Wednesday, August 28, 2013

King of the Lemonade Stand

Dear Husband is deaf. He went deaf suddenly in the summer of 2012 as the result of a severe infection that put him in the hospital for 10 days while doctors ran test after test and scratched their heads. Since then he has struggled with hearing aids and assistive devices, and we’ve taken ASL classes and visited lots of specialists, some of whom I would like to kick in the shins.

What amazes me is how, after such a devastating loss, he embraced his situation. He did research, found Facebook groups, started blogging about hearing loss, and took to ASL with amazing ease. I am very proud of how he has taken charge of his situation.

His hearing has dropped further, from severe/profound to profound, and it looks as if he will soon be getting a cochlear implant. Of course, he has done extensive research on these as well! I think if he could he would stay awake during the operation to direct the surgeon.

Today is our 14th wedding anniversary. I think I am very lucky to be married to such a man. Despite these quite serious health preoccupations, he is always on top of things, always thinking about us. Recently he was laid off, and he set up a plan to finish the last of his education courses and take the teacher certification exam. He has a schedule for himself that makes me feel like a slacker. Once again he sees a setback as an opportunity.

That’s why I titled this King of the Lemonade Stand - he’s one of those people who makes lemonade. 

Happy anniversary, sweetheart! You're the best.

Jeff, and a giraffe.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Spy

When I was in college I worked one summer for SANE/FREEZE, an international organization that lobbied for a nuclear arms race freeze as well as an end to US support of the Contras. I joined after having a horrific dream about a nuclear attack. I quickly discovered that I am no good as a door-to-door canvaser, but after that summer I continued to be involved in organizations like Amnesty International as well as a group specific to my college called Waging Peace. I even went to DC once as part of a lobbying group (something I am also not good at).

Some very odd people would show up to work for SANE. Turnover was relatively high, since it was hardly a well-paying job and you were likely to meet quite a bit of resistance. One day a new person joined the team, a very unpleasant, abrasive person in, I kid you not, a dark suit and sunglasses. We joked that he was a CIA or FBI plant. Why anyone in charge would have hired someone so antithetical to the cause was a mystery. He didn’t stay of course. Maybe he reported back to some top-secret agency about our motley crew of highly inefficient idealists. Maybe it was some sort of COINTELPRO style ploy to disrupt and degrade.

I knew when I joined SANE/FREEZE that such groups were under scrutiny.

The government spies on its citizens. I took it as a given. Someone was monitoring - not necessarily me - but the higher ups, and the organization as a whole. But, oh, the innocent days before email and the Internet. You worried about signing a particular petition, or subscribing to a particular publication.

I often ignore politics. The abundance of information that pours out everyday is overwhelming. I can’t keep up. I can’t figure out what is legitimate and what is trash. it’s exhausting. It’s demoralizing.  I’m pretty sure that both sides and the middle are busy spewing endless amounts of verbiage for the sole purpose of keeping us confused. No wonder we post lots of photos of cats.

What’s on my mind late? Bradley Manning. Edward Snowden. The NSA. The mess in the UK that involves the NSA. The NSA’s push to collect any and everything. XKeyscore. PRSM. All the arguments about how much they can actually look at and how much they are bound by law is not reassuring. We seem to be willing to sacrifice a lot in the name of a spurious safety. Do you feel safer?

Some people dismiss all concerns: Oh no one cares about your emails, just don’t be a terrorist and you’ll be okay, they still need warrants, it’s just metadata. Supposedly we have safeguards in place because of a long history of abusing surveillance of private citizens. It’s always okay until you find out what’s really going on.

We have legitimized torture and indefinite detainment - is anything really out of bounds? We have prosecuted whistleblowers or forced them into exile. A president who used to praise such acts has seemingly changed his mind and is now perfectly happy to expand the NSA’s reach. People call Manning and Snowden traitors, and sometimes I wonder what it would be like to trust the government enough to believe that. But we aren’t supposed to trust the government, or the military, or the organizations we’ve created to collect secret intelligence. We’re supposed to hold them accountable. We’re supposed to be able to access the information that would allow us to hold them accountable. 

A good overview of this mess can be found at The NSA Files on the Guardian website.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Art of Swearing

When I was little my dad was very careful to substitute tame words for expletives. His favorite expression was “shoot fire,” which made me giggle. My mother never cursed that I remember. Or maybe the occasional dammit surfaced under duress. I was never quite so disciplined, so between me and TV I’m sure the girls have a working familiarity with colorful language.

I have nothing against swearing. I’ve always felt that people squeamish about it were just too prissy for words. Sorry if that’s you. I spend most days biting my tongue to spare your sensibilities, so be sure to applaud me for my incredible restraint. I know a reliance on profanity can reveal a poverty of language and an inability to properly express oneself. Profanity can also be very aggressive, integral to bullying or verbal abuse. But in general I think life can be difficult enough to warrant a few expletives. God won’t spank you for it.

When the BBC announced that the 12th Doctor (and yes I was ferociously interested in this) would be Peter Capaldi, I decided I would have to investigate the series he’s best known for - The Thick of It. If you don’t know the series, it’s a satire about the British government, in particular the fictional Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship. Peter Capaldi plays Malcolm Tucker, the party's spin doctor. His character, and the show in general, is known for its liberal use of profane language. In fact, I think its MA rating is based purely on language, as I haven’t yet seen any sex or nudity.

I’ve never heard anything quite like The Thick of It. This isn't just letting fly a few curse words. This is extravagance. This is a luxurious jungle of swearing rooted in rich loamy earth. I’m not sure there is a single character who doesn’t participate, but the king is Malcolm Tucker, who uses it like a crowbar to prise open every opportunity that comes his way,  a whip to punish his coworkers, and a bludgeon to beat down objections. And he does it in a Scottish accent. It’s downright mellifluous. I gather that they actually have someone who acts as a "swearing consultant" on the scripts. Imagine that job.

In any case, the show is bitingly funny in a particularly British way. I suppose you could think of Fawlty Towers wed to The Office. Mishaps, misunderstandings, and misdirection accumulate while everyone teeters on the edge of disaster and chaos. If they didn’t swear constantly they would probably leave a trail of blood and bodies behind them.

Everyone wonders what Capaldi will bring to Doctor Who. All the doctors have a catch phrase: Fantastic! (9th), Allons-y! (10th), Geronimo! (11th). Makes you wonder what the 12th will say.

You can actually get this on a T-shirt. There's also an "unbleeped" version, if you're brave.