"The houses in Beverly Hills look like the boxes the rides in Disneyland came out of."
I always think of that quote when I wander around Beverly Hills, because the thing is, he's pretty close to being spot on.
I had reason today to be in Beverly Hills. As I was wandering around the residential section, I remembered my favorite quote from the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Yes, I know it's the only quote I know from Frank Lloyd Wright, but I suspect it would be at the top or near, if there were others. He once said --
"The houses in Beverly Hills look like the boxes the rides in Disneyland came out of."
I always think of that quote when I wander around Beverly Hills, because the thing is, he's pretty close to being spot on.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article here, "Bambi Lives," about how after Liz Wahl quit her job as an anchor for the Russian government-funded TV network Russia Today while on the air, she commented afterwards that she "didn't know that his (Vladimir Putin's) views would be imposed on the news operation."
"Wait a minute, seriously, Ms. Wahl?," I wrote, "You were a news reporter for a one-party Russian government TV network, and you had no idea that the president of Russia, who is additionally a former KGB officer, would have his views imposed on the news operation??? Really? You didn't know? If you wrote game captions for My Weekly Reader, I'd think you know that. But as a news reporter ('news'!), I'd have thought that knowing that was a basic given. Sort of like a server at the We Only Serve Spaghetti chain of restaurants knows he'll be pushing spaghetti."
Honestly, for someone who criticized RT for not being a "sound news organization," how difficult would it have been to do a little digging (and by "little," I meant "asking the person who'll be sitting in the cubicle next to you") to find out how providing news about Russia from a one-party, government-owned TV network would work. It didn't speak well to her reportorial skills.
What I suggested at the time was that what she did had seemed as much a promotional stunt as anything, in her hopes of getting attention and landing a big U.S. network job.
But if I was an executive at one of those "sound news organizations" that she says she admires, I wrote, and I was looking to hire a reporter with top-notch analytical skills, I might pause before going with Liz Wahl. "After all, she's either the most naive correspondent in the world, or the most disingenuous and untrustworthy. Neither a good thing for a reporter who's supposed to see through deception and deliver the truth."
In fact, it does indeed now look like she's auditioning for that big network job -- Ms. Wahl has just written an article for Politico, "I Was Putin's Pawn."
And it was awful. At least the part I could get through. Then I gave up. In fact, I almost stopped at the title -- I mean, swell, just what I want from a crack reporter, being an unwitting pawn. But it happens, people make mistakes, get used by careful, clever manipulators. (Mind you, I still think that getting tricked into thinking Vladimir Putin was going to give you free reign is a pretty massive mistake, as far as massive journalistic mistakes go. After all, Vladimir Putin is less a manipulator than bulldozer.) So, giving Liz Wahl a chance, I dove in.
Then I got to the second sentence. "I’d looked the other way as the network smeared America for the sake of making the Kremlin look better by comparison, while it sugarcoated atrocities by one brutal dictator after another."
Keep in mind that this is her defense of herself! And she's telling you right off -- the second sentence -- that she had been knowingly looking the other way at one smear and atrocity after another. So, her quitting wasn't a case of a sudden act of moral conscience and outrage, suddenly discovering that she'd been deceived by a bulldozer. She'd been watching the bulldozing for quite a while. And just kept blithely reporting the smears and sugarcoated atrocities as news.
But then, we shouldn't be too surprised. This wasn't a seasoned, professional journalist, after all, working her way up the ladder with deep international experience of world politics until she got to that host anchor's seat. As she tells us --
"When RT first contacted me, I was working as a reporter and anchor 8,000 miles away on the island of Saipan, in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a 40-minute plane ride from Guam. I had been there for about two years, reporting for the local news station on topics like immigration and local political corruption. Before making the move across the globe, I had freelanced at a local news station in my home state of Connecticut, and had done several internships in broadcast news, including at NBC and Fox."
So, let's be clear about this: her experience was that she was an intern, did some freelancing, and spent two years as a reporter in Saipan. I'm sure that immigration in the Northern Mariana Islands is a major story there.
This isn't to criticize someone starting out in their career. Just to point out that Liz Wahl was just starting out. If she wants to use this attention-grabbing, self-promotion stunt to move up to that big network job, that's what they'd be getting. If she doesn't want that job, that's what RT was getting -- and likely precisely what they were looking for. An inexperienced American wide-eyed doe who would happily look the other way reading stories on smears and sugarcoated atrocities because being a news anchor for Russia was a huge leap up from being a 40-minutes plane ride from Guam, not realizing that Russia didn't actually invite criticism on its government-owned TV stations. How unqualified was she for all this? She herself tells us -- honest, these are her own words! -- "I knew my other options would likely require moving to some Podunk town to cover rescued kittens and the Fourth of July parade."
Never mind that that's probably the job she's most suited for, and never mind that I'm sure all the Podunk towns love to know their would-be anchor's opinion of them, but man, what a contrast between job opportunities!!
What most leaped out to me, though, wasn't so much the naivety, but the really bad writing. Not that I expect all people to be wonderful, insightful writers, heir to Edward R. Murrow and Eric Sevareid, but I think we all expect news anchors for national news organizations to offer more depth and analysis than, "Island life was a blast."
Yes, I know I'm being harsh on Liz Wahl. But I don't like someone trying to play me for a sap. And I don't like someone being a sap while trying to think they're substantive and deserve heroic attention. And I find news important. And world politics important. And I don't like someone using their naivety and incompetence as stepping stones to positions of responsibility. If Liz Wahl had written that she knew clear-eyed what she was getting into, but hoped it would give her experience on a larger stage and that maybe she could take something from the job that would help her later on in her career in terms of building international bridges, I could accept that. But this lollypop she's throwing at us is pathetic.
My favorite part of that head-spinning gumfummery was the description she writes of her job interview with the news director of Russia Today. The government-owned network was pitched to her as an alternative news source, she says, one "that dared to challenge conventions." Cool. Because that is so what Russian news is known for, of course. After all, she explains, "Question More" was RT's slogan. Well, hey, that's proof enough for me! They've got a good slogan. Why in the world look further? No need to actually...well, question more. Hey, the "Fox News" slogan is "Fair and Balanced," so it must be so. ExxonMobil's slogan was "Think Clean" -- which they came up with to get your mind off that Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster
Question More? Ms. Wahl could hardly have questioned less. During their interviews over email and Skype, "there was little talk about Russia," she says, "or any indication the news would be influenced by Russian politics." No, of course not, why should there be? It was only a Russian government-owned network. Boy, howdy, that's some job interview, I must say. Where could I get me one of those? Happily, she at least did have some misgivings, Ms. Wahl tells us, and says she asked the news director about editorial independence. But "He scoffed, and asserted that the network was providing alternative news that mainstream outlets didn’t want to hear." Well, there you go -- he scoffed. Enough said. A scoff tells a thousand words. Next!
And then this ace journalist writes perhaps her most telling sentence -- "I wondered why the network was interested in me since I’m not Russian and have no ties to the country, but I checked out RT America’s online videos and saw that almost all of the on-air correspondents were from the United States."
Note to Liz Wahl: they were interested in you because you're the kind of person who's entire research is to look at online videos. That was you crack investigation into the Russian government-owned network. One is shocked that you became a pawn. From all you're describing, I'd have thought you'd have become a flattened pancake.
Yet the article actually gets worse.
"I was a little skeptical about the whole thing," she writes, "but I couldn’t find much concrete information on the Internet about the station and its mission and I didn’t know anyone who’d ever worked there."
At this point, my head was about to explode, and I was still only on page one. Seriously? Did she ever consider, oh, I don't know, asking the news director for the names of anyone she could call? Or check with any journalists she did know and ask them?? Or call some respected journalists she didn't know and ask?! Miss Wahl, you're this terrific reporter who the Russian TV network is interested in to be an on-air host -- did you think of taking advantage of any of those skills you used covering all those big Saipan immigration stories and track down someone, anyone to talk to??
There was an episode of the TV series How I Met Your Mother where they introduced a character called "Honey." When someone asks Honey's friend why they called her that, the answer was because the girl would always say the most utterly naive, trustingly idiotic things, and your first response was always, "Ohhh, honey..." You just want to take Liz Wahl protectively in your arms and say, "Ohhh, honey. You really shouldn't be left outside alone."
"I figured there are other networks that do respected journalism while getting some form of government funding," Ms. Wahl then explains, trying to justify her ignorance and deer-in-the-headlights innocence. New note to Liz Wahl -- RT didn't get some form of government funding. It is funded by the government. It is a branch of the government. It is the government. "It’s not like it was North Korea," she almost pleads. (No, it's not, not exactly. But it's close enough that you can see it from Sarah Palin's porch. By the way, the North Korea TV news slogan is "This is Real. Honest. Trust Us.")
Liz Wahl keeps topping herself with great lines. The best may be: "Maybe I ignored some red flags." Forgetting the obvious pun she missed here, you just want to say, gee, yeah, that's just what you want from a great reporter, one who can't see the red barn she's standing in front of. And then she almost tops herself again with the very next line, "Maybe I should have asked tougher questions." Maybe? She's still not sure??.
But it was two paragraphs later when I gave up. And again, remember, we're still on the first page of a three-page article. But if anything can encapsulate the total disingenuousness of Liz Wahl's attempt to paint herself as a gritty reporter who became a used, put-upon pawn, it was this. She explains sardonically that her very first days on the job were "...interesting" -- and then adds:
"Some colleagues warned me that I’d need to let go of any preconceived notions and journalistic principles. I wasn’t exactly sure what they meant."
Oh, dear God.
That sentence on its own is bad enough, just on the pure face of it, just the simple fact that she wrote it -- and thought it would make her look good. But you just want to scream at the page, "If you didn't understand...then ask them what they meant!!!!!" Question more. Question something. Question any freaking thing.
And so, I gave up reading any further. There was more still on the first page, and two more pages remaining. And I just didn't have it in me.
I wish Liz Wahl well. Perhaps she'll get a job in some Podunk town covering rescued kittens and Fourth of July parades. Perhaps she'll even get that Big Network Job. After all, it's for anchor hosts like her without any pretense of credibility why "Fox News" was created. And, in all seriousness, I think it's swell that she quit her job on the air, even if it likely was a self-promotional stunt, because it also brought more attention to Russia's actions in the Ukraine. (To be clear, Russia Today isn't broadcast in Russia. So, Ms. Wahl's quitting passed unknown there.)
It now seems likely to me that Liz Wahl falls heavily on the unearthly-naive side of the aisle, rather than disingenuous (to the point of making one wonder how she's able to blink and manipulate her fingers at the same time). It also seems to belie the theory that life can't exist in a vacuum.
In the end, as disheartening as it was to read most of page one of that article in such a good publication as Politico, there is something comforting in knowing that the world is a better place without Liz Wahl broadcasting for Russia Today.
I had lunch today with a friend in Pacific Palisades at an Italian restaurant called Tivoli Cafe. The Palisades are not the hot bed of high cuisine, but there are a few nice places, and this was quite enjoyable. Nice decor, an outdoor patio, and my linguine pesto was very tasty. My friend got a tuna salad wrap -- which he liked, but it was very odd: he was served the tuna salad wrap and also was given a big side of...tuna salad! (He liked it, but needless-to-say, he took the side of tuna salad home.) The service was odd, as well. Generally very friendly, and quite attentive most of the time, but sometimes...I don't know, I'm scratching my head. It was clueless, which is strange because it wasn't all clueless. Some, as I said, was very attentive. And always friendly.
Here is the best example of what I mean. At one point, the waitress came over to refill my water glass. (She didn't come over on her own, I had to wave her down eventually. Not a huge deal.) As she was pouring, she missed the glass and spilled a lot of water on the floor. Again, not a huge deal, these things happen. She warned us about the water on the floor, so as not to slip on it. Fine, perfectly thoughtful.
I expected that she'd have a towel or something to clean it up. But she didn't, so I was curious if when she went back she would tell a busboy to get a mop. I waited -- but she didn't, no busboy. At the very least I thought maybe she'd come back over herself with a rag. She did come by...good...but then veered off elsewhere. I looked at the floor, covered in a couple puddles of water. Well, gee, I thought, that's messy and dangerous. And it was odd because it wasn't like she didn't know there was water on the floor and that it could be dangerous. She warned us, after all. But just left it be.
We went on with our meal. Eventually she came by to get an order from the table next to us. I couldn't take it any longer. Trying to be as polite as possible (I later asked my friend, he said that I passed the Polite Test), I called her over and said that while we were aware of the water on the floor, a new customer would not be, so it might be a good idea to clean up the water before somebody slipped on it. "Oh, thanks," she said, and went off to get a rag and mopped it up.
Mind you, what I wanted to say was, "Excuse me, but do you have literally no sense. You spilled half a glass of water into puddles on the floor and just left it?!! You know it's dangerous, she warned us. Do you not realize that if someone slipped on that and got injured, they could sue the restaurant? And if the owner found out you'd just left it, you could be out of a job. Is that how you live you life at home, that when you spill something all over the floor, even a glass of water, you just leave it there???" But I didn't say that. I passed the Polite Test.
It wasn't like she was a bad waitress -- she wasn't. She was half wonderful, and half oddly-clueless. And this was a totally clueless part. And I couldn't understand it. How do you spill half a glass of water, warn people, and then just leave it? Seriously, how??
But the restaurant was good. And she was personable and half wonderful.
As I've noted often, I'm a huge admirer of the musical, Fiorello! and explained why here that I think it's the "greatest musical you've never heard of." Not necessarily the greatest, and not the most obscure -- but the two together: the best that's little known. I feel comfortable saying that, considering how few people know of it, and yet it won the Tony Award for Best Musical (tying, in fact, that year with The Sound of Music) and won the Pulitzer Prize. And even if some knowing people might have heard of it, a very small percentage of them have ever seen it. It just is rarely performed.
The main reason, I suspect, is that some think it's just a period piece about New York City politics, so no one outside of the city would care -- just like who would care about Danish politics 700 years ago, which is why no audiences ever want to see Hamlet...
In its details, yes, Fiorello! deals with New York politics in the 1930s. But what the story is about is how one man can fight corruption and win. It's about all cities' politics. And it's not just a love story, it's a double love story. Actually, a triple love story. And ohhh that glorious musical score.
The songs are by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, who in a few years would go on to write Fiddler on the Roof.
Though it's obscure, the show holds a special place in the hears of Theater Folks. And when the now-famous Encores! series in New York began life performing stripped-down versions of little-performed musicals, the very first show they did was...Fiorello! And when they celebrated their 20th anniversary last year, the show they chose to honor the occasion with was...Fiorello! The first time they'd ever repeated a show.
There's very little video footage of productions of Fiorello! and most especially top-notch productions of the show. So, here's a treat: six minutes of behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals of that 20th anniversary revival. It's done superbly, and does honor to the original. Sheldon Harnick told me how pleased he was with the production and performances, particularly Danny Rutigliano in the lead role. (A role created by the then-unknown Tom Bosley who later went on to fame as 'Howard Cunningham' in Happy Days. He won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in Musical, oddly not lead actor, but that's because the Tonys have -- or had -- a strange rule about who was eligible to be Best Actor. The credits had to say "Starring" or have your name above the title. With Fiorello!, it was largely seen as an ensemble piece, so Bosley's name was listed under the title with all of the cast.)
Another nice thing in the video. When the song, "The Very Next Man," is performed, it's with the rewritten lyrics, so people who cringe at one slip in the show can hear the fix for perhaps the first time. When Harnick wrote the words in the late 1950s, it was intended tongue-in-check, how the character of Marie -- Fiorello's long-suffering assistant in unrequited love with him for 15 years -- finally sings an anthem how she's moving on at last. And to make her point, she explains that whoever the next man is, she'll marry him and get past Fiorello. (Note: he comes around and sees the light and proposes to her. In fairness to the fellow, he married someone else, who sadly dies young.) And in being tongue-in-cheek, Harnick wrote one verse that, for that era, was perfectly normal. But as time went on it became truly cringe-worthy, no matter that it's mean as a joke. ("And if he likes me, who cares how frequently he strikes me. / I'll get married with my arm in a sling, just for the privilege of wearing his ring.") And among those who cringed was Sheldon Harnick himself, who rewrote the words, and required that any future productions of Fiorello! must use the new lyrics, and the old lyrics were not approved for any authorized production. That passage now begins, "When he proposes..." well, see for yourself what he came up with, sung by Erin Dilly. I'll just mention that the additional cleverness of his new lyrics is that they make wonderful use as a pun of Fiorello LaGuardia's name. He was known as "The Little Flower," because that's what 'Fiorello' means in Italian.
The montage begins with the great Politics and Poker, where the local Republican leadership, headed by Shuler Henley, can't figure out who to get to run for Congress -- and lose -- to the corrupt Tammany Hall. (That's when the unknown Fiorello offers himself up. Which later in the show leads to the dazed and disbelieving committee singing the hilarious, "The Bum Won.") Kate Baldwin next sings "'Til Tomorrow," as Thea, and you get to see a bit of her waltzing with her mismatched husband, Fiorello, a short, fat man eventually who won the beauty's heart. This gorgeous song is worth noting, too, because it was actually was one of the numbers that Harnick and Bock wrote to audition themselves in hopes of getting the job. Needless-to-say, it worked. (The song precedes LaGuardia and other American doughboys going off to World War I.) And then that leads into Erin Dilly as Marie proclaiming that she'll marry "The Very Next Man." (Side note: If you saw the movie, Julie and Julia, she played the editor who tests Julia Child's recipes and decides that the cookbook must be published -- she gets the great line, "Yum" -- then works with Child to come up with the title.)
Here then, is a whole lot of wonderful -- and rarely seen -- Fiorello!
I have to admit, sometimes I don't like writing about whatever the latest insanely stupid and offensive thing Pat Robertson has said. For one thing, my head hurts reading insanely stupid and offensive things that come out of Pat Robertson's mouth and other open orifices. For another, it seems wrong, like making fun of a six-year-old. And also, it's just too easy, like shooting apples in a barrel.
But in the end, Pat Robertson isn't a six-year-old. And responding does have a way of getting my head to stop hurting. And ultimately, there's nothing inherently wrong with easy. Eating ice cream is easy (unless you're lactose intolerant, which I suspect is similar to how many people are towards Pat Robertson.) And besides, this was a guy who ran for the GOP nomination for president once, and Republicans actually took him seriously. So, I should, too. I don't, but I should.
And so it was that on his 700 Club TV lollapalooza, Pat Robertson pondered --
"What would have happened in Jesus’ time if two men decided they wanted to cohabit together, they would have been stoned to death. So Jesus would not have baked them a wedding cake nor would he have made them a bed to sleep in because they wouldn’t have been there. But we don’t have that in this country here so that’s the way it is."
I suppose it's possible that, in Jesus' time, two men deciding to cohabit together might have been stoned to death. Unless they lived in San Francisco. But then, in Jesus' time, the bible says a child could be stoned to death by his or her parents just for being disobedient (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). And a father could stone his daughter to death for not being a virgin (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). And oh-so many other things gallingly ghastly to us today. (And by "today," I mean like for the last thousand years.) Not to mention permitting slavery. So, I hope the good Rev. Robertson isn't holding 2,000 year-old society to the Good Old Days standard he thinks should be followed.
For that matter, I also agree with the Reverend Mr. Robertson that Jesus probably wouldn't have baked them a wedding cake. But then that's because Pat Robertson's scenario merely had the two men "cohabiting together," not marrying, and it would be so incredibly inappropriate, let alone presumptuous to bake a wedding cake for that -- and Jesus had a pretty darn good sense of decorum and manners (except for that one time he went all ballistic about moneylenders). But there's another huge reason that Jesus wouldn't have packed them a cake -- it's a well-known fact among biblical scholars that Jesus was an extremely bad baker. If he ever wanted a wedding cake for anything, he definitely would have hired it out.
Having said all that, I agree yet again with Pat Robertson that Jesus wouldn't have made the couple a bed to sleep in, even though he was a very talented carpenter earlier in his life, much like Harrison Ford, another celebrity. But that's because what kind of people who agree to cohabit together would do so before they had a bed already. They wouldn't have needed one, and Jesus -- being Jesus -- would have known that. Mind you, assuming that Jesus didn't know the two men (a fair assumption because Rev. Robertson clearly doesn't say they all are friends), what kind of person goes off and just makes a bed for total strangers? Even if you're the Son of God. Besides, if you're the Son of God, you assuredly have far more important things to do than build beds for strangers. (Though it's worth noting that Jimmy Carter does build complete houses for strangers, though that's a specific job he's taken on. He's not burdened with being the Son of God.) And if this imaginary cohabitation took place when Jesus was still doing his carpentry work -- I think we can all agree that it's pretty poor business practice for a carpenter to build a bed unsolicited. What if the people like a soft mattress, and you've made it medium-hard? If they don't want to pay, you could be out a lot of shekels.
But, as Pat Robertson and Walter Cronkite say, that’s the way it is. (Or to keep this biblical, as Pharaoh said to Moses, “So it has been written, so it shall be done.” Okay, at least he said it in the movie version. Or Yul Brynner did.)
By the way, dear Mr. Robertson also compared same-sex couples to abortion, saying that "both of them deny the reproduction of human species."
Interestingly, this is almost exactly the same way I feel about when his parents gave birth to Pat Robertson.
That aside, on this last comment of his I must disagree with the being known as Pat Robertson. The comparison is incredibly misguided. After all, by his definition of those who "deny the reproduction of human species," he might as well add comparisons to football huddles, Christian youth retreats, barbershop quartets, prostate cancer survivors, kindergarten through fourth grade, monks, nuns, all celibacy for that matter, senior citizens, prison, and most parents after their third child. Also, many women after delivering her first child. Not to mention fathers who stone their daughters to death for not being virgins.
But far be it from me to deny Pat Robertson the opportunity open his pie hole and say whatever he wants. I not only always appreciate the opportunity to get source material for yet another article -- but every time he does speak, I suspect it diminishes his mean-spirited cause one more rung. Always a good thing, should he decide to try and get the Republican nomination for president again.
And in the end, the truth is that although Jesus was not a good baker, he did know how to make delicious hummus. And that's what he probably would have made for the two guys cohabiting together.
.And his good disciple would have made the Peter bread.
Our visiting contestant today is Galen Spindler from Albert Lea, MN. And...huzzah, it's always a treat when I'm able to guess both the hidden song and the classical composer whose style the song is written in. Oddly, the hidden song was tough (and beautifully done by pianist Bruce Adolphe) during the well-known verse, but it became eminently clear in the bridge.
Almost a year ago, I wrote about a wonderful HBO movie made nearly 30 years ago, in 1985, Finnegan Begin Again. It starred Robert Preston in the second to last film he ever made, and co-starred Mary Tyler Moore. They're both terrific, but most especially Preston who acts with an ease that's almost ethereal. It's just a tremendous performance, the kind that anyone who wants to act should study. And the entire movie is charming. It's a story somewhat like Murphy's Romance, and oddly was made the same year, a romance between a middle-aged woman and a much older man who has no interest in romances any more.
The film was written by Walter Lockwood, and directed by Joan Micklin Silver who did the wonderful Hester Street and Crossing Delancey.
As I wrote at the time, the film unfortunately isn't on Netflix, nor do I know if it's even available for rental anywhere, let alone on DVD. What I said I could do, though, was embed a four-minute featurette HBO made about the film.
I can now do that one better.
Here's the entire film...
Okay, I'm back in the apartment after being sent away for four hours yesterday afternoon by the pest control guy, who's slowly becoming by closest friend. Yes, that means it's true, I'm actually still dealing with the bed bug scenario after 2-3 months. This was his fourth spraying. Usually, it's just three. But the end -- I think -- is in sight.
The bugs are down to just a few, and I had three days in a row with none, though there was one today. The spraying, my good buddy Del tells me, has a residual effect, so it'll still be there for weeks to come, and that should finally put a finish to this.
In fact, he said it was safe to start putting my home back together, even if there were random bugs appearing. That's the most joyous news of all. For the past few months, I've had most everything in my place put in boxes or bags, or had all my coats and sweaters and woolenish type things that all had to be drycleaned sitting in the attack of a friend's house. I've basically been living out of a suitcase all this time, with one change of clothes. Most of my office material was boxed up, so that hasn't been accessible either.
But now, good pal Del, says I can't begin to get my life back.
O joy, oh wonderment!
I expect to still see a few a bugs from time to time over the next week, but I've got my Fabriclear bug spray can close at hand, and I've gotten quite adept at it, able to nail a spot at 10 paces...though I prefer to stand right over the little creature and make dead sure. Pun intended.
I've started moving some close and books back, and soon I'll even be able to use my new sofa (which I've kept wrapped in plastic), and sleep in my bed properly (the new pillows are still wrapped in their zip bags, and the blankets are all over in my aforementioned friend's attic).
Yes, this is one room of the disaster zone. I don't have it in me to show others. With much cleverness, though, I was able to make a little pathway that you see there which happily has allowed me to get from one part of the zoo to another.
But...but this seems like it's heading to being a thing of the past. Here's hoping. Some of my clothes have now actually been put away. O huzzah!
It's difficult to choose which articles on my pal Mark Evanier's website are my favorite to read, but among them -- and very possibly at the top of the list -- are when he decides to play along with unsolicited phone calls. Usually these concern contractors, of which Mark (for some unknown reason) gets an inordinate amount.
I admire that Mark is so witty and clever and quick with these play-alongs, though almost more I admire that he takes the time to do so. Me, I tend to say, "no," the instant I get that initial pause and then a voice comes on the line (my "no" means the call is registered by them as having been completed) and then instantly hang up. On a rare occasion when I'm just in the mood I'll hang on and do something odd, but it's very rare. (My 92-year-old dad, on the other hand, tends to get very angry and tells the caller off at length. My most common response when I'm visiting is calling out across the room, "Dad, just hang up the phone!")
But my own efforts, on those rare occasions when the spirit moves me, are paltry compared to Mark. Mark, he's an artist at these. This recent article isn't necessarily his finest -- if there was a Nobel Prize for fake response to unsolicited calls, he'd win it for those -- but it's pure Evanier. And there might well be a follow-up from it, as he points out. I suspect there will be. Basically, he tells the roto-dialer person calling (who clearly isn't a contractor) about how he wants specific work done on his house -- work that he...well, let Mark tell you about i. You can read the latest tale here.
On Sunday, Republican Party nominee for president Mitt Romney appeared on Face the Nation and, among many other things, said --
"Our esteem around the world has fallen. I can’t think of a major country, it’s hard to think of a single country that has greater respect and admiration for America today than it did five years ago when Barack Obama became president."
It gets a little annoying every four years to have to keep repeating this to the former Republican Party nominee for president, but again, here goes --
Dear Mitt Romney -- you lost the election.
Mitt, you must understand: more people wanted Barack Obama to be president than you. They voted against you. They aren't interested in your policies, or even particularly your opinions all that much. Though I suppose they would still like to see your tax records. But as for your opinions...nah, not really. You lost the election. You aren't a senator or congressman or governor anymore, no matter of elected official, so your words don't even hold any political authority. So, it really again boils down to:
You lost the election.
Please go see John McCain and take about trying to get over it. He probably won't be able to offer much good advice, but at least you'll have comfort and solace from an understanding voice.
To be fair, Mr. Romney is the official, titular head of the Republican Party until the next nominee is named. So, his opinion holds that weight. And he was invited by CBS to be a guess, so his thoughts were solicited. And he has past experience as governor and head of the U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee, so he has experience in those areas. But there's a difference between speaking in your areas of expertise and diving off the deep end into unknown waters. And also, there's a huge difference between giving informed analysis and just being a bitter, spiteful grumpy snob.
And I think most fair-minded people can tell that difference.
One way they can tell that difference is something I like to call "reality." When you start pulling statements out of your hidden orifices to be snarky about the guy who beat you, that's when most people roll their eyes and look at you like you're their grouchy uncle who comes over for holidays and complains about everything, most notably the crazy kids today, how many commercials are on TV, the Blacks and Mexicans (extensively using the phrase, "You know what I mean"), loud music today, movies today, and Democrats.
Keep in mind that Mitt Romney was the man who the GOP wanted to be President of the United States. With his finger on the nuclear button. Someone to analyze facts and make cool-headed, solid decisions. And he said, "It’s hard to think of a single country that has greater respect and admiration for America today than it did five years ago when Barack Obama became president."
Dear Uncle Mitt, at least you could have check with Pew Research beforehand.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project regularly researches other countries about their attitudes, notably about the United States, and puts out a poll each year. The poll is really easy to find, especially if you were, well, a former nominee for president. At the very least, you just ask someone on your staff to do it, they probably have a lot of free time these days without much responsibility.
In the most recent 2013, there was a favorable opinion of the U.S. in 28 of the 38 nations who has been polled. That's over three times more than had a favorable opinion of America when George W. Bush was president -- when just nine of 23 counties said they had a positive opinion of the U.S. in 2008. (In fairness, more countries were polled for Mr. Obama, so we'll look at percentages. For President Obama, 74% of countries had a favorable opinion, while 39% did under President Bush.)
Beyond just the pesky facts of reality, it's also worth questioning why favorable opinions of the U.S. might not be as high as some would wish (though those numbers look pretty respectable). It might well be, not because of the president, but because of the white noise and policies coming out of the conservative wing of the nation that makes it across the ozone, airwaves and Internets to foreign countries beyond. And when they read about policies forcing women to have required vaginal probes, policies that make it more difficult to vote, policies against immigrants (of which, as "foreigners," they might be a tad sensitive to), policies intended specifically to block the very popular President Obama, cries against universal health care (which most other nations tend to enjoy) and more, they just might not find the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free as brave and appealing as they've read in their school books.
But Mitt Romney once again goes yammering on about how unpopular the United States was. Gee, all he left out was, "You know what I mean."
Dear Mitt. You lost the election.
You know what I mean?
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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