Thursday, July 29, 2004

Ahhh that compassionate conservatism...

Well, I wonder if this'll knock off the whole Teresa Heinz Kerry "shove it" kerfluffle. Seems a campaign worker said that workers unhappy with their job situation should just take a Prozac. Lovely. Course, she didn't mention how they'd pay for it, since the current workplace situation and stranglehold by Big Pharam makes is sorta tough for most laid-off workers to get their hands on that expensive little happy pill. And, of course, she used the ol' "I didn't know the mic was on" excuse. And, for what it's worth, she's a Cherry Blossom Princess, whatever that is, and used to be aide for that lovable scamp Dick Army.

And now for another round of "More Info Than You Probably Need"...

I've been clinically depressed, I figure, since I was 12 or so. I also suffer from bi-polar disorder. I reckon it stems mainly from the death of a cousin I was very, very close to, as well as issues with my old man that are best kept for another time. Coming from the uber-macho redneck background, I basically spent my teen and young adult years trying to "suck it up" and "work through it". In that time, there's been three suicide attempts (four if you want to count a night holding a four-ten shotgun under my chin when I was 13).

When I drank or did drugs, I drank and doped until I was incoherent and uncontrollable. Lots of anger, lots of rage, lots of self-hatred. I never thought anything I did was "good enough". Good enough for who, I couldn't tell you. I subconsciously sabotaged relationships because I felt no one could really care for a worthless individual like myself. I gave up dreams because I thought a talentless hack like me had no hope of achieving them. Friends gave up on me because I pushed them away. Tried therapy in college, but the woman wanted me to blame everyone but myself. I knew who was at fault.

The final suicide attempt - and final straw - happened about two years ago just after my 27th birthday. Partly spurned on by the latest in a long of broken hearts and drunker than hell, I took a razor to my wrists and passed out on the bathroom floor. I woke up the next morning with my hair stuck to my wrists. Humorously enough, my mane saved my worthless life.

That act finally got me to take the advice of a very dear friend and I went to a local organization, Nuci's Space, which provided mental health care to local musicians. I started seeing a therapist, and I got lucky with this guy. I started on Effexor for my depression and Depakote for my bi-polar disorder. I joke that Effexor keeps me from killing myself and Depakote keeps me from killing other people. Two years later, I can honestly say I'm happier than I've ever been and more mentally stable than I've been since I was a young child.

Taking meds isn't a cure-all, nor is the idea that "unhappy people" should just pop a couple Prozac when life gets tough all that fuckin' funny. My meds - and I can only speak for me - help me think more clearly, helps straighten out the misfiring neurons in my brain and, basically, deal with life with the right attitude. Hopefully, I'll be getting off them soon, because I've basically learned the trick: it's all a ride and it's all in how you look at it.

Depression is not fun, nor is it funny. It's hell. People who've never had real, true depression don't know what it's like to go three nights without sleep because you hate yourself so much. You don't know what it's like to question the affection of others, to always think they must want something from you since your incapable of being loved. You don't know what it's like to be so blinded by rage and anger you can't function or perform even basic, day-to-day activities. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Therapy also helped me realize that my eccentric nature was nothing to be ashamed of. I'm a solitary cat, but that's okay. I'm not wrong just because I don't like dating or really don't care for relationships. I am what I am, to quote a wise sailor, and what I am, I dig completely.

Mental illness is still not taken seriously in this country, as the above quip from the little Washington darling proves, and that boggles my mind. I know so many people who could be helped by it, but refuse treatment because either they think it makes them look "weak" or the goddamn pharmaceutical companies are more interested in making a buck than helping people out. Therapy shouldn't be for people who hate their jobs or whose girlfriend doesn't respect them; it's for people who fucking hate life. And beloved, there's no more lonely a feeling than living in your own skin and hating to be there.

The sickest mental illness of them all, dear hearts, is what our Bush campaign worker showed, jokingly or not: making yourself feel better by mocking the pain of others.

Much love to Balta and Atrios for the original story. And, most importantly, if you feel you need help with depression, please get it. Don't wait and don't make the horrible mistake I almost made. Feel free to email me if talking with someone helps. We're all in it together, beloved.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Boobies For Our Fighting Men & Women

This may be one of the dumbest things I've ever read in my entire life. According to the story - and from a New Yorker magazine report - members of all four branches of the U.S. military can get face-lifts, breast enlargements, liposuction and nose jobs. The best part? It's all on the taxpayers' dime. All this, while, apparently we're running short of bullets for soldiers in harms way, the Bush Administration is cutting house-building budget for military families by something like 500 million dollars, and the Pentagon's run out of money for Iraq. Seems they've run through the $65 billion that Congress approved and needs a cool $12.3 billion more. I guess that means that $87 billion is gone with the wind, too, and apparently they can’t touch the $400 billion a year the United States spends on defense.

Now. I have no problem with the concept of plastic surgery, especially if it's needed because of an accident or an illness. Mastectomies, burn victims and so forth. And, frankly, if someone wants to spend his or her own money to deal with his balding problem or her little boobs, I got no problem, personally. I think it's silly and vain, and I think fake hooters look and feel, well...fake. But, hey, it's your life and your money.

But spending taxpayer cash so some silly girl in the Army can "feel better" about herself with big fake tits or some general needs a tummy tuck to get into the drawers of said silly girl? That I have a problem with, especially considering how poorly funded the troops doing the actual fighting are. What kills me is it’s the very same people who’re cutting those benefits mentioned above - the GOP - that seem to have the lock on “supporting the troops”. Hey, ya wanna support the troops? Quit giving multi-billion contracts to Halliburton and buy the poor bastards enough equipment and food and housing. Supporting the troops also means treating them with respect rather than pawns in your little geo-political game, you bastards.

And the most disturbing quote from the whole story: "The magazine quoted an Army spokeswoman as saying, 'the surgeons have to have someone to practice on.'" Reckon there's some boobies that aren't "fully saluting", so to speak?

Much love to Mooser for the heads up on the story.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

America: Not As Crazy As You Might Think
This is pretty neat. This cat Steven Kull - the director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland and coauthor with I.M. Destler of Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism (Washington: Brookings Institution Press 1999) - took the majority opinions of recent opinion polls and conducted a "mock interview" with America. Hey, I guess if Bill Safire can interview Nixon in Purgatory, anyone can do it. The questions focus mainly on foreign policy, and even more mainly, on Iraq, the Middle East and the whole terrorism thing.

The results are pretty encouraging, for a liberal anyway. "Joe America" basically believes Bush The Lesser is a strong leader in the fight against terrorism and that in the end the invasion of Iraq was a positive step. However, he doesn't know if the whole thing was done properly or if it was even necessary. He wished we could've gotten better info and more international support, as well as digging the idea of turning the whole kit and kaboodle over to the United Nations.

Joe America also thinks that al Qaeda should be a bigger priority than Saddam, and while he still sees Bush as a strong leader, he doesn't really think he's accomplished much in the actual "war on terror". And, oddly enough, he thinks that the Patriot Act was a good thing but is concerned about the possibility of the government going too far in compromising civil liberties. He even digs the idea of terrorist suspects at Gitmo having access to lawyers.

Joe America basically gives Bush a C+ - particularly in light of the spurious claims involving WMD's - and wishes he'd "play better with others". On foreign policy matters, he favors the GOP, but when it comes to the home front, he's digging what Kerry has to say. And, surprisingly enough, Mr. America is still unsure whom he'll vote for come November.

Anyhow, there's a lot of neat stuff there, so do check it out. Like I said, I think this is pretty heartening. People are thinking these days instead of blindly following whatever nonsense the Bush malAdministration pumps out. That, dear hearts, is definitely a Good Thing. Like I've said before, I understand the fear a whole lot of people have these days concerning terrorism. I don't share it, but I can understand it. Problem with fear is, like with anger, it tends to cloud the thought process and impede logic, which is something we can't afford at this stage in the game.

I want to add something else. I think the tenor of this election cycle is a bit off-whack. We're spending way, way too much time on Iraq and the "war on terrorism", in my book. Don't get me wrong, those things are very important. It's just not the sum total of why one should chose Kerry over Bush (or vice versa, if you swing that way) in my opinion. We need to look at domestic issues and ask ourselves, "Are we better off than we were four years ago? Worse? The same?"

For me, the answer's pretty simple. In terms of his education policy, environmental policy, economic policy, governmental responsibility, accessibility to the public and openness of government, Bush has been a bad joke from start to finish. And, as a personal stickler, the strong anti-science bias from this administration - showcased in his views on evolution, global warming, stem cell research and the goofy shit about a mission to Mars at the expense of deep-space explorative telescopes like the Hubble - he's an insult. And then there's the whole beating us over the head with the "God talks to me and through me" thing, which just sets my teeth on edge.

But then again, beloved, that's just me. Please do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Either way, vote on November 2. It's downright embarrassing we have such an open and free election system and less than half the voting age populace even bothers to participate.
 
ADDENDUM: I forgot to give credit where credit's due. A thousand pardons. I got the above link from trolling through http://Fark's webiste. You know you do it, too.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

If anyone's at all interested, the local alternative weekly Flagpole Magazine ran a story on my band this week called All That Glitters: Twain Gives The Rockers Back Their Barstools. It's a pretty good piece, and for some reason or another, the writer quoted me a lot. There's also a picture of us. I'll let you guess which handsome devil is me.

Gotta admit, though, seeing it in print is sort of depressing, considering the band's on its way out. Without going into too great detail - partly because I know no one's interested and partly because, even if you were, it's none of your business - personal problems of the lead singer have come to a head. As I said in an earlier missive, being in a band is a lot like being in a relationship. Personalities have to mesh and conflicts have to be dealt with, and what lubricates all the difficulties is the music. And if the difficulties make the music - or more specifically, the performing - no fun, then brothers and sisters, you've got problems. And we've got problems.

And it's a damn shame, too. I do love the guys. They're good guys, even the lead singer, who's way up on my shitlist these days. I love playing the songs. They're good songs. For all his faults, Eric writes a damn fine rock tune. When we're on - that is, when we're all happy to be there - we'll blow you slap out the door. But when we're off, good Lord, is it painful to go through the motions.

Relationships are the same way. Except those rare lucky cases, every relationship ends and there's always a time when you know it's over. You just don't want to be the first one to walk away. It's like giving up. So you hang in there and hope it gets better, though you know in your heart it probably won't.

We're at that stage now. The drummer Tom has another band with my buddy Chris McKay that's called The Critical Darlings. It's good stuff, sort of like early Elvis Costello or Graham Parker with a dash of Cheap Trick. Doug, our guitar player, fronts a greasy cowpunk band called nekkid that's doing well in Atlanta. In fact, the played Heavy Rebel Weekend, a big to-do featuring rockabilly bands, cowpunk bands and the like, this past weekend. And me...well, I'm still trying to put together some sort of R&B-influenced something or other.

But as for Twain, man...I don't know if we'll ever play another gig. Even the show mentioned in this piece we can't do because the guitar player can't make it, and unfortunately, no one's too broken up about it. Course, none of us have told Eric that we're sick of his escapades. Well, we have, but he just doesn't chose to listen. He just keeps on doing them, and that's what's killed the joy of being in this band.

It breaks the heart. All in all, I think I'd rather break up with a girl than have to break up with a band. The rock & roll life, dear hearts. Jealous?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

t r u t h o u t - U.S. Released 'Terrorists' for Saudi War Support

Long story short, six Britons convicted of a car bombing in Saudi Arabia were released last August as a part of a three-way deal, which included the release of a number of Saudi nationals being held at Gitmo. At least two of the prisoners the U.S. released had suspected al Queda ties, and the deal was opposed by both the Pentagon and the CIA.

Now, there is some evidence that the Britons' confessions were coerced, but does anyone else think this whole deal is just a wee bit suspicious? As it turns out, another Briton was killed in the car bombing.

Nah, there's do shady deals going down between the Saudi government and the Bush administration. Whatever could Michael Moore have been thinking?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Keep On Rockin' In The Free World...

So I just got back from seeing Fahrenheit 9/11. And some ninnies are setting off firecrackers outside my window. The ninnies aren't important; just annoying. The movie is. The movie is very important.

Now, let's set the scene. I reckon it's obvious from my other scribblings that not only am I a liberal, but also one who's not too enamored of the current administration. All true, I'm proud to say. I also like to think I'm fairly up-to-date with the score, as it were, thanks to my somewhat obsessive jones for the news. Therefore, Michael Moore's my guy, right? Well, yeah, more or less. I'll be the first to admit he's something of a gadfly with a definite agenda, and thanks to regular reading of Spinsanity, I know Moore has a tendency to not lie, but definitely present the facts in a way that benefits said agenda. He doesn't lie or distort, but he'll definitely tell only a certain part of a complicated situation so that it suits his needs.

Thing is, that's the same thing his critics do to the facts they support. The Spinsanity guys have a serious mad-on for Moore, but they're the only ones who don't bend reality so it cuts their way. Any of the talking heads on Fox or MSNBC, any radio yay-hoo like Rush Limbaugh or Neil Boortz, any half-bright op-ed scribbler like Cal Thomas or Mona Cheron...they all do the same thing. Hell, I imagine I do the same thing, though I promise you, dear readers, it's not intentional.

That's a human trait, though. It's calling "telling your side of the story". The whole concept of complete and total journalistic objectivity is completely foolish. I spent more than enough time in the newspaper business to know. If it's not pressure from advertisers or other bigwigs, it's the ideological view or business sense of the publisher or editors. For example, a story I wrote on a local restaurant's poor following of food preparation and handling, as well as its disregard for the health code, was spiked because said restaurant was an advertiser. Another time, my publisher pulled an opinion column I wrote defending the right to burn the flag as an expression of free speech another time. Not because she disagreed with me - she did, but she swore it wasn't the reason - but because she said the town would not accept it. She was right, by the by, it being a rather conservative small Southern town and the date just happening to be the Fourth Of July.

Beyond that, well...human beings are opinionated creatures. You won't find a soul who doesn't have an opinion on something. It may not be politics or current events, but the shy, reclusive guy you work with who never says a word may rip your head off if you dare say Patrick Troughton was an inferior Doctor Who. The easy going, malleable girl in your social group may feel very passionately about early Chevy cars. Journalists see facts, but the brain sees what it wants to see and adjusts that to its worldview. Everything we've experienced - our background, social status, education, taste in clothes, diet - colors what we perceive, reality notwithstanding. "The Truth" is a philosophical concept, not a solid thing. Fact is, but we all see Fact differently.

Journalists are (supposedly) trained to ignore this most basic of human traits, but it's impossible. An example, if you will. When I was a music journalist, the hardest CD review to write was of a bad record by an artist I really liked. Bad records by artists I didn't care about or so-so records, no problem. Just judge it on its individual merits. A record by an artist I loathed? Much fun and vindictiveness, an event music critics live for, trust me. Something I liked by someone I liked? Pure joy, the only hard part is being able to stop gushing.

But a stinker by someone I love? Man, a nightmare. For example, I really dig The Black Crowes. I know it's not hip or trendy to dig 'em, but I don't care. Back in '89 when Shake Your Moneymaker hit, it was like a breath of fresh air, and during the mopey grunge era, it was great to hear a band that actually enjoyed life and enjoyed being rock & rollers. But their last record, Lions, was unfocused and rambling, with only a couple strong songs. That review was tough to write, believe you me (even tougher as they were playing town and I was bucking for press passes). You naturally want to give something you appreciate an easy break, so it's difficult to be truly critical - that is, with a sharp eye for both flaws and triumphs - when you feel a connection with something. I'm sure other writers and musicians know how it feels to go right out the other side when criticizing your own work, so much so you hate everything you do even when heaped with praise.

Same thing goes in politics. One of the most loathsome things I find about Bill O'Reilly - apart from his politics and his rampant deceitfulness, of course - is claim of "no spin". He pretends to be totally objective, when it's ball-slappingly obvious he doesn't even come within a light-year of the concept. Same thing with Fox News' slogan of "Fair And Balanced". I'm not saying the network's actually news side is any less subjective as I described above as CNN or MSNBC. As it turns out, I actually think the Fox anchors do a better job reporting the news than MSNBC or CNN, for what that's worth. It's just pretending there's no slant, even in the minutest - which Fox's ain't by no means - is infuriating to me. You simply cannot allow yay-hoos like O'Reilly and Hannity to shamelessly draw a paycheck from you with your consent and even pretend to be "objective". The mainstream media is slanted; it's not a left-right thing, but - with apologies to Jim Hightower - it's top-bottom thing. The media is controlled by corporations, so there's a pro-corporate slant, but I'm way off-topic as it is, so that's a discussion for another time. For now, check out FAIR's website.

Sorry.

Anyhow, Fahrenheit 9/11. Yeah, good movie. Nothing I didn't know, fact-wise, but a damn powerful piece of film. Sure, sure, Moore insinuated a lot - like the whole UNOCAL thing in Afghanistan - that he could've back up better, but for the most part, there's nothing in the movie that can be took down. It's fact, bubba. Fact shot through Michael Moore's ideological prism, sure and fine, but fact nevertheless.

Moore wants Bush out of the White House. So do I. Therefore, what's said in Fahrenheit 9/11 rings for me. Someone who thinks the sun shines out of the Boy Emperor's ass will see it as an attack. You can't see it as lies, because...ummm...it's not. But you could see it as an attack. Little George does not come off as anything close to "presidential" or a "strong leader" or even an "intelligent human being". To be quite honest, he looks like he has no clue what he's doing. He's just happy to be there, that's all. That deer-in-the-headlights look hits hardest during the scene in the Florida classroom on the morning the planes hit the World Trade Center. When he didn't look like a guy who's just realized the job is much more complicated than he thought, he looks like a guy trying to figure out if he left the iron on or not.

Logically, if you love the Bushman, you're not gonna benefit from this movie. Frankly, I doubt you'll even both to see the damn thing, but hey, that's your right, baby. I thought the last Spider Man movie sucked eggs, so I'm not gonna waste seven dollars and fifty cents of my hard-earned money on the second installment of that turkey. Especially since my sources tell me the "love factor" aspect is cranked way up. I hate the "love factor", and it ruined the last movie for me. I fucking hate Hollywood.

Sorry again.

Anyhow, you think Bush needs the boot, you'll dig the flick. You might learn something, too. Ya love Bush, don't go see the movie. Frankly, I think your average conservative pundit who's damning all things Michael Moore - particularly the monkeys who hang on their every word - aren't even seeing the damn thing. It's a human trait. Don't bother learning or listening to an opposing view; just give it the finger.

What bothers me is that the people who really need to see Fahrenheit 9/11 aren't gonna see it. The people I'm talking about may be Republicans or they may be Democrats or they may be completely non-political, but they're not so sure Kerry's a better man for the job than Bush. Or they're scared and think the current policy is the only choice we have. Moore makes a good point in the movie, as he did in Bowling For Columbine, that this country is very susceptible to fear as a motivator. What made Bowling so powerful was Moore's revelation that it wasn't guns that was what was wrong with America. No, it's fear, and the rolling of the film's tone showed the evolution of that thought. I wrote below about the Fear in America, so I won't go into that here.

The people who need to see Fahrenheit 9/11 may be the millions of Americans who, for whatever reason, have decided it's useless to get involved in the political process, any way shape or form. They don't vote. They don't pay attention. They don't know who their mayor, commissioner, senator or representative is. They don't care. They can't be bothered. They might have a point.

For as long as I can remember - so it may be even longer, and I'm willing to believe it is - the common meme in America is along the lines of "don't ask questions, keep your head down and cover your own ass". This is rampant in the area of intellectual exploration. I can't tell you how many times I've had kids ask me why I'm reading a book on string theory or history when I don't have to for school. We as a people cannot understand why anyone would waste time learning about something unless there's a way to make money from it. Unless it's sports, of course. A cat who couldn't point the president out from a line-up can tell you who played second-string middle linebacker for the '66 Bears at the drop of a hat.

Same thing with politics, current events and voting. "It doesn't matter," they say. "One group's just as bad as the other, and nothing ever changes." They got a point. Now I'm not one to say Kerry and Bush are two sides of the same coin exactly, but a Kerry presidency will be much like Clinton's: business as usual, and usually good for business. Kerry's just not bull-goose insane like Bush is, that's the most important difference. Still, it's gonna be a long row to hoe to truly change the fundamental ills of society and really make it a better place for everyone. Kerry's not really gonna do that; he just won't drag us down further like a second Bush administration will.

No, to affect true change on society, it's gotta come from the people. The government never "gave" voting rights to women or minorities; women and minorities (and some enlightened white guys) took to the streets and demanded them. When it became obvious they could no longer be ignored, the government did what it should've done in the first place. Same thing with labor laws. We don't "enjoy" the 40-hour work week - well, we don't really enjoy it, but again, another time - thanks to the graciousness of the employer. No, we have it - and overtime and child labor laws and workplace safety and a hundred other things - because people took a look around at their situation, said "Fuck this" and made The Powers That Be change things.

You want that to happen again and again, where we need it most? You want real change? We have to work for it. We have to suffer for it. We have to bleed for it. In other words, we have to want it. Expecting it ain't gonna cut it. The world owes us nothing and the government isn't looking out for us. Bush doesn't give a damn about the kids he sends over to Iraq, or the kids in VA hospitals who's funding he cuts, or the thousands of people finding themselves unemployed or underemployed every month with no where to turn. Kerry might not either, frankly, but the difference is we can make him listen. Bush just doesn't give a shit.

To make the world a better place, beloved, we can't expect the government to do anything for us. We have to make them do it for us. We have to make the government do its job. The Constitution's a groovy document in that it prevents the government from telling us what we can do; rather, it tells the government what it can't do. A truly enlightened concept, a government answerable to the will of its people. We can enact laws preventing people from doing things, but those laws cannot run opposite to the Constitution. Truly, this is an amazing set-up for a country and we're lucky to have it.

But such a set-up and such a country needs an informed citizenry. The media ain't looking out for you anymore, if they ever did. They're looking out for the guys who sign their paychecks, and the needs of the rich few don't always grok with the needs and rights of the teeming millions. The Powers That Be want you stupid and docile. They want you unconcerned and convinced you can't do anything about anything. "Nothing ever changes" is music to their ears. Nothing ever changes because we allow it.

So that's why you the apolitical...you the unconcerned...you the unaffiliated need to see Fahrenheit 9/11. It'll make you think, and brothers and sisters, a working mind is a powerful weapon indeed. Don't accept what you're told, from the mainstream media or the administration or Michael Moore. Go out and do your own checking, your own research. Form an opinion based on study and thoughtful discourse rather than jingoism and empty rhetoric. Shut up, read, listen, learn and think. You'll be amazed at what you discover about the world around you. You'll be amazed at what you can do.