Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Annual Mormon Book Review

Carrying on from last year's review of David Robert's Devil's Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy, here is a second review of another Mormon-centered book. Enjoy!

Jared Farmer. On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008. 455 pages. Cloth: Alkaline Paper. $29.95.

From the early days of the inception of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS), the Mormons were concerned with place-making. Joseph Smith, the religion’s founder, initially identified Jackson County, Missouri as the “center place,” where the Garden of Eden had once stood. However, the devout were soon thrown out of the state by the governor, and moved on to Nauvoo, Illinois. Later, after Smith was assassinated, the new Mormon leader, Brigham Young, turned his gaze farther west and in 1846-1847 led a party of followers to Utah, which he claimed as “Deseret”—their Zion. There, the Saints found their “place apart” from the rest of the world.

Jared Farmer’s 2008 book On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape adroitly traces Mormon place-making in Utah. His story is ostensibly about Mount Timpanogos, a landmark known as “Timp” that unites the skyline above Orem and Provo. But the history involves much more than the mountain. It is a microcosm of Angloamerican settlement in the west. Using a singular landmark, Farmer delves into the importance of creating place out of space. He asks why Mount Timpanogos usurped the importance of the historically and agriculturally significant Lake Utah, and how the Mormon settlers manipulated their turbulent history with the Ute Indians in order to make myths and claim places as their own. The book deals with two centuries of history, as well as the interaction between varied cultures and the sometimes contradictory dogma of the LDS Church. Though complex, On Zion’s Mount is a wonderfully executed book—well written, insightful, and an excellent example of how to use local history to illuminate greater historical narratives.

The book is divided into three sections, each focusing on a different step in the climb to the veneration of “Timp.” The first, “Liquid Antecedents,” deals with the early history of the Ute Indians and the Mormons. It also concentrates on how bodies of water were significant to residents and settlers in the Utah Valley. This section is compelling, as Farmer explains just how distinct the freshwater Lake Utah was in the arid Great Basin. The lake was a natural landmark for the Utes, who relied heavily on its plentiful supply of fish. In the mid-1800s, it became a landmark for the Mormons, who arrived predisposed to seek out monuments in their new “holy land.”

Despite the Mormons’ intention to find a locale that was disconnected from the rest of the world, the Utah Valley, where the first waves of Mormons settled, was not a “place apart.” It was populated with Ute Indians, who had lived in the area for centuries. The wellspring for many of these Utes was Utah Lake, a freshwater reservoir southeast of the Great Salt Lake. The Indians there called themselves Timpanogos Nuche—“Rocky River Fish Eaters.” They identified themselves in connection with the body of water. The Mormons entered into an unstable relationship with the Timpanogos; an association characterized by violent fits, uneasy alliances, and contradictory feelings. This fluctuating friendship came with a bond to Utah Lake.

Both the Timpanogos and the Mormons emphasized the importance of place. The Utes classified bands by “geographic food names” like “Lake People” and “Fish-Eaters.” (25) The Saints were concerned with place as it related to Millenialism. While other religions affected by the Second Great Awakening believed in a prediction of when Christ would return, the Mormons were concerned with where. (36) When the Mormons arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, the hot springs, streams, and of course the Great Salt Lake all contributed to the Saints’ belief that they had found their promised land. In the waters they took healing baths, baptized their children, and fished. These same waters had been frequented by the Utes for decades, if not centuries.

From their introduction onward, relations between the Mormons and the Timpanogos were rocky. In 1849, the former noticed that livestock was missing, and rallied a group to ride south and confront Little Chief, a Ute leader who lived on the shores of Utah Lake. The chief turned the Saints towards some “mean Ewtes,” who they subsequently slaughtered for stealing.(62) Three days afterward, a band of Mormon men decided to relocate their families to Utah Lake. The Saints settled in the midst of hostilities between bands of Utes. In order to secure their own safety, the settlers at Utah Lake as well as the LDS leadership engaged in unsteady diplomacy and occasional fights with different Indian contingents.

To complicate the already problematic situation, Mormons arrived in Utah with preconceptions of Native Americans. In fact, Indians were integral to the burgeoning religion’s discourse. According to LDS dogma, Indians were descendants of the “Lamanites,” once followers of Christ who traveled to America before the Babylon captivity. In the New World, the hostile sect broke away from their brothers, the “Nephites.” For this, God cursed the Lamanites with dark skin. The ill-fated group waged war on the Nephites and erased any fragments of Christianity from the land. The last Nephite scribe, Moroni, was the impetus for the Mormon religion. He came to Joseph Smith in a dream and told him where to find the scriptural record of this lost history. With his revelation of the sanctity of the Lamanites, Smith incorporated proselytizing to Indians into the Book of Mormon. The descendants of the Lamanites who converted would be saved during the Second Coming. More importantly, they would assist Christ in destroying the earth as soldiers of the apocalypse. This created a contradictory idea of Native Americans: “They were cursed to be inferior yet promised to be superior. They were destined to save the world, yet they couldn’t save themselves.”(57) Furthermore, dealing with real-life Utes proved harder than the LDS leadership imagined.

The tension in Saints’ beliefs between “Indian-as-brother and Indian-as-other” continued to influence their interactions with natives around Utah Lake.(61) Young was wary of the amicable relations between his followers and the Timpanogos and wished that the two groups not mix. In 1850, following the murder of an Indian man, the Mormons and the Utes engaged in the “Indian War.” Later, LDS leadership chastised natives for engaging in slave trade with a New Mexican. Though in Mormon thought there were some redeemable Indians, by 1860 Young was determined that the Utes ought to be displaced. He wrote to Washington, D.C.: “It is our wish that the Indian title should be extinguished, and the Indians removed from our Territory (Utah) and that for the best of reasons, because they are doing no good here to themselves or any body else.”(82) By the latter half of the 1860s most of the Timpanogos people moved to the Uinta Basin, estranged from the place upon which they based their identity.

Following the removal of the Utes, Utah Lake experienced a surge and then a decline in popularity that mirrored the fate of other regional waterways. In the late 19th century, tourists came to the area to take in the healing waters of the hot springs, the Great Salt Lake, and Utah Lake. Additionally, the latter continued to be a distinguished fishery. However, this fame did not last. In the first half of the 20th century, fires destroyed a number of Salt Lake resorts. Overfishing and the introduction of nonnative species affected Utah Lake. The Great Depression and WWII furthered the destruction of water sport popularity. The federal government opened the Geneva Steel plant on Utah Lake; its smokestacks and pollution diminished the reservoir’s beauty and water quality. Even after the plant closed in 2001, the lake had lost its reputation. Residents considered it dirty, shallow, and full of undesirable fish. Furthermore, during the twentieth century Utahans rethought their sense of identity. Instead of revering the hydrological geography of Utah, its residents had turned their gaze upward to the peaks.

The second section of the book, “Making a Mountain: Alpine Play,” discusses how Utahans built Mount Timpanogos into a landmark. Farmer makes great use of the exclusion of certain places as well as their later inclusion. Using topographical resources from the four western surveys, as well as mormon settler drawings and maps, Farmer shows how Timpanogos went from being an undefined ridge in the Wasatch Range to a distinct massif that overshadowed both the larger Mount Nebo to the south and the historically significant Lake Utah to the west.

As in the first three chapters, Farmer employs LDS beliefs to form the basis of his argument. The Saints’ theological sense of place included an emphasis on mountains. Settlers viewed their new homeland through religion; mountains pervade world religions as the geographical pathway to God. Peaks were of special importance to Mormons, since Joseph Smith purportedly prophesied that they would “become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.”(150) When the Saints arrived in Deseret, they labeled many geographic sites with biblical names, including Mount Nebo, the highest peak in the Wasatch range. However, in the 1880s Mormons began to secularize their environment. This shift was motivated by the United States Congress, which outlawed theocracy and polygamy. During what Mormons call “The Great Accommodation,” the Saints rethought the peaks in a patriotic light.

The King Survey was the first to identify “Tim-pan-o-gos Peak” in 1869.(164) However, no one considered it a defining aspect of the region, and many could not even see it; the massif was just a part of the jagged wall between Provo and American Fork Canyons. It wasn’t until the early decades of the 20th century that residents of Provo “began to visualize a mountain.”(167) The view of Timpanogos from Provo changed as the town relocated to the east of its original home at old Fort Utah. Spurred by the historic importance of mountains to the Mormons as well as the “European vogue of alpine aesthetics,” it was not unnatural for the residents of Provo to revere a nearby peak.(141) By 1910, the town described itself in relation to the mountain.

The King Survey did more than just identify Mount Timpanogos—the survey also pronounced it (erroneously) the highest peak in the Wasatch Range. In reality, that title belongs to Mount Nebo. However, the claim persisted even after the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey corrected the record, and tourists began arriving to climb the “highest mountain in the Wasatch.”(175) With the boosterism of Eugene “Timpanogos” Roberts, Brigham Young University’s athletics director, and the national increase in the popularity of hiking, “Timp” became a recreational landmark. Roberts led yearly hikes to the top of the massif, and along with the claim that they were climbing the highest peak in the Wasatch, boosters “endlessly repeated claims that the Annual Timpanogos Hike ranked as the biggest hike in America, the greatest community hike in the world, and the largest ‘pilgrimage’ to any mountain over 10,000 feet.”(202) The peak, as well as its ascent were powerful symbols of community strength.

Though the hike was discontinued in the 1970s, the peak remained emblematic of Provo. The Forest Service designated Timpanogos as wilderness. They banned the grazing of domestic animals and introduced mountain goats to the area in 1981. Meanwhile, Provo and Orem transformed from farming communities into suburbia and Robert Redford bought and built up Sundance. These changes emphasized the dichotomy between wilderness and urban areas. With the growth in population of the two cities and the ski resort, Timpanogos increased in importance. In 1996 the mountain’s significance was solidified in Mormon minds when the LDS Church built Mount Timpanogos Temple. Farmer ends this section with a rumination on environmentalism. Despite all the reverence for place, Mormons are not conservationists, and do not engage in preservation of their landmark. “Sense,” he concludes, “is not the same as sensibility.”(238)

The final section of the book, “Making a Mountain: Indian Play,” investigates how “Timp” was marked with cultural meaning. Farmer examines the place name as well as the legends that surround it. In the nineteenth century, white Americans like Henry Schoolcraft and Lydia Sigourney advocated the use of Indian place-names, despite the usual miscommunication, misappropriation, or blatant invention of “native” words. The American government continued the trend by accepting Indianist names of states. In Utah, “Timpanogos” was a long-remembered name in the Provo region. The Indians themselves were displaced to the Uinta Band, and though the name had originally designated a river, the waterway had been renamed “Provo River.” For locals, associating the mountain with a Native word “gave the landmark a heightened semblance of antiquity and authenticity.”(281)

Ironically, to further this authenticity, Eugene “Timpanogos” Roberts provided the mountain with a fake Indian legend. “The Story of Utahna and Red Eagle, an Indian Legend of Timpanogos” retold a familiar Angloamerican tale of the Indian Princess—the “dark-skinned Sappho” throwing herself from a precipice in response to a suitor.(287) These stories, all of which have suspect providence, used Native American tragedies to deepen American antiquity.(297) In a land without any ancient city walls or moldering castles, a sense of historic depth was created through legend. Additionally, the legends of leaping maidens alleviated whites’ guilt on displacing the Indians across the continent. The tales emphasized either brutish men that the women could only escape by committing suicide or savage societies that forced women to neglect her chosen lover. Either ended with the implicit message: the race of Indians is uncivilized. More importantly, the destruction of these Native maids was self-imposed. In an age when America was dealing with the morality of Indian Removal, it was more convenient for white storytellers that the natives to make the choice of self-destruction.(314)

The Legend of Timpanogos gained further footing by its performance in Utah. People repeated the story of Utahna and Red Eagle, and the tale influenced an opera, a ballet, and an oratorio. Locals further promoted the fake history by dressing up in war paint and moccasins and climbing the mountain “as Indians.” The mountain was seen as the embodiment of a Native woman; like the “Sleeping Ute” in Colorado, “Timp’s” ridge resembles a slumbering Indian maid. The Mormon use of Indianist music, storytelling, and fashion to create the Legend of Timpanogos was paradoxical in that they paid homage to a romanticized version of the people that they had forced out of the Utah Valley—the Timpanogos’ ancestral home. These cultural performances replaced history with both fiction and selective memory. Modern residents of Utah formed their own heritage; no matter that their memory is based on a fallacy.

But of course it does matter, which is Farmer’s point. Mormons produced a heritage that all but erased the Utes, just as it effaced the importance of Utah Lake. Instead of concentrating on their forebears’ efforts to colonize a “place apart,” which would necessitate emphasis on their interactions with the Indian inhabitants, Saints overwhelming focused their attention on the successive journeys westward. LDS theologians went so far as to modify the meaning of a Lamanite, so that Amerindians lost their scriptural status.(370) When they did incorporate Native Americans into their heritage, they did so with Indianist fictional stories that obscured history with romanticism. In this way, Farmer’s book acts as a historical monument, countering the heritage attached to Mount Timpanogos. Using “Timp” as a framework for his study, Farmer is able to resurrect the forgotten history of the Timpanogos Nuches and Lake Utah.

On Zion’s Mount is an outstanding cultural, local, environmental, and religious history. Farmer engages readers with his lucid prose even as he presents the tangled story of Mormons, Utes, and the western landscape. Such excellent writing is especially important when one is reminded of some of the recently popular books on Mormon history: Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven and David Roberts’ Devil’s Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy.19 Krakauer and Roberts are both professional journalists and authors; their work is aimed at the populace rather than the academy. And yet Farmer rivals these works in its composition and surpasses them in its historic breadth and depth. More importantly for scholars, his argument illuminates the American inclination to transform its landscape and pinpoints those transformations in culture and historic memory. Overall, Timpanogos’ jagged ridge proved an excellent vantage point from which to view Utah’s past.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Four Mile Canyon Fire

After a stressful week, the Four Mile Canyon Fire is allegedly 83% contained, with 166 homes destroyed by the blaze (source: Daily Camera). Of course, that doesn't account for the houses with sprinkler systems that went off almost a week ago. In terms of property damage, this is the worst fire in recorded Colorado history.

As for the Gold Hill Inn and historic downtown Gold Hill, it survived the fire—barely.

The Bluebird Inn is in the bottom right-hand corner of the following picture. The Bluebird was the town's hotel from 1873-1920, when the Holiday House Association bought it for their summer retreats. The HHA was a group of single, professional women from Chicago who went by the name "Bluebirds." They were present in Gold Hill throughout the first half of the 20th Century, and sold the Bluebird and the Gold Hill Inn in the 1950s. Both buildings were sold to the Finn family in 1962.

This is a view from in front of the Gold Hill Inn, which abuts the Bluebird Lodge to the west. The fire is raging just behind it.

According to witnesses, this picture captures the exact moment when the town was saved. Firefighters at the scene reported that the wind calmed for about a minute, and during that brief respite a bomber dropped slurry on the south side of town. Residents are currently attempting to find information about the pilot of this plane, in order to thank him/her.Though the historic community of Gold Hill was spared the fire, there are still hundreds of individuals and families who have been profoundly and devastatingly affected. Even those whose homes didn't burn have been displaced, and the mountain communities now lack infrastructure. Not to mention that the Four Mile Fire Station in Salina burned down, and the Boulder County Volunteer Fire Stations have lost much of their tax base.

If you're interested in giving to the firefighters who lost their houses as well as to the Salina Volunteer Fire Department, you can easily donate $10 by texting "FIRE" to 27722. You can get more information about that here.

As for me, I'm planning a new oral history project on the Four Mile Canyon Fire. If you know anyone who is interested in being interviewed about their experiences, you may leave a comment here or contact me at mckennaarchives@gmail.com.

*All photos courtesy of Kurtis Leverentz and goldhilltown.com.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Labor Day Fire

A fire started today in Emerson Gulch, which is off of Four Mile Canyon and three-tenths of a mile south of Gold Hill, Colorado. According to my parents, who are currently 4 miles north of Ward, the winds have reached 70-80 mph blowing north-northeast. The Longmont Times-Call reports that a fire truck and three structures have burned so far. Gold Hill is being evacuated, along with fire crews.
Here is a photo published by the Longmont Times-Call:

Here are some photos of the foothills that I took in the last hour:

Notice the contrast between the sky towards the Flatirons to the south and the sky northward. That wind is blowing pretty hard to keep the smoke from traveling south.

I am currently quite involved in Gold Hill—apart from the friends who live there, I am conducting an oral history project on the Gold Hill community and I also work as a waitress at the Gold Hill Inn.

Gold Hill is one of the most unique mountain communities in Colorado. Founded in 1859, it celebrated its sesquicentennial last year. The town is a National Register of Historic Places District, and it is an important cultural resource for the study of Colorado mining history.

More than anything, Gold Hill is a place where the residents strive to maintain their sense of history and place. They run the Gold Hill School, which has been in operation since 1873, and the Gold Hill Museum, which is dedicated to preserving and maintaining the town's heritage. They have fought to keep their streets unpaved and their school open when the Boulder Valley School District sought to close it. Gold Hill residents spend their evenings at the Gold Hill Inn, where they play music and drink in the dining hall.

The Gold Hill School, which serves residents of Gold Hill and Ward and teaches children k-5:

The Gold Hill Inn (right) and the Bluebird Lodge (left):

My recent history research is about how the Gold Hill community maintains and understands its heritage. As someone whose life is framed and punctuated by thoughts of history, and who believes that the study of history is essential to understanding humanity, the Gold Hill community's approach to heritage is especially heartening. And now we can only wait and see if this important cultural resource--this incredibly unique place--will survive. There is something particularly painful about the threat of annihilation to such a powerfully historic community.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I haven't felt like writing on here for quite some time. Instead, I've been doodling and scanning the doodles. So here's a taste of what I've betrayed you for.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mongolia. Again.

Do they need any introduction? These are my favorite images of today's slide archiving session.

This one's my grandfather, Malcolm McKenna. He's was a rugged old dinosaur, wasn't he?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mongolian Dinosaurs!

As my grandparents travelled along the Terelj road in Mongolia, they came upon a sight that my paleontologist grandfather never believed he would see. Dinosaurs scouring the Mongolian slopes for prey!

Oh oops...I guess they're fake. Damn.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book: Devil's Gate

Devil's Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy by David Roberts is one of the most absorbing and thought provoking works of history that I have read recently, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of the American West or Mormonism. Roberts delves into the greatest tragedy of the migration westward in Nineteenth Century America (I'd like to elucidate that I am referring to the greatest tragedy in the migration itself, not the tragedies that occurred as a consequence of the migration)—the loss of more than 200 immigrants due to a decision, sanctioned by Brigham Young, for the last two companies of pioneers to start out late in the year. The book argues that the handcart "experiment" was an ill-thought out expedition that valued monetary efficiency and expediency over human lives, and that, despite Young's protestations of ignorance after the fact, he was knowledgeable of the late starts and therefore culpable for the disaster.
Scared that the US government was going to march on the State of Deseret (a huge swath of land that encapsulated all of present-day Utah and Nevada as well as parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona), Young decided that he needed an army of Mormons. Recruiting poor Northern Europeans was easy, but transporting them from the East Coast to Deseret was a costly enterprise. In light of these costs, Young decided that the pioneers ought to embark from Iowa City, Iowa (where the railway lines stopped) to Salt Lake City on foot, pulling their belongings and sustenance on handcarts. With a 17 lb limit to each immigrant's load, Young calculated that "fifeen miles a day will bring [the handcart companies] through in 70 days, and after they get accustomed to it they will travel 20, 25, and even 30 with all ease." (pg. 91) His estimation was optimistic to the point of delusion.
The handcart pioneers were plagued with bad luck, starting as early in the journey as Iowa City. There, the first two companies disembarked from the train in early May to find that there had been no handcarts made for them. Such an oversight on the part of the Mormon who was posted in Iowa City to negotiate the purchase and construction of the handcarts forced the immigrants, many of whom had no knowledge of carpentry, to construct their own carts out of green wood. This same fate awaited all five of the companies in 1856; each company set out with shoddily-made handcarts that were ill-constructed for the 1,300 mile journey across Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah ahead of them. While the first three companies suffered immense hardship, the final two were pushed to the edge, with many of their parties falling into the deathly chasm.
The final two companies of 1956—the Willie and Martin companies (named after their leaders, James G. Willie and Edward Martin)— did not arrive in Iowa City until August, far too late in the year for set out for Salt Lake without concern for the weather. But the leaders and other high church officials urged that the two parties soldier on westward, and so they did, soon to shoulder the high cost of their decision.

Roberts uses journals of the pioneers to illustrate much of his tale. Readers are encouraged to empathize with the poor souls who ventured out onto the cold and unforgiving plain to find Zion. His points are furthered by a narrative of High Church Mormon history, as well as a contemporary attempt to understand the mythologizing of the handcart pioneers—a myth he likens to the Mayflower. It is a fascinating experience.

Slides of Mongolia

My grandparents spent six summers in Mongolia, and every trip the took 200+ slides, which I have been virtually archiving since my grandfather passed away last spring. The process itself is very time consuming, but he happy upshot of all this time scanning and labeling is that I get to witness the steppe and the Gobi through the eyes of my grandparents.

The steppe, barren and immense:

The car, submerged and stuck:

The Mongolian horsemen, probably rather entertained by the stuck car:

Horsemen again, getting bored of having their picture taken:

The horsemen decide that they should, perhaps, help out the silly stuck Americans:

One is not enough, more are called in to the murky depths:

The goat they just cooked with a blow torch, looking a lot like the goat they just cooked with a blow torch:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dolly Parton

I love Dolly Parton's song "Jolene," there's something haunting about it.

It makes me think of "The Hills of Shiloh", which was originally a poem by Shel Silverstein. This is a cover of it by Judy Collins.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Artist: Banksy

Banksy has made an installation in New York called "The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill" and apparently he's using some crazy animatronics. CRAZY.
Here are some stills of a few of his Village pets:

There's a bunny in her boudoir.

And fish sticks in their tank.

And Chicken McNuggets slurping up BBQ sauce!

The videos of the installation are definitely the most amazing, though. I like the one of the monkey sitting in a dark space with headphones on, watching other monkeys doing it.

I also love the video of the hot dogs and other various processed meats looking like happy turds under their sun lamps.

If you want to learn more about the installation, go to the Wooster Collective.  For a great video of some of the reactions to Banksy's work, go to The Guardian.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Something you should see

Here are some key excerpts about McCain from the new expose of him in RollingStone:

"At least three of McCain's GOP colleagues have gone on record to say that they consider him temperamentally unsuited to be commander in chief. Smith, the former senator from New Hampshire, has said that McCain's "temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him." Sen. Domenici of New Mexico has said he doesn't "want this guy anywhere near a trigger." And Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi weighed in that "the thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded.""

In April 2007, when a voter at a town-hall session asked him about his policy toward Tehran, McCain responded by singing, "bomb bomb bomb" Iran. The loose talk was meant to incite the GOP base, but it also aggravated relations with Iran, whose foreign minister condemned McCain's "jokes about genocide" as a testament to his "disturbed state of mind" and "warmongering approach to foreign policy."

"He's going to be Bush on steroids," says Johns, the retired brigadier general who has known McCain since their days at the National War College.

Obama Fights Back

The newest fight on the political front is "the great smear," as I will call it. It started when McCain started to question Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers, who was one of the leaders of The Weathermen, a group of anti-Vietnam activist/terrorists. Of course, McCain latched on to Obama's relationship with Ayers and put out this smear ad (notice that, at no time during the ad, are there any quotes from Obama where Obama is speaking. It is narrated and they provide no visual or audio evidence of Obama's relationship or his opinion of Ayers):

McCain, of course, bolstered his ad with an appearance on ABC. Notice especially that at the end of his lengthy questioning of Obama's relationship with Ayers that he gets all upitty: "and then to compare [Ayers] with Dr. C- Tom Colburn who spends so much of his life bringing babies into this world!.."

Why should you have paid attention to McCain's anger at Obama's "comparison" of Ayers to Coburn? Because here is what McCain is referring to. Decide for yourself whether Obama's actions were reprehensible.

At the end of Obama's Primary debate with Clinton, he says that he "can take a punch, [he's] taken some pretty good ones." And thank God Obama's finally punching back (and with quite a bit more power than McCain's smear ad, it looks like!)

More information on the Keating scandal can be found on Wikipedia and in the New York Times.

And....Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals.

Just In Case You Haven't Seen It Yet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sundays are For Tom Petty and Tea

Do you love tea?
If you are reading this blog, then the answer has to be yes (and your favorite should preferably be PG Tips with milk).
Do you love Tom Petty? Yes? Hooray!

Go make yourself a cup of tea while enjoying some favourite Petty Party Songs. Feel free to spin around in your kitchen too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obama Secures Youth Vote

Obama and Biden appeared on MTV today in a very refreshing interview with Sway about Thursday's debate and what the Obama policies mean to the younger generation. Obama addressed his treatment of American voters, the problems facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and the effect of the economic bailout on our generation. It's not often that you see a politician target an audience with such success.

Obama reigns when it comes to character. He obviously went the diplomatic route when Sway steered the questioning towards who won the debate, explaining the point wasn't to win, but rather to inform the American people of the differences between the two candidates. But even though Obama is still rowing a political boat, I believe that he's trying to arrive at a humane and decent destination.

"I think the pundits and the press, you guys are looking at tactics. What the American people are looking at is they might lose their job ... they might lose their house...What's relevant is the substance of this thing, which is people out there are hurting, and John McCain has promoted the same policies of George Bush, and people know they're not working. They understand we can't continue four more years of doing the same thing."

But the instance that I was most excited about (and I hope it excited any other half-interested person under the age of 25) was Obama's explanation of the $700 billion bailout and what is happening in the economy. My happiness came partly because I've spent most of my morning on the internet, trying desperately to figure out what exactly is going on in the economy and how it got this way. I've been reading The Guardian, a short history of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an Economic Times article on the recent re-structuring of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Wikipedia pages for "bailout," the SEC, and GSEs, and I even called my father to try and understand what the fuck is happening and whether it will affect me. And after reading all of that and slowly coming to grasp just the smallest crumb of understanding, it was lovely to hear Obama's rationalization of the economic crisis:

"If the credit markets collapse, what it means is banks aren't lending businesses money. Businesses then can't invest in plants and equipment and make payroll, so they shut down. And that means the suppliers of those companies, they shut down. Over time what happens is you get the whole economy coming to a standstill. That's what happened during the Great Depression," he explained. "And at that time, it was just banks that were in charge of capital. Now you've got all different ways that money flows ... but the bottom line is, that if money freezes up, businesses can't do business, and you get an enormous contraction of an economy. And that, ultimately, will affect that 20-year-old, because that 20-year-old is going to be looking for a better job after he gets out of school. ... If our businesses aren't creating jobs, they're not creating tax revenues — now it's harder for government to finance that college education or to build that new university. So it has a ripple effect."

His explanation is a little basic, but that's actually what our generation needs. We're the ones who grew up inside a nearly virtual system of currency. Most young people have no idea how to balance a check book, let alone have a detailed understanding of how banks work or how to invest in the stock market! Obama understands this, and I think that he's being honest and straightforward about the effects of the economic crisis on our future.
The bottom line is, I trust Obama. I trust that he will bring a good change to this country. I trust that he will make decisions with his electorate's best needs at heart. I trust that he is in this presidential race to spur forth America's progress, not to make himself a powerful figure in history. I trust his judgement, I trust his humanity, I trust him.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Black Violin

My little sister is living in Florida and alerted me to Black Violin, a classical violin/hip hop duo out of the State of Sunshine. The long and short of it is that they play damn sexy music. This is the kind of music that makes me want to go all teenage, put on headphones with this at the loudest volume, pull a hood over my eyes, and walk around thinking how I'm better than everyone else. Shit's powerful.

Here's a couple of songs that I could find on YouTube that have good sound quality.

"Dirty Orchestra" is the first.

The second one is called "Fanfare."

McCain Time Out

In recent news, Senator McCain has decided to suspend his campaign in order to focus on the recent economic crises (which, I'd like to add, has made restaurant-goers really fucking testy). Letterman railed on the guy, saying that if McCain has decided to go back to Washington, he should let Palin campaign in his stead.
Letterman put it well when he made a comparison to football— if your Quarterback is out of the game, you put in your second-string quarterback. But I feel like that analogy can be applied further to the McCain campaign, 'cus the man is treating the whole process like a game. He was down in the polls (9 points in an ABC/Washington Post poll and down 6 in a Fox poll) and wanted to make it look like he's a responsible senator (FYI, he's missed 412 votes in the current congress) so what did he do? He called a fucking time out.

Obama will still be campaigning, and his camp has said that he'll still be debating (though against whom, I don't know...he'd rip Palin apart) on Friday (tomorrow! tomorrow! We'll see him! Tomorrow!). It's only a day away!

Letterman, McCain, and McCain's arrogance and lies

Have you seen this yet? McCain was supposed to appear on Letterman yesterday, but called him up a couple hours before the show and canceled, saying that he had to get on a plane to Washington to help solve the economic crisis (as if his god-like presence would solve the whole fiasco). McCain would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for that stinkin' Katie Couric, who was about to interview him on CBS. Letterman got a live feed into Couric's stage, where you get to see McCain getting all dolled up for an interview with her.
Letterman gets pissed and shits on McCain. It's brilliant.