Sunday, November 30, 2008

Looking Back - Hooterville, Four Years Ago - Part 1

I started this blog four years ago.

I didn't start out thinking of myself as a writer. I left college in my first year to go on the road as a musician; I took a four-year detour to work in the circus and carnival, went back to music and that's where I've been ever since. I moved to Los Angeles in my late 20s to see where I could go with my music, and ended up finding love, marriage and children - something this old road hag did not expect to find. I also found myself as an artist, and settled into a nice groove of music and family.

I grew up with two progressive parents, and always thought of myself as liberal, but was never what you'd call politically active or even particularly politically aware. My first glimmerings of attention to the particulars of politics came when Newt Gingrich mobilized the Republican Party and began his campaign to destroy Democrats, demonize liberals and hijack the government. The 'Contract on America' I found offensive in the extreme, and the subsequent hunting of the Clintons left me slack-jawed with astonishment at the gall and hubris of the right wing. I began taking notice of the names of the players, but I still wasn't in the game.

During the 2000 campaign, I was repelled by George W. Bush. I learned all I needed to know about him when I read about the Karla Faye Tucker incident. That someone who had the power of life and death over other human beings (and flexed it more than any other governor) could laugh and joke about killing a woman who was begging for her life, (and had been 'saved' and forgiven by the same Jesus who purportedly turned Bush's life around, his sister in Christ) showed me that that this loathsome man was a sociopath as well as an ignoramus and a boor. I was shocked that quite a few of my progressive friends were considering voting for him. Yet, even as I worried about the appointment of Supreme Court justices by a conservative president, I had no idea of the damage this ne'er-do-well smirking frat-boy could inflict upon this country. Even as I was taken aback by the audacity of Dick Cheney appointing himself Vice-President, I did not have an inkling that we were about to be driven over a cliff, along with so many of the basic rights and freedoms that we had taken for granted as irrevocable.

I didn't think he had it in him. I thought he was too stupid to do much damage; that his Daddy's old friend Dick Cheney would keep him in check; that he'd be in and out so quick that we'd hardly know he was there, sort of like Gerald Ford. I did not know that I would soon not recognize my own country.

After 9/11, after the Patriot Act, after the invasion of Iraq, after "smoke 'em out", "Axis of Evil", "dead or alive", "bring 'em on" and "Mission Accomplished", I knew better. And, I thought, so did the rest of America.

But on the morning after the election of 2004, I was staggered to find that George W. Bush was still occupying the office of President of the United States. Gobsmacked might be a more apt description.

I felt as though my perception of reality had shifted. Had I landed in the Twilight Zone? Was I the only person who was outraged by the actions of this criminal and his gang? Was there something I was missing that everyone else was understanding?

I was absolutely 'dazed and confused.' I wandered through the next few days in a fog. But then, an idea came to me.

Earlier that summer, I had heard about 'blogs'. I didn't know what they were, so I Googled 'blog' and found out. I was interested, not so much from a writing standpoint as from amateur geekitude. I checked out WordPress; I wanted to see if I could make it work - it would be cool to install those little bits of code and see what happened. I got a nice-looking little site going - I was mostly interested in the aesthetics and design aspect. It was a lovely, lovely blog. All it needed was something to say.

I put up a few posts, mostly along the lines of "uh, it's eleven o'clock at night and I have no idea what I should write about." They weren't even posts; they were place-holders - lorem ipsums in English. But as I explored the blogging platform, I found myself stumbling across political blogs. I happened to be reading a Washington Post blog - have no idea who the columnist was, but the commenters intrigued me. One in particular interested me enough that I went to visit his blog, a Blogger blog called Left of Center, and we began corresponding. Although my own blog was still empty, I found more to say in my conversations with Mr. M. But I was still in no respect a real 'blogger'.

Fast-forward to the fall and my dilemma.

What about blogging?

I could rant and rave as much as I liked on a blog, and maybe it would help me pick myself up and start moving again. My WordPress blog didn't quite seem right for a political blog, though, and most of the blogs I had come across from the Left of Center blogroll were Blogger blogs. Mr. M suggested that I get a Blogger blog, a StatCounter account and a BlogRolling blogroll, and I would be on my way.

But what should I call it? As I thought about this, I realized what my feelings of disorientation and confusion reminded me of. I remembered watching an old sitcom called Green Acres as a kid, and feeling a similar sort of unease while watching poor old Mr. Douglas get played by the local yokels. It was a place where brains and good intentions were no match for corn-pone cunning and chicken-fried chicanery, and everyone was in on the racket, including his wife; a place where he was lied to, stolen from, and tricked into buying things he already owned, and where pigs held positions of prestige and influence. Green Acres, we are there!

And Hooterville it was.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday - Coming Up For Air (the TMI Edition)

You are welcome to skip this post if you are looking for political commentary.

This week has been a busy one. 

This quarter at school, we've had our biggest enrollment ever, so I am working 4 days a week instead of 3. I get up at 5:30 to get the kids off to school with my husband - my son who is a senior goes to a jazz music magnet across town, so has to be at the bus stop by 6:30. The other two are at school by 8, so I start getting ready for school. I am now taking public transport most of the time, so I head off to the bus stop to get to school by 9. I'm done with school by 6 or 7, depending on the day, and usually I'm done, but this week I've been doing studio work for Richard Perry, so as soon as I get home, I hop in the car and go to the studio until 1 or 2 in the morning, and get to bed by 3 or 4 AM.

After Wednesday, the session work was done for this week (except for some take-home work) so Thursday after school, I get to stay home.  I read the littles their bedtime story (we're going through the whole Wizard of Oz series; we're on The Emerald City of Oz right now) and I fall asleep in bed with my daughter at 10:00.

I sleep until 6 AM Friday morning, get up with the kids, we get them all out the door, and at 8, I go back to bed and sleep till 4:30 in the afternoon. I'm still woozy from trying to make up the sleep deficit, but I manage to do the dishes and make the kids' favorite dinner, spaghetti - my husband has been holding down the household chores for the week. I know I should be doing some blogging or writing - I have the Second Life Virtual Book Signing at SeattleTammy's Virtual Jackson Street Books coming up tomorrow and I need to do some prep work, but I just sit in my chair like a lump and hang out at Café Wellstone for Dancing Liberally - they spin some great tunes. I watch a little bit of crap TV on my laptop and go back to sleep around 11:30.

This morning, I think I have finally made up my sleep deficit, and can maybe begin to get caught up on my life. I owe so many phone calls that it's not funny, but I'm never in a place during the week when I can make a call, because they would all end up being at least 45 minutes, which would not be possible in my work-week schedule. I have several blog post ideas started that I need to work on, since I do not even have an election post up! 


Here I am, looking forward to a nice productive day! 

The Virtual Book Signing is at 2:00 PST so I'll be getting my notes together for that, and get some long-promised phone calls made. I hope to put up the audio from my interview with the Rev. Barry Lynn, which was so much fun. I hope to get around to visiting my blog friends and perhaps even leaving a comment or two, so they don't think I have forgotten them. I hope to get caught up with my school writing. I am having to write my curricula as I go along for my Keyboard Accompaniment, Finale and GarageBand classes - it's pretty much writing a textbook on the fly, but at the end of it I may be able to pull together an instructional book out of it, which would make it worthwhile. I also need to get my studio home-work done, editing some MIDI files and re-recording some piano parts that I can e-mail to the people I'm working for. 

Other than that, I'm just chilling.

Monday, November 17, 2008

AU Bloggers - Let's Start Planning For Next Year!

Sue J of Nailing Jello to the Wall (did I say that that's my new favorite blog name?), who I didn't get a chance to really talk to, got me thinking about next year.

What if we start planning now to spend a few extra days in DC and really do it up right?

That was my only complaint about the Meetup - it was too short to get to talk to everyone I wanted to get to know!

As I said to FranIAm, I suggest we start now on planning for a few extra days in Washington - maybe start a kitty for that purpose, and try to clear our work schedules (for those of us in thrall to The Man) and really have a serious blogger hang.

If we all start throwing a few bucks a week into a kitty, by next year we'll be able to afford it, and those of us who have a little extra can help out those who don't, and a good time will be had by all. We can share rooms, find cool local places to eat and drink at, and see the sights (which I never have time to do.)

Plus, we'll have time to hook up with DC bloggers, and who knows what else?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

On the Radio Tuesday With Rev. Barry Lynn!

Heads-up! This Tuesday, Nov. 18, I'll be doing a radio interview with the awe-inspiring Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, at 1:00 PT. The show is called Culture Shocks and it can be heard on the radio live in these markets:

Los Angeles and the Inland Empire - KCAA 1050 AM
Washington, D.C. - WMET 1160 AM World Radio
Monterey, CA - KRXA AM 540
Cameron, TX - KTAE 1330 AM

and also streaming live and podcasting from Culture Shocks.

I hope you can tune in to the show live!

The call-in number is 1.866.582.9933, and I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, Nov. 18 - 1:00 to 2:00 Pacific time!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Future Is Here! Virtual Bookstores Rule!


I have just been checking out Second Life, thanks to a new friend I met via Jesus' General (who I met in DC after reading him for a few years now), SeattleTammy of Jackson Street Books, a fine new and used book store (what is cooler than books? Nothing!). JG has a Second Life hang called Café Wellstone, which is a gathering-place for progressives to chat, hang out, dance, and dress up their virtual selves. Tammy helped me get going on it, and it's a blast.

Today, Tammy has put up a Book Report up at Jesus' General for The Price of Right, and she has also invited me to do a Virtual Book Signing at her SL bookstore Virtual Jackson Street Books (that's a Second Life url, which takes you to the location in SL) next Saturday, a week from now, at 2:00 SLT (which is PT).

Anyone who wants to try it out and see what's up can contact me or SeattleTammy. It's free and it's fun.

I can't wait. The future is here!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pix From AU Meetup!

Although the General and I were both photographically-challenged, others were not!

Check out FranIAm for more photo phun.

(From top - FranIAm & BlueGal, the prizewinning Tengrain, DCup & Yours Truly, Rev. Barry Lynn & DCap, Rev. Barry Lynn & Yours Truly )

Monday, November 10, 2008

In Which I Return To Los Angeles With Fond Memories of BlogFriends

We did have a simply grand time.

To get to reconnect with my friends from last year and meet in person other fave bloggers was very much a treat. From last year (in addition to the aforementioned bloggers in the last post):

Vast Left and Lambert Strether from Correntewire
Bruce from Mainstream Baptist
Leo from the Neural Gourmet (and proprietor of Carnival of the Liberals!)
Dennis from One Pissed Off Veteran

And new this year:

Ed from Dispatches from the Culture Wars
DCap from Distributorcap NY (even younger-looking and cuter than his picture!)
The very darling and fun Fran of Fran I Am
The devilishly handsome - and award-winning - Kevin from Mock, Paper, Scissors
Sue, who totally has the coolest blog name ever - Nailing Jello to the Wall
The wise and witty Card-carrying Buddhist at No Blood for Hubris
The esteemed Dr. Zaius of Zaius Nation
And...we were honored by the testosterone-soaked übermanliness of the one and only Patriot Boy, Jesus' General!

But the real star of the show was BAC of Yikes! for putting it all together and making it look easy. I don't know how she manages to appear so unruffled and charming in the midst of chaos.

An august gathering indeed. And for a worthy cause - spreading the word about Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I think that this organization epitomizes the core of the democratic and liberal values that defend the liberty that our Declaration of Independence promises, and our Constitution delivers, and I'm very proud to be a member. AU is equally comprised of people of faith and atheists working together for a common cause, and is at the forefront of the issues important to me - keeping science from becoming just another 'belief', subject to religious interpretation; keeping politicking out of the pulpit; keeping my tax dollars from supporting discrimination - keeping a rational point of view in a world gone mad. They support womens' rights, LGBT rights, voting rights, privacy rights.

They are First Amendment fanatics - who can't love that? In a culture which has come to bash anything that smacks of education or intellect, AU is unapologetically not only intelligent, but wise. Executive director Rev. Barry Lynn is an ordained minister who passionately and articulately makes the case for keeping religion out of government and extends that case to not only the right but equally to the left, which gives me confidence in the intellectual honesty of AU. They are one of the groups along with the ACLU who filed (and won!) the historic Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial over attempts to insert the idea of 'intelligent design' into science curriculum.

I got to give copies of my book to Barry Lynn, my blogger friends and other AU attendees.

I just wish our trip wasn't so short, and that I hadn't been so tired that I forgot my phone on the way to the airport.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

In Which I Travel To Our Nation's Capital With Americans United!

I am writing to you from our nation's capital, Washington, D.C. I am here for the weekend for the 2nd Annual Blogger Meetup with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, along with blogfriends BAC, DCup, AddieStan, Blue Gal, PZ Myers, and many more (which will fill you in on later today.)

Good times. I will keep you posted as events unfold, but I am out the door to go mingle.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Thoughts On the Eve of the 2008 Election

Four years ago…it seems like another lifetime. I feel like a different person.

On the eve of the last Presidential election, I was sure that Dubya and his vile coterie would be out on their ears, now that the public knew what kind of a monster he was. Talk about "getting fooled again!" Sick to my stomach, in shock, I began to write purely to save my sanity.

In beginning the uncomfortable work of self-examination, I came to a realization about my values, my worldview, and whether they were worth taking to the next level. I knew that if I didn't do my part, in whatever way available to me, I would have no right to the kind of democracy that is worth fighting for.

In four years, I have gone from a bystander to a participant. I have put my money where my mouth is. I've written a book. I've volunteered for candidates, both local and national, who share my values. I've joined organizations who work for the issues I care about. And I became a pollworker.

I've worked the polls with the same people for the past 3 years. We usually only see each other once or twice a year, when election time rolls around, but we have a bond that comes with hanging out with each other for 15 hours at a stretch and a shared commitment to participatory democracy. The woman who volunteers her garage is also part of our 'team'. We usually go to set up our equipment the night before so that everything starts off as smoothly as possible. My co-poll-workers have known about my book since I started working on it a couple of years ago, and I brought a copy to my inspector this evening. She actually shrieked. Of course, when people say, "I'm writing a book", it's like saying "I'm writing a screenplay" here in Los Angeles, so I think the fact that it has actually materialized was rather shocking. But it was great to be able to share it with my compadres.

In a way, it's almost like Christmas Eve - not in the way of expecting fabulous presents the next day, but in the contemplation of the fact that something momentous will be happening tomorrow. Certainly this will be the busiest election I've ever worked the polls for. We've honed our routine over the past couple years, and I hope it pays off tomorrow. I hope the crowds aren't too big to handle, and that we have the resources we need.

One thing I do know, is that as far as our little polling place, every vote will get counted at our end.