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“All of us, we all have a responsibility. You have to get your news from news sources, not just one, ’cause they’re all biased, especially the cable channels: MSNBC – very liberal; Fox News – very conservative; The Animal Planet – always meerkats, never badgers.

“You know what bothers me is that every election year as well, you get the voter registration drives aimed at the young people – Rock the Vote, Think the Vote, Music the Vote…. Are we so lost we have to be sold our own democratic right?!…. We have to sexy up the vote for young people?

“Here’s what I would say to you: ‘If you don’t vote, you’re a moron.’ I know what you’ll say: ‘Not voting is a vote.’ No it isn’t. Not voting is just being stupid!

“Voting is not sexy. Voting is not hep. It is not fashionable. It’s not a movie, it’s not a video game. All the kids ain’t doin’ it. Frankly, voting is a pain in the ass! But here’s a word – look it up. It is your DUTY to vote!

“The foundation in this democracy is based on free people making free choices. So young people, if you can’t take your hand out of your bag of Cheetos long enough to fill out a form, then you can’t complain when we wind up with President Sanjaya.

“We have two patriotic candidates. They both love this country, they have different ideas about what to do with it. Learn about them, read about them, question them, listen to them. Then on Election Day, exercise your sacred right as an American and listen to yourself.”

– Craig Ferguson, The Craig Ferguson Show, 9/11/08

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“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
– Josef Stalin

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Best Campaign Season Song:

They Lost My Vote by my dear friends Ellen Bukstel and Nancy Wuerzburger
Watch it on the YouTube: They Lost My Vote
(I actually appear in this video very briefly!)

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Best Number to Call if You See Something Funky Happening at the Polls:

ELECTION PROTECTION HOTLINE
866/OUR-VOTE – that’s 866/687-8683

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Most Satisfying Campaign Violence:

David Alan Grier pulverizing an Obama-to-McCain vote-flipping electronic voting machine with a baseball bat – Chocolate News, 10/25/08

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Best Campaign Season Commercial:

Video collage of people ordering at the drive-thru, followed by: We know you have a voice. We hear it every day. Use it November 4th. VOTE. Have it your way ’08 – Burger King

Advertisements

or: Are We There Yet?

“New Rule: Stop saying we can’t impeach George Bush. We still have two months!” – Dennis Kucinich, DNC New Rules, Real Time with Bill Maher, 9/08

“Mo [Rocca] used to host a TV show called ‘Things I Hate About You’. I’m sure I’ve seen that program, only I believe it’s now called Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” – Dick Cheney, 2008 Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner

“We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” – John McCain, Presidential Debate the Third, 10/15/08

“It reminds me a little bit of what Mary McCarthy once said about Lillian Hellman: ‘Every word out of her mouth is a lie including and and the.’” – Jonathan Alter of Newsweek on McCain’s lies about Obama, The Rachel Maddow Show, 9/10/08

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“Gov. Palin brought up Joe Biden’s quote [re offshore drilling] about us raping the ocean floors this evening. Does Gov. Palin support the ocean paying for its own rape kits?” – John Oliver to Senior McCain Advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin on the Vice-Presidential Debate – The Daily Show, 10/06/08

“Keith, I’m going to be as restrained and measured as I possibly can about this, but this is the most mindless, ignorant, uninformed comment that we have seen from Gov. Palin so far, and there’s been a lot of competition for that prize.” – Richard Wolffe of Newsweek on Gov. Palin’s ridicule of scientific research using fruit flies during her first policy speech, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 10/24/08

“There’s no doubt that what Sen. Edwards did shows a serious lack of judgment. But just because a married man cheats on his wife with a younger blonde he met in a bar doesn’t mean he’s not a patriot. Just ask John McCain.” – Bill Maher, Real Time with Bill Maher, 9/08

“This bailout does feel like trying to pull a car out of a ditch and finding out it’s out of gas. You’re making progress, but you’re still not going anywhere.” – Craig Crawford of CQPolitics.com, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 10/03/08

“It’s a good idea to save your money. One day it might be worth something again!” – Alfred E. Neuman

“This campaign… began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as ‘The One’. Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him ‘that one’. He doesn’t mind at all, in fact he even has a pet name for me: George Bush.” – John McCain at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, 10/16/08

“I was thrilled to get this invitation and I feel right at home here, because it’s often been said that I have the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Neuman.” – Barack Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, 10/16/08

“How come we choose from just two people for President, and fifty for Miss America?” – Alfred E. Neuman

“The reason why Absurdist plays take place in No Man’s Land with only two characters is primarily financial.” – Arther Adamov, Russian-born French dramatist

“In our time of lies and hate it seems appropriate to be reminded of the beauty of saying yes to the chaos of truth….” – Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from James Joyce’s Ulysses

I have, until now, refrained from commenting upon Republican Candidate for Spokes-Vice President Sarah Palin and her oh-so-many commentworthy characteristics. I do have my opinions about Palin, but so does everyone else – and as far as I could see, everything I’d been thinking was already being said by someone else.

But now I feel I must speak up, being uniquely qualified to comment upon one particular facet of this multi-faceted candidate: Sarah Palin as Flautist.

This is in my bailiwick.

By now you may have seen the video of Palin playing “The Homecoming” during the Talent portion of the 1984 Miss Alaska competion (Though her name wasn’t Palin then, she was Sarah Heath.)

In case you yourself are not a professional flautist or music journalist like me, please allow me to give you the benefit of my expertise in evaluating this performance.

The MC introduced Ms. Heath, saying the piece she was going to play was arranged by “Sarah’s favorite artist, James Galway”. Unfortunately, the Galway influence was in no way evident in her performance.

Palin’s posture was good, and her flute position was generally good as well, but not her finger position. Among other things, she makes the classic rookie mistake of moving her fingers way too much, and most especially, sticking her left pinkie way up in the air. Good flute technique dictates keeping your fingertips close to the keys at all times, and using the absolute minimum amount of movement required to play each note.

It’s easy to see Palin’s stage presence, self-possession and charm in this video, as she smiles unwaveringly despite her generally horrid playing. If you watched the video with the sound off, you would probably think she was feeling good about a very successful performance. Her ability to put the best face on things in this way has obviously served her quite well over the years.

But with the sound on… well, that’s another story. Her breathing is shaky and uneven – like many amateur flautists – making her phrasing short and choppy, and her tone shrill and unsteady. More experienced flautists learn how to breathe through the stage fright everyone gets, so it doesn’t affect our playing.

There’s no passion or genuine artistic expression in her playing; what we hear here is a pretty rote delivery of (approximately) what’s written in the sheet music. Worst of all is Palin’s pitch – really, really bad pitch.

In all fairness, I must say that the live house band accompanying her is also pretty bad, especially in the pitch department, and the whole lot get progressively more out of tune as the song wears on. Unfortunately they’re all off-pitch in divergent directions, resulting in a painfully dissonant ensemble, rather than the sweet, slightly chaotic disharmony of, say, Lisa Simpson’s school orchestra.

All in all, I’d have to place Palin’s performance on a level with an okay grade-schooler, or a not very good junior high student musician. That said, as far as I know, we haven’t had any decent musicians among our Presidential candidates for quite a while now. Ah, for the days when politicans valued the arts!

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“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.”
– Pres. John F. Kennedy, honoring Robert Frost, October 1963

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The Campaign Gets Personal – Episode 1

Best line of the Democratic National Convention, delivered by Barney Smith, a blue collar worker in a red and white checked shirt sporting a small blue Obama button, in front of 84,000 people at Invesco Field, and 38 million watching on TV. Appearing unaccustomed to public speaking, Smith spoke plainly about growing up in the heartland, following in his father’s footsteps – raising a family and working a good manufacturing job at an RCA plant – until his job was outsourced in 2004, and he got 90 days severance pay after working there for 31 years… followed by 13 months of unemployment:

“For most of my life I was a proud Republican – but not any more…. The Republicans talk about putting country first, but tell that to Marion, Indiana. They sent my job overseas. America can’t stand more of the same.

“We need a President who puts Barney Smith before Smith Barney!”

– Barney Smith, 28 August 2008 – Democratic Convention, Denver, Colorado

Or: The Green, Green Groceries of Home

So Wednesday night I’m chillin’, watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and, as per usual, Keith is talking about John McCain’s latest gaffe, and all of a sudden, he says: “In front of the cheese case at the King’s Supermarket at the Westgate Mall in Bethlehem, Pa, the Senator tried to clear up any confusion….” etc. etc. And I sit bolt upright, look at the screen, and sure enough, there’s McCain in the local supermarket right near my parents’ house!

This is the grocery store I drag my father to any time I need ice cream or potato chips or seltzer or whatever else I’m craving that my parents don’t tend to keep in the house. I know this store and the Westgate Mall pretty well. It’s barely a mall by today’s standards, just a little strip mall. The supermarket is not that super either, it just happens to be the closest one. When I go with my stepmom to do a real grocery shopping, we always hit the Wegmans that’s a lot bigger and much better, but a little farther away. Though it’s not exactly small, King’s is much more of a Bethlehem small-town grocery store, while Wegman’s is a megastore that makes its own sushi, espresso and focaccia inhouse – not the kind of store I grew up with, or ever expect to see when I visit Bethlehem, though it’s been open for several years now.

I still remember Schoenen’s, the little grocery store I went to with my mom a thousand times – a family business, much smaller and humbler – off the main streets in a little neighborhood on the way to my high school. I remember its little parking lot – maybe 20 spaces – along the side of the store, and the big church and associated church school across the street on two sides of the store. I never knew anyone who went to that church, and its little plaid-skirted students always looked very foreign to me; but my mom always ran into people she knew at Schoenen’s, and always chatted with them – sometimes a little longer than I would have liked. That’s probably why I remember the outside of the store better than the inside, because that’s usually where I was while she was chatting. She was friendly like that.

Schoenen’s is probably long gone now. Since my mom passed away, and my dad remarried and moved with the family to a new home or two, this King’s store has been my parents’ neighborhood grocery for many years. And seeing this little bit of home on the national news really got me. The same thing happens when I see the inevitable footage of Syracuse snow every winter on the news, or deco hotels I recognize from around town on old episodes of Miami Vice, and most especially when I see footage of New Orleans. I remember after Katrina seeing a particularly wrenching photo of the devastated St. Roch Market – I always used to drive crosstown to buy crawfish there – theirs was the best!

What is it about the places we’ve lived that even a glimpse of a grocery store there can so stir these feelings of yearning, longing and general tugging at the heart? I don’t have any brilliant or profound insights here, I’m just noticing how much these little sightings affect me, and wondering…. No doubt others have written voluminously on this subject, so maybe I’ll just read some of what’s already been written, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel here.

Anyway, back to Bethlehem: I’m sure anyone who watched the news at all this week saw McCain in front of the cheese, and I must admit there was a certain amount of snarkiness among the media towards the cheese. And I must also admit that I felt a certain amount of defensiveness on behalf of my hometown cheese. What did the cheese do? Did anyone ask the cheese if it wanted to be on the national news? I don’t think so! It was just an innocent bystander!

Days later, everyone in the media is still talking about McCain and the cheese, for example this from Olbermann last night:

“Rule #1: Always stay away from the cheese.”

I emailed my father to let my folks know about their grocery store’s fifteen minutes of fame, and he wrote back:

“Yes, I was at Weiss-Kings and the secret service arrested me because they heard me say I am voting for Al Obama. Could U send 25K for my bail? Otherwise everything is OK.”

My father has also determined that Obama is actually Irish: i.e. O’Bama.

While McCain has been touring a variety of food-related establishments this week, Obama has – well, if you’re breathing, you know where he’s been this week. But in all the coverage, I haven’t heard anyone mention how cute Obama looked in a yarmulke. (Is there a rhyme in there? Obama’s Yarmulke? Maybe Adam Sandler will write a song.) (Yeah, I know, cheesy).

So thanks Keith, for being the only commentator to be so specific about the location of the cheese, and making the campaign just a little more personal for me.
 

The Campaign Gets Personal – Episode 2

Some Thoughts for Independence Day

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” – Pablo Casals

“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” – Abraham Lincoln

“We’re not made by God to mass kill one another… and that’s backed up by the Gospel. Lying and war are always associated. Pay attention to war-makers when they try to defend their current war… if they move their lips they’re lying.” – Philip Berrigan

“War is obsolete. We are not here to fight something or tear something down. We are here to be the example of what is possible. Any sane individual will tell you that violence is not the way.” – Buckminster Fuller

“Do not be preoccupied with killing the dinosaur. Rather, invent the gazelle.” – E.F. Schumaker

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

“When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.” – Alan Paton

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed –
I cast my lot with those who, age after age,
Perversely, with no extraordinary power,
Reconstitute the world.”
– Adrienne Rich

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” – Martin Luther

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

“Never give up, and never under any circumstances, no matter what, never face the facts.” – Ruth Gordon

“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“What would statesmen do for fun, if all at once the world was one?” – The King, The Little Prince – Antonie de Saint Exupéry

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelly, Pogo

Happy July 4th Everyone! Let Freedom Ring!

Great Words from Great Wordsmiths

“I am the strings, and the Supreme is the musician.” - Carlos Santana

“What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.” - Collette

“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.” - Rabindranath Tagore

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” - Maya Angelou
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