Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Dance

I've been so beaten down; so tired; so frustrated and angry. When I started Hooterville in November of 2004, I thought I was angry, frustrated and confused, but that was nothing compared to what has happened in the last two years, when the chickens finally came home to roost - when the last available dollar had been wrung out of the middle class and we were hung out to dry.

As anyone who has visited my blog knows by now, I have not spent much time writing in the last couple of years. I wrote my book "The Price of Right: How the Conservative Agenda Has Failed America (and Always Will)"  during 2006-2007, while I was working a day job and gigging at night and being a mom to 3 kids. Somehow, I was able to find a way to do all that and write on a consistent basis as well.

But the housing market crashed and the economy crashed with it; our predatory mortgage loan became harder and harder to pay as my hours got shorter and shorter. A management change at my job made it very clear that older, more expensive teachers such as myself were no longer wanted, and it would be just a matter of time before I got the boot. There were cobwebs in the mailbox that, once upon a time, was stuffed with my husband's residual checks - cobwebs now only disturbed by bills and scam solicitations.

Then, the foreclosure notices started coming in, and my husband and I began to do The Dance.

You know The Dance - it has many names, like the "Bankruptcy Boogaloo", the "Chapter 13 Cha-Cha", the "Please-Don't-Turn-Our-Power-Off Pirouette", the "Work-Till-You-Drop Watusi", the "Juggle-the-Bills Jitterbug", the "Credit-Card Conga", the "Second-Mortgage Shuffle",  the "Hope-This-Deposit-Goes-Through-Before-That-Check-Gets-Cashed Hustle", the "Try-To-Stretch-The-Dollar-Till-It-Screams Tango", the "Just-Go-Without Jig", the "Put-Off-Going-To-The-Doctor Polka", the "Late-Payment Limbo" (also known as "How Low Can You Go?") and, of course, everyone's favorite, the "Bill-Collector Bolero".

Whatever you call it, whatever your particular dance is, The Dance will wear you out. Like the Red Shoes, it makes you dance and dance and dance and dance until you collapse. And you still haven't gotten anywhere; you're still right where you started, except you're dizzy and exhausted.

You'd think that with all this free time from not working, it would be easy to get things done, but that is not the case. The bills start piling up on the kitchen table, but you can't even look at them when you don't have anything to pay them with. All you can think about is how you can make some money right now - now, before they cut off the cable/power/gas; now, before your bank balance gets so low that a $5 charge will turn into a $35 overdraft fee; now, so you can give your kid lunch money, so you can replace the tire that just blew out - the spare that you've been putting off replacing with a real tire for three months.

You take any job or project or gig you can get, no matter how small or cheap; if you get some work, you put in four or five times the amount of time and effort that you're getting paid for, in the hopes that the people you're working for will be impressed enough to give you some more work. You stay up till 3 or 4 or 5 in the morning on the computer, working on things that you might be able to make some money on. You put things off for a day or two, like going to the grocery store; or for a year or two, like the dentist (what's the Musician's Dental Plan? Chew on the other side); some things you avoid altogether, like replacing or fixing things that break around the house. Broken window? Duct tape and cardboard. Broken doorknob? Duct tape and cardboard. After a while you stop seeing them. You stop seeing a lot of things, including your friends - you don't want to invite anyone over, and when the family is sharing one old car on its last legs, driving around for social occasions seems a little self-indulgent.

When you spend every day like this, for a few years, as I have, finding the wherewithal to do something so immediately un-financially-rewarding as writing a book or even blogging seems to be out of reach. Although technically unemployed, dancing The Dance and staying on my feet has taken every ounce of energy I have.

Being out of work is a full-time job.

Having said that, let me also say that I in no way feel sorry for myself or that I am deserving of pity. I may have to put off going to the grocery store, but I eventually get there. My husband and I are eating; our kids are eating. Our house is falling apart, but we're still in it. And I have a husband whom I love and who loves me back, who is my rock; I have kids who are so good-hearted, uncomplaining, helpful and loving that they take my breath away. We have family and friends who will always be there for us. We have it better than a lot of people, and most of the people I know personally (except the wealthiest of my friends) are in very much the same boat.

This is what the 99% is all about.

So many of us have been dancing The Dance for years, and I have been wondering what it would take to make people realize that it's not their fault; that we have been stolen from by the most brazen, audacious criminals in the world. They have stolen the money, the jobs, the health, and the houses of an entire segment of society! That, my friends, is thievery on so magnificent a scale that it almost defies description - that makes the current denizens of our prisons look like toddlers stealing cookies.

Take my money, my job, my health, my house, and my hope - now, what's left?

My family, my friends, my principles, and my daily decision to appreciate what I have that the crooks cannot steal - unless I hand it to them personally. Hope? Who needs it? What matters is whether you do what's right and fight what's wrong - with hope or without it. Hope is not a bad thing in and of itself but if you only fight if you have hope, then it becomes a crutch, not a motivator.

But I do feel hope when I see the 99% like me standing up, speaking out, getting mad, and fighting back. Is it naïve of me? Perhaps - but it surely beats the alternative, which has been going on for far too long. If I have to dance The Dance, at least I'm not alone - my brothers and sisters are out there dancing too, and if we hold one another's hands and lift one another up, we can start dancing a new dance - a beautiful, powerful dance that will move us all forward together, instead of spinning around in circles by ourselves till we collapse.


Definition of OCCUPY (transitive verb)

1 : to engage the attention or energies of
2 a : to take up (a place or extent in space)  
   b : to take or fill (an extent in time) 
3 a : to take or hold possession or control of  
   b : to fill or perform the functions of (an office or position) 
4 : to reside in as an owner or tenant 

I've been so beaten down; so tired; so frustrated and angry. When I started Hooterville in November of 2004, I thought I was angry, frustrated and confused, but that was nothing compared to what has happened in the last two years, when the chickens finally came home to roost - when the last available dollar had been wrung out of the middle class and the house of cards came tumbling down. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Recently I posted on my Facebook page about the disappointment and disgust I felt when I had to watch President Obama produce his birth certificate, and, what was even worse, watch the unspeakably vile Donald Trump crow (yes, that word was deliberately chosen) about it, believing that he alone had the power to lift his leg on the President of the United States.

My heart broke for my black brothers and sisters, who are affected by this foulness in a way that the rest of America is not.

Let's call a spade a spade.

This 'Birther' crap is racism, pure and simple, and Donald Trump's actions were racist. I don't care what you say, you racist motherfucker. Actions speak louder than words.

The most powerful and influential black man in history was made to 'show his papers'.

This is not what it appears on the surface - not a legitimate concern about the eligibility of a politician - say, one who was born in Panama...

This is a 'dog whistle' to question the legitimacy of this President to hold his office due to his birth. Black people have been denied their human rights - the rights that the rest of native-born or even non-native-born Americans have been granted as a matter or course - due to their birth: the fact that they were born with black skin.

It was more than a slap in the face of President Obama - it was a slap in the face of every black person in America.

There are many, many people still around who have experienced racism that was written into law - 'separate but equal'. A lot of people like to pretend that we are no longer a 'racist' society, but Plessy v. Ferguson was still in force in my lifetime, and although discrimination is no longer legal it is still very much entrenched in our society.

The election of America's first black President has brought the maggots of racism crawling out of the woodwork and into the open. Yes, in past years it had become unacceptable in polite society to blatantly display racist views, but that did not mean that it was gone. It just looked bad to be too open about it. Since President Obama's election, however, we have seen more overt and open racism than we have in several generations.

And, as it always is, it is fear-based.

Many different kinds of psychological studies show that one of the signal differences between liberal and conservative personalities is that conservatives are more strongly affected and motivated by fear.  A study by the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience shows a biological correlation as well.

An article in the London Telegraph explains that self-described conservatives
"have brains with larger amygdalas, almond shaped areas in the centre of the brain often associated with anxiety and emotions. On the other hand, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life."

When you are afraid, the most important thing becomes relieving that fear - and rationality has nothing to do with it. One of the results of a fear-driven personality is acceptance of inequality. When your worldview is laid out in a vertical, hierarchical way, inequality is built into it.

This particular subset of nutballs - birthers and Tea Partyers - are people whose fears are assuaged by belonging to these groups, and who equate safety and comfort with sameness and obedience. They offer both a set of simple, unambiguous beliefs, and an enemy to unite against. President Obama is the ultimate embodiment of the "Other"; someone 'not like us', therefore Un-American. Once that decision has been made - that Obama is 'the other' and therefore unworthy of respect or obedience, there is no fact that will dislodge it. In fact, a person with this type of personality derives more safety and comfort the more ridiculous and illogical the premise that they are asked to accept - it means they are more obedient, and therefore safer.

Racism is and always has been the result of fear, and has always been used by those with money and power to control and manipulate people who are easy targets because of their discomfort with ambiguity and strong need for certainty, which make them prone to seek out someone or something 'above' them who will give them that certainty and assuage their fear. Once they accept an authority or ideology, they are both obedient to that authority and hostile and aggressive towards anyone who is opposed by the authority.

A poll taken after the release of Barack Obama's 'long-form' birth certificate indicates that 16% of all voters and 30% of Republicans do not believe President Barack Obama has proven he was born in the U.S., even after release of his long-form birth certificate.

But the fact that he was pressured into having to release it at all is what is the most revolting - that and the fact that the Republicans have no shame about going to the lowest place that humans can go in order to out-crazy each other in the race for the 2012 nomination and tapping into the basest of emotions in order to advance themselves politically.

Racism? It's the new black!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I Am A Liberal

Well, friends, I am starting to string some sentences together to start working on my next book, which will be called "Now, What's Left?"

The first thing I have to do is put together a book proposal, which is kind of a big job, but - the good news is that when it's done, you've really done the hardest part of writing the book.

So, in preparation for the proposal, I'm sort of synopsizing everything that's been rattling around in my head that I want to be a part of this book, and one of the things I ended up doing was making a list of the reasons I am a liberal.

I'm sure I'll think of more, but... here goes!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Conservative Louis J. Marinelli, I Salute You.

Louis J. Marinelli, a long-time opponent of same-sex marriage, and the man behind the National Organization for Marriage's 2010 "Summer for Marriage" Tour, has examined his conscience and come to the conclusion that he is in support of marriage equality.

Not only that, he is man enough to 'come out' (if I may be so bold) and state this for the record, while apologizing to those he has hurt during his fight to oppose marriage equality - the gays and lesbians (and their families) - counter-protesters whom he encountered along the path of his travels across the country.

Is he still conservative?

Of course.

As I have said many times, there are conservatives out there who are good-hearted, honest people trying the very best they know how to do what is right. While I don't agree with their ideas of what is right, I do not think they are bad people or stupid people. They are good people who seem to be wired diferently from me and my way of thinking. These are my dear family members and friends. I reserve my disapproval and condemnation for the amoral greedsters and sociopaths who know how to take advantage of the conservative desire for authority, and are no more conservative than my cat. They talk conservative because that's how they appeal to conservatives. But they have no moral compass - merely a barometer that tells them where best to apply pressure.

Real liberals and real conservatives have much in common at heart - way more, in fact, than either type has in common with the amoral greedster that has thrown all of us to the wolves in search of the last dollar that can be squeezed out of the economy and transferred up, up and away - away from the rest of us. Deep down, we share the same values, but the wiring that directs how those values are expressed can be very different.

So when I see an instance of a conservative truly looking within and, more than that, finds it within himself to nut up and acts upon what he finds there - according to his own moral compass, not 'adopting' a liberal viewpoint - I think it's important to acknowledge, applaud and appreciate this.

The reason he changed his views? Because he met and got to know gays and lesbians face to face - as real people, real Americans, not 'faceless political opponents' - not 'the other', the bad and wicked bogey-men (and -women) of his imagination. And because he has the character to act on that knowledge instead of trying to deny or ignore these realities.

Dr. Bob Altemeyer, the author ot "The Authoritarians", asserts that authoritarianism (and authoritarians, who generally self-identify as conservative) is most often strengthened by isolation from and lessened by exposure to other people, ideologies and cultures. This is why diversity is so crucial to our society.

The more that we get to know people who are not exactly like ourselves on the surface, the more that we realize that they are just like us - on the inside, where it counts.

So, conservative Louis J. Marinelli -

I salute you.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Atlantis? Sorry, MSNBC - I Beat You To It.

MSNBC thinks they're all scientific and such. 

Sorry, y'all, but I had it covered a while back.

(how genius am I? Not even re-cycling a post - three-cycling! That's the Hooterville way!)

Eugene V. Debs

I'm just saying.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sorry, Son - No Music Magnet For You. The Koch Bros Need To Pay Less Taxes.

(cross-posted at the Smirking Chimp)

 A couple of years ago, my older son got bumped out of a place at Cal State Northridge because of budget cuts. He had been accepted - recruited - into the highly-acclaimed jazz department at CSUN because of his excellence in music in high school. He was fortunate enough - and worked hard enough - to earn a place in the Hamilton Academy of Music, one of the finest public high-school music magnets in California, if not the entire country. The video I'm posting is of the award-winning performance of his Vocal Jazz group that competed in the Reno Jazz Festival, led by one of the best vocal directors I have ever heard (and, believe me, I've heard a few), R. John Hamilton.

I owe my career in music - the joy of my life - to my music directors in high school; my choir director and my band director. They saw a shy girl who never took band like all the rest of the band and choir kids, and didn't have the confidence to think of herself as a musician or a singer at all, just someone who picked around on the piano when she though no one else was watching, and they literally dragged me into choir and band. They wouldn't let anyone laugh at me because I didn't know how to read music as well as the rest of them; they encouraged me, challenged me, put me into situations that were above my level and made me rise to them. Because of their seeing something in me that I didn't see in myself, I learned how to play jazz; I learned how to sight-sing, and I ended up being one of the 20 best sight-singers in the state of Florida in All-State competition 3 years in a row, and got superiors in both piano and voice at State Contest. It wasn't because I was all that; it was because as teachers, both those directors cared enough to go out of their way to drag me into their programs.

A similar thing happened to my son. He has always been a fine tenor sax player, and he had a  wonderful director in middle school. She was a no-nonsense martinet who scared the living daylights out of the kids who didn't really care about music, but she made sure that my son had every  opportunity available to him to grow as a player - and made sure that he got into Hamilton Music Academy, where he played in the C jazz band there under the direction of new band director Jim Foschia. My son and Mr. Foschia bonded, and he stayed in that band for the next couple of years to get the leadership opportunities that Jim Foschia saw for him. He gave Sam room to lead and mentor younger students, even though his skills were good enough for the A band. His senior year, though, he moved up to the A band, and he was also recruited into the Vocal Jazz group, the elite singing group at the Academy, even though he had never sung a note in public - because John Hamilton saw something in him that he did not know was there. He did what my directors did for me - he didn't take 'no' for an answer, he challenged Sam, and in regional competition in Reno, Sam ended up winning solo awards for scat-singing. In Monterey, John Hamilton's group took first place and was invited to sing at the actual Monterey Jazz Festival. This was no accident. These are great teachers, who knew how to bring out the best in their students.

A great teacher, with a teacher's heart, is a national treasure and a gift to any student lucky enough to encounter them. They don't make more money than any other teacher; they don't get million-dollar bonuses and corporate jets - yet they contribute to society in a way that none of these lavishly-compensated corporate CEOs would or could ever do in a million years.

Friday, March 04, 2011

In the Midst of Re-Design and Updating Hooterville

Well, it's time, I think, to give Hooterville a facelift. I have not been blogging steadily for quite a while. My family and I have been in survival mode, just trying to hang on, and so it has not been easy to find the time to do anything that is not immediately related to survival. However, I'm still trying to keep on writing - slowly, perhaps; but slow is better than not at all, and bringing Hooterville up to date seems to be a good way to keep moving forward.

Plus, I just discovered that my Blogrolling blogroll has vanished (as has the company itself), and with it all the blogs I have linked to since 2004! So maybe it's best to just start again and collect the blogs that are still relevant into a new blogroll, as well as change to the new Blogger format.

So, friends, please send me the links to your blogs so that I can add you again. As Skippy says, link to me and I'll link to you! It's probably a good idea to start fresh with blog links, because many if not most of my old ones are probably dead anyway.

I look forward to adding you back and spiffing up the place. Maybe I'll have a little blog party when it's done. You're invited!

Update: I'm adding blogs to the roll as I find them, so if yours isn't up yet, it's not because you've been left out. Holla back atcha girl! I'll get you on there ASAP.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Marcy's Running; I'm Singing!

I wanted to let you all know that Marcy Winograd is stepping up to run for the California 36th CD seat.

 She challenged Jane Harman for the seat twice, and made very impressive showings against the powerfully entrenched, incredibly wealthy and long-standing (and hawkish) Harman. Now Harman is leaving her seat, and although Marcy at first was reluctant to run, the absence of a real progressive, anti-war candidate and the urging of her many, many supporters convinced her to once again stand up for US - the working people, the people who want peace, who want jobs, who want a green economy, who want healthcare instead of warfare. As a high-school English teacher at Crenshaw High in LA, she is on the front lines of the attack against unions and public employees, and we are so fortunate she has agreed to stand up once again and speak up for us and for all Americans.

Marcy will be announcing her candidacy tomorrow in Torrance at 10am. I am so honored to be singing for her campaign kickoff once again, and I will do my best to try and broadcast at least audio and maybe even video if I get super-lucky. I'll update tomorrow, and if successful, I will be streaming right here on the blog.

When: Saturday, Feb. 26, 10 am
Where: In front of Fox Drug of Torrance (Old Town), 1327 El Prado, Torrance, 90501

Please join me in supporting Marcy. No matter where you live, a true progressive in Congress is desperately needed and can make a difference - maybe even the difference.

Marcy Winograd for Congress

Listen to the live audio stream (at 10am) by clicking on the Flash player below

This text will be replaced

If the Flash player does not work for you, click on this link, which should open up in iTunes, Winamp, or Windows Media Player (or whatever player you use for internet radio.)

If you have an iPhone or similar smartphone, you can listen via any Shoutcast internet radio player. Check out this post for details.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Lost Continent of Atlantis Has Been Found - and it's the Answer to the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis!

(I wrote this almost exactly three years ago - Feb 2008  - and it scares me how prescient it was!)

The Lost Continent of Atlantis Has Been Found - and it's the Answer to the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis!

DUBUQUE, Iowa -- In an astounding discovery, a scientist has announced the most amazing archaeological find of the twenty-first century - the Lost Continent of Atlantis!

Dr. Oliver Icklemyer, an archaeologist at the University of Phoenix, unveiled his astonishing news at a recent press conference in Dubuque, Iowa. First mentioned by Plato in Timaeus around 360 B.C., Atlantis was a magnificent continent-sized island empire which was destroyed in 9000 B.C. in the span of 24 hours by earthquakes and floods, and was subsequently lost in the bottom of the ocean, its advanced civilization lost forever - or so it has been believed. For centuries the location of the fabled Atlantis has been hotly debated, but Dr. Icklemyer has stunned experts by claiming that Atlantis is actually about half a mile out from the Jersey Shore.

"It stands to reason," the professor modestly explained. "When I connected the dots - 'Atlantic Ocean', 'Atlantic City', 'Atlantis' - it all fell into place."

And now, the Lost Continent of Atlantis has not only been discovered, but will soon be inhabited once again for the first time in eleven thousand years - by the victims of the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis!

The White House is hailing this as a 'win-win'. A spokesman for the Administration is quoted as saying, "This is a red-letter day for the Americans who have lost their homes due to fraudulent and deceptive marketing practices by banks and mortgage brokers. Each and every family that has been bilked out of their house will receive, practically free of charge, a beautiful 1/16-acre plot in the exclusive Atlantis: Phase II 'lifestyle community' subdivision - and an air tank for each member of the family! Every home is equipped with running water. There are recreational activities galore, including fishing and swimming."

Already real-estate developers are scrambling to get first dibs on this remarkable bonanza of untapped investment potential. An unnamed real-estate mogul calls it the real 'final frontier', saying, "Space, shmace! That's so last century! You wanna talk about your 'Manifest Destiny' - this is it, baby!" He plans on changing the name to 'Trump-lantis'.

In a statement to the Weekly World News, the President's mother Barbara Bush notes,"And so many of the people in Atlantis here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm Even More Thankful For Two Sweet Words...

Three years! (thanks, calibre97)

However, knowing Tommi, I will not begin to celebrate until I hear the 'click' of the key turning in the lock.