January 29th, 2010

Peter G

Public Image Ltd.

Let's talk for a minute about two things, public image and stereotypes.  Seemingly separate elements, forever in an uncomfortable dance together.

Issues dealing with personal identity and its corresponding politics have a peculiar fascination with me.  It's a recurring theme in a lot of stuff I write.  I'm not wholly convinced of the Jungian concept of self, but use it as a springboard to understand other people.  One of the criticisms I heard about The Supremacy was how they couldn't identify with Pulsar, being reduced to Cruetzfeldt's pet.  I'm not sure if I just didn't explain it clearly enough, or if I just wrote it and miscalculated that the audience would get it.  For me, being completely beholden, not just in person but also in action, to someone else just because they like controlling you is a horrifying nightmare (seeing people so completely at someone else's mercy in movies or other fiction makes me really really uncomfortable.  Which I suppose is the reason I write female characters the way I do.  Any power gained over them is temporary, they are smart enough and determined enough, they WILL figure a way out of it.  Rhapsody in Sound Waves is a good girl, so it may take her a little while, but she'll get there.  Meanwhile, Holly in Stress Puppy will not only do it almost instantly, but make you sorry you ever tried).  The concept of dom/sub and the whole subgenre of erotic fiction dealing with mind control fantasies, I just can't take them.  They literally make me sick to my stomach.

Intellectuals like to kid themselves that the past twenty-odd years since the end of the Reagan Era, when ethic and sexual and gender jokes were told openly, that people have become more enlightened, and that discrimination along arbitrary lines like religion or ethnic background or whatever are being chased from the present and into history.  But that's a lie.  Discrimination still exists, it's just gone underground.  And not only will it still rear its ugly head, but some forms of discrimination are excused or even celebrated, even though it is still just as wrong.  Ever been dumped by a wonderful woman because her mother wanted her to marry "a nice Jewish boy"?  It ain't fun.

So, discrimination is only considered wrong within narrowly defined lines.  Outside those lines, it's seen as solidarity and leveling the playing field, not prejudice.  And this is where stereotypes come in to play.  As I have pointed out in Stress Puppy, how people react to stereotypes largely depends on what they get out of them.  If the stereotype results in some sort of status or bragging rights, they'll embrace it (blacks are sexual dynamos, for example).  In some subcultures, living up to a stereotype is a goal.

I don't watch MTV anymore -- I haven't since Daria went off the air.  So the vapid airheads on shows like The Hills, I wouldn't know them if they looked me in the eye and kneed me in the groin.  Apparently, MTV wanted the flip side of Beverly Hills living, and came up with Jersey Shore.  From what I can gather, it follows a bunch of self-professed "guidos" (which is normally an offensive slur for "Italians") living it up in a party house.  Drinking, sex, shallow pleasures, and you don't need the bucks the cast of The Hills does to live it.

Italian-American watchdog groups, who thought they could breathe easier with The Sopranos off the air, are pissed because everyone on the show is a walking stereotype that they are fighting to put down.  And these people on Jersey Shore aren't doing this to be outrageous, they genuinely like being guidos and acting the way they do.  No one can say they are trying to be provocative because they do that even when the cameras aren't rolling.  They see nothing offensive about what they are doing.

What right do people have to live as they see fit, and what responsibility do they have to present themselves and any subculture that intersects with them in the best possible light?  If we truly have individual liberty, we can't condemn such behavior, but if we don't, we risk people embracing it as normal instead of saying, "You're acting like idiots, knock it off".  Like it or not, we are socially judged by our associations (computer nut == unwashed, fat, neckbeard).  One group sees nothing wrong with stamping out a mode of behavior, the other sees nothing wrong with wallowing in it.

I've thought about this off and on for over twenty years.  I'm no closer to an answer now than I was then....
Bill Nye

The Failbus Always Needs Drivers

This is a tough economy, and everyone needs a job to make ends meet.  Well, get ready for a whole bunch of openings.

It seems that July of this year will see a new federal law take effect.  All CDL truck drivers are going to be evaluated over a 36 month period.  If you are found to be unsafe due to racking up multiple tickets and such, you will not be allowed to drive.  Basically, you get pulled from your Kenworth and are put in the party van.

Now, this effects ALL professional truck drivers.  That means you union folks.  That means you construction folks (I'm very curious how the road construction crews with their political connections wiggle out of this one).  It is estimated that roughly 175,000 drivers currently on the road will be ineligible once July rolls around.

Oh, and you can bet carriers are waiting.  With fewer truckers, they will suddenly be able to demand a higher price for their services thanks to supply and demand.

It's a growth industry, folks....

Can't Tell The Players Without A Scorecard

The primaries here in Illinois happen on Feb 2.  As a public service, here's a quick run down of some of the key races and my usual snark.

Let's start with the Senate seat that is literally up for grabs.  Republicans in Illinois smell a chance to win it back.  The seat was originally held by Democrat Carol Mosley Braun during the Clinton Adminstration.  She then made a lot of questionable choices (as Aaron Freeman quipped, "She's the first politician to ruin her career without making any money") and a fit of voter annoyance, the seat went to Peter Fitzgerald of the R's.  Fitzgerald was a true independent who took his job seriously, appointing AG's who wanted to clean up the culture of sleaze in Illinois.  The R's didn't like someone closing up their buffet, and refused to support him.  He decided not to run for re-election, and Jack Ryan was running for the seat for the R's.  Then, his marriage to Star Trek: Voyager actress and fap material Jeri Ryan busted up.  There were stories that he took her to a sex club and asked her to participate.  She said no and they left.  This isn't the problem.  The problem is, with the election coming up, he tried to bury her statements in the custody hearings and asked reporters not to probe to protect his kids' delicate sensibilities.  The voters didn't like him using his kids as shields, and put a little known politician on the rise named Barrack Obama in there.  Obama became President, and there was talk of a special election to fill his seat.  The front runner at the time was an R.  The D's didn't want to lose the seat and blocked the vote for a special election.  Thanks to the delay, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was able to appoint Roland "Tombstone" Burris to serve the rest of the term.  Burris is not running for re-election -- his war chest got less than $1,000 in contributions, so he's dead in the water.

So now, the R's want the seat they claimed they wanted when they forced out the guy who was actually doing the job right.  The frontrunner for the R's nomination is Mark Kirk.  They are behind him, even though he supports abortion rights and gun control, both an anathema to the party platform.  Also, the Tea Party Patriots in the state think he's full of shit.  Reason enough for me not to vote for him.

On the D's side, the front runner is 33 year old Alexi Giannoulias, the current state Treasurer (who hasn't served a full term in office yet).  He says Obama is his mentor.  Reason enough for me not to vote for him.  And, in addition to, on top of that, his only previous work experience was for a family bank currently in financial trouble.  Boy, do we know how to pick them.

For the office of gov, the D's have Pat Quinn, the lite gov who got promoted when Blago was told to hit the bricks.  Quinn has given voters lots of reason to vote against him.  He has increased taxes and state fees (renewing your license went from $15 to $35, more than a 100% jump) instead of cutting spending.  He wants another tax increase to help right the state instead of cutting wasteful programs.  He tried cutting costs by letting some nonviolent inmates out of prison.  Whoopsie, there were some violent offenders who got out, too, and they went and committed some serious new crimes.  He's dead in the water, too.

For the R's nomination, there are six candidates jockeying for position.  Four of them are Machine.  Two are independent, Adam Andrzejewski and Dan Proft.  Andrzejewski is good, but he's a bit conciliatory.  Proft is a firebrand who has been hitting every Tea Party Patriot event in the state and is reaching out to everyone, D's and R's (one of my co-workers got a call last night to sit in on a virtual town meeting Proft was hosting).  Proft is looking to stir up some shit, and his pedigree is good.  I'm leaning towards him.

This is Illinois.  Vote early, vote often!

You Put The Lime In The Coconut

Judicial Watch likes to keep an eye on politicians spending wastefully.  The Freedom Of Information Act is their weapon of choice.

Over the past two years, it seems Nancy Pelosi has been running up a bar tab.  She has spent $101,000 on booze during Air Force jet travels.  That comes out to about $1,000 a week.  The receipts read like an alki's wet dream.  Maker's Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey's Irish Crème, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey and Corona beer.  No wonder she thought Americans loved her ObamaCare plan.  No ice wine, where the price is at least understandable.  It reminds me of a gag I did in Stress Puppy, where a Congressman was justifying how much they spent by saying they are Congressmen, they shouldn't be drinking Pabst.  All told, Pelosi has run up $2.1 mil in expenses during her travels.

That we are paying for.

I think I need a drink....