sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

March 26, 2013

Next Year in Jerusalem

Filed under: music, Soviet Union — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:52 pm

Gorod(City) was one of my favorite Russian underground songs.  It’s simple, serene and mysterious, and I fell in love with it when I first heard it, in my early teens.  That version was performed by a group called Aquarium, and most Russians still attribute the authorship to the lead singer Boris Grebenshchikov (nicknamed BG).  I don’t think he still claims it, but at some point he probably did.

Appropriately enough, Gorod’s origin is shrouded by mystery.  In the late 80s a girlfriend of mine told me that BG stole it from some singer songwriter, altering the lyrics.  She said that the original version used quotes from the Bible which BG bastardized.  I knew about the accusations of plagiarism when I was getting married, fifteen years later, but I loved the song so much, I chose the Aquarim version of the song for the father-daughter dance.  I didn’t know where to find the original, plus, plagiarism or not, I loved BG’s execution, which always took me back to my teens — it’s very Soviet Union in the 80s.

Zeev Heizel did a thorough investigation of the origin of the song, and concluded that the melody was created by an amateur Russian lute player Vladimir Vavilov in the late 1960s, and that it was inspired by Italian Renaissance composer Francesco da Milano.  Poet Anri Volohonsky wrote the lyrics in 1972, and Aquarium recorded their hit in the 80s.

English translation of the Aquarium version is following:

Under the blue sky
Is a city of gold
With translucent gates
And a bright star
And in that city is a garden
Of grass and flowers
Animals of unseen beauty
Stroll there
One is a lion with a mane of fire
Another is an ox with stupendous eyes
With them is the golden celestial eagle
Whose look of light is unforgettable

But in the blue sky
Shines a star
She is yours oh my angel
She is yours forever
One who loves is beloved
One who shines is a saint
Let the star lead you
To the miraculous garden
To meet the lion with a mane of fire
And the ox with stupendous eyes
With them is the golden celestial eagle
Whose look of light is unforgettable

Ever since my bff told me that the lyrics were based on Biblical verses, I thought that the song was about Jerusalem.  And maybe the text was based on the scriptures, only in the original version the city was not “under”, but “over” the blue sky, the heavenly Jerusalem.  Anyhow, I think it’s appropriate to celebrate Passover with the Hebrew version of Gorod, with a very thick Russian accent, performed by Zeev Heizel:

Happy Passover and happy Easter to my Christian friends.

March 19, 2013

“Bang!” The Ban

Before I start this post, let me explain the title.  I wrote a bit about the plastic grocery bag bans sweeping California towns, and in the process discovered an excellent website that accumulates resources for the opposition; it’s called bag the ban.  I doubt any of my readers came across the website.  So why did I choose a title referencing a website my readers know nothing about?  Because I’m crazy, that’s why!

Which brings me to this.  Leslie Eastman noted that in California, the state uses its power to confiscate guns from law-abiding citizens using the most tenuous mental health reasons (spending money we don’t have in the process):

Just last week, the California Senate approved a $24 million funding bill to expedite the process of collecting guns from owners in the state who legally acquired them but have since become disqualified due to felony convictions or mental illness.

Such was recently the case for one woman, who had been in the hospital voluntarily for mental illness last year that she says was due to medication she was taking. Lynette Phillips of Upland, Calif., told TheBlaze in a phone interview Monday she had purchased a gun years ago for her husband, David, as a present. That gun, as well as two others registered to her law-abiding husband (who does not have a history of felonies or mental illness), were seized last Tuesday.

“My husband is upset that they took the right from us that should never have been taken, Phillips told TheBlaze.

But according to the state of California, that doesn’t matter.

“The prohibited person can’t have access to a firearm” regardless of who the registered owner is, Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, told to Bloomberg News.

What’s “crazy” anyway?  In the 90s, the lawyer for the Unibomber was talking about the insanity defense.  In the Soviet Union, dissidents were shipped off to mental wards.  The GOP, I hear, can use less “nutters”.

The perpetrator of the Sydney Hook massacre, the massacre that caused the latest round of anti-gun hysteria, is said to have had Asperger’s.  Maybe he could had been diagnosed with something else, or perhaps he’s just evil, but arguably, Asperger’s is a form of normal male behavior, often revered throughout history — Pierre Bezukhov in War and Peace, for instance, was probably modeled on a person with autistic traits.  Today, 1 in 54 boys is diagnosed with autism, most of them have mild symptoms, and quite a few will outgrow their diagnosis.  How many “crazies” (and their relations) are we prepared to disarm?

A politically insane individual like myself is weary of denying the “crazy” their Second Amendment rights.  Sure, there are people out there, very obviously scary people, like the perpetrator of the Aurora mass shooting, who should not had been able to have access to firearms.  The problem with people like him is larger than possession of weapons.  The man should have been involuntarily hospitalized, and we do need to have laws for that.  In his case, a mental health checks to buy a gun would be like putting a band aid on a wound that cuts to the bone.  It does not address the underlying problem, and does not prevent him from, say, picking up a hammer and cracking a few people’s heads.  Furthermore, many people obviously in need of mandatory psychiatric treatment (take a walk in downtown San Francisco) are not violent or at least not capable of actually getting themselves to a sporting goods store and not freaking out the clerk.  What would gun checks do for them?

It’s very much possible that the Sandy Hook murderer would slip through the cracks and not be hospitalized.  But no system is perfect and life is full of unpredictability and danger.  And yet, despite the impression we get from the evening news, mass shootings are rare.  Parents of the Sandy Hook first graders can be consoled by the fact that their beautiful children died in an extraordinarily rare event, but it was an extraordinary rare event.

Lets look at the mass shooting in perspective.  The same people that are rallying against the Second Amendment are typically environmentalists, also rallying for grocery bag bans.  In San Francisco such ban is linked to a 46% increase in deaths from foodborne illnesses.   According to CDC estimates, 3000 people died of foodborne diseases across the United States in 2011.  If we are to implement a similar plastic bag ban on federal level, we should for 1380 dirty bag deaths — and I hope the turtles are worth it.  Sixteen mass shootings were perpetrated in the US in 2012, leaving 88 people dead, meaning that grocery bag bans are quite likely to be nearly 16 times deadlier than mass shootings.

“Oh, that’s just mass shootings,” my readers may say.  “But what about the murders committed with ‘assault’ rifles?”  Actually my readers would never ask a question that stupid.  They know that according to the FBI, in 2011 323 people were shot to death with rifles.   This means that grocery bag bans are probably more than 4 times deadlier than bad guys with rifles.

Clearly, some residents of “reality-based community” need to have their priorities straightened out.  Or else, their political convictions are more about identity, about sticking it to the bitter clingers, and not so much about saving life.  Or else they prefer to return to “natural” pre-industrial living, the one characterized by high birth rate and low life expectancy.  That’s totally sane.  And get this, if we actually subsidize birth control and stop breading, the Earth will be returned to the animals.  In this case nobody will be shooting those AR-15s.

So, dear friends, support life and liberty, our Second Amendment rights and oppose government’s intrusion into personal matters!  (Crazy, I know.)

UPDATE: Related: anti-vaxxers kill. (Via Instapundit.)

March 15, 2013

My Kitchen — My Rules

Filed under: Bay Area politics, education, environmentalism, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:41 pm

What I love about Victor Davis Hanson is the breadth of his knowledge.  In his recent column Hanson described the emerging medieval social and political organization of California (via Leslie Eastman).  This structure rests on a “medieval” Pacific Coast state of mind, with environmentalism being one of the key orthodoxies of the increasingly unenlightened Golden State.

I have the misfortune to watch the environmentalist indoctrination in making.  The recent grocery bag ban enacted by the Alameda County is the most recent sour spot.  The ban, designed to eventually supplant all “single use” grocery bags, stirs residents of our counties (actually many municipalities in our state are heading this way) towards the use of grocery totes.  Considering that the practice creates a public safety hazard, the fact that the now illegal plastic bags are probably more environmentally sound than any alternatives looks like a minor point.  But the most egregious aspect of the prohibition is the effect on individual liberty.  All of a sudden, what I do in the privacy of my own kitchen becomes everyone’s business.

Scratch that.  Not “all of a sudden”.  Personal has long been political, and our kitchens have been sniffed out by the PC police for quite some time.  The government on all levels throws its weight around in favor of particular classes of appliances.  American law requires food labeling, and these requirements are becoming increasingly more extensive.  Considering the amount of social pressure to buy local and/or organic products, and the political outlook of the individuals who put this pressure on each other, a law prescribing the sale of politically correct groceries will be cheered on by a large segment of the California population.  Just as well.  We, California women, bought into the personal is political doctrine, so we have to reconcile with the political in our personal.  The kitchens, traditionally a personal domain of women, are now invaded by the PC police.

If a mom is not careful, her kids might act as an arm of the PC police — kind of like the kosher police.  An essentially secular in-law of mine enrolled her son in an Hasidim-run Jewish school with the reputation for academic excellency.  In a short time the boy took to inspecting her pots and giving her advise on how to run her kitchen.  Although she resented it then, towards the end of her life the auntie turned pretty religious and started keeping kosher.  Now, environmentalism is unlike a religion in that the older we get the less likely we are to accept it.  And so mothers of students enrolled in public schools might find themselves going through some dead-end nagging.  But, because unlike religion, environmentalism does not create a sense of connection with the past, mothers should feel in no way compelled to accept the dogma pushed on family kitchens through the educational establishment.

My daughter’s kindergarten class were once  subject to a f propaganda barrage connected with the bag ban.  And now I read about a posh local elementary that was visited by representatives of a local environmentalist group, who, I gather, gave them a talk on pros and cons of the ban.  All students of this posh elementary are above grade level, and all parents are the low level California aristocracy.  Don’t tell them you don’t shop at Whole Foods.

The fifth-graders were so impressed by the talk, they spontaneously decided to write letters to the newspaper to argue pros and cons of the bag ban.  For some not at all obvious reason, the overwhelming majority of letters were in support of the law.  The minority opinion was mostly concerned with relative advantages of recycling various material (the online version of the paper didn’t include the minority student voice at all).  Either we are so far gone here that there is no hope for us, or the students know something that they hesitated to put on paper.  With their names attached to it.  For everyone to see.  Forever.  Or perhaps what I saw in the paper is only representative of the children of the aristocracy.  Black people don’t care much for environmentally correct practices, and Hispanics think that since the white people ruined the Earth, environmentalism is for the Caucasians.  Well, maybe not all Hispanics, just the ones at UC Berkeley.  Viva la Raza!

As far as I can tell, the fifth graders that weighed in on the ban are well on their way to Berkeley.  For instance, one eager soul writes:

Many people are against it, but I think it’s the best thing that has happened to the county for a while.

Ask your mama if the ban is better than the reelection of Barack Obama.  And check out this budding statist:

The bag ban is amazing — a perfect way to motivate us to use reusable bags. It’s a great way to make a cleaner and greener world. So keep the bag ban up and running.

I wonder if they discuss, in their “social studies” class, what the Founders would think of the government motivating we, the people, to transport our groceries in a specific manner.

We tell our kids that we expect them to learn math, reading and writing at school, and that everything else is just someone’s opinion.  I will take responsibility for introducing them to great literature, science and history.  I just hope their teacher doesn’t press them into a letter writing campaign.

March 6, 2013

War on Women: SF

In decades past San Francisco sent Nancy Pelosi to the Lower House and nurtured Dainne Feinstein.  The local electorate keeps dutifully reelecting Barbara Boxer, the other incumbent California Senator.  And yet the current political culture of this two-party (Democrat and Green) municipality smacks of misogyny.

Only 12 out of 31 elected office-holders are women.  No big deal, you say, perhaps the gals around here have better things to do with their time.  But against the background of Pelosi bragging about the number of Democratic women on the Hill, the low representation of women in politics in her hometown looks embarrassing.  And so the Democrat establishment of the City demanded that mayor Ed Lee appoint not merely an outwardly female double-X barer, but a mother to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors because, it turned out, there is not a single mother among the 11 board members.  Perhaps Mayor Lee could had done one better and appoint a transsexual “mother” who was once a father or something like that, but, I guess, he didn’t know any.  So he found a 29-year-old “girl” to be the 4th double exer on the Board.

That there are no mothers on the SF Board of Supervisors is only natural.  It’s not just that we, mothers, live on tight schedules; the City is notorious for its adult ambiance.  Parents and kids are fleeing to the suburbs, the Pacific North-West and just about anywhere else, really.  San Francisco can not remain both a party mecca and a family hub, and it seems to be committed to being a party mecca.  Although this situation says something about the City, I don’t view it as a problem: hipsters are people too, and they need a place to party.  One group that sees it as a problem are the teachers unions who see the family flight and anticipate lay-offs.  The politicians beholden to the union go out of their way to make the City family-friendly, but have little to show for their efforts.  It’s a topic for a different post.

I wonder if the Dems are feeling the pressure from the likes of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.  I heard a rumor that they want to tap into the demographic of women getting a “second wind”, former stay at home moms with grown children.  That should be interesting.  Married women are generally a Republican demographic.  We are zealous about good economic outlook, worried about national security and understand the value of human life.  I’m not sure what liberal mommies are going to bring to the table besides their peculiar brand of environmentalist neurosis.

Mommie issues aside, the political culture and social life in the City by the Bay is not exactly pro-woman, and this is immediately obvious.  Walk down the streets of the Lower Mission, for instance, and watch “girls”, many of them potentially attractive, going out of their way to look ironic.  Those who partake in the prestigious hobby of biking in the hilly city streets often grow thighs.

If the “girls” get involved in grass roots politics, it’s usually through outfits like Code Pink or with that septuagenarian (what’s her face?) who can’t shut up about her reproductive organs.  Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers have a revealing picture of the former.  I hate to bring it to Code Pink, but they fall more than a little short of Inna Shevchenko.  Zombie documented some interesting vagina/abortion dances and an anti-rape rally attended by mayor Lee (and possibly the entire Board of Supervisors, though not sheriff Mirkarimi, more of which later).  This kind of assemblies are bound to repel anyone with a semblance of self-esteem, no matter how sympathetic they are to leftie causes.  And besides, grass root politics around here is a domain of dead end narcissists; it’s a lifestyle, not a way of getting ahead.

Some local women do get ahead.  A case in point is Kamala Harris, Bay Area’s most recent gift to state politics.  Kamala, a spinster in her late 40s who now occupies the office of Attorney General of California, launched her career by sleeping with then-Speaker of California State Assembly and later mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown.  In addition to appointing her to positions on several Committees, Speaker Brown bought Kamala a Mercedes.  Then he helped her launch her successful District Attorney bid.

In the nearby Alameda county, Nadiya Lockyer, the young wife of the State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, became County Supervisor in 2010.  She was considered one of the rising stars in California Democratic politics until she resigned last year after a scandal involving substance abuse and a sex tape.  Sleeping one’s way to the top hardly raises an eyebrow in the post-third wave feminist Bay Area.  We are very sophisticated here, and we don’t judge.  Still, it’s one of those things that are bound to give pause to a number of women with political ambitions, particularly those who are married and especially the ones with children.

Harris and her ex laugh

Look who else is active in San Francisco politics.  Why, the co-founder of the California Green Party Ross Mirkarimi.  In November 2011, Mirkarimi, who had no prior law enforcement experience, was elected San Francisco sheriff.  He started off 2012 with a bang, literally.  The sheriff’s wife ran off to a neighbor’s house, and the neighbor videotaped her sobbing and showing the bruises inflicted by her husband.  Unlike Lockyer, Mirkarimi managed to survive the ensuring political storm.  (The interesting thing about Mirkarimi is that, while virulently anti-2nd Amendment, the man owned three pistols.)

Don’t lose track of what matters: San Francisco sheriff Ross Mirkarimi gives away what appears to be washable grocery bags on the steps of the City Hall

There is a lot of feminist rah-rah in San Francisco, but the optics are gross.  The feminist rhetoric, sometimes goofy, sometimes over the top, covers up a culture of indifference to issues that are supposed to excite a feminist, issues like family violence or an opportunity to make an honest living.  Underlying it all is a culture alien to the women who are not single — or at least childless.  No wonder there are no mothers on San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

…And on the right we have the Tea Party, a successful grass roots organization driven to a large extent by women, many of whom are mothers, many of whom embarked on a career in electoral politics.

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