Monthly Archives: April 2010

let’s start voting with our wallets!

That’s it. If the Tea Party is starting a TV channel that is “anti big government” and “pro-business”, I say we all learn to be pro-business, and vote with our fucking wallets.

After all, we were pro-business for the last thirty years since Reagan, and look where it got us. Real wages, adjusted for inflation, have gone down. The pay of the average American, compared to the CEOs, has been dwarfed. You would think these groups would be clamoring for the blood of the businesses that have forced the government to bail out the country. Instead, they’re blaming the government for having to spend taxpayer dollars to be involved.

We needed healthcare because the health insurance companies were literally killing people. Those businesses were denying coverage to one in five Americans, and trying to shirk out of paying on their policies for those who were insured. After my six-week battle against United Healthcare in 2008 to get them to pay for Ben’s birth, after hearing my uninsured friends tell me why they can’t get coverage, after seeing my policy adjust downwards while my costs adjust upwards, I will cheer on any government interference that holds these businesses accountable.

We needed the TARP bailout because millions of Americans lost their savings, houses and pensions to bankers who gambled with it. Goldman Sachs is being held accountable for fraud as a company – but thanks to the American corporation status, none of the actual individuals who committed those acts will suffer. Ditto WaMu and their thousands of risky mortgages. None of the individuals will be held accountable for the damage done.

So this is why I don’t get the Tea Party and the extreme right wing. We trusted business to take care of the market for too long, and it’s just resulted in everyone being squeezed. It’s not your taxes, America. It’s the nickel and diming that these corporations are taking from you. And the government would never have had to step in if all you hard working Middle Americans hadn’t bought into it. The only reason we need the government to be as big as it is, is because individuals who run the free enterprise system, can’t be trusted to ethically run the corporations that have dominance over the country.

Oh, by the way, that will mean paying more money. For example, it will mean flying airlines that pay their pilots decent wages. It will mean spending more on a car that is a better quality product. It will mean spending more money on groceries because we support locally grown, environmentally responsible, high quality nutrition for our families. That’s free enterprise. That’s how it works.

What’s that, right wing? You don’t want to pay more for your plane tickets? Fine, then you can fly a regional jet that pays their pilots below the poverty line. Then the government has to supply those pilots with food stamps to cover the gap. You don’t want to pay more for your groceries? Fine, then you have to let the government subsidize agriculture – a socialist measure. You don’t want to pay more for your gas? Then you have to let the government tax you so they can supply subsidies for oil.

I say that us left-wingers show the Tea Party how it’s DONE. Let’s vote with our wallets for self-sustaining, profitable businesses who have achieved success through decent practices, and who do not rely on, at some level, the government to bring down the price. Let’s buy from companies who pay their taxes, who do business in a true free enterprise manner. That’s exactly the sort of places us lefties already shop at. Hey, wait! We’re actually doing a better job of NOT sucking up government money!

Also, us liberals are just going to have to learn to hit businesses that support this nonsense agenda where they live. If that Right Network goes live, we’ll all cancel our Comcast. We’ll all stop eating at the fast food companies that the health insurance companies are invested in. We’ll take our savings out of the major banks, and put them, along with our mortgages and loans, with the companies who didn’t fuck up in 2008. Let’s show that we can do “pro business” better than the Tea Party!

After all, no one wants to pay more taxes. And I, a bleeding heart liberal, would happily have the government stand by and have a free enterprise system – provided that free enterprise system was ethical and fair and responsible and actually stood on its own two feet.

Find me a hard working America who can’t get ahead and has joined the Tea Party as a result. I’ll show you a bank, a pension lost, a school not paid for due to tax cuts for the rich/corporations. Let’s hold the corporations accountable, and show them – pro-business does not mean unethical and irresponsible. Maybe then the corporations will stop encouraging the right wing to be “pro business” and anti government spending, and start driving them to do something else productive. Let’s show the right wing that we are ALL against government control of free enterprise – but that we have to have corporations and businesses that do not warrant the government having to step in.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to call United Healthcare to get them to pay my damn doctor bill. Apparently, they don’t think they should have to pay for tests that proved I DIDN’T have walking pneumonia.

insomnia may lead to travel planning

I have been waking up at 1:30 in the morning all week. It’s kind of annoying me. Tonight, I might have slept through it – except that Ben woke up and started crying at 2am. Sigh.

I don’t see how – but the sleeplessness coincided with my return to antibiotics. The respiratory infection I’ve had since early March came back after we returned from Philadelphia. I went back to the doctor, and was prescribed antibiotics again. I’d like to get better now, please – I’m tired of bouts of coughing, shortness of breath, and general exhaustion. I feel better now because I have hope of recovering, but I’d also like the course of antibiotics to end as well. Just in case that’s why I’m still awake right now.

On the bright side, I did use my awake time on Wednesday morning to plan a much-belated honeymoon! Paul and I never took a honeymoon. I took maternity leave instead. We had plans to go to Europe, to see Venice and Prague and Budapest, but that was kind of cancelled when I got pregnant. I was disappointed, but not terribly so: as cliche as it sounds, the experience of having my baby, and being his mama, has been well worth the loss of a trip. But now, Ben is bigger, and we can finally plan a trip for just the two of us. We’re just going to drop Ben in Pittsburgh on the way to stay with his grandma and grandpa there, and then we’ll keep going to London.

I chose London over other European cities for several reasons. Most importantly: free flight. I was able to use the tens of thousands of air miles I accumulated in last year’s Business Trip Tour Of America for two tickets from Pittsburgh to London, changing planes in ORD on the outbound, and JFK on the return. My Alaska miles were applicable with American Airlines, and they have fairly frequent flights to the UK. But also, I didn’t get to see a lot of London on my last visit – I was too overwhelmed with the city itself. I could have spent a month there. And I feel completely at home in London, thanks to growing up in Victoria with a British parent. Some parts of the city even reminded me of home, and I could see how homesick English transplants influenced the former colony I grew up in. And, of course, London is the birthplace of some of the punk movement, and all of the goth subculture. Where else would we go on a honeymoon, my indie/punk husband and I? And finally, Paul has also never been overseas, so I thought it would be easiest to start with someplace where we speak the language (fluently).

We have also planned to back this trip into Thanksgiving. Since we would be going to Pittsburgh anyways, this way we combine the holiday trip with the Ben dropoff. We’ll fly out twelve days before Thanksgiving, on Saturday the 13th of November, and spend a few days settling Ben in with Grandma and Grandpa. Then we will fly out on the Wednesday afternoon, arriving the Thursday morning at Heathrow. Then we have five nights in the city, and return the following Tuesday. We’ll stay for Thanksgiving, and fly back on Saturday the 27th. Ben gets two weeks with his grandparents, and we get five nights of vacation, plus we’ll be in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving.

While I’m desperately excited for the trip, I’m also already anticipating that this will be hard on all of us. I have been away from Ben for three or four days at a time, but Paul has never been away from him. And I miss Ben more each subsequent day I’m gone – like part of me is missing. And Ben may understand that we’re gone and are coming back, but he will miss us. He will be with his grandparents, whom he loves, and who love him, but it will still be a big separation and a big change for all three of us to be apart.

This trip was what I spent early Wednesday morning planning. It took me over an hour to find the airfares: I had to do a lot of trial and error with the Alaska Award Travel Finder to track down the free flights that took less than eleven hours each way, PIT to LHR. I also had to estimate how much it would cost to fly in and out of Pittsburgh for the three of us, and whether we could cut that cost with airmiles at all (Answer: no. It’s Thanksgiving.) And then I also had to transfer my Starwood hotel Starpoints into Paul’s account to cover accomodations, since his account was just a little short of the total we needed. But the end result was what I wanted: an almost-free trip to London. Of course, we had to pay the $355 in taxes and fees on the airfare, and we will have to pay the $1200 or so for our fares to Pittsburgh…but our hotel is covered in London. I estimated hotel and airfare, as planned, would be a trip cost of well over $3,000, so, yes, I am a rock star at using miles and points. It just took a little time, but with insomnia, I had it to kill.

Now, I expect a tiny boy will be stirring at any moment, so I’m going to either try to go back to bed…or get up with him and just power on through the day. Hey, I got a whole five hours sleep last night! I could make it until at least naptime!

today’s photo shoot with Ben

Today, I took Ben to the Target Portrait Studio in Pasadena after I picked him up from daycare. Objective: to get passport photos for his Canadian citizenship application. Unfortunately, we failed at that because Target didn’t have their passport photo camera set up for someone Ben’s size. However, we did have a coupon for discounted portrait packages, so I bought Ben a new white polo shirt, and attempted to get him to sit for the camera.

Of course, Ben’s reaction when we went into the studio area was “Mama, up!”

I tried to persuade him to sit and pose. “Look, Ben! A tiny couch for you to sit on!”

Ben was adamant he was not OK with this. “No, Mama. Up, Mama.”

So I sat on the couch with him, and he promptly climbed into my lap. No amount of showing him the camera, or asking him to be a big boy, could get him to feel comfortable enough to sit on his own on that couch. I managed to get him off my lap eventually by singing the “Winnie the Pooh” theme song, and bribing him with a trip to the Westside tomorrow to see his aunts. Then the photographer cajoled him into some poses by making noises and talking to him.

And here are the three that came out well enough to be posted!

He really looks like a tiny version of Paul here
This is a totally classic Ben image –
he’s got a slightly curious expression and
is trying to climb something
Here is Ben preparing to host Masterpiece Theater in the future

I’m still kind of at a loss as to how we got such an adorable baby.

Oh, and just to show how much he’s grown, this is from about a year ago (March, 2009):

Same tiny boy, less hair and teeth.

What REALLY angers me about the Tea Party

What REALLY ticks me off (OK, among other things), is that we already have socialism in the form of agriculture subsidies in the US. Before complaining about America going down the path of socialism, maybe the Tea Party members would like to do the math on what their grocery bill would cost WITHOUT those subsidies. If we cut THAT particular “socialist” policy, and their food bills shot up by 30% – 50%, I bet socialism would seem AWESOME.

Just sayin’. Also, I should complain that I’m being taxes to pay for stuff like agricultural subsidies and tax cuts to the rich and oh, yeah, BAILOUT TO BANKS that I didn’t vote for or approve of. Then at least the whinging would be both sided, instead of being selective.

the tudors s4e1: introducing john doe as rapey mcstabberson

Last night, it was with great joy that I welcomed back a fresh installment of The Tudors. I read a lot of Alison Weir and Phillipa Gregory because I love historical fiction, and The Tudors combines that with a lot of very pretty scenery. I love the scenery and settings, appreciate the soundtrack, and I completely covet and look rapturously on the costumes. There’s not a lot of historical accuracy left in the show, outside of the scenery and music and costumes, but it’s so well put together that I can’t help but genuinely appreciate and enjoy it.

However, I do feel that Showtime is stretching it a bit (NO!) this season. Usually, they wait at least three minutes before showing ladyparts; this week, I think they made it less than two into the actual show. Hey, look, there’s a naked teen girl covered in rose petals! Yes, we get it. Henry VIII is shtupping a child, who is lacking in “honor, cleanness, and maidenly behavior”, and whom he openly makes fun of in court when he introduces her. We’re going to continue along this theme throughout the episode, how Henry is sexually enthralled by this child-woman, but bears her no respect as a person.

Chapuys has been given better lines this season at least. First, he gets to make a quip about the only mourners at Thomas Boleyn’s funeral being the ghosts of his children; then he gets to make snarky comments about the King of France’s reaction to Henry’s marriage to a teenager. It seems the Spanish ambassador’s role is larger in this show as the controlling hand behind the dwindling and confused Catholic faction. He continues to encourage Mary, and act as a surrogate father to her. It’s hard to tell if his interest in Mary is genuine, or if it is for the political end – but then, that would have been a question in history of any confidant for any of the women around whom the religious and political factions gathered.

We also get to meet the charming Earl of Surrey. Just in case there was any doubt, he immediately announces his ambition and his relation to the current Queen. Immediately, we’re to make parallels and understand his place as the replacement for the old Duke of Norfolk, Anne Boleyn’s uncle. I have wondered why, if the Norfolk/Howard/Boleyn faction was so despised, as they must have been after Anne’s destruction, so many of them returned in high positions at court. Surrey just seems to wish to introduce himself as This Season’s Sneaky Slimeball, complete with attempts at seduction of Lord Seymour’s wife.

I will say that the actress portraying Catherine Howard is brilliant in her portrayal of that queen as a silly, shallow twit. Even for seventeen, she seems young – more like a fourteen year old in today’s era. I can’t figure out if this is because her backstory calls for her development being stunted by her time in the Dowager Duchess’ household, or if it is because the writers just need to exaggerate that character. There’s a lot of giggling and flurries of teenagers, and genuinely immature behavior that is written to be completely at odds with her sexual maturity. Lady Rochford looks on impatiently, seeming like an old matron compared to the fluttering and laughter. I love the moment when Catherine saunters off her throne in one of her first scenes without Henry, when she gathers her ladies around her and makes them all swear to “dress in the French fashion”. When Lady Rochford comes in, even Catherine quiets suddenly in front of the older woman, and then she remembers that she’s the Queen, and sashays over to collect her letter like a teenager on My Super Sweet Sixteen.

And then we meet the poor unfortunate Lord Culpepper, the silly boy who will end up being beheaded for treason: having sex with the new Queen. Whether before or after her marriage to Henry, I’m not sure history has ever proven. Here, he’s played by UBC alumni Torrance Coombs, who is previously known for playing John Doe on the CBC’s jPod. Apparently, John Doe has learned to turn up the smoulder a notch or two, because it’s extremely clear by the way he looks at Queen Catherine that he lusts after her, in a way that suggests he knows exactly what he’s lusting after. We can only imagine what terrible things will happen to him for lusting after the Queen – after all, the Tudors has already exaggerated much torture of Anne Boleyn’s lovers. But, just so we don’t feel TOO bad about poor Thomas Culpepper, he immediately goes out with his posse of boys, rapes a local woman in her own barnyard, and then kills her husband when he threatens to call the squire. Oh, Showtime, did you have to ruin John Doe’s innocence? At least he only has a few more episodes to go around raping and stabbing before he gets executed for nailing the Queen.

It’s also interesting watching Tamzin Merchant playing a seventeen year old meeting Henry’s children for the first time. Mary, of course, is less than amused at having a young girl as her stepmother. Elizabeth I, by contrast, is charmed. While Catherine is flustered at dealing with the austere and serious Mary, she is on better footing with the younger children, and is able to conduct herself with authority with Edward and Elizabeth. The latter, especially, by all accounts, was smart enough to play up to whoever was in her father’s favour at the time. The girl playing Elizabeth actually looks a bit like the paintings of the future queen, and conveys the brisk, serious manner of the character Alison Weir depicts in her Lady Elizabeth. I hope they continue to develop and bring out Elizabeth – it will be interesting to see how Showtime approaches the future queen (Hey, there’s a spinoff in the making!)

But Showtime is banking heavily on their almost underage Catherine this season to turn up the softcore factor. From the suggested lesbian teenage interlude with her friend (and subtle blackmailer Joan), to the end scene of the young queen dancing in the rain in a see-through gauze nightgown, there’s no question that Showtime wants us to understand the sexual thrall that Catherine holds Henry in, and the palpable tension she creates that makes it easy to see how the entire court understood his decision to marry a teenager. Whether they need to push it so far to convey her unsuitability as Queen to the television audience, I’m not sure. Yes, we get it – she gets in mud fights, and throws rose petals, and giggles and acts silly and uses sex like a child would use any other manipulative tool. Whether the real Catherine Howard was so childish and sexual, there’s no real way to tell. By all accounts, she was a good deal plumper, at least. Perhaps Showtime chose the slender Tamzin Merchant to convey a more childlike character – breasts and hips would convey a stupid woman, not a Lolita figure. But it’s more likely that they chose the actress to match an overly slender modern ideal of beauty, because the writing that defines her character as silly, vapid and childlike is heavy handed enough to make her seem more immature than any seventeen year old of that era had any right to be.

This season will cover a lot of the plot of the Boleyn Inheritance. Having read that book does make this season easier to understand. I wonder if it will continue past Henry’s death at all. It’s a shame this will likely be the last season of the Tudors – there could be at least a few more to be had out of the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth, and the wars with France and Spain they fought. I suppose those are being saved for made-for-TV movies…or Showtime feels they have already been covered by the movies with Cate Blanchett. For now though, I’m glad to have my historical smut back.