May 29, 2008

Ask Alice? She doesn't know...

It has been a couple of weeks, and Alice is increasingly befuddled by the world. She was, after all, brought up not to discuss politics, religion or sex. Her mother has never revealed her personal voting record to anyone. Secret ballot and Alice's mother are one and the same.

In Haiti, under Baby Doc, Alice's father said: "You don't discuss politics in a dictatorship." While Alice was young, she got the message.

So Alice as political creature has come late to the dance.

Sure, she knew Nixon was a Bad Guy from the ever-so-seditious My Weekly Reader that informed her that Nixon was a Quaker, and Quakers did not believe in wars. This led to great confusion in Alice's pre-pubescent mind when Nixon bombed the hell out of Cambodia, cognitive dissonance that enrolled her as a Democrat long before she could reach the levers in the voting booth.

And given the civil liberties lost to us courtesy of the current administration, as Alice has mourned previously in The Party's Over and Follow the Money, among other rants, Alice has become convinced that you don't have to be paranoid to think Big Brother is watching you.

Last night, Alice was part of the audience for the filming of a Very Well-Known Feminist's talk on fascism in 10 easy steps, the how-to explained in VWKF's most recent book. She left with an acute case of paranoia, and a reminder that free speech is very expensive, a fact not lost on her friend The Misanthrope, who has had part of his blogging experience bite him on the ass.

Alice's take on VWKF is in part personal: they met at a writers' colony many years ago, and she critiqued the manuscript of VWKF's second book; VWKF said Kaddish at Alice's father's grave; Alice danced at VWKF's wedding, and their connection, ironically, was lost after VWKF became part of the asylum-running crowd of married couples, while Alice remained a solo act.

Alice concluded years ago VWKF's most important contribution to the social fabric is how well she popularizes and makes palatable ideas and ideals that most Americans would fail to comprehend in more intellectual terms. She is also not surprised that part of the VWKF's impetus for her latest book was a woman who is the daughter of Holocaust survivers who kept saying as we lost one right to privacy, one civil liberty, after another, "they did this in Germany." Alice had made a similar link years ago.

Remembering a family friend who fled Germany in 1937 and, who, when asked in the 1980s what she did for fun, said sadly "I had all my fun before Hitler," Alice wondered whether the same would be true for her and the Bush administration, or whether Alice was exaggerating. As time has gone by, Alice has come to think she was spot-on. And now she is terrified and not at all convinced that the next election will solve anything.

At the same time, she wonders why her tax dollars are going to monitor citizens' once-Constitutional, political expression at the expense of, say, universal health care or ending hunger and homelessness, in our so-called "first world" country.

If someone on the Fed's dime is reading Alice's blog, he/she might have noticed that Alice doesn't attract much attention, no matter how many times she thinks the so-called War on Terror is as ludicrous as was Nixon's War on Drugs with Elvis Presley its model citizen.

Alice is convinced that the road to ending terrorism has nothing to do with T.S.A. screenings and banning shampoo bottles larger than three ounces on airplanes. All of the hyped security she encounters seems like a full employment act for those who can participate early and often in charades. None of it is real; it is all window dressing.

As the Mexicans have pointed out, while the Feds want to build a wall to keep them out of the U.S. and are funding this absurdity under the guise of border security, no terrorists have entered through the Mexican border, only the Canadian one.

And while Alice is not thrilled about illegal immigration, she can't take seriously the argument that immigrants are depriving Americans of jobs. No, in real life Alice knows these immigrants take the jobs native-born Americans, regardless of aptitude or intelligence levels, will not dream of signing onto.

So Alice doesn't know what the hell is going on, who to believe and who to ignore. Her critical faculties are suffering from synaptic lapses of a monumental proportion, and all that it adds up to is, Alice is tired. She is suffering from TMI overload, and cannot cope with "the news" in any form. Immediate rest is her self-issued prescription.

If you don't hear from Alice for a while, this is why. She welcomes you to Go Ask Alice at alice dot uptown at gmail dot com, where she can be found, but she cannot promise more than intermittent blogging until she catches up with herself in the world.

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May 12, 2008

For Cicely, The Girls, and T.

Above, Alice, at left; two of the Three Sisters, center; Cicely, at right; after the 1995 D.C. Rally for Women's Lives, or, as Alice's T-shirt reads: The Power to Stop Violence Against Women Begins with Me.

The third sister is taking the photograph. The Three Sisters, also known as The Girls, and their mother, Cicely, have been a huge part of Alice's life since about 1985.

Prior to meeting The Girls -- each a year apart in age -- Alice was a checkbook activist. With The Three Sisters and their mom, Alice spent many years putting her body where once she had only put her checkbook: into the streets of D.C., Wonderland, and Albany. She lobbied politicians by telephone, long before email, much less email petitions and progressive political Web sites, became commonplace.

A few days before Alice's father died, she, Cicely, and The Girls protested against Bush the first and his incipient Gulf War in the streets near the United Nations. There were cops everywhere: on foot, on horseback, in the sky, atop buildings, and, Alice believes, practically falling from the trees growing from the sidewalks.

Granted, Alice was younger and angrier, and less cynical. She used to think she could make a difference; now, not so much. But to her dying day, Cicely believed. And she acted. And she made Alice think and debate and act in ways that have made her a better person.

Cicely and The Girls got Alice off her ass and moving. Everything Alice knows about taking it to the streets -- protesting injustice, war, and Republican foreign policy -- she learned from them.

The Internet may have galvanized grass-roots organizing in its current incarnation, but, to Alice, nothing says I-mean-business like showing up in person. You vote with your feet.

Four weeks ago, Cicely left this mortal coil, after years of raging against going gentle into that good night. The Girls and T., Cicely's quasi-officially adopted daughter, held her as she drew her last breath.

Last night, The Girls and T. held a celebration of Cicely -- a far cry from any memorial service Alice had ever attended. It was standing room only, 100+ people in attendance, some of whom The Girls had tracked down after 30+ years. They put together a photo montage of Cicely's life, synced to protest folk music, and found more than a dozen people to speak of Cicely's accomplishments.

Alice wept through the photo montage, seeing herself on screen through the years, as part of the extended family. The Christmases, the protests, the parties -- it all felt as if it had happened yesterday, along with Friday night bridge and early 1990s Monday night TV. A reception followed the program, with enough food and booze to make Cicely proud. The Girls threw one hell of a party, the kind of send-off most people only dream of.

And Alice is grateful, to have been a part of it all, to know as family people whose mission it is to make the world a better place. They certainly have made it one for her.

May 09, 2008

Why technology and I want a divorce

Irony about posting on a blog aside, this story may be apocryphal, but I'm right there with its spirit:

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, 'If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.'

In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating:

If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics :

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash.......twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.

4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.

6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single 'This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation' warning light.

7. The airbag system would ask 'Are you sure?' before deploying.

8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10. You'd have to press the 'Start' button to turn the engine off.