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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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William F. Buckley, who passed away yesterday, was of my father’s generation. Buckley was considered the premier promoter of mainstream conservatism (some would say arch-conservatism) in the United States. My father, who could not have been more different From William F. in terms of worldview, was still able to admire Buckley’s style while largely rejecting his substance.  

Buckley preached a particularly distressing brand of close-minded conservatism that brooked no arguments. The founder and head of the magazine National Review, he  promoted ideas that seemed to me to be outdated, outmoded and outflanked by the realities of our post-Cold War world.

The salient point is that Buckley knew how to debate, or rather, he knew what it meant to have a debate of ideas that didn’t involve wallowing in the muck of personal diatribes. Well, perhaps that’s not entire accurate: Poor Howard K. Smith of ABC news got far more than he bargained for when Buckley and Gore Vidal exchanged insults on live television during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Vidal called Buckley a crypto-Nazi and Buckley called Vidal a “queer” and threatened to plaster his face…well, you get the idea.  

And yet, for the most part, he was, in public and apparently in private good-natured and good-humored. His weapons in the war of ideologies were words, many-layered, little-used representatives of our language strung together in graceful phrases inflected with his uniquely patrician voice. Not for him the rude, crude, simple-minded hate-mongering that passes for dialogue on today’s broadcast and Internet forums. 

The obituaries this morning seemed to rise to the occasion; Buckley might have been pleased. The Chicago Tribune wrote of Buckley’s “brilliant mind and Brobdingnagian vocabulary” and the Times  referred to him as the “Sesquipedalian Spark of (the) Right.” I’m embarrassed to say I needed help with the supersized words but I now know (or perhaps remember from an earlier encounter) that  Brobdingnagian, meaning “out-sized or colossal”, derives from Brobdingnag, the fictitious land of the giants in Gulliver’s Travels  by Jonathan Swift. Sesquipedalian refers to using long words, a trait Buckley shared with my father. Maybe that’s why I feel something has been permanently lost; some connection to a faraway and long-ago place where people could discuss, debate, disagree or argue with style and wit and then go out together for drinks.

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There’s an amazing adrenaline rush that comes from being throughly invested in the outcome of a contest, second only to engaging in that contest directly. Human beings seem to love competition and if you can’t compete, pick sides and saddle up. Or so I was thinking as I was shouting myself hoarse at last night’s Super Bowl party.

I don’t follow football as a general rule; don’t take part in office pools or bet on draft picks.  But somewhere around December, I got caught up in the drama of the New York/New Jersey Giants (hey, I’m trying to be fair here). After all, they seemed to be playing their best football almost impossibly late in the season. Meanwhile, there were the New England Patriots, on their way to compiling a perfect record, although really, who’s ever perfect? As I watched the Giants appear to grow in size, stature, speed and maturity over the course of a few weeks, I started tuning in more. Then I was hooked.

I went to the party last night with high spirits and low expectations. I mean, it was a great ride but the Giants were up against a perfect team. Then the impossible happened and the rest, as they say, is history. The Giants scored a huge upset and became Super Bowl champs.

An uncharacteristically giddy Tom Coughlin, the Giants’ coach, summed up the victory aptly when he said, “Every team is beatable, you know.” Given what the landscape looks like as we approach Super Tuesday’s set of Presidential primaries , I’d say that was an apt motto to remember, you know?

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So many things seem to be in the toilet I don’t know where to begin.  Take the economy – please, take it and fix it, something neither the President or his Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke seem to be able to do. Bush’s recently announced $145 billion tax relief package only seemed to grease the Dow’s slide. Talk about instilling confidence. The world continues to offer its share of troubled spots: Kenya and Gaza are the current headliners along with Pakistan, of course.

For rock bottom, you can’t beat the innuendos, rumors and just plain ugly comments the candidates and especially their surrogates seem unable to resist. Barak Obama and his surrogates absolutely elevated Hillary’s comments about LBJ’s putting King’s dreams into actions (ungainly but understandable on some level) practically into a race war of words. Bill Clinton’s temper is showing with his attacks on Obama, who has enough problems with  the e-mail chain letter insisting the Senator is a Muslim. He isn’t, but why he has to waste energy refuting that claim goes to a different discussion about the role religion is playing in this Presidential contest – and trust me, I have lots to say on the subject. On the Republican side, the ghost of Lee Atwater seemed to chase McCain all over South Carolina but he persevered, thanks to his Truth Squad; now he just has to deal with Huckabee celebrity supporter Chuck Norris claiming that McCain is too old.

I know conventional wisdom suggests that rumor-monging can be effective if it plants the seeds of doubt in some voters but I think it’s more likely such tactics would keep many away from the polls altogether. I sometimes wonder if those who are invested in spreading personal and political falsehoods about the candidates they are so desperate to see defeated think about such things. The cost of this race is already embarrssingly high – the GNP of many countries, no doubt. But cost also refers to other less tangible things like prestige. The whole world really is watching. True, we aren’t likely to experience riots following our elections as in Kenya or other parts of the world. On the other hand, we might want to put the bar a great deal higher than that, at least if we’re going to promote ourselves as the best entity to promote democracy.

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This is the time of year when retrospectives abound. I spent the weekend perusing the Internet, watching a little TV and reading this and that magazine. You pretty much know what everyone was focusing on, which is to say everything from the Presidential race and the deaths of various political and cultural icons over the past year to the overexposed shenanigans of our rehab/jailhouse-bound celebrities young and not so young. Being fond of taking the unique view, I’ve chosen to highlight those activities and events that seem to have largely slipped past the media searchlights to offer my own perspective on the year just about to expire. Herewith, my list:

Most Overlooked Event of 2007: The Virginia Tech Massacre has scarcely merited a mention, perhaps because of the dangerously intrusive way in which it was handled by the media.

Irony Award: The discovery that skin cells might be able to mimic and eliminate the need for embryonic stem cells, thus deflating what was a truly hot-button issue at the beginning of the year

Sports Upset: Not A-Rod or Torre or the Sox or the doping report but the Philadelphia Phillies, who after amassing the most losing record of any major sports franchise in history (10,000 losses) in July, went on in September to win the National League East Division

Where Was That Uprising: Burma, AKA Myanmar, only one of several hot spots this year experiencing uprisings but hard to track because of we didn’t know which name the media was using on any given day.

Reason for Despair Division: Crime rates in cities like Newark, Camden and Philadelphia; the upswing in diabetes and obesity; the failure of the U.S. policy of “democracy promotion” and the lack of a credible alternative plan (actually, that’s been in the news quite a bit but it bears repeating); the television writers’ strike; 2008 is an election year.

Reason for Hope Division: Skin cells and stem cells (see above); anything Mike Bloomberg does in New York; more celebrities coughing up more money than ever before (I don’t care why they’re doing it; they’re committing real time and real money and bringing real attention to real problems); 2008 is an election year.

Well, the calendar will change whether we want it to or not, so bring it on. At least we’ll get an extra day in 2008 to sort it all out.

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If you’re a fan of baseball, which I am, the recent report from George Mitchell about steroid use is disappointing. It’s also unsurprising.  Maybe that’s because the other sport I loosely follow, professional cycling, has also been severely injured by recent drug use revelations. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig made clear in a statement that although specific ballplayers whave been singled out in the report, there’s plenty of blame to go around – owners, managers, coaches and trainers. He didn’t mention fans, of course, and most of them professed shock that their heroes had allowed themselves to be seduced by the promise of performance-enhancing drugs. They worried about the accuracy of new records, the fairness of nominations to the Baseball Hall of Fame (Roger Clemens is up for a slot) and, oh yes, the kind of example it sets for their kids. Given the problems of steroid use among young high schoole athletes, I shouldn’t wonder they’d worry. Then again, given the recent spate of stories about overly-amped up parents with an eye on athletic scholarships pushing their children to succeed at all costs, maybe it’s the kids who should worry.

Frankly, the fans need to take some responsibility here. They’re the ones forking over the dough to see professional sports. Given the cost, they want more, which is understandable: harder faster, more speed on the ball, more balls out of the park. But come on. How do they think these high-priced guys pushing  past thirty-fives deliver the goods? What do they imagine sports franchises overlook in pursuit of the electric excitement they think their ticket-holders crave?

So what’s it gonna be, fans? More of the juiced up performances we’ve come to know or perhaps something a little less frenetic? There are plenty of talented players who don’t use drugs – or at least I will continue to hope so. Let’s send a message to the owners, managers, coaches, trainers and players that we, as consumers, are unwilling to accept a tainted product.

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It really does seem as if the definition of “newsworthy” has been blurred beyond recognition…or perhaps simply swallowed whole by the insatiable beast that is today’s insta-news. Really, how do you fill all that cyber-space and give all those talking heads something to say? You create stories out of nothing or do what my dad used to refer to as “making a mountain out of a molehill.” Take the story that circulated last week about Candidate Clinton’s Cough. Breaking news story, complete with portentious music lead-in. Puleeze, it wasn’t consequential enough to warrant the effort. Then there are the stories that feel recylced; indeed they are, with minor revisions.  My favorite? “Winter Heating Costs Could Rise As Much As 10.5 Percent.” Maybe the numbers have changed but I could swear we’ve seen that story every winter for decades.  Then there are the stories that trumpet the results of some study or other. After awhile, even media outlets get a little skeptical about whether a study that shows eating high-fat foods can lead to weight increase or children who exercise are healthier is news. I mean, duh. Sometimes you get stories that seem like retreads, even if they aren’t precisely. Headlines about Iraq and Pakistan begin to feel that way; someone even said to me about the latest natural disaster in Bangladesh – “again?” 

Yesterday’s news about Barry Bonds’ indictment  felt like an old, tired, unsurprising and even recylced story. Whether you think it’s consequential, i.e. newsworthy, probably depends on whether you see it as a cautionary tale of one man’s pursuit of a coveted record or our pursuit of an umblemished hero.

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On a humid gray Friday in mid-October when you have to wonder who forgot to order autumn or if Florida has decided to punish us for relocating our populations down there all these years by relocating its weather to the Northeast – on such an icky, sticky morning, it won’t do to dwell on the news. I mean, what do we have here: the House sustains the President’s veto on providing health care for uninsured children, because we wouldn’t want to start a trend of calling on government to aid its poorest citizens. Or how about the unrest, following the return of former Prime Minister Bhutto, in an already unstable Pakistan, whose alliance forms the cornerstone of our shaky Mid-East policy? Now that inspires confidence. Oh, the Coast Guard will be able to establish an operating base in the Arctic Ocean because the summers are warm enough now and because they want to be prepared to help clean up the environmental damage that will undoubtedly be caused by ships now seeking passage through the Bering Strait. Good to be prepared, right? For slightly lighter but not exactly happier news, we could read about the breakup of French President Sarkozy’s marriage or the bungled manner in which Yankees’ management handled their decision on Joe Torre. But I found something to brighten my day and it’s only a mouse-click away. No, it’s not pictures of cute puppies or heartwarming tales of reunited families. However, if you want to indulge your inner mean girl (or guy), break out the chocolates, pour yourself another cup (and don’t worry if you’re at the office – just be smart about noting who’s looking over your shoulder) and enjoy the reviews.

I’m talking about hitting up the movie section on MSN and going directly to “Celebrities Undressed,” a delightfully bitchy look at what some of our favorite famous ladies (and occasionally a few guys) wore to the latest red-carpet affair. Not being a celebrity blogger, I don’t follow the dish that regularly flows from sites like Perez Hilton or TMZ. But for a quick fix of low-cost, low-impact nastiness, the dressing-down of dressed-up stars can’t be beat. You can then return to your task, whether it’s crunching numbers, raising your kids, raising other people’s kids , waiting tables or waiting for the world to change, secure in the knowledge that no celebrities were seriously harmed during the making of your moment of fun during a dreary day.

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I’m more of a Mets fan than a Yankees follower (I retain a favored place for the hapless Cubs) but I’m a long-time fan of Joe Torre. The catcher (beginning with my hometown team, the Milwaukee Braves) turned manager (including several seasons for the Mets), has been a real class act over the last twelve years, a nice balance to the bombastic George Steinbrenner, who he has famously withstood. But twelve years is a long time, punctuated by several inglorious near-misses as well as those World Series wins, not to mention health scares for him and his family. So is it time for Torre to go? Even his admirers think that something’s gotta give. From the sports writers to the bean counters to the Ultimate Decider, everyone’s looking at job performance, return on investment and (hopefully) the team’s well-being. Someone is (or several someones are) then held accountable and action is taken. The Mets are going through the same painful process across town.

 

Accountability seems to be operational in sports, maybe because so much money is involved. Still, I can’t help but wonder why it doesn’t work better when it comes to our government. Technically, we’re all owners. It’s our money. Elections are coming up. Let’s take a page from the owners and hell, the fans and get more insistent about job performance, return on investment and the well-being of our nation. The buck’s gotta stop somewhere.

 

 

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The new season of Lost, ABC’s hit TV show, is one of the few that doesn’t debut this week; fans have to wait until February 08. Still there was enough lost in the past week to make one’s head spin. The Mets’ roller coaster season ended in a stunning loss last weekend. Britney Spears lost custody of her kids and could lose her dog too, if PETA has its way. Then Larry Craig lost his bid to remove his guilty plea for misconduct in Minneapolis but chose to stay in the Senate despite having already lost several key committee positions. Fred Thompson has certainly lost some of his luster as a candidate, if his recent performances are any indication. On a far more serious note, a distraught mother of three trying to make a plane to take her to a rehab facility lost her life in a holding cell in a Phoenix airport under somewhat suspicious circumstances. Myanmar, aka Burma, lost contact with the outside world when the repressive government attempted to shut off all communications in order to deflect attention away from its brutality against pro-democracy forces. Soldiers and civilians alike continue to lose their lives in Iraq and elsewhere in this troubled world of ours. I’m wondering, not for the first time, if here in the US, we’ve lost our way. Mostly I’m still waiting to hear exactly what our leaders, present and future, are going to do about it. And I don’t want to wait until February of 08 to find out.

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