Cocking A Snook Too!

Independent, Irreverent Unschoolers – or at least one – Take On the Universe

Wait, we’ve had this controversy before April 30, 2009

Filed under: Criticism of the Stupid,Funnies,News to Ponder,Random Drivel — Meredith @ 1:42 pm

I was just listening to MSNBC out of corner of my ear, and I heard that there is some sort of Barbie controversy brewing. Apparently, people are upset that Barbie suddenly has tattoos.

To which I responded:

“Wait, this has happened already. What the hell?”

My mom: “No it hasn’t.”

Me (increasingly insistent): “Yes, it has. In 1999. Butterfly Tattoo Barbie.”

My mom: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Me: “I have one. You got it for me. I took it to the beach for my ninth birthday.”

My mom: “I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten you that.”

Me: “Yes you did. You clipped an article out of the paper for me about the controversy after you bought the doll and told me to save it because the doll would be valuable someday.”

My mom: ” Nah.”

As evidence, I procured my Butterfly Art Barbie (I have since learned that this is the official name) from the naked

Jess the Butterfly Art Barbie today

Jess the Butterfly Art Barbie, who turns 11 this year

shoebox orgy in my closet where she currently resides with her other Mattel brethren and politely thrust her and her butterfly belly tat in my mother’s face.

“Are you sure it wasn’t a gift?”

Yes. I really really wanted one. Everybody did.”

My parents bought me the Butterfly Art Barbie, which, may I point out, was sold with temporary tattoos, so that you can “have fun decorating Barbie and you with cool washable decorations!” We snapped one up right after they were released in 1998, before a panicky Mattel pulled them off shelves faster than you can say “lead-lined toys from China.”

Oh, how short the memory of the 24-hour news channels!

I named the Barbie Jess (I named all my Barbies – if I’d called them all Barbie it would have been too confusing for them) and took her with me to the beach on my ninth birthday. I wanted to emulate her, sure. I thought she was great, with her plastic feet and alluring beach-hobo lifestyle. And yet I am devoid of tattoos? How is this possible?

The truth of the matter is that Jess the Butterfly Art Barbie did not make me want a tattoo, she made me desperately want crinkly hair, a style which is

a) hard for my hair to achieve, and

b) looks awful on me.

But I kept trying for years.

Anyway, people need to calm down. If your child is looking to Barbie as her primary role model, maybe you should let

Observe Butterfly Art Barbie's huge honkin' butterfly tattoo

Observe Butterfly Art Barbie's huge honkin' butterfly tattoo

her read, or watch television, or leave the house. In a world in which Michelle Obama is the First Lady, Sandra Day O’Connor is appearing on talk shows, and Tina Fey exists, are girls today hard up for flesh-and-blood role models? Oh, and how about you? The kid’s mom?

Also, why are we suddenly more concerned about young girls in this country getting tattoos than about young girls in this country becoming anorexic? I think we need to worry a little more about Barbie’s impact on body image than Barbie’s impact on images on the body.


Teabagging John Adams: Or, a Brief List of Things About Which I Have Recently Become Enraged April 16, 2009

The greatest satirists of our age

The greatest satirists of our age

I haven’t blogged in a long time.

The Rick Steves thing doesn’t count, I phoned that in. But it’s just been that this last semester there hasn’t been that much to write about. Obama won the election; Sarah Palin was returned to the padded cell that is Alaska; John McCain seems to have rid himself of the Venom Symbiote; Scott McClellan revealed once and for all that Fox News was not only a Bush shill but a Bush mouthpiece, and there was Peace and Harmony Throughout the Land. Mostly. Enough.

There wasn’t much to be enraged about, really. The few rabid conservatives still showing their pasty faces were like amusing court jesters, or Vegas contortionists – a little disturbing, a little macabre, but ultimately hilarious. I mean, have you seen those people on Morning Joe? They’re a freaking laugh riot! There’s that blonde one whose father is an economist, but she doesn’t know anything about anything; and Pat Buchanan comes on sometimes to kill hippies live-on-air, and OMG, that stupid jerky one who pretends he used to be a Congressman? Joe? He’s better than Stephen Colbert.

But my ire has slowly but surely begun to rise. It all began with this Rhodes Scholar, right here:

Michelle Bachmann, fucking insane

Michelle Bachmann, fucking insane

Does anyone else remember that episode of How I Met Your Mother where the subplot was all about not dating girls with “crazy eyes?” That’s what Michelle Bachmann makes me think of. Crazy. Eyes. Like she wants to seduce me in an elevator and then kill my rabbit. Just sayin’.

She’s been on my radar since her fittingly disastrous Hardball appearance, when she basically suggested that we reinstate the McCarthy hearings. Every time I hear her name, it’s because she said something yet more awful. In an era of increasing globalization, ennui, and mediocrity, this woman outdoes herself every single time. A week or two ago she suggested that AmeriCore was going to turn into a “mandatory re-education camp.”

Check out this highlights reel. Nuckin’ futs.

Anyway, not too long ago, Bachmann made the following statement, which, as Dave Barry would say, I swear I am not making up:

“The Founding Fathers fought against taxation without representation.

Today we have taxation with representation.

I wonder what they’d think of that!”

(crowd goes wild)

Much as I hate to burst her crazy little bubble, I gotta say: I think the Founding Fathers would be pretty goddamn psyched about taxation with representation, considering that the right to it was what spurred them to revolution.

I dont even know what this means

I don't even know what this means

But the Republican base, as usual, is much more interested in style than substance.

“Tea Parties” have “spontaneously” “sprung up” “all over the country.”

Translation: “Uninformed protests” have been “organized and publicized by Fox News” “in cities in which they could scrape up a couple hundred, or in some cases, a couple dozen, people.” (more…)


My dad, Calvin’s mom, and those who would like to preapprove us all July 10, 2008

Filed under: Calvin,College Stuff,Edumucation,News to Ponder — Meredith @ 5:30 pm

My dad is a pretty cool guy. He’s dapper, charming, and polite to a fault. He comes from hardy Yankee stock, and often makes references to childhood stories that give us pause (“My father and I built that chimney,” “That reminds me of the time we put a firecracker in a fish and threw it over the bay,” “It’s no fun to wake up and find that poodles have peed in your shoes,” etc).

But, perhaps because he is one of those “liberal Yankees” we so often disparage Down Here, he has several other, more abrasive traits which I find rather endearing. He has an almost overdeveloped sense of right and wrong – if his belief in justice were any stronger, he’d have to wear a cape. This couples with the sort of tenacity rarely found outside of Christian missionaries and 19th century British colonialists to create one hell of an investigator.

He started out as a journalist, first up north, where nothing happens because it’s snowing, and then in Tampa where nothing happened because the Mob ran a tight ship. I jest, of course, he covered a murder his first day in town and eventually did an almost-award-winning series on the “Cigar City Mafia.” (If you recognize that as the title of an acclaimed book, you’re correct. If you notice that that book was not written by my dad but utilizes much of his research, you are also correct. Note I did not link to its Amazon page.)

He’s something of a folk hero even within the family, my boyfriend Calvin holding him in particular reverence. He whispers “badass,” when he hears one of the oft-retold stories of his exploits, and has said, “your dad could go to a hot dog stand and it would turn out to be a mafia hot dog stand.”

The nature of dad’s work has always made him better informed than we mere mortals, from “do not shop in that store – trust me,” to “Oh, god, it’s the former commissioner of such-and-such, I hope he didn’t see me, he’s such a jerk.” He’s always repeated to us, mantra-like, to always, always, always read the fine print, and to never, never, never, give out our personal information. In my house, much like Calvin’s house, credit card companies were at best a ravenous monster which we should trust minimally and use warily, and at worst the harbinger of the Antichrist.

Calvin’s mom, in fact, indirectly blames credit cards for all of Calvin’s childhood issues with school and society. She was a stay-at-home-mom when his older sisters were growing up, but feels Calvin lost the benefit of that because scarily mounting credit card debt required her to go back to work when he was still very small. She looks back on this bend in the road wistfully, thinking that if it had gone differently, her son would have had a better childhood and a better relationship with her.

College was another well-tended expectation in both our houses. My mom came from an academic family of teachers, professors, and perpetual students, and of course, had her own Ph.D. My dad came from a family for whom immigration was no distant memory – for him, college was a way to prove himself and reach for something better than roofing, which was his father’s profession (Dad always said, “my father’s idea of power tools was two guys with shovels”).

Calvin’s parents and sisters all graduated from Florida State University, the former putting themselves through working as lab techs before a degree was required to become a lab tech. His brother-in-law is at present working on his Ph.D., and the whole family has enough Master’s Degrees between them to frighten a coal-mining town.

So Calvin and I were more than a little dismayed to learn that the Great Evil of credit cards and the Great Good of college were strolling off arm-in-arm into the sunset.

Back to my dad: He’s now a top-notch fraud investigator at a nice law firm, where his aforementioned tenacity and sense of justice can sometimes lead him to put in hours and hours of work investigating things which are clearly wrong on many levels but not necessarily prosecutable.

One such recent case involved him looking into the level of care Florida State put into handling their students’ personal information. This was of direct concern to me, as I’m in the process of giving them all of my personal information in order to apply for admittance in the future.

As it turns out, the University I’ve revered since childhood has taken to giving Bank of America their students’ names and home addresses so as to more easily market FSU themed credit cards to them.

I can’t get past how sleazy this is. It’s beyond cavalier indifference to the students’ well-being, it’s something much more sinister, much more wicked and hypocritical. To make videos alerting college kids to the dangers of credit card debt and to then turn and sell them to those very creditors?

The whole student body is so attuned to physical danger, to the big scary world outside their hometowns, a world of date-rape and bars and the vulnerability that shadows loneliness – and yet without their consent or knowledge, the digital bits and pieces that make up their very identities are being offered up to people who are infamous for trashing and erasing them.

My Dad made an attempt to interview some students on campus the other day, unimpressed by his suit, business cards, and salt-and-pepper beard, about half of them automatically assumed he was a creepy old guy who wanted to throw them in the back of a van for some nefarious purpose. Admirable caution.

But what to do when the people to whom we have entrusted our safety prove untrustworthy? When even playing it safe isn’t safe enough?

Calvin tells me that I should always operate at cop-level awareness, a hangover from his days in the local police cadet program. He has a whole color coded awareness chart, just like the Department of Homeland Security. The lowest level is white, and he says the only time I should ever be there is when I am asleep.

It is in that spirit that I’ve written this blog: awareness. We should all be looking out, looking as far ahead as we can, for ways we can get hurt. And if we see a societal problem, the least we can do is pass it on, change it if we can, or at least help others avoid it.

To learn more about the how some schools are profiting from their students’ personal info, check out this site my dad’s working on right now. And please, pass it on.


College paper catfight! October 1, 2007

As I think I’ve explained before, I read my local college newspaper in order that I might be amused by the police briefs (“Suspicious service dog interrupts IM fields”) ; I do not read it in hopes of seeing in blinding relief, everything that is wrong with our society.

And yet they continue to surprise me.

On September 24, they ran an opinion article (purportedly) about how political correctness had gone too far. I remember reading it and raising my eyebrows skyward, because the whole thing was a fear/ignorance induced hate-fest on Muslims who, he asserted, wanted to kill us all; this seemed especially uncalled for considering that this guy obviously represents Christianity, a religion which I can define and decry in three words: “Puritanism,” “Native Americans,” and “Crusades.” Last time I checked, the Christians (although not, I willingly concede, Christ himself) honed, perfected, and elevated to an art form the concept of killing people who don’t worship your god – whether by lighting them on fire (Puritans) or by inflicting massive genocide (upon Native Americans during the pre-Colonial era and upon Arabic peoples during the Crusades).

If you’re interested in the actual content of the article, all you need know was that it was similar in tone to the stupidity displayed here. One of his points was that, apparently, unbeknownst to me, all American schools everywhere, were forcing children to don Muslim attire and read the Koran aloud. This seemed like an interesting claim, but I had a class to get to, and I promptly forgot. Until today, that is.

The other regular author of the Opinion column (they rotate, not unlike Anna Quinlan and George F. Will in Newsweek, only considerably less talented) used his space today to write an entire column about the Muslim column, calling it a “hate article against Muslims in the cloak of a dislike for all things PC.”

He proceeded, in his bumbling, vaguely literate, college-paper way, to trash the entire article and its author, while, all the while, noting that it was perfectly constitutionally acceptable for him to be a bottom-feeding ethnocentric prick (I’m paraphrasing here). (more…)


Washington and Jena September 23, 2007

Filed under: Connections,News to Ponder,Politics — Meredith @ 12:04 pm

Here is what I don’t understand: why is Martin Luther King, Jr. heralded as the first leader of the civil rights movement while we, as a society, ignore Booker T. Washington?

Don’t get me wrong, King was a great man, and a huge and important figure in the movement. He just wasn’t the first.

Dr. Washington was born as a slave in 1856 Virginia, to a slave mother and a white father he never really knew. Freed by the emancipation proclamation at the age of nine, he moved with his family to West Virginia, where he began to attend school when he could, and learned to read and write. He pursued education hungrily, became a teacher, and eventually became the head of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institution (still around today as Tuskegee University).

He soon became one of the best known representatives of the black community, traveling the country, speaking for and about his race, and using his extensive and powerful contacts to establish new educational opportunities for blacks. His philosophy was that all black people could achieve equality through education and level-headedness, that America’s black community should conduct itself with responsibility, patience, industry, thrift, and usefulness. He held blacks to a higher standard than whites, urging them to be worthy representatives of their race.

His critics included W.E. Du Bois, the founder of the NAACP. “Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission. …” He said, “[His] programme practically accepts the alleged inferiority of the Negro races.”

While Washington believed that the road to equality was a long, hard one, needing to be planned carefully and executed over time, mostly through good race relations, Du Bois’ school of thought was more aggressive, he wanted to force instant equality through court victories and legislation.

Washington, it seems, held Du Bois’ theory in the same estimation as Du Bois held his:

“There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs….There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who do not want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.”

It should be noted that while advocating peace and understanding between the races, Washington secretly contributed to the coffers of several notable civil rights cases of the day.

One has to wonder what Dr. Washington would have thought about those six boys in jail in Louisiana.

He wouldn’t have liked that they got themselves kicked out of school, I can tell you that.

My take is that the original mishandling was in not expelling the white boys who hanged those nooses from the tree. That is hate, disgusting, raw hate, and, hey, here’s a thought – aren’t schools supposed to be institutions of learning? If you want to threaten and intimidate your fellow students, then guess what? You don’t get the privilege of an education. Too bad, zero tolerance, no second chances, you should have thought about your future before you decided to display your white-trash-cracker bigotry.

But guess what else? No boys would up swinging from that tree. None of them was hurt. I’ll tell you who was hurt – the white boy they beat the crap out of, six on one, who didn’t even hang the nooses. If they’d seen those nooses swaying in the breeze and immediately thereafter attacked the guys who hung them, they would have had a damn fine legal leg to stand on, and I would have supported them. But people don’t seem to realize that this isn’t the same thing, legally or ethically.

I think both Dr. Washington and Dr. King would have been livid (as lived as they ever got, anyway). This is not how you should represent your race. This is not the peaceful, dignified, non-violent protest that they advocated, this is something low and ugly. Dr. Washington said, “One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him.” Dr. King said that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I’m disappointed that this is being built up in the media as the next wave of civil rights when it seems to me a step backwards in the tradition of the movement.

There’s this amazing musical called Ragtime, based on Doctorow’s eponymous novel, and Dr. Washington has a small role to set the historical context. While I know the following is a fictional quote, as far as I know not even based on anything he said, I feel this line the representation of Washington sings in the last half hour of the show sums up what his opinion of the situation in Jena would have been, and what I think of it.

“For the sum of my life I have lived in hope we might all be Christian brothers.I have worked to persuade every white skinned man that he need not fear our race – what has your selfish recklessness cost us? When I’ve worked so hard to steel the white man’s hate. Look what you’ve done……..And you dare to teach your lessons to these wild, unthinking youths, yet your own son you abandoned to be raised on white man’s truths. Look what you’ve done. Think of your son. Is the lesson you would bestow upon him? Are these the shoulders you would have him stand upon? Let him be the son of a man who had the courage to tell the truth in a court of law. Make your case, and if the verdict is death, go to it proudly, knowing that you have been heard. The truth is all. You do this and you will have the thanks and respect of every decent man of color and of all those children of our race whose way is hard and whose journey is long.”


Don’t need no drugs to calm me……. August 18, 2007

Filed under: Criticism of the Stupid,News to Ponder — Meredith @ 11:40 am

When their kids had problems, my grandparents’ generation had a cheap and easy solution: “get over it”. (Repeat as necessary until child gets over it)
My grandmother did this to me a lot when I was growing up, in extreme cases punctuating it with an eye roll to illustrate that there were starving children in Africa, for godssakes, and I had nothing to complain about.

My parents’ generation, on the other hand, thought that their kids’ problems were best solved through therapy. I know women my mom’s age whose offspring have been in talk therapy since they could talk.

But all those SUV-driving-huge-sunglasses-wearing-cell-phone-talking-designer-purse-toting-thirty-something-moms have yet another child rearing philosophy: Whatever your kid’s problem is, medicate the shit out of it.

I’ve heard of Generation Rx, of course, those darn sneaky kids who raid mommy’s medicine cabinet for a high. I think I might technically be part of GenRx, although the label seems to apply primarily to the tween set. People my age go to high school and snort crack, as far as I know, pill-popping is for weaker souls.

But the Truth commercials, having long since given up the ghost trying to stop college kids from smoking pot, seem extremely concerned about GenRx. So does the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. (more…)


Of (Puppy) Dogs and Marines May 26, 2007

There’s a little girl who lives next door to me, about 5, and fully capable of walking and talking and waving to me on occasion, which is always mind-blowing because I remember her family moving in prior to her existence.

The family is, I guess, a good one, at least in the traditional American sense. They have a yard with nice grass and a back deck, an easy southern drawl on the rare occasions I hear them speak. They play country music on the radio on the weekend, host some sort of church get-together on Wednesday nights. They possess a comfortable façade of Americana, which I’m sure I could peel back quite easily, revealing a healthy amount of sordidness, but I won’t.

They also have the meanest dog I’ve ever met.

He’s a Boston Terrier, a breed second only to the pug in its tenacious ugliness. He despises me even more than he despises the rest of the world; whenever we’re outside together, he runs to the edge of his yard and threatens me in every way he can. He once chased a garbage man up a brick mailbox.

But today, as I tried to relax in my backyard, swinging languidly in my Hammock of Death–long story–I became aware of the little girl next door.

“That’s MY soccer ball,” I heard her say to someone in an imperious voice that sounded suspiciously like my own. “That’s not YOUR soccer ball!”

I realized she was talking to the dog, and looked up just in time to see her pick him up, pull him to her, and lug him from one end of her yard to the other.

The weirdest thing was that the dog wasn’t angry, snarling, incensed as he is at the very sight of me. He was docile, even a little nonplussed — ho-hum, my girl is picking me up again, what a blessing I don’t have to walk.

And it got me thinking: What may be a hideously mean and ugly attack dog to one person may be somebody else’s puppy. Once this thought entered my head, of course, it rolled around and marinated itself, seemingly at random, with other thoughts from earlier in the week.

Wednesday, I made the mistake of watching the 10 o’clock news, and caught a sad local interest story. You know the one I mean, it runs on local stations everywhere now. A hometown boy who graduated from the same high school as your boss’ son, knows all the good places to eat, like you, not like the college students who aren’t from here and think they know everything even though they never leave downtown. He became a marine, and now he’s dead, mortar shell or something to the heart. And he was only 21 years old, and he left behind a wife and baby.

I’ve never really been anti-war, not that I’m intent on “staying the course” or anything either. I figure that I don’t know anything about fighting a war, or even the middle east, and I try, as a rule, not to wax rhapsodic on topics I can’t discuss with some degree of education. So I’m not going to really have an anti-war moment now.

I’m kind of with A.J. Soprano on this one — he’s been studying the middle east conflict this season. While not assigning blame, he’s wondering: How can you not be depressed? How can you wake up in the morning knowing that all this is going on in the world and keep going day after day?

What the hell is wrong with us (and here I mean ALL of us, the human race at large) that we can justify taking someone else’s life? Is oil a reason? Is the fact that we disagree on what (imaginary) sentient being controls the universe a reason? What kind of bullshit reasons are those? When you get right down to it, is anything an excuse? Is there ever a good enough reason to take a life for a principle, to look at a person in front of you, and forget that maybe he’s someone’s husband? Someone’s child? Someone’s father?

Hell. He could even be somebody’s puppy.