Saturday, June 16, 2007


Tomorrow I an taking four *camping virgins* to Keystone Lake.

To be fair, Jodie has camped before, but not since she was about 5 years old.

If we are not back by Wednesday, would someone please call 911

Thanks :)

Humans .... Can't live with them, can't kill them!

My name is Sheffield. I am the gorgeous girl you see on the right. Aren't I just the cutest? I am almost two years old, and I live in Tulsa with my sister, Wednesday. She's the stoopid one. She was born at the same time as me, and was generally considered to be the runt of the litter, but now she's twice my size and don't I just know it!.

Anyways ... for about two years we have allowed a family of humans to live with us .... the smell is awful, the menu is boring, and sometimes the silly sods lock us out at night :: sigh :: On the other hand ... the food is free, and we have them pretty well trained. Well, all except the short, and often very scruffy, blond one whose hair is even longer than mine. She could almost be a cat, were she not so obviously devoted to the rest of this disfunctional family. Showing devotion, by the way, is something no self-respecting cat would ever do, not unless it wanted to repeat Grade school with the emphasis on *How to be a cat 101*.

Life has been pretty good until recently. We repay our humans by offering regular treats .... mice, lizards and snakes being particular favourites of theirs. See ... we at least try to offer them a varied diet ... but they aren't getting the message. Must be the school system, or something. Wednesday and I have recently been discussing how we might offer a little more, but we don't think the elder female human is quite ready for possum!

Where was I? Oh yes ....

Humans ... You know, we are easily pleased. We want to be fed, and we want you to leave us alone. Leave us alone. If we want you, we'll let you know. If we don't let you know, it's because we don't want you right now. Deal with it.

On the whole, we think it's a decent arrangement. We let you live with us, and you behave yourselves. Not too much to ask is it? There are several dos and don'ts. Right at the top of the *Don't* list, is DONT GET A DOG.

So what did our humans do? Did they get a dog?

No. They got TWO dogs !!!

Two scraggy little furballs that look more like baby bears than dogs. I mean, just how stupid can one human family be? I kid you not, these dogs (spit) are just a mess. They are called Edmund and Baldrick. We simply call them Dumb and Dumber, and the names suit them, believe me!

We were so sure we had these idiots where we wanted them. Even the midgits had stopped hauling us around like we were some kind of Barbie Doll, but no. Just when you think you can look forward to a long. prosperous and peaceful existence, along comes these:

Sometimes, I just throw my paws up in despair.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Is Bush the *Worst President Ever?*

He would have some competition for that title, but, again, the question is a little misleading. Yes, I know I asked it, but I did so only because it is a phrase I hear repeated around the place, and thought it maybe bore a little examination.

Let's go back to the beginning.

There are those, I am sure, who would consider George Washington (funny that, all those Georges) to have been a pretty Un-American kinda guy. After all, he was the 1st President to be sworn in under the newly adopted Constitution of the United States of America. This *liberal* nonsense has come under severe attack from the latest, and in their eyes at least, most enlightened of Executive branches of government.

Indeed, it would appear that root and branch reform of this worthless liberal document, this "piece of paper" is in order. Notwithstanding the fact that it has proven to be the very foundation of this country, and the bedrock upon which a broadly democratic society has been built.

Given the outrage heard from some right wing quarters when *freedoms* are called into question, then there does appear to be some support for the notion that the Bill of Rights in particular, needed George Bush's wholesale reform, and never mind what the State's governments might have to say about it. Oh, but leave the 2nd alone, as those same people think it allows them to shoot folk in the streets without any apparent concern that there might be an arrest, trial and life-imprisonment to follow.

So, broadly we have two groups taking positions on the two Georges. One group insists the first George was an enlightened leader of a young nation, and that the latest George is a man of limited intelligence, who is pushed around mercilessly by the smart but evil folk around him, eventually to be found washed up, like flotsam on the shores of history. The other group, and I generalise a little, accepts that history deals kindly with George Washington, and acknowledges that he was indeed a man of honour and vision, during times when democracy must have been a hard line to walk. The two hundred years or so that have elapsed have done much to show that the document those guys signed up to is still relevant, still powerful, and still a moving tribute to their courage.

Yeah we get amendments. There is a process, and it requires the States to sign their agreement. I have no record of which States agreed to the trashing of the 4th Amendment, but feel confident that others will point me to the evidence I am missing. I am conscious that other Amendments have been damaged too, but the 4th is so damned obvious I am stopping there.

So .... is he the worst or not?

I think the answer to this question lies buried in another piece I wrote. I think you have to ask *Which America?*. It is a fatal error that Europeans often make (many Americans make the same mistake), to think that America is one big place, homogenised from shore to shining shore. It isn't, it never was, and it came as quite a shock to me when I first realised it. There are many Americas, all linked federally, but separated in significant ways. Separated socially, geographically, culturally, racially, economically and in many other ...allys.

One significant separation is that between the corporate side of the US, and the people who live here. Each would seem to rely upon the other, and to a great extent they do. But it is not a symbiotic relationship. Corporations here are not run for the benefit of their employees, nor of the community at large. Walmart does not provide health care for very many of it's workers. In fact, in many States, Walmart is a parasite upon the State relief for the poor, relying on this to cover it's sick. And Walmart isn't alone, it is just the biggest.

American corporations do not move American jobs abroad to advance the economic standing of the community. They do it to avoid paying a living wage, to maximise profits for a few, with no sense of shame or patriotism. I don't give a flying fuck how many Stars and Stripes they fly outside their corporate headquarters, they behave like economic terrorists.

So how would this America, this corporate society view the current incumbent? Well, quite frankly, they bought him the desk, and he hasn't let them down. Well maybe a little, having kinda queered the pitch for a potential successor. With that single caveat though, he has been a resounding success, and possibly the best President in history. The biggest American companies have grown bigger, fatter and more difficult to reason with, more in the last six years than at any time in history. Take a look at the increases in defence spending if you don't believe me.

Meanwhile, I still post in internet groups where ordinary Americans ... you know, the comfortable but still need to work, the poorer but still happy, those Americans, most of us ... and this President gets oodles of support.

They support the employer who discriminates then is supported in turn by a bankrupt Supreme Court. They support the man who shoots someone who *looked at him in a threatening manner* (I exaggerated that for comic effect, but you get the drift). They think they have decent healthcare ... are they nuts? ... and heaven forbid we ever had *socialised care* ... you know, the kind that gets you better without bankrupting you ... and they will vote for Republicans again.

I want some of that. Some of the kind of power that allows you to treat people mercilessly, to abuse them, to deny them any worker rights, or even habeas corpus, yet still gets them buying, again and again and again.

Most of all, I want Democrats to have it .... have it and use it wisely, responsibly, and for the benefit of all Americans. Yeah, even the ones who voted Republican ... again, dammit.

There are many different Americas ... I want a government that responds positively to them all.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


It’s three thirty seven am, as I start to type this, My wife is sleeping, noisily, and the kids are away for the weekend, The dogs are asleep, as I should be, and the cats are out looking for lizards, or some such treat to break the never-ending monotony of the Pedigree cat food we supply them with.

Jodie deserves to sleep a long time tonight. She took another major step on the road to realizing that all people are different, yet all are the same; and that difference is a cause for celebration, rather than a reason for fear and enmity.

I run karaoke shows from time to time. Tonight I ran one in an expensive hotel for a wealthy friend. I will call him Jack.

Jack is from India. He arrived in the US in 1971. He went to college and started a business. In the twenty five years that have elapsed since the business opened, both Jack, and his company, have prospered. Tonight we celebrated that 25 years, and Jack’s 50th birthday. Jack was the first member of his family to move to the US. Now there are around fifty. One is a banker, one runs another established company locally, many are children, or at college, or are elders enjoying a decent retirement.

Jack, and his family, epitomize the American Dream, and the benefits to us all of immigration. When I arrived, a little over two years ago, I met Jack in a local bar. He was friendly, and he was very helpful in providing me with opportunities, including parties to DJ. He continues to be helpful and despite him probably being the richest person I actually know in this country, I charge him rather less than I charge other people.

Tonight’s party was a curious affair. It was attended by around one hundred and fifty people, a mix of friends, family, employees and business contacts. They didn’t want to sing much, although they did enjoy the singing by both another guest and myself. Clearly, success in business turns you deaf, but that’s another post. It was, however, very clear that there was a clash of cultures that was very difficult for some people to comprehend. Much Indian music was played. It was the usual scene …. One of the guys would give me a bunch of CDs, with a neatly tabulated sheet asking me to play certain tracks in a particular order; then, as soon as I start, the girls would come rushing in, resplendent in their saris, demanding that I change the order, and casting withering looks in the direction of their menfolk. All very normal. My difficulty was that I don’t have much in the way of Bollywood Hits, and cueing up the next track is tricky, when you have no idea when the first is likely to end.

The culture clash was this …. Many guests simply couldn’t get their heads around the music. Nothing about it appeared to them to relate to life as they knew it. This lead to a general exodus to the designated smoking areas, and a dance floor filled with Indian teens, young Moms and grannies, all having a whale of a time. I heard a few disparaging remarks about the music, and was filled with a sense of loss. Loss that guests who didn’t understand, and didn’t try to understand, were suffering. From my perch all I could see was a room filled with people having a great time. From the 4 year old who waited up until 11 pm for a chance to sing a country music hit, to the very genuine attempts of middle aged white people joining in and having a blast.

I was witnessing a normal, very commonplace, family party. I was a little surprised that others saw it differently. Jodie didn’t. She saw exactly what I was seeing, and it troubled her deeply (several Jack and Cokes contributed). She was mortified that she grew up in an area where people see difference as fearful, colour as an object to be scorned, and if it ain’t sung by Garth Brooks, it ain’t music. I’ll be honest. I don’t much care for Bollywood type tunes. They are unfamiliar, and strange to my ears. On the other hand, when the girls insisted I play the same track three times in a row, telling me it was just the biggest hit ever, I got it.

Jodie wants to know how we can fight these attitudes. How she can shelter her children, my stepchildren, from their father and grandfather who still call black people “nigger”; a word I don’t even like to type, and how we can help them inderstand that a gay couple can be loving and decent, in the face of sneers from Dad. And she complains, that she may be awakening, but she is just one person, what difference will it make?

All the difference in the world, is the real truth, but she can’t hear it yet. Maybe in the morning.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Shopping for Dummies

I went to WalMart. I really should stop going to WalMart, given their abject failure to provide a living wage, let alone health care, for most of their employees. Nonetheless, I had a list, so I went shopping.

I also had $75, which was about all we could muster, and we just got two dogs, so I was a little concerned that said $75 would prove insufficient (it did).

Before I left, Jodie gave me the list. Usually, I shop without a list. I do the shopping, and I pretty much have a default shopping list hard coded into my brain ... Milk, creamer, lunch meat, bread ... it's a decent list.

Today however, Jodie had added a few things for which she felt the need to apologise in advance. I didn't actually look at the list before I left, but soon found myself looking at an unfamiliar shelf, and muttering "Kotex, Kotex, Kotex" ... which endeared me to a few of the female shoppers around me, and scared off a few others.

Maxi, Long, Ultra-Thin and No Wings ... said the list. WINGS? My experience of Wings in the US is that you smother them in hot sauce and butter. Never knew they were made by Kotex!

So, I am trying to find the exact ones specified by she who must be obeyed. It really wasn't all that easy. They had *Light*, *Medium*, *Maxi*, *Mississippi Levee*. Short, long, thin, purple, red, winged and wing-free ........

I decided to steer clear of the Mississippi Levee .... they probably leak! ewwwwww!

I bought a pack .... bought the right ones, and earned a few credit points :)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Life, the Universe, and Jodie ...

Sometimes we have conversations. We have a happy marriage, one that has not yet tired of exploring ideas about the world around us, and how we relate to it. I have a sneaking suspicion that we never will, actually, tire of it, and that is the source of a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction for both of us. In the beginning .... a cute phrase, doncha think? ... Jodie looked to me to help her find answers to things she had long considered, but never conceptualised, let alone put into words. Mostly it was about attitudes she had inherited, from parents, family, school and her general surroundings here in Oklahoma. I think what drove her to ask me was that I was simply the first person she had ever been close to that had been brought up in a different culture, with different ideas and a completely different perspective. It was probably encouraged by the fact that I clearly wanted to listen, and was willing to share.

That is where we came from, we have moved on a good deal. Jodie is now much more of an *equal*, in our conversations. She asserts her views, and listens to mine. She is equal in her own head, she was never anything less in mine.

Of late, the subject of Creationism has been on our minds. Not so much that it is something we obsess about, or even discuss much. Just generally. Little things like the opening of a Museum dedicated to lying to children about Evolution .... minor issues like that and the recent Republican debate where three of the ten rich old white men wanting to be President asserted a belief in Creationism, and a scepticism about Evolution. And they want to be the next Leader of the Free World!! The scary bit is that one of them might .... that they even can be considered credible is bad enough. I digress.

Today we chatted about the Universe, the speed of light, and the origins of religion.

Not bad for a quiet Tuesday afternoon. It was just one of those conversations that meandered a bit. Neither of us were seeking to explain the Big Bang, what came before it or what might happen in the unimaginably distant future when the universe stops expanding. These are answers that are unknowable, and quite likely will remain so well past next week. So it doesn't matter much.

We nattered about Einstein, about the speed of light (whether, if it is a constant, time is constant), because it kinda matters if distance is to have much meaning, and whether or not God is a concept, created by man to satisfy his own need to have answers, or whether there really is God, or a God, or several ....

We ended up talking about what has changed in the 2000 years of Christianity, accepting too that there was religion before Christianity, and that there probably has never been a time when there was actually less religion than the current time; though, living in Oklahoma, it doesn't seem that way.

For what it's worth ...... my view is that, right from the time of the earliest men, there has existed a need to understand the world around us. It was easy enough, when dragging the bear back to the cave, to understand that one was able to directly affect your immediate surroundings. It was impossible to understand what affected, or effected change in the wider environment. For example/ It's not too hard to plant a crop and see the result of the planting. You did it, and the wheat makes the bread. It is not so easy to understand why some years it rains when you need it to, and some years there is drought. That is entirely outwith the control of an individual.

It must have been a very short step from hoping that it would rain to praying that it would.

As our collective knowledge grows, we need to pray a little less (although hope springs eternal). We understand a great deal about why things happen, how and the mechanisms involved. It's also not so hard to make this leap of faith .... and I use the term advisedly ... If it is the case, that developments in our knowledge have lead to a clear understanding of things that were hitherto unknown, then it's not such a leap to expect that much of what is currently unknown, will not remain so for ever.

We also discussed why America appears to be in the grip of such Fundamentalist Religious Nuttery. It's a personal view, but I suspect it has a good deal to do with time .... and development in terms of nationhood. It's easy for the UK, with it's thousand year tradition of Parliament, to be relaxed about religion. It's just as easy for France, Germany, Spain, etc. Remember, the USA has been an independent nation for only a matter of two hundred years or so. How long ago the Spanish Inquisition, the persecution of Catholics in the UK and the dissolution of the Monasteries?

Jodie believes in God. She believes in God in the way all decent Christian folk do ... as a source of strength and inspiration .... not a daily ritual, but a staff when one is needed. I don't, and we live very happily together, with our conversations.

Neither of us believes the new museum (sic) is anything other than lies. Lies that will harm our children. The last gasp of a failed and dying theocracy.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Family don't call family "Fatass"

Let's clear up one matter, before we start, ok? I love my Mum. No ifs, buts or maybes ... I love my Mum the way we all do. That I also admire and respect her is quite another thing, those are earned, not given as right, because she's my Mum, y'understand.

So imagine my surprise when I get online, and start chatting to my son, Tom, who has just returned from two weeks in France with my Mum and Dad (and his brother, who is still there, and assorted other friends and relatives).

So Tom says to me ...... Nanny wants me to tell you something. Oh shit .... what did I do now? At 47, the words *Nanny wants me to tell you something* are redolent with memories of yesteryear. Not the wonderful memories, the nostalgis of childhood, but the *Steven you better get yourself in here quicksmart before you get into more trouble than you are already in*, kind of memory.

I wouldn't mind, but she is 5000 miles away, so what can she actually do? Well, quite a lot it seems :)

It turns out that Tom is to speak to me about all the weight I have accumulated since I took it upon myself to go live in the Land of the Burger.

It would appear that the various Clan members have been gathered around whatever kitchen table my Mum has, and have been discussing, doubtless among other things, like the length of my toenails; the appearance of a substantial gain in avoirdupois, in the Christmas picture they all received. Indeed, it is even possible the word ginormous made it's unfortunate way into a sentence that also included the word Steve.

So, at this point in the conversation with Tom I am half amused, half cross and half relieved. The Europeans will realise that is three halves .... many Americans won't, given their unwelcome position at the lower end of the world academic acheivement ladder.

Tom also informed me that son number two, Joe, had a few things to say to me, so I got on the phone. Our free calls to Europe are a mixed blessing! Joe tells me I have to avoid eating any more Krispy Kremes. I tell him that sometimes it is only Krispy Kreme that keeps me here. I also tell him that I have actually LOST weight since I arrived in the country of the Big Burger. When I left the UK I tipped the scales at a not inconsiderable 196 lbs (89 kg), and now weigh in at a slender 174 lb (79 kg). Indeed, I can now get into a 32" waist, and haven't weighed so little since I was about 30.

I did speak to Mum ..... she seemed entirely amused by the whole thing. I also spoke to my dear sister, who clearly took the view that the camera wasn't lying. My sister is called Sue. I refrained from reminding her that when she rolled back into England from a year in Australia, we called her Suet. I wouldn't be so unkind.

Jeez I love the lot of them, and I miss them.