Monday, November 29, 2004

Dear Target

Until I met my husband Luis, the happiest time of my life was during my son’s infant, toddler and preschool years. My first marriage had crumbled, but I was euphoric to be a mother. With Chris at the center of my universe, my life was finally in balance. I left our house and most of its contents to my ex and moved back into my old bedroom at my parents’. I had only a few material possessions and could not afford much more as I was working part-time at the public library. I enjoyed putting Chris in his stroller and walking for miles to the park, to the market, to the local Target for the occasional toy and everyday sundries or to the Salvation Army thrift store across the street from Target if we needed clothes. Life was beautiful.

Now Chris is grown and we are not hurting for money, but my frugality is intact despite our close proximity to the retail hub of Orange County, California. Our house is surrounded by a mall that is too chi-chi frou-frou for my thrift store sensibility, big name chain stores, acclaimed restaurants, theatres, the Performing Arts Center, hotels, a major airport, a venerated community college, the county fairgrounds, two freeways and the toll road my husband takes to work – in short, all the modern inconveniences. Life is better than ever although busier than ever and we do our recreational walking on the treadmill in the den.

I still enjoy the hunt for a bargain, so this weekend I made my weekly pilgrimage to Target, my absolute favorite store for more than two decades. I have been pondering the controversial decision by Target management to ban the Salvation Army from collecting donations in front of their stores in response to customer complaints. I am not one who would complain about the bell-ringers, as I search for them when they are not handy. In late winter I always see Girl Scouts selling cookies near Target’s entrance and, this being California, all year round petition carriers sit at tables there, soliciting signatures for ballot measures. I noticed that they are gone now as well. But I cannot recall any Salvation Army volunteers at the Target stores I have frequented in recent years. Luckily, I located my first two Salvation Army volunteers of the season in front of Wal-Mart last week and Big Lots discount store on Saturday, so they are out there if you want to find them and I hope you will.

‘Tis the season for employer-sponsored charity at work, where our annual tradition is to adopt needy families in our community to give them the Christmas they could not have otherwise. This year we are also collecting donations for Toys for Tots and I am serving as the United Way campaign coordinator for my building. United Way helps to support several charities close to my heart such as Goodwill Industries, which hires the handicapped shunned by other employers like my brother Richard who worked for them in the 1960s and 1970s; the American Cancer Society; the American Diabetes Association; the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; and the Salvation Army. Like many families, we give as much and as often as we can where we think it will do the most good.

When Chris was 8 years old and not as grateful for his blessings as I thought he should be, I took him to a church soup kitchen to help prepare a dinner for the needy. After he opened his Christmas presents, I made him pick one to donate to the children we saw there. We tried to help the homeless we met in our community, steering clear of those suspiciously clean and tidy panhandlers who seem to appear in shifts at bustling intersections throughout the county. Then we noticed a bedraggled looking man and woman with a shopping cart full of clothes, blankets and a cat hanging out regularly by the supermarket where we redeemed our cans and bottles. We were having our own rough patch but decided to donate our monthly recycling cash to the couple, along with some canned food items, which continued until they disappeared suddenly. I used to keep extra food in the trunk of my car in case we saw them again or others in obvious need. Clearly I am an impulsive donor, the kind upon whom the Salvation Army depends.

One day a few years ago during my lunch hour, I picked up some groceries we needed for dinner. The deli clerk was letting a man who seemed in a very bad way feast on a tray of sliced meat and cheese. I grabbed some canned fruit and vegetables to give him, but he left quickly before I paid for my purchases. The following evening Luis and I were dining out when I saw the man stop in front of our restaurant. He was wearing the same clothes, but his pants had holes that I had not observed the day before. With Luis’s permission, I wrapped our uneaten bread and baked potatoes in a napkin and took them out to the man.

As I walked back into the restaurant, I could not miss the disapproving looks I received from the hostess, the wait staff and other diners. "Everyone is glaring at me," I told Luis.

"You know why, don’t you?" he asked me. "They think you’re a Democrat."

Luis is not merely the wittiest person I know, but he is also the wisest. He is one of six children raised in poverty who had to share a bed and clothes with his brothers. By share, I mean that he and his brother would wear the same pair of pants on alternate days and those pants were a gift from some charitable organization. His father worked second and third jobs rather than ask for a financial handout. Luis made me understand that my naive act of human concern contributed to a public nuisance and likely perpetuated self-destructive choices by the stranger who needed more help than I was equipped to give. Of course, with Luis's support, I still react emotionally to those in need, but I try to be smarter about how I do it.

I know plenty of compassionate people who contribute generously to their pet causes but do not appreciate being accosted by strangers when they shop or dine or drive down the street. Do you remember one of the funniest scenes in the movie Airplane? The pilot Kramer, portrayed by Robert Stack, started punching solicitors who waylaid him as he strode through the airport. Donations for the Reverend Moon? Jews for Jesus? Read about Jehovah's Witness? How about Buddhism? Help Jerry's kids? Scientology? Avoid nuclear power? I understand why that elicits such therapeutic laughter.

Before Rudy Giulani became a hero of 9/11, he was lauded deservedly for cleaning up the streets of New York City, filled for years with panhandlers, garbage, and human waste that frustrated the natives and repelled tourism. In Southern California, the wandering homeless are not the common sight they were ten years ago. So where do the destitute go when they are swept off the city streets? To the Salvation Army and other rescue missions where souls are fed, too, that’s where. If we do not support institutions that can change the lives of those in the direst need, we will run into many more of the broken and hungry when we shop at Target and elsewhere.

So here I am sending a letter to Target, my favorite store, and Target Visa, of which Luis and I are dual cardholders, asking for reconsideration of this new policy, which will surely depress the size and quantity of impulse donations by holiday shoppers this year. If Target will not reconsider its policy nor make a remedial donation to the Salvation Army, I will have to reconsider my loyal patronage.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I Don't Know You but I. O. U.

When I inventory my blessings this Thanksgiving, the blogosphere will receive special attention. I am so grateful for this free and open venue where anyone can express their opinions without having to raise their hand or wait their turn. The talent and generosity of bloggers are awesome and every voice is welcomed. I may never meet any of you, but I am honored to share with you the community of ideas.

Admittedly, this has been a trying year for those of us on the center-right. I feel like I have been living in an unnatural state of suspended hope, always braced for the next dirty trick or unlucky break. This week and every week I thank God that President Bush was re-elected. Although many of us grew discouraged throughout the long, bruising campaign, especially after the first debate, Bush never seemed to. He possesses a constancy of spirit and faith in democracy, faith in us, which never wavered.

Except for my husband, no single person helped me maintain my faith in the wisdom of the electorate more than Hugh Hewitt. I listened to his Salem Radio Network show since its inception, but this year my world became very Hugh-centric. I think of Hugh as a modern day Don Quixote – not deluded but charmingly clueless sometimes about the mundane. In Generalissimo Duane, he found the perfect Sancho Panza to rescue him from cultural and grammatical gaffes. Hugh tilts at real windmills like corporate callousness (Target), partisan purging (Arlen Specter), and media misrepresentations (too many to itemize).

Through Hugh, I discovered the Northern Alliance of bloggers and their radio show. I always harbored a fondness for the Minnesota of Maud Hart Lovelace’s childhood (it’s a chick thing, I guess), but I never knew until this year that the land o’ lakes is our national clearinghouse for political analysis and humor. Captain Ed, John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson, Chad the Elder, Mitch Berg, James Lileks, et al, are among the most gifted writers of commentary today and I am so grateful they are on our side.

I still look to Kathryn Jean Lopez, Kate O’Beirne and their Corner homeboys at NRO for my daily dose of the truth without a hint of sugar. There you will find thoughtful conservatives of every prefix, including the brilliant Mark Steyn, and I benefit from their diversity of dialogue. I am no female chauvinist, but I appreciate the unique demands on our time that make blogging regularly a challenge for many women. Like me, Theresa Kiihn is a fledgling blogger who favors a personal style from the perspective of a wife and mother. She has been especially generous to me, as have Hugh and Chad the Elder. I am grateful for their many acts of kindness.

With the end of the election cycle comes a return to normalcy and I am relieved to dust off my CDs and books and sheet music and all the other wonderful blessings for which I give thanks to God. The intangibles that I prize above all are the love of my husband and family and God, the patient devotion of true friends, improved health, and all the advantages I enjoy as an American.

Now let's go eat some turkey.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I Can Hear Music

My husband, Luis, and I bonded over a shared appreciation for music and language. Our courtship song was Let the Cable Sleep by Bush (no relation). Luis is foremost a lyrics guy and favors songs that tell a story. I value music above all and consider appealing lyrics a bonus.

Obviously I adore language. I have been writing for my own pleasure (and discomfiture) since I was twelve. As I age (notice I didn’t say mature), I find that I enjoy writing more and talking less, but my inner voice is as active as ever.

I enjoy classical music, but popular music of the past hundred years is my particular passion, especially rock’n’roll. I don’t know how common this is, but I have a jukebox in my head that plays rock around the clock, although not necessarily that exact selection (guess what’s stuck in my head right now).

My invisible jukebox is triggered by what I hear, see, say and think. For example, the other morning I was pondering something Dennis Prager said that was typically optimistic and heartwarming. My inner voice pronounced it “the feel-good thought for the day.” So, for the next few hours, I had to listen to a couple riffs from Dr. Feelgood by Motley Crue. See how it works? During business calls, my friendly co-worker Steve sometimes plants a dreadful song in my head. What a brat.

My jukebox has been working triple over-time since Rolling Stone magazine released its latest list: The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The judges compiling the list include Brian Wilson, my musical idol, and I can sense his influence in some of the choices.

Musical taste is so subjective that it is pointless to second-guess any individual or committee who undertakes such a daunting task. The list could have been 50,000 entries long and still omitted songs that recalled a cherished moment in someone’s memory. I already perused the list in numeric order, but I decided to blog it alphabetically by artist instead. I’m picky, so I’ll limit my comments to the artists closest to my heart.

Abba: Dancing Queen, #171. I dare you to sit still during this song. Enjoying Abba was considered a guilty secret by those who disdained Disco, but their harmonies and production values evoked the uncomplicated joy of the Beach Boys’ early work.

The Animals: We Gotta Get Out of This Place, #233. I always preferred this song to House of the Rising Son, #122. But my favorite was Don't Bring Me Down, in which Alan Price’s performance on the opening and bridge proved that the organ can be gritty and soulful.

The Band: I think some of Bob Dylan’s work is admirable and some is too precious and precocious (“hey, ma, look what I can do”). But I find almost all of it musically uninteresting, even when backed by the Band. Out from under Dylan’s shadow, they wedded great musicianship with memorable lyrics. The Weight, # 41, is a true classic. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, #245, is the rare song whose remake is just as strong in its own right, although the lyrics were quite un-PC for the era.

The Beach Boys: Seven songs, including Good Vibrations at #6 and God Only Knows, truly a perfect song, at #25. Caroline, No was a welcome choice from Pet Sounds. Sloop John B was an unpleasant surprise from the same album, a jarring exception to Brian Wilson’s song cycle that was cynically inserted by Capitol Records management. I wish the judges had substituted Wouldn’t It Be Nice or I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times. I could go on, but I won’t.

The Beatles: Twenty-three songs (I appreciate their self-restraint), but no I’m Only Sleeping. Sigh.

Brook Benton: Rainy Night in Georgia, #498. Great voice, great choice.

Big Star: Alex Chilton of the Boxtops (The Letter, #363) and Big Star was always the critics’ darling, as were the Replacements who immortalized him in an eponymously titled single. Shockingly, the Replacements were omitted from this list. If you don’t know any of them, take a listen.

Blondie: Three songs, but not my favorite, Hanging on the Telephone.

Bobby Fuller Four: I Fought the Law, #175. A classic rock song in the genre exemplified by 1950s rockabilly, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Clash, who later remade the song.

David Bowie: Four songs, but not my favorites, John I’m Only Dancing, Sound and Vision and Stay. The Thin White Duke patented a chameleon-like cult of personality that the Material Girl copied on the cheap. Bowie's aspirations were arthouse while Madonna's were of a different house altogether.

Jackson Browne: Only Running on Empty made the list. I went through my Browne period and honed my teenage angst on his earlier albums, but in retrospect this seems about right.

Jeff Buckley: Only one, Hallelujah, #259. Hallelujah! I would have put Last Goodbye in my top 15.

Buffalo Springfield: Only one, For What It’s Worth, which seems paltry for such a seminal band. I would have added Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing and Mr. Soul.

The Byrds: Only three entries for the band that made Dylan’s songs listenable. Like Buffalo Springfield, one of the most influential American folk-rock bands ever. Roger McGuinn’s 12-string guitar and focus on jangly chord strumming over melody lines were the inspiration for the 1980s guitar pop revival.

The Carpenters: My high school chorus teacher was their friend and we had the honor of singing back up for them at his church. Like Burt Bacharach, in recent years their catalog began to receive the respect it deserves, although it’s a crying shame Karen did not live to see it.

Johnny Cash: Three songs from Johnny Cash, but not Hurt, a testament to his enduring relevance. My husband’s happy anyway.

Tracy Chapman: Fast Car, #165. One of the best one-hit wonders ever. It always takes me back to November 1988, a special time.

Cheap Trick: Surrender, #465. Cheap Trick Live at Budokan and Heaven Tonight are great albums by the godfathers of power pop known for their unique visual gimmick (two nerds, two pretty boys). Check out On the Radio and then compare it to Big Bang Baby by Stone Temple Pilots.

Chic: Good Times, #224. Another talented band that avoided the stigma of Disco. The cleanest engineering since Pink Floyd and the Alan Parsons Project.

Eric Clapton: Tears in Heaven and Layla (credited to Derek and the Dominoes) are worthy, but why not Bell Bottom Blues? Trivia note: An uncredited Clapton played lead guitar on the Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps, #135, while an uncredited George Harrison played lead on Clapton’s The Badge.

The Clash: Five songs, including Train in Vain, #292. I’m happy.

Eddie Cochran: Two songs, including the legendary Summertime Blues, #73. See my comments about the Bobby Fuller Four.

Elvis Costello: Three great songs, Alison, Watching the Detectives, and Nick Lowe’s What’s So Funny ‘bout Peace, Love and Understanding. Excluding Accidents Will Happen and Pump It Up was a disappointment, but I could go on and on.

Cream: Three songs for Clapton, Bruce and Baker. Good enough.

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Four songs to put a smile on my husband’s face.

The Crystals: Three songs, classics all. Producer Phil Spector revolutionized studio craft and, with Brian Wilson, opened the door for artists to take creative charge of their product. He went from control freak to deadly freak, but he remains one of the few legends on this list who deserves to be called genius. Why is it that the artists who create the most amazing music for the masses tend to be screwed-up recluses?

The Cure: Two songs, including the aptly titled Just Like Heaven, #483. Purists prefer the earlier, more melancholy Robert Smith, but I like him happy and poppy, too.

Depeche Mode: Personal Jesus, #368. My husband prefers the Johnny Cash version, naturally. I sat in the Rose Bowl in the rain for the 1988 concert documented in the film 101. I would choose some of their others, Blasphemous Rumours and especially People Are People, which even a bleeding heart conservative can appreciate. Lyrical highlight: Now you’re punching and you’re kicking and you’re shouting at me. And I’m relying on your common decency. So far it hasn’t surfaced, but I’m sure it exists. It just takes awhile to travel from your head to your fists. I don’t understand what makes a man hate another man. Help me understand.

The Doors: Two songs, including the ubiquitous Light My Fire, which proved that Jim Morrison, like James Joyce, badly needed an editor. Oh, how I loathed interminable solos in the middle of songs. My sister gave me some Doors’ albums, which I got to play at our Lutheran dances. Our pastor actually let us hold dances inside the darkened church with strobe lights and 14-minute songs. Amazing.

Bob Dylan: A dozen. We own Don’t Look Back on DVD, which captures his charisma and arrogance. Shame on him for breaking Joan Baez’s heart. By the way, why wasn’t Diamonds and Rust on the list?

Earth, Wind & Fire: That’s the Way of the World, #329. One of my all-time faves. I’m a sucker for songs that start slowly but build to a thrilling finish, like The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys, which should have been on the list, too.

The Five Stairsteps: Ooh, Child, #392. Another wonderful one-hit wonder with effective buildups and letdowns, plus a nice key change near the end.

The Four Tops: Four for four, including the epic Reach Out, I’ll Be There, #206. Levi and the boys were the class of Motown.

Aretha Franklin: Four for the Queen of Soul, too, but Natural Woman, my favorite, is missing.

Al Green: Four from the Reverend of Romance. I actually prefer the Talking Heads’ hiccup-y remake of Take Me to the River.

Guns N’ Roses: Sweet Child o’ Mine, #196. I liked this song better when it was called I’d Love to Change the World by Ten Years After, which is not on the list.

Jimi Hendrix: Seven cool songs, but not Fire, my favorite.

Buddy Holly: Five songs from the legendary Texan. In La Bamba, he was portrayed by Marshall Crenshaw, another talented singer-songwriter who disappeared too quickly.

The Isley Brothers: Three fine songs, with one glaring omission: This Old Heart of Mine, which I would have placed in the top 10 (another epic slow-build song).

The Jam: That’s Entertainment, #306. Paul Weller of the Jam and Style Council was one of the trendsetters of 1980s Britpop, the Ray Davies of his decade.

Jefferson Airplane: Two songs, a brief nod to the band that helped define the San Francisco scene. Surrealistic Pillow was considered one of the best albums of 1967. I really like their song Today, not on the list, although it reveals a band that took itself way too seriously and was due perhaps for its mighty fall as Jefferson Starship.

Billy Joel and Elton John: I play piano and always appreciated good piano rock, but Ben Folds, not on the list, does it better.

Joy Division: Love Will Tear Us Apart, #179. The song that heralded the advent of New Wave by the band that became New Order after lead singer, Ian Curtis, hanged himself on the eve of their first American tour. Foolish idiot.

Carole King: It’s Too Late, #469. To the women’s movement, the album Tapestry was the aural equivalent of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book Gifts from the Sea. Before and since, King has been one of our most gifted songwriters.

The Kinks: Three songs, could be more. The music speaks for itself, but the brothers Davies may have begun the tradition of public family dysfunction made notorious by Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis.

Love: Alone Again Or, #436. When I was in junior high school, my sister gave me a copy of Forever Changes. This song became one of my all-time favorites.

The Lovin’ Spoonful: Two songs, neither of which is Full Measure, my fave. Another influential folk-rock band my sister introduced me to when I was too young and na├»ve to understand naughty band names and lyrical double entendres.

The Mamas and the Papas: California Dreamin’, #89. John Phillips may be more famous for his ex-wives and offspring, but he was a legend on the folk-rock scene and the driving force behind the Monterey Pop Festival.

Joni Mitchell: Three entries, including my favorites, Help Me and Free Man in Paris, a song about David Geffen. Mitchell was a singer-songwriter known for her personal storytelling and quirky phrasing. She also served as one of the judges who compiled this list.

New Order: Bizarre Love Triangle, #201. One of my favorite dance songs from the 1980s. See Joy Division.

Randy Newman: Sail Away, #264. A haunting song about slave ships. Like Warren Zevon, Newman was considered a songwriter’s songwriter and achieved fame with a silly song, in his case I Love L.A.

Nirvana: Four songs from three years - should have been more. Kurt Cobain was a gifted songwriter, mediocre guitarist and foolish idiot. He went missing and was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound as my mother was dying slowly of kidney failure. Did I mention Cobain was a foolish idiot?

Paul Revere & the Raiders: Kicks, #400. One of the first anti-drug songs and a darn good one, thanks to ace producer Terry Melcher, who happens to be Doris Day’s son. The band known for their Revolutionary War era attire appeared regularly on Where the Action Is, Dick Clark’s weekday music show in the 1960s. [11-22-04 update: Today it was announced that Terry Melcher lost his lengthy battle with cancer on Friday, November 19. Melcher was one of the unsung heroes who performed with and produced some titans of rock music, including Brian Wilson, John Phillips, and Gram Parsons. R.I.P.]

Pavement: I consider this alternative band noteworthy only for the single Plant Man by their former drummer, Gary Young. Plant Man was surely the worst song and video ever, so I-can’t-believe-they-let-him-do-that awful that it has achieved cult status.

Tom Petty: Free Fallin’, #177. Petty lost me when he broke up the Heartbreakers, but for six years his talented band made the best American folk-rock since the Byrds. He deserves credit as a songwriter and for making the most of a pinched, whiny voice. His guitarist, Mike Campbell, is one of the best in the history of rock.

The Pixies: Monkey Gone to Heaven, #410. A musical tribute to the style of Neil Young and one of the most delightful surprises on this list. The Pixies was one of the most beguiling bands to come out of the 1980s, but I never understood their lyrics. Was this about an addict who overdosed? I don’t know, but I always crank up the volume when I hear it.

The Police: Two songs and a great career ruined by a self-important singer. Stewart Copeland may be the best drummer in rock history.

Elvis Presley: A founding father of rock who squandered his gifts. Like Rick Nelson, who did not make the list, some of his best work was with legendary guitarist James Burton. Paddy McAloon, singer/songwriter extraordinaire of Prefab Sprout (please check out all their recordings), included a suite of odes to Elvis on their Jordan: The Comeback album.

The Rascals, aka The Young Rascals: Good Lovin’, #325. They enjoyed a string of hits, all distinguished by professional vocals when the industry was dominated by charming amateurs. My favorites were A Girl Like You and Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore.

R.E.M.: Losing My Religion, #169. Absolutely amazing song by a great folk-rock revival band with strong songwriting, arranging and harmonizing.

The Righteous Brothers: You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, #34. Another Phil Spector Wall of Sound gem. I would add my personal favorite, Just Once in My Life, which was co-written by Carole King.

The Ronettes: Walking in the Rain, #266. Just ahead of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and Shirley Manson of Garbage, I rank Roni Spector as the best all-time female vocalist in rock. Mix in great songwriting and Phil Spector’s trademark production values and you get a song that I would have ranked in the top 15.

The Shangri-Las: Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand), #395. If you want to know what great AM radio sounded like in the mid-1960s, this is it. I played my sister’s 45rpm copy of this song so often that I warped it. This was Shadow Morton’s response to Phil Spector’s girl bands.

Sly & the Family Stone: Six excellent songs from the first funky band to hit it big. Hot Fun in the Summertime remains a seasonal classic.

The Smiths: Only two songs from the most acclaimed band of the 1980s, William, It Was Really Nothing at #425 and How Soon Is Now at #486, which is shockingly low for a song whose influence I cannot overstate. Johnny Marr and Morrissey were treated by the British press as the second coming of the Beatles. At a minimum, I would have added There Is a Light That Never Goes Out and ranked them all in the top 100.

Bruce Springsteen: Three songs, with Born to Run registering at #21. I remember the jolt I felt the first time I heard the anthem, which was so chock full of musical goodies that it was almost too much for the scaled-back 1970s. I still think his first three albums were the best.

Tina Turner: River Deep, Mountain High, #33. A grand, soaring song that Phil Spector envisioned as his crowning achievement was a commercial failure. The effect of this disappointment on Spector’s mindset is legendary. Still Tina’s best performance.

U2: One deservedly at #36 plus five others. I would add Two Hearts and In God’s Country. Bono is only a smidge less self-important than Sting.

Dionne Warwick: Walk on By, #70. Burt Bacharach is one of our finest songwriters and no singer has benefited more from his largesse than Dionne Warwick. My favorites of their collaborations are Anyone Who Had a Heart and A House Is Not a Home, which choke me up every time.

Stevie Wonder: Four songs, not nearly enough for the wunderkind of Motown who dominated R&B in the 1970s. I would add If You Really Love Me, Golden Lady, Superwoman, Creepin’, Isn’t She Lovely, Knocks Me Off My Feet.

Neil Young: Three songs, not enough for my husband or any true fan.

Here are some artists omitted from the list and their songs that I would select for my list.

America: Tin Man

Tori Amos: Silent All These Years

Aztec Camera: Oblivious

Joan Baez: Diamonds and Rust

The Beautiful South: My Book, Song for Whoever, A Little Time, Let Love Speak up Itself, Old Red Eyes Is Back

Ben Folds Five: Where’s Summer B, Alice Childress, Underground, Fair, Brick, Don’t Change Your Plans, Army, Your Redneck Past, Jane

The Blue Nile: Downtown Lights

Bread: It Don't Matter to Me

Kate Bush: Running up That Hill, This Woman's Work, Sensual World

The Cardigans: Carnival

The Cars: My Best Friend’s Girlfriend, Just What I Needed, Bye Bye Love, Good Times Roll

Chicago: Questions 67 & 68

The Church: Under the Milky Way, Feel, Reptile

Jim Croce: Time in a Bottle

Crowded House: Don’t Dream It’s Over, World Where You Live, I Feel Possessed, Into Temptation, Never Be the Same, Love This Life, Sister Madly, Fall at Your Feet, Weather with You, Whispers and Moans, Four Seasons in One Day

Duran Duran: Save a Prayer

Ian Dury and the Blockheads: Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll

Echo and the Bunnymen: Killing Moon

Walter Egan: Magnet and Steel

Electric Light Orchestra: Can’t Get It Out of My Head, Strange Magic

The Foundations: Baby, Now That I've Found You

Garbage: Special

The Grays: Very Best Years

The Guess Who: These Eyes

Richard Harris: MacArthur Park

Heaven 17: Let Me Go

Human League: Don’t You Want Me

Janis Ian: At Seventeen

Chris Isaak: Wicked Game

Joe Jackson: Right and Wrong, Steppin’ Out

Jellyfish: Bedspring Kiss, That Is Why, Ghost at Number One

Kansas: Dust in the Wind

King Crimson: Heartbeat

Nick Lowe/Rockpile: Cruel to Be Kind, I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass, Marie Provost, Switchboard Susan

Don McLean: American Pie

Rick Nelson: Traveling Man

Oasis: Wonderwall, Live Forever, Don’t Go Away, She’s Electric, Acquiesce, Don’t Look Back in Anger

The Outsiders: Time Won't Let Me

Pet Shop Boys: West End Girls, Love Comes Quickly, What Have I Done to Deserve This

The Power Station: Some Like It Hot

Prefab Sprout: When Love Breaks Down, Appetite, Horsin’ Around, Desire As, Life of Surprises, Pearly Gates, Tiffany’s, World Awake, Looking for Atlantis, Wild Horses, Machine Gun Ibiza, Jordan: The Comeback, Moondog, Ice Maiden, Michael, Mercy

The Pretenders: Brass in Pocket, Stop Your Sobbing, Message of Love

The Psychedelic Furs: Love My Way, Pretty in Pink

The Replacements: I’ll Be You, Alex Chilton, The Last

Todd Rundgren: I Saw the Light, Hello It’s Me, We Gotta Get You a Woman

Seal: Crazy, Prayer for the Dying

Siouxsie and the Banshees: Spellbound, Cities in Dust

The Smashing Pumpkins: 1979

The Smithereens: Blood and Roses, Only a Memory

Split Enz: I Got You, One Step Ahead, Message to My Girl, Dirty Creature

Squeeze: Tempted, Last Time Forever

Steam: Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye

Steely Dan: Dirty Work, Only a Fool Would Say That, Any Major Dude, Through with Buzz, My Old School, Doctor Wu, Any World That I’m Welcome to, Kid Charlemagne, The Fez, Haitian Divorce, Peg, Deacon Blues, Josie, FM

The Stray Cats: Stray Cat Strut

The Sundays: Here’s Where the Story Ends

Supertramp: Logical Song

Talk Talk: It’s My Life, Life’s What You Make It

The Talking Heads: Take Me to the River, Psycho Killer

Tears for Fears: Pale Shelter, Mad World, Change

10CC: Cry, I’m Not in Love, Things We Do for Love, Dreadlock Holiday

The Trashcan Sinatras: Only Tongue Will Tell, You Made Me Feel

The Turtles: Happy Together

The Waterboys: The Whole of the Moon

XTC: Dear God, King for a Day, Mayor of Simpleton, Cynical Days, Chalkhills and Children

The Yardbirds: For Your Love, Shapes of Things

Afterthoughts. How could I have forgotten?
Phil Collins: In the Air Tonight
Peter Gabriel: Solsbury Hill
Icehouse: No Promises
Kajagoogoo: Too Shy
k.d. lang: Constant Craving
Muse: Time Is Running Out
The New Radicals: You Only Get What You Give
Jimmy Ruffin: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
Toad the Wet Sprocket: All I Want
Pete Yorn: Come Back Home

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It's Turkey Time

In baseball, three strikes equal one batter out. In bowling, three strikes in a row equal one turkey. By sending Porter Goss and Condi Rice to clean up the CIA and State Department respectively, this week President Bush unleashed retaliatory strikes against two of the most reform-averse institutions obstructing our war on terror. If he goes after one more, and I have the perfect target in mind, Bush could bag a turkey that will make all the left-wing nuts cry fowl.

Here’s a clue: $3 billion.

According to a State Department report, “The United States is the largest financial contributor to the UN and has been every year since its creation in 1945. We provided more than $3 billion in contributions, both cash and in-kind, to the UN system in 2002. (In-kind contributions include items such as food donations for the World Food Program). The United States funded 22 percent of the UN regular budget, as well as more than 27 percent of the peacekeeping budget. Additionally, the United States provides a significant amount in voluntary contributions to the UN and UN-affiliated organizations and activities, mostly for humanitarian and development programs.”

That ain't chicken scratch. As the U.N.'s most generous benefactor, we are the golden goose that laid a rotten egg. We have been betrayed by our so-called allies there who feast on coq au vin and chicken Kiev, and all we got is this stupid bill.

The House International Relations Committee, chaired by my favorite old coot Henry Hyde, may have uncovered a connection between the U.N. oil-for-food program that feathered Saddam Hussein’s nest and the deposed despot’s multimillion dollar fund used to pay families of Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel. Regrettably, that other wise owl from Illinois, Phil Crane, will be flying the coop at the end of this term.

Daring to engage Secretary General Kofi Annan in a high-stakes game of chicken with his Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Norm Coleman crowed to columnist Robert Novak, “In seeing what is happening at the U.N, I am more troubled today than ever. I see a sinkhole of corruption.” Coleman is the junior senator from Minnesota, the literary launch pad for the Northern Alliance, featuring Chad the Elder of Fraters Libertas who has generously linked to this blog and whose other nom de plume is Peeps. Their senior senator, Mark Dayton, has been certified as a cuckoo by Robert "Sheets" Byrd, the Senate's foremost authority on loony behavior. My state, California, is represented by two chicks, one of whom is a dovish dodo.

Don't expect the MSM to spend much time reporting these developments. The peacock network, NBC, is too busy rewinding their video and taking cheap shots at the Marines. Thus far Annan is getting a free ride from the press while ducking requests for cooperation from both committees and his hand-picked investigator, Paul Volcker, is parroting his line of resistance. Instead Annan went off half-cocked, sniping at Bush about Fallujah like an ostrich with his head buried in quicksand. Two can play that game.

Bush is in the catbird seat to grab Annan by the McNuggets and make him sing like a soprano canary or, better yet, a Soprano canary. The U.N. is long overdue for its day of reckoning and that will truly be a day for thanksgiving. As the Vice President might say, "Go flock yourself."

Monday, November 15, 2004

Capital Idea

Mr. Spellcheck and I have an uneasy relationship. I compose my blog posts in Microsoft Word, so I do need him, but he can be a petty critic. Lord knows I could use an editor, but it ain’t gonna be him (spellcheck that!). Actually, we get along much better when I write than when I edit. If space is really limited, I resort to what I call the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) method of editing, wherein I remove all vowels and the reader is left to decipher what looks like a personalized license plate.

After years of working together, he still objects to my use of the passive voice. Occasionally, just to humor him, I let him convert a sentence or two to the active voice, often to hilarious effect. This past week when I was feeling poorly, I was tempted to give up the fight and let him have his way with an extra long post, wondering if readers would notice any difference from my usual gobbledy-gook (a term with which apparently he is not familiar). Then I figured, let him get his own blog. Everyone’s doing it. We’ll see how many errors he makes.

One thing I don’t understand is his random use of capitalization. He likes to capitalize Internet and Web as if they are deities instead of commonplace tools accessible to nearly every home and workplace. Well, I think I have a better idea. Since my newly installed Sitemeter tells me I have a half-dozen readers and yet have received nary a complaint, I am going to spend the capital from my mandate to capitalize or not capitalize as I please.

Some very important things are capitalized, like Mr. and Mrs. Then why not Marriage, Family, Friends, Freedom, Democracy, Military, Soldiers, Troops? I would add Politics and Conservatism to that list, plus Reading, Writing, Music, Laughter, Work, Faith, Love. There is nothing more necessary to Life than Food and Water. At a minimum, Food should be capitalized in order of difficulty of preparation: Souffle, Mousse, Turkey Dinner With All The Trimmings.

I note that Tivo and its cable equivalent, DVR, are rightly capitalized. TV is capitalized, but what about Widescreen TV? Remote Control? Video Games? Recliner? Laptop Computer? Camera Phone? Mr. Spellcheck must lead a very ascetic life. He would capitalize none of these.

I don’t think he should be in charge of deciding what’s culturally important. I would leave e. e. cummings where he belongs but send him some company: michael moore, tina brown, e. j. dionne, paul krugman, maureen dowd, al hunt and judy woodruff. If it were up to Mr. S, the new york times, msnbc, cbs, abc, dan rather, mark halperin, paul begala, james carville, katie couric, chris matthews, and lawrence o’donnell would all appear more upstanding than they deserve. You can create your own lists, but be prepared for him to bleed red and green all over your document.

To those of us who paid attention during English class, Mr. Spellcheck can be a nuisance. To most of the world, he is the only connection to proper grammar and spelling. After all, he is simply trying to promote traditional standards of style that facilitate communication in a respectful way. The service he provides is honorable, conservative, and thankless, if my attitude is typical. By conservative, I mean paleoconservative.

I apologize for those other names I called him. I notice that they are not in his vocabulary. ’m I bad. He could teach me a few things.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Nudged by God

Do you ever have the feeling that God is trying to get your attention?

My father’s grandfather was a Methodist minister, a family tradition that ended with his passing. Perhaps that was due to his hard sell approach to conversion, which my father experienced during childhood summers with his grandparents that led to a long-term rebellion against organized religion. My mother was raised in the sacraments of the Catholic Church but rejected them as an adult until she eagerly received the last rites before her death. Around the time I was born, my parents found a Congregational Church to their liking long enough for me to be baptized as a baby.

I grew up in an environment of staunch Judeo-Christian values. My parents were the most ethical people I have ever known, but they were not church-goers. I first began to attend church regularly with my Kindergarten boyfriend and his family, which stopped when they moved away. After we relocated to Orange County, our next-door neighbors would take me sometimes to their church, as I had befriended their younger son. In junior high school, one of my friends invited our crowd to her Lutheran Church and some of us stayed long enough to be confirmed, including me. I must confess that the initial attraction was the cute boys (do you detect a pattern here?), although along the way I began to seek something less shallow.

During my Lutheran period, I uncovered a personal flaw that has bedeviled me ever since, so to speak. While I could believe intellectually in the Bible, I never felt the Holy Spirit in my heart. Every Sunday for three years I would bow my head and pray to God, “Please let your Holy Spirit fill my heart today.” I did not blame God; I blamed myself. I understood that it was my own failing that kept me from a leap of faith. I have known many atheists who worship science and scoff at religion with a sense of moral superiority. I have never been one of them. Evidence of God is everywhere around us. Every system of life bears a perfection that surpasses the best works of our most brilliant human minds.

When I was pregnant with my son, my dear friend Julie suffered the loss of her only son, Vasily, who died from complications of brain cancer a week before his third birthday. The tape recorder in his hospital room played his favorite Christian songs on a continuous loop and the feeling of faith there was palpable, providing solace to a devastated family. My grief was real, but my secular words sounded hollow to my own ears. Over the years, I have tried to comfort many tormented by pain or loss. Oh, how I wished I could pray for them. “I will think good thoughts for you” is an inadequate substitute for the power of prayer.

As my father was dying of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow, my sister and I took staggered shifts at his bedside to prevent the nurses from doing anything, even the slightest move, that might cause his bones to fracture. My son was three years old and quite attached to his cloth Lowly Worm toy, a character in the popular books of Richard Scarry. Somehow he had lost his Lowly Worm, which he needed more than ever, so on the afternoon of Thursday, May 7, 1987, we drove 13 miles to the specialty store to buy a replacement. I was scheduled to take the night shift, so we stopped on our way home at a market to pick up some snacks for the long evening ahead. As we shopped, I noticed that a woman was following us. She was wearing an old-fashioned housedress in the style of the 1950s. She had no purse and no shopping basket. After we took our place in line at one of the cash registers, the woman walked up to me, handed me a piece of paper, said “I think you need this,” and quickly left the store. The paper read, "Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4.” My father died three hours later.

You might think that would have caught my attention, but I was a hard case. I could not believe that I had enough significance in the universe for God to send me a personal message via special delivery. Seven years later, my mother died. For the next five years, I was haunted by her passing with no faith to comfort me. I got myself into quite a funk. At my lowest point, I decided to reclaim my life and actively search for God. That is when I met my husband, Luis. Becoming a couple was a leap of faith for both of us due to differences in age, culture, and experience. Luis is like my father in my ways, including his childhood rebellion against religion. As our bond strengthened, I confided my fear that I would find faith and it would come between us. After we married, I renewed my quest, reading and re-reading books by C. S. Lewis, Harold Kushner, Dennis Prager, et al. I hoped that my leap of faith in human love would lead to a leap of faith in godly love. I continued my conversations with God that started when I was a teenager.

My long-held concept of religion is that churches (small c) at best are clubs that support our faith and that each believer is the Church (big C). I realized that looking for a lightning bolt of faith inside a church was a wrong-headed, outside-in approach. I needed to nurture the seeds of faith within and live accordingly. Meanwhile, my friend Alicia began to attend the church, Lutheran strictly by coincidence, where her daughter Aimee found her calling. Aimee is studying at the local Lutheran university to be a youth minister. Alicia repeatedly encouraged me to attend, but I kept procrastinating. In December 2002, once again Alicia invited us to the Christmas service. My husband became ill with a bad cold, so I declined. Two days after Christmas, I found a lump in my breast.

Some people facing a life-threatening illness find that the obstacles to their faith crumble magically. I am not one of them. One of my biggest obstacles has been the sense of unworthiness that has dogged me since my formative years. I found myself thinking, if I didn’t come to God before I realized how much I need Him, how can I ask for His blessings now. And so I continued to struggle while my husband was rediscovering his own faith.

September 2003 was an amazing month. I started chemotherapy the month before but had remained positive and upbeat. Then I got into trouble with higher-ups for working half-time since my surgery, even though I had used my backlog of vacation time to supplement my schedule. I was bald, bloated from steroids, and quite scared that in my damaged condition I would have to look for a new job. The stress drained me of my positive attitude. Then my sister died unexpectedly, leaving my oldest brother without a caretaker. Within days, Luis and I had to find a house large enough for all of us. By the following week, Luis flew to Florida to move my brother and his service Doberman back to Califoria. Less than two weeks after my sister’s death, we were living in our new house.

When I summarized these events for a co-worker, she said, “Wow! God is really trying to get your attention.”

Okay, I got it. Finally. No more playing at being a believer. No more procrastinating. I guess it took a lightning bolt after all.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Specter of Obstructionism

Andrew Sullivan is the creator of the verb to Fisk. It is appropriate that he be the inspiration for another addition to the blogger’s lexicon. Here is my contribution:

Inflected form of the transitive verb sul·ly
Antonym: un·sul·lied
1. Tarnished by citing Andrew Sullivan or a similarly unreliable source: He sullied his argument by quoting Andrew Sullivan on Monday as Sullivan changed his mind by Friday.
2. Cited by Andrew Sullivan or a similarly unreliable source: Andrew Sullivan sullied such-and-such blog by using the blogger’s words against his own friends.

This week Hugh Hewitt cited a post by Andrew Sullivan which suggested that opposition to Arlen Specter's elevation to Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is something short of sane. I am bullish on Hewitt, bearish on Sullivan, and hawkish on Specter. Hugh, a gentleman and a scholar, might feel sheepish when he realizes that his argument has been doubly sullied.

To avoid being sullied even once, stop and ask yourself this question: Why does Andrew Sullivan agree with me now, especially if he has maligned me or my position in the recent past, and who among his opponents is taking a contrary position?

Andrew Sullivan has been engaged in a cultural war of words for at least a year with the fine folks at The Corner on National Review Online. While the Cornerites have maintained a mostly high-minded ideological tone, Sullivan’s has become quite vitriolic. First his contempt was focused on John Derbyshire, but now it encompasses Kathryn Jean Lopez, Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, and erstwhile friend Jonah Goldberg.

For the past week, Hugh Hewitt and the Cornerites have engaged in an admirably civil disagreement over Specter. During this same time frame Sullivan, who implied that Hewitt is merely a partisan hack only six weeks ago, wrote a post praising Hugh and disparaging conservatives opposed to Specter (gee, I wonder whom he could mean). Coincidence? I think not.

Sullivan aside, Hugh’s argument emphasizing Republican partisanship has its merits, as does the Cornerites’ emphasizing conservative principles. The difference is that, while the Republican Party realizes it needs the conservatives, we conservatives are often loath to admit that we need the Republican Party. The Republican Party must attract conservatives and moderates to maintain its majority status and advance its predominantly conservative agenda. When the modern Republican Party succeeds, it is almost always to the benefit of conservatives.

I am a Reagan conservative first, last and always, but I am cognizant of the independent streak running through the history of my chosen ideology. Sometimes there seems to be a purity test and those who fail to meet the standard can be savaged. Even Ronald Reagan disappointed his conservative supporters due to pragmatic compromises first as governor and later as president. Between jobs when he was in the business of ideas and not actions, Reagan was as pure a conservative ideologue as the last century has produced. But he was so loyal to the GOP that he adhered strictly to his own 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.

I am a practicing pragmatist myself. Many conservatives were against the gubernatorial recall in my native state of California. Some who live across the continent argued that a continuation of the Davis decline would make the California electorate more conservative. Conservative Californians like Hugh Hewitt and I understood that we could not afford another minute of Governor Gray Davis. Conservative non-Californians selected Tom McClintock as their candidate, but conservative Californians like Hugh Hewitt and I understood that we needed a forceful outsider to shake up the entrenched Democrat machine in Sacramento. Unfortunately, our best hope was Arnold Schwarzenegger, another Clintonesque moderate in deep debt to a liberal wife.

George W. Bush has big ideas and a grand vision, much of which is conservative, but he is no conservative ideologue. If anything, he aspires to expand the base of the Republican Party to include more moderates and even some liberals who share traditionally conservative values. I believe that one of his best ideas is to promote a national culture of life and ownership, which he envisions as the heart of an inclusive Republican Party for decades to come.

On the issue of Specter, I think Hugh Hewitt is much closer to the philosophy of George W. Bush, so the debate is probably moot. While I appreciate Hugh's fealty to the 11th commandment, I must respectfully disagree. Ironically, it is the pragmatism of Hugh's argument that convinced me Specter cannot serve as Chairman while we have this narrow window of opportunity. I would like to see the GOP keep its majority and Rick Santorum re-elected, but I must consider that Bush could be entering his lame duck period by November 2006. Unless Bush can buck the conventional wisdom on this political tradition as he did on others, he may have less than two years to stack the judiciary, which could become his most lasting and most conservative legacy. That is why I have concluded we cannot afford Specter or any other potential obstructionist in the most critical positions of leadership.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Freedom's Thanksgiving

My father enlisted in the U. S. Navy before World War II and was honorably discharged at its conclusion. His first battleship, the U.S.S. Portland, left Pearl Harbor on December 5, 1941, two days before the infamous attack by the Japanese. He saw action in the Battle of Midway, in the Battle of Guadalcanal, and off the coast of Normandy during the invasion. Less than a decade later, he left behind my mother, two brothers, and sister to volunteer his service in Korea with the U. S. Army during the Korean War.

Today we honor the military veterans like my father who fought to keep America free and to liberate millions abroad. May we never forget and ever deserve their sacrifice.

The Memorial at Iwo Jima

President Ronald Reagan at Normandy for the 40th anniversary

President George W. Bush at Normandy for the 60th anniversary

Marines at Fallujah, Iraq on April 8, 2004, praying over their fallen commander, 1st Lt. Joshua Palmer

Veterans praying during today's Veterans' Day memorial, God bless them

The Color Guard honoring veterans today

President Bush honoring veterans today

Mrs. Bush honoring veterans today

A veteran of my father's generation, God bless him

The future veterans of America, God willing

Why they fight today

What we should tell them every day

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Healing Elizabeth Edwards

I have breast cancer. Last year I was diagnosed, underwent surgery, and survived chemotherapy. For the next four years I will continue to take a daily pill, an aromatase inhibitor, to counter the deadly natural hormones produced by my own glands, my diet and my environment. As far as we know, all the cancerous cells were removed from my body and have not returned. Even if they never return, please God, I will spend the rest of my days living with breast cancer.

Despite a common misconception, there is no known cure for breast cancer. There are diagnostic tools and treatments that reduce the likelihood of recurrence. Early diagnosis helps but is no guarantee that the cancer will be eradicated permanently. Some individual cancers are more stubborn than others. Thus far science has offered no clear explanation why.

Elizabeth Edwards was dealt two harsh blows this week and I can assure you which is the worst. She seems blessed with the support system and material resources she will need to confront an enemy more vicious than any in the political arena. As the mother of young children, her challenge will be especially difficult as she faces the options of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, the temporary loss of her hair, the permanent loss of her breast, disfigurement. She will need every bit of the strength she has demonstrated on the campaign trail.

Chemotherapy is definitely not funny business. The chemo drugs I took were, I was told, originally developed to treat other conditions but were pulled from the market due to their toxicity. One of the most commonly prescribed, Adriamycin, is as red as Hawaiian Punch and so nasty that I still shudder involuntarily when I see liquids that color. Heart damage is only one of its potential side effects. When it is administered intravenously, the nurses have to be scrupulously careful as a leak would cause severe skin burns tantamount to a Hazardous Materials event.

During one of my sessions in the chemo corner of my oncologist's suite, I read something that made me want to laugh out loud but I could not. I was one of several cancer patients there and some of them were in a very bad way. We had comfy recliners, jars of hard candy, a water cooler, microwave, TV and magazines. The candy was to camouflage the vile taste chemotherapy leaves in your mouth. I sat with my devoted Luis on one side and my I. V. hookup on the other.

About halfway through my three-hour treatment after the initial dizziness and blurry vision subsided, I noticed on the table next to me a large print edition of Reader's Digest featuring an article by Tucker Carlson. Here is the excerpt that triggered a fit of stifled giggles:

One of my biggest problems on live TV is that I’ve long been prone to inappropriate laughter. In the fall of 2002, what turned out to be a pair of snipers roamed the Washington area murdering strangers for no apparent reason. One night that fall, when I was co-hosting Crossfire, we interviewed a retired D.C. homicide detective named Ted Williams. The day before a middle-aged woman had been shot dead at a Home Depot in suburban Virginia. Williams made the point that her death had been particularly tragic, as the woman had recently overcome breast cancer. At least I think that’s what he tried to say. What emerged his mouth was something about her having had breast implants.

There’s nothing funny about murder, obviously. I struggled to keep myself under control, fighthing for calm as my chest heaved. I bit the inside of my lip, lowered my head and tried to take deep breaths through my nose. The crisis past.

Okay, agreed. There's nothing funny about murder. Or breast cancer. But I had to concur with Tucker that Williams' malapropism was hilarious, even as I was getting pumped with poison because of breast cancer.

Maybe my humor is not to everyone's liking, but any brand will do in a crisis. Humor helped me maintain perspective during a time distorted by unnatural self-absorption, fear and insecurity.

Since my diagnosis and throughout my treatment, I learned a lot about myself, my family and friends, my character and my priorities. I have already written about the unexpected blessing cancer has been in my life. May Elizabeth Edwards find it so as well. I wish her faith for the trials ahead, courage to live each day to the fullest, laughter to lighten her load, doctors who are brilliant and kind, the love of friends, the love of family, the love of God, and the love of a good man.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz

How do I spell relief? B-u-s-h v-i-c-t-o-r-y! I would be tempted to gloat, but I am still a little scarred by a sense of narrow escape reinforced by Newsweek's revelations about Sen. and Mrs. Might-Have-Been. I am very, very grateful.

Just by accident of birth, I was born to wonderful parents in the greatest country ever in the history of the world. My parents exemplified American character at its best and I miss them keenly at election time. Dad would have been gratified that his native Iowa returned to the red state column. Mom would have exulted that our home, Orange County, California, provided President Bush with his largest national margin, even more votes than Tarrant County, Texas. Yee-haw!

Both my parents were disaffected Democrats of Reagan’s generation who likewise embraced William F. Buckley conservatism and the GOP in the 1950s and 1960s. My mother, the only daughter of German chef-restaurateurs, was a marvelous cook who spent happy hours each day in her kitchen, all the while talking back to AM radio. She was a political news junkie with few compatible media sources, except for Buckley's National Review and Firing Line, until the advent of Rush Limbaugh, of whom she was an early fan. She passed away months before the electoral ratification of the Gingrich revolution; years before the arrival of the Fox News Channel; and a full decade before talk radio, fair and balanced TV news, and the blogosphere converged to crack the MSM monopoly. In ten years we have witnessed many breakthroughs that would have thrilled her, but she would have no trouble recognizing the same old liberal media establishment.

I consider it a maternal imperative to teach my son how blessed we are to live in this time and place. Depending on our weekday schedule, we can listen to William Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Larry Elder, and Al Rantell. Sean Hannity, full of energy and heart, has the best insider connections, but his guests tend to be the newsmakers and shapers of the past. I am loyal to Rush because he’s "the one who brung me." Rush’s success is extra impressive because he is the show and has remained the dominant voice in a burgeoning field despite well-publicized personal exigencies that have exacted their toll. Oh, how I wish he and Dennis Prager, the conscience of talk radio, were not competing directly in my media market. However, Prager’s archived show is available online at KRLA, if you want to listen and you’ll be glad you did.

The second best news this week for southern California conservatives is that KRLA resumed live broadcasts of the third hour of Hugh Hewitt’s show. Hooray! For too long, a certain San Francisco loudmouth’s three-hour show was sandwiched between Hugh’s second and third hour - in Hugh’s home territory! (You know, that guy who wrote a bestseller that earned him a brief blip on MSNBC. I think it was titled The Crude Country. Could I be more contemptuous?) My prayers and pleas have been answered.

For many of us, including Beldar and the Powerline crew, Hugh Hewitt is our touchstone for conservative multimedia, as William F. Buckley bridged print and electronic media for my mother’s generation. Some ingenious TV network executive should offer Hugh his own new media showcase. (Paging Roger Ailes.) He is the only center-right talk radio elite who blogs and is a generous promoter of fellow bloggers, many of whom he inspired. His guests tend to be the tech-savvy influential thinkers of the September 12th era. (Could I be more complimentary? Heck, yeah.)

As Michelle Malkin and John Hinderaker proclaimed, Hugh Hewitt is one of this election year’s notable winners. President Bush and his supporters owe Hugh big time for keeping the Republican base informed and inspirited throughout the cycles of the campaign, especially after that first debate. Consider this my down payment.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Mark of Soros

Here’s a presidential riddle. He’s a homely man, tall and lanky. In polite society, his wife is considered eccentric and even unstable. He is the Commander-in-Chief during a wartime period of intense national polarization. Who is he?

Well, he’s not John Kerry, thank God, although Kerry did earn enough votes to qualify as president of almost half a country. Surely he deserves something to show for his decades-long preparation for the position. Let’s give him Canada. With all the frozen tundra, there’s probably only half a country there anyway. He could show off his prep school French and hang out with other like-minded expatriates.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the elegant statesmanship of John Kerry’s concession speech. He was way more prompt and gracious than Al Gore. At this rate of progress, Hillary Clinton will concede in October 2008. Seriously, I do feel their pain. I have had my heart broken by more than one election gone awry. In fact, I am in such a charitable mood that I have some advice for the Kerrys and their sad, increasingly irrelevant party.

After winning the hearts of Europeans, tyrants and terrorists, I cannot imagine Kerry being content now to walk behind Teddy Kennedy and pick up his swizzle sticks. Maybe CBS will give Mr. K and Mrs. H-K their own reality shows. While he looked downright unnatural in his sporting poses, the camera (and late night comedians) seemed to love her. He could take spring training with the Red Sox a la George Plimpton’s Paper Lion. The Curt Schilling beanball episode would be must-see-TV. Teresa and Denise Rich could star in a grumpy old women version of The Simple Life, the show where two wealthy, pampered females divested of their material resources try to survive in the heartland on their wits alone. Call it Red State Blues.

Although it must seem paltry consolation, Kerry can always return to his part-time job in the Congress, which, along with the mainstream media and academia, is one of the few safe havens left for liberals. Take a look at the 2004 map of red and blue counties. The blue pockets are shrinking. As he retires from the Senate, Zell Miller is the last of the blue dog Democrats with a red state sensibility. There are moderate Democrats in the House and the Senate but none with any real authority.

Some moderate Democrat voices are saying their party should refocus on traditional American values. Good. If you mean it, study the examples of Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh. We’ll be watching your actions to see if they match your words. We’ll be waiting to see who your friends are.

Some extremist Democrat voices are threatening to leave the country. Good riddance. If you really want to help your party, follow Michael Moore and Larry Flynt out the door. Take George Soros with you. Under their controlling influence, the Democrat Party has become the party of hate, condescension, and intolerance.

On Tuesday, November 2, 2004, a majority of the American people sent a unified message. Liberal candidates can run outside of their limited domain, but they cannot hide their true nature and intentions from the rest of us. The liberal media cannot hide their skewed agenda and disdain for the rest of us. The contempt is mutual.

This may be your final warning.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Waiting on Judgment Day

The first event that breached my son Chris’s civic consciousness was the first Gulf War, when he was seven years old. We were glued to CNN, the only 24-hour news channel at the time, and President Bush the elder became his idol. He treasures the memory of seeing Bush 41 close-up at a 1992 campaign rally a mile from our home.

When Clinton was declared the victor of that election, Chris was angry, afraid and seeking reassurance about the future. I reminded him that our country is strong and resilient. I promised that, no matter what, we would always be safe.

I was wrong.

President Bush 43 is still cleaning up the rubble left by the Clinton administration at home and abroad while his opponents plagiarize the Clinton blueprint for deception and distortion to exploit the electorate. Perhaps rubble is not the right word to describe the cataclysm of September 11th, the coarsening of our culture, the compromising of our values, the cheapening of our language, the corruption of the truth, and the collapse of "integrity, integrity, integrity." In January 2001, we were less safe after eight years of Clinton neglect, which we did not realize fully until September 11th. We were less unified after eight years of polarization by class, race, age and gender warfare. We were less trusting of political figures after eight years of gotcha gamesmanship. We were less confident in our political institutions after eight years of cynical rhetoric.

Now my son is in college, preparing to vote in his first presidential election after spending his formative years establishing what he does not want in a president. His generation will face the long-term consequences of the choices we make tomorrow. Chris understands that his future and his country’s future are at stake. Recently we were discussing someone we know whose support of Bush is unexpectedly tepid. "Ask him how he likes his country," Chris urged, "regular or extra-crispy."

Like many who are alarmed by the popularity of John Kerry’s unwillingness to wage a decisive war on terror, we are a family braced for the worst-case scenario. Kerry has run a Clintonesque debase-the-base campaign but with all the charisma and wisdom of Jimmy Carter, which may qualify him as the first hybrid lemon of the 21st century manufactured in the USA. I would like to believe that the electorate, after test-driving Kerry for six months or longer, will choose the more reliable, proven, family-friendly model.

Then again, I would like to believe that the electorate is well informed about issues and candidates; however, polls and personal experience suggest otherwise. I am less concerned about a small percentage identified as undecided that is chronically apathetic than the large plurality surveyed nationwide who seem willing to vote for another lying liberal of no obvious accomplishment whose only consistency is that he has consistently been on the wrong side of history on the Cold War, the spread of democracy, defense, tax cuts, etc. In fact, I find it scary as hell and I mean that in the Biblical sense.

Whenever I feel swamped by emotion, I have a two-phased reaction. The first is to reclaim rationality by dissecting the situation nearly to death. The second is to assert whatever control I have over the situation. Writing helps me work through both phases.

I blog; therefore, I have strong opinions. No, duh. A brand name like Everyone Is Entitled to My Opinion might imply that I am a cocky activist when it was actually intended to be self-effacing. In real life conversation, I rarely assume that anyone shares or cares about my politics and I am loath to sell my ideas. I had worked in campaigns before, but I always ended up talking on the phone, selling my ideas. So, although the GOP phone banks beckoned to me since last summer, I was late answering the call, figuratively speaking of course.

While procrastinating, I worried about widespread fraud and gullible youth duped by a dodgy draft non-issue. I wondered about millions of Christian evangelicals who abstained in the 2000 election but who after September 11th became staunch supporters of Israel and President Bush’s Middle East plan. I tried and failed to comprehend what makes Bush so contemptible to so many, including friends who consider Michael Moore a primary source of information. I battled combat fatigue, avoided new conflict and embraced the cozy sanctuary of the center-right blogosphere. I envisioned Kerry supporters as reckless fools rushing to the rooftops to greet alien spaceships in the movie Independence Day. I let myself become discouraged by polls and spin and media malfeasance.

Finally Chris and I volunteered in the get-out-the-vote here in Orange County, California, a conservative oasis for Republicans in a state represented mostly by liberal Democrats. Our GOP phone banks are so well staffed that we were sent home with lists of voters in our community and in Colorado, registered Republicans all.

In contrast to some locals, all the Coloradoans I called were thoroughly polite, warm, thoughtful, generous with their time and opinions. Perhaps they were grateful to be courted like the Ohioans and Floridians. Some expressed relief that I was a live Republican instead of an automated message from Madeleine Albright (somebody please explain that desperate strategy). Aside from any psychological conclusions I could draw from the geographic distinctions, I rediscovered those welcome human truths I referenced in my abstract homily to my son twelve years ago this week.

One particularly kind Coloradoan told me that the last Democrat he voted for is Jimmy Carter, who turned him into a Reaganite. Like me, he sees Kerry-Carter and Kerry-Clinton parallels. We discussed the post-Carter repudiation and correction that led to the swift onset of the end of the Cold War. He reminded me that our nation is strong and resilient.

By this time tomorrow night we will know if there are enough such Coloradoans, Ohioans and Floridians to re-elect George W. Bush. If I have regained confidence in anything, it is the certainty that there are enough Americans prepared to clean up the pile left by another national folly, if folly there be.

As we watch the cost and the rubble grow, one family asks, "How high?"