Canadian money

canadian money


I took a friend to my bank to exchange some dollars a while back, because my bank has better exchange rates than his. He turned 354 American dollars into 345 Canadian dollars, just like that.

 

 

And what beautiful currency they have in Canada these days!

 

 

The twenty-dollar Canadian bills have a little clear plastic window in them, along with the shiny metallic strips. Some of the bills have pictures of Helen Mirren, or possibly Elizabeth II. The five-dollar bills have images of a sport – either curling or hockey, I couldn’t tell which. (My friend tells me that it’s curling, but he’s not Canadian, so how can he be sure?)

 

 

These are far more entertaining than our dull old American greenbacks. I’ve folded a one-dollar bill into thirds and made George Washington’s head into a mushroom too often; it just ain’t fun anymore. And who cares what car’s represented on the ten-dollar bill? (I always thought it was a Duesenberg, but evidently I was wrong)

 

 

Why can’t we put Walt Whitman on our money, or Mark Twain, or Edward MacDowell, or Leonard Bernstein? What about Humphrey Bogart, or Artemus Ward? We put everything in creation on our postage stamps – flowers and dragons and cartoon characters and movie stars. Why not on our money too?

 

 

Most countries celebrate their culture on their currency, not just their political history. They put their writers and musicians on the money. We don’t. I don’t think Americans like to be reminded that we have a “culture.” We’re far too macho to have “culture.” On our money, we have only Founding Fathers, Male Presidents like Wilson and Grant, and Miscellaneous Political Figures, like Alexander Hamilton and Salmon Chase.

 

 

I vote for variety, and culture, and entertainment.

 

 

If the Canadians can do it, then surely we can do it too.


 

Paula Deen, racism, and social change

"Elizabethtown" New York Premiere - Inside Arrivals


Back when Barack Obama was first elected President of the United States in 2008, some of us felt pretty good about ourselves. Racial prejudice was over and done with, and we were living in the New Jerusalem.

 

 

But, presciently, a New York Times commentator at that time (I think Charles Blow) told us not to be so sure of ourselves. I wish I could find his exact quote. I paraphrase: “American racism is coming to an end, but it’s not dead yet. It’s going to become more concentrated, like sea-salt crystallizing as seawater evaporates.”

 

 

This image has come back to me over and over again over the past five years.

 

 

Most recently, Paula Deen, whom you would have thought would have been smarter, has shown herself to be a racist idiot of the crystallized-seawater variety. In recent depositions, she spoke defiantly about using the n-word in casual conversation. She defended herself by explaining that she was once held up by a black man.

 

 

Well, Paula, then that’s okay! We forgive you! Use racial epithets as much as you want!

 

 

 

Paula has asked for forgiveness via Internet video three times over the past few weeks. She is often tearful, which clearly demonstrates that she’s the victim here.

 

 

The great revelation here, for me, was doing research for this blog. I learned that there are a lot of people here in the USA who don’t like black people, and who use the Internet freely!

 

 

Man alive.

 

 

Have you seen this commercial?:

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYofm5d5Xdw

 

 

It’s a cute little girl asking her (white) mother if Cheerios are good for your heart. Mom says yes. Little girl runs into the living room and dumps a bunch of Cheerios on her (black) father’s chest.

 

 

Now go on line, look up the video (use search terms “interracial Cheerios”), and see what comes up.

 

 

Filthy and vile.

 

 

Now how about this commercial?:

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4pLWCtsoc8

 

 

Now go on the net and read the comments (search terms “International Delight bouncer”). You won’t need to go far to find something really atrocious. Imagine: a white woman admiring a black man’s body!

 

 

I won’t tell you the names of the websites I found these on. If you do the same searches I did, you’ll find the same kind of comments.

 

 

I was disgusted by them.

 

 

But – you know what? – go look for them. I want you to be disgusted too.

 

 

It’ll do you good.

 

 

It’ll show you, more forcefully than I can tell you, the kind of world we live in, and what we’re up against.

 


 

Gay marriage in Rhode Island

gay marriage


Wonderful news! The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations has become the tenth state of the Union to legalize gay marriage!

It’s a great day. It’s not a universally great day, of course; the federal government still doesn’t recognize gay marriage, which means we’re still in the turbulent state-by-state era in which interracial couples used to live. (Imagine: it used to be illegal for black people to marry white people, and states – well, hmm, Southern states – could still forbid it. Imagine!)

Will Partner and I marry? I don’t know. Largely it will depend on whether the pros outweigh the cons. Will it have tax advantages? Maybe yes, maybe no. Will it guarantee us the right to visit one another in the hospital when we’re sick? Almost certainly yes. (This is a big plus, because we’re both getting older.) What about the rights to inheritance, and to determine what happens when either of us passes away? (Another big plus, and I don’t need to remind you once that we’re getting older.) And, if gay marriage isn’t confirmed on the Federal level, the whole thing can still be thrown out the window.

But don’t worry. If we decide to get married, I’ll be sure to announce it well in advance.

And I warn you that I expect very lavish wedding gifts.


Allies

allies


The Supreme Court heard arguments about two gay-marriage issues last week: California’s Proposition 8, which declares (by popular vote) that gay marriage is out of the question, and the Defense of Marriage Act, enacted by the usually-smarter Bill Clinton, which declares that (for federal purposes) marriage can only ever be between a man and a woman.

 

 

The passage of Proposition 8 implies that voters can grant or deny civil rights.

 

 

DOMA creates a situation in which married gay couples can still be denied federal benefits.

 

 

You can guess (if you don’t already know) where I stand on both issues, but here are some thoughts:

 

 

–         Can a referendum really decide a civil rights issue? I’m fine with the voters electing representatives, and deciding on bonds issues, and so forth. But I’m pretty sure that, if civil rights for black people had been put to a vote in the sovereign state of Mississippi in 1964, the vote would have gone badly for black people.

–         Much has been said and written about “marriage.” Isn’t “civil union” enough for gay people (in the states which grant it)? Well, not so much, since “civil union” almost never grants the same rights as “marriage.” If Partner and I were in a civil union, most or all of the local hospitals would be within their rights to deny either of us the right to visit the other. (Most or all of them don’t – Rhode Island is surprisingly gay-friendly – but the law permits them to be far more restrictive than they are. And the Catholic Diocese of Providence is extraordinarily gay-unfriendly.)

–         Someone on Facebook suggested “holy matrimony” as a substitute for the Catholic / Baptist / etc. word “marriage.” After all, pretty much every City Hall grants “marriage licenses,” and City Hall is no place for religious ceremony. So: if the Holy Roman Catholic Church doesn’t like gay marriage, it doesn’t have to perform them; that would be allowing two men to enter “holy matrimony.” But it must acknowledge that two men are civilly and legally “married,” just as they acknowledge Protestant marriages and Jewish marriages and Muslim marriages and purely-City-Hall marriages.

 

 

Over the past few weeks, a lot of my straight Facebook friends have posted pro-gay marriage messages and images. People at work whom I’ve known casually for five, or ten, or twenty years, have suddenly come forward and hugged me. (Partner reports similar behavior in his office.)

 

 

These are “allies”: straight people, people whose rights are not in question, who are coming forward to say that they support our right to marry.

 

 

I thank all our allies: Mary, and Diane, and Paul, and the rest. They are wonderful people.

 

 

And who cares what the Supreme Court decides?

 

 

We know we’re right.

 

 

And we will win in the end.


 

Movie review: “Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell”

Seen not long ago on TCM: “Mr. Belvedere Rings The Bell,” from 1951, with Clifton Webb andJoanne Dru and Zero Mostel and Hugh Marlowe and a host of others.

 

Clifton Webb’s an author / lecturer who wants to pep up an old folks’ home; Hugh Marlowe is the good-but-stodgy minister running the place; Joanne Dru is the minister’s assistant, who sort of falls in love with Clifton Webb, but who’s really in love with Hugh Marlowe. There are also a passel of of wonderful older character actors and actresses playing the denizens of the old folks’ home.

And then there’s Zero Mostel, folks. I probably would have switched away, if not for him. 1951? He was testifying in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee  that year. Zero didn’t name names, however. It was terrible for his career in the 1950s, but (eventually) he came back, and he triumphed.

In this movie, Zero is (as usual) balding and sweaty and amoral, but finally very sweet. And brilliant, as always. I can only wonder what was going through his head while he was acting in this movie. Was he testifying to Congress while acting in this? Jesus.

And Clifton Webb (who, for me, will always be Waldo Lydecker in “Laura,” typing in the bathtub), is wonderful.

As a movie, “Mr. Belvedere Rings The Bell” is a pleasant nothing. As a period piece, it’s interesting. As a time capsule, and an artifact of human culture, it’s priceless.

 

 

The deaccession of the old Confederacy

deaccession confederacy


I have been listening with growing despondency to the various gun nuts who have been defending (in the face of the Newtown catastrophe) their right to own guns.

Get it? Their right to own killing machines overrides any other rights. It’s in the Constitution!

 

 

(Just like slavery.)

There was one especially virulent nut on “Hardball” not long ago who threatened, in veiled terms, that he and his fruitcake army might rise up against the government if any further attempt toward gun control were made.

I am feeling more and more these days that I have very little in common with certain of my fellow Americans. The whole blue states / red states thing is getting to be less of an Election Night truism and more of a reality.

There’s this thing that libraries and art galleries do, called “deaccessioning.” This means getting rid of something that you’ve acquired along the way. Maybe it’s extra. Maybe it’s out-of-date, or has been ruined in some way.

It occurs to me that, in light of all the secessionist talk after the past election, we might talk about deaccession instead.

Let’s just give it away.

Let’s give the crazy people the remnants of Dixie, and maybe a chunk of the Plains, per this map of illiteracy:

 illiteracy

I could have used lots of other maps: obesity, educational level, etc. But illiteracy seems appropriate.

(California shows up on this map, because of its immigrant population. California can go its own way, though we in the Original USA would like it to stay. They can make up their own minds. I have a feeling they’ll stick around and not go over to the Neanderthals.)

Maybe the Deaccessioned Former States of America will be smart and unite, as in the CSA days. But even if they do I doubt that they’ll stay together. Once the secessionist principle has been put into practice, they’ll use it to secede from one another, region by region: King Huckabee of the Christian Republic of Arkansas can secede from President Perry of the People’s Damned Right State of Texas, and the Gulf states can form their very own banana republic, the Free Caribbean States of No Health Care and No Human Rights.

Naturally they won’t have any kind of government-funded education. How ridiculous! Or income tax. Or gun control. They can legislate all of the race-specific bills they like; they don’t even have to pussyfoot about “voter fraud” anymore. They won’t have to let Hispanics or blacks vote at all, if they like!

They’ll have some resources, to be sure, mostly the Texas oil basins. If Texas goes its own way (which it most probably would), this will do the rest of Dixie little good, as King Cotton no longer rules the world.

And what would Texas be? An oil republic, like Venezuela. Neato! Do you think Texas will join OPEC?

Why wait for secession?

Let’s go for deaccession.


Democrat stuffed animals and Republican stuffed animals

stuffed animals


(Warning! If you are nauseated when you read about grown adults playing with stuffed animals, and making them talk, and pretending that they’re real ladies and gentlemen, then look away. This is icky-poo stuff, and you should look elsewhere for something more adult.)

(Still here? Okay.)

Partner and I have noticed lately that the stuffed animals in our household are drifting apart. They all began in the bedroom, where we’re most comfortable, but some have lately migrated to the living room, where they seem to feel more comfortable.

We recently discovered that this was for political reasons. The bedroom animals are Republicans; the living-room animals are Democrats.

Well, first of all, we found that the bedroom animals were almost always having secret meetings under the bed, and when we dragged them out, they were very tight-lipped about their conversations. And who are they? The moose, whom we acquired in New Hampshire (a Republican state). The polar bear. (He’s white. Enough said.) And the shark (whom we bought at Ikea, okay, but who’s a shark, which means he almost certainly has Wall Street connections). There’s also an Ikea rat in the corner, peeking at the rest of them (probably a lobbyist).

In the living room, we have a jaguar (whose manufacturing tag informs me that his name is JAMAL, which means he’s either a Muslim or an African-American), and a lion whom we purchased in New York City (liberal enough for you?). Also Pluto from DisneyWorld, who’s a moderate, but with Hollywood connections. And a purple platypus, whom we believe to be emotionally disturbed. In brief: the Democratic caucus.

They have taken to shouting at one another from one room to another. It started with: “Vote Republican!” “Vote Democrat!” It’s gotten uglier lately: they’ve taken to name-calling. Nasty stuff!

It’s a shame when fuzzy little stuffed animals can’t agree.

I fear for the future of the American republic.


2016

2016


I’ve already written about the 2016 Presidential election, and Chris Christie, who already appears to be signaling that he’d very much like to be president after Obama.

Charming. Maybe, if Chris Christie is a good boy, we’ll look him over and kick his tires and see if he’s the man for the job, so long as we’re all still alive in 2016.

But, as I wrote in my previous entry: please God, don’t subject us to this yet!

I am one of those people who just want elected politicians to govern. I want them to state their goals, and work toward them, and compromise (as necessary) until those goals (or some form of them) are achieved. I don’t want it to be all about us/them, for at least two years, and preferably for at least four years.

But there are political junkies who are really only excited by the competition, by the us/them. Sadly, some of our best political commentators are among them. Chris Matthews is talking about 2016 almost every night; he’s already talking about the facedown between Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, and what a great race it’s going to be.

You’d think that a man as smart as Matthews is supposed to be would realize that a lot of things can happen in four years. The parties often alternate the Presidency, for one thing. Also, the economy (while just beginning to show signs of recovery) isn’t quite well yet, and Europe is still teetering, which could bring trouble to the USA also.

Chris Todd on NBC is another one; he’s not as bad as Chris Matthews, but he becomes visibly excited when he starts talking about the chances of one side versus another. The late Tim Russert, with his little handheld whiteboard on which he wrote numbers and vote counts, was another. They all love the struggle, and the numbers, and the victory.

The rest of us get tired easily, and just want to know that our rights are being protected, and our retirement and health care aren’t in jeopardy. We don’t care so much who’s in office, so long as the right things are being done. We mostly understand that things keep inching forward. The War on Drugs is showing (very belated) signs of dying, or transforming into something more realistic – not a war on potheads, but an attempt to keep cocaine and meth off the streets, the really dangerous drugs. Gay identity and gay marriage are both becoming less of an issue and more of a reality. And, as the most recent election mostly demonstrated, while people in general deplore abortion, it’s a fact of life, and a necessity. Theology (AKA “personhood of the fetus”) can’t be used to determine public policy; if a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant, it’s her choice, and no one else’s.

The old world dies, and we are born into the new world.

The birth pangs are painful.

Let’s not relive them, or pretend how they’re going to feel in four years’ time.

Let’s just try to get things done.

Okay?


Mitt Romney: the sour-grapes candidate

romney bribed with gifts


There were many times during the 2012 election when Romney appeared to have lost the election. One of the most significant was the 47% video:

So, from this, we learn that Mitt Romney believes that almost half the American people are unrealistic, selfish, and greedy.  They can’t be enticed to vote for him, so he won’t bother talking to them.

Whether because of this video, or for many other reasons, he lost the election.

Most Presidential candidates shut up promptly after losing the election. The exceptions are interesting. Nixon complained in 1961 that Kennedy had stolen the election. Nixon then roared back in 1968 (and six years later resigned the Presidency in disgrace, having committed most or all of the crimes he’d accused Kennedy of in 1960). Al Gore didn’t shut up after 2000, with good reason; he’d won the popular vote, and the electoral vote depended on Florida, which was (effectively) decided by the right-leaning US Supreme Court.

But Mitt Romney won’t shut up.

He said, shortly after the election, that Obama won because he promised “gifts” to his followers. Please follow this link to hear that the Salt Lake Tribune had to say about that.

A MSNBC commentator made a very sensible point about this recently: of course Presidential candidates offer us “gifts”! They’re called campaign promises! If I’m presented with two candidates, and one of them promises to end legalized abortion, eliminate “unnecessary” programs in the arts and sciences and education, and opposes gay rights – I will tell him that these are not the “gifts” I require.

Most lately, Romney’s son Tagg (I love that name!) has stated that his father didn’t want to be President in any case. As follows:

 

 

“He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run,” Tagg Romney told the (Boston) Globe. “If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside.”

The Globe article also noted that “Tagg … worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency.”

 

So what’s all this about? Did Mitt want the Presidency or not?

Perhaps, as the New Yorker recently remarked, the GOP really ought to have run someone for President who really wanted to be President.


Nicknames


While in France I picked up a couple of schoolroom books on French history. One was a long list of French kings, from the Merovingians (circa 500 CE) to the present.

I was impressed, firstly, with the originality of the kings’ names back in the Dark Ages before Charlemagne. Dagobert! Clotaire! Sigebert! Gontran! Clodomir! Much more interesting than all those dull kings named Louis and Francois and Henri later on.

But even those later kings managed to pick up peppier names. Louis VI was The Fat; Louis VII, his son, was The Young; Louis VII’s son Philip somehow lucked into the agnomen “Augustus,” which is a lovely thing to be called. Later we have The Handsome, The Quarrelsome, the Well-Beloved.

Let’s try this custom on American presidents, shall we?

Taft the Fat: too easy. Teddy Roosevelt the Brave, or the Bold. Andrew Jackson the Stubborn.

Lincoln is difficult. I think of him as the Peacemaker or the Mediator – but he presided over four years of war. The Emancipator? Maybe.

Carter the Mild.  Kennedy the Young, maybe? Reagan the Old (though some would opt for Reagan the Great. Not me, though.)

Here’s the real poser: George W. Bush.

Not the Stupid. Better the agnomen of Ethelred II: the Unready.

In Old English, it meant something different: “one who would not take advice,” or “the ill-advised.”

Perfect.


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