CSI: Catherine Still Incompetent?

Visitors to the lair know that when I’m devoted to a show, I’m in it to win it until the very end. I’ll even follow you into continued “seasons” in book form if I’m really into you (which reminds me: I need to finish the “eighth season” of Deep Space Nine before I completely forget the first three books from the run). It’s no surprise, then, that I have continued to watch the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation through every bump and dip the show has seen in recent years. And, even though I confess to no surprise from the announcement earlier this year that CBS had cancelled the series after 15 years, I still felt a pang of loss. This show has meant a great deal to me for myriad reasons—so much so that, even though it had become only a sliver of its former self, I mourned the inevitable loss of the comfort I took from its familiar presence in my life.

It was, therefore, with no small amount of sadness that I tuned in this past Sunday to watch the final 2-hour movie that CBS green-lit to wrap up story lines and give fans one final Vegas hurrah. The final movie was, indeed, written almost exclusively for those of us who had watched the show with any sense of religious devotion. It was all about the characters, as it had become within recent years (much to my dismay, TBH). They brought back numerous characters, including Detective Jim Brass, “fan favorite” Lady Heather (who I found entertaining at first, but then quickly found irritating), and one-time show stars Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows.

Clearly, from the title of this post, I’d like to focus primarily on Catherine Willows as well as, more generally, how CSI ultimately failed many of its female characters as well as its female fans. I charge that its biggest failure in this regard, however, was to Ms. Willows.

csiwillows

When the series began in 2000, Marg Helgenberger and William Peterson clearly were marketed as the stars—sort of the Scully and Mulder of the forensic world, with the sassy headstrong redhead and the nerdy-hot socially awkward loner. As the series got its footing, it became more and more clear that, while Grissom was the technical leader of the team (read: He was the one making the bucks and getting all the attention), Catherine was the engine that made the operation run. However, there was a far less progressive message being conveyed in the depiction of Catherine’s “behind the scenes” role. She wasn’t in charge, but everyone on the team, including Grissom, depended on her to keep everything on track—paperwork completed, assignments passed out, reviews given, etc. In essence, in addition to being a high-ranking and capable CSI, Catherine Willows was Gil Grissom’s administrative assistant, taking care of all the clerical duties that Grissom felt were not what he should be focusing on.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with anyone who performs clerical tasks. There isn’t even anything wrong with setting up a scenario in which Grissom is completely inept at such tasks and Willows steps in to provide him the support he needed to keep the team on-track. What was wrong, however, was the turn of events that started at the beginning of Season 5, when the lab director decided to split up the grave shift, setting up Catherine as the new swing-shift supervisor in charge of Nick and Warrick. With Willows and Grissom separated, Grissom continued on as he always did, and no attention was paid any longer to his clerical ineptitude. He was simply the grave-shift supervisor. Period.

However, almost from the start, TPTB wrote Catherine Willows as unable to perform her supervisory duties with any degree of aptitude. She bungled cases, her team (two people previously under her supervision on the grave shift and previously possessed of respect for her skills and supervision) disagreed with her constantly, and the generally accepted presentation to viewers was that she was not suitable as the swing-shift supervisor. This was disappointing, of course, but also problematic. When the team was together, it was very clear that Grissom cared far more for cases, evidence, and investigations than in his supervisory duties. Catherine was the one who took care of all that, and Grissom trusted her implicitly. Plus, he trusted her implicitly as a CSI, often deferring to her as the next senior-ranking investigator on the grave shift. Nick and Warrick respected her as well while they were all on the same team. Splitting her away and making her their actual supervisor should not have changed any of what had already been established—should it? And yet, it did. The implication, of course, was that Catherine Willows could only be successful if she was supported by Grissom, who actually gave her no support at all. But clearly, she couldn’t handle all the things she used to handle without someone there to give her no help at all!

It was no surprise, then, that the next season brought them all back together as one team, Catherine once more serving as second to Grissom. Now, I get that this “breaking up the team” story arc was just a one-season ploy to begin with—something to stir up some controversy, shake the dust of familiarity off everything, and whatnot. What was frustrating was the fact that the ploy had to come at the expense of showing a previously capable member of the team fail so dramatically that no one even questioned her unspoken demotion at the beginning of the sixth season. Or at the beginning of the 12th season…but we’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve already gone off on a tangent about how CSI treated its female characters. And while some of my thoughts from that post have evolved with time, they’re still pretty on-target. However, what I point to from that post is the fact that Jorja Fox and Marg Helgenberger were the ones to call for a truce between their characters. They saw the value of ceasing and desisting with the continuation of discord between Willows and Sidle. It’s just one of the many reasons that I admire both of them. Of course, the writers’ solution? Stop having Willows and Sidle interact. Instead of climbing out of their clear comfort zone of supporting the notion that women cannot work together in the same collegial way that male characters often do and writing Willows and Sidle into two representatives of a new idea…a fantastic idea…the amazing notion that women can work together without sinking teeth into each other, figuratively or literally…they just gave up on having the women interact at all unless they had to. And usually? It was to spark some kind of fight between them that required male intervention to solve.

Again, all part of the process of pushing stories forward, but it’s trite. It’s demeaning. And it reflects the perpetuation of a misconception that deserves to DIAF. Women work together all the time without fanging each other or deceiving each other or betraying each other or just in general hating each other, “because women.” I do it every day. Even better, my female coworkers and I can pass the Bechdel test with almost every single conversation we have—something that, even by the last episode of a 337-episode run, Willows and Sidle failed almost completely.

But I digress. This is about CSI Willows. Fast-forward from the sixth season demotion to William Peterson’s departure in the middle of the ninth season and Catherine Willows’s subsequent promotion-by-default to head of the grave shift. Again, a shift she’s been helping to run for many years, supervising people she’s worked with for years—she’s got this. Right? And yet, at the beginning of Season 10…the beginning of Season 10, when Catherine Willows has barely been in charge for half a season, we learn that one of her staff has left after filing charges against Willows, for what? Incompetent management.

Again, the writers needed to cover the fact that an actress they’d cast the previous season either left or they let go because the character wasn’t working, but notice how this is the second time they’ve made Catherine Willows incompetent to fix the flow of the story? Sara even tells Catherine, in one of those delightful yet sadly rare moments when these two characters interacted amicably, that she’s a great CSI and that “the only thing that Grissom had that you don’t, is you.” (P.S., this was yet another instance in which Sara and Catherine also failed the Bechdel test, because apparently the only way these two could see eye-to-eye was if they first discussed Sara’s relationship with Grissom…but we’ll get to that in a moment as well).

[Loba Tangent: By the way, this could have been an incredible moment in which the writers decided to make Sara Sidle the second-in-charge to Catherine Willows, thereby having two women in supervisory roles. Can you imagine? Instead, they had Catherine make Nick Stokes her second-in-command. Look at there: Catherine Willows, supported yet again by a man. Surely, she’ll be successful this time!]

So was Sara lying? Or was it simply the fact that the writers at some point decided that the best way to fix major story changes was simply to make Catherine Willows the default incompetent scapegoat? Don’t believe me? Head on over to the beginning of Season 12. Laurence Fishburne had decided that serial television was not to his liking so he departed, to be replaced by Ted Danson. Arriving as D.B. Russell, Danson’s character quickly was established as, what? The grave-shift supervisor. Apparently, being He Who Was Sam Malone trumps the status of the woman who has been on the series since the beginning, and once again Catherine Willows becomes too incompetent to lead.

What’s even worse is that this time her incompetence stems partly from her emotional response to actions that took place at the end of the previous season—actions that a few of the male characters were complicit in carrying out for equally emotional reasons. But it was Catherine Willows who fell and served in demoted silence for all of one season before Helgenberger finally called it quits and left the realm. At least they replaced her with another woman when they brought Elisabeth Shue on as CSI Julie Finlay. Strangely enough, Shue didn’t get to become the head of the team. You’d think that being an Oscar-nominated film star would trump being Sam Malone. Guess not.

Jump, jump, jump ahead to the end. Catherine Willows returns in her new capacity as a field agent for the FBI’s Los Angeles office. Incompetent as a state employee? Don’t worry. The federal government has got you covered, bae!

Seriously, though. By the time Helgenberger left the show, the writers had written the character of Catherine Willows as someone whose personnel file was so riddled with problems that she should have been shipped back to the strip club where she started. And yet, they felt it was appropriate to send her off to the FBI? Forreals?

Right.

So Willows comes back to help during a time when Sara Sidle, by dint of reason that she’s literally the last remaining original CSI left (even though she didn’t appear until the second episode), oh and the show is ending, is up for consideration as the director of the crime lab. WHO’S THE BIG DAWG? Winning by default is still winning, AMIRITE?

Never mind that she’s up for a job that we will never get to see her actually work. No, scratch that. That’s one of the things that really pissed me off about seeing Sara Sidle up for this huge promotion. Pardon my language, but big fucking deal. Why didn’t the writers consider her for the promotion when they decided to demote Willows a third time? You want to give these women reason to fight? There would have been your reason. You know, because women never support each other in the workplace. Instead, she’s not up for any kind of promotion until the last episode. A promotion that she gets (spoilers) and then just as quickly gives up (spoilerz) because love interest is love interest and nothing more. Sara Sidle was always meant to be, first and foremost, Gil Grissom’s love interest. All that time that Sara Sidle was on the show after Grissom left? Well, none of that counted. All those cases she worked and victims she helped and suspects she put away. Meaningless. Everything about her was meaningless until Grissom could return and woo her away once more.

So who became the director after Sara rode off into the sunset with her Prince Charming (literally, spoilers)? The intimation was…it was Catherine Willows. Third time’s the charm? Again, though, big fucking deal. Not only do we not get to see Director Catherine Willows, we don’t even get to see her take the role. It was far more important to see Sara Sidle give up everything to fulfill her ultimate destiny as “Gil Grissom’s love interest.”

Wow. That’s a lot more than I anticipated writing. And yet I barely scratched the surface. Not to say that the show didn’t have great female characters. It honestly had many wonderful female characters come and go through the years. For instance, Julie Finlay was a fascinating character—you know, up until the point where they had her beat into a coma by a serial killer, stuffed into a trunk, and then confirmed as dead in the last 10 minutes of the final episode.

Whatever.

Why does any of this matter? After all, it’s just a show. Just a show that not only ran for 15 years but inspired the creation of at least a dozen knockoffs, including three spinoffs. A show that helped change the course of television in highly influential ways. And yet, when TV Guide dedicated a cover to Helgenberger and Fox? This was the photo they felt was most appropriate:

margjorjakneeswtf

Nothing like women on their knees, eh?

Oh, and if you’d like to dress like a CSI for Halloween? Better just put your own costume together, because this is what you’re going to find in the stores:

ladycsicostumewtf

Positive representation matters. If you think it doesn’t, then you probably are lucky to belong to a group that has never had to worry about any kind of representation, either in the media or in reality. To everyone else, it’s a big deal. CSI made a huge impact in many positive ways, but it also missed the opportunity to make the same kind of impact on how women are depicted in popular culture. They could have taken the character of Catherine Willows and made her an example of a woman who brought herself up from a life she no longer wanted to lead to a life that could have inspired. Instead, she was Catherine Willows, forever destined to make poor professional and personal choices and never ever ever learn from any of them. She—and we—deserved better.

There’s still hope, even in this particular franchise. Patricia Arquette is the lead in CSI: Cyber, which returns this upcoming Sunday. Of course, Ted Danson is shifting over to that show now that the Vegas crew has investigated their last crime. So help me, if he somehow ends up bumping Arquette to second-banana, hell will truly have no fury like Loba unchained.

Go ahead. Try to demote me again.
Go ahead. Try to demote me again.

Rant Me the Serenity…

Talk about much ado about nothing. I relaunch the blog after so much time and effort to rebuild my online lair and then…nothing. Pfft. Fizzle. A couple of Flashback Fridays, some book reviews, some PhotoShop trickery…but no meat. Just sides.

I want more. Truth is, though, that I feel sometimes like there are so many variables against “more.” My job has evolved into something far more consistently all-consuming than before, which means that by the end of the day, there’s not much intellectual energy left. I mean, come on now, I’m practically running on fumes all the time anyway…now, I’ve reached the point where by the end of the day, I simply can’t brain anymore.

Please don’t make me brain anymore.

Seriously, though, I work out my focus all day long, trying to keep multiple projects on track, on time, on budget, on fleek. I come home and I got nothin’ left. The jam jar is empty and all that’s left is the dried-out jam crust around the lid. No one wants that.

The other problem (beyond my tendency to make really disgusting analogies) is that I’ve lost my indignant fire. In my Angry BloggerTM Days, I had no dearth of anger for fueling myriad rants. I’m old now, and I see the futility of ranting. Not to say that I don’t still go on rants…but they’re usually about things meant to incite wrath from the geek community. I’m really good at that.

Ranting about things that matter IRL though? Ranting just deepens the divide. I’m more into (or I’m more into trying to be more into) seeking solutions. Trying to find the problem and fix it. Trying to find answers to questions that I’m quite frankly tired of asking and tired of watching everyone in charge ignore simply because the answers aren’t…simple.

The problem is that this path isn’t easily packaged into a navel-gazing blog blurb. And this path shouldn’t be easily packaged or reduced or simplified. It’s a path of thorns and brambles. A path abandoned for too long because choosing this path requires serious work, and who wants to do that? It’s way more fun to keep ignoring this path and taking the easier one that solves nothing but lets us all be utter cockwombles from the anonymous comfort of our Internet-trolling couches.

[Loba Tangent: In other news, my British friends have taught me the word cockwomble, and I now try to fit it in whenever I can. Because cockwomble.]

So that’s where I’m at. I’m still here, pacing the lair, trying to figure it all out. I’m still writing blog posts. I’ve got a couple saved as drafts (which I couldn’t do before I repaired things, so progress!!). If it makes you all feel any better, I’m not just ignoring the lair. I haven’t even really been reading all that much lately either. Again, jam crust.

And just so I don’t leave you all with that disgusting image in your head, have this. Uzo Aduba is one of my new favorite people in the entirety of the universe. If you don’t know why, then get thee to a Netflix account and stream the hell out of Orange is the New Black. Hers is one of the most captivating characters from what is one of the most delightfully diverse, female-centric shows ever (a shame, though, that we can only get diversity behind bars).

uzo

Throw Your Hands Up At Me

All the voters who are Independent? Your ranks just grew by one last week.

That’s right, last week, I changed my party affiliation. No more Donkey Blue for me, at least not for the time being. For the now, however, I felt it was something that I needed to do. While the ideals of the Democratic Party are still the ideals that closely match my own, the truth is that it’s all lip service. They talk a good game about hope and change and moving forward…which, I suppose, is at least a more uplifting message than the one of divisiveness and exclusion that the Republican Party has embraced of late.

Ultimately, however, it’s the Democrats who prove more disappointing. See, I actually want to see all those wonderful promises come to fruition. I want equality for all, whether it’s for civil unions or equal pay or a college degree. I want women to continue to have the right to choose what happens to our bodies, whether it be through the provision of birth control or abortions. I might not believe in either or I might believe in both…doesn’t matter. I want the choice to be available. I want universal healthcare (not the muddled joke of Obamacare, which was doctored by the insurance companies who’ve helped make a mess of the system in the first place). I want decent public education, affordable higher education…I might not like kids, but I know that an educated youth becomes a knowledgeable and inventive workforce and might even give us a qualified leader or two.

Obviously, we’re in a bit of a shortage on that front.

I want all these things, and for years I have bought into the delusion that the Democrats were going to make good on all their promises.

The only thing that I have learned, however, is that Democrats and Republicans are alike in one significant way: They will make perfectly crafted promises as a means of keeping us in line. Promises addressing key party platform issues like Equal Pay, Abortion Rights, Freedom of Religion, Taxed Enough Already…these all become nothing more than leashes used by the politicians to keep their constituents at heel.

I’m tired of heeling. So I became Independent. Actually, the state of Maryland calls it “Unaffiliated.” That’s fine. I have to admit, I had a moment of indecision when it was time to click submit and send my changes to the voter registration board. I remember how excited I was to be able to register to vote when I turned 18. I couldn’t wait! It was a bigger deal to me than finally turning 21. I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to be a Democrat. Donkey Blue, through and through.

Bill Clinton was my first. It’s been all downhill since.

Will I still reach a point where I regret changing my affiliation? I don’t know. I did consider the fact that the more moderates, like me, who grow weary of either party and abandon them for Independent or another party alternative means that only the hardcore nutjobs will be left as actual registered Democrats or Republicans. Prophets know what might happen then. Obviously, we’ve seen a small-scale version of this already transpiring, with long-time moderate Republicans being replaced by TEA Party hindrances to the system.

Of course, if more people start leaving the two controlling parties and joining alternatives, we might actually become a country that acknowledges more than just the two hot messes we have now.

We can have many hot messes! And then we’d be Canada 😉

By becoming unaffiliated, I’ve lost my ability to vote in any primaries. Primary season is over this election cycle, so I have time to mull over this fact. Right now, though…now that it’s done? I feel a sense of peace. I’m sure that will change once the politicians from both sides realize that I’ve become a “free agent” and start pelting me with mailings and calls. No worries. That’s why there are shredders and caller ID.

Would I encourage others to become Independent? Only if you’ve reached the same point of disillusionment with your chosen party that I have reached. Even if it’s just for right now, even if it’s just for a little while. Stop toeing the party line for yet another run at a race controlled by empty promises.

The Road to Independents

Ever since my last post, I’ve been thinking of ways to show that I’m serious (well, that and I took a little time to party for my birthday…priorities and all, you know). I’ve got an idea or two, but I’m letting them soak in for a bit before bouncing them off you all here (the title of this post may or may not be a clue).

However, I thought I’d share something I found recently while sorting through some random Word documents I had on my memory stick. I’m not sure when I wrote this…obviously, it was in 2008 and it was after one of the Clinton/Obama debates, but I’ve no idea which one, and no idea what the “XEROX quote” is all about. I’m sure I could look it up, but meh.

It doesn’t really apply to the now, but I thought it was interesting enough as a flashback to where I was politically four years ago: The disenchantment was beginning, but I still held steadfastly to my hope that something good could happen, if only the right person was elected for the job.

Person.

The 2008 Democratic primaries taught me an important lesson regarding my place in the Democratic agenda: Good enough to pander to for my vote; not good enough to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate because I might do something offensive…like age or cry or have “cankles.”

Of course, had Hillary won, it would have probably been four solid years of uphill battle after uphill battle while she was constantly critiqued and criticized for every decision, both politically and personally (probably mostly personally). At least she got to be Secretary of State. And at times more popular than the president himself. And be the inspiration for a really groovy meme.

And now it’s 2012 and women seem to have become an even greater…what? Mandatory voter demographic to capture? Asset? Threat? Our bodies apparently are incredibly threatening. You know what’s even more threatening? Our minds. It’s time, then, that we started listening more, paying more attention…not to what is being said to us, but what is being said about us, oftentimes without our input and without our consent…what is being valued, judged, ruled, overruled, controlled, and taken from us in a continuing attempt to reduce us to nothing more than…our bodies.

There are many things transpiring in this country that I find worrisome, but the ongoing ramp-up of rhetoric regarding what is ultimately politicians deciding for me what can and cannot be done with and to my own body is definitely of key concern. I’m not talking about the minutia; I’m talking about the overarching message being sent by every politician, from both sides, who thinks that they have the right to speak for women, to determine overall what is best for us rather than letting us decide for ourselves. Can’t stop us from choosing for ourselves? Then just limit our options across the board…you know, to make sure we’re protected from our own attempts at making up our own minds.

Whenever a politician uses rhetoric aimed at a woman’s body as a plank in their party’s respective political platform, they’re simply reiterating one of my steadily growing concerns: that we’re nothing more than something to walk over, to stand on. Use us to reach what you want and then pack us up until the next election cycle.

I’m tired of it. Are you?

We are more than our bodies. Just ask Hillary Clinton. She might answer you if she has a free moment while running the world.

I think one of the most telling moments of last night’s debate was when Senator Obama stated that he has been campaigning for the presidency for two years, and I have to say that I am very disappointed in how the mainstream media (MSM) has preferred to turn a blind eye to such statements and instead cram down our collective throat the “Xerox” quote. I suppose, though, that Senator Obama’s smartest move early in his campaign was getting a billionaire media mogul to throw down the race gauntlet for him, thereby bullying the complicit silence of the MSM.

(Side note to Ms. Winfrey: When I say that I think Senator Obama needs a little more federal-level experience, I do not mean your race-baiting interpretation that Senator Obama needs to “wait his turn.” I mean that if my car breaks down, I want the experienced mechanic to take care of it, not the guy up the street who’s looked under the hoods of a few cars and is really excited about what he believes he can do. Fixing a broken country is far more daunting and precarious than fixing a car, so why would I entrust my future into any less capable hands than I would entrust my car?)

Now, back on point. When Senator Clinton decided to run for her New York senate seat in 2000, the MSM and all her detractors could not wait to accuse her of being a “carpet bagger” and only thinking ahead as to how she could position herself properly for a run at the presidency in 2004. However, she was able, during a year when being a Clinton was by no means a positive point at all, to convince the people of New York (not a state known for being an “easy sell”) that she would serve them honestly and honorably, and that she would not desert them before her term was up. She kept her word and served her constituents well enough, including during the most horrifying moment of New York’s—and this country’s—history, that the people of New York thanked her with a second term as one of their U.S. senators.

Senator Obama, by his own admission, has spent the past two years campaigning for the presidency. I’m a word nerd and by no means great with numbers, but I believe that equals out to 80 percent of his time served as a federal-level politician. Beyond this marathon campaigning, we have heard recently that even some of his own supporters can’t point to one accomplishment that the senator has achieved while at the federal level.

That, of course, makes me curious about his state senate service, and when I look back into those records, I see someone who has run for the offices that he has held because they are the inevitable stepping stones to what he has desired most all along.

True, he has done good things. One must make a positive impact of some sort to continue to win votes. However, he also padded his state senate voting record with “present” votes—a lovely passive-aggressive way to keep a cheery, positive record. He also ran for his current U.S. Senate seat as the sole Democratic candidate against a highly unpopular Republican opponent. Since then, he has written two books filled with lots of personal confessions as a means of vetting himself to the people as being a “transparent politician.”

However, I see a more telling transparency when I look at how each of the senators’ states recently voted. Each candidate won the vote of their respective state. Look closer and you’ll see that Senator Clinton won every county in New York State except one. This is not true for Senator Obama’s win in Illinois. He, in fact, did not carry any of the counties that make up southern Illinois—a region of the state that comprises blue-collar workers who don’t possess college degrees or earn $50,000 or more. These counties went to Senator Clinton. That is a very telling transparency.

Contrary to the beliefs of the current president, the engine of this country isn’t its white-collar elite. Instead, the engine is the blue-collar workforce—people like my father, who worked often thankless time-clocked jobs for more than 30 years before injury retired him. I learned an honest work ethic from him. I also learned that the longest day’s work won’t amount to much if the people in power don’t listen to your needs. These are the people who need the most help. These are the people who should inspire real pride in our country. And these are the people who, after 10 1/2 years of familiarity with Senator Obama, cast their confidence in Senator Clinton.

At the end of the day, both senators are, as someone rightfully pointed out to me, “just politicians.” But when I look at Senator Obama, I see a politician who has spent the past decade carefully crafting the perfect launch pad for obtaining what has always been his ultimate goal.

When I look at Senator Clinton, I see a politician who doesn’t have the mostly spotless track record of her opponent because she has been willing to place herself in the line of fire for who and what she believes in. Yes, she’s made mistakes, but she has picked herself up, learned from her errors, and gone on to fight another day. She has sustained incredible professional and personal blows throughout her career, and yet, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, still she rises. That is true inspiration.

Putting Away Childish Things

You might have noticed that I haven’t been around the lair all that much lately. It’s not for lack of desire, denizens. I’d love nothing more than to come hang out at with you all with the same frequency I used to. It’s for lack of other things…lack of time, mostly. But also lack of motivation. Lack of inspiration. Lack of give-a-damnedness.

There’s been a lot going on IRL: good things, great things, frustrating things, worrying things. It’s a Damoclean life, the professional one I lead, and presidential election years only make it that much worse. Plus, the state of things is so depressing that for a while I simply lost my will and way.

Mainly, it’s because I am so tired of and sickened and disheartened by the continuing devolution of the “of, by, and for” part of the equation: We The People.

Plainly put, We The PeopleTM kind of suck, and it’s time we started to fix that. It has to start with us because, if all those sacred and holy documents are to be believed anymore (if ever), we’re supposed to be the lynchpins of Mr. Toad’s Wild Government Ride. We’re supposed to be the ones steering this ship; the politicians are supposed to be the ones reporting to us. Yet, somewhere along the way, the politicians mutinied, started changing the rules when we weren’t paying attention. Wasn’t that difficult to do, really…for a “highly evolved species” or “greatest nation in the world” or whatever other self-awarded accolades we like to tout, we’re not exactly the brightest crayons in the box. We’re kind of like the Pakleds of the planet.

For you non-nerds, this is not a compliment.

Now here we sit, a divided, divisive muddle of easily distracted dolts, unable to see the forest because we have to stop and piss hate-filled comments onto every tree. Corruption continues to run amok while we stand in line to buy a fried chicken sandwich. Because that fried chicken sandwich represents the protection of our freedom of speech!

To paraphrase Inigo Montoya for a moment, “You keep using that phrase, but I do not think it means what you think it means.” Seriously, look up “Freedom of Speech” and learn what it really means. That’s a really good place to start.

Now, the title of this post is sort of a tip of the paw to a recent episode of Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, which he called “Put Up or Shut Up.” I used to love listening to Common Sense, mainly because Carlin’s viewpoints on so many things match my own viewpoints. Everyone likes to listen to people who
agree with them, right?

However, I stopped listening a while ago because, quite frankly, I was tired of listening to reinforcement of how I felt, but no suggestions for how to change things…how to make things better…how to reroute the abysmal direction of this country.

Seems like Carlin felt the same way. In “Put Up or Shut Up” he basically stated that even he was tired of listening to himself go on and on about these things without providing a plan for how to fix it. And he called on himself and listeners to…put up or shut up.

So this is me putting up. It’s time to start turning things around before we really do end up plummeting off into the abyss. Our government is corrupt and unresponsive, why? Because we let it become so. All of us. Not just the Republicans. Not just the Democrats. All of us. Somewhere along the way, we lost our ability to reason and debate and problemsolve and now we spend most of our time and energy attacking each other, either in person or via the vitriol of online comments where anonymity apparently bleeds us dry of any empathy or compassion.

What do I propose as part of the solution to this mess? It’s time to grow up, America. Time to start behaving like the “evolved intellects” we liken ourselves to be. Because whether you believe we’re 2,000 or 2 million years old or more, we’re old enough to know better.

First on the agenda? Stop playing the Blame Game. Blaming everyone else for your problems is what little kids do. Also? Doesn’t fix a damn thing, does it? No. So stop it. Stop pointing fingers and saying that it’s _______’s fault that things are the way they are. It’s lazy and ignorant. It’s also how the politicians keep us from ever coming together to fix the problems we have…because they know that part of the fix will mean stopping their free run of the place. Divide and conquer…who knew it worked, eh? George Orwell, actually. I always fall back on one particular passage of his book 1984, which once again speaks relevance to our current state of affairs:

Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult. A few agents of the Thought Police moved always among them, spreading false rumours and marking down and eliminating the few individuals who were judged capable of becoming dangerous; but no attempt was made to indoctrinate them with the ideology of the Party.

It was not desirable that the proles should have strong political feelings. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working-hours or shorter rations. And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.

Primitive patriotism. “You’re either with us or against us.” Sound familiar? Aren’t you tired of it all as well, denizens? Aren’t you tired of bloviators telling us who’s to blame and riling up this primitive patriotism as a means of blocking true progress, true change, true hope? We are capable of so much more, so much better.

So stop playing games. First, stop your own part in the Blame Game. I’m just as guilty of this game as anyone else. I’m in no way proud of how I have readily bought into various notions that it was X group’s fault that things were the way they were. I was negative, bitter, and resentful. It didn’t solve anything and it just served to make me feel even worse about everything and about myself. Even more? It wasn’t true and it wasn’t fair.

You cannot blame all the problems that ail us right now on one group of people. You also cannot broad-brush an entire sect of the population based on interactions you’ve had with limited members of that sect. In true scientific method of inquiry, it’s a matter of case-by-case analysis that will continuously test, form, and modify ideas and opinions. We’re “individuals” for a reason. Is it easy? HELL NO! Why do you think so few people do it? Is it what needs to be done?

Yes. Yes, it is. It’s called logic. Spock it to me.

Second, call people out for their part in the Blame Game. If you find yourself surrounded by people who just want to spew this kind of negative passive bullshit, call them on it.

Hold on. Don’t go out and start screaming at strangers. Start at home. Not with the screaming though. That doesn’t go over well at all. Be respectful, but point out that blame doesn’t solve anything. Also? Constant complaining is actually antithetical to problemsolving.

So, combat negativity and complaining and blaming with proactive responses. “Okay, what can we do to fix the problem? How can we improve things?” Start seeking solutions! And if you find that there are people who simply refuse to change…well, then leave them be. That’s right…leave them be. Some people would rather throw themselves the mother of all pity parties than try to come up with solutions. You don’t have to stick around and help them celebrate.

See, right now, the United States of America looks like a hard drive that hasn’t been defragmented since it was purchased…all the way back in 1776. And there has been a whole long line of fragmentation ever since. It’s time we activated the national defrag program and leave those “unmovable files” right where they are. They won’t be able to stop the rest of us from rejoining and working together efficiently, if we want to. They’ll just stay where they are, inevitably being as useless to the improvement of this country as all those groups they like to hate on so much. Karma, betches. Look into it.

We live in a country of extraordinary freedoms. It’s one of the many reasons I am, indeed, thankful that I live in America. But I am not proud of who we have let ourselves become as Americans. We have allowed the politicians to take total control, to divide us with incendiary wedges designed to blind us to the solving of true issues and the striving toward true progress. We bicker and blame like children, and we gain nothing by doing so. We simply harm ourselves while the politicians continue to drag us further downward toward a drop we might not survive.

It has to stop. I’m willing to try. Are you?

Let The Auctioning of America Begin

The Senate is expected to sign the debt ceiling increase into effect today. Thanks to the TEA bagger representatives in the House, the agreement is more budget cuts, no tax increases. Thank goodness that someone was looking out for rich people and corporations (and jaded assholes like me think that no one cares about minorities in this country!).

Part of the deal is more than a trillion more in cuts by the end of the year. If Congress can’t come up with enough social welfare programs to decimate by then, they’ll start focusing on Medicare and defense spending. Yeah, right. Republicans are going to cut defense spending. This pretty much means that the Pentagon won’t be able to keep buying that fancy extra soft Charmin, while Aunt Gertie will have to go back to working that stripper pole to earn enough money for her scrips.

And, really, no one wins in this scenario. No one.

What’s done is done, I suppose. So rather than crying over the massive unemployment rates that are looming ever closer or rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking U.S. economy (but we don’t need no stinking government intervention!), why not come up with a solution?

So I did.

We all know there are several within the entertainment industry who love a good “cause.” Well, it’s your lucky day, Celebrity Samaritans! Your back yard is now teeming with causes! Come on, Brangelina! Wouldn’t you like to pony up some money to put back into place some of these “useless” social welfare programs that the TEA baggers targeted for termination? I and several thousand others would be most appreciative. So appreciative, in fact, that I’m sure we could work out a term agreement in which all projects undertaken by any funding you’ve provided must include “Brangelina” in the name. Brangelina Day Care. Brangelina Community Center. Brangelina Housing Rehabilitation. Brangelina Boulevard. Your portmanteau could become synonymous with community improvement and advancement programs from Maine to California!

Or what about NASA? How about it, Trek actors? Each of you chip in a million or two and the space race will once more be on like Donkey Kong! Thinkaboutit…Bill. Wouldn’tyoulike…a starshipnamed…Shatner? Doesn’t the ISS Sirtis have a sibilant sauciness to it?

[Okay, maybe not so much on that one. Troi did crash the Enterprise. Twice. Maybe we’ll name a rover after her…]

Madonna! Madge! Lady Ciccone. I know, you like to pretend that you’re English now. Truth is, though, you’re a Michigan girl. Home of Detroit, the Motor City. Wouldn’t you like to pitch in some dough to help the American automobile industry get back on its feet? Invest enough and you could even make an impact on all these ongoing debates about fuel economy. You could demand that the automakers move away from these lumbering gas guzzlers to more sensible, efficient designs. You could pave the way for the industry to start seriously embracing alternative fuel research. Think about it, Madge: You could get workers back into the factories AND get America on a more responsible energy diet, thus reducing our detrimental impact on the environment and freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil. The car companies would be so grateful, they’d name a whole fleet of cars after you. Then everyone would get the chance to ride inside…um. Never mind.

And Hilary! You’re a double Oscar winner! And you played Amelia Earhart! Wouldn’t you like to help out the FAA? Maybe throw in a buck or two to help the airline industry in general? We coach jockeys would appreciate a little alleviation on ticket prices…and the best part? Part of your deal with the airline industry could be that they can only play your movies on flights! A whole nation of flyers, all tuning in to Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don’t Cry, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, P.S. I Love You, The Core, The Reaping

Ooh, maybe we should rethink this one…

Hey, Leo! You played Howard Hughes! Wanna invest in airplanes? (Sorry, Hilary…)

AWTFY

To Whom It May Concern (You Will Soon Know Who You Are):

Thank you.

Thank you to all the politicians who have, for years been dedicated to the cause of digging us deeper and deeper into a national deficit of vulgar proportions through your uniform and bipartisan complacency in your roles as the supposed Watchmen of the “American WayTM.” Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Apparently, no one.

Thank you for the years you have spent bending the American people over a barrel in deference to the demands of corporations that own you like the cheap dockside hookers you are. Oh, and a special thank you to the Supreme Court tools who last year ruled that corporations could be considered “people.” Who knew free speech was reserved for those with the most money to buy it?

Thank you to the slew of Republican presidents from Nixon to Bush II, all preaching the fairytale gospel of “fiscal conservatism,” who helped to increase the national debt by a combined total of nearly 62 percent, including golden boy Dubya. In his final term in office, he helped increase it by 20.7 percent with all his decidering and warmaking. Way to go, Georgie! Not only did you beat your dad’s one-term record of 13 percent, you beat in one term alone the two-term combined record of 20.6 percent racked up by that great GOP scion himself, Ronald Reagan. That was really awesome of you.

Thank you to the Democrats of the Bush II era who stood around with their heads shoved so far up their asses that they could lick their own ileums. It was AWESOME, the discordant, infighting mess you all were at the time. It made it that much easier for the GOP Machine to grind you up and spit you into little impotent messes as they and King Dub not only goose-stepped their way through the $236.2 billion budget surplus that Bill Clinton had left us, but then gifted us with a $412.7 billion deficit by the end of the Dubya reign. Guess now we know why red is the GOP color of choice.

Thank you to the TEA Baggers who helped elect/re-elect to Congress several GOP members who are even now stalling the progress of more willing, more rational (for them, at least) politicians to come to an agreement on raising the debt ceiling and tackling our deficit, with demands for indiscriminate budget cuts to those programs deemed “unnecessary” by you.

You know, I get it, TEA baggers. It’s not like you’re racist or the modern-day equivalent of the Klan or anything. You just don’t want to have to cover the costs of programs designed to help out all those lazy poor people. You work hard for your money while they just lay about, right? It’s not like anything has occurred in this country that has led to the decimation of job prospects in hundreds of areas all across the United States. You know, something catastrophic to the working class like, I don’t know, shipping off all the manufacturing jobs to places like China, where indentured servitude is still so very en vogue.

So, yeah, who needs social welfare programs anyway? It’s not like they have any kind of positive impact on society. They’re just more ways this country is wasting money it doesn’t have. So, thank you for your vigilance. And, from the thousands of government employees, contract workers, grant officers, project coordinators, organizers, and various other workers all across this country who will be losing their jobs because of your fiscal “vigilance,” again I say thank you. Thank you for cutting “worthless” programs that had been providing, among other things, job stability to thousands who will soon be getting in line to help raise the United States’ unemployment levels even higher.

Thank you for fighting so hard for the politicians who will fight for more reckless budget hacking rather than something horrible like tax increases. After all, you’re Taxed Enough Already! Am I right? Am I right?! It’s not like the United States has one of the lowest tax rates of any industrialized country or anything. That’s why Dubya gave us all those awesome tax cuts while he played Stratego: The Middle East Edition. And look what that got us! (See paragraph 4.) And, really, we need more people who are willing to fight for the protection of corporate loopholes and the assets of the filthy rich.

[Let me pause here briefly to extend a special and sincere thank you to the originators of the TEA Party Movement who first started calling themselves “TEA Baggers” before they realized that they were in no way as fun as an actual tea bagger. No, really, thank you. It’s the only thing from your existence that I find even remotely amusing.]

Oh, and thank you, TEA Baggers, for fighting to return this country to the moral, Christian ways of life that existed at the time of our Founding Fathers. I don’t know about the rest of you American women, but I sure can’t wait to have all my rights rescinded and my status reset to “Voiceless Breeding Stock.” Who needs things like voting rights or an education anyway. Hell, Michele Bachmann can’t even figure out where the Revolutionary War began and she’s a GOP presidential candidate*!

*This will, of course, be rescinded as well since we all know that the Founding Fathers would never approve of a filthy uterine bearer being in any position other than a horizontal one.

And finally, thank you to the American people themselves. Thank you for being so easily distracted by red herring topics like gay marriage or abortion rights that you helped vote into office the politicians who have gotten us into this hot mess in the first place. Turns out it wasn’t the queers or the baby killers who were going to fuck you after all, was it? I’d like to say you’ve brought this all onto yourselves, but the unfortunate truth is that you’ve brought this on to all of us. Cheers.

And to end this heart-felt thank you note, I leave you with the explanation of this post’s title: It’s an acronym for the traditional salute of one of my favorite ImagiFriendsTM: And With That, Fuck You.

Sincerely,
Loba B

SanFran PSA

It would be a magnificent lie if I wrote right now that I try to keep things non-biased and non-political here at the lair. I really don’t try that at all. And while things are nowhere near the level of political that they were in my Angry BloggerTM days (and while I’m nowhere near as big a blue jackass donkey as I was in those days either), I still like to throw out the occasional political jab.

Like this one. I came across this sticker while wandering back from my walk to the Pacific through Golden Gate Park. It was stuck to a telephone pole somewhere on Fulton Street:

There’s really nothing else to say after that. Although, I do very much enjoy the little heart at the end of this message. See? It’s a PSA written with nothing but love, denizens. Just like everything else that appears here at the lair…

What’s Your Sign?

As most people know, this past weekend was the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear, the combined crazy spoofiness sponsored by Comedy Central and hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I didn’t attend this rally (although I did get caught up in some of the mad rush trying to get downtown). I have a HUGE phobia against massive crowds, regardless of how amused I am by the purpose of said gatherings. Plus, I had quieter and more personally enjoyable plans for my weekend.

However, this morning I did find this link of the 100 Best Signs At The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. Some of these are simply brilliant (and some of the people holding the signs are equally wonderful).

Several of these signs quickly became favorites, including the one that reads, “Teatard.” I’m only going to post one here, however, because if I start posting more than one, I’ll end up posting them all…and I don’t want to steal buzzfeed’s thunder. Here, then, is the one that made me laugh out loud and make a strange squee-like noise that made me grateful my officemate hadn’t arrived yet:

Of course I enjoyed it for the obvious reason, but I also loved it because whoever made this sign has a sense of humor as cheesy and geeky as mine. Case in point, this is a snippet from a blog entry I made during my Angry BloggerTM days:

When an American reporter later asked Bush if he realized that many people considered his statement to be highly hypocritical because many consider him to be xenophobic, he scoffed loudly and replied, “Who said I was Xena-phobic? I love that show! I think it’s great to see more women in action roles, especially ones who look so good in so little…know what I mean?” He then appeared to cringe visibly and several in the vicinity reported hearing loud screaming coming from the still unidentified “mystery bulge” beneath the president’s sports coat. Several reported that the voice sounded like Karl Rove. Mr. Bush promptly stopped talking and allowed Secret Service to escort him back to Air Force One.

See? Utter cheese of the strongest geek flavor. And, wow, talk about taking a walk down “Thank the prophets those days are over” lane! Ah, good times.

Anyway, take a look at the rest of the signs and, hopefully, laugh along with Loba.

Restoring Sanity

There’s definitely something rotten in Denmark, denizens. But don’t say that to these TEA baggers. They’ll start lecturing you about how Denmark is one of those evil Socialist countries. And Socialism starts with an S…just like Satan. Who is obviously Obama, because he is trying to turn America into a Socialist country by wanting things like universal health care so that American families don’t go through the horrors like my family has gone through at the hands of Capitalist doctors who, when they no longer saw the profit in treating my mother, sent her home with the instructions to my father that he should “let nature take its course.”

Obviously, this is a touchy subject for me. But I think it should be a touchy subject for anyone possessing even a shred of reason. Think about what happened here in D.C., denizens. On the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, we witnessed what could quite possibly be considered a nail in the coffin of that dream. And I’m speaking about both rallies, which were each divisive in their own ways. Beck and his predominantly White followers versus Al Sharpton and his slightly more diverse but still predominantly Black opposing rally (and neither side seeming to get the sad irony of the situation at all). How could anyone look at these events and for an instant believe that King’s dream could be anything but close to DOA at the feet of Abraham Lincoln’s monument? His vision was for a blending of colors, a coming together of beliefs, opinions, ideas. Judge me on the content of my character, not the color of my skin.

Somewhere along the way, we became incredibly derailed.

Beyond the issues of race, however, is the offensiveness of the wording of Beck’s clarion call to his brainwashed masses. Restore America. Restore Honor. Turn America back toward God.

What does all of this mean? Making certain that you’re allowed to continue to make second-class citizens of fellow Americans for the “crime” of not conforming to the questionably translated beliefs of your unproven god? Or that you be allowed to deny something as basic and deserved as good health to those who cannot afford it…not because they’re not trying but because they can’t find the work they need to give them access to health care. And why is that? Because politicians have unilaterally, and in many instances bipartisanly, sold out the American blue-collar worker by allowing corporations to outsource jobs to the lowest bidder. Whatever it takes to make sure they win the most at playing this Capitalist game, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. Damn the blue-collar workers as well.

So stand around like little sheep, spewing your Beck-prepared and Palin-approved jingo dingo lingo while wearing your Communist Chinese-made American flag shirts and hats and fanny packs, waving your Communist Chinese-made American flags, sitting in your Communist Chinese-made American flag folding chairs (but keep damning Cuba for its evil, evil Communist ways!). Wrap yourself in Old Glory and hide your true purpose behind the stacks of dead soldiers you conjure in your liturgy, never once mentioning the erroneous and debatably felonious war (started by your last president to hold office…you know, the same president that drop-kicked us into the middle of this ever-widening sea of debt with his “fiscal conservative” spending sprees and his unending wars) for which they were killed. Stand up and spout the Pledge of Allegiance when the lemming call comes for you to do so.

Never mind that the pledge was written by a self-acclaimed Christian Socialist. See? There’s that evil “S” word again. The pledge’s author, Francis Bellamy, believed that the tenets of Christianity and Socialism were interrelated philosophies. I wonder how long Bellamy could have stood on stage at yesterday’s rally before Dreck’s…sorry, I mean Beck’s bleating hordes booed him off.

I bet they would be more forgiving of Bellamy, however, if they were allowed to do his original salute for the pledge. The original salute wasn’t placing your hand over your heart. It was instead quite similar to what would soon enough become famous as the Nazi salute. Ironic, isn’t it? Okay, probably not. It’s all good, though, just as long as you slap in “under God” thanks to all that jingoistic McCarthy panic of the 1950s. And click your heels together while you say it. Then you’ll be back home in your Communist Chinese-made Republican utopia.

I wish I could give this more thought. Wait. No, I don’t. I still don’t quite understand what has happened to us as a country. But I must admit that I am losing a great deal of respect and hope for us all. And it has nothing to do with restoring honor, whatever on earth that is code for this time. It’s about my continued wish for restoring intelligence, reason, and integrity, traits that have become almost completely extinct on both sides of the fence, both among the politicians and the people.

It’s been a very long time since I felt anything more than apathetic disdain toward the downward spiral of stupidity being propagated in this country. I have to say, though, that this rally has sparked within me a great deal of anger and disgust. And fear. Fear that we are locked into goose-stepping toward utter brainless chaos, led to the slaughter by our emotions since it’s obvious that we sacrificed our intelligence a long, long time ago. Does anyone else feel the same as I do? Could there possibly be as many people as me, as equally upset and afraid at how easily we as a country can be manipulated by those who have motives far more sinister and ulterior than the patriotic pabulum that they spoon-feed their followers? What if we all got together and rallied in Washington? Could we make a difference?