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

Personal Aesthetic

The woman who taught us how to apply theatrical makeup for our high school play one year chose me for the “old age” portion of our lesson. She told me the lines that formed around my eyes when I winked provided her an “easy template.” She also let her 4-year-old daughter run around the classroom wearing a greasy chicken bucket on her head. I should have taken her words in that context. A 16-year-old kid already equipped with low self-esteem doesn’t understand context.

I think about that woman and her bucket-wearing child every now and then, usually when I’m washing my face in the evenings or applying eye liner in the mornings. I’ll wink and watch the lines feather away, arrow fletchings along my skin. I’ve gained new lines since those “easy template” days…lines that curl upward and join the creases that undulate along my forehead or loop across my nose. If I crinkle my brow and wrinkle my nose in just the right way, I can form ridges like a Bajoran. I’ve practiced this move several times.

I notice the lines. I rub them with SPF lotion (for I am pale and freckled and love the sun). I clean them with face wash. I sometimes run my fingers along them. Every now and then, I confess that I try to smooth them away, revealing for fleeting moments that younger me, only now with a perpetually shocked lift of her brow.

Better to look shockingly young than dour and old!

And yet. I like my lines. They tell me stories. They mark my worries, my thoughts, my moods, my years. They remind me parenthetically that I love to laugh, that whole flocks of glee have marched across my skin. They map summer journeys and connect the dots that sunshine left behind.

And yet.

These lines tell you nothing. They are my prologue to the story I know. They tell you nothing of my joys or my sorrows. They don’t tell you who I have lost or who I have found. They don’t teach you anything about me deeper than those superficial creases.

These all seem like obvious statements, logical sentiments.

And yet.

Your body does not define you. Your body is not beautiful. It is not ugly. It is a shell for the beauty or ugliness you choose to cultivate within.

You are you. Make that mean what you want it to mean.

TL;DR

I give this my vote for one of the ugliest acronyms in the indecipherable sea of txtspk brevity: “Too Long; Didn’t Read.”

The first time I ever saw it was in regard to an article that was, admittedly, longer than one typically has time to absorb during work-day downtime. However, recently I’ve been seeing it with more and more frequency, sometimes in reference to pieces that dare to be more than the length of a tweet. And that greatly bothers me.

I’m old-school in a lot of ways when it comes to words. I see beauty in words the way many see beauty in a Van Gogh or a sunset. Words unlock my imagination in ways that no amount of CGI manipulation ever will. Want to not hear a sound from me for an entire day? Place a stack of books on one side of me and a fresh supply of coffee on the other. You’ll forget I’m even there. The best part? I’ll forget I’m there, too, because I’ll be in myriad other locations and times…wherever those beautiful words lead me.

Sometimes, I feel as though I am a dying breed…that I’m the awkward, bloated blog post in the room full of fit tweets, all silently judging me for not shedding my verbal lumpiness and joining them in their snappy bon mot runs every day because I’m too busy gorging myself on wordiness.

Other times, however, I feel as though I am succumbing to the wordless void. It’s so easy. Open up your social media account. I’ll bet one of the first things to pop up in your feed is going to be a photo or a video posted by one of your friends—probably something they’ve shared from one of the innumerable sites out there, designed solely to produce “share”-worthy photos and videos. Sometimes, they have cultural, political, or social merit. Sometimes, they’re designed to tap into geekdoms or childhood memories. Sometimes, they’re just stupid. But you click. And then there’s “you might also like…” and you click that…and click…and click…and before you know it, you’ve spent the better part of the evening binge-watching cat videos.

Don’t get me wrong. I tweet. I post random photos or videos to my social media pages with nary a word of description. I understand the appeal. Sometimes, you don’t feel like writing a treatise on that random Captain Janeway photo you came across or that snippet of some horrible 80s flick you enjoyed as a child.

I also acknowledge that part of why language is so beautiful is because of its mutability. Txtspk is simply another variation on a theme. So is the transformative influence of Web trends on modern language, which has left us with so many feels. Because teh Interwebz.

I suppose what bothers me is the fact that, for some, “TL;DR” is becoming their standard response rather than the occasional “Sorry, I couldn’t get around to reading that article you sent me, but I’ll try to make time later.” Instead, it’s a simple dismissive not just of saving it until later but even of the concept of reading it at all. I’ve encountered a few people who have sprung a variation of the phrase “I don’t read” on me with spurious pride, some even looking at me as if I’d asked them if they think Yetis like twerking.

I know, I’m being curmudgeonly and paranoid. People aren’t all going to stop reading. Still, we’ve seen in the past 20 years a virtual demolition of the newspaper industry. Even once-esteemed papers such as The Washington Post highlight online content that is top-heavy with photo galleries and cutesy videos but lean on actual news. Add to this how once-stalwart news magazines have shuttered their shops, and we’re left gleaning our information from Upworthy videos and cable “news” channels that are nothing more than cesspools of unfiltered vitriol and unsubstantiated bile. Why use actual facts to discuss topics when you can just insult your co-host? Because YOLO.

What’s the point of all this? Well, I suppose if you’ve made it this far, you’ve at least not deemed my latest rambling rant “TL;DR.” For that, I thank you. I also suppose that my point is merely a plea for MOAR READZ. Even if it’s just perusing Yahoo News or maybe picking up a copy of Entertainment Weekly to read about some of your favorite movies or television shows (you know, they even do book reviews in there, too!). Even better, track down a copy of the book on which the latest (or possibly next) hit movie is based. I hear rumor that, almost always? The book is better.

Whatever you read, just read. Expand your mind, engage your imagination, tackle philosophical ideas, wrestle with theology…but just read. Because while a picture can be worth a thousand words, a thousand words can be priceless.

#Read. Because words.

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?

Mind All Traffic Signals…

…even the ones you can’t see.

I want you to just look at this photo for a moment or two, denizens. Ponder it:

Do you notice anything off about the positioning of the crosswalk signs? Want a closer look?

Yeah. Pretty awesome, right? The one sign is positioned RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER ONE. Result? Total visual blockage.

The signs have been like this for probably three months now. The county had sent a crew out to regrade the sidewalk crossings, and they installed a couple of new crosswalk signs while they were at it. What I want to know is, how did they not realize while they were installing this sign that they were screwing up?

It took me all of five seconds to deduce the DERP of the sign placement. The work crew was there, futzing around with the sidewalk and the signs for more than a week. Did none of them at any point not look up and say, “Hey! Hey, guyz?!!?!11! I think we need to re-evaluate this game plan.”

Or did they all notice it and just not give a damn? Who’s to say. All I know is that I’m very glad that my parents taught me to always look both ways before crossing the street…

Getting Sacked

While driving home from a weekend stay in the great hate state of North Carolina, we spent a large portion of the journey past Richmond being treated to a view of the back-end of a “dualy”—a dual-wheeled pickup truck—decked out in chrome, including giant chrome-plated side mirrors, running boards…and a chrome-plated scrotum dangling from its chrome-plated trailer hitch.

Yeah, you read that correctly. This dualy had balls.

I’m not going to post a photo. If you must see what I’m referring to, you can visit this site. And, oh look…they’re made in the USA. Could I be any prouder?

I’m actually quite mortified that I live in a country where hanging ersatz balls off the back of a gas-guzzling vehicular atrocity is acceptable behavior. I’m even more mortified by the fact that there are enough people in this country who, upon reading my previous statement, would immediately attack me, call me all variety of unfavorable names, and then invite me to STFU and GTFO!!!111!!111! And you wonder why I keep my comments section locked.

But I digress.

The thing that I can’t help but wonder is that hanging a pair of balls from your truck is supposed to be an indication of what exactly? I know that people say things like “Boy, that took balls” or “he’s got a pair of steel ones” or “That was ballsy” to indicate that someone has done something brave. Something strong. Something manly.

Here’s the thing, though. Aren’t balls kind of…just dangly and there? I mean, I understand the biological function of the scrotum…but beyond that, why do we automatically assume that, when someone has done something gutsy or brave or brazen that they’ve “got balls”?

I’d argue the exact opposite. Balls aren’t brave. They hide when they get too cold. They’re a work hazard if you’re an action hero (Arnie taught me that). They’re shrivelly and dangly and kind of seem like the antithesis of brave to me. You want strong and brave? Look to the part of the anatomy the size of a fist that’s able to stretch to accommodate something the size of a watermelon.

Yeah, try that, Mr. Chrome Sack.

This brings me to my next point of contention: I’d also argue that this fad would be the outcry of the nation if it was women dangling labia from their bumper hitches.

[Loba Tangent: I know that labia aren’t biologically equivalent to balls, but I question whether there are enough people left in this country who would even be able to identify an ovary, especially if it was dangling from the back of a car. Then again…]

This does not mean that I would like to see women getting in on this simple, sanguine mindset. I’d like to think that we’re a little classier (says the one from the same gender as those wacky Kardashian girls…and that Snookie person). I’m just pointing out yet another hypocrisy of our patriarchal country.

Hey, I know! Let’s get a giant pair made, to install at the base of the Washington Monument!

Hilarity would undoubtedly ensue, no?

Sugar and Spice and Everything…Catty?

Today’s EXTREMELY long-winded feminist rant will be brought to you by the letters C, S, and I. You have been warned.

Have you ever seen the first interaction between CSIs Catherine Willows and Sara Sidle? No? Let me share:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOLg3RWL9DU&w=480&h=390]

Not the most welcoming of people, that surly CSI Willows (just look at the video clip description: “Bitchy & Rude Catherine”). In Catherine’s defense, I should point out that Sara Sidle was originally brought onto the Las Vegas team to investigate one of their own for his role in the death of another investigator. She was an interloper, brought in to suss out the possible guilt of one of Catherine’s closest friends on the job. Not exactly the best setup for a warm and fuzzy friendship.

However, this animosity between our two heroines not only lingered, it evolved…or, rather, devolved into a series of biting comments, veiled insults, and out-and-out vitriol. True, some of it stemmed from personality differences. Catherine as originally created had a world-wise brusqueness to her, not necessarily spiteful or cruel, but direct and sharp. Sara, on the other hand, arrived with a quirky, nerdy sensibility and equal doses of naivete and a “black or white, no gray” outlook that often set her apart, not only from Catherine but from others on the team.

They weren’t the only ones on the team who had disparate personalities. Warrick Brown and Nick Stokes as first conceived shared very few commonalities. Our introduction to them also showed them vying against each other for a promotion. Yet right from the start they were still shown to share a comfortable camaraderie, a friendly competitiveness that served to bring them together rather than set them on opposite sides of an ever-widening chasm. Not at all like the steadily increasing animosity shared by our lovely ladies of the pink printing powder. (For the record, I love this scene for the fact that this is one of the rare moments from the show’s early days that showcases the previously mentioned contrasting characteristics of both women in a wonderful albeit short comedic moment.)

It’s not just this loopy lupine who noticed this decidedly disappointing development default in the relationship shared by Catherine and Sara. In this PopGurls Interview, Jorja Fox had the following to say:

You’ve said that the CSI writers and producers are really kind. That if there’s someplace you don’t really want to go with the character, you can talk to them, and generally they’ll change the course or direction. When was a time that you brought up a path w/the producers that you didn’t feel comfortable with for Sara?

There have been a couple of times over the years. The first one that comes to mind—very early in the show, the writers had wanted to create a real solid tension between Catherine Willows and Sara Sidle. They started off right away that we would lock horns and that this would be a theme that would go throughout the show. Marg [Helgenberger, who plays Catherine] and I talked about it and we both felt that, since we were the only women on the show at that time, to have [us] fighting each other and jockeying for position was an area that we were hoping that [we didn’t have] to go. We wanted actually to work well together—we could still disagree on things from time to time. Certainly Sara and Catherine are very different people and they go about things differently but we didn’t want to set a tone that would last throughout the show. We went to the writers and they were kind enough to pull back on that which was great.

I felt more passionately about potential for camaraderie coming from these two women being so different instead of the opposite.

Two sharp women are better than one...

Kudos to Jorja and Marg for putting their feet down to character choices that would have done nothing but continue to substantiate a dismal stereotype of women in the workforce. Sadly, however, as with most stereotypes, this particular one grows from a kernel of truth.

Admittedly, I’m little more than an armchair sociologist, but I have noticed something about the way my generation was conditioned as young girls that is both distressing and highly counterproductive. First, a confession: During my formative years, I probably spent more time interacting with boys than I did with girls. But that’s because the boys were all into fun things like riding bikes or playing football, and they had cool toys like G.I. Joes and Transformers. The girls all wanted to play house and put diapers and frilly dresses on grotesque plastic effigies that to this day haunt my darkest nightmares. I really, really hate babydolls.

That being said, I learned from an early age that interacting with boys is a much different experience from interacting with girls. Boys are rough and brash and to the point. If they say something that another boy doesn’t like, there will be a confrontation. It might get physical. But they get it out of their systems and they move on. They’ve also got your back. If you’re their friend, you’re in their pack, you’re on their team. And boys are taught from a very early age about the dynamics of teamwork.

Teamwork was still a foreign term for a lot of the girls my age. Title IX had already made its initial impact for opening up to the fairer sex the world of high school and college sports, but I believe that the concept of girls viewing other girls as teammates was still a holistically foreign concept for my generation. Why?

Because our greatest influences in character development were our own mothers. And our mothers grew up in a time well before when girls would take to the courts and baseball diamonds the way the boys were always able to do. The only viable competition available for these preceding generations of young women was for the sole prize that they were ever allowed to strive for: the ideal husband. Even my own mother saw a future in which her biggest expectations for me concluded with marriage and motherhood.

Don’t worry. I shuddered a little bit, too, just then.

You don’t get a husband through teamwork. You get it by being the last woman standing…and you stay standing by whatever means are at your disposal.

Is it any surprise, then, that when our predecessors began finally transitioning in larger numbers from housewives to working girls, they carried these same “values” with them into the workforce? We didn’t have the sports-based team ethics that the boys had. Hell, we didn’t even get the Godfather‘s rules of “It’s not personal, it’s business”! Instead, we were taught that the best way to play the boardroom game was to steal our secretary’s ideas in order to retain our sole seniority status AND gain the attention of the alpha male protagonist.

[Loba Tangent: Seriously, what kind of fucked-up message was Working Girl trying to convey? That women can’t work with each other unless they’re on the same low-level rung of the corporate ladder with no aspirations for climbing higher? That women who do make it to higher positions shouldn’t be trusted because they’re not going to try to help other women make it as far as they have? Instead, they’re going to use whatever means are necessary to ensure that they hold their competition as far down as they possibly can? Yeah, Sigourney Weaver met a perfectly Hollywood ending…but the movie still propagated stereotypes about women in the workforce that made me cringe almost as much as Baby Boom. But that’s a completely different tangent…and this post is already too long…]

Am I guilty of offensive generalizations and of propagating the stereotypes that I claim to loathe through this post? Perhaps. I am proud to say that I’ve been lucky to have worked for some amazingly progressive female supervisors. They’ve encouraged me, they’ve depended upon me for the skills I can bring to their team, and they’ve never been duplicitous in their dealings with me. I wish I could say this was the way it was across the board, both for my own experiences and for the experiences of all women in the workforce. However, I can’t. I daresay neither can most women my age.

The sad truth is that too many generations of women have long been conditioned to view the same sex as competitors that must be eliminated, not as teammates. But is it still this way? Are today’s young girls still being taught to view others of the same sex as the enemy, competition to be vanquished whether it be for that amazing job promotion or for the old-school brass ring of marital bliss and motherhood? I should hope not. Then again, it’s my generation that is now in the parental driver seat…and this was how we were raised. Will they pass along harmful lessons to the next generation? Or, like Fox and Helgenberger, are they going to say enough to petty stereotypes that do nothing but divide and weaken us, not only as a gender but as a society?