Monday, October 27, 2008

catching up, pt. 1

This was the empty space in my front "yard" after the first Obama sign was stolen.

My answer was to get a second sign and make another donation to the campaign. The second sign hasn't been stolen yet, but it was pulled and thrown on the sidewalk. In addition, several of Kim Gray's signs on the block were vandalized. I don't really get the purpose of such vandalism. If it's out of anger, I can't believe it really makes the perpetrator feel better and the karmic loss isn't really worth such acts. If it's out of politics, you'd have to be stupid to believe that such acts will change my or my neighbors' views. The actual result is quite the opposite.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

community parenting, a reminder

I am reminded after tonight, after this weekend, after this past month and year of what it means to be a good parent. It means to love and care for your child(ren) and all children in your life, whether they are family or friends. And a good parent shows the same respect and love for your child.

Monday, October 20, 2008

recycled writing - the old-post edition

While watching Jon Stewart's evisceration of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann's "pro-America" meme, I remembered this post from the beginning of this blog four years ago. Reading it again now, I think it still holds:

First, there was the North and the South. Then, a few years ago, it was Red America and Blue America. Now, there is John Edwards class-conscious meme of two Americas.

But the bipolar divisions can be so much richer: Democratic and Republican. Minority and majority. Black and white. Pro-choice and Anti-abortion. Vanilla and chocolate. Tortes and apple pies. Starbucks and Maxwell House. Walmart and Target. Organic versus processed. Poor versus rich. West versus East. New York City and Bentonville. LA and Portland. Flatlanders and hill people. Country and city. The New York Times and Fox News. Old and young. Minis and Hummers. Urban renovators and exurban McMansioneers. Greens and liberaterians. Federalists and socialists. Patriots and patriots. The NRA and gun victims. On and on and on.

Really though, there is only one "America" that gives the symbology life: the world of the big box store and pure consumption. Commerce is what creates our society and what drives it, from television to the names of roads built into new developments. The utopian ideal of a society where everyone has the same opportunities is simply the kitsch that our presidential candidates spin in different directions--bootstrappers versus nurturers. And in the classic truth of kitsch, this flag-waving picture simply hides the shit.

The shit is that there are more Americas than any of us know what to do with. It's not just about red and blue, or city and country, or black and white. Rather, the division is much broader, region to region, or even state to state. Cultures and even language change. Signifiers change. Political and social concerns change. All of it to such an extreme that it does not seem inaccurate to say that a Mainer and an Arkansan share nothing more in national identity than the ability to shop in the same stores, eat the same foods, and watch the same television shows. This is not to say that the shibboleth of national identity cannot evolve into a cohesive, nuanced culture, but it's not going to happen as long as our ethos relies on consumerist lemmings doing the bidding of brand managers.

In other news, so many of us are apoplectic over the lies and slander of Fox News, but what of the New York Times's kid glove approach to Bush's lies. Sure, they apologized for their coverage of the lead-up to war--but as a cursory survey of the blogosphere and the AP wire will show, they have let too many follow-up stories pass without notice. Sandy Berger anyone?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

late Sunday-evening thoughts

I've had a tough time keeping up with Impolitic Eye lately. It's not for lack of ideas or topics I've wanted to tackle. The problem has, instead, been my own focus. It seems like I've gone through a period of extreme distraction — a case of seasonal ADD, if you will — and I'm lucky if I get the laundry folded each week, let alone keep some semblance of order around the house.

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that many of the things I've pondered lately are too personal for this kind of forum, memories and minor demons that I'm not yet comfortable putting out for public consideration. Other topics seem too trivial to warrant the kind of depth I would like to be putting into this blog. And then, at the end of the day, there's the simple fact that there are a lot of demands on my time and attention from waking to sleeping.

I will celebrate my 38th birthday at the end of this week. There are a lot of changes I want and need to make to my life (and Banana's life). They range from developing better fiscal discipline to getting back to photography to giving Impolitic Eye a more focused voice and effort to taking better care of myself. And more, of course.

So bear with me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday Fun - the day-late, political edition

It's bizarre how much this video "gets" what we've seen in the recent debates...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

more ad fun

Hat-tip to my fellow Richmond blogger Buttermilk & Molasses for this one.

It's funny and to the point. In this case, the message is one that resonates more and more: this election is not about us, and it's not about the past; this election is about our children and their future.


I picked this up from Daily Kos.

Apparently, the spot ran just after last night's debate. This means too few people probably saw it, because it is one of the most emotionally powerful ads I have ever seen. It has the visual feel of Errol Morris and the power of a punch in the gut. Watch and pass on, please.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


We truly are entering a scary time in the course of our public discourse. Perhaps this election will give us a renewed chance to have an honest, national dialogue about race, history, and the future. Unfortunately when I watch videos like the one below and pick up articles like this from the Times I wonder whether we can ever find the kind of common ground we need. After all, how do you really reach across to people who hold these kinds of deep convictions.

“I would think of him as I would of another of mixed race,” said Glenn Reynolds, 74, a retired textile worker in Martinsville, Va., and a former supervisor at a Goodyear plant. “God taught the children of Israel not to intermarry. You should be proud of what you are, and not intermarry.”


“He’s going to tear up the rose bushes and plant a watermelon patch,” said James Halsey, chuckling, while standing in the Wal-Mart parking lot with fellow workers in the environmental cleanup business. “I just don’t think we’ll ever have a black president.”

And the money shot:

“I’ve always been against the blacks,” said Mr. Rowell, who is in his 70s, recalling how he was arrested for throwing firecrackers in the black section of town. But now that he has three biracial grandchildren — “it was really rough on me” — he said he had “found out they were human beings, too.”

So, you jump from there to these people in Ohio, and it's hard to imagine a long-enough bridge to cross this divide.


UPDATE: In case we need further proof, here it is:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

the Richmond Folk Festival — balancing kids' needs and adults' wants

The first Richmond Folk Festival was a clear success, building on the past three years of the National Folk Festival. Almost 200,000 people came out for the shows, and it all came off without visible hitches.

Banana and I saw Mayan pole dancers, Japanese taiko drummers, great blues, Inuit throat singers, Zuni traditional dances, and remarkable celtic harmonies from Liadan. Sad to say, I wasn't able to get great photographs — I'm still trying to put enough spending money together for a digital SLR. Nonetheless, here's a brief taste of a remarkable afternoon.

With any luck, the partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts will tamp down the usual Richmond non-profit egotistical inefficiency and this remarkable festival will continue for years to come.

the sewer we've fallen into...

Picked this up from Brian.

I should have something articulate to say about how this image epitomizes in with the whole sad state of political and social discourse in our society. Unfortunately, all I can say is that things like this make me profoundly sad and more than a little scared that our future will continue to repeat our past.

my most surreal moment as a parent, so far...

The moment I turned around and found Banana trying to teach our neighbor's daughter about meditation...

Mind you, this is not something I (or anyone else as far as I know) has actively taught Banana.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

a quick snapshot

I had an unfortunately contentious argument with some fellow parents today. The four of them were, shall we say, on the conservative end of the spectrum, and I am clearly not. Unfortunately, I was partly responsible for the contentious turn of the conversation since I saw it fit to drop plenty of my own opinions about the election, the mess we're in, and the record of the past several Republican administrations. What bothers me is not so much the substance of our debate—such discussions are important for society, I think. What bothers me is the rhetoric and anger that I let slip.

That said...

I thought about a few of the points I glanced on in the conversation, and it seemed worth putting a small inventory of them together:

  • Many of the foreign policy disasters we are still dealing with happened during Republican administrations. These include the removal of Iran's Prime Minister in 1953 under the Eisenhower administration, the support of and development of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship during the Reagan administration, and the support and development of Osama Bin Laden as part of the mujahadin in Afghanistan during the Reagan Administration.

  • Much of Palin's story is built on lies. The funny part here is that I wanted to provide one or two solid non-partisan links, but there were far too many good sources to choose just one. For now, though, here's a good start.

  • McCain's favorite economic adviser and co-chair of his current campaign really should take much of the blame for the current crisis. And that culpability began in the Reagan administration. Man, ain't deregulation great?!?

  • Obama and Ayers have never been close. In fact, they haven't had any direct contact in more than three years, and never "palled around together."

  • It strikes me as very interesting that this campaign almost seems like a contest between Obama and Palin at moments.

I'll come up with more points as the days wear on. Regardless, I learned an important lesson today: you don't persuade anyone by criticizing their people. Rather than attacking someone's candidates and listening to their attacks on my candidates, I should have asked a question. To wit, why should someone support McCain?

Had the conversation turned in that direction, I could have offered plenty of reasons I think someone should vote for Obama. And every one of those reasons would have been based in things I like about the man, his ideas, and his advisers.

Forest Hill market, this week - and more

We had a small, but productive trip to the market this week. We came home with some nice lettuce, broccoli, peppers, amazing carrots, some bread, and apples. A few of the vendors reacted with dismay, however, when I mentioned in casual conversation that I had begun to trim my market purchases. Why, they wanted to know, would I do that?

The answer was simple: through the early and middle parts of the summer, I overbought. This meant I spent money on food I ended up throwing away. The simple and sad truth is that, as a single parent with a (small) commute and a demanding full-time job, I can manage only so much meal preparation during the course of a week.

With various fresh vegetables and fruits that go bad at unpredictable rates—from the lettuces that can last three weeks when stored properly to the strawberries that suddenly go bad in a day—it is hard to base your entire meal planning around a market trip. And when things get busy and exhausting by the middle of the week, going out or making a quick, simple pasta dish takes precedence over the creative use of that eggplant that seemed like such a good idea at the time. Add the unpredictability of a six-year old's palate—one week zucchini is great, the next week it is devil-spawn—and you have a tough juggling act.

Too often, the result of that juggling act was food that went bad. (For example, there is currently chicken in the refrigerator I may have to throw out because the past few days ended up being busier than expected, and some unfinished pac choi from last week went into the trash.)

Given that August and September were extraordinarily difficult on the Impolitic Eye bank account and given the strange and difficult financial straits internationally, I've decided to pull back a little bit. There are still a few things that I will buy at Whole Foods, but we will return to stocking our cupboards heavily with Trader Joe's items that are inexpensive and easy to prepare. It's a tough thing to accept that I can't always afford either the money or the time for everything I'd like to make or do, but the reality is I have two hours in the morning to get us both showered, fed and out the door and three hours between picking Banana up from after-school care and her bedtime. And dinner needs to be on the table in that first hour and a half.

My life falls into some pretty narrow constraints. No matter how I try to game my own system, those constraints don't appear to be changing any time soon. Time to live with in my means. And those "means" are financial, chronological, and physical.

To some extent, this is the ultimate lifehacking.

Friday, October 10, 2008

friday fun - the stock market's crashing so it's going to be cheesy edition

Presented without further comment, some fine fruits of the middle of the Reagan years...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

last night's debate

To put it as simply as possible, the messages I got from last night's debate were:
  • Obama: Vote for me because I have plans for how to get the country back on the right track, and I care about the middle and working classes — a message that clearly resonates with me.

  • McCain: Vote for me because I've been doing this for a long time, and I deserve it.

  • One man struck me as patient, but ready to fight back when attacked while the other struck me as someone who simply cannot believe that he is not winning—after all he's done.

  • Though the debate has been declared dull by many pundits and bloggers, I think the subtler psychodrama was fascinating.

  • Tom Brokaw did a wretched job as moderator.

  • McCain mentioned Ronald Reagan and Joe Lieberman more times than he mentioned Palin. Which is to say he didn't say her name a single time.

  • Mostly, I was struck by how much this matchup exemplified a generational break. McCain relied on anachronistic references and jokes and, from an obsession with oil and nuclear power to a Cold War mentality, displayed a frame of reference buried in the last half of the twentieth century. Meanwhile, Obama displayed a desire to look at the world as it is now and find solutions that make sense for future generations.

That said, the most remarkable and telling part of the debate didn't even occur in the debate itself. Instead, the post-debate period illustrated clearly the differences between the candidates and their approaches. Picked up from Wonkette, the video below shows 11 minutes out of more than half an hour filmed by CSPAN after the debate. Sure, you can see the infamous dis when McCain sidesteps shaking Obama's hand. More importantly, you can watch the McCains leave as quickly as possible while the Obamas stayed around to talk to people. There is no audio, so you need to be able to read lips if you want to know what they're saying. It is remarkable, however, to watch them both carry on conversations with many of the people in the hall, and to watch the excitement as these "undecided" voters ask to have their pictures taken with the Obamas.

So I put it out there... who would you rather have as a leader: someone who leaves as quickly as possible or someone who makes an effort to connect with and listen to everyone?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pho Tay Do

Just took a longish lunch at one of our local pho places. What distinguishes this one — besides the fact that I haven't been able to locate it with Google Maps — is that it is in a small house one street off the Horsepen corridor, a small house decorated with fascinating artwork painted by what I can only assume is one of the owners.

The food, however, is excellent, and the crowd is small and almost exclusively Vietnamese.

Monday, October 06, 2008


Brian picked this up as a reminder. I have to say that it's the classic embodiment of the glass houses cliché. What is stunning is that it represents yet another blind spot in the McCain campaign to the power of the internet, and another moment of their hubristic belief that they still hold the majority. After all, there are no videos of Obama's distant, tangential associations with mildly controversial figures, but there are videos of McCain contradicting himself... oh yeah, and of Palin being protected from witchcraft and singing as part of a Christian recording group.

If evangelicals viewed Bush's presidency as a validation of their mission, putting Palin in one of the most important offices in the world would set us on a full path to a religious schism in the country.

crash, anyone?

Mid-afternoon and the DOW is off by 700 points. Ouch doesn't even begin to cover it. We are in scary, scary straits. Personally, my retirement savings (kept in a well-balanced TIAA-Cref IRA) are down 14% since July. I had considered using some of the funds to wipe out some debt and/or to use for a down payment on a house next year, but realistically, I'm starting to wonder how much will be left after all is said and done.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

debate follow-up

For any of you who missed both the VP debate and this weekend's SNL, this clip gets the debate dead to rights. Tina Fey is, of course, excellent as Palin (head shake). Queen Latifah as Gwen Ifill, though, is an absolute stroke of genius. Watch, please.

(Shout outs to Berkeley, Chris, Sarah, and all of our kids for helping make this a great weekend.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Fun - mindblowing ad edition

Friday Fun - bad teeth edition

I dunno. After a crazy week and coming off last night's debate and staring down the tunnel of more roller coasters, I'm feeling in an up mood.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Happy October!

October. Crisp morning air. Turning leaves. Oktoberfest biers. Macaroni and cheese. Spaetzle. Chicken paprikas. Halloween. (My birthday.)

I have to admit I love this month. It often feels like life starts over around now. The process of cleaning and organizing the house gains new importance. New projects come up, and I feel like I have the energy to pursue them.