Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gays: 1, Politicians: 0.

I'm going to need an extra dosage of pills to get through this political season, I think, because we are DROWNING IN IT right now. Yes, I know, it's probably bad where you live, too, but remember, I live in Iowa, and we're kind of a big deal, you know, because we have the first caucus and it's in January and OH GOD IT CANNOT BE OVER SOON ENOUGH.

I even got a message on OK Cupid from some dude wanting to know if I was voting for Ron Paul, and if not, then who? To which I was like, I am a registered Democrat and therefore I cannot participate in the caucus. Which was code for "leave me alone." AND THEN! Then he sent me an IM that was all "Ron Paul! Ron Paul!" and I was like, when the fuck did dating sites become avenues for political campaigns? And then I promptly closed out of it and went on my merry way because fuck online dating anyway.

ANYWAY. My point is that I am not going to blog about politics unless I have something awesomely snarky to say, because the state of the world makes my blood pressure rise and will inevitably result in the actual explosion of my head, so.

I do have something awesome (and snarky!) for you today. Which is why we are here. Or at least it's why I'm here. I don't know why you're here.

Someone tweeted this and I thought it was awesome: the gay community in Minnesota sent a formal apology to MN Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch for ruining her marriage and causing her to cheat on her husband.

"On behalf of all gays and lesbians living in Minnesota, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize for our community's successful efforts to threaten your traditional marriage...We apologize that our selfish requests to marry those we love has cheapened and degraded traditional marriage so much that we caused you to stray from your own holy union for something more cheap and tawdry."


Say it with me: bahahahahahahaha.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mirror Mirror On The Wall: Who's The MOST FESTIVE Of Them All?

HERE THEY ARE!! The entries for the UGLY SWEATER CONTEST-slash-PET DRESSING UP CONTEST. They are all amazing and awesome and I've set up the voting ballots so go vote! Have your friends vote! Sorry this is so late. Work has kersploded and I've been a busy bee and just got home and had to inhale like three sugar cookies in order to get my strength up to complete this bad boy. What? Anyway. VOTE VOTE VOTE.

Okay, so SurveyMonkey is apparently being kind of an asshole today - if you are having problems voting, you can do it in the comments OR you can email to me. Damn technology anyway. *fist shake*


HUMAN DIVISION


1. Germana:

2. Megs:

3. Stacey's harem of sweater-clad men:

4. Tori:


6. Ashley:



PET DIVISION

1. Shasta:

2. Tucker:

3. Barney

3. Leela:

4. Nixon:

5. Dino & Pookie:

6. Oly:

Merry Whatever-you-celebrate, everyone!



EDIT: WAIT! I think I found a way to embed the survey RIGHT HERE. Please hold while I see if I can figure it out without breaking the Internet.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Housekeeping.

After a weekend full of debauchery and bad decisions and yet another Grand Proclamation of "I'm never drinking again" and then some family time and some other randomness, it is once again Monday, which means I have a new post up on Twenties Hacker. It's one that I managed to fuck up because the original site LIED about being able to use a mini-muffin pan. I'm not taking the blame for this one. Even so, these little guys are a good idea in theory if one were to not fuck them up, so you should go check it out anyway.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is supposed to be the deadline for entries to the Ugly Sweater Contest. I have more entries in the Pet Division, which of course makes me happy, because animals in clothing is my favorite thing ever, but I do need some more people. Come on, people. Hit up your local Goodwill. I'm sure there is still some awfulness left. Otherwise Photoshop something onto your bod. I really don't care. I'm not a huge rule stickler. I just want there to be an abundance of tackiness to improve everyone's holiday seasons. If you don't have a sweater, just wrap yourself in twinkle lights or something. Don't disappoint me, Internet.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Observations on Observations, Part 2.

[via Raygun, natch]

FIRST. Holiday sweater contest thataway.

NEXT. You'll notice this is a Part II. Part I is here.

THIRDLY! Someone posted this to the book o' faces and it is fucking hilarious. It's a response piece by another Iowa writer. It's hilarious-er if you read the original article first, because it riffs directly off of it, but goddamn. I lol'd.

Anyway, if you're just showing up, I'm live-blogging my way through an article that bashes my beloved state by some crotchety assrocket that apparently can't be bothered to move back to his apparently superior state of New Jersey. (Yeah, no. Someone from NEW JERSEY, Land of Stereotypes, has written an entire article latching on to every Iowa stereotype he can think of. Many of which, in the Venn diagram of Stereotypery, overlap nicely with the Garden State. Also: pot, kettle, varying degrees of blackness, etc.)

All the douchey text that is dripping with disdain is by Stephen G. Bloom. All of the snarky text in bracketed bold italic is mine. If it's highlighted in red, that means I found it to be exceptionally fuckish and decided to make it stand out.

As someone on facebook pointed out, the only reason this piece of shit was even published was because it was so close to the caucuses and someone somewhere knew it would get people riled up and, like most intentionally controversial pieces, would shower them in a wave of pageviews. Well played, then, Atlantic, and though I KNOW you're not supposed to feed the trolls, this is just begging for a KELLYSMASH RANT.

Without further ado, here is Part II.

***

Coastal elites love to dump on Iowa the same way Manhattanites trash New Jersey. [Oh heyyyy, I get it. You're bitter because you're usually the one getting picked on.] Iowa is the place East and West Coasters call "Fly-over Country." [Note: so is the rest of the Midwest. There's a lotta land between New York and California. Just sayin.'] It didn't rate even a speck in Sol Steinberg's classic 1967 New Yorker cover. [That was a long time ago. Also, no one cares.] Obama's comments went over without a second thought, until they wafted back to the Heartland. What Average Joe in Iowa wants to admit he clings to anything -- except hunting, fishing, and the Hawkeyes? Guns, religion, xenophobia? Them's fightin' words. [I personally cling to chocolate, caffeinated beverages, and the constant reaffirmation of my worth from my peers.] Obama might have been wrong for telling the truth, which seldom happens in politics, but the future president was 100-percent accurate when he let slip his comments on the absolute and utter desperation in America's hollowed-out middle, in particular in the state where I live. [Dude, not for long. After this, all those crazy farmer hicks in question are going to run you out of town with their pitchforks and torches. Also, I don't really feel that I live in a swamp of absolute and utter desperation, but, you know. Maybe that's subjective?]

There's the idealized version of rural America, then there's the heartbreaking real version, the one Obama was talking about. [Replace "rural" with, well, just get rid of "rural" and you have a full and complete version of the US of A in 2011.]

Take One: The fairytale rendering is pastoral and bucolic; [what the fuck does bucolic mean? Someone look it up for me, I can't be bothered right now] sandy-haired children romping through fecund, shoulder-high corn with Lassie at their side. It's Field of Dreams meets Carousel with The Waltons thrown in for good measure. The ruddy, wooden Bridges of Madison County (where John Wayne was born) may be in the background as the camera pans wide. 

Take Two: The nightmare reality is tens of thousands of laid-off rural factory workers, farmers who have lost their land to banks and agribusiness, legions of unemployed who have come to the realization that it makes no sense to look for work, since work pretty much no longer exists for them. [And then there's the young professionals like myself that sit at a desk all day, but I guess we don't count as part of the population? I don't feel like I live in a nightmare reality. I'm actually quite content, THANK YOU.]

An illusionary, short-term salve has been the proliferation of casinos in the state. In the last two decades, Iowa has established 18 of these bell-clanging jackpot landmines and more could open as the economy continues to go south and overseas. (But, of course, this is happening far and wide in the United States. Detroit has three downtown casinos for those who want something to do while in the Motor City.) [First acknowledgement of the rest of the country. Good boy. Here's a cookie.]

Maytag, the iconic American company that makes washer and dryers, is a good example of Iowa economics. Maytag's flagship operation had been based in Newton, Iowa, for more than a century (the company was founded by Fred Maytag in 1893). After Whirlpool bought Maytag in 2006, workers girded for the worst, which came a year later, when Maytag closed the two million square-foot plant, leaving 2,000 workers unemployed. In protest, workers left their boots hanging on the cyclone fence surrounding the plant. At its peak. Maytag employed 4,000 workers in Newton, a town of 16,000. The Newton plant was union; consolidation of Maytag and Whirlpool was shifted to nonunion facilities, as well as overseas. [Way to pick a specific company to pick on. By the way, factories are closing plants all over the country because someone somewhere decided it would be fabulous to send everything overseas. Again, not just an Iowa issue.]

In part, rural Iowa's economic malaise has been made all the more in-your-face by the thousands of undocumented immigrants arriving every month, trolling for work that pays indecent wages in some of the most dangerous jobs imaginable, mostly on under-regulated, non-union kill-floors of the rural slaughterhouses. The migrant workers (almost all young, single, Central American men) end up living in deplorable makeshift shantytowns that have cropped up over the last decade amid the splendor of green and golden fields. [Not once have I seen a "deplorable makeshift shantytown." I've seen nary a shantytown, period. Someone please tell me where these are.]

Four states -- California, Texas, New York, and Florida -- get two-thirds of the nation's immigrants. But for many immigrants, these states serve only as ports of entry; once inside the U.S., these newcomers converge in rural America in waves of secondary migration. And some immigrants head directly inland, altogether bypassing American coastal cities. In Iowa, they almost all come for slaughterhouse jobs, where entry-level positions are plentiful and workers don't need to know a word of English. The only requirements are a strong stomach and a strong back, and a willingness to accept that the work and the pay don't match. It's no wonder Iowa locals spurn such jobs as knockers, stickers, bleeders, tail rippers, flankers, gutters, sawers, or plate boners, all of whom work on what amounts to a disassembly line. Turnover at these grueling jobs is higher than 100 percent a year; health benefits at most plants don't kick in for several months; but the first months in a slaughterhouse are the most dangerous, when accidents are most likely to occur.  [Now, I wasn't a math major, but I'm reasonably certain that 100% is as high as you can go? Is that wrong? Also, health insurance doesn't kick in for most people right away. ALSO, if they are truly here illegally, I don't even think they can GET health insurance, can they? I don't understand this paragraph.]

How'd so many slaughterhouses get from the cities to the country? [It's called "urban sprawl" and it's been happening for a long time. Honestly, as a professor at a major university, I would have expected you to know that.] For more than a century, slaughterhouses were located in brawling cities like Chicago, Fort Worth, and Omaha. Chicago rose to prominence, in part, because of its famed cattle-processing industry. The city's Union Stock Yards opened in 1865 and eventually grew to 475 acres of slaughterhouses. Today, only one slaughterhouse remains in Chicago, a tiny boutique lamb and veal processor. All the rest have closed shop or moved to rural America. [Thanks for that tidbit? Why are we talking about meat processing? I thought we were talking about the caucuses? Honestly, this guy rambles more than I do.]

In a fundamental shift in how meat was processed, industry leaders decades ago realized it made more sense to bring meatpacking plants to the corn-fed livestock than to truck livestock to far-off slaughterhouses in expensive cities with strong unions and government regulators poking their noses into the meatpackers' business. Mobile refrigeration allowed processed meat to be trucked without spoilage. At the same time, the industry became highly mechanized. Innovations such as air- and electric-powered knives made expensive, skilled butchers superfluous. Mega plants in rural outposts became the norm. Hourly wages for union meat-production workers in 1980 peaked at $19 per hour (1980 dollars), not including benefits. Today, starting pay is often barely minimum wage at rural slaughterhouses. Because packinghouses are located in such isolated pockets of America, employers don't have to pay wages competitive with jobs in more urban venues. It's take it or leave it, and most locals would rather leave it. For undocumented workers, though, these jobs are a bonanza. [Seriously, what the fuck is this? How is this relevant to anything? Iowa shouldn't have the first caucus because we have meat plants? THIS IS A REALLY WEIRD TANGENT AND I DON'T UNDERSTAND.]

About the only possible bright spot in the rural Iowa economy is wind energy. It's a huge on-the-come bet that may actually pay off. [What's an on-the-come bet? It sounds like a sexual reference. Are making a sexual reference about wind energy, Stephen G. Bloom?] Iowa is the second largest producer of wind energy in the U.S. (Texas is the first). Twenty percent of all electricity in the state is generated by wind. Drive down Interstate 80 for any stretch in Iowa, and you'll pass wide-loads announcing what's in front and behind: 150-foot-long, 12-ton blades for wind turbines. You'll also pass "wind farms," surreal grassy outposts with row after row of huge white turbines, their blades spinning. It's the windmill updated, but this time for the masses. [Again, what this has to do with anything, I am really unsure of.]

But relatively few rural Iowans are employed in the business of wind energy. [Ohhh, I get it. We suck because we have this one super awesome industry but nobody works in it so we are all shit outta luck.] The bulk of jobs here are low-income ones most Iowans don't want. Many have simply packed up and left the state (which helps keep the unemployment rate statewide low). [That's... probably true, actually. But it's worth noting that we have lower median incomes because our cost of living is significantly lower, too.] Those who stay in rural Iowa are often the elderly waiting to die, those too timid (or lacking in educated) [HA! "Lacking in educated"! I think you mean "education." Which clearly you yourself are lacking in, as well] to peer around the bend for better opportunities, an assortment of waste-toids and meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth, or those who quixotically believe, like Little Orphan Annie, that "The sun'll come out tomorrow." [Oh, here. Here is where the rage must be setting in for most people. I am young AND educated, I have all of my original teeth (with no cavities!) and I peered around whatever bends this dude is talking about, and you know what? I made the choice to stay. Because - hold onto your panties - I like it here.]

It's no surprise then, really, that the most popular place for suicide in America isn't New York or Los Angeles, but the rural Middle, where guns, unemployment, alcoholism and machismo reign. [This? This is not cool at all. This dude is a bona-fide asshole.] Suicides in Iowa's rural counties are 13.55 per 100,000 residents; New York's suicide rate is 5.4 residents per 100,000. Hunting accidents are common, perhaps spurred by the elixir of alcohol, which seems to be the drink of choice whenever a man suits up in camo or orange overalls. [Only Iowans drink, you know.] Mental-health clinics have all but been shuttered in Flyover Country; in a budget crunch, they're the first to go. Other, more nuanced reasons for the high rate of suicide: Farmers and ranchers by occupational nature rely on themselves to solve problems; the stigma of depression prevents those affected most from seeking help -- if help existed. Some residents turn to church leaders (as Obama said), but few are genuinely qualified to offer that kind of counsel. [This whole paragraph pisses me off. I just. Ugh. FUCK YOU, STEPHEN G. BLOOM. FUCK YOU ALL THE WAY BACK TO NEW JERSEY.]

* * *

I live in Iowa City, a university town 60 miles west of the Mississippi, along Highway 80 (known as The Interstate to younger Iowans, just The Highway to older Iowans). [Or, as I like to call it, I-80. Like everyone else does.] Eighty is America's Main Street, bisecting Iowa, connecting the hallowed-out middle of Corpus Americana to the faraway coasts. Granted, I'm a transplant here, and when I lit out almost two decades ago for this territory, I didn't quite know what to expect. The first day I arrived from San Francisco, wandering about Iowa City during spring break, billed as a bustling Big Ten University town, I kept wondering, "Where is everyone?" I thought a neutron bomb had gone off; there were buildings but few, if any, people. [Uhh, yeah. Because you were in a college town over spring break. Are you mentally handicapped?]

Today, I still not quite sure what I'd gotten myself into. I've lived in many places, lots of them foreign countries, but none has been more foreign to me than Iowa.

They speak English in Iowa. [This? This is what we're down to now? GUESS WHAT, WE HAVE PLUMBING AND ELECTRICITY AND THE INTERNET, TOO.] You understand the words fine. (Broadcasters, in fact, covet the Iowa "accent," since it could come from anywhere, devoid of regional inflections.) But if you listen closely, though, it's a wholly different manner of speaking from what folks on either coast are accustomed to. [And if you go to the South, you'll have a whole other manner too. It's a regional linguistics thing and again, you are a goddamn university professor, you should know this shit. Fuck you. Just for good measure.]

Indoor parking lots are ramps [parking ramps, but yes], soda is pop [to the majority, yes], lollipops are suckers [yep], grocery bags are sacks [I say bag, but apparently I'm an anomaly], weeds are volunteers [haven't heard that one], miniature golf is putt-putt [no, it's "mini-golf"], supper is never to be confused with dinner [I have this argument with my dad frequently. Old people call it supper. I call it dinner.], cellars and basements are totally different places, and boys under the age of 16 are commonly referred to as "Bud." [NEVER EVER EVER have I heard anyone called "Bud."] Almost every Iowa house has a mudroom [a what?], so you don't track mud or pig shit into the kitchen or living room, even though the aroma of pig shit is absolutely venerated in Iowa: It's known to one and all here as "the smell of money." [I have heard this before, but... well. It's true, I guess. I don't venerate it, though. I have accepted it. And those are two totally different things.]

Friday fish fries at the American Legion hall; grocery and clothing shopping at Wal-Mart [grocery shopping at Hy-Vee, clothing shopping at Target, thankyouverymuch]; Christmas crèches with live donkeys, sheep and a neighborhood infant playing Baby Jesus; rifle-toting hunters stalking turkeys in the fall (better not go for a walk in the countryside in October or November). [Okay, I'm guessing eastern Iowa does a great deal more hunting than we do here in the middle. It seems to be a recurring theme.] Not many cars in these parts of America. [Are you fucking with me? You're fucking with me, aren't you.] They're vehicles, pronounced ve-HICK-uls -- 4X4's, pick-ups, snowmobiles). [No. No they're not. Not by anyone.] Rural houses are modest, some might say drab. Everyone strives to be middle-class; and if you have some money, by God you'd never want to make anyone feel bad by showing it off. [Because nobody likes it when you rub your money in your face? No wonder everyone thinks the people on the coasts are assholes. Do they do this? "Hahahaha look at all this money I have that you don't!"] If you go to Florida for a cruise, you keep it to yourself. [No. You post pictures on facebook, is what you do.] The biggest secret often is -- if you still own farmland -- exactly how many acres. Ostentatious is driving around town in a new Ford F-150 pickup. [Oh, fuck you, yet again.]

The reason everyone seems related in small-town Iowa is because, if you go back far enough, many are, either by marriage or birth. In Iowa, names like Yoder, Snitker, Schroeder, and Slabach are as common as Garcia, Lee, Romero, Johnson, and Chen are in big cities. [....I don't know anyone with any of those last names.]

Rules peculiar to rural Iowa that I've learned are hard and fast, seldom broken: Backdoors are how you always go into someone's house. [WHERE does this guy live? I have NEVER gone in the backdoor to anyone's house! That's WEIRD.] Bar fights might not be weekly occurrences, but neither are they infrequent activities. [I've never seen one.] Collecting is big --whether it's postcards, lamps, figurines, tractors, or engines. [People in the rest of the country do not collect things. Fact.] NASCAR is a spectator sport that folks can't get enough of. Old-timers answer their phones not with "hello," but with last names, a throwback to party-lines. [They do?] Everyone's phone number in town starts with the same three-digit prefix. [Well, yes. In the small towns. Because they are small. And don't require extra prefixes because there aren't that many people. It's a math thing. Idiot.]

Hats are essential. [How else are you supposed to get your facial tan line? See: previous part.] Men over 50 don't leave home without a penknife in their pocket. [I better get one for my dad for Christmas. He doesn't have one. And he's 53. Oh, the shame this is now bringing upon my family.] Old Spice is the aftershave of choice. Everyone knows someone who has had an unfortunate and costly accident with a deer (always fatal for the deer, sometimes for the human). [Actually, yes. Deer are fuckers.] Farming is a dangerous occupation; if farmers don't die from a mishap (getting a hand in an auger, clearing a stuck combine), they live with missing digits or limbs. [Farming is not the only occupation that puts your limbs in danger. Just throwing that out there.]

Comfort food reigns supreme. Meatloaf and pork chops are king. Casseroles (canned tuna or Tatertots) [okay, I like tator-tot casserole. Sue me] and Jell-O molds (cottage cheese with canned pears or pineapple [ew]) are what to bring to wedding receptions and funerals. [What? You can ask people to bring food to your wedding reception?!?!?!?! Hot damn. That will save me a TON of money some day.] Everyone loves Red Waldorf cake. [False. I do not know what Red Waldorf cake even is.] Deer (killed with a rifle is good, with bow-and-arrow better) and handpicked morels are delicacies families cherish. [My family has done zero cherishing of deer meat.]

Religion is the glue that binds everyone, whether they're Catholic, Lutheran, or Presbyterian. [Yeah, no. Most of the people I know are religious in the sense that they perhaps send some involuntary prayers skyward while doing naughty things with their significant other.] You can't drive too far without seeing a sign for JESUS or ABORTION IS LEGALIZED MURDER. [I bet you'd see a lot of these in the deep south, too.] [My favorite is the one along Highway 20 that informs everyone that there is a special place in hell for deadbeat moms. It's kind of becoming a nostalgic landmark.] I'm forever amazed by how often I hear neighbors, co-workers, shoppers, and total strangers talk about religion. [Never. Have NEVER heard this.] In the Hy-Vee grocery store, at neighborhood stop-and-chats, at the local public school, "See you at church!" is the common rejoinder. It's as though the local house of worship were some neighborhood social club -- which, of course, it is. A professor I know at the University of Iowa chides her students for sitting in the back of a lecture hall, saying, "This isn't church, you know." [Uh, okay.]

When my family and I first moved to Iowa, our first Easter morning I read the second-largest newspaper in the state (the Cedar Rapids Gazette) with this headline splashed across Page One: HE HAS RISEN. The headline broke all the rules I was trying to teach my young journalism students: the event was neither breaking nor could it be corroborated by two independent sources. The editors obviously thought that everyone knew who He was, and cared. [I think I saw this on our area newspaper growing up too. Meh. It didn't really bother me and still doesn't. Because I don't care. Live and let live.]

After years and years of in-your-face religion, I decided to give what has become an annual lecture, in which I urge my students not to bid strangers "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Easter," "Have you gotten all your Christmas shopping done?" or "Are you going to the Easter egg hunt?" Such well-wishes are not appropriate for everyone, I tell my charges gently. [GODDAMN CHRISTMAS CHEER. HOW DARE YOU ACKNOWLEDGE A NATIONALLY CELEBRATED HOLIDAY.] A cheery "Happy holidays!" will suffice. Small potatoes, I know, but did everyone have to proclaim their Christianity so loud and clea [Newsflash: there is a rather large secular component to Christmas nowadays. In fact, I have atheist friends who get more excited about this holiday than any of my religious ones do. Besides, you said earlier we have no minorities, which must mean everyone around here celebrates Christmas, right?] [Also, I'm sorry you hate Christmas so much. But if Corporate America has their say, it's not going away anytime soon. May as well unbunch your panties.]


Maybe it wasn't such a good idea. One gutsy, red-in-the-face student told me in no uncertain terms that for the rest of her life, she would continue offering Merry Christmas and Happy Easter tidings to strangers, no matter what I, or anyone else, said, because, "That's just who I am and I'm not about to change. Ever!" Score one for sticking it to the ethnic interloper. 

Such do-good obligation flourishes even when the words invoked don't have much to do with religion. After the University of Iowa played arch-rival Iowa State in football, one of my students got arrested for public intoxication. While walking back to her dormitory one Saturday afternoon, she paused to rest on the steps of the Old State Capitol Building, only to fall asleep until a police officer awakened her. All arrests in Iowa City are published in the local newspaper, and I asked her what had had happened. "When my parents find out, they're going to be furious. I'll get called home for a Come-To-Jesus talk." 

On the surface, this Come to Jesus moment had nothing to do with religion. Instead, it described a meeting in which your butt was about to be kicked for some serious, errant behavior, and if you didn't repent your evil ways, then there'd be hell to pay. Come to Jesus was a nonsectarian, equal-opportunity expression that could just as easily involve Jews, Moslems, or Hindus (if you could find any in Iowa) as it involved Christians. But it was vintage Iowa, invoking the name of Jesus as though everyone believed in the good Lord's son and his providence. [Right. We don't have any, I guess. SEE: your previous paragraph in which you just said that not everyone celebrates Christmas. But if we have no Jews or Muslims, then what does that leave us? Oh, right. Christmas.]

Of the students I teach, relatively few will stay in Iowa after they graduate. The net flow of Iowans is out, not in. Iowa's greatest export isn't corn, soybeans, or pigs; it's young adults. Many born in rural Iowa grow up educated due to the state's still-strong foundation of land-grant universities (although, that too is eroding) and abiding familial interest in education (on a per-capita basis, Iowa has more high school graduates than 49 other states). But once they're through college, they leave. Iowa is the number-two state in the nation in losing college-educated youth (only North Dakota loses more). [This is why, earlier, you said that nobody leaves because we are uneducated and too afraid to peer around the bend to see what's out there? I'm confused.]

An interesting sidelight to the outflow problem is the rapid influx of Chinese students at the University of Iowa. The university vigorously recruits Chinese undergraduates, and has even set up an office in Beijing with the express purpose of attracting Chinese to study in Iowa (no other recruiting office exists anywhere else). Almost all come from well-heeled families, who pay full tuition for their children to attend college. Few speak passable English, almost all congregate in majors that require little English (math, biology and actuarial science), and many drive around town in brand-new sports cars. It's a strange sight to see in Flyover County -- dozens of Chinese students moving together en masse, the girls chattering away in Mandarin, always holding each others' hands. These wealthy, ill-prepared bonus babies are seen as the future of the University. If Iowa has fewer and fewer young people each year to fill the University's cavernous lecture halls, and the state is still a tough sell to coastal American kids, then it's China that's the next frontier as state support for higher education dwindles. [So.. he hates Christmas AND China? I really don't understand what this has to do with anything.]

Today, half of Iowa's 952 incorporated towns have populations of fewer than 500 residents, and two-thirds of the state's towns have less than 1,000. Iowa is home to the highest per-capita percentage of people older than 85; the second highest of residents older than 75, and the third highest of people older than 65. [This statistic doesn't make sense to me as it would make sense that that would be in that order, because people that are older than 85 are thus older than 75, thus landing in both brackets. Meanwhile, people that are 85 and 75 are therefore both older than 65 thus landing in that bracket too. Seems iffy to me, but I'm not going to analyze it any further because, whatever.] The largest and most elegant house in many rural towns is the local funeral parlor. The graduating classes of most rural high schools are so small that an Iowa tradition calls for silk-screened T-shirts with the names of all classmates on the back. [okay, yeah. We did this. I had 57 people in my graduating class. What of it?] Most, if not all of these teenagers, have worked for a couple of weeks in the summer as detasselers, when they remove the pollen-producing tassel on the top of each corn plant, letting it drop to the ground, so that two varieties of corn will cross-breed and make a hybrid. The job has become an absolute rite of passage for rural Iowa kids. [I never did this, though I heard it was pretty good money, for when you are too young to drive or get either a food service job or a retail job, like every other high schooler everywhere else.]

And while it's changing fast, rural Iowa is still a place where homes sell for $40,000 (some a lot less), serious crime is tee-peeing a high-school senior's front yard, and traffic is getting caught behind a tractor on Main Street. [Oh, fuck you. Again.] If rural Iowans ever drive on the highway (not much reason to do so, really), [no comment] they welcome other vehicles accelerating on the entrance ramp, smiling, often motioning with their hand to move on over, as though gently patting the butt of a newborn. [I've never motioned with my hand to anyone unless they were pissing me off, and it was less of a "hand" than "a very specific part of my hand" and also, aren't you supposed to move over and let people merge on to the road? Maybe that is only something we do here. I dunno. Beats a car accident, if you ask me.]

The only smog comes from a late-autumn bonfire. Crime isn't way rampant in these rural towns, but it's edging upwards, particularly in towns adjacent to slaughterhouses. [oooh, the slaughterhouse argument comes full circle!] On summer nights, you can still keep your keys in the ignition and run into the local Casey's for an Icey or to get a cherry-dipped cone at the DQ one town over. Rural Iowa is still the kind of place where parents drop off their kids at the municipal pool to swim all day long.

Iowa is a throwback to yesteryear and, at the same time, a cautionary tale of what lies around the corner.
Which brings up my dog. And here's why: My dog is a kind of crucible of Iowa. [Fuck your dog. Just because. Because apparently the whole point of this stupid-ass article is whatever happens next, and I read ahead, and it's stupid.] [Also? Cautionary tale of WHAT? BE SPECIFIC!]

What does Hannah, a 13-year-old Labrador, have to do with an analysis of the American electoral system and how screwy it is that a place like Iowa gets to choose -- before anyone else -- the person who may become the next leader of the free world? [That is what I have been asking myself THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE! Though replace "Hannah" with "the contents of each and every paragraph."]

For our son's eighth birthday, we wanted to get him a dog. Every boy needs a dog, my wife and I agreed, and off we went to an Iowa breeding farm to pick out an eight-week-old puppy that, when we knelt to pet her, wouldn't stop licking us. [Shelters. You should have adopted from a shelter. You ARE an asshole, aren't you?] We chose a yellow Lab because they like kids, have pleasant dispositions, and I was particularly fond of her caramel-color coat. Labs don't generally bite people, although they do like to chew on shoes, hats, and sofa legs. Hannah was Marley before Marley. [How hipster of you.]

Our son, of course, got tired of Hannah after a couple of months, and to whom did the daily obligation of walking the dog fall? 

That's right. To me.

And here's the point: I can't tell you how often over the years I'd be walking Hannah in our neighborhood and someone in a pickup would pull over and shout some variation of the following: 

"Bet she hunts well." 

"Do much hunting with the bitch?" 

"Where you hunt her?" 

To me, it summed up Iowa. You'd never get a dog because you might just want to walk with the dog or to throw a ball for her to fetch. No, that's not a reason to own a dog in Iowa. You get a dog to track and bag animals that you want to stuff, mount, or eat. [Dude, what? Seriously, WHERE DO YOU LIVE.]

That's the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president.

[Oh, all the fuck-yous in the world to you, Stephen G. Bloom. I hope you are able to someday return to your homeland paradise of New Jersey. This is the dumbest article I have ever read, not just because of all the fuckery that you spouted, but because of the sheer premise, and its weak link to a national political event. I hope you don't choke and die on all that bitterness. Someone might have your funeral in a church and bring a Jell-o mold or a tatortot casserole.]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Observations on Observations, Part 1.

Having lived in Iowa my entire life, I am fully aware of all the stereotypes that exist about it, and WHY they exist. In a lot of the more rural areas, well, they're kind of true, sometimes. We do have a lot of farmers. A large proportion of them wear flannel and/or overalls. Sometimes both together. There are a fair percentage of meth labs. I've never seen one, but I've heard rumors.

Probably the best compliment that can be paid to my state is that when I go other places (Las Vegas, Atlanta, other social media platforms), nobody can really TELL I'm from Iowa. Fellow BiSC-uit Nico actually thought I was from Canada for the longest time. My point is, I seem to have amassed quite a few friends from other states and places and none of them seem to think I'm a backwards hick, and the reason for that is that we are not all our stereotypes. Anyone in a marginalized demographic group knows this.

Anyway, I guess some douchenozzle wrote some asshole piece about how Iowa is a shit-hole and everyone here smokes meth and is missing their teeth and live in vans by the river or something, I don't know, I haven't read it yet. I'm going to live-blog the experience here shortly, but first: RAYGUN, favorite t-shirt shop of hipster Iowans everywhere (but mostly Des Moines) has built their empire creating witty t-shirts that make fun of us, our cities, ourselves. (It's kind of like when someone picks on your sibling. You can do it, but if someone else does it, by God, they're getting their ass kicked.)

This is their response:


So, there's that.

Anyway, here we go. The live-blogging experience of Kelly Reading Something That's Inevitably Going To Piss Her Off. And, yes, I'm going to do the whole goddamn thing, so sorry if it TL;DR's.

My comments in BRACKETED BOLD ITALIC. So you can easily find them. That's the part you want anyway, right? Also I am highlighting some of the exceptional shit he says in red. Because: HE ACTUALLY SAYS IT, NON-IRONICALLY.

Here we go!

OBSERVATIONS FROM 20 YEARS OF IOWA LIFE -  by Stephen G. Bloom

[Stephen. Stephen, Stephen. I'm already more of an expert than you because I've not only lived here for 27 years, but I also spent ALL of my formative years here. N00b.]

When Obama spoke of those clinging to guns and religion, he was talking about the Iowa hamlets that will shape the contours of the GOP contest. [Is that what he was talking about? The only people I know 'round here that are particularly attached to their guns are those that hunt. Which is kind of a special circumstance. Special Occasion Guns. Anyway, I think you are thinking of Texas, and anyway, thanks for calling us all "hamlets." It would be cute if I said it, but it's obnoxious when you say it.]


[PHOTO OF TRAFFIC ON A HIGHWAY.][Looks pretty accurate, really. One point.]

IOWA CITY -- On January 3, Iowans will trudge through snow, sleet, sludge, ice, gale-force blizzards -- whatever it takes -- to join their neighbors that evening in 1,784 living rooms, community halls, recreation centers, and public-school gymnasiums in a kind of bygone-era town-hall meeting at which they'll eat and debate, and then vote for presidential candidates along party lines. Chat 'n' Chews, they are called. [They're called this? I've never heard that before. Sounds kind of ridiculous, but okay. Maybe they call them that on the eastern side of the state.]

These Iowa Caucuses create a seismic shift in the presidential nominating contests. Obama catapulted to the top of the Democrats' dance card when he captured 38 percent of Iowa voters in 2008, and then swept to victory at the Democratic Convention eight months later. Without such a strong initial showing in Iowa, Obama might not have been able to steamroll through subsequent state primaries to win the presidency.
Since Obama is the presumed Democratic candidate in 2012, this year it's the Republican candidates who have trained their attentions on the state these brisk, late-autumn days. They're falling over each other in front of grain elevators and cornfields, over biscuits and gravy in breakfast cafes, and at potluck dinners (casseroles are the thing to bring), glad-handing and backslapping as many Iowa voters they can. Great photo ops, you know. Hoisting a baby in the air is good politics. So's gulping down a brat (short for bratwurst). [I think he's making fun of our food. Fine, whatever. Casseroles are good and cheap and easy and that's why people take them to potlucks. Also, do people not know what brats are? I think he's insulting his readers in general, too. Glad to know he hates everyone.]
 
Considering the state's enormous political significance, I thought this would be a good time to explain to the geographically challenged a little about Iowa, including where Iowa is, and perhaps more importantly, in both a real and metaphysical way, what Iowa is. [It's a state, fuckwad. One that you seem to have an irrational hatred for. Though you do have a point. NOBODY KNOWS WHERE IT IS.] Here, let me help:


 [all artwork by Raygun, of course.Clicky the pictures to go to their product page. If you want.]


For almost [ALMOST? YOUR TITLE IS A LIE!] 20 years I've lived in Iowa, where as a professor at the University of Iowa I've taught thousands of university students. I've written a couple of books on rural Iowa [are they as dickish as this article is apparently going to be?], traveling to all 99 counties, and have spent much of my time when not teaching, visiting with and interviewing Iowans from across the state. I haven't taken up hunting or fishing, the main hobbies of rural Iowans, but I'm a fan of University of Iowa Hawkeye football, so I'm a good third of the way to becoming an adopted Iowan. I even have a dog, born and bred in Iowa (more on that later). [Rural Iowa =/= all of Iowa. Just FYI. Also, I don't think hunting and fishing and football are exclusive to Iowa. Someone from the rest of the world please confirm?]

* * *

Iowa is not flat as a pancake, despite what most people think. Northeast of Cedar Rapids is actually pretty hilly. It's an agricultural (corns and soybeans), landlocked state. While Iowa's landmass is a little larger than England's, its population is only three million, about 17 times smaller than Britain's. The state's name derives from the Ioway Indians, one of several tribes that used to call the region home. Of Iowa's 99 counties, 88 are classified as rural. Iowa's capital and largest city is Des Moines (pop: 203,000), whose primary business is insurance. The state is 96 percent white. [This all seems fairly accurate, I guess.] Also, this.

Perhaps ironically, my boobs are too big for me to be able to fit into this shirt.
Which is the only thing keeping me from owning it.
 
On the state's eastern edge lies the Mississippi River, dotted with towns with splendid names like Keokuk, Toolesboro, Fruitland, Muscatine, Montpelier, Buffalo, Sabula, Davenport, Dubuque, and Guttenberg. Each once was a booming city on the swollen banks of the river that long ago opened the middle of America to expansion, civilization, abundance, and prosperity. Not much travels along the muddy and polluted Mississippi these days except rusty-bucket barges of grain and an occasional kayaker circumnavigating garbage, beer cans, and assorted debris. The majestic river that once defined the United States has been rendered commercially irrelevant these days. [I'm sure this is TOTALLY Iowa's fault, because, you know, we're the only one that uses that river.]

Mark Twain once lived in Southeast Iowa, in Keokuk, working at his brother's printing press. He also was employed nearby as a reporter for the Muscatine Journal. When Twain lived in Keokuk 150 years ago, the Gateway City was a sought-after destination; some seriously said Keokuk would someday rival Chicago as a metropolis of culture and commerce. [Really? CITATION NEEDED PLEASE] Thirty-eight hotels crowned the intersection of the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers. The coming of the railroads changed all that, and today, Keokuk, is a depressed, crime-infested slum town. [I'm sure they're going to put that on their tourism brochures. It has a ring to it.] Almost every other Mississippi river town is the same; they're some of the skuzziest cities I've ever been to, and that's saying something. [Because you're an expert in all things skuzzy?]

On Iowa's western frontier lies the Missouri River, which girds a huge, sparsely populated agricultural region anchored by Sioux City (pop: 83,000) in the state's far northwest and Council Bluffs (pop: 62,230), across from the Nebraska hub of Omaha. Eskimo Pies, the original I-Scream Bar, was invented by a Danish immigrant in Onawa, a tiny town not far from the Missouri, and today you can visit an Eskimo Pie display at the Monona County Historical Museum there. [You're losing me. How is this relevant to the caucuses? Which seemed to be your original point?]

In between these two great, defining rivers, Iowa is a place of bizarre contrasts. The state is split politically: to the east of Des Moines, Iowa is solidly Democratic; to the west, it's rabidly Republican. Iowa's two U.S. Senators are emblematic of this schizophrenia: Fundamentalist Republican Charles Grassley and Ultra-liberal Democrat Tom Harkin. Grassley is 78; Harkin 72; both have held seats in either the U.S. Senate or House since 1975. [I knew Grassley was old as dirt - GUYS YOU SHOULD SEE HIM ON TWITTER, it's a trainwreck, though he has gotten slightly more coherent lately - but I didn't know Harkin was old too. Eh. Status quo, bitches. ALSO! Thanks for likening us to a mental disorder. Asshole.] [OH SWEET HAPPY DAY, someone made a parody account for Senator Grassley. I may have just peed myself a little.]

Insular Iowa is also home to the most conservative, and, some say, wackiest congressman in America, Republican Rep. Steve King, who represents the vast western third of the state. Some of King's doozies: calling Senator Joe McCarthy a "hero for America"; comparing illegal immigrants to stray cats that wind up on people's porches; and praying that Supreme Court "Justice Stevens and Justice Ginsberg fall madly in love with each other and elope to Cuba." Keith Olbermann named King not only the worst congressman in the U.S., but the Worst Person in the World six times.

Considering the above, not just a few Iowa heads turned when a District Court in Des Moines in 2007 declared same-sex marriages legal. Iowa, at the time, was the second state in the U.S. to allow gays to marry each other, a decision the state Supreme Court unanimously upheld two years later. [YEAH THAT'S RIGHT, WE'RE NOT COMPLETE FUCKUPS.] In retaliation, Iowa conservatives in 2010 mounted a successful campaign to oust three of the justices who ruled on behalf of same-sex marriage. [NEVER MIND.] Marriage between two same-sex people is legal in Iowa for now, but may not be for long. So far, Democrats have blocked a statewide referendum on the issue (Dems hold sway in the Iowa Senate 26-24), but if Republicans take control of the Senate, gay marriage could -- and likely would -- be repealed. [Unfortunately, he's probably right. Ugh.]

Whether a schizophrenic, economically-depressed, and some say, culturally-challenged state like Iowa should host the first grassroots referendum to determine who will be the next president isn't at issue. [I... I don't even know where to start here. I feel personally insulted. Also? ALSO? THE WHOLE FUCKING COUNTRY IS ECONOMICALLY DEPRESSED. IN CASE YOU HADN'T NOTICED.] It's been this way since 1972, and there are no signs that it's going to change. In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered representative of America, or even a small part of it. [Ouch.] Iowa's not representative of much. There are few minorities, no sizable cities, and the state's about to lose one of its five seats in the U.S. House because its population is shifting; any growth is negligible. Still, thanks to a host of nonsensical political precedents, whoever wins the Iowa Caucuses in January will very likely have a 50 percent chance of being elected president 11 months later. Go figure. 

Maybe Ambrose Bierce described it right when he called the U.S. president "the greased pig in the field game of American politics." For better or worse, Iowa's the place where that greased pig gets generally gets grabbed first.[Seriously. What did they do to you in Iowa City? I want to know. Clearly, you've been traumatized somehow. Were they mean to you? Maybe because you stomped around with your self-righteous air of superiority? Maybe?]

* * *

Rural America has always been homogenous, as white as the milk the millions of Holstein cows here produce. Many towns are so insular that farmers from another county are strangers. Historically, at least since 1900, whether because it was too hard to get to, too uninviting, or promised too little, few newcomers chose to knock on America's Heartland door. 

Iowa anchors the Upper American Heartland, the rural interior that produces much of the world's corn, pigs, cattle, and soybeans. The corn grows so fast in Iowa -- from seedlings to 7-foot-high stalks in 12 weeks -- that it crackles nonstop throughout the summer months. The sound is like popcorn popping slow-motion in a microwave. [I've never heard this, incidentally. IT DOES NOT DO THIS. What is this dude smoking?!] That pop-pop-popping can be heard especially in the early morning hours, as dew and fog cover the acres of gently swaying cornstalks that surround farming villages the way the sea encircles an island. Rows upon rows stretch further than most urban minds can fathom, leathery husks and silky tassels bending in unison to the shimmying breeze. From one angle the corn resembles a hodgepodge of gnarly green stalks, but from another, each plant appears positioned with precision next to another, next to another, an exacting maze, for thousands upon thousands of acres. [So, you just waxed poetic for an entire paragraph about corn... please explain to me how this is relevant?]

For any corn connoisseurs out there, don't think of poaching an ear from a field, boiling it al dente, then slathering on it hot butter. Almost all the corn Iowa farmers grow is feed corn, not sweet corn. It's meant for pigs, not humans, and tastes that way. Almost all of it gets stored in an elevator (elevators in rural America raise and lower grain, not people.) [Something tells me he did this once, and was bitterly disappointed.]

Each isolated Iowa homestead is marked off by a stand of trees (usually maples, cottonwoods, sometimes basswoods), as much windbreak as shade grove from the blazing sun. Just about everyone wears a hat; farmer's tan is a condition every Iowan knows -- a blanched forehead above a leather-cured face. [HYPERBOLE ALERT! I've never had a tan line on my face. I've had tan lines from sleeves and softball uniforms, but I'm willing to bet that that is something people from other states experience as well, yes?] Ailing windmills stand unsure next to sturdy no-nonsense homes and dilapidated peeling-red barns, often with freshly tilled beds of Black-eyed Susans or gladiolas in front. 

In this land, deep within America, on Friday nights it's not unusual to take a date to a Tractor Pull or to a Combine Demolition Derby ("First they were thrashin', now they're CRASHIN'!"). [I've never done this. Do people do this?] There are few billboards along the washboard-bumpy, blacktop roads that slice through the countryside, only hand-drawn signs advertising sweet corn, cattle, lemonade, or boar semen. [WHERE ARE THESE? TELL ME.] [Lemonade or boar semen. Good lord. I need a minute. At least he used an Oxford comma there.] Driving through these throwback towns, a stranger might receive a slight nod from a farmer on the side of the road, or a two-finger driver's greeting from knobby fingers atop a pick-up's steering wheel. Strangers are rare in these parts. Why would they be here? What would bring someone with no business or family to such a remote pocket of America, where car alarms are as unheard of as home burglar alarms? [False. We hear them. And they're annoying as shit. Just like they are everywhere else.] Locals don't bother to put on their turn signals because everyone knows where everyone else is going. Some rural counties in Iowa don't have a single traffic light. 

In the large towns (population more than 2,500), towering grain elevators are what you first see from a distance. In mid-sized towns, it's church steeples, their bell towers once a call to farmers toiling in the fields. Just about every town, no matter what size, has a water tower with the town name scrawled or stenciled on the tank's side. Each summer, the 4H and Future Farmers of America sponsor contests where teenagers vie for birthing and raising the best pig, lamb, goat, roster or hen. Housewives compete for best pie (always with a no-fail pie crust). A float pulled by a farmer's pickup showcases smiling and often-hardy girls waving, to be crowned County Fair Queen, Dairy Queen, and Pork Queen. Kids compete in a Mom-calling contest; the loudest wins. [These are completely innocent words, and yet I can HEAR the disdain and disgust dripping from this guy's voice.]

Iowa is these gently rolling plains, full of farms and barns and also millions of pigs and turkeys (twenty times as many people). But there also are too-many-to-count empty storefronts (and not coincidentally scores of flourishing Wal-Marts). The region has suffered terribly, particularly since the 1980's when the ravaged farm economy started spinning out of control into free-fall. 

After winning the Iowa Caucuses three years ago, then-candidate Barack Obama didn't mince words about the lingering impact of the Farm Crisis. 

Speaking at a San Francisco fundraiser, Obama said, "Like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." 

Obama got scalded for his comments. Those are tough sentiments to share with those caught in the middle. I imagine many in the rural Midwest must have said a variation of this -- "Whaddaya expect from a Harvard-educated, black city slicker who wouldn't know a John Deere tractor from an International Harvester combine?" And what better audience before which to piss on rural America than one filled with wealthy Bay Area Democrats, few of whom could pick out Iowa from Nebraska? If the audience wasn't primarily vegan, gluten-intolerant foodies, what came out of Obama's mouth was some of the most succulent red meat he could have tossed their way. 

[Here is where I have actually become speechless and have just resorted to sitting here shaking my head. I am going to stop here for now because my head is ready to explode, and also, this is a really fucking long article. I'd skip the rest but while I was copying/pasting it, I couldn't help but notice there are a lot of gems in the latter half as well. CAN'T WAIT.]

[PS go enter the ugly holiday sweater contest. Because I am apparently a schizophrenic hick and I will cut a bitch. Paraphrasing, of course.] 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Have a Holly Jolly Contest, It's the Best Time of The Yearrrr

Hey, it's Monday! That means I have a new post up on Twenties Hacker. This week: Sparkling Peppermint Cookies. Go check it out. Then come back. Because there is awesomeness contained within this post.

I had an amazing idea yesterday Saturday while putting together my "things that currently make me happy or at least not seethe with hatred toward the world" post. It was triggered by my ugly sweater t-shirt that I found and bought and then was like, "I wish other people would get them too, or wear ugly sweaters and take pictures so we could have kind of a virtual ugly sweater party - and... and... wait!"

UGLY SWEATER CONTEST!!


But then I got stuck trying to come up with a really good prize that would actually motivate people to put on an ugly sweater and take a picture and send it to a relative stranger on the Internet.

But then I stumbled on something awesome. Keep reading. You'll see.

Rules:

1. Send me a picture of yourself wearing an ugly holiday sweater or approximation thereof OR send me a picture of your pet dressed up in some sort of holiday festiveness. I promise I won't use them for anything other than this contest.
1b. Please send them all to me by Dec 20th.
1c. Send them to kellyisclever@gmail.com. If you are entering the pet contest, please be sure to tell me your pet's name!! If you would like me to link to your blog or website in a shameless promotional plug, be sure to include that link too and I totally will.

2. I will collect them all and put them in a post that will go up on Dec 21.

3. I'm going to let the people vote on their favorites (I'm hoping I can figure out how to set up a poll on SurveyMonkey or something.) So, yes, it will be subjective which maybe is fair and maybe isn't but we'll give it a try and see what happens. In the event of a tie, I will decide the winner. It's my blog, after all, and I am the queen of this kingdom. Queendom. Blogdom. Whatever.
3b. Voting will remain open until Dec 31.

4. There will be two winners: one human, one pet. Official winners will be announced on January 1. Or January 2, if I happen to leave my house on New Year's Eve and end up being hungover or something. I'm leaving the possibility open. Even though last year I crawled in bed at 11:30 and waited until midnight to turn the lights off and fall asleep. Because I'm awesome like that.

Prize for the Human Contest is a $10 gift card to the retailer of your choice as long as I can get it from Iowa and THIS TROPHY THAT I FOUND ON THE INTERNET BECAUSE OMG. Also it will have something engraved on it. Because I love you crazy mofos.



Prize for the Pet Contest is a $10 gift card (again, your choice) and some fancy ribbon that I have not yet acquired because pets are supposed to win, like, Best in Show ribbons or something, aren't they? I don't know. It will probably be awful and tacky and awesome and wonderful.

(Because I'm sure someone will ask, YES, you may enter both the human and pet contest, but you only get 1 entry per each. If you have multiple pets, either (a) pick your favorite or (b) make sure they're all in the same picture.)

And, go!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Please hold. Something awesome will be with you shortly.

I know I said to check back today, but then I ended up having to drive a hundredish miles to help my sister with a thing at a place and then drive a hundredish miles back home and it's late and I'm tired and I am still missing one final piece of the yet-to-be-announced Awesomeness that I will hopefully have miraculously figured out by the time I wake up tomorrow but my POINT is, whatever you were hoping to find here today, you will find tomorrow instead. I KNOW, I AM SUCH A TEASE.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Not Everything Sucks.

As promised, here is a list of things I don't hate right now.

1. Animals being cute.
It melts my cold frozen bitch-heart.




2. Hugo

I was going to skip this movie because it didn't look that interesting to me but my friend made me go with him and HOLY SHIT guys. This movie is amazing. It is visually stunning, just absolutely gorgeous. The story itself is not quite what I expected but it's beautiful and wonderful and almost brought me to tears at the end. Someone on Twitter told me the book is full of amazing pencil drawings, so I might have to go check that out. But, go see this. It's wonderful.

3. Harry Potter

I am becoming one of Those people. Someone send help.


4. Ugly Sweater T-shirts
 
I purchased this online yesterday from a local shop in Des Moines and I am so excited for it to arrive. I hope I end up with an ugly sweater party to go to. If not, I'm wearing it on Christmas anyway. Even if I'll be spending most of the day in airports and airplanes.

They have other styles too. You should order one. If you do and take a picture of yourself wearing it I'll totally make a blog post about it.

OH MY GOD I JUST HAD AN IDEA. COME BACK TOMORROW FOR DETAILS.

5. Accidental giveaways/contests.

See above.

I can't continue with this list because now I am REALLY EXCITED about this giveaway that is brewing in my weirdly excitable little brain.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fuckery Roundup Friday (TM)

The world is a jumble of fucked up and I don't even know where to start these days. So I'm making a bullet-point list. Everyone loves bullet-point lists, right?

1. Rick Perry

Just STFU already. God. I am not linking his extremely pro-religion, anti-gay ad because it doesn't need anymore views but just thinking about it makes me angry. Firstly: OH THE POOR OPPRESSED CHRISTIANS, they can't pray in school or say Merry Christmas. You know what would happen if they started allowing prayer in school? People would be out with torches and pitchforks if Muslim students tried to pray. Because the only religion that is acceptable is Christianity and BY GOD we are going to force-feed that down everyone's throats. Christmas, for the record, has become a rather secular holiday. It's based on a pagan feast, for Pete's sake. Jesus wasn't really born in December. Historical fact. The point is, whoever decided that Christmas would be a Thing, decided to piggyback onto the winter celebrations so that the heathen pagans would be more amenable to the idea of it. So for all of that, I say, fuck you, Rick Perry. Separation of Church and State. Let's keep it that way? As far as your boo-hoo-ing about gays in the millitary... I don't even have words for that. Who the fuck cares?! If someone is willing to sacrifice their life to go defend us - even nutjobs like you - then they are a goddamn hero, plain and simple, and it makes no difference what their sexual orientation is. Also, the fact that you are so blatantly hateful makes you the worst possible presidential candidate in the history of ever and I hope somebody punches you in the face.

Remember that time the South decided to secede from the Union? Maybe we should let them do it again. And all the assholes can go live there and make their own crazy-ass rules and all the normal, sane people can stay in the North and everyone will be happy, the end.

2. SOPA

This still pisses me off. I think, hope, it's losing momentum because anyone who has been paying attention is up in arms about it, but I don't know. It's hard to keep up on it because it keeps getting buried under all the other fuckery that's in the news these days.

3. Michelle Duggar

It's called a condom, kids. I'm not saying that a miscarriage isn't incredibly sad and tragic but maybe it's your body telling you that you should stop.Nobody needs twenty kids. Nobody. NOBODY.

4. Fox News


If I didn't hate them enough before, I do now. Blatantly making shit up... what the fuck is this fuckery?! I mean, it's one thing to present a skewed and biased view of all current events, but when you start fabricating things, you should lose your journalism license.

"The Constitution has no Article 28, has no Section 144, and does not contain the language quoted. The Constitution actually contains seven articles, none of which have more than 10 sections. It also has 27 amendments, none of which contain anywhere near 144 sections."


Oh! ALSO! THIS: Claiming the Muppets are communists. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST THEY ARE PUPPETS FOR GOD'S SAKE. MUPPETS. MUPPET PUPPETS. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU THAT YOU ARE SO HELLBENT ON BRAINWASHING YOUR BAND OF IGNORANT FOLLOWERS INTO A PANIC ABOUT YOUR KIDS BEING MANIPULATED BY A BUNCH OF FUCKING PUPPETS. I HATE YOU AND THE AIR THAT YOU BREATHE.

5. Justin Bieber and contemporary Christmas music.

Whoever has that song that's just "Fa la. La la. La la." I want to burn their house down. I'm including Justin Bieber because I hate him and I am blaming him for all of society's problems. I just want to punch that smug little bitchface of his. I can't wait until he hits puberty and goes the fuck away.

Also the bullshit that passes for holiday music these days. Seriously. You are ruining my life and my childhood and any fraction of holiday spirit that maybe I've been able to muster, ever. BAH FUCKING HUMBUG.

6. The attack on peaceful protestors, especially in the Occupy movement.

They're not being violent, they're not being hateful, they're just exercising their Constituationally-given right to assemble and KEEP YOUR PEPPER SPRAY IN YOUR PANTS because you are an ABOMINATION AGAINST THOSE WHO SWORE TO SERVE AND PROTECT. Seriously. What.

7. The fact that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and I kind of hope the world does end in 2012 because my head will probably explode before then anyway because there is too much rampant fuckery and hatred and what the fuck did we do to get ourselves into this mess? FIX IT. FIX IT NOW.

'Nuff said.

Tomorrow I will post things that I don't hate. Just for some balance in the universe.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Infamy.


Seventy years ago today, Japan launched an attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, launching the United States into WWII. This is a significant moment in history, as that act changed the course of the war, and thus, the course of history.

It's also a significant moment for me and my family. My grandfather was there, aboard the USS Helena. Both he and his twin brother (I feel bad, I can't remember what ship he was on) survived the attack and went on to spend some time in the Pacific before heading home for good. My grandpa married my grandma (who was engaged to another man at the time, but she just couldn't resist my grandpa's devilish charm) and had seven kids. That seventh kid went on to be my dad. If things had gone differently, I wouldn't be here. Hell, most of us wouldn't be here - I'm sure many of you have relatives that were involved in the war.

My grandpa died when I was thirteen, proving that cancer can take down even the scrappiest of fighters. I wish I could have gotten to know him more as an adult. That he could have seen me graduate from high school, and then college. Maybe get married someday. See my sister and I actually get along. Maybe he's still watching, but it's not the same, really.

My grandma still goes to the survivor reunions every year. There are only two survivors left in Iowa, and they've decided to officially disband their chapter after this year. In a way, it's bittersweet - it's definitely the end of an era. I'm glad people still remember, though. There were far fewer posts on Twitter and Facebook today than there was for 9/11 (which is to be expected) or for Veterans' Day (again, to be expected) - but some remember. Some, who remind others. I posted a picture of my grandpa today and so far it has received over 40 "likes" - each one makes me tear up a little bit with pride. I remember, and I remind them. Together, we pay our homages.

The 1940s/WWII era has always fascinated me, but all I know if it comes from history books and movies. The way they dressed (curls and red lipstick and cotton dresses, swoon), they way everything was so much more urgent, so much more passionate, so much more real, because the world could end any day, for all they knew. They lived and loved, like we do. Like we do, but differently. Everything was different back then. Was it better? I don't know. It's certainly been idealized quite a bit.

And yet- it's hard to imagine the people of that generation, all getting up there in age now, playing bingo and cradling their great-grandbabies and driving ten miles an hour under the speed limit - they were our age, if not younger, when Pearl Harbor happened, when the war happened. Pearl Harbor was their 9/11, but it changed them in different ways. They've been called The Greatest Generation. Maybe it's part of their myth, their legend. Maybe time has glossed over the truth behind the stores, but it fascinates me all the same. They were called up to serve for the greater good, and they did so without the whining and entitlement that is far too common today. This? This unholy mess of the 1% vs the 99%, of gays being discriminated against, of police officers pepper-spraying the very citizens they are supposed to protect, of the economy in shambles, of politicians bickering and rhetoricizing and placing corporate interests and greed above the good of the common people, refusing to work together, refusing to compromise - this is what they fought for. What have we done to the world that they saved for us? 

But that's not my point. My point is, they did save the world. Our soldiers? They are our superheroes. Forget your Batmans, your Supermans, your Iron Men, your Captain Americas - whether in the 1940s or the 2000s or the 2011s, our soldiers are the ones putting their lives on the line. My grandpa did it seventy years ago, and right now, someone else's future grandpa is doing it now. I hope in seventy years, they'll remember to say thank you, too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of... Pumpkin Cake

Today is my last pumpkin recipe on TwentiesHacker before I move into the more seasonally-appropriate peppermint. (Cheers from the crowd? Maybe?)

Shoutout to the chimes for requesting this. I had found a different pumpkin cake ball recipe on the Pinterest that I had saved but I printed them both off and compared them and hers seemed better. So that's the one I made.


Also, this one kind of drove me crazy, but it's possibly because I'm just not wise in the ways of the world. It calls specifically for white chocolate flavored candy melts... which Twitter told me are NOT the same thing as baking chips or white chocolate chips and so you should not try to substitute one for the other even if you have wandered the entire grocery store and are cranky and frustrated because apparently the place to FIND candy melts are at craft stores. I don't know. So I bought a box of baking squares at Target, which I realized were not going to be enough for the entire batch, so I continued my quest and found a bag of candy melts. Hobby Lobby, bless their souls, had milk chocolate, dark chocolate, dark chocolate mint, vanilla in like five different colors, and orchid (!?) - but no white chocolate. Waving the white flag of defeat, I went home with a bag of vanilla. And then I ran out anyway so I had to do the last third of the batch with some chocolate almond bark that I had stashed in my pantry from last December. All in all, the whole thing was kind of ridiculous.

Also, The cake itself smelled a lot like the pumpkin muffins I made (you know, the ones with just cake mix and a can of pumpkin) and so now I'm slightly curious as to what would happen if you just took those two ingredients and, instead of putting them in a muffin pan, put them into a cake pan and tried to bake it. I think I'm going to try this. (For science!) Why not? I have an overabundance of pumpkin since I felt compelled to buy a can every time I was in the grocery store.When/if I decide to try this, I'll let you guys know how it works out.

Please love this post. It took me forever. In between the questing for the damn candy melts and the actual making of the cake balls and trying to get my stupid pictures sorted and edited and then my browser crashed mid-post which caused me to have to rewrite part of it... it took me a long-ass time. HOURS.

Also the cake balls are really good.