Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thus We Shop

Black Friday is over and retail sales were up 3% over last year. Despite the frightening economy, the home mortgage crisis, and widespread unemployment, we still went shopping. We have to shop, we are indoctrinated to shop--we have become a nation of shoppers. We shop online and in person. We shop every hour of every day. Sometimes we stand in line for hours or camp outside of stores all night waiting for the doors to open. Our economy is depending on us to shop our way out of the mess we’re in. And what do we shop for? The same junk we look at every day, only maybe this time at a discount.

When you travel around the country, you find the same stores every five or ten miles in the same mall layouts. What is so special about that? What can we possibly discover that makes all this shopping worth it? The chains have driven the really interesting, unique stores out of business so all that’s left is the same stuff you see everywhere.

“Only 25 days left until Christmas”

“Make us your Holiday Headquarters”

“See our weekly ad . . .our daily ad . . .our hourly ad”

“Only two days left at this incredible price”

“Free gift” “Free shipping” “No interest or payment for 2 years”

“Amazing deals”

“Absolutely everything on sale”

And last, but by no means least, we trample over people and stomp them to death to get to a piece of junk made in China by workers who make about 40 cents an hour. The poor soul on Long Island who opened the doors to hoards of WalMart bargain hunters on Friday was trampled to death by people who ran right over his dead body and then complained when the store was emptied out and closed down after the discovery. There’s the Christmas spirit, folks! If we can’t do better than this, we have far greater problems in this country than the economy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pool Project Update

When we last we visited our intrepid pool builders, they were in the middle of renovating their pool and yard. I expressed much doubt that it would be completed in a few weeks as they had been told, but I have to eat some crow now. Yesterday, a mere 6 weeks since we last saw it, we arrived to find a beautifully completed project. The pool is up and running, despite frigid temperatures, and the water features and lighting are installed and operational. All the rubble is gone, the pavers are laid, landscaping done, and sod applied to the yard, and the black pool surface looks wonderful. It looks beautiful even in air so cold, no one wanted to look at it in person for very long. More gazing was done from inside the house looking out.

New sod, trees, and flower beds.

Some very interesting water features going on.

And the dear little shed, all power-washed and waiting for some tender, loving care come spring.
I can clearly see new paint and flower boxes and maybe a small arbor.

The night lighting is really spectacular, but my pictures didn't turn out, due to the fact that my camera does not like low lighting.

This is blurry and does not do justice to how lovely the lighting is. It will be like heaven sitting out there on warm summer nights.
P.S. to Chris: I removed the censorship setting so now you can comment freely.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Right To Be Stupid

Who said this? Ten points for the correct answer.

The unassailable right to vote is the core principle of any democracy. And people have the right to cast their ballot for whomever they want, for good reasons, for bad reasons, or for no reason at all. Let’s face it, we as a nation are horribly uninformed when it comes to politics. Approximately one-third of the people in this country, people of voting age, couldn’t tell you the name of our current Vice-President. Now, admittedly, some of us like to block it out, but even so, only two in five adult Americans know we have three branches of government and Mr. Feldcamp expects his employees to actually know the political issues of the day? Well, today our news programs consist solely of sensational headlines and sound bites. People forego newspapers for the Internet where instead of relying on credentialed journalists, they turn to these bloggers, sort of entry level life forms who have intellectually even yet to emerge from the primordial ooze. This is how we’ve gotten the elected officials we’ve gotten. We’ve never really cared about issues. We’re more concerned about how Hillary looks in a pants suit and whether Barack can bowl. We don’t always go for the best or the brightest; we elect the guy we’d most like to have a beer with or the gal we’d most like to feel up in the back of the car. Now, I certainly wouldn’t pick my airline pilot that way or my accountant or my doctor, but for my President, so often it’s “give me the blue collar, lunch bucket, good ole boy who fits in best at the pancake breakfast." The problem with Mr. Feldcamp, and forgive me, I hate to say this about anybody, is he’s an elitist. … The message is we vote for who we like, it’s as simple as that, we don’t need to have a reason. It’s as simple as that. The Founding Fathers did not form a meritocracy; this is a democracy. We can be as stupid as we choose. We’re Americans. We’re as simple as that.

Now aside from that cheap shot about bloggers, Alan is making an important point here. Why don’t we care more about our national or state or local leaders? Why do we allow corruption, immorality, inefficiency, and stupidity to range unchecked across our political landscape? I’m really asking the question here, because I’m as guilty as anyone. Is it too boring, or too time consuming, or too scary to actually try to understand the issues and vote intelligently on them? I got engaged in this campaign and I read (yes, Alan, I did) newspapers, and watched (all) the debates and (some parts of) the conventions. I looked at news shows until I understood who was beating what drum, and I figured out who was liberal and who was conservative on the Internet and spent some time reading both sides, and you know what, I found I actually could understand most of what was going on and who stood for what and who was promising what and how they proposed acting on those promises. And—light bulb moment—it wasn’t all that hard! So, although the right to be stupid is not prohibited by our Constitution, it feels quite refreshing to feel smart for a change.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do You Know This Woman?

If you don't, you're missing a good thing. I just discovered her during the campaign and have since been watching her whenever I can. Her name is Rachel Maddow and she is a political analyist with a nightly show on MSNBC. That's channel 54 around here. She has a disarming freshness about her and I don't mean the nastiness you hear from many of the political commentators currently on TV. She can be a little snarky, but I like that, and I can be fussy about my commentators. The main thing I like about her is that her intelligence just shines through and she talks about politics in ways everyone can understand. She also has several guests on every night, someone to "talk her down" when she gets upset about one unbelieveably inane story after another, and others to clarify or justify some current issue.
Last night she talked with Senator Evan Bayh about Senator Joe Lieberman's conduct during the campaign when he actively campaigned against Obama and for McCain after promising to simply campaign for his old friend McCain and not against Obama (he didn't do that). Oh, the important thing here is that Lieberman's supposed to be a Democrat. Rachel wanted to know why he wouldn't be punished for betraying his party by losing his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. Senator Bayh gave his argument about why Lieberman should be allowed to keep his chair, but he's definitely no Alan Shore. It turns out to be quite a pickle for the Democrats here, because they're afraid if they boot him from the committee, he will vindictively vote with the Republican caucus on crucial issues. So, essentially, he is blackmailing the senate Democrats into allowing him to keep his position on the committee or he will vote against them. . . .which. . .he might do anyway. It reminds me of Survivor when they show a snake slithering through the camp.
Her show is on at 9:00 PM and repeats at 11:00. Tune in and give her a try.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Restrain Yourself

Bill told me a nice story he heard today. Cole Hamels and his wife were in West Chester the other night eating dinner. Everyone in the restaurant knew who they were but didn't make any fuss or bother them one bit. They were able to eat in peace and privacy and enjoy their time together. It was only when they were obviously finished and ready to leave that the other customers arose and gave him a standing ovation. Nice way to end the evening. I bet he felt good all the way home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thinking About Veteran's Day

Chris took me to see this cemetery a few weeks ago and we just stood in silence and looked at the gravestones that stretched as far as the eye can see in every direction. It was hard to take a photograph that could express the immensity. . .both of the place itself and how you feel when you look out at all that sacrifice. So many to honor.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Now What Do I Do?

I've been feeling kind of at loose ends since the election. I don't know what to do now now that it's over and I don't have all that political stuff to read on the Internet.

So to brighten myself up a bit, I am sharing a few blog posts that have touched me or amused me over the past few days. I hope you will enjoy them too. Only the first once is serious, but it is light and lovely. It is actually from people from other countries who are interested in what happens to us, although some of our citizens have also posted to it. It's called Thank You USA. I am really touched by the Langston Hughes poem a short way down, I, too, sing America. I've seen that several times now on other blogs.

This is from a Canadian blogger who obviously cares about our country. It was written as advice before the election, but it's so funny, it's well worth reading still. And it's aptly titled Dear America.

Next we have a message from the Queen. She was awfully nice to take the time to write.
I am especially fond of #4.

You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse.

I cannot, however, go along with #12, although I see her point.

Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

And, finally, from the very funny Seth Grahame-Smith who wrote this post before the election as well. Hah! We showed him.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh, Thank You America

I was so nervous last night I couldn't even watch TV. I saw up to the point they declared Pennsylvania and Ohio and then I went to bed. I couldn't stand to watch a night of indecision and waiting for results and thought I'd be better off waiting until it was final this morning, one way or the other. But, my goodness, didn't America come up big? A decisive victory and mandate from the people for a new direction for our country. I cried this morning, I really did. I grew up believing in this country and for quite a while I have had this dull dread in my heart that all the ideals I was taught were dead and buried. But it's not so. America is alive and well and we can put the lies and missteps behind us and have faith in our country again. It's a great day for America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ya Just Gotta Believe

Shepherd Fairey poster

We just came home from voting and, boy, was it an anticlimax after all the whooping and hollering. Just one man in front of us and about 6 doddering old ladies trying to get him signed in. God help the people who get in a longer line. This year the process was different from the last few times we voted. They handed us a manilla folder with a legal size sheet of paper in it with all the candidates names. Then we went into a 3-sided booth and picked up the pen and filled in (very carefully) the ovals next to the names we were voting for. Then we walked over to what looked like a big shredder and handed our paper and the folder to the man standing there. He ripped a perforated border off the bottom of our sheet and told us to put the larger piece in the shredder, uh, scanner. Then we were done. It only took about 10 minutes even with the old ladies. I was accosted on the way in by a woman with a big McCain/Palin banner around her chest who asked for our support and said she was a military mom. I just shook my head at her and said quietly, "you're wrong." She backed off immediately.

I am afraid for my country today. I think the last time I was this afraid was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was in college then and I remember going off by myself on a perfect late October afternoon and sitting on a rock and looking at the sky, trying to imagine if I would be able to actually see the missiles flying overhead when they came or if I would just be obliterated before I knew what happened.

I hope my country can come through today like it came through that crisis, because this is every bit as dangerous a world now as it was then--a lot more dangerous in fact. I am hoping that people of intelligence and good will are banding together today to give our country a chance at a real future, not just more of the same. But right now I don't know what's going to happen, so as Tug McGraw put it, "ya just gotta believe." I'm believing real hard right now.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Quite A Party

In case you didn't know, we had a big parade yesterday. A beautiful parade. The day was gorgeous, the crowd was jubiliant, the players were floating, literally. Philadelphia celebrated its World Champion Phillies in style and with much love. This city, so starved for heroes, embraced these "boys of summer" on a sparkling fall day to the pleasure and joy of everyone.