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Ordinary Canary Posts

Who Is the Middle Class?

Is it just me, or is the Obama Administration really irking you with their focus on the middle class?

I’d like to think that they see a classist society where there is an upper class and a middle class and no lower, since that’s how they’re acting, but I suspect it’s more of a “we just don’t care about the people at the bottom all that much, because middle class people are good, responsible people and well, y’know…”. And that’s really just not in line with the way I think – the people at the bottom are the people who are already struggling to eat in the best of times. These are the people that live with the reality that the middle class is having to deal with now every day. If anyone has been really beaten up by what’s happened with our economy, it’s the people who have the hardest time getting a fair slice of the pie on the best of days. And our new administration, who should know better, who seem to intellectually understand the reasons behind cyclical poverty, do not seem to care.

I grew up scraping by. My mom bought her first house in her late forties, long after I’d left the nest. She was highly educated, with post-graduate educational credits, but she was a teacher and a single mom and she worked in school districts with no money. We were above the poverty threshold, which I have no idea how anyone manages to live on, but not all that much above it. Most of the people I knew and loved growing up were equally poor. My mother considered herself middle class because of her education, but I don’t think anyone else in my neighborhood thought of themselves in that way.

Generally, I am appreciating the Obama administration. Job creation is good, getting out of Iraq is good, equal pay legislation is awesome, expanding health coverage to more children is only tragic because it has waited this long. But oh, Obama administration, there is no minimum household income to make us worthy of your focus. We are all Americans. We all count.

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The Economy: We’re All Doomed

I’m not sure if this is national news or not, but here in NYC, we’re seeing two hospital closings in Queens as a result of financial difficulty.

In addition to the horrors of even fewer medical facilities in Queens (and, having lived in Queens for five years, I sadly have some personal experience with this), the MTA, which is public transportation into, around and out of New York City, has proposed a 23% rate increase . My absolute favorite part of the proposed plan is their intention of doubling prices of transport for the disabled. Because, of course, people who already have to live on public assistance due to disability are just rolling in the money and can really afford the largest percentage rate increase of any of us.

They are out of their heads. Not only are they proposing the largest rate increase in MTA history, they are also looking to cut back services at the same time. My monthly fare will be increasing by $80, which really hurts, but I also will now have to pay an additional $3.50 per ride to ride the buses by my house, since the two monthly tickets I already buy will no longer cover Long Island bus service.

Something has gone desperately wrong in the world. How is the recession affecting you?

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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Warning: I will spoil the plot. You may not want to read further.

I watched Perfume: The Story of a Murderer the other night, after renting it because Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman are in it and it looked like it would have an interesting plot.

And, well, yes, if horrific means interesting, it certainly does. I am a little dismayed because, on top of having such talent in the cast, it won a whole bunch of awards.

I think I was just unable to discount the fact that murdering women for beauty is really never okay. You have to buy into that concept to understand the main character of the movie, which was just too hard for me to do. I couldn’t understand him or relate to him and as a result, the movie bored the heck out of me. I also was really, really disturbed that the response of a crowd to the fact that the main character had a perfume made out of the essence of twelve beautiful women was to have a massive orgy.

Really?!? And this movie won awards? I really don’t grok the world.

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Womyns’ Communities

An article on lesbian separatist communities that I found interesting.

I’ve been thinking a lot about communities of women (of all sexual orientations) because of the novel I’m reading, The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. It is really, really good. It’s about a home for unwed mothers run by the Catholic church (and therefore nuns). There are, so far, two male characters and dozens of female characters. There are not a lot of books like that.

Working in a practically all-male field as I do, I’ve found my need for companionship with other women has increased over the years. Women socialize very differently from men, which is really refreshing. We talk deeper, in a lot of ways, with more depth on a subject, but we discuss fewer subjects. However, finding women who want to talk about something other than the men in our lives has been challenging. I am as guilty of this as anyone – I find that I frequently am lost finding something else to talk about (and not having children does not help). To be fair, those relationships require a lot of time and effort and thought cycles. They require discussion and processing. But here we are, women together in a room – surely our life experiences have more to offer than just our romantic relationships? But how do you get past an entire culture that tells you otherwise – how do you bridge the gap for something more meaningful?

I don’t know, but I try all the time. Perhaps these all female communities are on to something – I don’t know that I’d want to live in one all the time, but I would love to be able to visit.

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Patton Oswalt, Stomp and the Opening Comedian

red-wineThis weekend was very busy, since I was entertaining a friend that was visiting from out of town. The highlight was seeing Patton Oswalt who is an absolutely brilliant comedian from Sterling, Virginia (Virginia pride, whoo!). You probably wouldn’t like him if crude language offends you, but he has some very smart things to say. It was cool to see him live.

Less cool was the opening comedian, who referred to all the women in his jokes as bitches, which was particularly depressing since most of the audience responded well to it. Apparently jokes about how completely stupid and useless women are are still in. I’m prefer smart comedy, not just meanness, so he was kind of a boring boor. But a boor with a very happy audience, which made me want to hide my head in the sand for the rest of my life. It made me drink far too much Shiraz, too.

Fortunately, we went to see Stomp before my hangover, which was pretty cool. The idea behind it is that you can make rhythm from the most ordinary objects. Once you have enough people involved, this becomes really cool. Rhythm is such an essential part of being alive and is absolutely everywhere when you stop to listen for it – in language, in the sounds of our vehicles, in the waves of the ocean. Being able to hear and respond to rhythm is so intrinsic to what makes us such amazing creatures — when we can manage to treat each other with respect, that is.

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The color of life is my favorite.

This is the view from my desk, several months after I began the Great Plant Initiative at work. My second title at work is Office Gardener.

My tarantula fern looked particularly beautiful in the light, so I just had to share. A moment of beauty in the day.

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Cuba Embraces the Penguin

Cuba officially supports Linux now, which is pretty rocking from both an open source perspective and a “gosh, American policies regarding Cuba are so beyond stupid” standpoint.

The plane we were on from Montego Bay was delayed rather significantly by a sick passenger. We had to go back to the gate and let her off, because if she became very ill in the air space over Cuba, we would not be able to land.

This is so stupid. So stupid. Our embargoes against Cuba need to end. I personally really resent not being able to go to a place on this planet because my government cannot get with the times and is still participating in the Cold War. I also am horrified that we have a policy of bringing democracy to Cuba that was codified in 1992, considering that we certainly have zero problem supporting dictators in Latin America or other Communist governments when it furthers our business interests.

So what gives with Cuba? What could our objections, in 2009, possibly still be?

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One Cat in Search of Warmer Weather

That would be me, by the way.

Jamaica is one heavenly place. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen somewhere so incredibly beautiful.

We had a good time. However, we were not blind to what the effects of our economy are on Jamaica – the hotel that we stayed at was very empty. The streets in Montego Bay were also empty, outside of the morning and evening rush hours. The beach we frequented had plenty of space to choose from, despite being a pretty small public beach.

The aluminum and bauxite trades, the news told us, have nearly come to a standstill, because it is so dependent on American purchasers and my country is just not buying. We saw lots of construction that looked like it had been abandoned, hotels half built, the support beams rusting in the sun. The Jamaican diaspora is a severe cultural problem in the best of economies – now it appears that we’ve entered an economy that might possibly be the worst.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I would dearly love to see a world where resources were fairly distributed, where the entire world doesn’t fall just because our economy takes a downturn. What would the world look like if colonization and imperialism hadn’t been such a dominant force for the last 300 years? Would we all eat more and play more? And how do we get there from where we are?

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Zadie Smith and Multiracial Identity

A very worthwhile article by Zadie Smith on multiracial identities, Barack Obama, William Shakespeare and My Fair Lady.

An excerpt:
A few minutes later, I was in a taxi and heading uptown with my Northern Irish husband and our half-Indian, half-English friend, but that initial hesitation was ominous; the first step on a typical British journey. A hesitation in the face of difference, which leads to caution before difference and ends in fear of it. Before long, the only voice you recognize, the only life you can empathize with, is your own.

Zadie Smith is the author of the truly excellent White Teeth, which I recommend reading. Much like Shakespeare, you can never tell exactly whose side Smith is on, which makes her a fascinating novelist. I think, perhaps, she is on everybody’s.

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