The Scriblerianne

September 7, 2008

A Change of Pace–fun with ferrets

Filed under: Miscellany — scriblerienne @ 8:13 pm
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I am fascinated by ferrets. They are as playful and curious as two-year olds.  And there’s the rub.  I don’t think I could ferretproof my home well enough to keep one safe.  So, for now, I enjoy them virtually.  This video came from Ferretocious on YouTube.  Enjoy!

September 6, 2008

Big Oil and the Republicans are Longtime Bedfellows

Filed under: books,politics — scriblerienne @ 8:21 pm
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If you are interested in what role America’s energy problem will play in this year’s election, you need to read Laton McCartney’s The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country Granted, it focuses on events that occurred over 80 years ago, but the story of how a few wealthy oilmen bought Warren G. Harding the Republican nomination in 1920 resonates during this year’s election. 

According to Maccartney’s book, President Warren G. Harding let his new Secretary of the Interior take over the Navy’s oil reserves and open them up for leasing and bidding to only a few cronies.  Some smaller oil companies heard about this and complained about the apparent fishiness of the deal.  A Congessional hearing was begun and despite Republican hostility, national apathy, and the wealth and deceptiveness of several of the defendants, the Secretary of the Interior was indicted, convicted and sent to prison, while some of the oilmen were acquitted.  Other low-level players in the scandal lost their positions or fortunes, or even their lives.

Okay, so why does this matter now?  Well, McCain changed his mind about no drilling in areas such as the ANWR; now it’ the quickest way to lower prices and our dependence on foreign oil.  This apparently occurred after he received a campaign contribution of over a million dollars from big oil interests.  He’s also chosen Sarah Palin, who supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, as his running mate.  Although both claim that their energy policy includes looking at alternate sources, their emphasis on drilling ASAP reveals their real policy.  It sounds like this:


Ask yourself:  who benefits from drilling in these reserves? Supposedly the American people (like you think Big Oil is going to drop its prices now that it has tested how much we will endure?), Alaska, of course, and most definitely the major oil companies.  You know, the same people who made such a timely and generous contribution to McCain’s election.  If McCain is elected President, he bears careful watching when it comes to energy policy.  As Mccartney’s book shows, so much of the dirty dealing in the Teapot Dome Scandal went on under the American public’s radar, simply because the oil barons literally had bags and suitcases of money to buy many Republican politicians’ cooperation and silence.

So read The Teapot Dome Scandal.  Mccartney writes clearly and makes a complicated, potentially dry topic engrossing and understandable.  He focuses on the main characters and they live again, just as hypocritical, greedy, deluded and ambitious as they were eighty years ago.  The Teapot Dome Scandal reads less like history and more like a political thriller, with plenty of sordid details revealing how long the Republican Party and Big Oil have been bedfellows.

Already read Mccartney’s book?  Share your thoughts about it, especially in the light of our coming election.

September 5, 2008

Risks and Opportunities

Filed under: Self-improvement — scriblerienne @ 3:06 pm
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I commented on Timothy Ferriss’s blog yesterday on the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote he put up.  The quote was inspiring because King chastised those who would not risk their lives or current situations for an ideal.  Basically, he said that if a person refuses to stand up for something to believe it because it is not safe, that person is spiritually and emotionally dead.  They have sacrificed a chance for a better life for the status quo.  This resonates with me because I am a pretty risk-averse person.  I don’t do things on a lark, I don’t jump at the latest thing, and I certainly don’t like to lose money.  I don’t even gamble because I know the odds are against me! 

But I also know that my life could be better.  Right now I have tenure at a second-tier state university.  It doesn’t pay a lot, I have a heavy teaching load, I don’t get a lot of perks, BUT I have a steady income, benefits and job security (at least I will as long as our shortfall doesn’t drive the administration or Board of Regents to cut tenured faculty).  So I have been examining my skills and ways to supplement my income.  I see that there are opportunities out there.  Some are as risky as leaving academia (maybe going to law school, working in the private sector, starting my own business) and some are low-risk, such as looking for part-time opportunities.  The logical thing would be to go back on the job market for a better position, but personal reasons and a nagging sense of low self-esteem hold me back.  So I look for opportunities that are minimal risk.

When I think about opportunities, I realize that I miss or refuse to seize them because of laziness, low self-esteem.  The chances are out  there and some of them require minimal capital or disruption of my life.  So why not take them?  I’ve been making myself more useful and involved in my department, read voraciously about the subjects I’m interested and gathering resources, and now is the time to act.

September 4, 2008

Big Oil’s Long, Long Tea Party

Filed under: books,politics — scriblerienne @ 4:12 pm
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I have just picked up Laton Mccartney’s The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country.  So far, it’s very engaging–well-written, clear, pithy, and it makes a dry old topic come alive as a political thriller.  Adulterous trysts in the White House, shootings, double deals, money laundering–this book has it. I’ll be commenting on it more as I digest it.

As I’ve been reading, I’ve realized that the Republican Party has been in bed with Big Oil for a long time.  Now that Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, has become the GOP candidate for Vice-President, we should be looking at her record on drilling, conservation and connections to Big Oil.  Right now, she’s being pushed by the Republicans as a reformer, but is she really?  According to some journalists, we should be careful before we buy that characterization of her.  For example, the Canadian National Newspaper, an admittedly progressive paper, recently published an article about Palin’s connection to Big Oil.  According to its author, Will Yong, McCain was initially against drilling in national reserves, but things have changed:

U.S. oil firms have given John McCain three times more declared campaign money than to Democratic nominee, Barack Obama. Big oil contributions to the Republican Party outweigh oil money to the Democrats by a similar ratio.

In June 2008, McCain suddenly decided that opening up national wildlife reserves was a good idea, even though he had opposed it earlier.  According to Yong, was this his reason?In the month that McCain made his Big Oil turnaround oil and gas industry executives donated USD 1.1m to his campaign – compared with just USD 116,000 in March, USD 283,000 in April and USD 208,000 in May.

Maybe it’s just me reading about fusty old oil barons and one of the most corrupt Presidents in American history, but could those contributions have had anything to do with McCain’s new attitude towards drilling?

Maybe Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate isn’t such a bolt out of the blue after all.  Republicans are touting her as a reformer who stands up to corruption, but she supports drilling first, alternative fuel resources a distant second.   The Houston Chronicle’s analysis of her acceptance speech reveals a dichotomy in her energy policy.  How can you be for more drilling, more gas and oil pipelines, and be against Big Oil?  How can you be an independent reformer and have a husband who works for BP?  These are the questions that should be dominating the airwaves and the blogosphere, not whether she’s a good mommy or not.

September 3, 2008

Kroger owns me.

Filed under: shopping — scriblerienne @ 6:35 pm
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I admit it.  I am Kroger’s bitch.  It all started with the spring’s ridiculous rise in gas prices.  Kroger has ways you can save with your Kroger Plus Shopper’s Card:  you get three cents off per gallon any time, ten cents off when you have used your Kroger Plus card to buy $100 in groceries, and fifteen cents off per gallon when you use your Kroger Rewards credit card.  During the summer, with regular unleaded hovering at four dollars per gallon, I gave in.

Before all this, I’d separate my shopping:  I’d get some stuff at Kroger, some at Publix, some at Target, some at Wal-Mart.  Now, I get it all at Kroger, unless it’s not available there or I can get it at a better price elsewhere.  Gotta get up to $100 in groceries, you know.   I haven’t totally given in to the Man; I still go to the Farmer’s Market or a roadside vendor for my seasonal veggies and fruit, but when it comes to toilet paper, I know exactly where I’m getting it.

If she can manage five kids, she can manage the vice-presidency

Filed under: politics — scriblerienne @ 6:10 pm
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Bloggers are talking both pro and con about the choice of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate.  One of the stupidest criticisms is that she has five kids! One with Down’s syndrome!  A pregnant teenager!  How can she manage?

People, please.  I’m sure if Palin felt she couldn’t handle it, she would have politely declined the offer.  She’s married, so I assume her husband helps out.  If she needs help, she can pay for it.  My brother-in-law serves in his state’s assembly and he has six kids.  No one asks how he can manage his family and his job.  They all assume his wife, my sister, does that.  Sexism, pure and simple.

The Problem with Coriolanus

Filed under: entertainment — scriblerienne @ 5:43 pm
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I went to the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s production of Coriolanus this weekend and left during intermission.  Bad English professor, bad!  But there were several problems with the production that made me ask myself, “Do I need to stay through this?  No.  So why not leave now and beat the traffic?”  So I did.

Problem #1:  Lack of familiarity with the play.  I read Coriolanus back in grad school, and didn’t brush up on it before I went.  So I had to rely on the summary (not a very exciting one) in the program and the language to understand the plot.  Coupled with sound problems, this made it hard for me to follow along.  Now imagine if you’ve never read or heard of this play, and you show up.  Can’t see how it would be very compelling to stick around.

Problem #2:  Although the play’s production seemed based on a mix of Russian post-constructivism and punk rock, I think it would have fared better done in traditional Roman attire.  The values of the play’s characters and themes are antithetical to contemporary American values.  For example, Coriolanus’s mother sounds more giddy and delusional about her son’s wounds, when she should sound austere and proud. We should find her forbidding, even monstrous. The stern values of the Roman republic doesn’t come through in this production.  If HBO’s Rome could make the world of the late republic come to life, this production could have done so also.

Then there’s the problem of audience sympathy. The plebians were played mostly by members of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s apprentice program and fresh-faced teenagers do not make threatening plebes.  Also, the direction seemed to want us to feel some sympathy for them.  After all, they’re demanding corn which they believe the aristocracy (the senatorial class) is hoarding–that’s commendable, right?  Well, the problem with this is Coriolanus was written in 1607-08, in an England which saw the mob or common people as political trouble.  They’re not supposed to be sympathetic.  If the plebes had come out in the play’s beginning as demanding and threatening, sneering at the audience “You have a $30 picnic from Whole Foods!  I have nothing!” that would have been a more appopriate tone for the treatment of the mob.  The audience would have understood Coriolanus’s contempt of them.  But that leads to a greater problem:

3.  Conflicting vision.  The Nashville Shakespeare Festival is intended to bring the Bard to a widely varied audience–first-time playgoers, casual Shakespeare fans, families with children, young people etc.  It’s free, it’s out in the park, it’s meant to be a pleasant evening where picnicking is encouraged.  If you have plebians roaming the audience and snarling at them, you disturb the atmosphere.  On the other hand, the co-sponsor of this production, Naked Stages is edgier and more experimental–thus the choice of this play and the production.  They may have wanted to do an edgier production, but the Nashville Shakespeare Festival can’t risk alienating its audience and losing funding.  So this muddied the interpretation of the play.

Last, but not least–Coriolanus?  In the park?  With kids and picnics?  Not gonna work.  This is a Shakespeare connoisseur’s play, not a well-known one with wide appeal.  If you want to introduce kids, young adults and non-playgoers to Shakespeare in a casual atmosphere, stick with the crowdpleasers:  Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Twelfth Night.  If you want to do something more serious, try Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth–well-known tragedies.  Do The Tempest if you want some depth, fantasy and spectacle.  If you know your mission, stick to it, even if it chafes your experimental urges.  Save those for the winter.

On the other hand,  the evening was not entirely a disappointment.  I got to go to Centennial Park, which I haven’t visited in a while.  I had forgotten how lovely it is, like Central Park’s small-town baby sister.

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