Thursday, December 29, 2016

Will Barbie ever be President?

While strolling through the Clearance section at a Florida Walmart the day after Christmas, I came upon this, the Barbie President and Vice President dolls:

My first thought was: Wow, bet Barbie is really bummed she lost out to Tanning Bed Ken and Evangelical Ken. My second was, Wow, Mattel made Barbie President and Vice President dolls? Who knew? And my third thought was, oh what could have been. Now here lies (or stands) Presidential Candidate Barbie in the Clearance section, selling for $19.

I have continued to think about those Barbie President and Vice President dolls, which, sadly, I did not buy. (I know, I should have.) So I decided to search for them online and found the official Barbie President and Vice President website.

And ladies, you will be delighted to know what Mattel believes is the way to inspire young women to seek higher office: Good fashion sense!

Just read the descriptive copy on the Barbie President and Vice President page (and weep):
From campaign tales to election events to decision-making moments, these partners are ready to inspire stories around leadership in polished outfits worthy of the White House. Barbie doll as President takes the lead in a red and white jacket with smart black detailing, a classic blue skirt, sparkling earrings and black shoes. The Vice President doll is a strong second-in-command wearing a yellow peplum jacket, black pants, black shoes, a beaded necklace and black eyeglasses. Play out a world full of storytelling possibilities and career opportunities with this powerful duo ready to lead young minds into imagination because with Barbie, you can be anything.
Yes, young ladies, you can be anything -- as long as you are fashionably dressed. So inspiring! If only Hillary had dressed better -- and had Barbie's figure! Then maybe Walmart would have been discounting Tanning Bed Ken for President dolls.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas is for the birds

Welcome to another episode of J-TWO-O's Wild Kingdom. This week we will be focusing on the birds of Sanibel, Florida, home to the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

For those of you unfamiliar with Sanibel, the island has two major claims to fame: some of the best shelling in the United States and some of the best bird watching. So for someone like me who loves hunting for seashells and has discovered a passion for bird watching later in life, Sanibel is paradise. And this year, I got to spend Christmas day on Sanibel doing two of the things I loved the most, shelling in the morning and bird watching in the afternoon.

While the shelling was a bit of a disappointment, the bird watching was not. Not only was Wildlife Drive free for Christmas, but Ding Darling was swarming with birds -- from a crowd of ibis to a pod of pelicans to a bowl of roseate spoonbills to a flight of cormorants.

Sadly, I was only able to get good photos of a handful of these fine feathered friends, due to my zoom lens not being able to zoom enough. (I called out to several birds to fly over next to me, but they did not listen to me.) So look for another bird post in the not-to-distant future.

[To find out the names of the birds, hover over the photo.]

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Revenge of the ignorant. Is it too late for America to wise up?

There's a piece in Monday's Boston Globe titled "Yes, there is shame in not knowing." In it, the author, who teaches writing at New York University, argues that it's not okay to be willfully ignorant -- and that people who refuse to seek out knowledge, or who willfully refuse to believe facts, should be ashamed and shamed.

While I agree with Taylor that willful ignorance is shameful, it is precisely articles like this, and people feeling shamed -- or looked down upon by "the media" and "elites" -- that has resulted in Donald J. Trump, who pandered to people's baser instincts and flouted knowledge and truth and facts, being elected president.

Indeed, I would argue that we now live in a time, at least in this country*, where being ignorant (being proud of a lack of intellectual curiosity and not caring about facts or the truth or attaining knowledge) is considered a virtue, and makes you "a real American," and being smart (having an intellectual curiosity, wanting to learn, a desire to gain knowledge) is bad and makes you "elite."

[I don't know about all of you, but I'd sure as heck rather be in the elite camp than be considered uneducated or ignorant. But, as my 18-year-old daughter just reminded me, amongst pre-teens and teenagers, it's often considered cool to be stupid and not cool to be or act smart. And it's the same among some adults, sadly.]

Lest you think this is the first time in recent history where being considered smart -- as in intelligent, well-prepared, and thoughtful -- put one at a disadvantage, especially if running for higher office, it's not. Just cast back to the 1990s, which could well be considered the Era of the Nerd, where young wiz kids who were good with technology could and did make millions -- and having an MBA, JD, and/or PhD seemed to be de rigueur** to getting ahead.

Then in 2000, the Supreme Court Americans, many as a slap in the face to or rejection of nerdism, and specifically know-it-all Al Gore, elected George W. Bush, who proudly boasted of his poor record as a student and showed a lack of interest in learning or intelligence briefings. And soon after we had 9/11 and a war in Iraq to show for it.

Now we have president-elect Donald J. Trump, the new hero of the uneducated and ignorant, who tells us he doesn't need to read or have daily intelligence briefings because he is "like smart," smart in this case meaning not knowledgeable nor mentally alert, nor witty or clever, but shrewd.

And it's true that he outsmarted a field of Republicans with his boasts and his lies. And he outsmarted the mainstream media with his sales pitches disguised as breaking news and big announcements. But it is only a matter of time until some terrorist or foreign power outsmarts Trump -- and inflicts serious damage on our country. (Per the CIA and FBI, Russia already has)

So my question is, when are Americans going to wise up?

* in many places, though not all
** Does using phrases like "de rigueur" make me an elitist?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 NYBG Holiday Train Show

As everyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I am a HUGE fan of the New York Botanical Garden. We have been members for years, and I visit the NYBG as often as I can.

But in all the years we've been back on the East Coast, we have never gone to see the New York Botanical Garden's world famous Holiday Train Show. Until last night.

Although the Garden typically closes by 6 p.m., on a handful of nights (10, to be precise) during the Holiday Train Show, it reopens from 7 until 10 p.m. for Bar Car Nights. And if you have never been to the New York Botanical Garden at night, let me tell you, it's magical. Especially after a big snowfall.

But whether you go at night or during the day, the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, which runs through January 16th, is worth a visit, as you will hopefully see from this video the spouse took...

and my photographs of the great G-scale trains and the amazing recreations of famous New York City landmarks.

[Click on each photo to enlarge it.]

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Democrats don't get it

This post is going to piss off a lot (all?) of my Democrat friends. So be it. But we Democrats need to do a reality check.

Item #1: The electors are not going to not elect Donald Trump. It doesn't matter if that petition got 10 million signatures. Save your op-eds, your pleas, and your sanity. It ain't going to happen. Thirty-seven Republican electors are not going to not elect Trump.

Sure, maybe a couple of them will vote for someone else, another Republican. But as has been proven again and again -- and again -- Republicans always fall in line. And the Republican electors will cast their votes for Trump. And on the slim chance that 37 of them decide to do otherwise, the decision will get thrown to Congress. And guess what? They're not going to make Hillary Clinton -- or Bernie Sanders -- the next President of the United States. But if it makes you feel a wee bit better to sign some petition begging a bunch of Republicans to not vote for the Republican candidate, go ahead.

Item #2: Republicans will fall in line and confirm all of Trump's cabinet -- and Supreme Court -- appointments (or almost all of them). Forget the kvetching and big talk from Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham et al. It's all just bluster. When it comes down to a vote, the Republicans will all fall in line and confirm Trump's cabinet and Supreme Court appointments, no matter how awful they are. Sure, one or two Congressfolk may dissent, but more for show, knowing someone else will cancel out their nay.

Item #3: Democrats in Congress will roll over, or compromise, like they always do. Just the other week there was big talk that the Democrats would let the Republicans flounder after repealing or gutting Obamacare -- that is, they wouldn't sign on to any legislation that offered less than what the Affordable Care Act offered. Yet now -- no surprise -- I am reading and hearing that (some? most?) Democrats will "work with" their Republican brethren, so that only, say, 19.95 million people lose their health insurance, or have to pay a fortune for insurance, instead of 20 million.

Look, I get it. A lot of these Democrats are up for reelection in 2018 and they feel that something is better than nothing. But if Democrats want to take back the Senate and House, they need to stiffen their spines and stand tall, instead of bending over and letting the Republicans give it to them.

Item #4: Bernie Sanders is not going to save us. I grant you that if the contest had been between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, we may very well have been talking about President-elect Bernie Sanders right now. But Hillary Clinton was who Democrats voted for, despite all of the negative press about Hillary, by MILLIONS of votes. And I very much doubt Putin and the Russians had anything to do with that outcome.

Also, it is important to note that while a President Sanders would be much more palatable, at least to a large portion of the population, than President Trump, he wouldn't have gotten anything done. And all of his big campaign promises -- making college free, medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, reforming Wall Street -- which sound great, but would require raising taxes and/or increasing the debt, substantially, would never be approved/get passed by Congress.

You think Congress was obstructionist under President Barack Obama, who looks practically Conservative compared to Bernie? You can bet your bippy Republicans would do their level best to make sure a President Sanders got nothing done -- or worse, would still pass all sorts of harmful legislation or repeal legislation and executive orders passed under Obama, because they probably have the votes to do so.

Item #5: Wishing won't make it so, and ignoring reality, or the news, won't make Trump go away. So where do Democrats go from here? We fight to take back the Senate and House, by supporting and campaigning for Democratic candidates. And we tell representatives in the House and in the Senate not to roll over, by writing and calling them. And we, or our elected officials, file lawsuits against Donald Trump, as these attorneys general plan or may do.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Why bother getting dressed?

Just like wearing UGGs with mini skirts, sleepwear as day wear -- or evening wear -- has a nasty habit of rearing its tired head every few years (if the concept ever truly went away).

And per The Washington Post's fashion & style reporter Robin Givhan, designers are once again touting pajamas (or pyjamas) as evening attire. Just don't wear these pajamas to bed. Not at over $1,100 a pop -- or pajama top.

Indeed, Dolce & Gabbana has a whole fashion line titled "Pyjama Party: Underwear as Outerwear Done Right." (Note to Dolce & Gabbana: There is no "right" way to wear underwear as outerwear. Sorry Madonna.)

Now I know a lot of you reading this are thinking, "But J., pajamas are sooo comfy! And it's winter, who cares?" (I'm looking at you, Spouse, and you, Teenage Daughter.)

And I will admit to having run (or driven) to the bakery at 7 a.m. to pick up breakfast pastries in my PJs, albeit with a down jacket and boots over them, on more than one occasion. (It was twice. OK? Happy?) And there may have been a time or two where I drove the teenager to school still clad in my pajamas -- again covered by a down jacket and boots.

But wearing pajamas to a cocktail or dinner party? Or wearing them to work or grocery shopping? No. I do not care if the label says Givenchy or Dolce & Gabbana or pick your chichi designer. Or that you saw Gigi Hadid or Jessica Alba wearing pajamas to some big event.

You want to make America great again? Put pajamas back in the bedroom, where they belong. And get off your lazy ass and into some real clothes.

Next up: Putting the "sweat" back in sweatpants and sweatshirts.