Friday, October 31, 2008

She Just Doesn't Understand: Palin on the First Amendment

Not much to add here. I'm just posting it for the benefit of my random, non-sequitur co-blogger.

The governor of Alaska doesn't understand the First Amendment:

In a conservative radio interview that aired in Washington, D.C. Friday morning, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by "attacks" from reporters who suggest she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama.

Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

Glen Greenwald analyzes this and bangs his head against the wall at

Single Subject Posts Are For Losers

All along, while gf and I have been taking Argentine Tango lessons, I thought the "Argentine" meant that it wasn't the real thing. Turns out, Tango is a musical genre and its associated dance forms that originated in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay and spread to the rest of the world soon after that. All right!

My, how things change. When I was a kid I went through a slight biking phase and became familiar with what names meant awesome and what names didn't. I remember that Schwinn back then was a great name. A couple of months ago I found a Schwinn Mesa on Craigslist for 50 bucks that needed a little work. Turns out it needed a lot of work and I got ripped off, but that's beside the point. I saw the name Schwinn and thought "Oh, I can't go wrong with that. I'll be the envy of my 13 year old self." When I took it to the bike guy around here he listed all the stuff wrong with it and as a throw-away comment he mentioned "well, of course, with a Schwinn frame you gotta figure it's [a run down pile of s***]." When I followed up he gave me the low-down of how it used to be a good company until some mass producing folks bought them out and started cranking out bikes to be sold at toy stores. Drat!

I saw a show on the history channel a while ago about sea navigation - I think with pirates. They had some sort of a compass thing that required you to point a straight rod at the sun and all the connected equipment was then aligned properly. That meant that it was someone's job on that boat to stare along that rod and point it straight at the sun. I also saw a show once about torture history. Some Greek king jerk made a giant brass bull with an extended belly under which he would light fires. There was a hatch on the bull's back that would close, and he would trap people inside and light the fire. Between that chamber and the mouth of the bull was a looped fixture that looked like a french horn. Apparently the screams of the victim would filter through this fixture and it would sound like a bull's roar. This Greek king jerk would throw someone in there then have a dinner party in front of it. Eventually he was overthrown.[aak's edit: for the best part of the bull story, see my post here]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plans: Election Night?

In 2004, I bit my nails with my uncle and aunt. In 2006, I... um... (checking Gmail)... I don't know what I did in 2006. Stayed in my Van Ness Apartment with Mr. Henry? That doesn't sound right.

Anyway, I wish I could stay up and watch the results come in with people on November 4, but I can't. I have a test in the morning the next day. A really awful test.

What are you doing for Election Night? Are you planning a get-together? Or is it too soon after Halloween to do that?


Who am I kidding? I'm not going to be able to study that night!! Who's up for some CNN-watching on Tuesday?

Double-Blog Crisis: Pumpkin Edition

As many readers have pointed out (okay, one), the distinction between the blog and the other one that I post on is rather vague. I've said before that the other one is more personal and Districted is more universal--it might be of some interest to people that I don't know as well as the people I do know. Mr. Hatandcoat seems to believe that Districted is a "political blog," but that's just because he doesn't read political blogs so he doesn't know how relentless the political blogs are. Districted, on the other hand, relents.

But this "universal/personal"' distinction puts me in a bind. I can't just post to Districted with any old thing in my life. It has to have some sort of value for other humans, like warning them about the timbre of McCain's attack ads and rallies and political ploys, or it has to be District-of-Columbia-centric, like my posts about city biking as well as taking the Metro. I also put District-area reviews here.

But what about when I just wanna talk about my pumpkin-carving last night? Well, I can take the political angle, I guess.

There were two Obama-themed pumpkins carved last night. Here's one of them.

Now reader(s?), please do not misunderstand. OMG is indeed short for Oh My God, but that does not mean that the Obama logo in place of the "Oh" should indicate that the pumpkin-carver meant to say "Obama My God!" No. There are two layers at work here, mixed together in an amusing way. On one layer, the carver is supporting Obama by making the logo. On the other, she is expressing delight, excitement, and surprise at Obama's success in the polls.

One might wonder why someone would carve Obama jack'o'lanterns, when jack'o'lanterns are traditionally the gargoyles of vegetable light sources; they're meant to be scary to scare the really badd stuff away. By this reasoning, I argued, we should all carve McCain or Palin into our pumpkins, as they are truly scary. "That's TOO scary," I was told.

So we focused on other things:

A Siamese-twin pumpkin.

Tradition is bulletproof, like the Man of Steel. Just not dropproof. This Supercarving was destroyed soon after the picture was taken.

A scary clown face. (I supplied the design, but it's all in the execution.)

Spooky Little Prince (this one was mine).

Unfortunately, we did not have the clay-carving tools for finer work. (I think I ruined them two years ago, making the Hand of Fear.)

So, dear reader(s?), what would you like this blog to be? Political? District-oriented? Pumpkin-tastic? We want to hear from YOU.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Transportation: Mandatory Idiocy

From a WaPo article, via a Twitterpost from a friend:
Metro officials announced today that they will begin randomly inspecting backpacks, gym bags and any other containers that riders carry with them onto the bus and rail system, in an effort to deter possible terrorist attacks.
I am not excited. I am dismayed and angry.
In the searches, transit police will choose a random number ahead of time, such as 17. Then they will ask every 17th rider step aside and have his or her bags searched before boarding a bus or entering a rail station.
Getting angrier.
Police said the inspections would take between 8 to 10 seconds. Those who refuse will not be allowed to enter the system with their carry-on items but will not be detained.
Who the h*ll do they think they are kidding? 8 to 10 seconds?! Even discounting the fact that they could only do the least effective of searches in such a time, 8 to 10 seconds is not realistic. My bookbag has four compartments. My bike-rack bag has three or five, depending on how you look at it. I know some women's purses to have many, many pockets and compartments. Is the transit police officer going to open every single zipper and clasp? Or just the big one, shake it around a little, and wave the person through?

If they do a thorough search of every 17th person, people won't want to ride the Metro system because it makes them late. If they don't do a thorough search, there will be no point, and people still won't want to ride.

Could this be an attempt to curb ridership, just when Metro's experiencing overcrowding?

Finally, I am certain that the transit officers will not be properly trained to deal with the public in this manner. The same problems people have with the TSA will come up: no comprehension of passenger's rights, troubling abuses of authority, nonsensical assumptions about electrical equipment, and perhaps a ban on liquids?

I might never use Metro again, thanks to this. Even from MD to VA, my bike will be a better option, if these actually get implemented as described.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

PSA: Don't Give Gift Cards as Presents!

Found via Grammer Girl's twitterfeed: cards are not cash. Gift cards are actually a form of debt issued by the company, just like a corporate bond. This means that if a company goes bankrupt and is able to release itself from obligations including debt and bond holders, the gift card is immediately null and void.
So if anyone wants to give me a gift card this holiday season, I would really prefer the greenbacks.

Link to brief article.

(The real question is, did I post this more out of concern for my readership, or more out of concern that Districted had fewer posts than its sister blog, Hatandcoat?)

Whole Paycheck: Snacky Edition

I went to Whole Foods for groceries the other day. I ended up with a bookbagfull of snacks.

I've been trying out some vegan stuff lately, just to see how it tastes. I like some vegan cookies, especially the variety you see on the right, made by Alternative Baking Company. I love the pumpkin spice one.

At Whole Foods, I picked up Gone Crackers (a wheatless cracker, made with seeds), dried cherries, Kashi trail mix cookies, two kinds of cheeses (these are snacks, in my book), bulk rice crackers, packaged rice crackers, Aussie-style soft strawberry licorice, and organic vegan gelatin-free gummi bears.

Gone Crackers are always great with hummus. They're basically crunchy spoons for deliciousness. They're nutty, too, made primarily with seeds and nuts. I think that makes them high in fiber but low in carbohydrates.

I'm addicted to dried cherries these days. I've almost finished the container that I bought on Friday, and I've been "going slow."

I haven't dug into the trail mix cookies from Kashi, yet, but I've had them before. I like eating them by dunking them in Seven Stars yogurt (also purchased at Whole Foods).

Finished off one of the cheeses already. I have a cheese problem.

The bulk rice crackers, while always somewhat stale, are very satifying. They don't have many calories. They're pleasantly spicy, in that it takes you a few handfuls to realize the spiciness, but when you do, it's good. These were gone yesterday.

I also bought WF's 365-brand Rice Crackers, shaped in circular wafers, seaweed variety. I've finished all of them, too.

I shared the licorice with my roommates. They all loved it. They, like me, feel that Twizzlers taste of chemicals. The soft licorice that I got was delicious and just tasted like it came from natural stuff. Gone on Friday.

Organic vegan gummi bears. I just bought them on a whim. I would normally never pay $2.25 for a 3.5oz box of candy, but I thought, "Organic gummi bears? How good could that be?" Not good at all, it turns out. The consistency was gross--apple pectin will do that for you. They were supposed to be sour, too--they weren't. The flavors were somewhat distictive, as in I could distinguish between them. I ate them all, mainly because I was craving sugar and didn't have any real food in the house.

I should really go shopping again. Not to Whole Foods, this time; the snacks are too tempting.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Clever, she thought, as she took the $10.75.

I went to see Religulous last night (as you probably already know). I met Mr. Hatandcoat at the AMC Loews Georgetown 14.

I'll never go there again.

I was waiting in line, excited about my student discount. I got out my ID in anticipation of the couple of dollars off I would get. The girl behind me saw my ID and said, "Oh, I can get a discount here! Do I have my ID?"

I got up front, asked for a student ticket for Religulous, and brandished my student ID like a VIP card. The girl behind the counter said, "10.75 please."

I was taken aback. Did movie tickets soar to $13 in the past month? I said, "Um, could you give me a student discount, please?"

She said, "That's Thursdays."

I said, "What?"

She said, "Student discounts are only on Thursdays."

I said, "Only here."

Only Thursdays? Who ever heard of that? This is the theater closest to both George Washington and Georgetown. Unless the deals on Thursdays are insane (like $6 a ticket, $2 a box of popcorn, crazy sh*t like that). Then I would be kinda okay with it.

United, Under the Flag

I'm sorry, Conservative brethren, for sounding like an a-hole about your beliefs. I'm not really an a-hole. It's just easier to write that way to get the point across. I think that you are wrong about a lot of issues, but I'm sorry if you think I've been an a-hole about it.

I saw Religulous tonight and it's put me in a thoughtful mood.

In one of the scenes, Bill Mahr says that he understands how a person who is in a hole, who has a lot of bad stuff in his life, who has nothing else, can turn to faith. He gets that. He doesn't understand almost anything else about faith, but he gets that. People who are oppressed turn to faith.

Faith is strengthening. One way it strengthens is in building community. I have seen this in Muslim prayer rituals (everyone kneels towards Mecca at the same time--everyone, in the same direction, at the same time--in the same time zone, at least). I have seen this in the Sabbath feast of Jewish people (families coming together, spending time with each other, every week, same time). I have seen this in the Catholic rites (communion, for instance, is something that all Catholics do, every Sunday, and non-Catholics are excluded).

In history class, we've been talking about the origins of Japanese society. Japan used to have an animistic religion, where people in the north prayed to their local deity, and people in the south prayed to their local deity, and every town along the way prayed to a different one. Not very unifying. One of the ways the Yamato clan unified the country was by promoting and promulgating Buddhism as a national religion. If everybody believed the same things, they wouldn't fight each other, and there could be a nation-wide government. The new faith unified the country and made the government strong.

Faith is strengthening in its unifying theme. Faith builds a community, unites it, ties it together. The members become brothers.

Then, is the current rightward-tilt, the evangelical tide in America, stemming from a lack of community?

Did the American individualist, who built this country on freedom and personal liberty, suddenly grow up and realize that being an individualist in a country of individualists gets to be lonely?

Did the "heartland" feel estranged from the coastal, liberal cities (see below pic)?

Is that why everybody is insisting on America being a "Christian" country?

And uniting "Under God"?

I'm sorry, Conservative Christians, that you ever felt unloved by the media, TV shows, books, radio, or even by this blogger. I love you guys as my American brothers and sisters. I don't need to share your fundamentalist ideas about the Bible, Creation, evolution, and drilling oil to feel that you and I are fundamentally the same. We're all human, but more than that, we're Americans, and we don't need any more reason to defend each other than that.

I feel that faith and religion are things that spring up when people need a stronger feeling of community. I think maybe we should start looking at what we share, rather than what we disagree on. That's why I am for Obama, whose speech at the DNC went directly to this matter:

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

My ideas above about religion are not completely researched, backed up, or thought through. Just some things I was thinking about tonight. I hope that one day we will all be equals and united in being a part of the human race. Til then, I'm content to say, I'm American, and that makes us united enough for me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dartboard Issue Choosing

Many people seem to do the following, so I will join the club. I will find a political article, any article, and sound off on it. Commencing google search for "politics" now.

Obama raised 150 million in September!? I have no idea what McCain has, but it's probably comparable. I'm still a little shocked by that number. One month. It says that McCain raised 85 million of federal matching funds in the last 2 months of the campaign. I don't know what that means.

Some years ago didn't I hear the news repeat the phrase "campaign finance reform" over and over? If these campaigns can raise this much so damn easily, how is anything different? Did that chatter amount to a senate bill that campaigners simply figured out how to get around? It makes me wonder what talking points we hear at any given moment will fade over time. Why isn't global warming on the radio and tv every time I turn them on anymore?

Here's a big "duh:" if Obama holds the promise of such change, does he also promise to not listen to hundreds of millions of influence dollars that people have spent?

I think it would be fun to keep an exhaustive list of things promised by the politicians during campaign time and see what the winner follows through on. (Well, not fun to make the list, but to have it later). Then it'd be great to have it with other politicians over time and on my 95th birthday I could hand it over to my great grandson who'll have a budding interest at that point. He could analyze the promise keepers vs breakers. Perhaps he could note the cues in the campaigners' behavior that will divide them into either camp. Perhaps I could run some analysis of past campaigns and have this answer right now. Perhaps it exists on the webs now, I just need to refine the search for "politics."

That's it. I'm done talking about politics for about a week.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nice Fakeout

Joe the plumber is a fake. He's not a plumber, doesn't even have a plumber's license, he makes about $40,000 a year, he avoids paying taxes, and, even if he bought the plumbing company he does contract work for, it would only make him about $130,000 a year. See video:

The way he spoke to Obama in footage of their meeting together made me think Joe'd been coached, or that he'd been planted there by McCain, or that he was a Fox News zombie. Judge for yourself:

How he just threw out the $250,000 figure, how he kept harping on "hard work" and "the American dream"... I dunno, I thought he sounded fake. He also looked too comfortable in front of the camera. It's vomitous to think that McCain's campaign would use a plant, but, given that his campaign has already exceeded expectations for vomit-inducing horror, perhaps it's not that bad? As in Palin's debate, maybe my standards have been lowered?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

There Are More Things in this World Than You Have Dreamt of...

A friend of mine was holding a ladder for someone in a tree. That guy got a little careless (I assume), walked out on a branch, the branch broke, and that man is now paralyzed. I think he can still use his arms. He's fourty something with a wife and 2 kids.

The fall happened right in front of my friend. On the phone he told me that for at least a month after the accident all he could see was chuck (not real name) falling every time he closed his eyes. He sounded pretty nonchalant about it while telling me.

I write this as a reaction to Aak's experience. I blogged once before about being mugged/going through an extreme experience. What does that do to someone? I told Aak over gchat that this biking thing is exposing him to a whole range of human experience. (Roommate and I were talking last night about how he's becoming a pugnacious badass, a la "Fuck you!" Personally Aak is NOT like that. We became friends through playing chess and scrabble together.) But that concept of human experience is such a tepid abstract for me while reading about stuff here on a laptop. I'm reminded of the legions of young men in the early fourties who signed up excitedly to go out and fight a war in Europe. It seems romantic and educational, but I haven't been there.

People always ask me if I know Tyler Durden.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My First Near-VH Experience

The stoplight turned green. I biked upright through the first intersection and sat down to go through the second. The second one is always dangerous; it slopes down fast in the middle of the merging other highway. It was fine; no cars were running the red light on my right.

This part of my commute is the most stressful. I'm only on University Boulevard for a minute, but I have to get over to the left lane to make a left onto the Northwest Branch of Sligo Creek Trail. I'm going fast downhill in the middle of the right lane, the cars around me are going fast, and I don't have a bike mirror so I have to turn my head to see what's in the left lane.

I was going downhill. A car passed me on my left. I shifted my head slightly left and catch a white SUV close behind me. I figured the driver was irritated and trying to pass me.

The white SUV came really close behind me. I heard his engine boost. He came up close on my left, straddling the left and right lanes, to say sarcastically "Plenty of space on the side of the-"

"FUCK YOU" I shouted at him. "GET the FUCK out of my way! I am SUPPOSED to BE HERE."

Driver, scowling, sped up and ceased being a threat. I signaled and went into the left lane. I looked ahead at the upcoming turn, noted the traffic coming--

White SUV was in front of me. Braking. Stopping.

I grabbed my brakes. I darted my eyes to the other lane; cars whizzing by. I thought, I'm going to hit him and fall off my bike into traffic and die.


White SUV lurched forward. I screamed "YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT."

I signaled again and went into the turning lane, where the median had given way. But the white SUV had pulled over on the right shoulder. The driver, white, grizzled facial hair, red in the face, orangy-salmony polo shirt, tan cargo shorts perhaps, was standing out of his SUV, looking at me, and saying "Let's talk."

Talk? To my would-be killer? Talk? With his fists?

No, I shake my head once, and scream, "YOU TRIED TO KILL ME. I'M TURNING LEFT. YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT." I turned left, saying again "YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT."

I was shaking and crying and ready to throw up for the next mile.


I am a safe cyclist. I'm not a pussy, though. I ride in the road. I follow the laws, which say that cars and bikes use the road the same ways. The laws also say that bikes are encouraged (not mandated) to use the right side of the road only if (a) there's room/the road is wider than 9 feet/there's a good shoulder or bike lane, (b) there is no danger on the right, e.g., parked cars that may open doors into the cyclist's path, and (c) the cyclist is not planning on making a left turn.

The driver probably did not intend to place me in mortal danger. He perhaps did not expect that I would have difficulty stopping myself when he braked three feet ahead of me. Maybe he thought I could go around, and then we could "talk."

If you're going to talk to cyclists, don't do it on a hill, on a busy road, at 30 mph, or at close range. And don't be sarcastic about it. And don't brake in front of them, giving them a heart attack or death outright. And don't expect them to talk it over calmly after your attempted vehicular homicide (VH).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Ugliest Side of America

Americans have not had a great rep outside of our own country. It started with the image of fat, blundering tourists, waddling through countries and assuming everyone spoke English. It wasn't just the annoyance of having to deal with someone who refused to learn German when they were visiting Germany; it was the fact that Americans seemed to think they were speaking the one way everybody should speak. It was the audacity of getting upset when ranch dressing wasn't an option for your salad. It was how Communism won: the Commies understood how to talk to local people, understand them, and thus communicate with them.

The blustering image died away, but, in the wake of 9/11, a very similar image has arisen. We failed to reach the "hearts and minds" of Iraqis because we didn't understand their culture. But now it's no longer the Ugly Americans abroad who inspire distaste; tourists aren't coming to America any more. Our culture of fear, our paranoia, our crime, our treatment of foreigners all combine to ensure that our tourism industry has collapsed.

But who cares about what the foreigners think, right? We shouldn't care what all of the nations of the world think of us. Fine. But what about the ugliness that we, as fellow Americans, should not stand among ourselves?

This video has been going around and around the Internet. Please take a look:

I know that these people might be a vocal minority--might be--just as the liberals have a vocal minority who think trees are better than people, that 9/11 is some big conspiracy, and that Obama is the Messiah who will save our country and our souls.

But then I read all of these articles about McCain's rallies and what people are saying there.
Shouts of "traitor," "terrorist," "treason," "liar," and even "off with his head" have rung from the crowd at McCain and Sarah Palin rallies, and gone unchallenged by them.

...In two events this week, warm-up speakers at GOP rallies have used Obama's middle name, Hussein, to seed doubts about the Democrat, a tactic meant to draw attention to the false rumors that Obama is a Muslim, as well as to belittle him. "On Nov. 4, let's leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened," a sheriff told Palin's Florida rally. (AP article)

In Minnesota on Friday, Mr McCain defended Mr Obama after some at the town hall meeting labelled him a "terrorist", "an Arab", a "traitor" and a candidate who inspired fear... At the Minnesota meeting, Mr McCain said Mr Obama was a decent family man and voters should not be afraid of him, but drew boos for defending him. (BBC article)
McCain, when he deals with these kinds of attacks, has been over the past few months prone to simply saying "That distracts from the issues." To my knowledge, McCain has never said to his crowds, "Barack Obama is not a terrorist." He's never said "Obama is not a Muslim." He denounces the bald attacks on Obama, but he is glad to use those radicals' words to get more votes. He doesn't want to say to his supporters, "you're wrong." He wants their votes, needs their votes, and so he will not take the moral high ground. He'll tread in the middle, going around the cries of "kill him" with a remark or two about the differences in their platforms.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fleet Foxes Show, Black Cat, October 3

Envy me. I want to bask in your jealousy.

I was able to get in to see Fleet Foxes this past Friday.

... Come on, ENVY ME!

I guess you don't know who the Fleet Foxes are. I gather that most of DC doesn't know who they are. And yet, they sold out the Black Cat so quickly that all the indie kids were writhing their hands in agony. Tickets for the show were going for $125 on Craigslist. That's a $110 markup! So those in the know were quite envious when I told them I was going.

Even if you didn't envy me just by hearing their name, you should still consider yourself unlucky that you missed an awesome show.

The opening act was weird. Just one guy, sitting on the stage, no change in the lights. It was hard to tell from the back that he had even come onto the stage. I had to get up very close to hear and comprehend what was going on. He was a strange bird, with his white dress shirt buttoned up to the top-collar button. He played the banjo, the guitar, the fiddle, the slide guitar. His blues/roots music seemed cut from the O Brother Where Art Thou reels. His more instrumental songs were more pleasant to listen to, not just because he played them perfectly in his vein but also because his voice was hard to take. His singing voice seemed like an affected Appalachian twang, dissonant and strained. I couldn't tell if it was real or not. His whole act seemed so surreal, I couldn't tell what was true and what was false. Even his expression was hard to understand: he was scowling, frowning, and generally looking like he was having the worst time of his life. It was a very strange scene. I felt like the guy would be really interesting in a random bar in the South, but here, he was out of place.

Fleet Foxes came on pretty soon after that. They started with an a capella version of one of their songs. The harmonies set the tone for the night: pleasant, moving melodies, sung from their gut to yours.

I had listened to their CD a few times before the concert, but I hadn't really been a fan. Yes, sorry envious indie kid (I know you're out there), I took the ticket away from the real fans. But after the concert I understood the music better. I felt like I knew what they had been trying to do. The CD sounds a little hollow, a little distant, the voice hard to pick out of the guitars. But now I get it: it's all about the rawness of their concerts live.

Raw isn't the right word, because it connotes "unformed." Their melodies are very formed and calculated. They played a new song during their set, and they apologized before it and after about it not really being finished yet. What I mean by raw is simply the force of it. Maybe it was because I was standing four feet from the speakers on stage right, but the music was powerful, performed live. It made more sense, live, than it had on the CD.

The band was friendly, but they weren't really sure what to say to a DC crowd. They kept reverting to talking about politics. They asked if anybody'd seen Carville around, or served Rumsfeld a beer and gotten a bad tip. Someone from the audience replied that they'd seen Dick Cheney in the Self-Help section of a bookstore. The band asked if Cheney had "radiated" evil like they'd imagine he would. (I guess neocons wouldn't be coming to a Fleet Foxes show.)

Another guy from the audience kept shouting out "Bicycle Tusk!" I didn't know that song, but the lead singer was taken aback. "Bicycle Tusk? Did we go to high school together?"

The show felt warm and inviting. I didn't know the words to any of the songs, but they were easy to pick up. I was soon trying to sing along with most of the lyrics. The welcoming demeanor and the warm harmonies felt like singalongs were encouraged. Maybe the people right in front of me didn't appreciate it, but I don't care. It's not like I was louder than those 8-foot speakers.

So envy me; I got to know Fleet Foxes firsthand.

Late Night Italian Lessons

On Saturday night, I was at an impromptu bratwurst taste-test. Guess who showed up late? Mr. Hatandcoat! We ordered pizza after he arrived. After the pizza was eaten, people started to get "a little dizzy," and it was time to head home.

On my way out, Mr. Hatandcoat expressed his hope that I encounter something interesting on the Metro so I could blog about it. I said I hoped so, too. I unlocked my bike and rode to Rosslyn.

On the long elevator down to the platform at Rosslyn, I noticed for the first time that you can look out the side of the glass elevator and watch the people on the escalator. I looked through and watched a bunch of unsteady girls and a couple guys make their descent.

I got out of the elevator and walked my bike to the platform. I see a flash on the ceiling. I looked back and saw one of the unsteady girls with her camera out.

I was wearing my uber-dorky reflective vest (of the kind that construction workers and Metro employees wear) and an old hoodie. I did not look like the quintessence of style. So I was pretty self-conscious about my picture being taken. I was, until I realized that the girls were not speaking English and were taking pictures of everything. They took about 10 pictures in the five minutes we were waiting for the train.

When we got on the train, I stood with my bike in the door area (nowhere else to go) and the girls took the seats opposite me. Did I mention they were good-looking? I was guessing they were Italian. I've always liked Italian girls.

Then one of them asked me "Can I take a picture with?" I said sure. She posed with me and my bike. Then another one, the tallest and most leg-showing, got up and posed against me as well. I took the opportunity to ask where they were from, and, sure enough, they all said "Italy." The one with the legs asked me "Are you studying?" I said, "Yes. Japanese." They weren't really interested in that.

We ended up transferring at Metro Center together, too. The girls and their two guys had grouped together along the wall, and I stood waiting at the edge of the platform. I kept thinking, hm, how do I make conversation? I finally settled on showing interest in their language.

I went over to Legs and asked "Can you teach me some Italian?"

She said, "Yes. ...maybe."

I said, "What's 'hello'? I know goodbye is 'ciao'..."

"Hello is 'ciao.' It's also means goodbye. You say it at the beginning, and at the end."



I started to say something else, but then the train was coming, so I said, "Oh, the train is coming. What's 'train' in Italian?"

Legs looked confused and said, "I don't know, what's 'traing'?"

I pointed at the train coming. Legs said "Oh, train" and went over to gather her unsteady flock. We boarded the train together but didn't have much else to say. When they got out at New York Avenue, Legs smiled sweetly at me and said "Byeee."

I said, "Ciao."

She said "Ciao," and so did the rest of them.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Revelations about Palin

When I wrote this post on Sarah Palin, there was a lot of snap negativity towards her. I thought it was unfounded.

Whoops. She is a crazy person and a terrible choice for a vice president.

You've all seen her interview with Katie Couric, right? Where she sputters about topics she's not familiar with (foreign policy, economics)? I'm not even going to link to it, just Google "palin and couric."

As to the crazy part, well, she's crazy about God. Sorry, fundamentalist readers, but I don't want a fundamentalist evangelical Christian as VP. I really don't. I'll get into why a little later, in case it's not obvious. has an article which first alerted me to Palin's God problem. Here are some quotes:
  • Another valley activist, Philip Munger, says that Palin also helped push the evangelical drive to take over the Mat-Su Borough school board. "She wanted to get people who believed in creationism on the board," said Munger, a music composer and teacher. "I bumped into her once after my band played at a graduation ceremony at the Assembly of God. I said, 'Sarah, how can you believe in creationism -- your father's a science teacher.' And she said, 'We don't have to agree on everything.'
  • "I pushed her on the earth's creation, whether it was really less than 7,000 years old and whether dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. And she said yes, she'd seen images somewhere of dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them."
  • Munger also asked Palin if she truly believed in the End of Days, the doomsday scenario when the Messiah will return. "She looked in my eyes and said, 'Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime.'"
I've researched the creationist view before, and I've seen those pictures of "footprints." See here for a refutation:

Now look, if you think that Palin's free to believe whatever she wants, she is. But she has a habit of mixing politics and religion. And this is what is really scary: the people who say they believe they will see Jesus in this lifetime are actively working to make that happen. These are the people who like the conflict in the Middle East, because it means that Jerusalem is in turmoil, which of course means Jesus will come back. Would Palin start us towards apocalypse, just so she can go up in Rapture? I would say yes. Wouldn't you, if you believed you could jumpstart the salvation of mankind, try your hardest to do so?

For examples of how Palin mixes God with policies, here's a quote from the Huffington Post:
Alaska's governor asked the audience to pray for another matter -- a $30 billion national gas pipeline project that she wanted built in the state. "I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that," she said.
You remember how Palin thought that the Iraq war was a task from God (also quoted in the article). Apparently God's got a plan for everything. This is what these kinds of people believe. God has a plan for America. We've got to implement our faith in making laws. We've got to save the country's souls.

But wait, there's more. Palin's church invited and honored a certified witchhunter!

This is interesting. When I heard about her spiritual adviser holding witchhunts, I thought, that's impossible. No one in this country could stand for that, right?

I was half-right. Pastor Muthee is based in Africa, and that's where he found his witch and cast her out of town. But Palin's church invited him to speak about it! And Palin let him pray over her! And Palin considers him a great spiritual person in her life!

Some background info for you: African natives believe in witches. It's not a Christian idea. It comes from indigenous religious attitudes. They believe that anybody with negative emotions can be a witch. Witches are often unaware of their power. It's like, if I'm jealous of my brother, and then he trips over a root, I'm responsible for that, because the witch in me lashed out at him. (I've studied one such case in my Anthropology class.)

I had not heard of this concept being incorporated into evangelical churches in Africa. That's interesting. And scary. Like Sarah Palin.

America, be afraid. Because Palin is going to try to bring a little Revelation into the government.

Think I'm paranoid? I challenge you to ask Sarah Palin this question: "If you could do anything to bring Jesus back for the second coming, would you?" She will be unable to say no.