Monday, September 22, 2008

Oh, Rachel, how do we love thee?

Tonight, when Keith Olbermann did the toss from his show to Rachel Maddow's, he mentioned that she had beaten Larry King in the ratings the entire previous week. I don't know how big a deal that is. King is popular but past his sell-by date, and I am sure his numbers are heavy in the all-important 66-95 year old demo. But it sure seems important, and I've read that she is now the #2 evening draw over at MSNBC behind Olbermann. The two of them provide a knockout punch for lefties, and fans of true journalism, everywhere.

That doesn't cover the real reasons, though, for the nearly-fanatical following Maddow has developed. If you read, or have read, comments about her across teh intarwebz, especially regarding her new show, you've seen that she gets an enthusiasm totally out of proportion of her aw-shucks demeanor. Why does she get this? Why do men AND women, straight AND gay, get crushes on her? (Me, it started with the short haircut. Rowr.)

First, notice that she's the hero of people who read and stay informed. No one has properly estimated the power of a grounded woman with a sharp-as-a-knife mind, and here is Rachel Maddow proving that legions thirst for a drink from the tap of Rhodes scholarship. She's smart. Smarter than me and you put together. But she doesn't have an ego problem. She's not only the smartest person in the room, she's also someone you'd have a beer with. She's someone who will laugh at your jokes but keep you in line, who will hear your tales and not twit you, who just may well laugh at that thing you did where you said, "Hey! Watch THIS!" and dissect exactly how stupid it was. She gets us to examine ourselves, laugh at ourselves and others, and she affirms our confidence while getting us to admit we're maybe not so perfect.

She's also the androgynous dream date for millions. Well, maybe thousands. She's an object of desire but utterly non-threatening. For straight women (I am guessing), she's the friend, the buddy, the compatriot who is all about the feelings and thinking through things. You know she will listen and give advice both. She's perceptive of human ways, but she's non-jealous, non-possessive, non...attached. For gay women... Well, let's just file that in the FREAKING OBVIOUS folder. For gay men? She's sort of a substitute man, and I don't mean that in a sexist way. (Like there's any other way to take that.) My feeling on this is that she's the androgynous (again that!) person a lot of people wish they could be; if she were a man, virtually unchanged, a lot of men would be in love with her brains, her cheer, her competence, her clarity. She represents for us all an icon of what we wish we were, and what we wish to love: complete personally and professionally and untainted by her own fame.

As far as straight men: well, she will always be the Other, the Unattainable, the Yearning, the Unrequited. Boys, she's NOT for us. She's for the girls. But those of us who straddle the gender lines--not just those who wish they could have sex with lesbians because it's a challenge, or because they can't imagine anyone turning down their masculine charms, or who are envious of anyone who gets to have a kind of sex they don't--she is the ideal. All the reasons I gave above are true, but here's the rest: in a big way, she's a GUY. Not in terms of equipment, but in attitude. She keeps it simple while competently handling the big issues, her emotions reside in the same home as ours, she cuts through the dross to the quick, she can be fanciful but she's grounded, she makes decisions responsibly, and yet--because she is female, ignoring that she is a lesbian--she exists somewhere within the universe of possibility. (The right man and all that.)

But in short, she's what we wish we could be. We wish we could have the clarity of purpose that she does, her substance, her foundation, her commitment, her intelligence, her application. She's a dream for many of us, a liberal goddess who fills every fantasy of who we want and who we want to be, unencumbered by society's restrictions but respectful of society's rules. She trips our triggers in myriad ways, all of them good.

Rachel? I'm free. Call me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Desks? It's about desks?

Okay. I just got through watching Mike Huckabee's speech. Here's the thing that baffled me. The story about the desks. Let me 'splain... No, let me sum up. Here's the story in a nutshell:

Martha Cochran(e?), a teacher somewhere, had her kids come in on the first day of school to a class bereft of desks. She said they wouldn't get their desks until they figured out how to earn them. Long story short, the entire day passed and the kids made bunches of guesses, all of which failed. In the meantime, kids called their parents on their cellphones (making this a recent story), and they called news organizations. By the time the last period had come, all four local networks were there covering the story. In the 6th period, she finally said she would tell them about the desks. She went to the door, called out, and in came 20 veterans in uniform with 20 desks, who put them all into place. She then said that there was nothing they had to do to earn the desks, because the veterans had already done it for them.

Okay. I didn't even have to Google it to know this was bullshit, though I did Google it. You would think that with 4 local networks handy, there might be some mention on "the Google." There's not. But even if it WERE true, I would want to ask:

Where did you hide the 20 veterans so that no one noticed them the entire day?
How did they know to come into the hall at exactly the right time for you to call on them?
Didn't they have to be fed at some point?
Wouldn't the news organizations, or the office, or students, or SOMEONE, have noticed 20 veterans in uniform hanging around the school?
How did you line up 20 desks in the hall without anyone noticing, especially the students who sit in them?
What if you had had more than 20 students in class, which is most often the case?

See, I'm a teacher (sub, but nevertheless). This just SCREAMS "Snopes" to me. One, you wouldn't get away with it, and two, you couldn't hide this for some big theatrical moment. It just doesn't happen. Especially with 4 networks and their cameras skulking about.

I think Mike Huckabee told a porkie.

You can't hide it! GOP Convention Edition

Just a quick thought as I watch the ongoing GOP morass they are calling a convention. Two things you can't hide:

1. Hundreds of empty seats. The delegate seats are full, sure, but the levels above the floor are sparsely attended. And what this means is...

2. The speeches are sparsely cheered. Carly Fiorina, who was fired from Hewlett-Packard, just gave a speech full of applause pauses and hooks. Problem? Very little cheering at the pauses or in general. Her speech was accepted with what can best be called gracious apathy.

All the Sarah Palin stuff I would like to cover is already aflame at Daily Kos, TPM, and other blogs. There's little question in my mind that this campaign is going to self-destruct. That they're already reaching for the "sexist" label to any criticism of Palin is telling. It's like the POW issue: it's the go-to when any criticism arises. I hope the American public is smarter than that. I already know the GOP True Believers aren't, of course, but I have hopes for the swing voters.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

An odd thought about seasons

I just read a note on one of my gardening groups that a member in Montana is going to try to harvest her entire garden because it might snow tonight. In September!!! But it got me to thinking about the bittersweet, melancholy feelings I have about the turn from summer to fall, from fall to winter, and the first snowfalls. The silence, the chill, the puffs of breath, the slow waltz of snowflakes in descent.

You know what would be sweet? If winter were so short I looked forward to it. :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Barack Obama Rescues New Orleans

SEPT 1, 2008 (ROOTERS) - In a display of party unity, Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama today used his angelic powers to blunt the impact of Hurricane Gustav on New Orleans.

"It wasn't easy," said a visibly drained Obama, wiping stigmata from his palms. "But I believe in the fairness of the political process and am determined that everyone have a fair say in this election season. I was disappointed that the Republicans wouldn't have the opportunity to present their platform to the American public."

Obama has used his powers before, but rarely, as the "recharging" period afterward is lengthy and involved. The last manifestation before today was the 2005 World Series, in which he willed the White Sox on not only to victory, but a wire-to-wire first place season. Previously, his neophyte powers had been misdirected, causing Florida to go to Bush in the 2000 presidential election.

"I thought I was making the butterfly ballots easier," he said, "but I royally screwed that up. I had to take SO many seminars after that. That's why I couldn't do anything about Katrina. I was still on probation."

The McCain campaign was less charitable, though. "Show-off," said Tucker Bounds while pushing pins into a doll. "He won't show up for a debate, but he 'saves' New Orleans to 'help' the Republicans. Right. If John McCain could have done it, he would have, but he couldn't, and Obama knows it. That's why he gets all the press."

Obama expressed hope for Mr. McCain. "It's never too late to learn to use the Force," he said, drinking a goblet of water transformed into wine. "He simply needs to learn how to let go."