Monday, February 26, 2007

Laid Up

I really don't understand why it is called laid up when in all actuality you're not up at all. As I've mentioned I have been horribly sick with a nasty kidney problem and haven't been able to sit up for more than an hour until today. I checked my email on Friday and had 37 messages. So, if you are one of those 37 senders, please be patient. Today I answered some pressing emails, but I won't get to it all today. And nevermind blogging, that's not going to happen with any sort of regularity until at least next week. I just wanted to let you all know I'm alive and full of topics to post about, but can't.

A few of the topics on my mind? Tom Vilsack dropped out of the presidential race and I'm heartbroken. This man has a Gerald Ford quality to him. An everyday nice guy who appears to be something unusual in politics--decent and honest. More on this later. I'm also highly disappointed that the Academy did not give Peter O'Toole an Oscar last night. How can a man so brilliant not have earned an Oscar?? I hear that ASISU Elections are still taking place. This Wednesday and Thursday there will be a runoff election. I'm pulling for the Knapp/Olson ticket, though there isn't any campaigning I can do for them with me stuck at home on the couch.

I'm still watching way too much television, though I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I've watched all sorts of movies, tv shows, documentaries, and crap. Daytime television is pretty awful. I'm really only a primetime tv watcher usually and that's only when I'm home in time and not too busy to sit down and catch a good show. This only happens every Sunday night, the rest of the week it is hit and miss. I'd like to talk about The West Wing and Studio 60 at some point as well as Brothers & Sisters, but like I said before, can't get to that yet.

Until better days my advice to you: enjoy fresh air, solid foods, and avoid cranberry juice!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

From Page 264

Until recently I had forever been stalled on page 100 of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Every time I attempted to read the work I made it to that point and either lost hope or lost interest. Great news--I am now on page 285. Stalled, but I made it clear to page 285!

Here's an excerpt I found particularly interesting and worth sharing:

For a historian considering the achievement of a certain aim, there are heroes; for the artist treating of a man’s relation to all sides of life there cannot and should not be heroes, but there should be men.


The historian has to deal with the results of an event, the artist with the fact of the event. An historian in describing a battle says: ‘The left flank of such and such an army was advanced to attack such and such a village and drove out the enemy, but was compelled to retire; then the cavalry, which was sent to attack, overthrew…’ and so on. But these words have no meaning for the artist and do not actually touch on the event itself. Either from his own experience, or from the letters, memoirs, and accounts, the artist realizes a certain event to himself, and very often (to take the example of a battle) the deductions the historian permits himself to make as to the activity of such and such armies prove to be the very opposite of the artist’s deductions. The difference of the results arrived at is also to be explained by the sources from which the two draw their information. For the historian (to keep to the case of a battle) the chief source is found in the reports of the commanding officers and the commander-in-chief. The artist can draw nothing from such sources; they tell him nothing and explain nothing to him. More than that: the artist turns away from them as he finds inevitable falsehood in them. To say nothing of the fact that
after any battle the two sides nearly always describe it in quite contradictory ways, in every description of a battle there is a necessary lie, resulting from the need of describing in a few words the actions of thousands of men spread over several miles, and subject to most violent moral excitement under the influence of fear, shame and death.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What I've Learned This Week

As I think I mentioned before, I have been awfully sick which for me means at home in bed. If I remember right I have been at home in bed since last Thursday. It takes a whole lot to wipe me out and this week I've been past wiped out. Even had to have a minor surgical procedure this past week. But...I have learned all sorts of things this week.

Did you know that the reason bubble gum has been and is usually pink is because the inventor of bubble gum (can't think of his name at the moment, but he's associated with the Double Bubble brand) only had pink coloring on hand? I've also learned that dog and cat food is sized so that pets don't swallow it whole and don't feel they are doing an unnecessary amount of chewing. I wonder if there are focus groups for this sort of thing... And evidently cats are much more particular about the flavor of their food than dogs and they require a different fat content. All of this I learned from a brilliant show on the Discovery Channel called "How It's Made."

It really is brilliant--just like the factory trips on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood minus the make believe.

Yesterday, or at least I think it was yesterday, I learned that you really can crack an egg into your radiator to stop a leak. And believe it or not, dumping Drano into your gas tank won't cause your engine to blow up. Or at least that's what Adam and Jamie (aka the Mythbusters) tell me. I don't know how the bleach thing works out in the gas tank because I fell asleep at the best part.

I've learned that you should never watch any of the Law & Order shows in conjunction with medication that alters your thinking because you then dream about a cop shootout and are forced to run for an unusually long time while hoping someone has called 911. This dream of course was much better than the one in which I didn't have any legs and was floating about aimlessly. Or the time I woke up shouting "a bus, a bus!"

Come to find out, I don't like Martha Stewart. Not any more now than pre-prison. There is just something a bit distressing about the woman. Maybe she makes me feel inadequate. After all, I can't sew and I refuse to cook ten course meals.

And did you know that President Chester Arthur was called Chet by his close friends? Well I sure didn't.

Unrelated to the television, I learned that I love the play "Inherit the Wind" just as much now as I did when I first read it as a fourteen year old. In fact I think I love it more and appreciate it more than I did then. If you haven't read it, pick up a copy--I believe it is by Lawrence & Lee. And the Spencer Tracy movie based on the play is excellent as well. It's cheap on Amazon.

Last, but certainly not least, I learned just today while looking over the Oscar nominations that I am going to have a very hard time supporting the Best Actress category. How can a person choose between Judi Dench (in Notes on a Scandal) and Helen Mirren (in the Queen)? I have loved Judi Dench for some time now and just recently "discovered" who Helen Mirren really is (as opposed to the actress I believed she was) and that I like her. I watched a 60 Minutes piece with her recently and I must say this woman deserves an Oscar. Of course there is always that chance that the Academy will again award Meryl Streep though I just don't think the role she is nominated for is Oscar-worthy. And if she were to win it wouldn't be nearly as fun as her winning a Golden Globe because in that setting there is 99% chance that she's plastered...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Photo Permission

I've just received permission from N. Todd Pritsky of Dohiyi Mir to use this photo as my new profile photo. Danka, Todd! (All Rights Reserved)

Friday, February 9, 2007

The 24 Hour News

I've often thought that the 24 hour news cycle is absolutely ridiculous. It seems that breaking news is only breaking news until a better sound bite comes along.

Yesterday was no exception.

I have been home most of the last two days with a kidney infection and I've mostly been lounging. Watching some tv, reading, drinking a gallon or two, and sleeping quite a bit. So, yesterday I was flipping between CSPAN and MSNBC when the Air Pelosi ordeal hit the airwaves and I watched intently as one member of Congress after another came to the floor to give their two-cents on the matter. I, like Tony Snow and the White House, thought the entire story was absurd and that "silliness" had ensued on the floor of the U.S. House. However, I found it very entertaining that a congressman would feel the need to add an amendment to a bill stating what sort of aircraft the Speaker of the House could (or could not) travel in.

The pundits were all over the Air Pelosi ordeal, some of whom were quick to criticize the Democratic Party, some quick to defend, and some wise enough to say that they were all wasting their time on a non-issue.

And then the members on the floor of the House started calling for the Speaker to venture to the floor to defend herself. Quickly the news picked out a soundbite about "the myth" that had been created as stated by Speaker Pelosi herself. That too was entertaining due to the very habit Ms. Pelosi has of blinking unusually fast when annoyed or infuriated.

I flipped back to the debate on the floor only to see Barney Frank arrive for only a moment to say: "Boss, da plane!" It was the biggest circus I have ever seen on the floor of the House. Meanwhile in the Senate chamber, someone had given Bob Byrd the floor AGAIN to talk about appropriations and even though he has been dead for at least ten years he was waving his arms about with as much gusto as ever... Back to the circus. You have to wonder how each party decides which dogs to send to the fight. If in fact each party was picking congressmen and women to send to the floor, the Democrats should have thought it through before they sent the Congressman from New York. His name escapes me at the moment, but I believe he's from the 24th district of New York. Anyway, whew, what a clown. The one highlight (or at least positive moment) of the entire ordeal was when Carol Shea Porter came to the floor from her office and reminded everyone of how stupid they were behaving. I really enjoyed listening to the new congresswoman from New Hampshire and she was a breath of fresh air!

Somewhere in the middle of the circus I fell asleep. Here's where the absurdity of the 24 hour news cycle continues. When I woke up from my nap, Anna Nicole Smith had died and each of the news stations were plastered with her face and the "Breaking News" headline.

After watching yet another circus, I never found out what happened with the Air Pelosi ordeal. Does she get the 737 military aircraft or not? And does it really have a gym, the Lincoln bedroom, and room for her entire San Francisco entourage?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

I Like Tuesdays

It's odd the way in which I judge days of the week. Sunday is my favorite television day, but generally I am so bogged down in homework I somewhat dread the day. Monday is nowhere near my favorite, though my appreciation of the day has increased since I resigned from the student senate. Wednesdays are long and especially frustrating due to me not looking forward to Thursday and right now due to this very bizarre class I am taking. Thursday is by far my least favorite day of the week. It is too damn long and my schedule on Thursday is ridiculous. Friday is pretty good, except I'm exhausted by Friday and can't get much accomplished. Saturday, much like Sunday, is decent, and I can get away with wearing the god-awful combination of sandals and socks. But Tuesdays are my favorite.

Tuesday is sort of like dress-down Fridays (in most offices). I usually wear jeans, beat up old jeans that I love, a sweatshirt, and my favorite shoes. Today I even wore organic socks. I don't know what that actually means, but they are cozy! There isn't much on my schedule for Tuesdays and I quite enjoy that. I really like Tuesdays.

Today was not your typical Tuesday. This morning I woke up waaaay to early, was to school at 6:30 a.m., and I was working far too hard before noon. I spent quite a bit of time running around campus this afternoon--both to visit and in part looking for lost items. Yes, I lost things. I'm generally quite put together, but it seems more and more I am scatterbrained. Today I was actually feeling a bit frazzled. Very odd for a Tuesday. I lost my keys, my wallet, and my cell phone...

My keys and wallet are still missing in action, but the cell phone turned up. A very kind and anonymous student returned my cell phone to me after having gone through the contacts in my phone and piecing together the puzzle. I suppose I'd never thought about what my phone contacts say about me. I still wonder how this kind individual figured me out. Maybe the entries say far more than I realized. Who else has the History Department, Richard Stallings, Marshall Public Library, Special Collections (of the ISU Library), and Adam Rowe on speed dial? Yeah, pretty obvious.

Despite the runaround, I had a somewhat productive day in Special Collections--made my way through three more boxes of casework. I made it to class on time, though I fell asleep at one point for a split second. And I caught up with a friend who reminds me that I'm okay and going to go places in life. Very nerdy places, but places nonetheless. All in all, I love Tuesdays.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Art & History

"History develops, art stands still." --E.M. Forster
Artwork © Tara A. Rowe

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Smorgasbord Saturday

A few matters of housekeeping -- Chris of Liberal Idaho has moved back to his original blog the unequivocal notion. A link will now appear on the sidebar. Also, please excuse some construction here on this blog. I'm going to be playing around with the color scheme in the coming weeks.

In other Idaho blog news, please check out this hilarious post by d2 over at 43rd State Blues. I got a good chuckle out of it...

Clearly I have very little political to say other than making reference to political blogs. It has been a sort of strange weekend with very little going on. Here it is Saturday night and I haven't touched my homework or touched my growing pile of laundry. Oh well. You just have to relax every now and again. I did make peanut butter cookies tonight. Pretty impressive since I very rarely cook and never bake! The only thing political I've done today was watch Tom Vilsack give a speech at the DNC winter meeting on CSPAN. I love that guy and he's definitely my favorite presidential hopeful going into 2008.

Last, but not least, please wander over to NewWest Boise and read Jill Kuraitis' latest piece.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Molly the Great

**Editor's Note: Though this post was originally published on Thursday (2/1/07), I am going to continue to run it at the top ahead of my more recent posts. It is only appropriate that I give Ms. Ivins the spotlight she deserves.

In January of 2006, Molly Ivins wrote a piece on how she refused to back Hillary Clinton for president. Her reasoning was persuasive and she was funny, damn funny. But perhaps the one thing I took from that piece was a small bit on courage:
"The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to relearn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy--rough, tough Bobby Kennedy--didn't do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake?"

Perhaps the greatest lesson Molly Ivins taught me through her writing is that courage comes with a price. This piece, like many others, had a powerful and profound impact on me.

We all felt as if we knew Molly intimately because she spoke truth to power and mirrored our feelings on the war, the president, the state of our nation, and at times the absolute absurdity of Washington politics. She opened the door for us to express our views, though none of us could, or would, ever match her brilliance.

If on one day of my life I can be as thoughtful, courageous, and honest as Molly Ivins was every last day of her life, I will be content. God bless you, Molly Ivins.

The Cuban Missile Crisis

Tonight in my Spirit of the 60s class we had a very disjointed and unfortunate discussion about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The problem with these roundtable-type discussions is that the varying views are not at all met, or joined together, prior to the class meeting. I was in a group of students presenting on the crisis--a presentation that lasted twenty or so minutes--and I was quite disappointed.

Twenty minutes can't even skim the surface of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The aspect of the presenation that was my responsibility was U.N. Ambassador Stevenson's presentation to the Security Council and with a four minute audio clip, I wasn't even able to address the entire issue of the U.N. and public opinion in respect to the crisis.

Nobody mentioned the Ex-Comm. To name a few: McGeorge Bundy, Secretary Rusk, Director McCone, Generals Taylor and Curtis "Blow them off the map" LeMay, Stevenson, McNamara, LBJ, JFK, and of course Bobby Kennedy. How can an entire group of students completely miss this essential aspect of the Kennedy administration at that particular time in history? It happened.

There was little discussion of Khrushchev and his opinions on the crisis that are widely recognized since the publishing of his meoirs. There was no discussion of Castro's popularity and his motivation, the very motivation that allowed the missiles to enter Cuba in the first place. There was no mention of the thriving and intimidating relationship between Bobby and John Kennedy. No mention of Kenny O'Donnell. No Operation Mongoose. Very little mention of the telegrams/transmissions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. No mention of how little involvement Vice President Johnson had in the entire situation. We should have watched Kennedy's speech to the nation. We should have seen the U-2 photographs of the missile sites. There is so much that was not even mentioned.

I suppose I know too much about this particular topic to be satisfied with a twenty minute discussion. After all, I have read the memoirs of Premier Khrushchev, Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, Cronkite, and Bobby Kennedy (his book Thirteen Days). Realizing this, it doesn't make any less frustrating to sit in a discussion like this one.

I could go on and on as it bothers me immensely that the discussion went so poorly, but then again I could talk about the Cuban Missile Crisis for days on end. Instead, on my already mentioned topic of the day--political leadership and courage--I'd like to comment on Adlai Stevenson.

When U.N. Ambassador Stevenson went into the U.N. Security Council meeting on October 25, 1962, expectations were low. Bobby Kennedy wanted to pull him out. Everyone viewed him as an old washed-up politician who didn't have it in him to be aggressive with the Soviets and Cubans. He may have been on his way out the political door (and would die no more than three years later), but his actions on the floor of the United Nations were courageous, necessary, and world changing.

In my humble opinion, Adlai Stevenson is the most underestimated and unfortunately unrecognized political figure of 20th century American history who in his two campaigns for President, his one term as governor of Illinois, and his service as ambassador to the United Nations exhibited nothing but political courage.