sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

April 30, 2012

I Guess I Don’t Want a Cool President

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:42 pm

The cat is out of the bag.  Andy Levy Has the Most Accurate Take on Obama’s ‘Coolness’ (via Insty):

On last night’s edition of Red Eye, Levy set the record straight about exactly why President Obama is NOT President Cool:

President Cool doesn’t raid marijuana dispensaries. President Cool is not against gay marriage.


I like how he slow jams closing Gitmo.

[…]He can get all the Fallon appearances, celebrity endorsements, and press brown-nosing his PR team wants, but President Obama is thoroughly uncool.

In other words, Obama is on the wrong side of the culture war issues which largely define cool in politics — because as we all know, the trendsetters among us have no time for econ 101 and know precious little about geopolitics.  Also, his time is up.  Few rock stars can still have it after 4 years in the spotlight.  Peggy Noonan noticed that he’s boring (via Instie).  Truth is, he always was, looking from left to right to left, delivering his stump sermons.  I strongly suspect that people who were all worked up about him in ’08 were like the young ladies at the Beatles concerts — they saw the idols, but didn’t hear the music.

I doubt there was a time in the One’s life when he really was cool.  We know precious little about Obama’s college years, except that he had weirdo Pakistani roommates that he found through a newspaper ad and that few remember him in college, suggesting that he wasn’t popular.  Everything else is a matter of dispute.

Some people can go to Harvard Law School and be cool, but it’s on them to prove it.  How did he dress?  I’m not sure that kids who are with it are allowed to wear blue jeans unironically.

Obama mom jeans

Two of the instances of mom jeans styling

“Mmmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama”.  Sure, he has a radical chic first, middle an last name, but that’s through no fault of his own.  Canine cuisine added some much-needed exoticism, but still he married a lady who evidently knows so little about making herself look pretty, she wound up walking around London dressed like a Presidential seal cake.

Obama mom jeans

The most infamous incident of

I’m sure it was somehow all focus-group tested, but how could his current handlers have the President doing smooth jazz?  What kind of cool person sings Al Green?  That’s basically the mom jeans of music.

Presidential seal cake

And that's the seal cake

Four years ago enough trendsetters decided that once in office, Obama will do a lot of very, very lefty things, which was cool, and convinced themselves that the man himself was.  Saul Alinsky went out of his way to make his occupation appear exciting, but the core of socialist political groups are dorks.  Browse through pictures of their protests, and see just how unhip the rank and file socialists appear.  A big protest attracts enough fellow travelers who generate some sort of pizzazz, but Barack Obama was a community organizer, a foot soldier of socialism, marching from teach-in to teach-in, when cool people merely favor radical politics because it enables them to strike a pose.  Supporting an non-mainstream politician is akin to liking an obscure band.  It has little to do with politics and everything to do with image.  The super secret reason why young people don’t vote, or vote for sure losers like Nader and Paul, is that politics is not prestigious.

In ’08 Obama had slick designers repackage him and underground artists draw his portraits.  It happened because he was black ans he had a Muslim name.  There was no way for trendsetters like Shepard Fairey to support a third party candidate that year.  So they got out the vote for Obama.  But the way hipsters talked about Obama was bordering on irony.  To be sure, they can’t transcend irony if they wanted to.  But as much as they tried to appear earnest, they are pretty hopeless in that department.  They came up with some strange ideas, like that Obama is handsome.

Mama loves Obama

Ah, the '08 vintage! Either daddy is not upset because mama quite obviously doesn't find the man attractive or he's a total beta. Possibly both

Democratic politics are kind of uncool to begin with.  Our politicians are largely reactive to the demands of the masses, and the masses are, by definition, uncool.  If Obama is on the square side of the culture wars, it’s because the issues Andy Levy cited are unpopular.  To be sure, democratically elected officials are known to show true leadership and take unpopular stands.  Personally, I think the costs of war on drugs justify legalization of marijuana, and although “medical” marijuana is a sham, I’d like for our President to lead on this issue, or at least to allow the states take the lead.

He seems to be incapable of that.  Last year he whined that it’s easy to be a president of China.  Then he’d have a reason to believe he’s cool.  Dictators are a kind of rock star, and rock stars like to compare themselves to dictators (think David Bowie).  So yeah, let’s not elect a cool President — or even one that is supposed to be cool.


April 26, 2012

Fashion and Politics Don’t Mix, Part 2: The Relevant Republican

Filed under: fashion, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:36 pm

When Elle magazine decided to do Lovely and Amazing: The Women in DC Power List feature, they probably should have hired somebody who might know something about politics… or geography… or else they were playing politics.  Of course, out of 10 DC power women featured, only 2 are Republican.  One of them is Dana Perino, who is based out of New York these days, given how she’s on Fox every evening.  Otherwise, she’s a good pick.

"The Relevant Republican"

Can't say that I just have to copy the make up job, but she certainly lives up to the "lovely and amazing" billing

Oh, and guess what they titled a feature on her?  “Dana Perino: The Relevant Republican”!  Why is she relevant?

It is the rare creature who can remain relevant in Washington after her administration is ousted. (She was the gifted and admired press secretary for George W. Bush.)

So the women in Republican House must be irrelevant, as conservative women tend to be.  Former (and future?) Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann?  No, not the Tea Party, for God’s sake!  What about a popular and generally revered insider like Liz Cheney?  Not when Elle appears to be fighting a war on conservative women.

Perino once mentioned on The Five that when she lived in DC she was invited to lefty cocktail parties, ostensibly so that the hosts and the attendees could congratulate themselves on being so open-minded.  In reality, she says, she was the only conservative they could stand.  I can see that.

April 22, 2012

Earth Day Special: How to Upcycle Your Garbage Service

Filed under: Bay Area politics, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:56 am

Earth Day weekend AND a heatwave.  Goody!

At my last me time appointment my dentist said, jokingly of course, that he’s telling his children to go into waste management.  They’ll get to drive a big truck and wave at toddlers.  No education is required, and it’s union.  Doctors, on the other hand, have to study, pay rent and insurance and all that, and at the end the money is probably the same.

Our garbage collectors have major attitude issues.  Last time they didn’t pick up our yard trimmings because the lid of our green garbage basket wasn’t fully closed, as per instructions.  I had to call and complain, and they told me to remove some of contents and sent their truck the next day, once the excess disposal was stored in my yard.  I’m not sure how green it is to divert a huge truck to pick up our garbage off schedule.  I doubt it’s financially sound, too.

Evidently they have people in their office compiling lists of arts and crafts projects for us common people and posting them on their website.  Waste Management doesn’t want to see their customers merely recycling old crap, they want their customers to get arty.  They call it an “upcycle”, and they put an ad in the paper we get to inform us about the existence of the webpage.

amazing upcycling

That's what I call civilization!

Turns out, it’s possible to DIY recycled paper.  Will the skill come handy once the dollar collapses, I wonder…  There is a way to turn a lowly cookie sheet into an Advent calendar — “[e]ven those who do not follow Advent”.  And oh, have you ever stitched yourself a hat out of 70s neckties?

necktie hat

I know an upcycle when I see one

To make jewelry out of an old CD assemble:

  • An unwanted CD
  • A pair of scissors
  • Something to heat the CD with (optional)
  • Something to file the edges with
  • Something to drill a hole with
  • An old necklace chain (with links), and a clasp if the chain doesn’t have one
  • Earring hooks (or clips, if you prefer)
  • Jump rings, or a leftover piece of wire long enough to be bent into a loop
  • Small pliers and wire cutters

That should be easy!  I already have a pair of scissors, and I’m sure DH owns pliers and wire cutters.  Home Depo might be able to advise about these “somethings” they mentioned, it’s only a question of being able to fill my gas tank at current prices to get to the store.  From then on I can reduce, reuse and upcycle while using a nice array of electric and/or battery-powered tools.

To make a vase out of a wine bottle, in addition to a wine bottle with label peeled off, procure:

– (1) Top plate connector/ceiling flanges (3/8″ size)
– (1) 1″ split ring hanger
– (2) screws to fit and hold the top plate connector (you may also want drywall anchors if you are not mounting directly into studs or another material)
– (1) piece of 3/8″ threaded rod, cut into 2 1/2″ pieces.
– 1/2″ double sided foam mounting tape (optional – if your bottle’s neck is smaller than 1″, like ours were)
– Silk flowers of your choice.

And to think that for years I was just sticking flowers in a bottle because I thought the label was cute!

For a cool scarf pillow one only needs a cool scarf and a pillow (in addition to sawing machine and notions).  To find cool scarves, browse second hand establishments at your leisure.  Patience and, again, gas money are required.  What I’m trying to get to is this: if vintage DIY aesthetic is your thing, go for upcycling, just don’t pretend you are saving the planet.

I actually like the homemade look, and I will be doing DIY projects with my children once they are old enough to develop necessary hand-eye coordination.  I do realize that these DIY projects are environmentally taxing.  The fact that they require more human and natural resources makes them seem well loved.  Plus I adore the mystique of vintage (well, not the 70s necktie kind).

Quite a few trendy merchants do the upcycled look these days.  Their merchandize is not inexpensive.  If Etsy is pricier than Wall-mart it’s in part because Etsy’s vendors who work on small scale have high overhead because they are unable to maximize the use of energy and other resources in the way that economy of scale allows.

While big retailers manufacture their products in polluting factories overseas, an American small-time craftsman still uses equipment and supplies made in China.  Industrial scale manufacturers have one big machine that works all day for many years, but my handy neighbors use theirs little ones intermittently.  That’s not the shrewdest use of resources.  The chains deliver their products on airplanes and in large trucks, Etsy vendors drag their SUVs all over the town when they run their errands.  Were Etsy environmentally sound, it would probably be cheaper, too.

What really bothers me is that somebody somewhere is actually drawing a salary for compiling lists of DIY projects, and that this salary is not paid for by a private source (I would have no problem with that) but by fees imposed on private residences by a company with a government contract.  What I expect from my garbage service is timely and cheap disposal of refuse.

April 19, 2012

Getting Preachy on The Occasion of Doggiegate

Filed under: politics, society, taste, tv — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 8:23 pm

I distinctly remember half of the Bay Area exploding with anger when Michael Vick was found to run a dog fighting ring.  Some of my arty friends opined that Vick represents everything football stands for.  I sense that we might need an expert in the uber chic field of the anthropology of food to explain why is it OK to be a United States President and brag about eating dogs.

We have dietary taboos in this country; we don’t eat humans, for instance.  Even then, a few years ago I saw a Discovery channel (I think) documentary that advocated cannibalism.  They argued that if we admit that the practice is justifiable under special circumstances, like consuming the flesh of the recently deceased following a plane crash in order to survive, then we are hypocrites and unnecessarily squeamish about the issue.

Food taboos weren’t all that hip among anthropologists I knew in college.  Although the general consensus was that we won’t eat a human or a monkey, everything else was fair game.  Even them, it was generally agreed that while back in the day anthropologists would go out of their way to claim that cannibalism never happens, now we admit that it does, but we don’t pass a judgment on it.

I have to insert this trip down memory lane that my Russian readers might appreciate.  This is “Why Had The Aborigines Eaten Cook? Or One Scientific Riddle” by Vladimir Vysotsky.  The song starts at around the 1:30 mark.  The expression “wild men” is used.  Enjoy:

When I was growing up, if I were to make an argument like the one Discovery channel made about cannibalism,  my mom would say: “Well, this is an exception that proves the rule.”  If people act in a certain way under the conditions of total social breakdown, it goes to show how low people sink when there is no functioning society.  The fact that there was cannibalism in the gulags only proves that the gulags were horrible, not that eating fellow humans is morally acceptable.

The left loves exceptions that prove the rule, only it doesn’t see them as such.  Liberals find freaky occurrences and elevate them to the norm.  See for instance, this wiki entry on gay marriage.  Turns out, the history of same sex marriage goes way, way back as Nero married a male slave.  Well, allegedly.  And, according to the rumor, he castrated him beforehand.  Maybe, just maybe, a fellow with Nero’s reputation should not define the new normal.

As much as we like smashing idols (while erecting new ones) it’s nice to know that at least some of us still have standards, and that we affirm our standards by not breaking bread with certain individuals and obeying dietary taboos.

Obama Khalidi

Obamas seated with late Egyptian American academic Edward Said at a dinner for PLO terrorist Rashid Khalidi

Some of us let their pets lick plates and sleep in the master bedroom.  Others are so unsure about who to consider family that they admit cats and dogs, and insist on calling themselves pet guardians instead of pet owners.  Me, I’m not a pet person at all; DH was talking about getting a dog, but we shelved this idea, at least for now.  Still, I recognize there is such a thing as four-legged friends.  After all, we don’t take anything from pets other than the pleasure of their company.  We don’t eat them.

People's Cube reproductive success

Sandra needs a cat. (Via Political Junkie Mom, via Lonely Conservative)

Judging by TV programming, the entire country enjoys the spectacle of breaking dietary taboos.  The Travel Channel has Andy Zimmern going around the world eating bizarre offerings.  I never watched much of that show, and I don’t remember him eating a dog.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he did, but from what I recall his staple diet were gross out creatures, like reptiles and amphibians.

That Barack Obama is proud of eating dogs confirms that he’s more interested in exotic street cred than being an American (or even, more broadly, Western) man.  No wonder he seems so alien to so many of us.  It’s healthy that this fact was met with great ridicule.

Obama logoUPDATE: Ah!  Andy Zimmern won’t eat dogs.  (Via King Shamus.)

UPDATE: David P. Goldman on President dog-eater (Via Camp of Saints, via Laughing Conservative):

Obama is the son of a Kenyan Muslim father, the stepson of an Indonesian Muslim, and the child, most of all, of an American anthropologist who devoted her career to protecting Indonesian traditional life against the depredations of the global marketplace. Her doctoral dissertation, “Peasant blacksmithing in Indonesia: surviving against all odds,” celebrated traditional cultures hanging on desperately in the face of the global economic marketplace.


We laugh about it, but people in some Third World countries eat dog meat because they are poor — not only so poor that they will consume almost any source of protein, but so poor that they cannot afford to enjoy the natural bond between human and canine that began almost 15,000 years ago.


It really isn’t unfair at all to bring Obama’s canine consumption to public attention. The president isn’t really one of us. He’s a dog-eater. He tells the story in his memoir to emphasize that viscerally, Obama identifies with the Third World of his upbringing more than with the America of his adulthood. It is our great misfortune to have a president who dislikes our country at this juncture in our history.

April 17, 2012

Pre-School Eco-Bullying

I suppose it only counts as bullying because everything is bullying these days.

Being a busy girl, Yelena had a habit of not wiping her hands after washing, so her skin turned dry.  I talked to her about drying her hands, applied moisturizer several times a day, and in a few weeks her skin was baby soft again.  Then all of a sudden her hands got dry again.

I asked her if she wipes her hands well in pre-school, and she said, no.  Turns out a certain Miss Smarty Pants admonished her for using more than a single paper towel.  Per Miss Smarty Pants it kills trees.  I can’t say I was surprised by this development.  I told Yelena to not worry about the trees because we will plant new ones, and that, in fact, we farm trees in this country.  And if Smarty Pants ever tells her that she can’t have another paper towel, she can relate that novel concept to her.

DH for his part told Yelena to use the grandpa rule: wipe her hands with a towel until it’s all wet before taking another one.  This way she’s using as much as she needs, but no more than she needs, which is always a good idea.

April 16, 2012

How to Afford the Luxury of Not Working at Home

Filed under: parenting, politics, Soviet Union — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 1:53 pm

Confirmed: “natural” is in the eye of the beholder.  In September 2007 Vogue printed Rebecca Johnson’s piece on Michelle Obama, a shortened version is available online (I hope they won’t disappear it).  Barack Obama claimed that his family didn’t have “the luxury” for Michelle to stay at home, but The interview, titled The Natural, confirms that Michelle — how should I put it? — pretty much hated stay at home motherhood with every fiber of her being (via Political Junkie Mom):

Every year, Michelle Obama considers quitting her job and staying home full-time to take care of her children. “It was a gift having my mother home every day. I want my kids to feel that way,” she says. But having experienced the pleasures of work outside the home, she is reluctant to give up her independence. “Work is rewarding,” she says. “I love losing myself in a set of problems that have nothing to do with my husband and children. Once you’ve tasted that, it’s hard to walk away.”

Then, too, there is that little-discussed fact that staying home with children can be—how else to put it?—less than intellectually stimulating. “The days I stay home with my kids without going out, I start to get ill,” she says. “My head starts to ache.” When she mentioned it to her mother, Marian Robinson told her daughter she didn’t think Michelle could handle the boredom of staying home with kids. [Cursive mine, — ed.]

Naturally, cum laude Michelle preferred to work for the Chicago machine.  The Lonely Conservative comments:

Look, there are days when kids drive even the most perfect, loving mothers a bit insane. Nobody can deny that. But for someone with a six figure income to classify the choice of staying at home to raise her children as a “luxury” is disingenuous at best.

Every once and a while we all need a break.  Actually, we need a lot of breaks, even if we don’t describe our aversion to spending time with our children in such tactile terms.  Perhaps Obamas who found child-rearing too difficult of an undertaking can show some respect for women who actually did it.

Anywho, I am lucky to have my mother come over every week, as expected from a Russian granny.  In the Soviet Union we were practically raised by our grandmothers.  In the four decades following World War 2, Soviet women had very long maternity leaves after which they had to go back to work full time.  Now, one of my grandmothers managed to be a homemaker, which was unbelievable.  My mom likes to say that she and her husband lived in the 20th century as if it was the 19th.

My mother worked out an agreement to work half a day, which was also unbelievable.  I didn’t know any other kid who had it so sweet.  One of my earliest memories is sitting with my grandmothers and waiting for her to come home in the middle of the day.  All other kids were tended to by babushkas or were in daycare and kindergartens.  My grannies were of the opinion that day care was low class, and I started kindergarten at 4, a year later than everyone else.  It was pretty much a factory of conformity and despair, which is a different topic altogether.

Although my daughter started part time pre-school when she was ready for the social experience, we have no sitters and no nannies.  I had an opportunity to hire a trusted Russian woman with a nursing degree, but passed.  Money is one reason, another one is that we prefer family members taking care of each other.  My children had developed relationships with people who love them more than anything else in this world and who will be there for them until their death. I’m not against sitters, just pro-granny.  I think people who can afford sitters should hire them — along with maids, gardeners and other service providers — to give themselves a break.

I was eager to leave home as a teen, and moved out when I was admitted to a university.  My experience is fairly unusual considering that even in this country Russian kids don’t move out until they get married.  Living alone, or at least far from parents, can be great fun for people in their 20s, but once we get on the breeding path, it’s reckoning time.  Thankfully, I didn’t move too far.  Balancing family and opportunity is something for young people to consider.

Since many Russian American women are able to pursue both carriers and motherhood because they have grandmothers tend to their children, I was intrigued by the role of Mrs. Robinson, Michelle’s mother, in the upbringing of her children.  Turns out, it was not a big one.  Here is the clue:

To keep things as normal as possible, Michelle’s mother will soon be retiring from her job as a secretary at a bank—in order to help watch the Obama daughters, Malia, nine, and Sasha, six.  [Cursive mine, — ed.]

So basically, while Michelle entertained herself with the Chicago machine, the Sasha and Malia spent their formative years in the care of strangers.

UPDATE: Forgot to include this portrait of “natural” motherhood: matching daughter’s clothes to self.  Anyway, one example of many.

Obama matching outfit

Yahoo comments: "Put on your to do list: Mother-daughter matching days". Oh come on, stay at home moms, don't be party poopers.

April 13, 2012

Time for a New First Lady?

Filed under: parenting, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:08 am

Working overtime to turn out that Sarah Palin demographic, aren’t we?  I doubt there is a better way to boost the voter turn out than to tell them that they are worthless.  CNN commentator Hilary Rosen summarily insulted millions of mothers when she declared that Ann Romney didn’t work a day in her life.  Romney is a mother of five, and as we all know, parenting is basically a form of idling.

The Romney family

Possibly too picture perfect

Raising five boys is not exactly my idea of rest.  When we had our first, DH used to joke that he goes to work to relax.  Children are demanding physically and emotionally, sleepless nights, aching arms and all that.  Then there are readjustments.  I remember shortly after my first was born I missed a new mom meet up because the baby peed on the changing table, and I just had to disinfect half the room.  A few years down the road, and I laugh at how freaked out I used to be by bodily fluids.

Your typical mother spends her days with somebody just as smart as she is who is willing and able to dedicate all his time to figuring out how to outsmart her.  Our bosses had other ways to keep themselves busy.  Even when everything is peachy-rosy, children pepper us with questions, like “How do you know when to put macaroni into the water, and how do you know when they are done, and why?  Why?  Why?”  And me, I’m just trying to figure out where to move the progeny so that she doesn’t end up spilling boiling water all over herself.

There are no charts, no grades, no yearly evaluations, nothing that tells her how well she’s doing and where the whole project is heading.  The responsibility is enormous, too.  It’s not like I’m drafting some silly letter.  Unlike in business, if I fail, I can’t start over again, at least not with the same child.

Of course, Barack Obama had to pipe in to offer his invaluable opinion on motherhood.  Turns out, Michelle didn’t have “the luxury” of staying home.  The questionable truth-value of his statement aside, it has “class envy” written all over: Yes, not every man can support a family on his salary alone, but we should applaud for Mitt for being able to do so.

Ann Romney raised her large family, setting an example of fulfilling motherhood, but what about Michelle Obama?  FLOTUS thought it necessary to inform the country about her daughter’s weight gain, which was an exploitative way to launch her anti-obesity campaign.  She raised a few eyebrows when she let her thirteen year-old daughter vacation abroad alone with some freinds.  Is spending vacations with one’s minor children too much of “a luxury” for the first family to afford?  Well, no; not when the First Lady is busying herself trying to figure out how to get the government to play daddy.

Earlier this year, FLOTUS rolled out a $3.2 billion healthy lunch program aimed to improve nutrition in the nation’s public  schools.  Some of her recommendations, like low sodium content were never scientifically proven to have positive health effects, but never mind.  Since the funds necessary to cover the program are at most 7% of Obama’s beloved Buffer tax, it shouldn’t be a big deal.  No mother will lose sleep worrying whether or not her children and grandchildren will be able to pay for Michelle’s school lunch program.

It’s true that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in this country, but it is really a symptom of a larger social malice.  There are too many single moms out there, and obese children often come from broken families.  A large number of working moms are for one reason or another unable to feed their children good food.  In any event, students are known to reject healthier alternatives.  It looks like family food culture is what probably matters most in combating obesity.  Maybe it’s time to hear what a stay at home mom can say about this issue.

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