Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hey there.

Yesterday a friend informed me that, since I've linked to her blog, five of my readers have migrated over to read the tales of her Parisian escapades. This delights me for three reasons: First, her blog is a lot of fun and certainly deserves its audience. Second, I had no idea such information was traceable, and promptly set about finding a similar module for my own blog so that I can better track the demographics of the people of Bloglandia. Third, it appears that I have at least five readers! That's excellent news!

So, to anyone reading this, hello and thank you for stopping by. I will try my best not to bore you, but if I do, you may notice that to the right of the page there's a list of blogs by people with intelligent, funny, interesting, and useful things to say. Check them out (and then maybe come on back later).

Friday, January 29, 2010

I'm avoiding work, so here's a list.

Following up on the previous entry's postscript, I'd like to submit for your perusal a list of things experienced in the past week that make me want to punch Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor in the face*. Let me know if I've neglected to mention anything important.

- the Republican Party.
- the Democratic Party.
- mealy apples.
- my loud neighbors and their weird schedules.
- the shoddy construction of my building, which makes my neighbors seem louder than they actually are (I can hear them pissing).
- Julia Roberts.
- The Castaway, starring Tom Hanks.
- students who want to talk about Ayn Rand.
- the Portuguese national soccer team's inability to win a major tournament despite consistently having some of the best players in the world.
- Ed Hardy clothing and the people who wear it.
- Newport Beach bars and clubs.
- Irvine. The whole thing.
- Pat Robertson.
- Rush Limbaugh.
- broken traffic lights.
- Che Guevara t-shirts.
- Che Guevara t-shirt parodies.
- people who get visibly offended by Che Guevara t-shirts or Che Guevara t-shirt parodies.
- Glenn Beck.
- Keith Olbermann.
- Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
- the fact that my iPod is broken.
- stomach issues.
- sleep issues.
- car issues.
- money (or lack thereof).
- health insurance deductibles.
- John Boehner's "tan".
- Eric Cantor's smug, stupid face.

*disclaimer: I don't actually want to punch this clown in the face. He just happens to be a perfect distillation of everything I hate about our species.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fleeting thoughts on the State of the Union.

Say what you will about Barack Obama, the man can give a speech. It's fair to consider myself in an unhealthy relationship with our forty-fourth president at this point--he keeps letting me down, but when I hear that voice I just keep coming back. You don't understand, he's just under a lot of stress. Sometimes he says things he doesn't mean and, well, nobody's perfect. I'm putting too much pressure on him. It's my fault.

What struck me about this speech was the persistent tone of indignation--he called out the Republicans for hypocritical, cynical nay-saying; he called out the Democrats for cowardice; he (indecorously, perhaps) called out the Supreme Court for selling the nation out to corporate interests. He was funny, aggressive, earnest, ambitious.

The problem, of course, is that calling them out won't make the Republicans any more honest; it won't make the Democrats less cowardly; it won't reverse the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case.

It was a great speech, though.

P.S. I'd like to nominate Eric Cantor for most punchable face in Congress.

You're welcome.

My parents (neither one a native English speaker) don't like saying "you're welcome" because to them it sounds arrogant. That's not to say that they pass such a judgment on anyone who uses the expression, or even to say that they never use it themselves; they just can't bring themselves to say it without some level of discomfort.

Quirky as I initially found this fact, I realized that I don't say it much either. It feels cumbersome compared to "my pleasure" or the entirely informal "no problem," and I always find myself stumbling over the syllables like a shy little boy. Maybe I inherited a dislike of the phrase from my parents. Maybe I just inherited the set of values--or quirks--that make it so awkward for them.

My dad's explanation for his dislike of the phrase in question has to do with humility: by saying "You're welcome," the person receiving thanks acknowledges his/her entitlement to recognition for an act of kindness, and in so doing creates a two-tiered system with the obliged at bottom.

As opposed to the Portuguese/Spanish version my parents are used to ("de nada," which translates roughly into "it's nothing" or "think nothing of it"), "you're welcome" implies a commitment. If one is to "think nothing of it," the transaction is terminated almost as quickly as it began; but to what does the giver "welcome" the recipient? More charity? Whereas "think nothing of it" humbly rejects accolades, the acceptance expressed by "you're welcome" seems self-aggrandizing.

Maybe it's far-fetched to extrapolate from this the notion that a polite idiom would have a sinister effect on the way English speakers give and get thanks, but there's something a little creepy about the self-congratulation involved in some of the louder American efforts to help Haitians, isn't there? In the weeks following the earthquake, every hour on CNN was filled with reports on Haiti that shared time with the network's anchors and correspondents lauding themselves for doing such a great job.

Understand, I don't mean to denigrate the good that people have done, only to comment on what I think is a disturbing undercurrent of charity in general and American charity in particular. CNN's sentimental, self-congratulatory drama annoyed me a bit, but it's a superficial sort of annoyance. Much more disturbing and telling in this regard (as Naomi Klein of course has already pointed out) is that amid all the good deeds and goodwill, the harbingers of disaster capitalism have been licking their chops since day one. And that's not just my opinion. So, you're welcome, Haiti.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Unsent letter from Emerson to Thoreau.

My dear Henry,
A frog was made to live in a swamp, but a man was not made to live in a swamp.
Yours ever.