Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Post Office: Doin' Business Like it's 1989

J and I are throwing a new years eve soiree and I have been mailing invites along with Christmas and Chanukah cards. Ergo, I need stamps. Lots of stamps. Today I went to the post office to mail my niece's Christmas gift and pick up more stamps. I figured (diabolical foreshadowing...) that it wouldn't be long cause I'd just do the self-weigh and use the stamp machines at the front of the post office.

'Twas not to be. I ended up walking out because the lines were so long. Why was I contending with the lines, you ask? Well, are you aware that the stamp machines take Cash Only? I'm not kidding! They sell $42 rolls of stamps--for CASH ONLY! Like I'm walking in there with 42 bucks in cash and feeding it into a machine dollar by dollar? Are we at all incredulous that the p.o. is losing money?! What is the last machine you have seen in a place of business that takes cash only, with the exception of a coke machine? Especially when an item for purchase costs $42!!? Hell, I use plastic to buy a cup of coffee for $2, and I can't use it to buy stamps for $42??!! What is up with a business as we approach 2005 not taking plastic?

So, like my usual militant midget self, I decide I'm going to write a cheeky letter to the Postmaster General and respectfully request that the post office join us in the 21st century. That means credit cards at vending machines, online zip code lookup at the post office, automated label printing like fedex does, and an express lane that does not have little old ladies (bless their hearts) taking forever to give someone a sheet of stamps as they do that gross-but-commonly-practiced "finger lick" thing to separate the sheets.

I clicked on the website, ready to send him a cheeky letter. Then I saw his name, started laughing, and thought "well, no wonder they are having techno troubles!" The US Postmaster General is named John Potter.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Telly: Reality TV's Race To the Bottom

I quite literally am speechless at the following article. First, that it actually happened, and second that an official government entity had to rule on whether the pig was degraded. What about the sad act of the B-list woman who DID it?!! I mean, to go from David Beckham to farm animals in just a few short months is quite the come down, isn't it? And to have it on TV? I guess I just wonder what actual life experience people were missing in order to see a pig pleasured on TV? Wouldn't you feel like a total loser for watching it? Signs that the apocalypse is at hand, I suppose... I am still trying to determine if this is the grossest and basest thing I have heard in a long time or whether it is mediocrity ad absurdum, which is par for the course for reality TV, and therefore hysterically funny/pathetic/laughable?

Pig not degraded by televised sexual experience, British watchdog rules

LONDON (AFP) - In one of their more delicate rulings of recent years, British television watchdogs ruled that a pig sexually pleasured on television by a minor celebrity did not feel degraded by the experience.

Dozens of viewers complained about the episode in so-called reality television show "The Farm", in which a series of celebrities were sent to do tough work with agricultural crops and animals.

The audience were treated to the sight of Rebecca Loos, the self-proclaimed ex-lover of England football captain David Beckham, stimulating the boar for 10 minutes to produce a flask of semen.

Many viewers complained to the government's Office of Communications (Ofcom) that this was "akin to bestiality", while a leading animal charity condemned the scenes as "morbid and sordid".

But in a ruling released on Monday, Ofcom cleared broadcaster Channel Five of breaching decency standards, saying the procedure was perfectly normal.

"The task performed by Rebecca Loos is one that occurs regularly on UK farms. It was properly supervised by a qualified veterinary surgeon and was carried out for a genuine purpose -- to artificially inseminate the pigs on the 'celebrity farm'," the ruling said.

It added: "We don't believe that the scene was degrading or harmful to the boar."

Mars/Venus: Breakups

That last post started me thinking about my long joyous history of being dumped. Most of it makes me laugh now when I look back and remember the drama with which the "relationships" ended, but I also look back with gratitude because sometimes my best lessons came as a result of the worst dumpings.

When I was in high school my boyfriend of 6 months, R, dumped me because I wouldn't do it with him but his "friend" D would (back in the day when being a freshman was waaaay too young for that kind of stuff. How quaint). I called and cried my little heart out to Steve, the senior class president, my svengali, and secret, unspoken, never-gonna-happen crush. I mean, Steve SHAVED. There was no way he was looking at 15 year old me twice. He was a Man. R was a Boy. I was in awe of his 5 o'clock shadow, his Monte Carlo with cool wheel rims, and his very earnest advice to ensure I would be class president all four years of high school. (It worked, btw).

Anyway, Steve was very kind, listening to me snuffle, snuffle, sniff, wail at 11pm (a call I could only make by being very quiet and sneaking back downstairs to use the phone when my parents were asleep). After about an hour of me wailing, "but I don't get it! He said he looooooved me!" Steve told me that I needed to meet his cousin N, who loved playing video games at the mall arcade. He was (awmigawd!) a sophomore, so he had a learner's permit and could totally pick me up at my house in his mom's car. I was still inconsolable, but figured I'd go since Steve was telling me I should. Well, one week later, N and I went to the mall, he bought us a Papa Gino's pizza, and then asked me out. He was dreamy, and he fit the perfect high school bill of moving onto the next person because you are at that age of constantly "chasing the new." The concept of a deep, abiding and comfortable love with one person over decades is something you imagine you want, but what you actually want is the constant rush of someone liking you, giving you butterflies, and always being NEW. Ah yes, N and I had a glorious high school romance that lasted for 5 blissful months--until he went to the beach for a week and cheated on me twice with some girl from New York... Story of my life!

I laugh now when I look back on high school and beyond, where I thought that being dumped was the worst thing to happen to me up until that point. Every single person reading this knows the feelings I'm talking about: rejection, sadness, grief, insult, disbelief, pain. And yet, the further away those feelings are chronologically, and the more intensely they were felt at the time, the funnier--and more educational--I find them today.

I look back on the R dumpage, and think "well, thank god he dumped me before I got convinced to do anything with him!" Bullet dodged. As I look at the N cheating/dumpage, I think about the lesson I learned and that has helped me to this day: honesty is the most important quality in my personal relationships. Anything else can be taught or learned, but you can't teach a man fidelity, honesty or integrity. He either has it or he doesn't, and you really need to find one WITH it. Yeah, everyone deserves a pass for messing up once. Good people can mess up once. But they don't mess up twice. On MessUp #2, what you have is a person with a bona fide dishonesty problem, and you need to be glad you found out sooner rather than later. N went on to marry another girl from our high school. Which didn't stop him from continuing to enjoy the attentions of others... Another bullet dodged.

In college, my boyfriend was a generally sweet guy who talked the talk of supporting me in my achievements, but who grew distant and moody any time I seemed to be doing "better" than him. No amount of me explaining that people in a relationship are on the same team, and a win/loss for one is a win/loss for both did any good at stopping the moodiness. I started to wonder if this might just be something I'd have to live with as part of his constitution. Until I got accepted into graduate school early, and his first words were, "But that means you'll be in a different city. What am I supposed to do while you're down in DC?" No "congratulations/I'm so proud of you/I knew you could do it." Nope. He then said that if I insisted on going to DC, then he would have to break up with me. Cue the high-schooly crying fit, the call to the parents, the drama of the rejection, the disbelief that this seemingly wonderful man just could not have support for me as his first impulse. My dad made me laugh by saying, "I want you to hang up this phone, consider yourself lucky for a moment that you didn't marry this man, then call him up and tell him that I say he is an A#$%^&le." I didn't make the call, but I did end up feeling lucky to have seen this side of him before we actually took the plunge. Yet another bullet dodged.

I guess what I am saying by way of detailing all of these now-ridiculous melodramatic episodes, is that sometimes what you think is the worst experience of your life turns out to be a valuable lesson without which you cannot move forward. How many people do we all know who date the same type of people, make the same mistakes, put up with the same disrespect, feel the same pain on breaking up, and yet just keep doing it over and over again and again? And then have no idea why they are still single, or in an unhappy marriage, or whatever? They see the pain of the situation as something to escape from, rather than as something to learn from. Yeah, as sad as it is that N and I didn't get married, live in that little town, and have tons of babies playing pop warner football while I worked as a bank teller on Main Street, the sadder thing is that he to this day has never figured out that the endless rush he keeps seeking from new and different women has always been there with his wife, has always been available in his marriage, if only he could open his eyes to see.

He obviously was not dumped enough.

What Not To Say: Break-Ups

Yes, it's time for another round of What Not To Say. And just in time for "breakup season." It is a fact that more relationships are ended around the Holidays than at any other time of year. If you find yourself this season in the position of "friend/family member/coworker of dumpee" here are some statements to avoid if you want to minimize the pain:

"I always thought he was a jerk anyway." (= you have terrible taste/judgment in men)

"There are so many other fish in the sea." (= nothing like a rebound!)

"What did he see in that woman to leave you for her?" (=implying that "that woman" has something she does not)

"Better to have loved and lost..." (I am trying to sound like Frasier Crane because I have nothing better to offer you)

"If he can't see how amazing you are, then he doesn't deserve you." (yeah, except that doesn't unbreak my heart, now does it?)

There are many more, but in this case, you all DO know who you are. You know when you are being supportive vs. when you are just being nosy. Maybe you don't need to say anything at all, just to be safe.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Smorgasbord: My Dad Goes High-Tech

Background: My dad loves to send out voluminous emails, replete with excruciating detail, multiple backstories, and copious amounts of Scottish vernacular. All of which, as you can imagine, is incomprehensible to 98% of the recipients. He writes in a type of Scottish transliteration that mystifies most readers. Then for good measure he mixes in his knowledge of Hebrew by leaving out the vowels! I know. I know. William Safire is developing an ulcer just hearing about it…

So, in order to, shall we say, “channel” his authorial energies, I set him up with a blog called Live From The Marlage, which is the name of the rural house/farm/orchard he grew up on in Scotland. No childhood lecture, story or anecdote was complete without some nugget of wisdom gleaned from his days at The Marlage with his grandparents. I only saw it once as a child, but I sometimes feel like I lived there myself, so omnipresent were its memories for him—and for us through him. My favorite story is how he and my Uncle Charlie “accidentally” set the chicken coop on fire, resulting in a diatribe of expletives from my great-grandfather, a sound beating from my great-grandmother, and weeks of chicken for dinner. I know all of the characters who visited The Marlage, his Scottie dog named Betty, the “attack goose” they had to bite strangers because Betty was unreliable in that regard. It’s all a rich tapestry of far away and yet familiar Scottish archetypes: the policeman who walked and biked from farm to farm just to check in, the dyspeptic old curmudgeon who lived at the next farm, the great-grandmother who read tea leaves, the one black man for miles who would “first foot” all of the homes on New Year’s Eve (in homage to the Scottish belief that the first person to set foot in your house after midnight on new year’s eve must be tall, dark and handsome; and of these three, dark is the most important), how he was laden with gifts and whiskey for his troubles, the stories go on and on. And so did my dad’s emails…

So. I’m running around like crazy on Wednesday trying to get errands completed and purchases made before Thanksgiving. While I’m driving in the car I like to call my mom just to check in, say hi, the usual dutiful daughter stuff. We chat, she tells me about her day so far, and then says, “Before you go into the store, could you call your dad? He’s having trouble with Blogger.” “No problem, Mom. Gotcha.”

“Hey Dad. Mom says you’re having trouble with Blogger. What’s up?” He tells me how he can’t get it to come up, he types it in but nothing happens, and he can’t find it in his programs, and he has been trying to save an entry but nothing is happening. I ask him to read to me what is on the screen. He tells me. Hmm…


“Dad? Are you connected to the internet?”
“Are you on the internet?”
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Dad. You have a dial-up connection and we are chatting on your home phone, so I'm thinking you haven't dialed in."
“No I haven't.”
“Dad, Blogger is a website, not a program. You have to be connected to the internet to do your blog.”
“Connect to the internet then call me back from your cell.” He calls me back, I walk him through a bit of it, then tell him I’ll call him back to see how he’s doing in about an hour once I’m out of my store. Okay.

One hour later: I try to call him but his cell phone is off and his home phone is of course busy. I try again. And again. Finally I give up until hours later when my mom gets home. I call the house and he is wondering snarkily why I never called him back when I said I would:

“Dad, your cell phone was off.”
“So? I was in the house!” [sounding annoyed]
“Dad, were you on the internet?” [starting to sound a little shrill in return]
“Meaning you were on your phone line?!” [definitely shrill, in definite high-drama mode]
“Yes. I suppose.” [still with an edge]
“So how could I have called you?!” [Edgy shrillness with a fragrant twist of righteous indignation]

Then we both laugh hysterically.

Short Story Long: If he manages to get online again, you can learn a new language--and finally understand why I am the way I am--at www.themarlage.blogspot.com. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

What Not To Say: Graduate Schools

Welcome to the next episode of What Not To Say. I'm your host Esther, and today's episode will be abbreviated in honor of the upcoming holiday. So, without further ado, here is What Not To Say to someone awaiting admission to college or graduate school:

"So! Have you heard anything yet?!"

Rule of thumb: if the person hasn't told you, they either don't know yet, or they do and the answer is in the negative. If it's a yes, you WILL hear. Trust me. Otherwise, shut your cakehole.

Super! Well, that's our show for today! Thanks for joining us, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Telly: The Three American Idols Christmas Special

Dear God! My eyes and ears are bleeding!!!

This "very special American Idol" episode is called "Kelly, Ruben and Fantasia: Home for the Holidays." Did I mention that it is dire? Unwatchable. Unbearable. And absolutely sure to be a hit.

I feel the worst for Kelly Clarkson who, three years later, must simply be desperate for her association with the whole Idol franchise to end. But the rest of it is painful. The entire concept is painful. It reminds me of some crack-addicted version of The Mandrell Sisters' Variety Show from the early 80's. Surely you remember the Mandrell Sisters? Barbara, Irlene and Louise? Where they'd do ghastly skits and sing songs like "Drift Away" (Gimme the beat, boy and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll...?) and "Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue?" Yeah, you know the kind of show I'm talkin' about. It's the kind of show that shouldn't be aired. Shouldn't be watched.

Oh man! Okay, Kelly Clarkson is now singing a Christmas Song called "Oh Jesus What A Wonderful Child." It is Kathie Lee Gifford's wet dream of a Christmas special.

Serves me right for flipping channels during West Wing...

Take a few moments today, in anticipation of Thanksgiving tomorrow, and create a list of things that make your life richer. Try to focus less on the necessities (I'm thankful for my job) and more on those things that don't necessarily knock you out with their magic every day, but that without them, your life would be poorer.

Yours will be different, but here are a few of mine to start you off:

1) The smell of "baby" on my 18 month old niece.
2) My 7-year old niece's declaration that we are "best pals forever."
3) The smell of freshly-cut grass in April telling you that spring is here.
4) A quality cappuccino with just *this* much foam.
5) JM's emails that read like a Bill Bryson work
6) The sound of L's laughter, which makes me smile
7) The smell of J's cooking, which tells me I am cared for
8) The early, EARLY! ringing of the phone on my birthday that tells me my parents will be singing at the top of their lungs when I answer it
9) The joy of conversations with C, J and N, which remind me that they each "get me" in a different way.
10) Back scratches, baby! ;) [just call me Kramer]

Okay. Your turn. Feel free to leave them here, or even better, email them to the people that matter.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Y'All: It's Not ME!

The photo on my profile is not me. Three friends have called me today to ask if it is me, to say "why are you looking at your boobs?," "wow that's risque!," and "I love your dress!"

It ain't me. It's Kate Hudson. Daughter of Goldie Hawn. Stepdaughter of Kurt Russell. Wife of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. Mother of Ryder Robinson.

I put the photo up because J said it was risky to have my own photo online. Protective, protective, bless his heart. Another friend had sent this to me telling me that she thought she looked a bit like me from certain angles (a total suck-up comment if ever there was one), and I liked it because Kate seems to be saying, "Where are my boobs!??!" Which I say all the time... :)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Smorgasbord: Screwed The Pooch

I am watching a rerun of Law and Order (what woman aged 18 to 55 doesn't?!!), and the DA said "screwed the pooch" about 3 times in court. Bleeaaah. I have always hated that phrase, but always assumed it didn't actually mean what I thought it meant (requisite quote from The Princess Bride: "That word! I do not think it means what you think it means!")

Anyway, it turns out, upon research that it actually DOES mean what you think it means. Double Bleeaaah. The phrase first came into popularity after the book The Right Stuff was published. The original expression was "f**k the dog," military slang for wasting time or loafing on the job.

"F**k the dog" appeared in print for the first time in 1935 and over time the meaning shifted (from wasting time to royally messing up), while the "screw the pooch" wording took the place of the original phrase.

Short Story Long: By the way, no pooches were harmed in the filming of Law and Order.

Politics: Senators Don't Read The Bills They Vote For

How comforting is that?! Some unknown (yeah, right) staffer inserts a clause allowing two Republican Senators access to the tax returns of any American citizen, and the bill passes without a peep.

No one (gasp!) has any idea (we're scandalized!) how such a Big Brother eventuality could have occurred! The two senators assured us that they would not have used the power (how could you think we would?!), but something tells me that the clause wouldn't have been inserted just for these two to show their restraint.

Bill Frist promises "accountability." Now, is that the Bill Clinton-got-oral-sex-and-must-be-impeached accountability?
Or the Tom DeLay Lies-and-Obfuscates-So-Let's-Change-That-Ethics-Rule
Because It Now Applies to Him accountability?

I await the harsh consequences for this breach of the public trust...not with the expectation that it will occur of course. But I will await it regardless, you know, out of good old American optimism.

Sports: NBA Impulse Control

You will never guess what happened at work today. We had a group of visitors in our office for the afternoon. So, I was sitting at my desk when one of them walked into my office and threw a cup of water on me. Totally unprovoked, totally uncalled-for.

So I did what any of us would do in similar circumstances: I stood up and starting punching the visitors in the face as fast as I could deliver the beatings. My office mate also got involved as a matter of honor, and started whaling on them as well. As I look back, I'm not entirely sure that the person I punched was the person who threw the water on me, but you know how it is when you are provoked like that...

My boss told me not to come back till after Christmas WITHOUT PAY! But I maintain that she is being unfair. I mean, what was I supposed to do?! That guy threw water on me! Wasn't my behavior justified?! How can they say I'm at fault? It just shows how the management of my company is out to get me, doesn't it? The deck is stacked against me, and I am being dealt with unfairly. There is no question. When you are disrespected like that, you are totally justified in responding however you need to. It doesn't matter that I'm at work, on the clock, engaging in my chosen profession financed by the management. I am justified in doing whatever I need to do to handle disrespect. If you don't agree, then you obviously are anti-woman-in-the-workplace.

New Topic: What Not To Say

I thoroughly enjoy that show called “What Not To Wear.” It is genius in its simplicity because, rather than burdening its subjects with high falutin’ fashion folderol, the hosts just say: “Don’t wear pale pink. It washes you out. Don’t wear stirrup pants; they make your butt look big.” I LOVE that! It just gets right to the point, and tells people in a direct but kind way what perhaps no one else feels comfortable saying to them.

With that as the context, I’ve been thinking about some things well-meaning people say that they should not. So, for the next few paragraphs, just pretend that I am your host of What Not To Say, and that I am doing this for your own good. The next post will tackle illness and bereavement, another one weddings and engagements. This one will discuss pregnancy, birth and adoption.

Babies. One of life’s greatest joys. Especially if it’s yours or your children’s. I’m at that age where most of my friends have or are about to have kids, either by birth or adoption. Some are trying to conceive with limited success. But however it’s happening, having babies is an area fraught with great tension simply because it takes a very private thing (sex, finances, emotional readiness, fertility) and makes it public. Ordinarily, it should be no big deal seeing as people have been procreating since the dawn of time. Except. Except. Yes—except when well-meaning people ask rude questions and ruin the experience for everyone. I would write, “you know who you are!” but the truth is, most people who do this truly do NOT mean any harm and genuinely DON’T know who they are. Which is why I’m your host Esther, and I’d like to welcome you to today’s episode of What Not To Say.

These nuggets have been culled from conversations with my friends and family over the past couple of years:


Did you try long before getting pregnant?
We were wondering what was taking you two so long!
You look like you are about to pop.
Are you sure you’re not having twins? You are so big!
How long do you think it will take you to get back to your old weight?
Did I ever tell you about my 42-hour labor that ended in a C-section, forceps, emergency cauterization, breech, agony in the fires of Dante’s Inferno?
I had terrible hemorrhoids; do you?
You say you’re coming back to work after the birth, but you pregnant ladies never do.
Don’t worry; you’ll lose that butt weight…
Is it him or you that can’t have kids?
I know you didn’t ask, but you should call this herbalist/naturalist/surgeon/OB who can help you.
I read somewhere that weight/nutrition/faith affects your fertility. Have you considered weight loss/vitamins/prayer?

Adoption (with my snarky responses, for your amusement):

How much does the baby cost?
Human beings don’t cost money. Travel and fees cost money. And just as soon as you tell me what your monthly fee, co-pay and deductible are for in-hospital expenses, I’ll tell you what I’m “paying” for my kid too.

Aren’t you worried about not knowing his/her family health history?
Do you know yours? Haven’t you ever come down with something that no one else in your family had? Being biologically related doesn’t guarantee you a stem cell match. Trust me!

Do you know anything about her real mother?
I do actually. She’s blond, about 5’2”, writes a blog… Her birth mother, however, we may never know.

Isn’t it terrible what they do to kids over there?
Well, it’s sad that government policies favor one male child over females, but let’s remember that even in America, babies end up in dumpsters and driven into rivers by their parents. Let’s not ascribe evil intent to people who selflessly and painfully give up their daughters to ensure they have a better life because we think their government is bad.

That child is so lucky to have you.
Hmm. Have you ever once looked at your child and thought, “D*mn, that kid is lucky to have me!” Of course not! You look at your child and thank god that you are lucky enough to have HIM. Adoptive parents feel the same way. Our kids aren’t charity cases.

Does she speak Russian?
She’s 9 months old. She speaks “Baby.”

Will you dress her in Chinese/Guatemalan/Romanian clothing?
Of course. Because all kids born in Texas are dressed in cowboy boots and hats for the rest of their lives, even if they move to Rhode Island or wherever. Seriously, with the exception of Maine babies who, I think do indeed live in LLBean, your point of origin at 8 months old doesn’t really influence your fashion sense at 3 or 12 or 20. Otherwise, if those Nehru collars were anything to go by, the 60’s must have been the coming of age of a bunch of white kids who were born in India, right?

Has it been difficult to all of a sudden become Instant Parents?
Doesn’t every parent become an instant parent? We’re just a little further along the developmental cycle, but people who give birth in hospitals come home with their little bundles as Instant Parents too.

Don’t those kids have lots of emotional problems?
Actually, a 20-year longitudinal study of adoptive vs. biological children shows zero difference in outcomes over their lifespan in children adopted prior to 18 months old. In fact, the findings highlighted that drug use, criminal behavior and other antisocial factors were family based, i.e., in families where antisocial behaviors were present, they cut across the adoptive/biological divide. So, it’s not the adoption that causes the emotional issues, it’s the family. So you can stop worrying if my kid is a serial killer and start paying attention to your own.

Aren’t you worried she’ll be made fun of?
Hellooo, if she’s like 98% of all children, she WILL be made fun of. And most likely not because she’s of another race or adopted! I got made fun of because I was fat. Other kids get teased for stuttering or glasses or dorkiness or whatever. Being a biological child does not save you from teasing. It’s just one less thing someone can pick out about you that’s different. Kids get teased. Fact of life.

Short Story Long: If someone tells you blessed news about a baby, resist the urge to inquire, editorialize or satisfy your curiosity. Just express your unmitigated joy and know that if there is anything worth knowing, and you are entitled to find out, you probably will when the time is appropriate. Until then, I hope you've enjoyed this episode of What Not To Say.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Smorgasbord: Tis The Season

Aw h*ll. As my dad says, "The Christmas Season is once again at our throats."

Guess where I went today? Yep. The Mall. No, not the Smithsonian/monuments/Capitol Mall. The Montgomery Mall/Westfield Shoppingtown in Maryland. Took what we thought would be a jaunt with my mom, sister and nieces to pick up some quick items.

Uh, yeah. "Quick jaunt." The place was JAMMED. Jammed with people and kids and strollers and bags all getting a jumpstart on Christmas shopping; it was a swarming mass of commercial humanity: buying, eating, spending, buying, eating, spending. And being none too polite about it, I might add.

It was misery. It totally bummed me out that "the season" starts earlier and earlier every year, to the extent that buying a single turtleneck and one baby outfit on November 21st at an Old Navy turns into a 3 hour tour (a three hour tour!). You have to get through the traffic, then park, then walk the mile across the crowded parking lot, then wade through the crowded mall to get to the crowded store to find the stupid d*mn turtleneck, stand for 20 minutes at the cashier, then check out then do it all again in reverse. PAINFUL. I just want a turtleneck and a baby outfit! Is that so wrong?!!!??

I know I sound like a total humbug to those who may not feel my pain, so all apologies to the five of you who love rudeness, crowds and conspicuous consumption in spades. Here's the thing: It's not Christmas that makes me crazy. It's the insanity that has co-opted Christmas that makes me crazy. With that in mind, I am proposing for my non-Christmas-celebrating cohorts (and maybe everyone else who wishes Christmas was once again about more than showing your retail love) the following plan:

November 15th is Zero Hour. Treat it as a line in the sand. Much like you would stockpile food and provisions for a nuclear winter or a major blizzard, stock up by November 15th. All birthday/daily/general/whatever shopping is completed by that date. All gifts have been purchased. Your major commercial needs have been met. New Year's party decorations are bought. The only store you go to from November 16th through, say, January 5th is the grocery store.

Hear me now and believe me later; I am not going near a mall until 2005. My brother and his family will be getting their Christmas gifts via the web and UPS. My mom's birthday gift will be afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton. If any of you have birthdays in December, I hope you like homemade cards with homemade cookies in an old Danish butter cookie tin!

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Political: Our Friend Was On the Radio!

Look who was on Janeane Garofalo's radio show on Friday. Congratulations!

Majority Report Radio

How to Post A Comment on The Haggis

Due to much confusion, consternation and general concern, I offer the following three step process outlining how to leave a comment on blogger:

1) Click at the bottom of the entry at "0 Comments" or "1 Comment" or however many comments it says.

2) Go to the bottom of the comments already there and click, "Post Comment."

3) Ignore the exhortation to sign up for Blogger and just post anonymously, unless you want to have a blogger identity, in which case go for it.

4) Leave a comment. Bask in the warm glow of bloggerdom.

Thank you!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Smorgasbord: Are you the Alpha Male?

For all you dog lovers out there:

Dominance Test

Political: Oh Dear, Wait Till The GOP Sees THIS!

Big Bone Lick Park dedicates new visitor center

Kentucky's Department of Parks touts Big Bone Lick State Park as the birthplace of American paleontology, but the park's real birth pangs have come as the state tries to focus national or at least regional attention on it.

State and local officials will celebrate one step toward that goal today when they dedicate the park's new 3,800-square-foot visitor center.

State Commerce Secretary Jim Host, state Rep. Jim Marcotte, R-Union, and Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore will be among those on hand to mark the $745,000 center's opening.

Short Story Long: They'd better not get too attached to their visitor center. The esteemed Congressman from Indiana's Interstate 69 will no doubt get involved and rename it to "Greater Osseus Osculation State Park."

Look THAT up in your Funk & Wagnalls! ;)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Political: Republicans Need to Own It

Show of hands: how many of us have had conversations with people who voted for Bush, who say that they are Republicans, and who get offended when the party is characterized as intolerant, divisive and negative. Hellooooooooooooo??!! Read your party platform! You belong to a party that is anti-gay, religiously fundamentalist and committed to the following:

We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related
services for contraception and abortion. We oppose school-based mental health programs that include recommendations for the use of psychotropic drugs.

We strongly support President Bush’s call for a Constitutional amendment that
fully protects marriage, and we believe that neither federal nor state judges nor
bureaucrats should force states to recognize other living arrangements as equivalent to marriage. We believe, and the social science confirms, that the well-being of children is best accomplished in the environment of the home, nurtured by their mother and father anchored by the bonds of marriage. We further believe that legal recognition and the accompanying benefits afforded couples should be preserved for that unique and special union of one man and one woman which has historically been called marriage.

That is why we say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to
life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution
and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children...And we applaud President Bush for allowing states to extend health care coverage to unborn children.

It's okay if you agree with all of this stuff, but at least be honest about it. If you vote Republican, you support measures to ensure kids don't hear about contraception, which might--duh--prevent abortions. You support measures to ensure that your friends and neighbors and family members who happen to be gay cannot have the security and joy of the same marriage you enjoy...and that proud heteros like Britney, JLo, Donald Trump, and let's face it--a good number of people you know and love--have not upheld in the Republican tradition. You support measures that seem to subvert the conservative value of "getting government off your back" by intruding upon my conversations with my doctor. You don't like the government in your business--but you don't mind when it is in MINE. You don't want to offer health coverage to every American--unless they are a fetus. Please! Vote Republican, but at least acknowledge the logical inconsistency in these positions! And don't get all wiggy when someone calls you on it.

Short Story Long: It's okay to be Republican. But at least own what that means in today's political climate. If you don't like the platform, stop voting for it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Political: Awaiting the Outrage

I'm awaiting Arab outrage over Margaret Hassan's murder. I'm sure they'll get to it, just as soon as they are done using the killing of insurgents in time of war as another excuse to avoid responsibility for their own actions.

I know this post seems out of my usual line of thought, but honestly. Margaret Hassan worked her entire lifetime to help and protect the people of Iraq. Where is the outrage? Where is the determination to bring her kidnappers to justice? To renounce violence in the name of Islam? Where is it?


Smorgasbord: The Dyson Guy

Is anyone else as creeped out by the weird, British, effete vacuum cleaner "inventor" on those Dyson commercials? There's just something "off" about him, isn't there? With his "I just think that things should work prop-ah-lay" and his jeremiads against vacuum cleaner bags getting full? It's not right. It's just not how god or nature intended people to speak, much less speak about the life-and-death issue of vacuum cleaner suction.

Or is that just me?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Telly: Great TV Quotes

#1 through 4 in a continuing series:

1) "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have...oh hell, pour me a drink."
--Charles Emerson Winchester III, M*A*S*H

2) GLORIA: Sixty-five percent of the people murdered in the last ten years were killed by handguns.
ARCHIE: Would it make you feel any better, little girl, if they was pushed out of windows?
--All In The Family

3) WOODY: Jack Frost nipping at your toes, Mr. Peterson?
NORM: Yeah, now let's get Joe Beer nipping at my liver.

4) NILES: I'll have a double cappuccino, half-caf, nonfat milk, with enough foam to be aesthetically pleasing but not to leave me with a moustache.

Any others you want to share?

Political: New Terror Alert Levels

What with the cabinet shakeup, there has also been a shakeup in the terror alert level schematic. Click below to see both, determine which will scare you more, and give you enough presence of mind to go out and buy duct tape and distilled water ASAP:

Terror Alert Level


Terror Alert Level

Monday, November 15, 2004

Political: Route 69 to be 86'd by the Christians

Having cured cancer and having secured a brighter future for America through strong defense and an active, engaged populace, Congress' best and brightest can now commence spending our tax money on truly meaningful efforts such as the following:

John Hostettler, the Congressman representing the 8th district of Indiana, has been convinced by local religious groups to introduce legislation in the House that would change the name of an Interstate 69 extension to a more moral sounding number.

There are plans to extend the interstate from Indianapolis through southwestern Indiana all the way through Texas into Mexico in the coming years. While most believe this highway will be good for the state’s economy, religious conservatives believe “I-69” sounds too risqué and want to change the interstate’s number.

Hostettler, a proponent of the interstate extension, agrees. “Every time I have been out in the public with an ‘I-69’ button on my lapel, teenagers point and snicker at it. I have had many ask me if they can have my button. I believe it is time to change the name of the highway. It is the moral thing to do.”

As a matter of fact, naming the highway’s extension I-69 is a violation of the Interstate Highway System’s rules for numbering roads. Interstates numbers are to increase from west to east. If the extension through southern Indiana is named I-69, then 69 will be west of I-65, a direct violation.

“Naming the road I-63 not only follows numbering guidelines, it doesn’t have the sexual undertones that I-69 has,” says Hostettler, “It is a win-win situation.”

Short Story Long:
Dearest Christian Right: if you don't tell people it's dirty, most of them will not think it's dirty. Thank you for CREATING smut where none existed, you dirty-minded holier-than-thou morons. Are we seriously using taxpayer money to save this Congressman from the snickers of TEENAGERS?!!! Hell, that means he can never have a cocktail party, discuss rubber import tariffs or drug interDICtion, wear Dickies slacks, have a weenie roast, honor the brave seamen in the gulf or....hell, let's face it; he can no longer say ANYTHING in front of teenagers because they will find something dirty in anything. It seems, though, that the person needing to grow up is not the teenager...

Smorgasbord: Early Thanksgiving

Every year around this time, I start my litany of things I'm grateful for. Not in anticipation of Thanksgiving, but in anticipation of November 17th. Back in 1988 I was in my boyfriend's car...without a seatbelt...on an icy road. How is that for foreshadowing?!

Because it was the 80's, I had just gotten a spiral perm and was going to grab some dinner with him before going home. Now, kids, here's where your parents are going to give you that look of "I told you so:" my parents had told me to come right home after the hairdo because it was a School Night. Me, being 16 and a seasoned litigator, figured that since they had not *expressly* forbidden dinner specifically (as in them saying, "Subsection three, paragraph eight of child/parent contract stipulates the following: No going to dinner, young lady. 'Dinner' being defined as a starch, protein and vegetable purchased for onsite consumption..."), that it was therefore not actually included under the "come right home" declaration. Besides, a girl's gotta eat, and what's the big deal, right?

Yeah. No big deal. Unless you count skidding around a corner on an icy road and slamming head-on into a very large vehicle that sustained minimal damage while the Renault Alliance you are riding in crumpled on impact with you as the passenger seat projectile. No big deal indeed.

What I remember of it is a patchwork of Fellini-esque scenes from someone else's Tuesday night. I can hear someone screaming to call my mom, please call my mom; I can hear her simultaneously reciting my home phone number three times in perfect succession to the girl who has run out of her house to offer help; I am aware of warm stuff running down my face and into my shirt, but I feel nothing. Not fear, not pain, nothing. I can tell the girl who is screaming is afraid, but I can't think of what to say to her to make her calm down. All I know is she is loud and she is messing with my dreamy reverie here. I see faces, flashing lights, some guy asking me questions I can't understand much less answer, and then I just kind of wonder what kind of dream this is, where you go from a dark street to a brightly-lit room in what seems like 5 seconds. Oh wow. There's my mom and dad. What's wrong, Dad? You look scared. Mom, is Dad okay? What could have happened to frighten my usually stoic father into a look of terror? But not to worry. Mom looks confident and calm. Mom? Is everything okay? Are you okay? Is my sister going to be mad that they I borrowed this shirt without asking and now they are cutting it open? She's gonna be so mad. I've got a paper due on Thursday; how will I finish it? Man, I wish they'd all stop shouting. I wish they'd remind me how to talk. I can't quite make my mouth form words. I wish my dad's eyes would dry up. My mom's eyes, however, are looking directly at me and saying telepathically "I am your mother and I am telling you that you are okay." So I'm locking my gaze onto my mom's. I am not taking my eyes off my mom's. My mom is telling me that everything is going to be okay, so everything must be okay. As they check me for internal bleeding, xray, catscans, shave parts of my head, remove a few car parts from my skull, start talking about "massive blood loss" and "broken nose" and "broken orbitals" and "skull fracture" and begin stitching me up with a huge freakin' needle, I am starting to feel aware of pain. But I feel a little less anxious looking at my mom, whose eyes have not left mine in all these many minutes. I still kind of wish they'd stop shouting, though, because I'd rather hear her voice than theirs.

Short Story Long: On November 17th, 1988, I learned that my mom is the strongest person in our family; that my mother's presence is as comforting at the age of 16 or 42 or 60 as it is at 3; that my mom saw me to my hospital bed, kissed me goodnight, and then cried sobbing for an hour at home as she could finally let down the armor that had gotten me through the ordeal. I learned that the love of a mother for her child trumps all fear and all pain. I also learned that kids are essentially ungrateful: I was somewhat ashamedly in awe of my mom for getting me through that night. Which of course, at 16, meant I acted resentfully toward her and my dad--for reminding me in a moment of fear that I did indeed need her more than I ever wanted to admit.

After November 17th, every day was a gift. Every person in my life was a gift. Every time my sister permitted me to wear her clothes was a gift. Every time I struggled in the following months to find a word that was on the tip of my tongue, every time I struggled to remember something that I just knew I knew before the accident, every time I went out with the huge scar across my face, my two black eyes and my stitched-up nose and got stared at, I felt lucky. I got a Christmas help job at The Gap because I was desperate to get back into the swing. I worked with a huge dressing on my forehead and half my head shaved, joking with staring customers that "I just recently learned that my head does not fit in a glove compartment," made a bunch of sales and got employee of the month for January, not to mention 50% off a bunch of new clothes for my sister...

Every day was, and is, a gift. And so is my mom.

Smorgasbord: Do It Afraid.

My favorite quote during my freshman year at St. Andrews was this paraphrase of Guillaume Apollinaire:

"'Come to the edge,' he said. 'No, we will fall.' 'Come to the edge,' he said. 'No, we will fall.' 'Come to the edge,' he said. They came, he pushed them and they flew."

It resonated with me so deeply because I had just done the unthinkable in my life up to that point: left my parents 6,000 miles away in another country, escaped a bad "relationship" with my high school boyfriend, turned down a scholarship to Wellesley College, and flown to the hinterlands of Scotland to pay top dollar to attend St. Andrews, all in the hopes of figuring out if, on my own, I would fall or fly.

I think back to the girl who arrived in Scotland without a clue about life, but thinking she had its number. I was still in that stage of life that my dad bemoaned at the time as my "fluffy clouds" period, where I truly believed that people would be good to me if I was good to them, that I would always receive love and kindness back in the same measure I offered it; the concept of some people being jerks for sport had yet to find its way into my consciousness. He worried about me constantly, fearing incessantly that his naive little girl would bump into real life and its rotating cast of equally good and evil characters, 6,000 miles away from his protective shield and have to figure it all out on her own.

As I got on the plane at Boston Logan and saw him loitering at the gate to wave just one more time, I didn't have the heart to tell him that that was exactly the reason I was going. I needed to find out if I could do it alone. If, when faced with life in all of its exquisite, painful, challenging, soul-crushing, breathtakingly beautiful, heartbreaking glory--would I have the courage to fly?

As expected (as it always does to everyone at some point), life did indeed come running around the corner at top speed, punching me in the face and knocking the fluffy clouds out of my head. As expected (as most of us do at that point), I lived to tell...and ended up better and stronger for the beating. Visiting my sister at her college in England, I met an American student named Joel. He was this kooky, cute, eccentric guy from Potomac, MD who was there for the semester and whom I told, to my sister's amused embarrassment, "I'm considering having a crush on you, but we'll see how it goes." He laughed at that and proceeded to regale me with his very charming oddness for the rest of the day. I think he found me amusing in that kid sister kind of way. Anyway, there was a huge dance at the college and he was pulling me onto the dance floor with little success. When he asked why I was so outgoing and yet so reticent to dance I said, "I'm afraid I'll look stupid." To which Joel, god bless him to this day, said: "Esther, life can't be comfortable. You've got to do it afraid. If you wait till you're not scared, you're gonna miss out on life. Do it afraid, then. Okay?"

Short Story Long: 1990. The year I got my heart broken, my ego bruised, my intellect challenged. But also the year I made lifelong friends, drank way too much, found my voice, got my first belt in karate, learned Arabic, danced at a college in England like a complete loon--and learned how to "do it afraid."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Smorgasbord: Out of the Mouth of Google...

This made me laugh.
Hey--at least I'm not mandating "freedom fries..."

1. Go to Google.
2. Type "french military victories" into the search box.
3. Press the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, which opens the top result directly.
4. Enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Political: Crossfire Proves John Stewart's Point

Picture if you will: We have arrived at Crossfire, run the gauntlet of security and "will call" nonsense. Put our butts in some decent seats. Starting to percolate about how cool this whole little dog-and-pony show is gonna be. And then tabloid disaster strikes: Monitors, tuned to CNN of course, start predicting an imminent verdict in the Laci Peterson case, which is indeed handed down moments before Crossfire is to begin.

So what happens? The entire plan for the show--Arafat, the Middle East, Black flags in Falluja--is scrapped within 8 minutes of going live to discuss how people feel about the Peterson guilty verdict. A more bummed woman you have never met. The entire show I am sitting there, a totally Bitter Betty, that we are even discussing such a ludicrous topic.

Yes, it's tragic. Yes, it's sad. But no, it is NOT national news worthy of pushing Falluja and Arafat's power vacuum off the front burner. I was p*ssed. Totally p*ssed. They handed out blue notecards for people to write their "thoughts and feelings" about the verdict, from which they would select a group to share their thoughts on air. I wrote the following:

"While this is a tragic and sad situation, it is not national news. Why is it receiving such a high level of attention? Isn't it just a full-employment program for legal analysts? Having said that, I am glad he was found guilty, although the issue of the unborn child is a more complicated issue, legally and ethically."

Was I picked? Nah. Didn't expect to be. The ones that were? And I quote, "I really think that justice was done here for Laci and her child." "Boy, the jury reached that verdict kind of quickly, huh?" Really? And you are a members of which Bar?

It was excruciating. For everyone. Poor Donna Brazile shows up to talk progressive turkey and gets lumped with Jeffrey Feiger (of Kevorkian trial fame) and another attorney who looked like Nicole Brown Simpson's sister, ironically. Tucker was his usual Faux Self-Deprecating Charming self, chatting with the audience in a way that confirms "yeah, he really DOES say that to all the girls..."

Short Story Long: #1: John Stewart was right. Crossfire is not a political discussion; it is infotainment in the worst sense of the word (and I say that with full adoration for you, my beloved JCarville). #2: Lemme break it down for you to give you a full picture without writing a thousand words~ Tucker Carlson is the Carson Daly of politics. Nuff said?

Smorgasbord: I See Cat People

I am sitting at work at one of those random desks they assign to temps and consultants. As such, I am in a weird location of the floor plan with other ancillary staff. This means that socializing requires that everyone pile into this little office on their way to the rest room or the kitchen. The good news is that everyone, contract and permanent, is cool. The bad news is that, at the height of the socializing, I am surrounded by “cat people.”

For those of you familiar with 80’s B-movies who are beginning to feel jealous, I must caution you that I am not speaking of the hot naked Nastassia Kinski kind of Cat People. Sorry. I am speaking of those people who not only love their cats, but LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE their cats. You know the people I mean. You work with them too. You are probably related to at least one of them. None of them look like Nastassia Kinski.

So I am sitting here, feeling like CJ Craig on the most recent episode of West Wing, where she has 1300 pages in a binder to review before a meeting in 15 minutes. I am walking the wire to get some information into my brain before a client call in 30 minutes so that I can avoid completely embarrassing myself by suffering career-ending public “intellectual flatulence,” by which I mean a brain fart

Anyway, today—as on all other days I am in the office—this tiny office is crowded by people (I kid you not) sharing stories of what their cats did last night. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. They are seriously standing around, drinking that nasty bum-tasting coffee that all offices seem to have with names like Gold Label or TasteeCup, TALKING ABOUT THEIR CATS!! “Frisker just jumped up on the couch and looked at me like, ‘whatchoolookin at?!’ I laughed so hard!” “Mrs. Katz had some catnip and just went wild during the opening credits of Touched By an Angel.” “Alice is just so picky about her food; she’s just like me.” I am typing this in really small font so that no one can read over my shoulder. I can’t believe I am here, at this moment, inside a Saturday Night Live skit. Or perhaps more accurately, inside the movie Office Space.

Short Story Long:
Maybe I’m being uncharitable because I am an avowed Dog Person. I find stories about people’s dogs to be interesting and heart warming. I think dogs are indeed man’s best friend. I think that dogs would take a bullet for their “owners.” I think that cats, if given the choice between food and their “owner,” would fire the gun themselves.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Political: Goin' to Crossfire Tomorrow!

Yep. I'm going to be in the audience of Crossfire with some dear friends tomorrow. It's a bit odd because you have to enter at 3:30 and be in your seat with your cakehole shut by 4:10. So what am I supposed to do for 20 minutes? Think about what new, innovative red state/blue state map I can create to further support the Myth of the Mandate? Ponder Arlen Specter's bravery and integrity? Mull over whether I'd prefer Obama or Edwards or Bayh in 2008? Wonder why Christmas decorations go up before Halloween? Plumb the depths of "what exactly IS Hamburger Helper/nougat/cheese whiz/twinkie cream/mountain dew anyway?"

I know! I will devise some way to call Tucker Carlson "a d*ck" on national television!!
Wish me luck!

Smorgasbord: When Did Veterans Day become Arbor Day?

Show of hands: How many of you had Veterans Day off work? How many of you didn't?

Maybe its because I grew up in Massachusetts--dreaded liberal ungodly evil permissive shameful unpatriotic anti-American pinko commie society that it is--but we ALWAYS had Veterans Day off school and out of work. No questions. No debates. So why does Virginia, bastion of the Christian Coalition and True American Patriots so we're told, not honor Veterans Day? Why were Virginia students in school today? Why was my office open?

Short Story Long: WHY--when we have Americans dying every single damn day in Iraq, and thousands more separated from their families around the world, and young people back home with limbs missing--WHY has Veterans Day become a non-holiday, an optional celebration? Is it because we have Memorial Day for all the veterans dead already? Why do we not equally honor those still living as well as departed? I think it is a disgrace.

There. That's my Andy Rooney rant for you today.

PS--A quickie history of Veterans Day for trivia lovers:

WWI memorial services all took place on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I at 11:00 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month), which became known as Armistice Day.

Armistice Day officially became a holiday in the United States in 1926, and a national holiday 12 years later. On June 1, 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor all U.S. veterans.

In 1968, new legislation changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.

Telly: The Lamest Show Promo Ever

I was just watching ER (I know, I know; it's old and busted, but I get sucked in every week by the promos which always promise "the most riveting ER ever" which is a total, bitterly-disappointing lie. And yet hope springs eternal that there will be a supersurprise George Clooney-Julianna Margulies story arc. Dream on, E). Anyway, during the commercial break, there was a promo for Law And Order:CI on Sunday night. The promo went thusly:

"Desperate Housewives is not on this Sunday night. But Law and Order:CI is an all-new episode..."

Okay. I'm assuming that every professional involved in the creation and airing of that promo will be fired by Friday COB. Have you ever heard a less exciting reason to watch a show?: That other good show won't be on; so hey! how about some sloppy seconds?! If you like tongue-in-cheek dramedy with cute women and great writing, then look no further than Law And Order:CI as a substitute! Yeah! Do you like Teri Hatcher?! Then get a load of Vincent D'Onofrio! Like your drama with a heady dose of humor? Then look no further than our triple-murder-mutilation story line! Now THAT is some Must-See Telly!

Short Story Long: Here's the kicker: the promo assumes that even if your show is not on, that you will still sit there and watch *something* rather than get up and go do something else, like have a life. Oh, okay, so maybe they were right on that one....

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Political: Something's rotten in the state of Ohio

Ohio Suspicions

Read this article by Keith Olbermann. In it, he discusses the strange fact that one county in Ohio's vote total was 93,000 more than there were registered voters. Another county's votes were more than a thousand higher than the number of registered voters. Add to that the curious order from Tom Ridge to lock down the Ohio vote counting location from the press on the grounds of "national security," and I think we have something kind of smelly going on in Ohio, don't you? These same individuals demanded cameras and on-location watchers in Florida in 2000 so that the process would be "transparent." Why change their tack in Ohio all of a sudden?

Mars/Venus: What Will It Take to Get a Man to Ask for Directions?

Apparently, clones of my parents live in St. Louis:

(KSDK) -- A Florissant couple is safe after they were missing for nearly 24 hours. They were finally located early Sunday morning.

Saturday morning, Violet, 83, and William Kaczmark, 81, were heading to Harrah's Casino in Maryland Heights for a family reception, when they got lost.

Violet wanted to stop for help. She says her husband didn't, "I told him I had seen two different cops and I think I'm going to one cop and tell him I'm lost and how do you get back to Florissant and, he says no I don't want you doing that."

The couple also didn't stop to find a place to eat or a place to sleep. Instead they drove through the night. Meantime, Florissant police, fearing foul play, conducted a search and asked the media to broadcast the missing persons report. There was a gentleman driving through East St. Louis as he heard it on the radio. He observed them driving in front of them erratically, back and forth between the lanes. He pulled alongside them and yelled for them to pull over, which they did. Once he did that, he grabbed the keys and called police."

Violet says if it hadn't been for the stranger stopping them, she thinks they would still be lost. She says she's going to buy a cell phone in case they get lost again.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Great Books: "On the Other Hand..."

This book, subtitled "Jewish Words of Wisdom" came into my possession because it was $4.95 on one of those big tables at the Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica, CA. You know how it is, you go spend a half hour/ an hour in B&N or Borders, you read a few magazines, peruse a few books in Travel and Science (as if you will ever go to Egypt or map the genome), and then on your way out the door you get sucked into one of those "little" books that you can't put down because it is such an easy read. I picked up, but then put back, "The Mini Chicken Soup for the Cynical Bloggers Soul," so at least I have some kind of literary discernment, right? But the one that got me was the above "little" book.

What made me buy it was the following two quotes, which had me in hysterics even though my lovely friend L who accompanied me to the bookstore thought I was off my rocker:

1) Jewish Curses: May all your teeth fall out except one, and that one should ache you. [anonymous]
2) L'Chaim (To Life!): I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I had lost exactly two weeks. [Joe E. Lewis]

But most importantly, it said the following:

"America has given to the world a precious jewel. It has shown that a government whose concerns are purely secular and which leaves to the individual conscience of its citizenry all obligations that relate to God is the one which is actually the most friendly to religion. It is a precious jewel that we have. We should guard it well."
----Leo Pfeffer 1910-1993

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Political: Support Our Troops

Okay, y’all. It’s time to put our money where our mouths are. Click on this site and send a care package to a serviceman or woman who would not otherwise receive much in the mail.

George Bush will never have my support but these men and women have it all the way. We Dems have said for months now that we support the troops, and we’ve rejected accusations that we don’t. It’s time to put our words into action.

We can’t control when or how they’ll be brought home by our commander in chief, but we CAN control how they feel about their sacrifices while on the frontlines.

Click here. Make it happen. This is my first act of hope and faith in this new political climate. Make it yours too.


Political: Moral Values

Tuesday will mark the end of me sitting shiva for the presidential election. I have given myself permission to feel low and bummed and to eat whatever I want to until Tuesday, when I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and get back to the business of hope-filled political business.

As my self-imposed grieving period comes to an end, I have been pondering all the reasons why Dems lost (not including Diebold machines with no paper trail, boogeyman issues like gay marriage placed on the ballot by the GOP, etc etc etc). I think it is all too easy to say something like, “well John Kerry was not a good candidate” or “Teresa was a liability” or “John Edwards was too young.”

How could John Kerry be a worse candidate than GWB? Since when has the first lady’s demeanor made someone not vote for a candidate? (Hell, Mary Todd Lincoln was the living, breathing definition of co-president, as was Eleanor Roosevelt in FDR’s later days, as was Nancy Reagan.) So enough with the beatings on Teresa. And on the third question, since when did being pretty much the same age as the sitting president (but with less sun-damaged skin) disqualify you for the Vice Presidency? These are all too easy explanations, and are nothing more than pat answers to the wrong question.

Democrats lost because the GOP mobilized its religious base, which is afraid of the cultural shifts taking place in American society. It doesn’t make those people right on the issues, but it does make them relevant. What has disturbed me, on both sides, is the Republican belief that “religion” and “morals” are the same thing, and the unfortunate leftie belief that somehow people who hold tightly to religious beliefs are to be disregarded as medieval morons.

Neither is true. I consider myself religious but not conservative. I know plenty of non-religious people who are some of the most moral, decent people on the planet. I know many gay people who are deeply committed to their churches and their religious beliefs, and many “religious” people who I would not trust with the keys to my car, much less my life.

It is time for us as Americans—and as political parties—to get away from the following polarizing beliefs, and any party that espouses them:

Religious people are moral
Non-religious people are immoral
Religious people are bigoted dimwits
Non-religious people are open-minded citizens of humanity

If Dems are going to win an election, we need to a) stop conceding faith and theology to the Republicans, and b) respect that we do not need to denigrate religion (or those who believe in it) in order to say, “national problem X demands a rational, reasoned, scientific, evidence-based solution.”
The Republicans don’t “own” faith. No one does. We need to make the argument that children going hungry in the richest country on earth is immoral; that committing the lives of American troops to a war with no plan to get them out is immoral; that drilling and clear-cutting and polluting God’s green earth is immoral; that denying family planning funds that actually promote the preservation of the sanctity of life is immoral.

We also need to recognize the transformative power of faith in action. Martin Luther King Jr. harnessed the power of people of faith to change this country. He did not seek to bring prayer to schools or to break down the wall between church and state. What he did was use the power of religious belief, of biblical tradition, to break down the walls of hatred and injustice. Yes, it took Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act to make it the law of the land, but it took courageous people of faith to make it untenable for any other result to occur. This partnership between religion and politics stands as a shining example of how the two can work together to effect change that could not occur independently of the other.

Short Story Long:
The Democratic Party has a long tradition of faith in our ranks. We need to get over our discomfort (or our self-importance) and be who we truly are: the moral compass for this nation. Because more than ever, this nation needs one.

Smorgasbord: My Standard LA Pseudo-Celebrity Sighting

I am here in LA once again; a place I absolutely LOVE to visit. I know, I know. I hear all you compassionate conservative types accusing me of caving to the Hollywood Liberal Elite lifestyle. Oh well. I also hear all your crunchy, granola East Coasters gasp, “But isn’t San Francisco so much BETTER?! LA is so artificial! Eeewww!” Again, oh well.

I cannot tell a lie: I love coming to LA. For lots of reasons, which would constitute a whole other bloggerific entry. What I love about coming to LA is that I fly into LAX, that roiling, toiling sea of humanity that is at the top of Al Qaeda’s target list. What I love about LAX is that—sin excepcion—I always see a celebrity. Or rather, a pseudo-celebrity. You know who I mean: those “stars” of TV or film who aspire to greater things and who you just know are currently doing the coffee and nicotine diet and the casting couch workout. Yes indeedy, pseudo-celebrities are my stock in trade.

You might feel sad for me that I am bumping into “The Donger” from Sixteen Candles instead of Tom Cruise. Save your pity. Save it for the truly needy, such as the bar owners in Georgetown who will have 4 more years of the Bush twins falling off their bar stools after their weekly parties, Colin Powell whose reputation will continue its slow, inexorable, painful decline in the face of further military chaos in Iraq, or (to be bipartisan here) Michael Moore, who will face certain malnutrition and wasting now that he is off the campaign chicken-and-peas circuit.

No, don’t pity me. Envy me. Loathe me for my great good fortune. Seethe with jealousy that you did not just see Roseanne-avec entourage-in the Delta Crown Room. Nor did you see Connie Sellecca, former costar of 80’s show The Greatest American Hero and multiple Lifetime Television For Women movies of the week, and wife of the musical powerhouse John Tesh doing electronic check-in in Terminal 5. No you did not. Betcha can’t think straight for the envy, huh?

You also did not see David Hyde Pierce, Frasier’s Niles Crane, who in person is potentially the slimmest man I have ever seen in my life…not to mention my chief rival for palest human on the planet. Nor did you see Casey Affleck, the “LaToya Jackson” sibling of Ben Affleck, who as you can imagine just stopped all traffic with his presence…or not.

Okay, so now that I am truly channeling the egregious Larry King, I will wrap this self-serving entry up thusly: Why would I prefer to meet The Dad from Malcolm In The Middle over Justin Timberlake? Because pseudo-celebrities are, ipso facto, better than bona fide celebrities for three reasons:

1) Because they are accessible: they still go to the mall and stand in lines at airports. They are not famous enough that they avoid attention, and in fact they love to run out for a latte just to get mentioned in the media. Alternatively, they *used to be* super famous and now crave a little bit of the lovin’ they used to have.
2) The kitsch factor in meeting James Garner from The Rockford Files or the now-deceased Perry Mason from Matlock far outweighs the palpitations of meeting George Clooney. Come on! Which one can you share a moment with your grandmother about, huh? Pseudo-celebrities foster intergenerational family bonding. It’s just that simple.
3) Finally, pseudo celebrities generally have not had the major “work” done that major celebrities have (or have had some bad, obvious work done), so the experience of seeing (let’s say for instance/as an example just in case she’s litigious) a certain model-trying-to-be-an-actress whose skin is shockingly acne-scarred in person---is good for the average person’s self-esteem.

Short Story Long: Celebrities—in their varying levels of box office bankability—are fun if stared at from a safe distance. Do NOT approach them or in any way reveal that you give a rat’s a** that they are in the room. Admitting that you notice them is not cool. Fainting, screaming and blathering about “loving their work” is *beyond* not cool. Seeing them and then snarkily writing about them in a blog is, since you asked, immeasurably cool. ;)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Political: It's Not a Mandate, Mr. President.

I was looking at the electoral map in the Wall Street Journal this morning and feeling a concomitant loss of appetite. All of the accompanying commentary used words like "mandate" and "decisive" and "emboldened." My coffee started to taste bitter. My vitamins became unswallowable. No amount of Lucky Charms or BooBerry was going to salvage this day.

Then I realized. If this president looks at the Electoral Map and thinks he has a mandate, he is sorely mistaken. He needs to throw out that map and look at a Popular Vote Map. Because 53 million people wanted to turn him out of office. That sea of red across the country is nothing more than a "winner take all" view of each state's vote. In many states (with the exception of the usual suspects in the South and Mountain West), the split between the two candidates was as close as 51% to 49%. That is not a mandate from the people of Ohio to have your Republican way with them. It is a plurality to be sure, but it is not a mandate.

I'd be interested to see how many votes for George Bush were a result of a Republican having no other option. Much like for any Democrat who didn't love Kerry, what else were you going to do? You had to "hold your nose and vote." How many Republicans (like some friends that I have chatted with) did not actually support GWB but found the idea of a) staying home or b) voting for Kerry to be laughable...and so felt like their only option was to vote for the GOP candidate on the ballot? I know that many Dems did the same.

Short Story Long: As with so many words these days whose meanings are fungible and whose emphasis is misused for nefarious purposes,
[See "hero"--as in {Rudy Giuliani was a hero on 9/11. Little boy is a hero for saving his drowning cat}
See "God"--as in {I want to thank God for this award/bowl game/NASCAR championship}," See "star"--as in {the stars of Survivor: Vanuatu, TV star Paris Hilton, movie star Freddie Prinze, Jr.}],
"mandate" has become the description du jour for something that is most decidedly not.

Getting 51% of the vote entitles you to take office with a majority. It does not offer you a mandate. Unlike Ronald Reagan's victory back in 1980, the crossover vote between parties was minor. And as little as I want to wave the flag for Ronald Reagan, on some level, HE could have declared a mandate on the argument that a large percentage of the other party voted for him. His appeal cut across partisan lines to the extent that he could have credibly said that he had a broad base of support to justify his policies. Re-elected or not, this President remains the most polarizing head of state in modern American history. More so than even Bill Clinton, which ought to put it his "mandate" in perspective.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Political: My Wilderness Years

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” Thomas Jefferson

I can barely write today for the jabbing pain that is afflicting my kidneys, and the dull ache in the pit of my stomach. As I attempted to wrap my mind around a George Bush victory, all I felt was a sense of impending doom, and a feeling of being somehow apart from America. I struggle to feel like this nation represents anything I hold dear. How can 51% of Americans truly think that this man is the best choice to lead us? And, furthermore, how can I possibly have anything in common with them? What could possibly connect me to them?

I am reminded of Winston Churchill's description of his life from 1929 when he lost his cabinet position through 1939, when he became Great Britain's prime minister - a period he described as the most difficult in his life: 2004-2008: These are my wilderness years.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Political: Scariest Statewide Race is Okie Dokie

Let us not forget the statewide races such as the one in Oklahoma. This is hee-larious and yet bloody frightening. Read Coburn's quote in the 2nd paragraph:

***Carson, the Democratic candidate in Oklahoma, is trying to win in a state that gave Bush a 22 point margin over Al Gore. He wears cowboy boots and jeans and drives a beat-up pickup truck. He's been helped by his opponent's strident comments.

Coburn, an obstetrician, has said he favors the death penalty for abortionists, called state legislators "a bunch of crapheads" and referred to "rampant lesbianism" in some Oklahoma schools.***

How off the rails is THIS guy?! Go Sooners!

Political: UnAmerican Activities

These are disgraceful examples of those who would try to depress turnout among likely Democratic voters. It is vile and un-American.

Dirty Tricks

Political: Winston Churchill as 2004 Pundit

Some thoughts from my man Winnie as we enter Election Eve, or for the Jews among us, Erev Election:

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.

The best argument against democracy is a five minute talk with the average voter.

It is no use saying, "We are doing our best." You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.

I gather, young man, that you wish to be a Member of Parliament. The first lesson that you must learn is, when I call for statistics about the rate of infant mortality, what I want is proof that fewer babies died when I was Prime Minister than when anyone else was Prime Minister. That is a political statistic.

Short Story Long: I am still searching in my archives for any occasions when WC may have called someone a d*ck on national radio. No luck so far...

Political: Hold Your Nose and Cast a Ballot

Gene Weingarten did a fantastic piece in this Sunday's Washington Post Magazine on non-voters. He spent time with a man in Muskegon, Michigan, to delve into the myriad reasons why someone might simply have no interest in participating in elections. It was a fascinating and informative look across the divide to where the average American earns about $500 a week and supports his family in multiple ways that you and I can only imagine, or in our more shameful moments, laugh at. For instance, he fishes and hunts to supplement the family's food. He has periodic seizures but can't afford to go to the doctor, so he just "hopes for the best." He doesn't see a single difference between the two candidates for the simple reason that, to him, they both represent the same thing: moneyed aristocracy with not a clue about his life. Both went to Yale, both are extremely wealthy, both hunt "for sport" not survival. The debate discussions on trade policy or yellowcake uranium stores or ethanol subsidies are so esoteric as to be distancing for the majority of people like this gentleman. What he needs to know is: how can I make sure my kid eats three squares a day? How can I make sure that he and his mother will be okay should one of these seizures kill me? Screw Osama, screw Saddam, screw all of the other nonsense that passes these days for "campaign issues." Who is going to honor this man's work ethic with some policies to give him a break?

I read this article and for once in my self-important, Tracey Flick election-enthusiast life, finally understood why someone just wouldn't care to vote. The disconnect between taking time off work, standing in line, punching a chad and getting health insurance so your kid can grow up healthy, or bringing industry to Michigan so you don't have to work long hours laying cement is just so wide, so gaping as to be impassable. The chasm between the American ideal of voting and this man's daily life is shockingly and shamefully wide.

How did we get here? And is there a road back? For me, because my life experience is different from the Michigan nonvoter's life, that road begins tomorrow at my ballot box. And that act will create a ripple that will create a current that will create a wave that will make his life a little less difficult.

At least, I hope so. But isn't that what this Great American Democracy is all supposed to be about anyway? Hope? That we can do better and be better--and that we all have the power to make that happen?

I hope so...