fj: (USA)
Been a week since I got on a plane for a quick jaunt to DC.

I was too late to get the super special Premium Economy deal upgrade anymore. I realized I could have put it on the US AmEx card and used my travel points to get it for free. Instead I upgraded to emergency exit for £50. So worth it. Stretched out and everything. Good food, not as good video entertainment, though. Screens were washed out, channels were off.

Which means I sat across from cabin crew during take-off and landing. The one on the way to looked like a blond Victoria Beckham, prompting me to wonder what she would have been as a Virgin Atlantic stewardess. I asked her if the little water landing two days ago in New York unnerved her. Her first reaction made her so-far blank face light up and she said something along Heck no, I wish something would happen. Then she caught herself and said no, this didn't faze anyone at all. I confirmed she had actually done a live water evac during training.

I had to get used to people speaking to me again in the US. Super Shuttle personnel guiding us so that we would be inside and not stand in the cold while the van came, hotel staff showing interest, waiters introducing themselves and bantering, and just people in general ready to talk. I walked up to people and they did not have to adapt.

DC was hopeful and alive and I was so right to not do 2008 in the USA. I mean, when I entered Whole Foods and saw Obama's face on cheesecakes I was like um, euw, a whole year of that kind of national banter just through my flist was bad enough.

The disastrous and mean result in California overshadowed the news of the election for me, so it was like I was catching up with how it was. I was so giddy to hear that the night of November 4th blocks had to be cordonned off in DC for celebrations, that people on Penn Ave were chanting "Pack. Your. Bags! Pack. Your. Bags!"

I was doing a test here to see if I could fulfill the primary goal of being in Europe, seeing my family, while living on the East Coast. How bad would it be to dip into NL four times a year or so over a weekend if I lived in NYC? Then I remembered I already did this in 2001 when my mother was dying, and this last week reminds me I have not gotten any better at handling that jetlag.

"So where's home for you now?" asks the acquaintance on my right during dinner. My friends accross from me kinda sigh and grimace, they know how I am.
I waffle, I um, I hesitate. Finally I say: "The other side of this table."

When I went back, I upgraded again. For nothing, because the plane Monday night was practically empty. Everyone could get a middle row to stretch out in. I asked for any leftover desserts, after dinner service was over the nice lady brought me two.
fj: (USA)
Look, first of all, Palin has apologized for implying some citizens of the US are anti-American by saying specific parts are pro-American. To me, the whole flap is completely flawed trinary logic, of course: maybe the rest of the country that wasn't so pro-American was simpy neutral, a sort of ho-hum-American, instead of downright anti-American. But no, everything in US politics is a duality, so of course Palin was implying everyone and everything else was anti-American when she said she was happy to be in specific spots in the US that were pro-American.

So yes, on the fucked-upness that's just starters for me. Because for most people from countries in northern Europe (and probably many everywhere else too), the idea that being called anything but all bonkers and hoppingly excited about your own country is some kind of insult is kinda nuts. It reads as flat, uncritical, thoughtless, cheerleaderesque, and well, um, as they would say here, "so American". Unbridled default nationalism is so suspect here -- we kinda got a history with it.

For the last couple of years certain elements in Dutch politics have tried to create a certain sense of nationalism in the Netherlands, trying to base the existence of their parties on it. Fortuyn was big on nationalism, and some other people are trying to carry that legacy -- and, in the end, equally as haplessly as Fortuyn's party, which imploded once it got into government. It just doesn't fit the Netherlands right, the nationalism just never strikes the right chord. We are a swamp and you are supposed to stay vigilant and critical of it lest it get worse. In the UK the tory press tries to talk about British National Identity mostly as a pretense for whining about how Labour ruined, ruined it by doing things like pulling the House of Lords and the succession rules into the 20th century, but I think that if I asked anyone here "So you're pro-Britain, right?" they'd be wondering if some sporting event was on that they were missing. (And I say this a former Daily Mail reader.)

Well, still, the US is the culture my friends are in, and, if you buy the whole 'if you ain't pro you must be anti, and boy you must be pro' notion, the best comment on it comes from [ profile] danger_chick, who works in a national lab for military and other research plonked down in some godforsaken place in New Mexico:
I've been pissed about Palin's language since her part of the campaign started. I think the whole "pro-America" comments have become the proverbial straw on the camel's back. I live in a town that is split 50/50 on political lines but exists entirely to serve this country. To assume that the 50% that are not interested in voting for McCain are not "pro-America" shows a complete disregard our work. It's not like most of us are here for the great benefits package or to live in the middle of nowhere. We are here to be part of the lab, to be part of the lab's mission, to reduce global threats again this country, to help get the soldiers back home in one piece. I think I am actually angry enough that I am going to write the McCain campaign, assuming I can calm down enough to make sense.
You can link to it here.

Also, , courtesy of [ profile] fengi.


Oct. 9th, 2008 11:43 pm
fj: (bqw)
I would like to thank[ profile] bobaloo for all his tireless work on the "No on Proposition 8" campaign in California.

I am angry and heartsick at the prospects of yet another set of my friends' marriages being invalidated. I know some went in thinking it was "Mostly just a piece of paper", but having attended my number of weddings and having thought a lot about marriage, I know that actually standing up there is transformative, that getting that paperwork done and the changes that follow from it actually do make you think of your relationship in a new way, that it is, still, a hit to the brain of "wow, I never though in my closeted kid days we would get there. That this would happen. That we'd be just as real."

I can't stand the thought of that being taken away. Not there, not in the place I was so happy. I can't contemplate that so many people living among my friends would want to take it away from them.

I am not allowed to donate as a foreign national, as I found out, so I haven't. Oddly, it turns out that [ profile] pinkfish is donating more, and at the same time my share of the current bills for The Loft has gone up by the same amount; it is very strange how that works. Yeah, I am still unemployed, but I know I will work again and this money is necessary now. Donate.

If you too want to donate some time in the LA area, get in touch with Bob. He is overworked, and needs volunteers. You don't even need to call people, I believe.
fj: (smug)
Has anyone already written one of those identity deconstructions of the Gates / Seinfeld commercial? You know, one that examines every gesture and line with salient points of the historical events and relationships of the ethnic or social identities the protagonists are, and thus, in this 'narrative' for public consumption, represent to the world? Because it suddenly hit me in the shower that the key scene of this deconstruction to focus on of course would be the group of people, configured as a representative family unit (adult male, adult female, two male minors, female minor) of people of Middle or South American ethnicity and culture1, standing outside, looking in, of which the woman asks 'Is that The Conqueror?', using terminology explicitly referring to the subjugation of these Middle and South American cultures by Europeans. While looking, not down at shoes, but up at the people, signified by editing to be Bill Gates or Jerry Seinfeld.

Ooooh, oooh, oooh, throw in techno angle: the Conquistadores basically managed their feat of killing and subjugating millions because they introduced smallpox. You know, virusses. That Bill Gates brought to all of us with the Windows monoculture, created through an illegal monopoly. Obviously Bill Gates is El Conquistador.

God, what is the significance of Seinfeld there? I can't directly come up with something here. Is he a jester? He offers a churro, is he offering South and Middle America to The Conquistador? He is Jewish, Jews were victimized by the Inquisition during the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand, though, but do I look at the Money stereotype? A financier? He doesn't pay for the shoes, thought. Is this whole commercial actually a coded critique of the banking system of the Renaissance? The modern credit scandal? Kügel? But whatever Jerry's significance is, the man of Middle or South American ethnicity reminds us, while not looking down at the shoes but up at the people in the shop, there from outside, behind the glass, in the harsh cold rather than in the soft yellow glow of the shop, the place of commerce and wealth, that "[Gates and Seinfeld] run tight". Or does he? The subtitles do. Does the Spanish he uses say these two men, or what they represent, have a close association? Can that terminology in Spanish refer to people?

Excuse me, I need to write a grant proposal for an in-depth exposé of Madison Avenue's views on this post-1492 ethnic cleansing through a technological modern viewpoint. I am thinking interpretive dance with multi-media installation.

1 Make sure to not get bogged down by the 'Not Latino, Hispanic!' / 'Not Hispanic, you assimilated tool, Latino!' / 'Neither, you deluded fools, both are identity designations meant to erase our true individual cultures!' discussion.
fj: (USA)
It's been linked to enough, so I'll instead point to the front page article on discussing the video, but of course it does bring to my mind two things.
  1. The US has a completely insane sense of political discourse. Two wars on, economic meltdown due to lax financial oversight, torture being allowed, and somehow something involving Paris Hilton is a front-page item. Yes, this was one reason I moved back, SRSLY. I do not miss being immersed in this. I do recognize this is what the media focuses on because the people read it and click it and watch the video, and I think the people do so because they don't feel they have actual control over the larger issues, and this is what is left once you are numb to how powerless the voters actually are to create meaningful government in the entrenched US political system.

  2. Where's Britney's video? I mean, she was in McCain's celebrity spot too! Hello, she needs to get cracking.
fj: (USA)


And Finally:

Thanks for the find [ profile] jpeace.
fj: (USA)
Sounds like my SF peeps are finding out what a Boston summer is like.

Yeah, those window AC units indeed work. It was pretty much the first purchase I made, even  before any furniture, when I moved into my first studio, in Boston, later named The Magazine Apartment. It was on Park Drive, like everybody's first studio in Boston is, and I was enthralled with the ancient elevator with its doors and the grate, and the long corridors and the hardwood floors and my view on an alley because it was all so American.

I bet Fred got me and the box home, and I remember [ profile] tfarrell and me just lying down on the floor after I first switched it on and going "Aaaaaaaah..." which means I must have gotten over my trepidation of just putting this huge heavy thing in the window and leaving it hanging there, held in place only by the wood of the sliding window, which had to be rotting, but hey, everyone else was doing it so I guess this is how you do it in the USA, and fuck it is hot in here. It also meant I had no furniture yet.

That AC died when [ profile] pinkfish and I moved -- well, I wasn't there for the actual move -- from the next apartment to the condo on The Fenway he had bought. It died in the exact way I feared I would make it die: when Dean tried to take it out the window, it fell out backwards three stories down. Oops. I was told it didn't even make much of a crunch, more of a thud. And although this was a front-facing apartment, it didn't fall on the sidealk where it could hurt anyone. I remember coming home from the family holiday that had made me miss the move, walking into the new condo and going "Oh you put the ACs there and there wait, that's not our AC." Then I got the story. Which ranks second on troublesome homecoming stories to the time a few months before that I had come back from whatever to have Gadi, our houseguest at the time, tell me a litany of one problem after another with paperwork and Dean's start-up and the this going wrong and the that being wrong, that ended with the sentence "Oh, and the dishwasher only burned for a little while." Compared to that thudding ACs were not that dramatic during a move.

So yes, you learn to keep the doors and windows closed in summer too, and that inside is nicer than outside which it should never be in summer but hey, it is, and how high to set it at night and by day and when you are at work, and that getting new ones actually is worthwhile because they get more efficient all the time, and quieter so you get to sleep. Then the energy bill comes in and you learn you really should be a little uncomfortable. Like in winter, when you put on a sweater instead of turning the heat up. Then I moved to Los Angeles where everyone has or should have central air, and I had Industrial Central Air in The Loft, complete with huge overhead ducts Oliver the cat liked to run on, and where energy was pretty much free compared to Boston. Still, after my first few months of turning it up at night becaise I like to sleep in a cool room snuggled under blankets, the bill came in and I decided I should cut that out. I moved to the desert, now feel it.

Oddly enough, even though there was a string of Summers That Killed Thousands here in the UK a year or two ago, there's not a big market for these in-window ACs here. I don't think many windows slide up anyway. On the East Coast you know summer's here when the students leave and the window ACs start appearing in stacks at the hardware store and the Best Buy, here you just open windows against each other and hope for a breeze. Not even much need for that this year: we've had two nice weekends, and the rest is gloom
fj: (USA)

What caught me is not so much the hopes (but I do hope all she hopes for comes true) but the views on the current stratifications of the USA on money, gender, and race lines, and how accepted that has become.
fj: (tech)
When I get on to chat with old buds in the US, some of them tell me which super-duper obnoxious gas prices I am missing. Like $3.50 per gallon in Hawaii, if not more.

Here's Google's answer to that, with the starting point being the current max price for gas in the Netherlands at pumps:


1.55900 (€ / liter) = 9.35262901 US$ / US gallon

  More about calculator.

And you know it is calculated with the latest currency prices. And you have to specify US gallon here, which is 3.9 liters, not just type 'gallon' because then you get a conversion into Imperial gallon which is 4.2 liters. Also, the number is not helped by the $ not being worth much these days, which sucks when you live in £ so much so that the glyph is visibly printed on your keyboard (Shift+3), but all your capital is in $ (Shift+4).
fj: (USA)
Oh, and by the way, fuck that privilege meme. Seriously. Doesn't resonate with me at all. Once you get abused by your 'peers' for years first because you are blond in a country in northern South America and thus perceived off the bat as rich, spoiled, and useless, and then for years in Europe because of a quirk in your accent makes people think you come from the upper class and thus are rich, spoiled, and useless, you get a different view on privilege. Yes, I was so privileged I was a target for getting kidnapped -- awesome! I was so privileged we had a maid just like everyone else where we were, and accordingly at 9 years of age I did not know how to make my bed: obviously when we were back in Europe this made me a worthless human being! Fuck someone thinking I need to be 'aware' of my 'privilege' while growing up: I have been made aware all my life how awful people richer than you are, thank you very much.

The list is also hugely US-centric, and to me not so much a list of markers of privilege but more of how badly the US has allowed its public institutions become tools of greed. Yes my parents payed for all my higher education at a fine university, but that only cost some thousand bucks a year, because the Netherlands thinks a highly educated population is a common good that brings health and prosperity like, say, a working sewer system, and a place like Harvard should not be in charge of those for everyone because they will only sell them to the highest bidders. The list is an indictment of a society that has inflated its diplomas so bad that college degrees have become a necessity for everyone, saddling young people with massive debts, and getting vocational schools ignored. The list is an indictment of how bad public services are that teenagers needing cars becomes a given instead of an alarming glossing over of the question why a country with such a large population in urban centers can't make do far more with buses, bikes, and mopeds. The list is a question whatever the fuck happened to kids having library cards so they can access thousands and thousands of books instead of needing to have them at home.

Hand-me-downs? How old is this list? Clothes strong to be hand-me-downs actually are a privilege. Hand-me-downs do not exist anymore because Wal*Mart crap won't survive the first wearer long enough to be handed down. Meanwhile I, who could bold over half that list as if it says something about the economic status of my family while we were travelling and wearing hand-me-downs, was walking around in them, pre-worn at one point by two or three people before me, in some cases even from neighbors, because my Mom and some of her friends believed in buying Lacoste / Izod polo shirts in kids sizes because they were indestructible and could be thus, well, handed down, if she didn't choose the colors too girly. Which of course meant that I got crap at school and my after-school activities, because, you know, I was wearing Lacoste polos (some a decade old) like those rich kids and thus I must be one (in hand-me-downs). The rich kids gave me crap because they thought I was a fag.

My first and longest transatlantic trip was when I was 6 weeks old: my mother took me from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam to go to her father's funeral. Ooooh, I am so privileged, I saw the world! Fuck yeah! Well, actually, I did see large chunks of the world because my father actually took a risk and took his family for a stint somewhere else than where he lived. He did the work, but the impression I got when we got back was that me having been somewhere else made me really gauche. I can tell you why rich people shouldn't and don't talk about their experiences unless they really know they are in equal company: it's because people with less money teach themselves and their children to be such shitheads about it, judging only by almost ludicrous outward markers instead of the people in them, pretty much like that meme list, and teaching their kids to take it out on the kids they think are 'rich'. Oooooh, I had holidays abroad every year -- yeah, because I lived in a country the size of a postage stamp, and where everyone went to Spain in summer. Bold another line.

I spit on privilege being defined by commercial markers. It means shit to actually growing up into a functional or happy being, like so many people think it does. Privilege is being safe at night. Privilege is getting honest and useful sex, drugs, and alcohol education, both about emotional and physical consequences, so you can make informed choices. Privilege is loving parents who set great examples of being together. Privilege is being taught early how to handle money and plan for a future. Privilege is everyone having a good education so that you do not have to retreat in fortified camps and cars in suburbia. Privilege is not having to systemically live in fear of your future whether today or a decade from now, not whether you got new clothes for Christmas or not. (God. Socks for chistmas. No, serious. I can't stand clothes for Christmas: always me unwrapping another scratchy sweater and hearing my mother say how difficult it was to shop for me -- look lady, if you just had the label say Yamamoto instead of Hema you'd have a far easier time. At least then I actually would have a reason to have been mean to.)

I know too many people who can bold 75% of that list and still need to, or should, shell out massive dollars for therapy so they can shovel out the landfill that is their inner life and be able to function. Or deal with the guilt that they are not "living up to their potential, look at what a great start they had". I look at that list that is supposed to make me 'aware' and am only able to think it was written by someone pretty internationally myopic and jealous, and go over memories of taunts and being spit on.
fj: (Default)
I think from now on I am chucking all my public reasons why I am leaving and just answering I can't live in a country where Mike Huckabee is a serious candidate. (Thanks [ profile] danbearnyc. I guess he doesn't want the Jewish vote.)

To recap publicly: I used HomeGain to solicit realtors to sell The Loft. None of the responses were local to my market but covered other parts of the city, 80% of them were canned. What I can also report is that the one I wrote through HomeGain never got back to me. I talked with one broker who was a FOAF, one pair that I got through AgentMachine, one team I met at a party, and one that was recommended to me by a realtor who lives in my building. I signed with the last one as the best fit on Friday, listing went up on Saturday, and the team I met at the party already brought an interested party last night to my realtor. I should ask how the viewing went. While it was on I went to friends to have dinner and then [ profile] timfogartyfeed to not bake cookies.
fj: (NL)
Laurie Anderson's "Oh Superman" was #1 on the pop charts in The Netherlands when it came out for what seemed like forever.

I hated the song because I couldn't hear the music in it. That changed as I grew up. I hadn't thought about it in a while, and heard it today again. The lyrics are kinda different now.

And it turns out there isn't always Mom.
fj: (USA)
Somehwre in passing I saw some scenes from Marie Antionette with Kirstin Dunst. It looked nice, but it made me wonder what our current "Let them eat cake" moment would be to start a revolt again in the US, a real protest against the erosion of middle-class normalcy, upward mobility, solidarity, a counter to the widening gulf between a few very rich people and the vast rest getting worse and worse off, and a creeping curtailing of pure decency in the highest levels of government. In short, what would make us, not just the progressive vanguard, get off our asses, grumble enough to be noticed?

Knowing their sons and daughters in the military were made to torture didn't do it. I was hoping the video of spoiled chick who started crying because her Lexus was given to her at the wrong time during her sweet sixteen celebration (warning, I can't stand to look at the whole video but I think this one is it) would be it -- you can't make decadence any clearer -- but it hasn't happened. It would have meant that that girl would have done a real public service, though. I had a glimmer that the commutation of the sentence would do it, but that is fizzling too. One has to wonder what it takes.
fj: (Default)
At my former place of work, I could go to the gym in the afternoon. I didn't have my personal trainer, but I did have TVs that somehow would end up tuned to FOX News, usually during John Gibson's show, and I'd crank my MP3 player up to drown him out. The fact that I moved means that I missed his commentary on Snoop Dogg's press release on MTV why Snoop's and other rap language should not be held to the same standard as the language of a white geriatric shock jock.

It's been the most absurd part of this week in media.

I've been loving every second of it, of course; I always love these mini-dramas of speech, politeness, and culture. But it is clear to me Imus didn't get jumped on because of that line, Imus got jumped on for, after decades of offensive shock jock shit, leaving such a blatant opening to be jumped on. When you have few friends, you gotta be careful if you are not independent. And a terrestrial-radio jock is not. His customers, unlike a recording artists or writer, are not individuals; his customers are corporations, and they are far more sensitive towards minority issues these days. CBS canned him for driving away paying customers. If he went to satellite radio where his customers would be individual subscribers, he'd be as safe as Snoop again: the public is not as collectively concerned with minority issues at all, as all the attempts at deconstruction of the term "Nappy headed ho's" to show why this isn't really a huge racial offense I have been seeing all over the place, shows.

Or with misogynist language, as Snoop advocates. Well, if Snoop wants claim "bitch" and "ho" as the domain of black urban rap with them as sole arbiters of when to use it -- good luck with that last part, many a white suburban boy isn't even ready to understand why he is not entitled to 'nigga' -- I can see this majority culture being ok with that in a further attempt to marginalize that minority. While at the same time pointing out that his statement, that ho and bitch are only used for women who can't or won't make their own way (like housewives?), is contradicted with the broader picture that in popular rap culture on TV and radio those words are being used so far, seemingly, for every woman the performer wants to fuck. Mr. Dogg's thesis that grossly disempowered women, those who only have their appeal to men to get ahead if not just survive, are the ones who exclusively deserve the most denigrating language is, to say the least, quite oblivious to the lack of options his glammy gangsta BET rapper culture has created for women, and as shown above, pretty close to a blatant lie.

However, Snoop can go off on that, cuz Tha Dogg has no sponsors. Sponsors are what keep people in line these days, the ones who enforce social consciousness and progressive values. Left to just listeners and consumers, "nappy headed ho's" is exactly the daily dose of snarky unimaginative role-affirming race-affirming mean-spiritedness the public at large wants towards minority women bettering themselves to cast off their roles as primarily sex-objects. Corporate dollars were last week the sheperds of progressive values of equality. Think about that. I am scared.
fj: (smug)
A French Nun claims now-dead Pope JP II cured her of Parkinsons. Nice of him. Too bad he never did anything about children in Sierra Leone who had their arms hacked off in the civil war there. God hasn't either. Seems like an oversight while they're going around curing French nuns. French nuns at least get health-care.

Yes, this reasoning is shamelessly stolen from Why won't God heal amputees. As a website trying to tell a story why the concept of God as exploited by religious leaders is hopelessly fucked, it does its job better than most rabid atheist pamphlets out there on the Internet. Reading it I find it is attacking a very specific concept of God, the Touched By An Angel God, the Catholic Pray For Intervention God, with reason and logic, and as I said, one could do worse than deal with that fairy-tale on those terms. Personally, I'd change the site design to be more magazine-like -- visual impressions count -- and re-do the writing to tell the same idea in less words and more impact, but hey, I don't rule the Internet. I mean, for one thing, I don't think this is the most important question to ask about God, as the website claims. I don't know what the most important question is, but why the concept is being used sociologically as some kind of an impotent security blanket is not one of them.

And why stop at Parkinsons, anyway? JP II couldn't fix her teeth? What kind of a second-rate papal miracle healing is that? Oooh, I can remove a degenerative disease that has been attacking millions of braincells for years and clean them up individually, but your teeth, something immediately apparent, no, that's too much work. No, sorry, can't slip that in. God gave you those teeth, you should be happy with them. God gave you Parkinsons too, but I get to call on that. Special papal powers. Man, if I were that nun I'd be worried. There's God sending me a plight to teach me something, and that upstart Pole takes it away. Shit. How much of a hard-ass teacher is God when you come to class empty-handed with the excuse that the Pope ate your homework? And God's already so down on apples, leaving one on the teacher's desk ain't gonna do much. (This bringing apples to teacher is an americanism I still do not know what it is about, BTW.)

I like big stories. I like wonder and magic. That's why I like God. I like hearing about Gods, one or many. Cool Gods. The kind of God that sends you strange prophetic dreams or conjures seas by crying or rides sunny chariots every day or teaches you to read the future from the patterns of leaves on trees or stops you from being defiled by robbers by turning your sari into an endless sea of silk, a garment that never ends, when it is being ripped from you. Those Gods rock. Calling on those inside makes sense. I have an infinitely pliable mind when I don't need to do science or engineering or debugging, I can believe they all exist simultaneously and listen to the ones you have. The one that goes around inspiring Popes to heal random nuns, eh, not so much. Even he's cool, when I can get past his utterly violent and profoundly sociopathic episodes, but his preachers have always sucked. When I find myself calling on something, it is never that version. More like his hippie-ish nephew who, at most, can send ideas or flip bits or make keys re-appear.
fj: (USA)
Circuit City is following the trend of having better financial numbers by trimming labor costs. Like the short-sighted retail idiots that they are, CC decided to do that by firing their best paid -- and thus supposedly highest achieving -- floor staff. The Slashdot write-up about it is not particularly interesting except that it included the phrase 'American Dream'. That is not interesting by itself either, a bit maudlin actually, but it did spark very interesting comments about what posters though the words 'American Dream' means.

I am not sure what the concept classically means, although of course the Wikipedia knows all. I am aware that the phrase has been explored a lot in many venues.

For me, I always thought it was about upward mobility, as some posters do, and I have mixed feelings about the state it is currently in. A number of flist readers have achieved it by clawing their ways out of grinding poverty to where they escaped their trailer-bound destinies and now live in homes of their own, raising children or pets, and the two I am thinking about did it both by hard work and smart choices, very American Dream, even if the choice was slightly smarter at the time than the same choice would be now with deployments to war-torn Iraq. There are very mixed statistics out there, though, about whether much of this upward mobility is still available. I keep thinking that hard work alone is less important and luck keeps getting more and more to do with it, especially since the twin behemoths of un-insurability for health-care and a credit industry intent on squeezing every dime they can from the lower economic strata by exploiting information imbalance seem to keep more and more people down.

If the American Dream is about being able to achieve a house of your own, a car, support your spouse and kids, stay comfortable, the American Dream in most places is just plain dead. Unless there is a huge correction in housing prices that could only be termed 'deep recession', or the US worker stops being thrown around like cattle to be pleased at getting 7 bucks or barely more an hour with no municipal or government services like cheap public transport or free higher education to go with it, owning many of those markers is just not going to happen, unless you are willing to enter dangerous deals with the credit industry.

For some, the words mean the ability to make it huge. Further upward mobility, from, say, where I am, into the stratosphere. I am not even sure that is any more achievable through just plain hard work than it used to be. Supposedly I have better access to it than most people because the latest success stories concentrate around the IT industry, but when I look who made it, hard work is not the only common thread. We all get to constantly work hard in IT, our schedules demand it because production is both so unpredictable and always behind what the market actually wants. The other commonalities I see for people that ascended is also access to all forms of capital (human, financial, creative), and, hoping I don't sound jealous or something, simply being at the right place at the right time. Which product takes off, which product could handle taking off, which product was not killed by the company that had it. It is completely unpredictable to me which products those are before they get big, and what it is about the people that make them. Being the smartest cookie in the bunch barely helps; there's tons of smart cookies out there without high-flying IPOs to look forward to. Or just look at the dot-com flotsam trying to have a second act after the first one was over: Marc Andreessen comes to mind. Jobs did it, though. But again, does anyone want to say that Jobs got there by just hard work?

But going back to the dream being about being able to become and stay comfortably middle class, I just don't know anymore. It seems to me The Netherlands is far better at achieving that version of the American Dream than the US is. Of course, the people in the US when told about what it takes in The Netherlands to maintain that, reject it, because, as I have been told, they think more equality through taxes and national ethos would hamper the second part of the dream, that of reaching the stratosphere. I find that the basic idea of rejecting unions and socialized medicine is that, by having them, you hamper getting obscenely rich. When I hear that verbalized I always think of homeless people using money to buy lottery tickets instead of vitamins. And really, are there per capita so many fewer really rich people in The Netherlands? Should anyone care? Sometimes it feels to me the promise of class mobility to the sky is as much an opium to the masses as religion ever was deemed to be to the person who coined the term. Just make sure the hope stays alive and the masses won't revolt to demand health, safety, solidarity, education.

So what does the phrase American Dream mean to you, more or less personally? Do you remember being in school learning about it, or listening to your parents going on about it? Did you believe in it? Is it happenning? Did your belief about what it means change? It that new belief happening?
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[ profile] postsecret is again proving how touchy Christians are about the slightest dis.
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Old Glory Of The Mall
"Old Glory Of The Mall", Nokia N73, Los Angeles County, 2007

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1) The correct response of emergency services to an unknown unaccountable object in a public space, especially near critical infrastructure, is to assume it is an explosive, and send out the full bomb response. This is true in London, Rotterdam, Madrid, Algiers, Dublin, Paris, and Tokyo. It seems many in the US are not on board with what has been reality in the modern world since unexploded WWII ordinance and disaffected 60s German bomb-wielding hippies started showing up, but then again, this is the country that had to learn the hard way that allowing knives on airplanes was just ludicrous. Alas, after they learned this lesson the security services in that area of public life went completely overboard, and I bet they will in public life as well if the US has to learn the hard way the lesson about unattended unaccounted-for objects meriting a bomb-squad response every time. These objects merit this response, even if the first thousand of them end up harmless when they look harmless, because looking stupid one thousand times is far outweighed by the benefit of having had an adequate response when the object was not harmless notmatter what it looked like.

Then again, I suspect the way things end up working in the US is that the homeless are the first response squad for unidentified objects like bags and suitcases left in public places. Which is gonna hurt some people, but nobody the US in general deems important.

2) If you leave three-dimensional crap around, as in boxes, installations, bags, bulk of any kind, you are going to trigger rule 1. Failure to account for that, or finding it ridiculous because your crap is of course benign and/or has some socially redeeming value and/or you got away with it in other places, makes you look incredibly dumb to anyone who has actually not been numbed to the international situation in at least the last 50 years. Well, ok, 'dumb' may be a bit harsh, we could also allow 'suffering under the common delusion of American Exceptionalism: "Crap happens everywhere else in the world, not in the US because God Loves Us, so I have nothing to worry about"' See that issue of allowing knives on planes again.

However, whether failing to account for this rule (that leaving wired bulky gleamy obscure crap around will trigger rule 1) means you are dumb or deluded, said failure does mean you do not really understand the current culture of Emergency Responses you are in. In other words, if rule 1 caught you by surprise, you certainly lost all cred for being a 'Culture Jammer' or some other edgy moniker of social enlightment. You're basically the real-life equivalent of a script-kiddie in a hacker world who is trolling irc for scripts to hax0r (lol) a MySpace account of a n00b you hate who goes to your High School. If you're gonna do shit as outlined in rule 1, just be ready to deal with it, ok? Don't get caught with your pants down and having to explain the person paying your paycheck why their name is being dragged through mud and bills are being sent to their corporate HQ. Or even worse, not have counsel and bail lined-up when the executors of rule 1 come knocking.

3) 'Guerilla Marketeers', 'Viral Marketeers, 'Web 2.0 Social Artists', whatever you want to call them, are the saddest sack of sell-outs you have ever seen. They take all the tools created for communication, for making people think, for bringing us together, for creating the unexpected, and use it to become a billboard while claiming to be cooler than being a billboard. Well, maybe if you think 'deceptive' is cool, they are, but still, consider what the actual goal is: selling. Whether it is sending models to bars to use your latest phones, giving crap to bloggers, tagging penguins on sidewalks, repeated slapping ugly posters on every empty space you see, or doing something to trigger rule 1 (even if inadvertently, but that just means you fall under rule 2), you're just another corporate shill, ok? There's no glory in it, especially not when it is done for the product carefully crafted to appeal to the market segment that needs to think of itself as 'edgy' by an enormous corproate behemoth. Especially if said edgy product is actually not that edgy, but just unknown and mediocre. 'Guerilla marketers' are basically artists who sold out but think using their same tools and not wearing a tie somehow makes them different from a Madison Avenue hack who comes up with jingles for Air freshner. Except the hack actually does get to have a cool appartment in Manhattan, and the Guerilla Marketer is still stuck in Allston, if he's lucky to have sold out enough.

4) The way to disguise a bomb in the US is by making it look like a mechanical corporate expression people will now be too embarrassed to report. This, I have been informed in the entry about this in [ profile] dr_memory's journal, has already been discussed in 1997 at the federal government level. The public at large outside of Boston calling Boston wuzzes for reacting along rule 1, is happily reinforcing this rule. Don't forget to thank them.
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What Molly Ivins taught me is that speaking truth doesn't change shit. I'd read her work and think "My god if even half of this is true, why are these people still free?" Yet they kept being free. Her columns are hilarious lists of excesses both in the Texas state and US national legislatures, and in the end, the people she despised and exposed got to vandalize their territories on and on to greater profit, and she was marginalized.

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