I think you'll agree that the government shutdown was a miserable experience for everyone, and there isn't much to miss about it. Still, now that a couple weeks have gone by, it's fun to reminisce about some of the inflammatory statements that came out of it. See if you can spot which of the shutdown quotes below are real, and which ones are fake (answers below):
A. "This is my idea of fun." U.S. Rep. David Schweikert.
B. “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I am." Senator Ted Cruz.
C. "The national parks are overrated, and I think it's good to give the bears a little time off." U.S. Rep. George Johansen.
D. "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't even know what that is." — U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman.
E. "I just don't think it's right at all to call Barack Obama a traitor. I haven't come across any evidence yet that he has done one thing to harm Kenya." North Carolina Rep. Larry Pittman.
F. "Just as the Fugitive Slave Act was an overreach by the federal government, so too we understand that Obamacare is an assault on the rights of individuals." New Hampshire Rep. William O'Brien.
G. "I think the American people are watching all of this. The American people are studying all of this very carefully. And I think the American people have reached one conclusion: They are tired of being called 'the American people.'" U.S. Rep. Julie Coksentoasten.
H. “I like their little burgers. I’m a big fan of eating White Castle burgers.” Senator Ted Cruz.
I. "This country isn't ran by just one individual. It's ran by four branches." U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin
J. "I think the American people should look at the shutdown as an opportunity. Let's say it lasts 15 days. That's about 4 percent of the 365 days in the year. So they can just deduct 4 percent from their federal income taxes." Senator Fitzhugh McDuffie on the tax advantages of the shutdown.
K. "There's no towel service. We're doing our own laundry down there. And we pay a fee to belong to the House gym." U.S. Rep. Bruce Brayley on sacrifices by members of Congress at their gym during the shutdown.
L. "Yes, it's a drag not to get a paycheck. But thankfully, I'm rich." U.S. Rep. Paul Pratt.
M. "Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one." Senator Ted Cruz.
N. “[John McCain] is a guy who's been to Syria and supported al Qaeda and rebels.” U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert.
O. “Whatever gets them good press. That's all that it's going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I've got a nice house and a kid in college, and I'll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly.” U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, comparing his decision to accept a paycheck during the shutdown with some colleagues' decision not to.
P. "We're very excited. It's exactly what we wanted, and we got it. People will be very grateful." U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachman.
Q. "Does anybody remember Charlie Sheen when he was kind of going crazy? And he was going around, jumping around saying, 'Winning, winning, we're winning?' Well, I kind of feel like that, and I'm not on any drugs." U.S. Senator Rand Paul.
R. "They may be 33 years old now and not making a lot of money. But in a few years they can just [become lobbyists] and make $500,000 a year. Meanwhile, I'm stuck making a $172,000 a year." U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey.
S. "Are we accomplishing anything? No. Are the American people fed up? Yes. Was all of this a complete waste of time and money? Yes. Why am I asking myself questions? I'm not really sure." U.S. Rep. Charlene Green.
(Answer: C, G, J, L, M, and S are fake, although M is an actual quote from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. Senator Ted Cruz really did quote from Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham on the floor of the Senate in quote B, but he used it in the exact opposite way from what the book meant.)
I'm not the only one who felt compelled to respond to the article attacking Pete Cenarrusa within days of his death, and several of us agreed to write a joint post on the subject. I'm happy to add my name to it.
Our post appears in A Basque in Boise (English); About Basque Country (Spanish); Basque Identity 2.0 (Basque); The Angry Brazilian (Portuguese); and 8Probintziak (French). There will be others joining.
I've run a longer version of the post below, adding my personal views.
His parents were immigrants who grew up in neighboring Basque towns but met thousands of miles away in the middle of Idaho. Pete’s first language was Basque, and he kept speaking it for the rest of his life, sometimes filling in with English words along the way. He'd say things like, "Hori egin genuen Nineteen Seventy-Two-en." (“We did that in 1972.”) He could get away with it. If you are somebody like me, who learns a language later in life, that is a hero. To hear him speak Basque was like listening to poetry.
He went to the University of Idaho, where he was on the boxing team and completed degrees in agriculture and animal husbandry (at age 92, he blogged that his favorite courses were nutrition, organic chemistry, and bacteriology — "I would recommend these courses to everyone in college"). He joined the Marines in 1942 and became an aviation instructor. He flew for 59 years, finished more than 15,000 flight hours without an accident.
Eventually, he became interested in politics. He was elected as a Republican to the Idaho House of Representatives in 1950 and served nine terms, including three as House Speaker. In 1967, when Idaho's secretary of state died, the governor appointed Pete to fill the position, which he held until 2003.
He wasn’t a politician from central casting. As Ben Ysursa, his friend and successor in office, said at his funeral, Pete wasn’t a good public speaker; but unlike most politicians, Pete knew it. Still, it’s hard to argue with success: Pete never lost an election, and he was in public office for 52 years, the longest-serving elected official in Idaho history.
When he died in his home last Sunday, Freda, his wife of 66 years, was there with him.
Pete was a kind man, my parents' good friend, somebody who probably helped thousands of others in his life. He seemed like one of those people who would live forever. After I learned of his death, I wanted to write something about him. But what to say? It was a big life.
Then I read an article in the Spanish national newspaper ABC by Javier Ruperez, the former Spanish ambassador to the United States (the Spanish version is unavailable online; here's the English translation). Ruperez calls Pete a "Basque separatist,” a man filled with “blind obstinacy” against Spain “until the very day of his death.” It was a piece written with venom stored up from an event that happened more than a decade ago, then spewed out just a couple days after Pete died.
For full disclosure, my brother is a former Idaho legislator and current Boise mayor who was involved in some of the underlying events. What I'm writing here is only my view. I didn't consult with my brother. He can speak for himself. Pete can't.
And an important bit of background: Ruperez, the author, was kidnapped by the Basque terrorist group ETA in 1979. He was held for a month. After he was released, 26 Basque prisoners were freed, and the Spanish parliament agreed to create a special commission to investigate charges of torture of Basque prisoners.
I can’t imagine what Ruperez went through, and I wish it had never happened. A horrifying event like that would certainly shape one’s world view. But Pete had nothing to do with the kidnapping and would have been the first to condemn it. That’s where Ruperez is wrong about Pete and about Basques generally.
Toward the end of his career, Pete announced the introduction of a declaration in the Idaho legislature that addressed a critical series of events in the Basque Country and Spain. The declaration, officially known as a “memorial,” called on leaders in the United States and Spain to undertake a peace process and end decades of violence under the Franco dictatorship and ETA.
In 2002, Ruperez caught wind of the memorial and immediately flew out to Idaho, alerted the Spanish prime minister, the State Department, and the White House. The draft declaration’s intent to put an end to violence wasn’t good enough for Ruperez, who probably had to look for Idaho on a map before he booked the flight. Suddenly, a statement by the legislature of a sparsely-populated Western state blew up into international news.
As the memorial approached a vote, there was a lot of back and forth among the many parties that had suddenly become involved. I wasn’t there, but I suspect a doctoral candidate could make an interesting dissertation out of the whole affair. You could also write a book about Pete’s reaction, which was pitch perfect (and I’m paraphrasing, but I’m probably close): Since when did the United States start checking with foreign governments about its foreign policy?
In the end, the Idaho legislature unanimously approved this memorial. It described the history of Basques in Idaho, the earlier actions by the Idaho legislature to condemn the repression of Franco’s dictatorship, the efforts of Basques to maintain their culture, and all “but a marginalized fraction” of Basques’ condemnation of violence.
Perfect or not, it was a statement by a democratically elected governent. But it seems to have haunted Ruperez all these years. Before Pete’s body was even buried, Ruperez condemned him as “the inspirer and visible leader” of an effort that turned a blind eye toward violence, an effort that an Idaho Senate leader later purportedly told him was the result of “extreme ignorance by local representatives” about Spanish affairs and “the generalized willingness to please Cenarrusa in the last initiative he took on before retiring.” Ruperez suggests that Pete was not typical of Idaho’s Basque community, that there are other, worthier representatives.
I don’t know Ruperez. But he certainly didn’t know Pete. In writing his piece all these years later, Ruperez probably is trying to please a constituency that has every reason to make Basques out as something they are not, and Pete offered an easy target.
Regardless, it’s a small person who sticks a knife into the back of a man who has just died.
Ruperez closes with a quote he says comes from Mark Twain: "Not all deaths are received in the same way." Maybe that’s true. As somebody who was lucky enough to know Pete Cenarrusa, I can assure Mr. Ruperez that Pete’s death was received with a lot of sadness, with the respect worthy of somebody who did great things with the life he was given.
If you are a latecomer to Breaking Bad like me and haven't caught up all the way to the end, you fear the landmines that are out there today.
Now that the last episode has aired, and the smart people who had caught up or — even better — watched from the beginning know how everything ends, all it would take is a peak at a headline or a few words overheard in a restaurant to ruin the whole experience. This is such a phenomenon that the New York Times did a story about it.
It's the blessing and the curse of the bounty we have before us today. When the prime-time soap Dallas revealed who shot J.R. in November 1980, it was the second-most-watched program in U.S. television history. That's because back then, you had one only shot. You couldn't record it. You couldn't get it on Netflix. There was no box set. You had to watch it when CBS aired it or else live with everyone telling you what happened.
Today, a TV show is like a book. You can get it any time. You can do it chapter by chapter, or you can stay up all night, mainline seven episodes, and finish a series in one week.
The problem is that unlike a book, popular shows are still seen by millions of people at the same time, just like always. And, just like always, every one of those people has loose lips that are talking about it and loose fingers that are typing about it. You didn't catch up in time for the ending? That's your problem.
But I'm hoping that long-time Breaking Bad fans will have some mercy on the rest of us. After all, when the show first aired in 2008, it only had about 1 million viewers. That's likely because the show's premise seemed so ridiculous: A high school chemistry teacher is diagnosed with cancer and begins cooking meth so he can provide for his wife and son after he's gone. He relies on the help of one of his former students, who is a junkie himself. The teacher's product becomes legendary in Albequerque, the southwest, and beyond. They start making music videos in Mexico about the great Heisenberg, the teacher's drug manufacturing alias. To stretch things even further, Heisenberg's brother in law is a DEA agent.
But despite that ridiculous background, the show becomes its own addiction largely because the writing and acting is so good, and the twists and turns are so dramatic. It sucks you in. In one key episode, for example, when the DEA agent/brother in law is poised to bust Heisenberg outside the meth lab Winnebago parked in the junkyard, you can't take your eyes off it because you feel like your world is about to explode.
Someimtes, when I was watching the show in a loop on Netflix, when I didn't even have to lift a finger to make the next episode appear, time lost meaning. I became grateful for the show's creators, who, among other things, mercifully made a very short introductory riff so you skip through the credits and get right to the story. I forgot where I was. I might have been in Albuquerque. I was rooting for the bad guys. I was an addict myself.
Unfortunately, at this point in my life I'm not an undergraduate anymore and time does have meaning. I'm still about 25 episodes behind and it will probably take weeks or even months before I watch the finale. On the other hand, without the ticking clock of the finale in the background, I plan to savor every episode in a way I haven't been able to. Of course, for the next few days at least, when I walk around in public, I'll be covering my ears, shouting "Blah blah blah I can't hear you!" just to be on the safe side. The brilliant thing about Breaking Bad and the age we live in generally is I probably won't be alone.
You bought into all the marketing about how great life is with a vast social network. You're on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, all the rest. Everybody wants a piece of you.
But are you happy? I doubt it. Now you have all these empty relationships with people you don't even know or like. You forgot what your grandma taught you: quality over quantity.
The good news is that just as easily as you built up your social network, you can tear it down:
When you are having dinner with somebody, repeatedly interrupt the conversation with long cell phone conversations. You don't even have to wait for somebody to call — initiate one yourself! Talk away, the longer the better. Then send and receive multiple text messages, completely ignoring your dinner companion, whom you won't see again.
When you get on a crowded elevator, keep your back to the closing doors and face everyone for the duration of the ride. Smile.
There's a guy you know, Peter. He's unlikable, always bragging about his huge income. And yet you still feel the need to be nice. You greet him every time you see him: Hi Peter. Fortunately for you, his name is Dirk and from then on you won't have to deal with him. The lesson is that by using incorrect names, you can cut down on your social network.
On Facebook and Twitter, give a minute-by-minute report of your day, every little detail. Write about how tired you were when you woke up, what you had for breakfast, everything up until you fell asleep snoring with the TV still on. Send lots of pictures of your cat. Write thousands of passionate words on how you feel about Obamacare or about the elections. Repeat that every day. Boom! The "likes" start going away.
When you receive what is called a "spam email" from Christian Mingle, you might consider using a device to the side of your computer that is known as a "mouse." This "mouse" allows you to click on the "spam email." You can then click the "delete" button. Boom! No more Christian romance.
For $39.95 you can buy a a Bluetooth headset. Strap it t to your ear and talk about anything you want to very loudly. You don't even have to turn it on! Have fun. Make it sound complicated. If somebody approaches you wanting to make conversation, all you have to do is point to your headset. Boom! No more meaningless chit-chat.
When you are in a drug store and see somebody you know, pretend you don't know them. Be obvious about it so they feel snubbed and tell other people what they think of you.
Let's say you are trapped in a conversation with somebody who is prone to bloviating on and on about their view of blah blah blah this or blah blah blah that. Walk away.
Get a Doberman. Name him Frisky. Walk him around unleashed. As he sprints toward neighbors, say "Oh, Frisky. You're such a rascal!"
You're shopping. You just want to get in and out. You're looking at the chicken. But all you see are a bunch of cellophane wrappers informing the grocer that they have to "sell by" a certain date. And that date is today.
What do you do? You want your fajitas. But what about that date? What does it mean? Well, it turns out that much of the time, it means nothing:
Sell-by, use-by and best-by dates do not indicate whether a food is safe to eat, or even if is still tasty. Sell-by dates provide information to retailers about how long to display a product. Best-if-used-by typically indicates a date after which the food will no longer be at its highest quality — as defined by the manufacturer. But the meaning of those terms varies from product to product, and even among manufacturers of the same products, because there is no industry agreement on definitions and on which labels should be applied to which foods.
But if you're like me, sometimes you don't catch the date until you're getting dinner ready. That's when you find out the "sell by" date was a couple days ago. Then you might do what most people do. You toss it:
Fifty-four percent of consumers say eating food past its sell-by or use-by date is a health risk, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. A 2011 survey conducted by the Food Marketers Institute found that 91 percent of consumers occasionally discarded food past its sell-by date out of concern for the product’s safety; 25 percent said they always did so. Food waste has reached record levels. In the United States, an estimated 40 percent of food is thrown away.
I've never liked "sell by" labels. The grocer seems to be saying: Who cares about you? We just want to get this stuff off our hands. Then it's your problem.
This article made me feel a little better, because it confirmed my suspicion that date labels are just a guide, and a rough one at that. From now on, I'm going to use the philosophy I used in college, which is that as long as something is not stinky or groddy, it's okay to eat it. That philosophy got me to where I am today, which is alive.