but not a large number of voters. Clinton might get more of the white, middle-class male vote. Why? God only knows. Maybe b/c she reminds them of their mother.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Know the Boomers

Here's some census data:

78.2 million Boomers as of July 1, 2005

est. 8,000 Boomers turning 60 every single day! Do the math on that one, folks. The aging of American society continues. 56,000 a week. Est. 2.9 million people every year turning 60.

This is a quote about the cost of health care for the Baby Boomers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

"Average annual expenditures on health care in 2004 for people ages 45 to 54 ($2,695 ) — the age group that is the heart of the baby boom generation. When budgeting medical expenses, baby boomers should expect increased health-care spending as they age; for instance, those age 55 to 64 spent $3,262 and those 65 and over, $3,899."

One thing that we as Gen Xers will have to consider is how Medicare will help take care of many of these senior citizens, and if it can do it at all. I'm not that confident.

This statistic from the Social Security Administration is pretty alarming: "2.1 - The number of workers for each Social Security beneficiary in 2031, when all baby boomers will be over age 65. Currently, there are 3.3 workers for each Social Security beneficiary." Back when SS was first created in 1935, the worker to beneficiary ratio was something like 15 to 1, but don't quote me on that. I'm just recalling that number from memory. It was something similar to that. I don't know how much longer Gen Xers should stand for the mirage that Social Security will be there for us or the Millenials after us. It's unwise to plan to rely on it, I believe, if you're a Gen Xer (and I'm in the early part of the generation).

This is a whole brochure put together by a government agency called the Agency on Aging

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I found this on Thought you'd enjoy it nearly as much as I did.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

New York Times Publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. Apologizes for a Generation

On May 21, 2006, the publisher of the paper of record gave his first ever commencement address to the State University of New York at New Paltz (I'm from the Midwest - I'd never heard of this place before). His remarks are striking, because in them, he not only apologizes for the Boomer generation falling short of their lofty ideals but leaving the world worse off than what they found it. Actually, the way the world is as he describes it, it sounds like we're back in 1968 - smack dab in the middle of the Vietnam War. Sulzberger's words are also a call to action for us and for the Millenials to take charge and fix this mess. I couldn't agree with him more. The key word - the theme is ENGAGE!

Here's the text of the speech. Please read the entire thing. The link to it is found at the bottom.

"Good morning and my most heartfelt congratulations. As the father of two relatively recent college graduates, I know how important this moment is to all of you. Whether mother or father, you are now breathing a huge sigh of relief. Your child has the possibility of a future and, while the bills remain to be paid, at least they’ve stopped growing. But as much as I’d like today to be about us parents, I know it’s not. It’s about the rest of you – our children and our future. So, to all of you – well done.

This is my first ever commencement speech and, depending on your reviews, maybe my last. Worse, the truth is I even skipped my own graduation. It was a glorious day. My cousin and fellow graduate and I heard the road calling.Motorcycles; speeches – no brainer. Thank goodness it’s gray and overcast today, so most of you are here.

So, given my lack of commencement experience I prepared for today the way good journalists are supposed to – I reported out the story. I read what generations of other commencement speakers had said and what themes they hit. Ninety five percent of them come down to this: “Today you enter the real world. Follow your heart. Find what you love and do it.” Who can argue with such wisdom? It’s sort of a motherhood and apple pie statement. It sounds so easy.

So let’s all tip our hat to the honesty of our favorite non-news caster, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. Two years ago he told a graduating class at William and Mary:
So how do you know what is the right path to choose to get the results you desire? The honest answer is this. You don’t. And accepting that greatly eases the anxiety of your life experience.”

As a journalist; as a media executive; as a human being -- I come to you fully aware of the need we all have to heed Mr. Stewart's words and ease our anxieties. The vagaries of life are enormous, and it is those very vagaries about which I want to talk with you.

I’ll start with an apology.

When I graduated from college in 1974, my fellow students and I had just ended the war in Vietnam and ousted President Nixon. Okay, that’s not quite true. Yes, the war did end and yes, Nixon did resign in disgrace – but maybe there were larger forces at play.

Either way, we entered the real world committed to making it a better, safer, cleaner, more equal place. We were determined not to repeat the mistakes of our predecessors. We had seen the horrors and futility of war and smelled the stench of corruption in government.

Our children, we vowed, would never know that.

So, well, sorry. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land.

You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, be it the rights of immigrants to start a new life; the rights of gays to marry; or the rights of women to choose.

You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drives policy and environmentalists have to relentlessly fight for every gain. You weren’t. But you are. And for that I’m sorry.

Starting today, it will be more and more up to you to decide what world you will bequeath to your children (yes, most of you will be having children – it just goes with the territory). As you continue to make the choices that define your life – and by the way, attending and graduating from college was a critical one – you also will be defining the world you live in. Think of it as your personal version of what in the scientific world (or perhaps the science fiction world) is known as the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect holds that the smallest of actions -- say, the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in the mountains of Bolivia -- can lead over time to enormous consequences -- say, a hurricane in Africa.

Each of you will face many crossroads, some of them seemingly small and inconsequential. You will choose at each point whether to be bold or hesitant; inclusive or elitist; generous or stingy. And each one of your choices will result not only in how people define you. Each one will help shape the world you make for the rest of us.

So I have a plea and I have a piece of advice. The advice is to focus on the small decisions, because they add up very quickly. And I don’t mean what job you take or what town you live in. Those will change as you change. I mean decisions like whether to pick up that overturned trash can or whether to stop for that stranded motorist. Those are the decisions that can change our world just as surely as a butterfly can create a hurricane.

Yes, it’s important that those of us at The New York Times have the courage of our own convictions and defend the rights of our journalists to protect their sources or, after much debate and discussion, publish the news that our government is bypassing it’s own legal systems to tap into phone calls made to and from the United States.

But those big decisions rest on a stable foundation which has been built by thousands of small decisions – from the way we protect our reporters and photographers in war-torn areas such as Iraq (and even then lose too many) to how we’ve shattered the glass ceiling that for too long stopped women from moving into the highest levels of leadership.

And my plea is: engage. Our world needs you. It needs your energy and your caring; it needs your commitment and your values. If we don’t get them our society – all of us – will continue to aimlessly drift, failing to make our country and our world a place that makes us proud.

Engage. Help make decisions. Vote. Read a newspaper (what, you thought the publisher of The New York Times wouldn’t get there?) Knowing what’s happening in your world, your country, your neighborhood is the critical precursor to being a citizen of a democracy. Each one of you who forsakes your role in keeping our democracy alive by either inaction or, perhaps worse, by action based on ignorance, threatens all the rest of us. So, read a newspaper and build a community.

As you already heard, I’m here in large part because I’m a rock climber. I work in New York City but I come to New Paltz to clear my head and batter my body against those beautiful cliffs up there. And this ties in to another bit of reporting I did in preparation for today. I found what may well be one of the shortest commencement speeches every given.

It was 1941. Following what was no doubt an excessive introduction, - sort of like mine - our speaker walked to the lectern, glared out at the assembled multitude and in his trademark bark intoned: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
And then Winston Churchill sat down.

With a philosophy like that, Sir Winston would have made one hell of a rock climber. Life is relentless. When you think you’ve made the crucial move – what in climbing parlance is called The Crux – it always throws you another one. And another. And another.

These are the vagaries of which I spoke earlier in these remarks. In my experience, the only way to prepare for them is inside each of you. It is not about the job you have or the money you make. It is about commitment and courage; it’s about caring and fortitude. It’s about supporting those around you and, just as importantly, it's about letting them support you. In the parlance of the climber, trust that you’re “on belay”.

Engage; get the small decisions right; never give in and please -- please – build us a world of which we can be proud. Go make a damn difference.

None of you wants to be standing where I am 30 years from now apologizing to the next generation of bright and shiny college graduates.

Thank you."

Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

Statements in bold are bold in the original.