Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barack Obama

I didn't think it was possible, but my respect and reverence for Senator Barack Obama has increased even more today. I have been a supporter of Obama for President since before he ever announced his intention to run.

In July of 2004, my dad heard snippets of Obama's Democratic National Convention Keynote Address on the radio, along with the praise from commentators. He stepped into the house saying something along the lines of "this young senator just gave a speech for Kerry and it was so good that they all ended up cheering for him. I guess he's a really eloquent speaker. It was really good." My dad couldn't rightly recall the senator's name and offered up some chopped up form of it, but it caught my attention.

Two years later I read his first book, Dreams From My Father, for a class I was in. I was in love with the book from the beginning. Not only is Obama and idealist after my own heart, but he's a very good writer. From a creative standpoint, some of his passages were beautiful. His rhetoric was sound and built upon hard-earned wisdom. I was so overjoyed that someone with such clear, hopeful ideals was in our government. I wished he would be President.

Then talk of the 2008 elections rolled around. I joined a group urging him to run. In February of 2007 he officially announced his intention to run for President of the United States of America. I watched the video and shouted it through the house. I've had a picture of him delivering his announcement speech in on my wall ever since. If you don't like Obama... don't go to my MySpace.

The past few months have been exhilarating as Obama's message of Hope and Change have spread across America. Yes we can.

And now, Obama has delivered a speech which, in its solemnity and nuances, has spoken to the very heart of his message for Change in a way that the eloquent language of his past speeches may have not. He is candid and bold. He is critical, honest, and brave. This is a speech that will be remembered for many years, decades, even. It should be remembered for centuries. If you have not seen it yet, it is by far worth viewing in its entirety. These are 37 minutes that you will not regret and will leave even the daftest mind somewhat enlightened as to the state of America at this moment in our history.

Damn, that man has balls.

There it is - the harrowing and the beautiful - the truth about race in America. The anger is real. The divisions exist. The wounds are still festering. But the opportunities to heal are many, if only we reach out for them. Thank the gods for you, Barack Obama, for taking this step - for removing the veil of fear surrounding the political correctness of discussing race in a public forum. If this doesn't attest to his readiness to be President, to unite - if this doesn't prove that he has the experience needed to lead this beautiful nation, in spite of what critics have said, then I'm not sure what will. He has been tested and he has more than answered the challenge - he has risen above the ping pong game of American politics and has looked this nation in the eye.

America, it's time that we had the courage to look back.

Monday, March 17, 2008


The Cliffs of Moher (January 2006)


I hope anyone reading this had a lovely day. Being of Irish decent, this is a big holiday for my family. I know it's actually a Catholic holiday, but to us and most Americans it has become a "celebrate your Irish roots" day - even if you don't have any. And so we celebrate the blood we happen to be born with and the beautiful country our ancestors came from. Though not necessarily our ancestors themselves. My great-grandpa who jumped ship and stowaway to Canada from Dublin then snuck into America was a sociopath. Abusive, vindictive, and unforgivably cruel, he is not a man I'm proud to owe my existence to. I consider myself lucky to have Irish blood from the other side of my family, as well. Thank the gods for being an American mutt.

"If you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough."

Unfortunately, I had class this evening so our usual family festivities were a bit hindered. My mom came to pick me up from the bus stop and we both worried on the drive home that the rest of the family wouldn't've had the sense to just eat without us (we're old fashioned and still all eat dinner together) and as a consequence would be grumpy when we got home. Our fretting was in vain, however, for we returned to hear uproarious laughter coming from the house. "It sounds like they're laughing. They must be watching America's Funniest Home Videos," my mom said. I greeted Chee Chee then entered, surprised that my dad's booming laugh kept getting louder and louder. He, Alex and my younger brother Jarred were sitting at the table with their near-empty plates, laughing so hard that they could barely breathe while Teyla ran from person to person, wagging her stump of a tail furiously, trying to join in. What was so funny? Apparently I had just missed a repeat of the Corn on the Cob Incident.

The Corn on the Cob Incident was a few years back. Jarred and I sit side-by-side at the dinner table and one summer, as we ate corn on the cob, I glanced over at him with his mouthful and said, "You have elephant lips!" I don't know what elephant lips are, but he had them. And that did it. He exploded. Corn flew everywhere, all over the table.

This time it was with green Jell-O. Apparently, he'd been sucking it up off his plate in a manner that my dad proclaimed was "the reverse butthole" (no one reads this blog anyway so I can be as profane as I want) and Jarred blew. When I stepped into the house they were red-in-the-face as they kept discovering green pieces of Jell-O on various items - the pepper grinder/shaker, the napkin holder, my dad's sleeve...

The menu was our traditional St. Patty's meal - Corned beef and cabbage and potato and carrots and onions (shocking, isn't it?) along with green Jell-O and a delicious green lime drink. This year my mom also surprised us with Irish soda bread and some chocolates that she made this afternoon. The green ones were mint. ;o)

After dinner and a Guinness (which itself is a second dinner) we watched the Irish film War of the Buttons, as we do every year. It's still one of the best movies ever. It really should be released on DVD. I highly recommend it. Hilarious stuff. While watching the movie, as if the meal wasn't enough, we ate delicious grasshopper pie.

I wish this holiday came more often!

Now - around this time of year everyone suddenly is interested in the Irish or at least what they perceive to be Irish, and this year it has really grated on me. So I decided to do my part to educate anyone out there reading this.

1. Ireland

This is Ireland.

Actually, I lied. This is the Republic of Ireland, otherwise known as Éire (pronounced "air-eh").

See that top right corner? That's NOT a part of Éire, that's Northern Ireland - and is part of England. The division of Ireland has been the cause of immense conflict. Ever heard of the IRA? I won't delve into the complicated history of the Troubles or of Ireland's ongoing struggle for unification, but I will if anyone actually reads this and is interested.

2. The Black Irish

Contrary to what many may think, this term does not traditionally apply to someone of African-Irish decent. It is an American term used to describe an Irish person with dark hair, dark eyes, and sometimes very pale skin. I'm Black Irish, though my skin is rather olive. And NO - the Black Irish do NOT come from the Spanish sailors who shipwrecked on Éire or from any other Spanish contribution to the genetics of the isle over the past 500 years or so. Rather, the original inhabitants of Éire (as in the aboriginal peoples - the Celts who first settled the isle) are alleged to have had the morphology of the Black Irish (as are the aboriginal peoples of the rest of Britain, to the best of our knowledge). Some say these original ancient peoples migrated from the Iberian peninsula. Maybe we'll never know for sure, but I think Joey Ice Cream says it best in the pilot of the insanely-brilliant-but-short-lived TV drama of last year, The Black Donnellys:

"See, all through history, people have accused the black Irish of every crime that came along. They were supposed to have gypsy blood or Spanish or something. But my grandmother told me that before the Celts even showed up in Ireland, there was a race of dark-haired people who the Celts then proceeded to wipe out. But they could never get them all. And a few of them ended up at the Firecracker Lounge."

3. Redheads

I can't believe I actually have to say this, but no, not all Irish are fucking redheads. You know what country is? Try Poland. Redheads are certainly not the norm in Éire and are somewhat uncommon. Try brown hair and blue eyes.

In fact, I consider this stereotype offensive. Why? Not only is it entirely false and misleading, but can also be considered racist. Have you ever seen a circus clown? The things scare the hell out of me. Flaming red hair, swollen red noses, bags under their eyes, making fools of themselves... they're meant to be caricatures of the drunken Irish. Ouch. Which leads me to my next point...

4. Drinking

Yes, Guinness really does taste better in Éire. After pub hopping all over Éire, I know that for a fact. I'm not a big drinker, but pubs, for those who have never been, have an entirely different atmosphere than the few bars I've been to in the US. Pubs are much more family-friendly and live music-oriented. In a small pub in Doolin, Co. Clare, there were wee ones running about and singing along with the musicians.

Local musicians in McGann's Pub in Doolin, Co. Clare (January, 2006)

In Darkey Kelly's in Dublin, a boy who looked like he was about 10 was singing Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sherriff." Oh, how I fit in. Pubs are also full of plenty of pervy old men. The stories I could tell... but that's for another time.

The Irish do drink but the Germans drink more per capita than the Irish do. Alcoholism is a problem in Éire as it is in many countries, but the Irish aren't the raging drunks they're stereotypically made out to be. Why? Until the 1970's or so, Éire was a third world country. Our dot com boom gave them their current Celtic Tiger economy that has Éire booming for the moment. But up until now, no one's had the money to get drunk. Unfortunately, that's starting to change...

Mostly the stereotype comes from Irish in America. On to point 5...

5. Irish in America

Know why so many drank? Because they came to America during the Potato Famine (an estimated 1,000,000 died and one million emigrated, some to Australia and Canada but most to America) seeking a new life and found out that it sucked here. They choked the streets of New Yorks and Boston. Ever heard of the Draft Riots during the Civil War - the most violent riots in American history? Yeah, that was us. The Irish were sick of fighting for a country that treated them like shite. How much like shite?

Slavery sucked. I mean, really, really sucked. But guess what? The Irish were considered even lower than the slaves. I don't know about you, but that's not something I was taught in any history class except for one in college. The Irish weren't even considered white. Personally, I've never understood what "white" was as a race, but apparently I'm not white anyway so it doesn't matter. One could buy insurance for a slave but not for an Irishman, which meant that the Irish were forced to take the most dangerous jobs. (Unfortunately, this racial discrimination and competition with blacks escalated into a lot of racial violence between the two groups, as was seen in the Draft Riots where several blacks were killed. Though to be honest, these racial tensions were purposefully encouraged by large corporations and city governments at the time.) Many places would have signs on the door that read, "Help Wanted, Irish Need Not Apply." This racism existed through the 1920's when my arsehole great-grandpa showed up in New England. Frustrated that he couldn't get a decent job because he was Irish, he became a drinker. His story echoes that of thousands of Irish in America, my point being that the drunken Irish is more of an American stereotype. Though to be fair, the Irish have been raped by the English for the past 800 years, so there's plenty to drink about in Éire, too. Again, I turn to the ever-wise Joey Ice Cream:

"The Irish have always been the victims of negative stereotype. I mean people think we're all drunks and brawlers, and sometimes that gets you so mad, all you want to do is get drunk and punch somebody."

And St. Patrick's Day? It's way bigger here than it is in Éire. Most "Irish" things are - Irish Americans are more "Irish" than the Irish and we outnumber them hugely. I know my family eats corned beef and cabbage on St. Patty's but that's not a traditional Irish food. Try bacon and cabbage (bacon being more along the lines of what we'd refer to as ham). Corned beef is another Americanization - something relatively cheap here so the Irish Americans naturally adopted it into their diets.

6. Random Cool Irish Stuff

Feck - The polite word in Éire for a certain other word. Even grannies and priests can say it. "Cool as feck." "Fecking awesome!" "Oh, for feck's sake!"

And can you guess who the Feckers are? Scroll down for the answer. *

Craic -
(Pronounced "crack.") I wish people didn't think I was talking about narcotics when I mention craic here. It means good laughter, good talk, good food and drink - all in all, a good time. "Ah, there was some mighty grand craic at O'Connor's last night."

Leprechauns -
Charming little buggers. They have nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day (a bizarre myth begun by the racist Disney company). Leprechauns are a type of faerie. The faerie folk are also called "the Good People," though not often "the wee people" lest that invoke their ire. You see, again, contrary to Disney, faeries are not all creatures with wings and are not at all friendly. They're mischievous, tricksy, often-malevolent workers of magic.

Don't even get me started on Lucky Charms and all the other freaky, insulting "Leprechauns" out there. And guess what? They're not like Santa Clause. They don't only come out on St. Patrick's Day, because like I said, that elementary school teacher who had you build a Leprechaun trap to catch one on March 17th was an ignorant liar (except for mine, of course). You can set your Leprechaun trap any day of the year. Here's a tip: Leprechauns like butterscotch and whiskey.

Well, I hope this has been enjoyable and somewhat educational. Until next time,

(Pronounced "shlan-cha" and is Irish for "health!")

* If you guessed the English, give yourself a pat on the back. ;o)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Friends!


There was once a time that I thought I was Mowgli. I lived to keep the jungle law -
"only kill to eat or to keep from being eaten." When I was twelve I had my aunt convinced that I could talk to animals. Seriously. I even looked like Eliza Thornberry. I still feel just as connected to the natural world and love all life... however I'm not so sure anymore if they love me back. These past few days have been a series of little battles among animals and I.

Since I don't have any specific pictures of these events, I'll randomly stick some in that are from our WildCam - a motion-sensitive camera that you rig up outside and it takes pictures of anything that moves.

The end of last week I went into the kitchen to eat a spoonful of peanut butter as any healthy person would do, then noticed that the goats were all looking down at the barn. Then I noticed that our horse Mickey was staring off with his ears perked, pacing every once in a while. I knew one of our other two horses had escaped. I waddled out onto the deck and saw Houdini's grey ass farting around our 69 Chevy truck. After finishing my peanut butter, I pulled on my boots and tried up my hair and trundled out, only to notice that it wasn't only Houdini, but Sparrow out, as well. I mean, there is a reason we named him Houdini. The moment he was born he stumbled out of his stall and just lay in a meadow till we found him.

Two unsuspecting does

Most horses are pigs so I looked around and grabbed a bucket we use for soaking stained laundry and pretended that it had some food in it as I walked out of the garage. The two had galloped up the hillside and to the house. As soon as they saw me they ran down towards the driveway, tearing up lawn the whole way, having no idea where they were going or what they were doing. They aren't shod (that means they have no shoes) so the pavement can be kinda hard on them, so I tried to lead them back onto the sand. They raced past after trying to get at the empty bucket, and Houdini repeatedly tried to run me over. I dully registered, as he reared and bucked about me, that I probably should be scared. I guess knowing him since before he was born helps - Houdini's all hot air.

Just when I thought I had them they took off down my neighbor's driveway and stood around by her front stairs, eating her potted plants. Hoe embarrassing! Luckily my neighbor wasn't home. I got them interested in the bucket again and when they began to walk after me, I ran... and so did they... and as they galloped after me, likely to run me over, I started cracking up and barely made it into the stall and into a tree in time. But alas, at the last moment they turned and raced past the gate. They're creatures of habit and since they weren't used to entering from the gate that I had, they seemed to not notice that it was there.

I eventually got them in and fixed the grain barrels that they'd knocked over in the barn, the jerks. Then that night as I fed Mickey I whacked the back of my skull on his stall window. It sucked but wasn't as bad as the one time I walked into his door, hitting the metal latch so hard that the skin on my forehead busted open and I collapsed seeing stars. When I recovered enough to see I noticed my brother, then with a broken ankle, hobbling up the path, completely oblivious to me dying and I couldn't call out for help. Not that he could have helped anyway. Afterwards, everyone winced at my forehead and claimed I was trying to compete with Harry Potter and his scar. Mine was cooler - his looks like an N. For NANCY.

The toot caught on film

On Friday I decided to make chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Everything was just fine. I put in the 2 1/2 cups of oats and noticed some sticking to the bottom of the Quaker Oats box - you know, the cardboard kind with the wannabe George Washington on it. I thought that was odd and poked on it then noticed a weevil wandering about inside. My eyes widened in horror and I looked to the oats I'd already poured onto the dough. Yep. Covered in the little black specks of BEETLES. I almost gagged and frantically grabbed handful after handful of the oats to pull them out. The little jerks were wiggling about on the dough, too. I was almost crying. I know they're just a little extra protein but seriously - I don't want to know that I'm eating a beetle. I combed them all out as far as I could see and found new oats. Now eating a cookie is a huge gamble. I guess it helps curb my sweet tooth, though. When I threw out the bad oats I cackled and proclaimed "I hope you have fun at the dump, you jerks!" I'm worried that my grandma heard.

The next morning I woke up and looked to Ben - my teddy bear. This bear is magic. My sister and one of my best friends, whom we all call Piglet, are able to get high by smelling this bear. They claim it smells like me when I'm asleep and that you can get high off of that scent. I guess that means that whenever I'm asleep I'm actually blacked out from a sleep overdose. So yes, Ben is very special and is named after Ben the grizzly bear from Grizzly Adams. And what do you think was on the poor guy's head??? A BEETLE! I grabbed the bug and chucked it out the door then opened my window... and noticed another beetle crawling about there. I grabbed him/her and chucked it outside, too. Obviously, this was a declaration of war.

A young buck is startled in the rain. I still feel bad - I feel like we ruined this poor guy's life. Look at his face. :o(

Later that day I was cleaning out Mickey's hooves to go horseback riding. He randomly decided that he'd had enough and slammed his foot down... right on top of mine. I should mention that near as we can figure, Mickey is half American Quarter Horse and half Morgan... though he must have a smattering of draft in there because the dude is huge. I shoved at him and squawked and as the pain became unbearable I shouted "get off! get off! get off!" and yanked on my foot. He shifted his weight as quickly as he could (that's the good thing about horses - they never want to step on you) but I had a mean bruise.

The ride was alright, though, even if Mickey was painfully barn sour and sweated so much that my jeans were soaked. My fault for riding bareback.

The next day one of our cats, Black, was just too cute so I was carrying him about and snuggling him. I brought him over to my big brother who was visiting since when we were kids, Black was always his cat. My brother was washing his truck so I sat down by the fake well when all of the sudden, out of nowhere, Teyla the Savage came racing at me. I shouted at her to get back and was just asking my brother if he could grab her so that she didn't scare the cat when she'd shoved her face into Black's and decided that she hated the idea of him being bigger than her (since he was in my arms) and started biting at his head as he slapped her. I let him go and he dug his claws in then leapt away. I'd been in my bikini top so my bicep was sliced and diced. Friggin Toot.

Haha! Look at the little freak!!!

After that, my older brother and Alex decided to go horseback riding. I ran on ahead to hide somwhere on the trail and see if they could find me. It's like playing Runner - it's great. As I sat around on a log and waited for them to catch up, I realized how much I love running about outside like a savage. I realized that once I have a kid I won't be able to up and do that anymore. I got really depressed until I realized that I'll just take the kid with me and have it grow up as a savage, too. That's when the horses finally caught up so I high-tailed it to a better hiding spot, which happened to be a pine.

I scaled up to some slightly comfortable branches and waited for my victims, planning out what I'd say when they found me. A line from Winnie the Pooh came to me. It's about Heffalumphs... or Woozles. Pooh says, " ...When you look up, they drop on you." I was gonna say that. But I never had the chance. They rode up and stalled out by a pond. My brother got pissed when Houdini wouldn't walk up to the pond so he spent about a half hour trying to show him that it was perfectly fine and trying to lead him to it. In the meantime, I was getting sleepy and noticed three labs trotting over a hill and down to another pond. They were all wagging their tails - a yellow lab, a chocolate lab, and a black lab. A doggy parade!

I had fun watching them play in the water until they heard my brother shouting at Houdini that he was an idiot and they started barking. Our dog Comanche, who's half lab and half retriever and not very socialized, was with the horses so I worried he'd try to pick a fight with the other dogs. I shouted to my brother and sister that the labs were coming but then the dogs noticed me and ran over, baying at me in the tree. I felt like a raccoon.

But I'd met one of them before and could tell by their eyes that they were safe, so I climbed down and greeted them. Their chocolate lab friend had apparently ditched them. I took them over to the pond they were playing in earlier and played fetch - throwing the sticks into the water. The yellow lab was this fat grandpa guy with a snazzy pink collar. The black lab was a sweet, slender girl who quickly bonded with me to the point that she wouldn't go farther than five feet from me. And so, my animal war seemed to end with these new friendships.

The horses and Comanche (and of course, my siblings on them) eventually came over and Chee Chee was jealous and kept sitting down beside me to claim his human. When it was time to go home it got awkward. My new friends didn't seem to understand that I was trying to ditch them. I did everything I could think of - chucking sticks and pinecones for them to fetch then racing away. But it didn't work - they always came back. And I couldn't exactly walk them back to their property over the ridge, either, because I was still in my swimsuit and shorts and... had covered my face in mud like warpaint. The third time I raced away and heard their collars jingling after me I slowed. Just then my new friends noticed a fresh pile of horsepoop, compliments of Houdini. They wagged their tails and rolled in it. I grimaced then seized my opportunity and sprinted off, running the rest of the way home. When I was almost there I heard a dog running behind but it was only Cheech. I hope I get to see my new friends again someday.

A deeply disturbing image captured of two extremely rare, endangered specimens

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Who Farted?

According to our first SG-1 fan film, Landry did... and Daniel. Poor Teal'c is so confused. Will he ever realize that his Chulakean Cafe cuisine isn't the most suitable for the digestion of earthlings? Watch and find out!

Teal'c and Landry