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Archive for August, 2008

I was all set to write about my impressions of the Democratic Convention, then hesitated. After all, everyone and their grandmothers seem to be writing, blogging, reporting or otherwise bloviating (can you tell that’s my favorite word of late?) about the emotional, unpredictable, competitive, insecure and ardently committed spectacle that is the Democratic Party these days. 

Conventional wisdom has it that these partisan get-togethers rouse the faithful, mildly interest the curious , make no difference to the decided and may or may not affect the decisions of those who claim not to have made up their minds. I’d like to think that a speech that delineates clear differences (like the one VP nominee Joe Biden gave last night) or presents definitive approaches (as we hope Obama and McCain will do. Note I don’t necessarily expect either candidate to propose solutions; I just want to hear them identify the problems and tell us how they’d deal with them) – anyway, I’d like to think that such a speech will steer all of us towards thinking about, talking about and making our decisions based on a working understanding of the differences between the two candidates on policy, not personality. Talk about wishful thinking!

Well, I’ve got tonight and all of next week to listen and learn. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I believe you can find out more from a speech than from an attack ad.  Meanwhile, once the two conventions are over and the requisite spikes and bounces for the candidates are duly noted, we’ve got a horserace on our hands. That’s serious business but for now, Democrats and Republicans, party on!

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Jon Stewart makes me laugh. He also makes me think.” Those words, coming from a young friend of nearly twenty certainly got me thinking and what I came up with is: Jon Stewart makes me thankful.

This is a guy who views comedy as a way for dealing with and bringing forth serious issues. He is, according to his compatriot, Stephen Colbert, a “clear thinker” but it’s pretty clear that he’s also passionate. About what, you may ask? About exposing hypocrisy, debunking ideology, rejecting the self-important bloviating that passes for cable commentary (Colbert does a brilliant enough job of skewering those shows on “The Colbert Report”).  And where else can you find an Elmo-like puppet named Gitmo as a way of addressing the issue of torture that isn’t, as Stewart puts it, “not torture to listen to.”

On September 20, 2001, on or about the first time I managed to turn on the television after the attacks, Stewart got on the air to talk about how privileged he was to live in a country where he was free to make wisecracks and he let us know “why I grieve but why I don’t despair.” After which, I was hooked. I’m telling you, I can’t wait to see “The Daily Show” team cover the conventions.

In a terrific piece on Stewart and Company in the Sunday New York Times, Colbert explained Stewart’s approach to satire as a distilling process. “You have an enormous amount of material, and you have to distill it to a syrup by the end of the day,” he noted. “So much of it is a hewing process, chipping away at things that aren’t the point or aren’t the story or aren’t the intention.”

That is a perfect description of critical thinking, a sadly neglected way of dealing with information that asks us to examine and sort through the tons of junk coming our way rather than automatically accepting all things as equal, true or relevant. My god, if Jon Stewart, with his mild-mannered, low-key, lightly self-depricating (“I’m just a comic”) ultimately hopeful demeanor can get the next generation to think thinking is cool, well, that makes my heart swell.

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Men!

This is not, nor was it every supposed to be, a women’s blog. Yes, it’s called 1 Woman’s Vu because I’m a woman and I’m sharing my viewpoint and I suppose my gender, as much as any other of my attributes, does affect the way I see things. But I don’t tend to write about women’s issues per se although in real life I am very much interested in them.

But two guys hit the news today and the news about each of them has screwed with my head. Maybe it’s a female thing but I’m trying so hard to understand the rationale behind the behavior of these less rational males.

Brett Favre: I wasn’t watching much TV and I missed the sports section until this morning which is when I found out the Favre, apparently very emotionally although not physically injured during his time with the Green Bay Packers has signed with the New York Jets.  As an original “cheesehead” with a permanent jones for the Packers I’m disappointed and also concerned for the Jets what with Favre’s wondering aloud how he can help the team in a short amount of time. How short an amount of time is he thinking? A few seasons? One season?  The Jets are trying to show him how beyond grateful they are that he might be able to put some rear ends into the seats of the multi-millions dollar arena where they’ll soon be playing. Hope he appreciates it enough to take his foot out of the door.

 John Edwards: Oh for Cripe’s sake, John. Yes, you’re attractive and yes it’s stressful to run for office, stand for great issues, have a wife who is critically and irreversibly ill and still keep your hair looking so good but an affair?  That you lied about? And then excused by stating that you didn’t love the woman? And that comment to the press that they can’t beat you up any more than you’ve already beat yourself up? Totally lame. My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

Look, we know that relationships, whether with one’s spouse or one’s boss, can hit rough patches here and there. But these weren’t handled well. Yeah, these are just humans, male version, but they’re also icons. We expect our icons to take responsibility, stick with their committments and man up.

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This is the summer of my discontent, at least when it comes to where I live. It’s a nice enough development, convenient to transportation and just outside the tony town of Princeton. But the twenty-something-year-old townhouses are showing signs of wear and tear. I’ve been having my cracking popcorn ceilings removed room by painful, messy and costly room, only to discover that the popcorn was hiding the contractor’s original sheet-rock handiwork, which is lousy. The new hospital to be built across the increasingly noisy highway my development abuts isn’t thrilling me either; it just means I can listen to the wail of an ambulance fighting its way through Route 1 traffic along with the constant squeal of trucks braking.

What’s got me even more crabby is the state I’m in – not my emotion or physical state but the state of New Jersey. It’sis the most densely populated state in the union with the sorriest excuse for a transportation system you can imagine. The property taxes have long been outrageous. We can’t even manage a world-class public university on the order of University of Pennsylvania or Michigan or Massachusetts. We have all these autonomous little towns, townships and school districts, each with its own library and fire department and school and well-paid administrators located maybe two miles from another fully outfitted township. Total waste of resources and taxes but you know that no one’s going to consider consolidating and letting go of his, her or their piece of the pie. Anyway, in New Jersey, the surest way to lose an election is to remove well-connected people from their comfortable jobs. Thus we have a whopping 38 or 40 or 42 – I’m losing track – billion dollar deficit to go along with the tanking economy. I’m also losing track of the number of politicians and so-called civic leaders who’ve been indicted or will be indicted or should be indicted. Try reading a book by reporters Bob Ingel and Sandy McClure called “The Soprano State: New Jersey’s Culture of Corruption.” It’s funny and infuriating, especially if you live here, which I find I’m too embarrassed to admit. I hate when people ask me where I’m from when I’m traveling; I tell them I was born in Wisconsin and New Jersey is so not my fault.

Not that I’m doing much traveling, because this is also the summer of the day trip and the “staycation” which means we’re all hanging out where we are.  Which is why I was so unaccountably moved by an essay in the New Jersey section of the NY Times,  a review of a Springsteen concert turned into a love song about New Jersey. Physically, not to mention culturally, we sport enough  diversity to mirror the entire country. You can travel from the shore to the Delaware River, from the mountains to the marshes and reach the greatest city in the world, New York and its not too shabby cousin, Philadelphia, all on less than a tank of gas.

So while I dream of a warm and welcoming community someplace more afforable and less tainted, where I can live with pride in my small, sustainably green house, well, I’m here. The popcorn ceiling is gone in the kitchen and I’m ignoring the crack in the living room. I’m an hour from the shore and a half hour from the river. It’s summer in Jersey and if it’s good enough for the Boss, it’s good enough for me.

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