26.6.07

The Matthew Shepard Act

Thousands of people are attacked every year just because of who they are. There's still no federal hate crimes law to protect them. They ought to be protected. Bullies don't care about the niceties -- if they don't like you, for your race or your sexual orientation or your religious beliefs or the way you wear your hair, they'll beat you senseless with whatever's handy.

A hate crimes act protects us all.

There's a bill in the Senate right now -- the Matthew Shepard Act -- that would address this problem, and we only have a few weeks until the vote. Many decent, fair-minded folks have now sent more than 200,000 letters to Congress in support of the Matthew Shepard Act. But according to staffers at the U.S. Senate, opponents of the Matthew Shepard Act are still beating us five to one in emails, calls, and letters.



From the letter: While a random act of violence against any individual is always a tragic event, we know that violent crimes based on prejudice are meant to terrorize an entire community.

Follow this link to contact your senator. It only takes a minute.

An Open Letter to Sears (AKA Sucks)

Dear Sears,

Here is why I will never, ever order another appliance from Sears
again.

Several weeks ago, I placed an online order for a refrigerator and
a dishwasher. My credit card did not go through. I received
several emails to this effect. When I resubmitted the credit card,
it went through. But even though the purchase was successful I
continued to receive emails AND phone calls to tell me that my
card had been declined.

Then I received a call to tell me that the dishwasher was out of
stock, even though the website clearly said that it was IN stock.
This call came at 8 in the morning. The caller was not even
apologetic.

We scheduled a new delivery date. Shortly thereafter I received
another call, to say that the dishwasher was still not available
and could not be delivered for another four days. Good grief,
Sears! If something isn't available, don't you think you ought to
say so on the web site BEFORE someone tries to buy it?

Meanwhile, on the day that the fridge was supposed to arrive, I
waited all afternoon for the delivery and into the evening. No
one called me to let me know where the delivery was or even if it
was still coming. The delivery was ultimately an hour late. When
it arrived, there was no way to tell whether it was exactly what I
ordered or not because the order number I received did not
match up with any number on the fridge itself, and THERE WAS
NO DOCUMENTATION WITH THE ORDER. No receipt, nothing.

Just now, I have received a call from your automated service to
remind me of my dishwasher delivery on Friday. I could not
complete the call because your robot thinks I ordered TWO
dishwashers, not one. When the robot tried to connect me with a
live operator in order to fix this problem, I was disconnected. I
called your customer service center and the woman I spoke with
confirmed that I have only ordered ONE dishwasher but she was
unable to confirm that this screwup with the phone system,
which is YOUR FAULT, will not result in a missed or further
delayed delivery.

You ought to be better at what you do. Next time, even though
their products are more expensive
, I will be ordering my appliances
through an established local company, Wickford Appliance, as
they are known for their excellent customer service and the
remarkable absence of idiots on their staff, which is more than I
can say for you.

Never again,
Diane Greco

UPDATE: I cancelled my order and got a better one, same style and IN STOCK, for less at Wickford Appliance. It's coming on Monday. Hooray!

24.6.07

Vandalism


Vandalism
Originally uploaded by quiet.eye.
This happened early yesterday morning. The whole house looks more or less the same way.

No excrement, no swastikas - it's the small things, you know?

19.6.07

Hillary's New Video

Hillary Clinton's campaign just released
a bizarre video
to promote, of all things, the selection of her campaign theme song.

The first video begs for some analysis. (The second one linked above is merely hilarious.) I'm not hip enough to do it justice... maybe it's enough to just point out that with this video the campaign seems to soft-launching a clever (and maybe too in-your-face) approach to the BP (Big Problem, aka Bill's Philandering). But there's more to it.

The video opens with an establishing shot of a random diner by the side of a busy road. Sunny day, pedestrians, cars. Not a city, not really a suburb. Could be anywhere, and that is the point. Cut to the diner doorway, and the music starts up -- it is the Reagan-era hair-rocker ballad "Don't Stop Believin" by Journey, which begins with an obvious invitation to view Hillary as "Just a small-town girl...living in a lonely world..."

Okay. We're supposed to see Hillary as a Woman of the People, someone who is, in basic ways, just like "us." But "Don't Stop Believin"? That's the in-your-face part. If you never heard it, the song tells a story about star-crossed lovers who can't seem to help themselves out of their existential aloneness. This is fairly edgy as a musical backdrop for Hillary -- Bill asked for her trust but didn't deserve it. Now she's asking for ours, as if to say, please don't stop believin'. Hmm.

Hillary sits down amid the kids and young couples (no Boomers here ... yet) and begins to flick through an old-fashioned table-side jukebox -- which is how we know there is going to be a lot of nostalgia in this campaign. Next we see Hillary's candidate songs, which include "Get Ready" by The Temptations. We also see another Temptations song listed in the jukebox, "Don't Look Back." Then, Bill shows up. Even playing himself way down, Bill can't seem to turn down the volume on his personality, and Hillary can't seem to stop admiring him. Oh dear. The campaign is being very proactive about Bill's peccadilloes, modeling our response for us in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

He sits down across from her.

"I ordered for the table," she says, as a bowl of carrots arrives.
"No onion rings?" Bill whines and tries to look disappointed. He is not too convincing, in my opinion. But it sets up Hillary for her big line, which is the whole point, the whole message:
"I'm looking out for you."

So here's the deal: We are like this odd character, the former-President-turned-naughty-little-boy. We need to someone to order "for the table." We need someone to take charge, and to keep us from messing around. We ought to eat our vegetables. Hillary won't force them down our collective throat but she'll be sure they get to the table. This is potent and strange. Would Bill order vegetables for Hillary, if he were the one running for President? Probably not. Because it would seem rude, infantilizing.

Then again, Hillary wasn't the one who needed bypass surgery.

"Where's Chelsea?" Hillary asks.
A screech, then cut to expensive wheels going over a curb. (Definitely not a Prius. But not an SUV either.)
"Parallel parking," Bill says.
"Oh."

Looks are exchanged while the music swells. This, too, is important -- it tells us that Bill and Hillary are Okay, that their marriage works on a level that we're not privy to, that is beyond words.

I'd be more convinced of this if, when they actually spoke, their conversation did not sound so stilted. They are still able to meet over the subject of their daughter's bad driving, however.

This sacrifice of Chelsea is an arrogant Boomerism, and one of the two big missteps I can see in the video -- it is signal to the Obama generation that Boomers still aren't taking anyone seriously except themselves.

Then, the second misstep: there's a cut to a shot of a laughing, happy group of African Americans, and then a solitary grumpy-looking rather sinister middle-aged white actor whom I recognize from the Sopranos gets up and gives Hillary the once-over. Bill and Hillary roll their eyes, then we cut to a kissing couple who are not especially identifiable in terms of race or class. They are definitely young, though.

This strikes me as a signal, too -- a nod to the old Sixties division, the white working class versus people of color, with an idealized fairytale happy ending. But it's complicated, because there's a famous actor representing the former, and we know him from the role he plays in a show that represents white working class people in a certain way that has nothing to do with reality, while the latter are represented by people whose names we'll never know, who are represented without irony or obvious artifice, except that they seem like a sanitized version of a racist cliché which has a distressing history in this country and elsewhere. I'm not sure what to make of all this, except to say that this part of the video seems expressive of a rather weird lack of clarity on important issues of race and class, and I think it's too easy to cut to the happy couple as if to say, "Love conquers all."

Finally Bill asks about the campaign song, expressing his preference for a song by Smash Mouth, a group that is, along with KT Tunstall, the most post-boomer of the available candidates, even if their song is, of all things, yet another piece of Boomer nostalgia, a cover of the 1966 Monkees hit "I'm a Believer." But all this interesting material is glossed over because this is actually the moment for his big line: "Everybody in America wants to know how it's going to end."

"Ready?" she says.

Not really. No.

From the NYTimes: More on the Sopranos angle, and a jab at the final selection "a candidate for our mom's playlist"

13.6.07

Hand-Washing Haiku

preschooler wash hands
river rushes into sink
leaves puddle on floor

We Requested a Carrot with Dinner

"I feel like a rabbit," she said, waving the carrot over her head, and it was almost as if someone had been eating the carrot very slowly, all the while holding forth on: carrots, the length and width and straightness thereof; the question of whether rabbits eat broccoli as well as carrots; whether carrots are useful in dancing, or as an interview tool thrust in somebody's face; dancing at the table, which is expressly against the rules; dipping carrots into ketchup and writing on your hand; waving your arms around; the use of a carrot to dislodge something that has become stuck in your ear, or way up in your nose...

11.6.07

Tillie Olson's Reading List

In Silences, Tillie Olson lists a bunch of books by women writers, many of whom I hadn't heard of before. I decided to make a project of reading the whole list, starting with Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook and, with Jane, the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (which I had read before, many times, in my childhood). I'm going to blog about this reading now and then, and I've created a rather prosaic tag to keep track of those entries. The point, originally at least, was to read with an eye toward figuring out just what causes periods of silence (sometimes prolonged, sometimes permanent) in women writers especially. But I think I already know the answer -- childrearing, domestic responsibilities. There is more to it, though. I'm interested in articulating this "more" and fleshing it out, putting words and images to this vague feeling of foreboding that I have when it comes to sitting down with my own writing, especially lately. The other point is to expose Jane to these writers as early and often as possible, to normalize (if not erase?) the category of "woman writer," & eliminate the residual peculiarity that's still associated with it. My thoughts on this subject are irritatingly vague and unformed, though. All I can say is, bear with me. Maybe all this reading will change that somehow.

6.6.07

That's My Kid, Yup

I am writing in my notebook at the kitchen table. Jane climbs into my lap.

"I like to watch you write," she says. "I catch the spirit of writing from it. I get the spirit of writing other things."

4.6.07

Earthships

Link for a less busy day: Earthships, homes made out of tires and tin cans that make their own utilities.

3.6.07

All The Little Things

We're closing in on our final punch list. With the reno almost over, it's tempting to try to forget about all the crazy little things that came up, the head-shaker problems that went beyond things like the price of the new fridge and the make and model of the windows. Problems like what to do with the circa-1915 cast iron cookstove. Not to mention the stuff we found in the oven, which was also circa 1915. The back wall of the house, which was ten degrees off plumb. The handmade rolled-copper range hood with the pull-chain that started the fan, sort of. The load-bearing iron beam that was not soldered or bolted to anything. The corner of the foundation that was not and had never been square. The tree that fell down; the others that didn't but could have. The slate floor. Removal of said floor. With hand tools. One square at a time. In an unheated house in December. The ancient underfloor radiant heat, & the $700 repair bill when the pump died on the first day of November when we had a tenant. The kitchen that required the cook to walk halfway around the house in order to join the dinner party. The twin staircases that were not only redundant but also out of code. The open shelving in the kitchen - nice mahogany, but no doors. Anywhere. The stackable washer-dryer that did not really dry anything. The attic stepladder that bent, but did not (thankfully) break. The fridge in the alcove off the entryway. The entryway that opened into ... another entryway. The toilet tucked under a shelf. The mechanicals tucked into the unfinished and rather spidery crawl space, and the little rickety ladder that led into it. The leaky bathtub...

2.6.07

Bookshelves


Bookshelves
Originally uploaded by quiet.eye.
We built these! They're extra deep, to accommodate the art books. I think the brown background looks nice behind them.

Lots of sanding, priming, and painting in my future.

Long Bookshelves


Long Bookshelves
Originally uploaded by quiet.eye.
We built these, too.

Long View


kitchen2
Originally uploaded by quiet.eye.
Here's the view into the kitchen from the other side of the "great room."

Kitchen


kitchen1
Originally uploaded by quiet.eye.
We got the Ikea problem sorted. Kitchen's coming along...

Harvest


carrots
Originally uploaded by quiet.eye.
Been growing these in the window since January. I'm glad I don't have to live on what I grow.

1.6.07

Our Pests

Q. So, if you had to guess what sort of insect would build a nest on one of our window sills, what do you think it would be?
A. Why, a paper wasp, of course.