Friday, August 28, 2009

A Couple of Anniversaries

Last weekend we went down to Sarasota to celebrate our anniversary.
29 years.

I used Amex points to get a free hotel room at the Hyatt which was recently renovated and really nice. Here's the best part. I chose to try out their self check in system that was available in the lobby, which was very simple, and they were so pleased that I did that they upgraded us to a room with a view, and a balcony. That's the pool from our very nice room.

We had a nice afternoon walking around the town, did some shopping, spent as much as I could at Sarasota News and Books, but I couldn't save it, it's closing August 31st. I also got a fantastic new pan at Sur La Table, nice store and I love my pan which is "green" and non stick without any toxicity, a serious problem with non stick pans, especially for those of us who have birds in the house. Very happy with my purchase which I have been cooking with all week!

After enjoying the pool for a while, which has great strong waterfalls you can float under on your stomach while they give you a nice back massage, and a really good hot tub with a hot waterfall too, we went back into town. Sarasota is looking run down lately, lots of closed stores but still lots of nice art in the streets.

Jesse's friend Jen Berges recommended Mozaic for dinner and it was fantastic. Really nice decor and all, great flights of wine, and we got extra nice treatment when Mark mentioned it was our anniversary, including free fancy dessert.

Then on to the theater where we saw Neil LaBute's Fat Pig. Good play and Banyan Tree did a great job.
The next morning we enjoyed the pool again, then went to brunch on the balcony at Cafe Galante before doing a bit more shopping and then heading home.

The weekend before that was the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. WMNF did a Woodstock recreation at Skippers. It ran about 10 hours but we only went for about three. It was crowded and there were no seats available so we danced the whole time.
Local bands covered each band that played at Woodstock and they were amazingly great. In fact, I think I heard more of the music than I did at the original Woodstock. I actually have very little memory of Woodstock, though I know I was there. I remember walking a long way when the bus got stuck in the ridiculous traffic. And I remember the mud, and being hungry, and someone giving out hardboiled eggs. The music? Not so much. I enjoyed it this time around.
Big Wiggler did a good job as Jefferson Airplane with a great surprise, Marty Balin was actually there, singing lead, channeling Grace Slick!

Sly and the Family Stone as portrayed by Four Star Riot, rocked, above.
And below, Scott Elliott as Joe Cocker was truly amazing.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bill Maher On Target Again

How can there be so many truly ignorant people in this country?

From the July 31st Real Time with Bill Maher HBO show:

Never underestimate the ability of a tiny fringe group of losers to ruin everything. Now, for the past couple of weeks, we've all been laughing heartily at the wacky antics of the Birthers, the far-right goofballs who claim Obama wasn't really born in Hawaii, and therefore the job of president goes to the runner-up, Miss California, Carrie Prejean.

And, you know, there's nothing you can do to convince these people. You could hand them, in person, the original birth certificate, with the placenta--and have a video of Obama emerging from the womb with Don Ho singing in the background--and they still would not believe it.

Hey, Birthers, want to hear my theory? My theory is Obama was born in America, and you were born with the umbilical cord around your neck.

I don't know what his mother was doing when she was pregnant, but I'm pretty sure yours was drinking. Oh, I kid the Birthers.

And, actually, there is one thing that makes me think they could be right: we're Americans. Of course, we're going to hire an illegal alien to clean up.

I'm joking, of course. And laughing it off has also been the reaction from Democratic leaders, so far. Proving that Democrats never learn.

Because, in America, you know what? If you don't immediately kill errant bullshit, no matter how ridiculous, it can grow and thrive and eventually take over, like crabgrass or Cirque du Soleil.

This Birther stuff might be a deluded, time-wasting, right-wing obsession. But, so was Whitewater. And look where that ended up? Liberals said, "Oh, what are they going to do? Keep expanding the case until they impeach the president over a blowj*b?" Yeah. I'm telling you, in America, there is no idea so patently absurd that it can't catch on.

For example, have you ever met a Mormon?

Or, more recently, we had the Swift Boat allegations against John Kerry, making him, a genuine war hero, into a coward in a race against a guy who never left Texas. This was so stupid, Kerry refused to even discuss it. And we all know how well that worked out.

Now, you may ask, how does something as inane as Whitewater or Swift boats or the Birther thing gain traction? I'll tell you how. The same way the story about Elton John almost dying from ingesting too much of Rod Stewart's sperm gained traction in my high school. Dummies talking to other dummies.

It's just easier now because of the Internet. And because our mainstream media does such a lousy job of talking truth to stupid.

Lou Dobbs said recently that, "People are asking a lot of questions about the birth certificate." Yes, the same people who want to know where the sun goes at night. And where to put the stamp on their email.

And, Lou, you're their new king.

Which is why it is so important that we, the few, the proud, the reality-based, attack this stuff before it has a chance to fester and spread. This is not a case of Democrats versus Republicans. It's sentient beings versus the lizard people.

And on Huffington Post August 7th:

Just because a country elects a smart president doesn't make it a smart country....Before I go about demonstrating how, sadly, easy it is to prove the dumbness dragging down our country, let me just say that ignorance has life and death consequences. On the eve of the Iraq War, 69% of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Four years later, 34% still did. Or take the health care debate we're presently having: members of Congress have recessed now so they can go home and "listen to their constituents." An urge they should resist because their constituents don't know anything. At a recent town-hall meeting in South Carolina, a man stood up and told his Congressman to "keep your government hands off my Medicare," which is kind of like driving cross country to protest highways.

I'm the bad guy for saying it's a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is. 24% could not name the country America fought in the Revolutionary War. More than two-thirds of Americans don't know what's in Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds don't know what the Food and Drug Administration does. Some of this stuff you should be able to pick up simply by being alive. You know, like the way the Slumdog kid knew about cricket.

Not here. Nearly half of Americans don't know that states have two senators and more than half can't name their congressman. And among Republican governors, only 30% got their wife's name right on the first try.

Sarah Palin says she would never apologize for America. Even though a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. No, they're not stupid. They're interplanetary mavericks. A third of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, and a third of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which is an absurd sentence because it contains the words "Bush" and "knowledge."

People bitch and moan about taxes and spending, but they have no idea what their government spends money on. The average voter thinks foreign aid consumes 24% of our federal budget. It's actually less than 1%. And don't even ask about cabinet members: seven in ten think Napolitano is a kind of three-flavored ice cream. And last election, a full one-third of voters forgot why they were in the booth, handed out their pants, and asked, "Do you have these in a relaxed-fit?"

And I haven't even brought up America's religious beliefs. But here's one fun fact you can take away: did you know only about half of Americans are aware that Judaism is an older religion than Christianity? That's right, half of America looks at books called the Old Testament and the New Testament and cannot figure out which one came first.

And these are the idiots we want to weigh in on the minutia of health care policy? Please, this country is like a college chick after two Long Island Iced Teas: we can be talked into anything, like wars, and we can be talked out of anything, like health care. We should forget town halls, and replace them with study halls. There's a lot of populist anger directed towards Washington, but you know who concerned citizens should be most angry at? Their fellow citizens. "Inside the beltway" thinking may be wrong, but at least it's thinking, which is more than you can say for what's going on outside the beltway.

And if you want to call me an elitist for this, I say thank you. Yes, I want decisions made by an elite group of people who know what they're talking about. That means Obama budget director Peter Orszag, not Sarah Palin.

Which is the way our founding fathers wanted it. James Madison wrote that "pure democracy" doesn't work because "there is nothing to check... an obnoxious individual." Then, in the margins, he doodled a picture of Joe the Plumber.

Until we admit there are things we don't know, we can't even start asking the questions to find out. Until we admit that America can make a mistake, we can't stop the next one. A smart guy named Chesterton once said: "My country, right or wrong is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying... It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" To which most Americans would respond: "Are you calling my mother a drunk?"