I HAVEN'T FELT MOVED to write much about the U.S. elections
since they happened, first of all since the municipal and federal elections
up here are -- obviously -- more important to me, second of all since,
well, it's just an awful bloody fucking mess.
First impression: Bush is the likely winner. Hell, as
long as he doesn't try to invade Mexico.
Second impression: Closer than I imagined. So how does
that whole electoral college thing work, anyway? Huh?!
Third impression: Damn, I'm glad I'm a Canadian.
Frankly, the mess in Florida is probably about one thing:
Jeb Bush and the state Republicans did their best to jig the ballots in
favour of Jeb's brother, but either did it so badly, or in such a fiendishly
close race, that scrutiny inevitably fell on the whole debacle.
When Dubya appeared on t.v. the day after the election
with a band-aid on his cheek -- a poor omen that stand-up comics and talk-show
hosts couldn't resist -- I couldn't help but speculate that he'd gotten
into a bitch-slapping fight with his brother and got raked with a ragged
cuticle. The scene suggested a Smothers Brothers routine gotten out of
"Mom liked you best!" (whap!)
"Did not!" (ker-slap!)
"So, Mr. Paranoid," you might ask -- "if there's been
corruption in Florida, why haven't the Democrats done a Woodward-Bernstein
and dragged the whole sorry mess into the light of day instead of pursuing
endless, tedious, legal challenges?"
Well, the answer is simple enough; both parties do their
best to rig the polls in districts and states where they have influence,
from stacking the polling stations and electoral bureaucracy with sympathizers,
"losing" ballots from districts they deem insufficiently partisan, or using
poor technology or even the subtle influence of the law to discourage turnout.
It all looks like simple incompetence, and it is, except that it's never
discouraged, and seems to be applied with some careful discretion.
We've heard all the stories from Florida, but if the Dems
made a stink about it the GOP would simply open corresponding cans of worms
in California, the Northeast and Illinois. As it is, the still-fishy-smelling
results of the 1960 election -- where Kennedy won over Nixon with an even
slimmer margin than Gore has over Bush in the national vote that went uncontested,
despite blatant vote-rigging by mayor Daley in Illinois -- is occasionally
brought up by the conservative press as a bit of evil hoodoo, by liberal
papers as a quaint reminder of how far we've come. The truth is that nothing's
changed, and both sides are complicit in a gentleman's agreement not to
dig too deep, even when the stakes seem high. Why ruin a perfectly good
system that's been perfected over a century-and-a-half?
It's not exactly a theory that could stand up under Ockham's
Razor, but it makes sense, based on what I know about politics, and
In the end, the Republicans are pretty much assured of
the presidency, regardless of how tainted it might seem now and, hell --
why not be magnanimous?
That, I'm afraid, is all I have to say about the U.S.
election anymore. What a bringdown.
WHY AM I SO SURPRISED when some freelance job I've done
turns out more than just okay?
A few weeks ago, I handed in a little feature on holiday
cocktails to the Big
National Daily, who were doing a food supplement for the holidays.
A few hundred words on which, naturally, I spent far too much time, in
addition to handing in about twice as many drink recipes as they asked
for, in addition to photos I took to illustrate the piece. Originally,
they phoned K. to ask her to write it, but as she's too busy working for,
technically, one of the competition's
papers, I suggested myself. They took a day or two to think about it
and finally gave me the job.
I was glad for it, since money's pretty scarce on the
ground these days. It wasn't a tough job, either, even if I'm not exactly
a food writer. "Just make up some phony trend," one friend, also a writer,
suggested. "That's all they want. It doesn't even have to be accurate."
(I was reminded of the time, before I was born, when my
mother's picture appeared in a local paper alongside her famous recipe
for apple pie or something like that. It's a favorite bit of lore in the
family. The catch was that it wasn't her recipe, and that she never said
a word for which she was quoted in the piece. The only accurate bit was
the spelling of her name under her picture.)
Still, I went about the job, got some good quotes from
a few bartenders, sommeliers and drinks managers. I took some nice shots
and even did some research from my small collection of old bar books. Except
for being a day or two late, I did the job precisely to spec. I was pleased
with myself for all of half a day.
Yesterday, the paper came out. My piece took up the whole
of the second page in the supplement, virtually unedited. All of my drinks
recipes ran in a sidebar at the side, and the photos -- uncropped -- were
laid out with care, sixteen of them, in a lovely grid that took up most
of the page. It looked like an art director's labour of love. It looked
great -- a real showcase for me and my work, if anyone bothers to read
the bylines and notice that -- hey! what do you know! -- the writer and
the photographer are the same guy. I guess the paper was happy -- a good-looking
page for which the writer did all the work. No scheduling photo shoots
or paying a photographer. And all for the princely sum of $350, Canadian.
You've got to wonder how anybody can lose money with a
I AM NEVER, EVER, going to make a decent living in this