Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's official: Obama loves America more.

One of the things that makes Obama so refreshing is his calling out of political tactics and rhetorical games. When the McCain people try to depict him as somehow foreign, alien or elitist, when the discourse devolves into a game of gotcha', Obama calls attention to the game - just as John Stuart exposes lazy media tropes and Bush administration doublespeak. And true to form, Obama denounced these tactics again in his acceptance speech for the democratic nomination. He asked that the goofy non-issue of who's more patriotic be shelved so the candidates can focus on more important matters like health care, the war or the recession. He proclaimed "I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first."

Would that it were true. But McCain does not put his country first. Mr. Three Melanomas' contingency plan in the event of his croaking is to leave us in the capable hands of Sarah Pallin. Who will try her darnedest, cute little overachiever that she is, but has way too much catching up to do. This is grotesquely irresponsible.

What else have we learned about John McCain as a result of this left field VP pick? That he is one of those densoid old white guys who has NEVER been able to relate to a woman as an equal, or outside the prism of sex. I worked with an office full of them in Cleveland. They can't believe you have a political opinion and their manual states that they must compliment you on some item of your attire every time they want you to work late. Obviously, McCain doesn't intend to work with this woman. He thinks she's going to help him get elected and that's it. And to the degree that this choice may have been a trawl for embittered Hillary supporters, Dude, do you know WHY a lot of these women support Hillary? Because her position on the issues is the antithesis of yours. Do you really think women are going to come together in some sort of girl power epiphany and support Sarah? Would you vote for Dennis Kucinich just because the two of you can go into the same public restroom?

Surely, we come away from this with a better idea of Mr. McCain's judgement, and his evident respect for both the offices of President and Vice President. El Maverick's judgement is so good, he made his pick after a single meeting. Reassuring that we can have such rapid fire decision making in an office that presides over matters of war and peace.

Now lets talk about that Maverick thing, which I suspect is somehow entwined with John McCain's mojo. Apparently, in the Bizzaro World known as Red State America, Sarah Pallen is famous and beloved. It seems this VP selection is a huge pander to the religious right. Not the Maverick choice Lieberman really would have been, but a woman the base considers a heroine for not aborting her Down's Syndrome child. So I would say the Maverick is back in church.

As for Obama, he went on to say that we ALL love America, and we all put America first. Which was rather big of him.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's my blog and I'll whine if I want to.

The economy sucks. The job market sucks. Headhunters, online job sites, HR people; they all suck. Like a fifteen year old giving his girlfriend a hicky. Like a remora on a great white. Like medicinal leeches on Henry the VII's hindquarters. If you're getting the idea that my job search is turning into a giant suck-athon, I'd say you're pretty perceptive. In fact, I am about at the point where I'm starting to believe I suck too.

I have been jobless in a new market before. I trolled LA agencies with a spec book and eventually found freelance. I got jobs in Cleveland and Washington DC through old fashioned networking. I've never used a headhunter in my life. Now, I'm in San Francisco, and I can't get arrested. (Then again, it is hard to get arrested in San Francisco. I could run down Market Street starkers yelling "Dick Cheney ate my bubby", in a flawless Australian accent and the cops wouldn't even blink).

So, headhunters. Far's I can tell there are two types: the ones who can't wait to meet you in person, present themselves as your new best friend, promise you the moon and deliver nothing and the ones who communicate over the phone through a flunky, vet you as carefully as a prospective vice presidential candidate, claim they're sending out your resume and disappear without ever giving you feedback. My favorite was the jerk who sent me a whole page of questions before finally submitting me for a job for which I am actually overqualified. This is the question that put me over the edge: "What year did you graduate from college?" Why don't you just come out and ask me how old I am and I'll tell you where to stash your blackberry?

Online job sites make the process a lot more convenient - for the headhunters. Most of the job postings just take you right back to some recruiter. Sometimes, you can't apply on line unless you take a little quiz which determines whether you should even be considered for the position. If you're rejected, you have no way of finding out why, much less applying for the G D job. This is especially perplexing when, based on the job description, it's stuff you can do in your sleep.

I recently met a freelance art director who came to this market 4 years ago and also had a helluva time breaking in. His analysis is that people have become too lazy to do their own vetting. Nobody wants to meet you in person. There is no way to convey how well-spoken, charming, funny and fast on your feet you are. When they determine there's not enough interactive in your portfolio, you're not there to tell them the two extensive, complex websites you wrote are no longer online and provide a link to an archive. When they see that you're low on financial experience, you can't point out that you basically learned pharma overnight and have worked with some of the most uptight regulatory teams on the planet. You're held up against the checklist and found wanting.

Now here's the irony. Based on what I've seen in over 20 years in the workforce, I have become the ideal employee, a middle aged woman. Think about it: we came up right after the first wave of feminism. We don't feel entitled to our jobs - we're grateful for them. We're used to working harder than the men we've been competing with, and resigned to getting paid less for the privilege. Those of us who've raised teenagers know better than anyone how to negotiate, debate, placate or motivate. We're not going to get pregnant, or screw our way up the ladder. We basically invented multitasking. It doesn't make a lot of sense to put the work horse out to pasture.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Memo to an Obama supporter

Re: Your bumper stickers

It's time to do a little editing. Obama '08 cannot coexist on your bumper with "Goddess Bless" and "I love trees".

I'm rather partial to trees myself, and I think the Deity should be whatever gender works for you. But once you drive past the Berkeley city limits, you enter the land of the electorally undecided. Obama needs their votes and your bumper stickers associate him with what they perceive as the loony left. So keep supporting Obama, and keep your other passions private, please. And next time you pray to the Goddess, put in a good word for Barack.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Our new neighbors

Above our rental house is a steep, narrow untended triangle of land covered with tall, dry weeds. It is there, hidden and secure in the overgrowth, that a doe recently gave birth to twin fawns. When we first met them, they were dainty, spotted, awkward little wonders and looked to be just a few days old. They're almost as big as their mom now, and their spots are fading. Whoever owns that neglected strip of land hired someone to come cut down the brush, but the lack of ground cover has not kept the twins and their mother from coming back. Sometimes, they are joined by a young buck with a stubby, two-pronged rack. The whole family sleeps there at night when they're not right outside the house, making an evening meal of our landlord's bushes.

We do our best to be good neighbors to the deer next door. (I tried to feed them once but the carrots I put out remained untouched). We drive slowly up and down the street for fear one of the bamblets should leap out from behind the bushes. If we park in front of their turf, they maintain their serene insouciance as we drive in and out, slam car doors, unload groceries and catch up on the day. I haven't tried honking, which wouldn't be very nice, but I suspect no one in the deer family would flinch. Once in a while, our yorkie Winston remembers he's supposed to bark at deer, which doesn't phase them anymore than we do.

When you live in close proximity to a walking smorgasbord of venison, it's hard not to give an occasional paranoid thought to mountain lions. Just last week, one was sighted in someone's yard ten blocks from us. I flash on that when I'm walking Winston on a moonless night. Sometimes I hear rustling in the bushes or catch a glimpse of a dark silhouette. I keep telling myself it's only our deer friends.

PS I took the deer pix but the mountain lion is from google images. If I ran into this fellow on one of my walks, I wouldn't stop for a photo op and ask him to smile and say "Bambi".

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Welcome to Nut Hill

As everyone on the East Coast knows, Midwesterners are narrow minded, gun-loving, pathologically patriotic, hyper-religious rubes. Of course, any midwesterner can give you the low down on those elitist, Godless, ivy-leaguing, goat cheese eating East Coast snobs. But if there's one thing the midwest and the East coast actually agree about, it's Californians. They're wierdos. A bunch of loopy, spacy, new-ageified, crystal-worshiping, airhead wack jobs. When we moved to Cleveland from California years ago, we'd tell people where we were coming from and they'd visibly recoil. Sometimes they would recover and make a lame joke. But you knew that they would forever suspect you of sacrificing goats in your basement.

Now, I live in the alleged vortex of West Coast wierdness, Berkeley California, where Code Pink is locked in endless combat with the local marine recruiting station and the sign on the bike rental place reads "pedal now or paddle later". I know this flavor of free speech doesn't play well in Columbus Ohio but who would want to live there anyway? To my mind, the people here in Berkeley are remarkably sane, politically and environmentally. They are tolerant of everyone, revel in diversity, and believe that war is obsolete. They brake for pedestrians, fret over their carbon footprints, let their wrinkles show and try their darndest to eat locally grown food. They are also often unapologetically eccentric.

Our little corner of the mountain is called Nut Hill, possibly after the Boyntons, a family of graecophiles who once lived up the street from us in the Temple of the Winds. The childhood best friend of Isadora Duncan, Florence Treadwell Boynton shared her famous friend's passion for dance and ancient Greece. While Isadora eventually packed up her veils and scarves and moved to Europe, Florence married and became a beloved "modern" dance instructor to two generations of Berkeley girls. When Florence and Charles Boynton hired renowned Berkeley architect Bernard Maybeck to design their home, they requested plans that "reflected a Hellenic lifestyle".

The Boyntons didn't just love the ancient Greek lifestyle: they lived it. Like every successful San Francisco attorney, Charles Boynton left for work each day in his three piece suit, briefcase in hand. But as soon as he came home, he threw off his flannel shackles and slipped into a toga. The family folie-a-dix required that the Boyntons and their eight kids wear grecian robes year-round. They must have been a hardy lot: the original temple, eventually destroyed by fire and then rebuilt, was completely open, like its ancient Greek counterparts. That's open, as in no doors or windows. Open to whatever the winds blew in - leaves, bugs, fog and wintry weather with temperatures in the thirties.

The house was green when green was just a color - garbage was composted, water came from a natural spring, and the space was heated in winter by a central fire pit and hot water pipes in the floor. The outhouse was discretely tucked away behind the Eucalyptus trees, next to the grape arbor where Florence Treadwell Boynton gave birth to all of her kids. The Temple of the Winds had no kitchen: Raw foodists and vegans before either term was even coined, the Boyntons subsisted on fruits, honey and, yes, nuts. Whether Nut hill was named for the Boynton diet or the Boyntons themselves remains a subject of academic debate in Berkeley to this day.

All that remains of the original Temple of the Winds are its Corinthian columns, long since incorporated into an imposing stucco house whose inhabitants appear distressingly normal. But you don't have to go far to run into some quirky folk. Wandering through the farmer's market, you spot the Tiger Man, his bike upholstered with orange and black synthetic tiger fur, punctuated by a long tiger tail that flaps from his bicycle seat. Or you find yourself waiting for the bus with the Prophet, a Rastafarian in biblical Burlap robes and a straw coolie hat. Perhaps you live down the street from Sir Legs, who wears skirts year-round - in the Winter, something flannel and kiltish, in the summer, a colorful sarong. You hit the local coffee house and line up behind the Pajama Lady, well into her 70s, with her white mohawk and signature pastel flannel pjs. Or you're at the local Whole Foods, shopping next to a stunning young woman. In her long skirt and flowered hat, she's dressed like Mary Poppins, but she's no nanny. The baby she's holding is obviously hers, because she's obviously breast feeding and both her boobs are, well, obviously exposed, right there in the produce section in close, poetic proximity to the tuscan melons.

And then there's my pilates instructor, who is studying to be a Mayan Shaman - never mind that there are not enough Mayans in the Bay Area to provide her with a customer base. So how can we explain all this different drumming ? Could it be a lack of animal protein in the diet? Perhaps a mysterious cellular response to shifting tectonic plates? A secret plot to keep the rest of the country so weirded out that that they won't move to California and spoil it for the rest of us?

Just chalk it up to tolerance. Out here, nobody cares if you wear a toga to the grocery store, grow your own weed or practice the didgeridoo in the nude. The scenery's gorgeous and the weather's fine. Just like the rest of us, the eccentrics get to come out and play. And the rest of us don't mind a bit.