Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Fresh Start in 4706

Today marks the beginning of the 4706th Chinese New Year. Based on the solar calendar, it is always the first day of the second new moon following the winter solstice, which took place on December 21st of last year. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, the day the sun ("sol") stands still ("sistere"). In other words, we are halfway through winter, a fact of which I am grateful.

To celebrate, many Chinese throughout the world will wear red, which is the color of fire and thought to drive away bad luck. Children will receive "lucky money" in red envelopes. Buddists participate in the religious ceremony of "Pure Light" in which they honor and reunite with their ancestors. The fifteen day holiday season ends with the full moon, which is February 21st. The Lantern Festival features fireworks and parades of the "Dragon Dance". These "frightening" creatures beat off all devils, paving the way for a year of good fortune.

This is the Year of the Rat, which indicates the start of a new 12 year cycle. Folklore describes the day Buddha (or God) named the twelve "Earthly Branches": He instructs twelve animals to cross the Yellow River to him, tells them he will name the years in the order in which each animal reaches him. In a clever maneuver the rat jumps on the back of the Ox, hops onto the shore at the last minute to win the race. The rat has the first year named in his honor, as well as the control of the strongest water element.

2008 is also a year of "Yang Earth" or "Big Mountain", which corresponds to the strongest of the earthly forces. This year unites the most intense energies of earth and water, much like a ship on a turbulent ocean. The captain of such a ship needs a "Plan B" if he and his crew are to survive. Our country may find itself in a similar situation this November.

Observing the Chinese New Year provides a second chance to many of us who have experienced a false start in meeting our January 1st resolutions. The first week of February seems to be the time every year when I decide to really lose that ten pounds and to really try to reach those goals I listed a month ago.

Why do I need this extra time every year? Perhaps it's because short little February leads to March and that means spring. I can see the light flickering at the end of winter's tunnel. At 5:30 pm yesterday it was almost dark as I was watching the does in our back yard. I found myself wondering which of them would deliver the fawns we'd see in June.

Chinese Astrology predicts that 4076 will be both exciting and unpredictable. Hopefully the crew of our ship will be ready for an altered course. Happy New Year!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Gloves are on/Election 2008 Update

Don Imus describes the latest episodes of Election 2008 as "enormously entertaining". To many viewers, it is quickly beginning to resemble a championship fight. South Carolina brought out the beast in Hillary, prompting her to accuse Obama of being a "Chicago slumlord" who had worked for Antoin Rezko, an alleged criminal. The next days Drudge Report showed a picture of Bill and Hillary posing with the same man.

It's becoming glaringly obvious that Billary will say or do anything to secure the win for their team. Bill has become a weak link here, as he seems to have little control over the words that emerge from his mouth. Most recently he commented on Barack's overwhelming win in South Carolina as being reminiscent of Jesse Jackson's track record in the state. Huh? There is but one similarity between these two individuals. Why doesn't Bill just go ahead now and throw Hillary overboard with the brick tied to her foot? Al Sharpton tells Bill: "Shut Up".

In contrast, Barack seems to prefer the higher moral ground, calmly pointing out the distortion of facts by his opponent. His appears to be a class act in comparison, one that is not punctuated with the insulting language and scoffing innuendo of his competitors. The Clinton tactics have left a sour taste in the mouths of many Americans, including many in Washington. Today we witnessed a powerful scene at American University as we watched Barack stand on the same stage with three members of the Kennedy family, who passionately and eloquently voiced their support. If Kennedy can recover the very important Latino vote, Team Clinton will have a very competitive race to the finish. February 5th will be a compelling episode which will reveal each team's relative strength in the big arena.

Meanwhile, John Edwards patiently waits at the back, like the abandoned little brother. Because of his failure to alienate either democratic camp, he has placed himself in a prime running mate spot for November.

Remember the Republicans? Mitt and John are trading insults, but are hardly stealing public attention from the Democrats. In an amusing article in the National Review last week, White House Correspondent Byron York mentioned that most Republicans are becoming afraid of Obama. He described his recent experience at a Columbia, South Carolina rally for Barack. Accompanied by a Republican friend, he witnessed "one of the best political performances anyone has seen this year". His friend remarked that he was reminded of the scene in Jaws, in which the hometown sheriff "realizes how big the shark he's tracking truly is, and says, 'We're gonna need a bigger boat.'"

This show is real and has Americans buzzing. Everyone has their favorite team, but it's much too soon to predict the outcome of this race.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Election 2008/Best Reality Show Update

We're still tuning in. This new reality show continues to capture the attention of the american public, and rightfully so. Of course, we don't have much else to watch. Diehard football fans are dozing. The New England Patriots, now with 17 consecutive wins, are approaching the first 19-0 season in NFL history. Tom Brady isn't even mildly entertaining since he welcomed his son by Bridget Moynahan. He has maintained a stable relationship with his model girlfriend, Gisele Bundchen. Honey, could you please change the channel?

Let's see if Bill snapped at any reporters today. There's nothing like seeing him get all red in the face while defending his long-suffering wife. He was absolutely livid about the culinary union's deal in Vegas, but it turns out Hillary won anyway. Good for her. It was her turn, after all.

I heard someone say recently that the campaign was beginning to resemble a Publishers' Clearing House giveaway, which I thought was a perfect analogy. Every week seems to have a surprise winner. Just when you think you know who will be on the ballot in November, someone from the back moves up and cancels all your bets. It's simply great television.

John McCain looked fairly defeated after Michigan and Nevada. The autoworkers didn't want to hear that their jobs were gone forever, even though it was the truth. Romney successfully adopted Barack's "false hope" card there, and his lucky streak continued in Nevada.

Despite the Culinary Union's endorsement of Obama, Hillary won the most votes in Nevada. Does this mean that latinos prefer the lady? Or does it mean that they felt bullied by their bosses? The answer to this becomes a little hazy when we hear that Barack somehow garnered more delegates in the state. Don't ask me how this could happen, because it makes no sense to me either. Actually, I think a lack of understanding here only adds to the suspense. I can't miss an episode because each week's winner is impossible to predict. One has to wait till the very end of each episode to hear the shocking outcome in this exciting power struggle.

In South Carolina, we worried about our friend, John McCain. His losing streak was making his chances for continuing the race seem slim. We followed the numbers and again, we were relieved to see his win over the smooth-talking rich kid and the puffed-up sleazy preacher. And so, my friends, Mr. McCain will continue. And dear reader, if you suspect that I favor this man for November, you would be correct in your assumption. Forgive my lack of objectivity, but it's one of the few advantages I have, being the brilliant new, as yet undiscovered, writer that I am.

Meanwhile, we've heard hide nor hair of Oprah. I wonder what happened there? Is it a coincidence that, for the first time in four years, "Ellen" has been named as the best daytime talk show? Mmmmm....How quickly the alliances change in this nail-biter. Chuck Norris still hangs out with Huckabee, but who really cares?

Now, on to Florida, a state whose election results have entertained us in the past. Maybe this year the recount will give Fred Thompson and John Edwards the wins they need to see another day. Stay tuned. I know I will.

Monday, January 14, 2008

America's Best New Reality Show

It’s been ten weeks since the writers’ strike began. The media bosses have already lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Like kindergarten children, they are still refusing to share their enormous profits with the writers. The writers are the people who not only conceive the stories, but who bring the stories alive with realistic and engaging dialogue. To fill the void, the major networks are serving up rejected pilots, cancelled shows, re-runs, and, of course, those reality shows.

Are we watching? Some of us have just turned off the television to pursue more stimulating pastimes, such as reading, or talking to our spouses. Many of us, however, have tuned in to a new reality show. It is well written and focuses on issues that are meaningful to us. The people are passionate, articulate and intelligent. Perhaps most important, there is plenty of conflict.

"Election 2008" is the most engaging new show on television. My favorite episode so far was the one in which Hillary responds to a question posed during the New Hampshire debate. She was told that many Americans felt her opponent, Barack Obama, was more "likeable" than she. Her response was “Well, that hurts my feelings.“ It was an amusing and endearing moment, and probably had a little to do with her winning the New Hampshire primary. On another occasion, she tearfully acknowledged that the campaign had been very difficult. She showed us her humanity and we liked her a little more.

As the show progresses, we have voted off several nominees, and only a few remain. Things are starting to get a little dicey. In preparation for the South Carolina primary, where 50% of the voters are black, the race issue is surfacing. Obama supporters are still outraged about the comment Hillary made implying Obama was no Martin Luther King, Jr. Her chances for success have been severely damaged by this, as well as the disparaging remarks made by a member of her staff, Francine Torge: “…Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated…” During this introduction, Hillary didn’t bat an eye of disapproval, which I’m sure she now regrets. Unfortunately, there are no retakes in reality television.

Poor Hillary is scrambling to regain the ground she’s lost. Accusing Obama of giving Americans “false hope” was counterproductive. At this point, hope is the only thing many Americans have, and they don’t want to be told that it’s false. They are looking for another man with a dream, much like Martin Luther King, Jr. They are looking for another man who will attempt the impossible, like walking on the moon, as John F. Kennedy did.

She needs to reassess her strategy if she wants to compete in the final round, because Obama is indeed beginning to look like the fairy tale everyone wants. As is always the case, America will ultimately vote for the candidate who reminds them most of themselves. This is the candidate they will entrust with their future.

"Election 2008" will undoubtedly suffer in the ratings when "American Idol" premieres Tuesday night, but in the long run, I predict it will remain on top. You can be assured that at the end of the season, all of us will be tuned in. Only one candidate will be named “Leader of the Free World” in November. The others, as Heidi Klum would say, “will be out.” They will have to pack up their knives and go.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Electing a President

So far I've kept the promises I made to myself four days ago. One of these was to educate myself about the issues and candidates surrounding the presidential election. I've had the right to vote since 1975, and I've taken advantage of it during every major election. I guess that's more than some people do, but it isn't enough.

Historically, I've approached the second Tuesday in November as if it was merely the final exam for a pass/fail grade in college. The night before I cram as much information into my head as I can, hoping that it will be enough to give me credit for taking the course. I believe my aversion to politics stems from my feeling that what I hear is not necessarily the truth, or, as is often the case, not the whole truth. With this a given fact, I pay less attention to the issues, and more to the character of the candidate. Ultimately, the person I vote for may not address specific concerns in the manner I would prefer, but at least I will respect their ability and integrity to make sound judgements on important issues.

Having said this, I have to say I'm happy about the results of the Iowa caucus. I believe that Obama and Huckabee are as credible as you can realistically expect in this world. So far Obama has done nothing to make me question his character. Huckabee's recent slight of hand with the media has made me a little leery of him, but I'm willing to let one mistake slide. After all, he is human. My opinion of him will probably be decided in the next few months when I see how he conducts himself against Obama. Then again, maybe Obama isn't as perfect as he appeared last night, and I guess a competitive race is to our advantage.

Last night made one thing clear. It appears as though many of us want things to change. If the results in Iowa are any indication, the majority of Americans want a fresh slate. Unfortunately, John McCain will probably be a casualty of this thinking. This is a shame, because I'd probably vote for him if given the opportunity.

In November I'll be given only two choices, and I will work with what I have. Until then, I'm going to keep up with the classwork. This course of study is graded and I want to get an A.