Friday, September 18, 2009

Nickeled and Dimed in the New Economy

Once upon a time people actually dressed up when traveling by plane. It was a big deal, an event, because as traveling went, it was a lot less expensive to drive, or take the train, or even the bus. Commercial flights were more business oriented than the preferred mode of travel for the every day Jane and Jack going home for the holidays. Flying was a horse of another color, so to speak. Unless one were going to jump on the back of that winged Esso horse, it was a damned expensive to take a trip. (Yes, I am dating myself here but I was but a babe in arms back then with a wicked memory. So there!)

Since the golden days of air travel, when you could smoke and drink in flight, when they served real food, even had a menu so you could choose your poison, the experience has had the life sucked out of it, so much so it is unrecognizable as anything other than a big metal tube with wings. It goes up, it lands, the journey in between is more akin to cattle being herded in the chute than taking a trip somewhere.

As gas prices went through the roof in 2008 and the economy went into free fall; as one industry after the other fell off the cliff of prosperity and profits, the airlines scrambled to find a response that made sense, that would act as a bungee cord twirling them back and up from the abyss.

As first one airline then another instituted a luggage surcharge, I shrugged. Hmmmph! Okay, I thought, no problem, carry on from here on out for me. Then it was no food, "let them eat peanuts." Find the food sucked rocks. I had been bringing my own anyway. So there!

Getting through security had become an exercise in frustration and measurement. Exactly how many ounces is 3 ounces? Will it be enough to get me through a week away from home? Take off my shoes on the dirty floor? Just damn, I developed a strategy for that as well, slip off shoes with no metal. Jewelry? Simple earrings that do not set of the alarms.

I was just rolling with it, whatever they through at me, fine, no problem. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I bought a ticket on Air Tran. It was exciting, I got such a good fare at the last moment. I love deals. Then comes the screen to select my seat, and... WTF? I am offered a choice, I can pay $20 for a seat with leg room in the exit row, or $6 for an aisle or window seat! Excuse me? What the hell did I buy when I just bought my ticket, all of two minutes ago?

Mind you, I am still in coach, it's not like I'm upgrading or anything. I bought an airline ticket and now I have to pay for a damned seat? Welcome to today's a la carte culture, boys and girls. What's next, buy a movie ticket then have to buy a seat, one price in front, another for the middle, and different one for the back rows? Going grocery shopping? That will be ten cents for each bag, fifty cents for the express lanes, and one dollar for bagging your groceries. Getting your nails done? That's eight dollars for the manicure and twenty-five cents per nail for the polish.

Seriously though. When I bought the airline ticket, what did it get me, transportation in the bulkhead? (Yes, I'm trying to work something out here because this does stick in my craw.)

All of this to say, it looks like they are going to nickel and dime us to death and we need to advocate on our own behalf before they take us off to the poorhouse, and make us pay for that, too! In the words of that wonderful 70s movie, I am mad as hell and not taking it anymore. Well, yes, I will take the plane but boy will I give those folks a piece of my mind. No! Wait. They'd make me pay for that, too. :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alternate Universes, Theocratic USA

So I wondered, pondered, scratched my head looking at the Tea Baggers merrily marching looking like they were having a really good ol' time, and tried to figure out which planet they inhabit? Or is it an alternate universe, a parallel universe where down is up and up is down, and right is left and left maybe just doesn't exist. Really, I did. Yes, I was trying too hard to find a basis in reality for what I was seeing.

My eyebrows first reached for my hairline when I saw people on the news all but having an honest to goodness, I'm going to fall down, turn around and split my pants hissy fit because the president was going to, imagine this, address their little kiddies and exhort them to study hard, to stay in school! Whoa!! Scary.

These parents were frothing at the mouth so much that I had to wonder, what the hell? I know they think Obama's the anti-Christ but what, he's going to do an electronic Vulcan Mind Meld on young Susie, Bobby, and Jimmy Jay, and wrench their impressionable little minds and cause them to actually think? Oooh, think, oooh, socialism.

None of it was making any sense to me, I mean NONE OF IT, not nary one bit. The level of vitriol, of fear, of hate was just insane and quite frankly, scary as hell.

Then I read an article by Frank Schaeffer, author of the book, Crazy for God...and his article explained it all. I'm not crazy, these people are as out of touch with reality as I thought they are.

What I learned is that what we are seeing is the intersection between corporate interests to thwart change, channeling funds to the Christian fundamentalists as the shock troops who will go to any lengths, say anything, do anything, tell bald faced lies, pick up a gun and kill a doctor performing legal procedures that they disagree with, bring an assault gun to town hall meetings, or kill a security guard at a museum dedicated to ending hatred.

What I also learned is that it is impossible to have a reasonable rational discussion with someone who is basically a Christian flat-earther. These folks have more in common with Islamic flat-earthers than they have with those of us who believe in and abide by the rule of law in modern society, no matter how painful. Didn't we suck it up after the Supreme Court selected our president?

But for the right white wing there is no sucking it up, we lost. And therein lies the problem because according to Frank Schaeffer, these folks have no interest in nor intent to work within the system but, rather, they seek to over throw the system and replace it with a theocracy. Yes indeed. Our own fundamentalist theocratic USA, or a piece of it if they are able to build enough hate to secede, again. Because that is what God has deemed for this Christian nation.

In their USA, education curriculum, the bible. Court system, the bible preferably the old testament. Science, doesn't exist. Government, not needed. And there has been a generation of men and women who have been raised, home-schooled, for the past twenty to thirty years steeped in just such a culture as above. Oh, and many of them would love to put some folks "in their place," who have just gotten to friendly with freedom.

In the meantime, if the corporate vultures aren't careful they will wake up one day and discover that they waited too long. The beast they've been feeding is now knocking at their door and boy is it hungry.

So if like me, listening to our own homegrown terrorists makes you wonder if you've stepped into alternate universe, don't worry, you haven't.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Fox in the Hen House

It was a lovely Friday evening in Atlanta a week or so ago. A few friends and colleagues were seventy three stories above the city at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Hotel, spinning slowly around in a complete 360 degree view of the city at the Sun Dial Restaurant. Celebrating the birthday of our board chair, we watched the sun set and the moon rise. Musicians were jamming behind us, it was a fabulous evening. (Helped along by a really good bar tender.)

But every now and then there was this discordant note that was struck. Not by the musicians, they never struck a sour note. But as the restaurant revolved, 360 degrees in an hour, we'd swing around to the bar area where there was a flat screen television with the sound turned down until it was inaudible, broadcasting Fox "news." (I can't take them seriously, the pity is that anyone does.)

You might ask, so what? The answer is, this is a Coca Cola town. Trust me, Atlanta is a Coca Cola town; created here, an iconic presence here, and the formula is deep in the vaults of Sun Trust Bank. (So I have been told.) If you dare bring in Pepsi, and there are venues that may have Pepsi, but they are few and far between, folks take note. CC doesn't take encroachment on its home turf lightly. It is serious business, Coca Cola and Atlanta go hand in hand.

This is also the home of CNN. Sitting in the restaurant looking out at the city, we had a lovely view CNN's headquarters. So when the Hyatt Regency is playing Fox news in a CNN town,within spitting distance of the CNN Center, that is a serious smack in the face. But it is Atlanta, in the state of Georgia, in the deep South. Soda may be one thing, its sweet and fizzy and non threatening. But politics is a whole different kettle of smelly fish.

Fox is the place where the psycho babble of fulminating fury and flagrant disregard of facts and sanity run rampant. (Fox is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Ahh, Macbeth.) Lies, distortion, misinformation and disinformation have a direct feed into the brains of rabid white wing racists providing their daily ration of hate and vitriol. (Yeah, I've been holding that in for a long time. :)

That's why the South right now is crazy making for liberals, progressives, and decent thinking human beings of all colors who care about things like right and wrong, principled discourse, civility, and value people over things.

It would seem to me that those who are on a steady diet of all things Fox are in desperate need of health care. The level of rage, hate, and fear must be giving them embolisms at the very least. I pity them but not so much that I'd turn my back on them, let alone the other cheek. They are too dangerous for that. But I digress.

There must be a way to gauge it but I would bet that CNN is being beaten by Fox in the South. Fox speaks to the "Old South" the good ol' boys South. I don't know where Michael Steel and his ilk think they fit in that equation but I guess being a token in that club must be comfortable or they wouldn't be there. CNN speaks to the New South with it's transplants from all over the globe and please God, keep on coming. Without CNN and other cable outlets to offset the madness, I suspect that by now the whole damn region would be up in arms, once again. And I ain't just whistling Dixie.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Speaking Out Loud

If you have not read Margaret and Helen's blog, you are missing two of the funniest, most insightful women in recent memory. What I love about them is that, in this environment, they are totally open and willing to call bullshit what it is, bullshit. (See the link below.)

Check out their latest blog below about the madness of the crazies who are up in arms because President Obama plans to do an address to students in schools urging them to stay in school and study hard.

Here's where I get concerned. Are we cognizant of the fact that it isn't enough to just vote, celebrate, cry at the inauguration, participate in polls to say, yes, I stand behind my vote? Are we aware that voting was only the first step toward change?

If I were Obama, I'd be sitting in the White House wondering, "Where the hell are all the people? What happened? There were millions and millions of people around me yelling for change, crying for change, screaming for change. Did I imagine that, hallucinate? Did they mean it?" Pinches himself, "No, its real, I am in the White House."

Folks, understand something, he cannot do this alone. The president cannot snap his fingers like a wizard or a genie, and presto chango, done, it's a new day in America. Our prayers for his safety are important, critical even, needed beyond question, but it is time to pray and pack. We need to pack up our complacence, our busyness, our distractions, our tiredness, and begin to get engaged in the process.

There's a flaming terrorist preacher in Kansas praying daily for Obama's death, urging his members to help him meet his maker. Really, I couldn't make this crap up. (I use flaming terrorist as in the flames of hell.)

Then there was that flaming terrorist at a town hall meeting in California who said he was a proud right wing terrorist.

No, I am not suggesting that we go to Kansas to give the idiot posing as a preacher a righteous beat down, although it is tempting, nor am I suggesting that we lock the treasonous congressman out of his office until he swears allegiance to the flag, and mean it. (That would be the congressman who nodded and smiled at said terrorist at his town hall meeting and egged him on.)

What I am saying is that it is time we stopped being all pc, all cool and the gang with everything, watch the news, shake our heads, hurrumph, and get on with our lives. It is time to call things as we see it, call a spade the proverbial spade. As I see it, a huge faction of the white wing (that is not a typo), have lost their frickin' minds. This is not to malign those who are working for change as hard if not harder than we are. I am talking about that faction of folks who can't wait to dance on Obama's grave, who can't wait to unite the base against whatever the made up tempest in a teapot they can gin up next.

If you think this is hyperbole, think again. There is a vein of hatred that runs so deep right now in our nation that if you are not scared, then you ought to be. These folks are not playing. I realize that a huge part of my understanding of this is grounded in where I live. It is easier to ignore when you live in places where your values, principles, and beliefs are not in the minority. I live in a state that Obama lost. I live in a place where people know and can tell you, "This used to be a sundowner county." I live in a region that is the heart and soul this madness, the cradle of the confederacy and the cradle of the right white wing, no matter where it resides now, it began here in the South.

Your elected representatives need to hear from you, need to know that you will hold them accountable, write letters to them, to your newspapers, confront the crap for what it is. The time for genteel thoughtful responses and pleasantness under the guise of bipartisanship is pass. The republicans don't care about bipartisanship, they don't care about us, our feelings, our thoughts or world view.

I read recently that when there is a dispute between two people who are divorcing for example, the one who is crazy wins. The one who will snatch the kids and run to Australia, or who will beat themselves and say it was their spouse, the one who will say anything, do anything, to win, will more often than not, win. Your only hope is here is to get crazier. Yes, it is a recipe for a badly made cake, two parts crazy, add milk and sugar and stir.

How far must we go to bring us back from the brink of disaster? Maybe it is a case of detente' by craziness. When the other side knows you're willing to get as crazy as them, it gives them cause to pause. Liberals live in their heads, we think carefully about things, feel the others pain. We're the eggs on the breakfast plate while the wing nuts are the ham, fully committed. The chicken made a contribution, but the pig, the pig made a commitment.

What is it that the other side seems to care about? They care about power, about power, about power. And they are really righteously pissed about being out of power and having a class A1 hissy fit about it.

Here's the way to Margaret and Helen;

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Night in Nacoochee Pt 2

Let me state for the record just in case I have not made it clear already, I don't do creatures and critters in the house. Dogs and cats are cool, even birds and fish, I prefer fish to birds, less mess and not as intrusive. Other than the aforementioned very very short list, creatures and critters belong outside. Outside the house, in the yard or woods or wherever they live, that is where they belong and I am good with that, I am real good with that.

You will never have to worry about me crossing the path of a bear, or mountain lion, or badgers, deer, or otters even, whilst out hiking soaking up the sunshine and thinking, "Ahh, ain't life grand, this is just great." If by any chance someone tells you they have a picture of me backpacking or hiking over hill and down dale, believe me buddy it was photo shopped.

So here we are in Nacoochee, White County, GA (I just love that name, Nachoochee, it is so cool and funny. It's an Indian name, like many places in or country we kept the names and got rid of the people.) having sat up for hours taking apart the world and putting it back together again and finally we all realize we were talked out. I head downstairs to one of the guest rooms following my host, it is a lovely room with great views of the woods surrounding the house, very cozy.

Let me paint a picture here, to get to their house we turned off a two lane road onto an unpaved road, drove for about a mile, then made yet another turn onto an unpaved road and drove that maybe a quarter mile. So we are in the serious woods, the no-joke there-are-no-lights except- lightning bugs woods. If there was a neighbor, they'd only know you needed help by setting off flares. It was so deep in the woods that we were told if your house catches on fire, the firemen will come to make sure it doesn't spread but there are no fire hydrants to help put the fire out. Seriously, I can't make this stuff up.

Now, my hosts are both artists and arts management consultants. They travel all over, love good food, good friends, great wine, checking out arts and culture events, and good conversation. I suppose heading to the woods is a pretty effective way to shut out the world for awhile. It would have been peaceful for me too if I could just relax. But I digress. (I think there was something about being a black person in a formerly sundown county in the mountains of Georgia, in the middle of the night that kept me on alert.)

Okay, after being shown around the downstairs and where's where, and what's what, my host says, "Oh, just to let you know, no worries, we've taken care of the snake problem, and you may see a brown wood scorpion, if you do just step on it, they're about this big (makes a circle with her thumb and forefinger), but you're bigger, and if you see a spider, don't worry we haven't seen any brown recluse spiders."

My brain went into overdrive. Could I sleep in the car? It was three or four in the morning, the sun would be up soon, I wouldn't have to be in there too long. But suppose I have to go the bathroom, then I'd have to walk in the dark to get to the house? Oh no, that will not do. Yes, it was crazy thinking but, hey, snakes, brown wood scorpions, and spiders were violating my basic rule, creatures and critters outside.

It appears that when you build a house in the middle of the woods, you may know you own the property but the critters and creatures have called that little piece of heaven home a helluva lot longer. Eons maybe. You're just a squatter. They can't read the fine print, don't know anything about property lines, right of way, surveys, and deeds. You're in the way. If you leave a hole for them to crawl through, even the smallest, teensy tiny little crack, they consider it manna from heaven and an invitation to share quarters.

I went to bed that night determined that nothing short of a bomb was going to me get to put feet to floor until the sun was well and truly fully up, hanging big bold and golden in the sky for all to see, no diggity no doubt! That was the only night that I can remember ever not getting up for a midnight run. See what the thought of critters and creatures can do for you.

That morning after the sunlight hit me, I opened my eyes, put on my glasses and peered carefully, slowly around the room. Took a couple of books and threw them in the corners, then waited a couple minutes to insure that nothing moved, then I gingerly put my feet on the floor. I guess the critters got the message, there was a new sheriff in town.