Tuesday, October 28, 2008

lighter fare

(Because M.Snowe feels like a good laugh . . .)

Here's some good stuff:

Dickerson on McCain scare tactics (because Obama will take your money, let terrorists invade, and let all sorts of liberal "perversions" run rampant across the country).

Just when you thought the Reagan era and all that came with it was over, here's a reminder that some horrible fads just refuse to die. Thanks, Xavier Roberts. For nothing.

Sometimes judging a book by its cover never felt so satisfying.

Monday, October 27, 2008


UPDATE: See comment about Direct Democracy. M.Snowe is no political scientist, so comments are always welcome to prove her assumptions wrong!

The elections are almost here, and M.Snowe senses the hush before the storm. The debates behind us, there's nothing much to do but hold our collective breath and wait for our turn in the booth (or mail in our ballots--which promises to be a complete nonevent, compared to the shiny metal levers and satisfying swoosh of a tattered curtain).

Then M.Snowe got to thinking about the electoral college system, and democratic republics in general. Any grade-schooler worth their lunch money should be able to tell you we do not live in a democracy. A direct, ancient-Greek-style democracy consists of all citizens (even if that term was a narrow one back then, eliminating many people) voting upon the laws of the state, in one location. Today, we elect those who elect for us, and in that way we are represented by proxy--because we as a nation are such a behemoth that direct democracy is just not feasible. People have complained that voting is pointless, that their individual vote "doesn't matter," especially in a state that is heavily tilted to one party. Well, they're right. And thank god. First, that's an asinine argument against voting, because if your one vote "mattered" in the sense it determined the election, well then the rest of us might all just sit home and let you cast your ballot for us. Seriously. Also, even though it is like a drop of water in the ocean, your vote does contribute something. If nothing else, it legitimizes your ability to criticize the government. It legitimizes your participation, and for once is something you can contribute that isn't a tax. If you're not that symbolically inclined, then it's understandable you don't care about the race. But you forfeit all rights to complain, in M.Snowe's book, even though your vote wouldn't have changed a thing, almost certianly.

There is a lot to be learned by analyzing one person's vote in a presidential election: you can campaign and vote for a certain person or a set of things, but ultimately the decision is a collective result of all the people around you, pulling the strings whether they know it our not. And that's the part that scares people away from the polls, in this blogger's opinion. You have no control over the outcome, and yet you are asked to take a gamble, invest your time, thought, and in some cases, your desire. It is the willingness to throw in your chips, bend your will, that makes elections a showpiece for life.

You might desire one outcome with all your insides, but sometimes it just doesn't pan out--you feel emptied, and aren't sure how to function in the face of this new state of being that isn't the one you were hoping to encounter. Life moves on--it must--but spectacularly it feels as if somehow you stepped off to the side, and slow motion is the only way to operate in the face of the spinning clocks and daily merry-go-rounds.

The fervor, the thrust of those last few electric months, or weeks even, still pulse faintly, and like a white dwarf, the density of thoughts can pile on and grow by degrees, even though outwardly you only flicker faintly to the casual onlooker. There is no longer any hope to energize you, the election over, no fusion reactions to heat the core. However, once the build-up of mass or pressure becomes unbearable, carbon detonation can occur. It's not surprising that our actions mimic the stars. We certainly didn't vote for it to happen this way.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Inside-Out (Where M.Snowe ponders clarity in a fog)

M.Snowe is often surprised by the wild extremes peoples' conjectures take. If there was some ultimate spectrum with the words "astronomically off-kilter" and "absolutely on point," written on either end, most conjectures/assumptions would fall close to one of those phrases, but almost never in the middle, between them. So it must be concluded that when M.Snowe (and perhaps a larger audience) tries to grasp the unknown, she is in fact grasping at thin air, and her chance of being spot-on is as likely as her chance of revealing her complete ignorance.

The problem that inevitably accompanies assumptions/decision-making is we are never allowed to be objective. We can never separate ourselves from...well, ourselves--which includes our hopes, desires, fears, angers, etc. And whether it's an attempt to lay these considerations aside, or use them to our advantage, each is a conscious effort that can never fully result in objectivity. For many decisions, this is a beneficial thing. We are rational beings after all..whatever that's good for. But it's when we try and piece together the thoughts and actions of those around us (with their own unique hopes, fears, conjectures, etc.) , that it becomes especially trying.

So if you're living in the confines of a frenetic Friday afternoon, take heart--your worries could be completely off mark, anyways.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Replacements (Or a post in which M.Snowe interjects some rambling and incoherent commentary)

The world is filled with replacements, stand-ins. We have vice-presidents, runners-up, understudies, bench-warmers, you name it. These are the literal and defined replacements, anyways. They serve acknowledged, and important (though sometimes under-appreciated) roles. In the absence or inability of the primary, they stride in and (hopefully) fulfill the duty vacated by their predecessor.

Not just people, but words, ideas, inanimate objects can serve as replacements. Language itself is a replacement of sorts--words serve as symbols for everything we decide to give a name to.

Replacements are often vital--they allow us to distract ourselves, come to conclusions not otherwise attainable, or maybe see things in alternate ways. And replacements are a healthy and necessary part of life--when they are defined and known. But there are also dangerous and distracting replacements, obviously. And sometimes there are quixotic ones.

Sometimes M.Snowe wonders if her favorite authors used writing as a replacement . . . for something. If that is the case, then it's possible that even the worst situations can produce beautifully prosed results. But then again, replacements are everywhere--and usually involve the same dichotomy: the replacement of a person or wish with something/someone else entirely.

The city has a bevy of replacement activity. People replace any number of real things with the superficial--money, clothes, status, etc. But in a microcosm as big as this one, it's also very easy to use stand-ins, or recruit second-stringers, without their full knowledge or consent. Many in New York have no problem substituting one person for another, or unfairly looking for limited, isolated things from a large swath of unlucky souls. It becomes difficult, if not near impossible to know, in such a large space, whether your presence registers as a primary, or just the least-offensive alternative. To assume primacy is egotistical, to view yourself as the replacement is damn-near depressing. So what does one do?

M.Snowe found herself running three miles, and had the sneaking suspicion that it wasn't purely cardiovascular-health motivations that got her trainers moving around the fluorescent-lit track. She might be replacing one thing or other, but at least the only one she tread upon was asphalt.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Agonizing Agape

Visiting an apple orchard is a great way to pass the time on a sunny fall Saturday. There are rows and rows of trees, lots of sky and a sense that even now, small joys can be gleaned from something as low tech as a ladder and a wooden pail.

The big sky is clear and the air is fresh--not the stifled kind that hangs in the air around the city.

M. Snowe, for the life of her (or more accurately for the life of her 9 month old nephew) couldn't then understand why such clear air could produce such polluted beliefs in her nephew's parents.

The actual words used to describe one presidential candidate were: "terroristic, socialistic, baby-killing bastard."
M.Snowe shuddered, thinking this is the language (and poor grammar) that her nephew is privied too daily.
Then someone let him suck on an apple, and he made a sour face the entire day.
One can only hope his ability to decipher the sour will adapt and strengthen with age.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

How I Learned First Hand (literally) What Biden Should Not Do Tonight.

So last night, at a not so unreasonable hour, M.Snowe got on the subway at Union Square. Settling in to the normal routine of zoning out and ignoring those sitting around me as well as those who walked into the train with me, I failed to notice as someone attempted to get my attention walking through the subway doors. When he sat down next to me, I finally realized, it was a former coworker. He had moved to a different department and therefore a different floor of our building, so naturally, he was dead to me, aside from the occasional morning or afternoon sighting by the entrance to our building. What I could tell you about this man was that when I was working with him, he was intelligent and always on top of his work. While a hint of condescension was always distinguishable in him, it was never so much a bother for me not to respect and appreciate the work he did, which was thorough and on point. He is a middle-aged gentleman, with a mostly bald head and the slightest tuft of hair on either side, and he wore glasses. He might serve as a stand in for a Biden-like figure in terms of build.

He inquired how I was, and I asked the same of him. He then went on to tell me that "You probably don't know this, but I was fired from_____________. " Well, this certainly hadn't reached our floor, because as in most cases, the juicy gossip was too diluted by the time it traveled up the elevator to us. When he observed the raised eyebrows in response, he continued, explaining that his boss had either left or been pushed out of the company, and he was summarily told, without rhyme or reason, that his position was no longer needed. He stressed that they gave him no reason or justification for his termination. At this point, M.Snowe was disheartened and generally felt bad for the poor treatment Mr. Ex-Coworker had received, rather unfairly, from the looks of it. But something didn't sit right. When Mr. Ex-Co extended his greetings, he had said, "well, what are you doing down here at this hour?" as if it had been 1AM instead of just 9 or 10PM. But that was nothing out of the norm, for sure. But Mr.Ex-Co was much more relaxed-looking than I remembered him, perhaps because he no longer had to present himself as a professional acquaintance. He said some other things that didn't make the stale subway air any more breathable. But then, as he got up to go when we reached his stop, he rose and wished me the best, and I him. I was wearing a skirt, one that I had worn to work, which was professional and cut just above the knee, leaving just the knee plus a little bit more leg exposed while sitting on the train. As Mr. Ex-Co got up from the adjacent seat, he patted my leg with his hand, intentionally, and for a time period far too long for comfort. Keep in mind at work we were not close and I can't remember any time when he even shook my hand. At that point, all the respect, all the sorry feelings Mr. Ex-Co had been carefully cultivating were thrown out the train simultaneously as he exited. M.Snowe began to wonder if sometimes, the professional setting we've created is just a clever ruse that makes people think sexual condescension no longer exists, or only in extreme cases. Just because people behave themselves, doesn't mean the environment is completely free from bias and harassment.

Maybe (or even probably), M.Snowe is making way too much of a simple pat on the knee, but it was exacerbated by the fact that it was exposed skin, not trousers he touched, and for far too long. Maybe all that Catholic school education has gotten back at M.Snowe by making her too much of a prude while she simultaneously rejected the general idea of organized religion....who knows. But one thing is certain: a lesson can be learned, first hand if you will, from this that will help Joe Biden tonight... so listen up Mr. Biden: despite the fact that you are intelligent, qualified, etc., don't condescend, and don't appear sexist. Because as soon as you do that, even if it's completely unintentional, people will forget all of the good work you may have done. You can unmake years of hard work with a swipe of the knee, or pat on the head. Don't forget how idiotic Bush Sr. looked when he tried to "teach" Geraldine Ferraro about foreign policy in their debate, and how the crowd cheered her when she called him out on it. Senator Biden: be charismatic as you can, be strong and fight for your points when you can, but don't imply that Palin is dumb (even though she might be) and don't imply that you can teach her something (although you probably could). Also, don't ever, under any circumstances, talk or gesture to appearances. Like any good debater knows, once you hit the physical realm, you no longer have the power to make good theoretical arguments. Stick with theory, avoid physicality--because in theory, we're all created equal. It's when you come down to earth, you realize we're definitely not treated that way.