Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I mean no disrespect, but...

I preface this post with my Sopranos-inspired disclaimer, "I mean no disrespect." But, as with all statements like "no offense,but.." "I love you, but..." or "I don't mean to be ugly, but..." there is clearly no way to tell the story without being disrespectful.

With that said, off we go!

On a flight that also carried a member of the Kennedy clan, a passenger I know well heard from the row behind:

"Oh man. I am so not psyched to be on a plane with a Kennedy. First, they all die tragically. And second, if this plane goes down, no one will know that I died too..."

Sick. But very, very funny.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Good Constitutions Take Time

"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But, it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
---Winston Churchill

For the Rovians who are pushing the Iraqis to solidify their constitution in a matter of weeks, I offer this reminder of another country's constitutional journey:

Sept. 1774: First continental congress convened
Sept 1774-April 1775: A bunch of other stuff happened, for instance, the American Revolution began
May 1775: Second continental congress convened
July 4, 1776: Declaration of Independence adopted
December 1776: Third Continental Congress convened
November 1777: Articles of Confederation proposed
March 1781: Articles of Confederation ratified
Feb. 1783: British declared end to hostilities
April 1783: America declared end to hostilities
January 1784: Treaty of Paris officially ended Revolutionary War
May 1787: Constitutional Convention opened
Sept. 1787: Final draft of the constitution sent to Congress

...Two years of a bunch of stuff that you should read about in Jeff Shaara's book The Glorious Cause...

March 1789: The Constitution is finally ratified by all 13 original colonies and becomes the written manifestation of the letter and spirit of the United States of America.

And we want the Iraqis to get it done in a couple of months?

There is a word for people who don't even know their own history before inserting themselves into the history of others, but I'll avoid the FCC investigation and just say, "jerk" instead...

The Most Bizarre Evidence To Date that I am OLD

I read randomly today that Patrick Swayze (he of big hair, Dirty Dancing, “nobody puts baby in a corner” fame) is 53 years old.

Holy mother of all that is cheesy--How can one of the stars of Red Dawn be in his 50's?

Can you believe it? Patrick Swayze is 53. That means I must be at least...um..at least...oh dear god.

I am old enough to have had “Time of My Life” as a prom song.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Yesterday's News

My dear friend AO and I were talking yesterday about how our lives are now so busy that we have become those people whose primary source of news information is The Daily Show. It is a demographic about which much hay has been made in the media. I think they are supposed to be between 18 and 35, single, no kids, kind of dumb, blah blah blah. We are both, in different ways, not entirely representative of that demographic, and yet the closer we get to being completely out of that demographic, the more we reflect its behavior.

I simply do not have the time I used to have to read three newspapers, troll the internet for insightful commentary, or to sit and formulate my own opinions on multiple issues of the day. Right now I spend more time with Anthony Wiggle, Elmo and Big Bird than I do with Tim Russert, Thomas Friedman and Jim Pinkerton combined. It's a sad, sad state of affairs that I know is temporary. It is however, the way it is for now.

Which explains why The Daily Show (the 8pm rerun of last night's show; not the new one--which is an even sadder state of affairs now that I write it down!) has become the show I eat dinner with after putting the Bambina to bed. Some days it is my only window into the fact that there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court or that Iraq is having a constitutional convention. From there I then log onto the net and (instead of doing client work like I'm supposed to) find commentary, insight and opposing views. But rare is the day when I have enough information to craft an opinion before watching The Daily Show.

So now I am wondering if this is an entirely shameful thing as the current thinking would have us believe. I want to believe it's not so bad that I don't watch Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw (what?! they are no longer there?! Where have I been?!!), and maybe it's okay that I glean what I can from what I can find in my limited spare time. I want to believe that it's okay as long as I am still interested in hearing about the news and making whatever brief attempts I can to locate opposing viewpoints to help me refine my thinking on the issue, rather than just saying "hell with it...I'd rather see what's up with Brangelina and Jennifer Aniston."

I want to believe I still have a shred of intellect on political issues of the day. But I'll have to ask Anthony Wiggle what he thinks first...

A Protest March for {Insert Your Cause Here}

My previous post about Cindy Sheehan mentioned my frustration that liberal groups have a bad habit of “kitchen sinking” their protests, rallies or celebrations, i.e., we can’t just have Earth Day. It has to be Earth Day plus Free Mumia plus Elian Gonzalez plus whatever. It is so frustrating and infuriating because it hinders our ability to actually make a targeted, insightful, credible statement about an issue, which hinders our ability to be an effective voice of the loyal opposition.

Case in point: Today’s Wash Post article about the September 11th Freedom Walk sponsored by the Pentagon.

"That rally [the protest rally] is being organized...as a major protest against the Iraq war, but other causes have been tossed into the mix, including support for Palestinians and opposition to U.S. policy in Haiti and the Phillippines..."

OMG!!! What is our problem?!!! Is this a "bring the troops home from Iraq" event or is it a Random Foreign Policy Protest event? I might attend the former, but I sure as hell am not attending or supporting the latter. What is WRONG with these people?!! It is politics/activism 101: Ask your supporters to do ONE THING ONLY. Either send money OR call your senator OR fill out this questionnaire OR attend the rally. The more details you pile on, the more you dilute potential support for your primary event or message.

Same thing with the issues: "You cannot sit at home if you oppose the war in Iraq." This is a powerful call to action. Get off your butt and make a statement.

Contrast that message with: "You cannot sit at home if you oppose the war in Iraq and have issues with our policy in Haiti and the Phillippines and want to make a statement about the Palestinians..." Um, what is our policy in Haiti again? Oh, gee, I'm not sure I know enough about that to really comment...oh man, my kid has a soccer game that day...oh--I wonder if Jewish people will be welcome at a rally with a Palestinian component...will it get ugly? Do I want my kid around that? Oh--well, we'll see if we have time to attend. It sounds sort of complicated now that I think about it...

There are several reasons we lose elections and continue to be a political joke. Our inability to FOCUS on one simple message is one of them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cindy Sheehan: A Misguided Mother

I used to consider myself a bit of a leftie, but it just seems in recent years that the left has gone over the deep end into completely laughable uselessness that not only irritates but frightens me. Case in point: Cindy Sheehan goes off the deep end, saying that a cabal of Jewish neocons controls American foreign policy:

"You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism," Sheehan declares.

Should we remind her that terrorism existed long before Israel won Gaza in the Six Day War? Oh wait--she means "get Israel out of Palestine" as in "Israel should not exist." Riiight.

Sheehan stated that her son joined the military to protect the US, "not Israel." Wow. This is the latest in the centuries-old blood libel used against Jewish people. The accusation that Jews are drinking the blood of Christian children (hence the term "blood libel"). In the modern sense, Sheehan is exploiting the ridiculous fear that somewhere, somehow, Jews have their hands on the levers of power and are using it to Kill Your Children for their own benefit! Yes, you can always list a bunch of "itzes" and "cohens" and imply that they are really in charge, but it would seem to me that the people controlling our foreign policy right now are named Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (and most recently, Powell). Especially since, as a Jewish person, I did not receive the memo that we are in control of the United States defense department, military and media. You would need to look to Rupert Murdoch for that honor, I'm sure.

To further show how off the rails Ms. Sheehan has gone (from justifiably grieving and angry mother to lefty, shrill nutjob), look no further than the rousing support she is receiving from David Duke:

In truth, Cindy Sheehan is absolutely right. Her son signed up in the military to defend America, not Israel, and to safeguard our own democracy, not the democracy of some foreign nation that neither wants nor needs it. In advancing this war for Israel, government and media advocates obviously couldn’t get Americans behind the war by saying it was a war for Israel. They had to make up bogus reasons for the war, such as saying that Iraq was an imminent threat to America and that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Now that these lies have been exposed, they have changed the rationale for the war to “fighting for democracy” and “fighting against terrorism.”...Cindy Sheehan is right!"

I don't want to be the person who says this to a grieving Gold Star mother, but seriously: when you espouse a position to which DAVID DUKE attaches himself, it may be time to rethink the mainstream viability of your "movement."

In a larger context, I see this happen at every progressive/liberal/left event I've ever been to. As soon as you set up an Earth Day march down past the monuments in DC, the Free Mumia/Legalize Pot/NAMBLA people show up to muddy your message. Why? Because we let them. We don't want to devalue someone else's movement, so we just let them tag right along, saying nothing, all the while impeding the impact of our own movement on those whose minds we seek to change.

I kid you not. I have attended THREE separate marches/protests/celebrations in DC in the same number of years and every single one of them was, if not hijacked at least marred/obfuscated, by the fringe groups who also came out and who were not turned away at the door. If Cindy Sheehan really wants to be credible, she needs to get back to the basics of what moved her to act in the first place: not antipathy towards Jews disguised as antipathy toward Israel, not a message that dovetails nicely with that of a shameless white supremacist, and not a demeanor that implies that she somehow has more "moral authority" to stand there than any other parent who has lost a child in service to his or her country. She has tainted her original and quite valid message to the extent that she is now a caricature of her former, seemingly-noble self. If I were the POTUS, I wouldn't touch her with a barge pole. And THAT is the double tragedy: that not only does she feel that her son died in vain, but because of her associations and ridiculous statements of late, her efforts to aright the situation are now also in vain.

I'm sure I've not only shocked and stunned people with my opinion on this, but have also pissed you off. Oh well. Let the flames begin, I suppose. Just don't set up camp outside my house with a David Duke cheering section...

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Mother's Testimonial

This just in: Wingnut bomber and fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph's mother says he is "not a monster."

Doesn't everybody's mother say that?! Why is that news? Why do news organizations consistently fall back on The Mother's Testimonial as if it has any meaning whatsoever? And why do they keep using the adjective "religious" to describe him?

The man killed and injured people in the most horrible way. He attacked without regard for human life: people at a bar, people at a Planned Parenthood clinic, and people attending the Olympics in 1996. For those who say he was religious, I would have to disagree, since he killed a church-going wife and mother in Olympic Park, not to mention helped ruin the life of Richard Jewell, the man accused of the bombing. I'm so tired of hearing that he was "religious." I will, I promise you, scream if I hear one more journo refer to him as "religious." He was not religious; he did not have religious convictions. He simply had a lot of hate and needed an excuse to unleash it. He was to Christianity what the members of al-Qaeda and Hamas are to Islam: a person who cherry-picks religious texts in order to justify his evil, monstrous acts.

I'm delighted that Mrs. Rudolph doesn't think her son is a monster. I'm delighted that CNN will be interviewing her to hear all about what a good kid he was...you know, BEFORE that silly business of him maiming and killing people with bombs. How nice for her. But I wonder if she has spoken to the young boy in Atlanta who has lived without his mother for almost a decade. I wonder if she has spoken to the people who were injured and maimed in his other bombings. I wonder if she has spoken with Richard Jewell whose name will always be synonymous with the Olympic Park bombing, either as the suspect or the cleared-suspect-whose-reputation-is-already-ruined.

Good for you, ma'am. Your son is not a monster. I'm sure you can come up with some excuse like you didn't hug him enough or he was teased in school or whatever. But let's not confuse reality with whatever intellectual fiction you have created to get yourself up in the morning...

ps--I am witty, charming and the prettiest, smartest girl in my entire town. You know it's true because My Mom Says So.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Paging Hugh Jass and Amanda Hugandkiss!

CHICAGO (AP) - LaChania Govan said she got bounced around by her cable company when she called to complain. She made dozens of calls and was even transferred to a person who spoke Spanish - a language she doesn't understand.

But when she got her August bill from Comcast she had no trouble understanding she'd made somebody mad. It was addressed to "Bitch Dog." "I was like you got to be freaking kidding me," said Govan, 25. "I was so mad I couldn't even cuss."

Govan said the only thing she did to Comcast employees that might be considered rude came after a few dozen calls when she felt she was treated shabbily. "I did tell them, 'You know what, it has to be a qualification to work for your company that you have to be rude,'" she said.

Govan said she talked to a supervisor and he offered her two months free service, which she turned down. Finally Wednesday, about two weeks after she got her bill, somebody from the company left a message on her answering machine in which the caller apologized.

Comcast officials said it shouldn't have happened. "We only use the actual customers names on the bill," said Patricia Andrews-Keenan, a Comcast spokeswoman. Company officials went through the records and identified two people who were involved with the name change and fired them, Andrews-Keenan said. It's unknown why the employees did it.

In another case, Peoples Energy customer Jefferoy Barnes started getting letters addressed to "Jeffery Scrotum Bag Barnes." "I had no bad words at all. I guess the earliest letter is dated in May and from then on up until now my name has been listed as Jeffery Scrotum Bag Barnes and I have no idea why." Barnes said he received an apologetic call from a company official. He also has contacted an attorney to determine if he can take legal action. A Peoples Energy spokeswoman called the letter inexcusable.

I have not laughed this hard since I saw the Saturday Night Live episode a few years back with Nicolas Cage, where he and Julia Sweeney are selecting names for their soon-to-be-born son. Every time she mentions a name he irrationally shoots it down, offering all the reasons why David or Jack or Bob will invite merciless ridicule from classmates. Just as he is mid-rant, the doorbell rings and Rob Schneider is there saying, "Telegram for Asswipe Johnson!" To which Nicolas Cage yells exasperatedly, "It's Az-wee-pay! Az-wee-pay Johnson!"

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Only in Texas

Sign hanging in a family restaurant in Austin, TX (as best as I can remember the exact wording):

Reminder that it is unlawful to carry concealed weapons in this establishment, by order of blah blah blah...

I have NOW seen everything: a sign reminding you to leave your concealed gun at home when taking your kids to lunch. This is the future for DC that Kay Bailey Hutchison envisions if her proposal in Congress succeeds. Chuck E. Cheese will have to post signs reminding people to not pack heat at their kid's birthday party.

Indicators that the apocalypse is at hand, don't you think?

Your Fantasy CD Mix

The previous post made me wonder: What would be your ultimate fantasy 15-song mix CD? Tell me, tell me, tell me.

Here are mine, in no particular order (and with no apologies, baby!):

By The Rivers of Babylon—Boney M: (reminds me of my childhood in Scotland when it was a Top Ten hit)

Got to Give it Up—Marvin Gaye: (makes me wanna dance like no one is watching)

Ants Marching—Dave Matthews Band: (describes lives of quiet desperation, in an absolutely rockin’way: “they look at each other; wondering what the other is thinking, but they never say a thing...goes to visit his mommy, she feeds him well has concerns he forgets them; and remembers being small, playing under the table and dreaming...”)

Fly Me To the Moon—Frank Sinatra Live At the Sands: (Frank’s 50th birthday, slightly hammered by the booze, but on point, on note, on tempo, on pitch. The man NAILED IT in a way that few performers today can even approach.)

Ain’t That a Kick in the Head—Dean Martin: (fun fun fun till daddy takes my liquor away...).

You Dont Bring Me Flowers—Neil Diamond/Barbra: (the ultimate in cheese. But this song makes you respect the cheese. Neil and Babs do that voodoo that they do so well).

Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World—Israel Kamakwiwoole: (from a few movie soundtracks. Youll know it when you hear it. It makes me happy and sad at the same time, which is quite a feat).

Amazing Grace—48th Highlanders: (Americans see bagpipes as having a funereal connotation. Scottish people see bagpipes as one more way to party and get lit in honor of Bonnie Scotland. Amazing Grace CANNOT have meaning unless performed by bagpipes or Judy Collins a capella).

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy—The Andrews Sisters: (I think I am reincarnated from someone during the 40s because I love that whole era: the fashion, the sensibility, the history, the music. I wanna be an Andrews Sister!)

Sloop John B—The Beach Boys: (my dads favorite song by TBBs. I love it because it's plaintive but not a dirge and it makes me concoct a whole backstory in my head about hoisting up the John B sails on this,“the worst trip” he's “ever been on”).

Canned Heat—Jamiroquai: (if you are ever feeling blue, just blast this baby and you will be dancing and singing like crazy. You cannot be depressed while yelling, “I got canned heat in my heels tonight, ba-by!)

Ave Maria—Andrea Bocelli: (Andrea Bocelli: He sings just for me. You did know that, right? All of his albums and shows? Yup—for me. I can hear it in his voice. He sings this song in a way that makes a Jewish non-Catholic feel spiritual. Now THAT is talent!). PS--Sorry about the restraining order, Andrea!

Dixie—From the Gettysburg soundtrack: (the most melancholy version of this tune ever written. If youve seen the movie, you know the meaning, the wistfulness of it on the part of the Confederacy who are dying by the thousands and losing the war). Not that there's anything wrong with preserving The Union...

Into The West—Annie Lennox: (from The Lord of the Rings. More than I want to be an Andrews Sister, I want to be Annie Lennox. Shes Scottish. Shes got soul. She is beautiful. She is aging honestly and gracefully. Her voice is a gift. Her ability to breathe emotion into a song is a gift. This song is the song I would want played at my funeral...not that you need to go buying the CD right now, yo!)

Baby Got Back—Sir Mix-a-Lot: (how else to say it? This song is funny and ribald and a classic. No mix is complete without it. And as a woman who is getting more and more “back” as she ages, I am all about supporting any man who says {everyone, do the karaoke group chant}: “Anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hon!”)

Good times, good times.

The Mix is in the Eye of the Beholder

Im on the plane to a conference in Austin, TX. Im using my Bambina-Away time to create a mix CD for a dear friend/honorary family member who is undergoing chemotherapy. As a periodic sit-with-needle-in-you-and-get-stuff-infused person myself, I figured she might enjoy a CD of music to help pass the time. It seemed like such a simple idea, but now that I am creating it, I am realizing that music is such a personal element of ones life that it is hard to figure out what will be relaxing, meaningful, comforting or heartening to another person, no matter how well you might think you know them. Will she curse me as she has to keep hitting “skip” past all of the Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin live drunken Vegas shows that make me smile when I hear them but that might well annoy the hell out of her? Will she wish I had less Me and more Her in the mix? Will she think,“Who the hell is Dido?”

My anxiety about creating The Crappiest CD Of All Time for Perhaps The Most Amazing Lady of All Time made me wonder about the ineffable quality of music that--depending on the day and the life circumstance or memory it evokes--uplifts, comforts or inspires someone. I dont know. All I know is that it is different for everyone, and so I am going to restrain my urge to load the CD with 10-minute bagpipe riffs, (my retro balding-man crush) Francis Sinatra/Rat Pack and (my current hot balding-man crush) Dave Matthews. You will thank me later. Trust me.

So to our dear friend I say simply: feel free to hit “skip,"“delete,” or just avoid the whole damn thing altogether. Do whatever you need to do, feel whatever you need to feel, be whomever you need to be--and let it be OUR job to do what we can to support you in that. So the CD is created and sent with love and faith and support, but without any pressure to remotely enjoy it musically. In fact, I know from experience that some CDs make excellent beverage coasters... :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Something About Matty

This is my blog post about Matt.

See Matt.
Matt is E's friend.
Matt is a lovely man.
Matt is a lovely man who wants a post about himself because E posted about our mutual friend Bob some months back on the occasion of his wedding.

Matt has no "blogworthy" occasion, except for marking today as the day he officially filed his grievance of having no blog post dedicated to him.

Here you go, Matt. Don't say I never gave you nuthin'.

I met Matt in 1997 in Georgia. Matt had many a tall tale to tell about his ongoing hijinks, jolly japes and wacky-things-afoot. So many tall tales that I started to think that Matt was a compulsive liar.

No kidding.

I would say to friends, "It's such a shame that Matt doesn't believe that we like him, no matter whether he was offered the chance to do cocaine in a hotel suite in Paris with Michael Douglas or not..."

I seriously wanted to do an intervention on Matt to reassure him of our love for him, regardless of whether he took two bullets while riding his bike on the back roads.

Or whether he was run over by a drunk lady while riding his bike on the back roads.

Or whether...oh, you get my point. So many dramatic stories, so little chance that they could ALL be true, right?

A year or so later, meet the Matty Family.
All lovely, normal people.
All witnesses, in some form or fashion, to EVERY SINGLE ONE of Matt's improbable narratives.

Turns out he was telling the truth all along, about finding himself in otherwise bizarre situations and landing on his feet. Which makes him one hell of a storyteller---or the modern, cute version of Forrest Gump.

I'm Suing McDonalds

Not really. I *like* when my coffee is hot enough to singe genitalia.

What I don't like is--well, several things:

First, that I had a moment of weakness and went there to buy The Bambina a chicken nugget happy meal. She LOVES the nuggets and the fries (thank you very little, Grandma and Grumpa for her introduction to The Evil Burger Empire).

Second, that the happy meals come with stupid toys I have to find a place for in my house.

Third, that it didn't occur to me to say "no toy, please."

Fourth, that the woman at the drive through asked, "Boy or Girl?" to determine whether she would put Barbie with Horse or a Hot Wheels car in the box. Without thinking, I said "Girl." Then I quickly had to add, "But I want the car. Not the Barbie."

Isn't it weird that instead of saying "do you want a Barbie or a Hot Wheels" that they ask if its for a girl or a boy? I guess most little boys wouldn't necessarily want Barbies--or maybe their parents just wouldn't go for it if they did. But why is my daughter--who is all about "the vroom vrooms" right now presumed to want a freakin' Barbie?

If I have my way, she will NEVER have a Barbie. Yeah yeah, the 47 inch boobs with 18 inch waist and all that. Definitely that. But more so the marketing juggernaut that liking Barbie entails. My niece caught the Barbie/Princess bug and it has been nonstop drama to keep her off the Barbie crack pipe when all of her friends have the car, the house, the outfits, the life sized doll, the panoply of "guy" friends and pseudo-ethnic friends who all play second banana to Ms. Whatsherlastnameanyway.

I don't know what it is. I just have a visceral reaction to the whole Barbie thing. Put simply, I'd rather spill boiling hot coffee down my skirt than be a parental slave to All Things Barbie.


Are you game?

I started reading What I Saw At The Revolution by Peggy Noonan. It's an old book, part personal memoir, part hagiography of Ronald Reagan, part college sophomore creative writing class project.

What I'm trying to say is that I can't take it anymore. I tried. I really, really tried. I wanted to read something by someone with whom I generally always disagree and with whom I do not identify in any way.

Check and Check.

But now I can't finish the book. I just cannot take what little free time I have to read any more of this drivel. The only thing is: I don't know how it ends. Does Reagan go on to become a beloved figure in American politics?! Does the Reagan Revolution stand the test of time, like The New Deal? Does Peggy Noonan work again? OMG! I have to know!

So here's my deal. If you will read the rest of The Noonan Papers I will read whatever other publication you are having trouble finishing. Any ideology. Any person. But not p*rn. And, on the other side of the cultural garbage continuum, not anything that gives money to the Dobson Focus on the Family organization.

Anyone? Bueller? I'll even pay for the postage.

Monday, August 15, 2005

My New Favorite Time Waster


It's an online Rock/Paper/Scissors game.

Enjoy, dahlings.

Gaza'll Be Seeing You...

So this is it. The withdrawal from Gaza. It had to happen, IMHO. There was no way around it, and maybe it was time. But the big challenge is no longer for Israel to meet. The Israelis have taken this monumental step; now we wait to see if the Palestinian Authority can live up to its name, provide for its citizens, and keep a lid on the rocket and suicide attacks upon its neighbor.

By all accounts, the PA lacks discipline, training and weapons. I wonder how they'll control and contain Hamas, et. al? My guess is that they won't, and we'll be back into the same downward spiral of death and carnage and fear--but without the PA's ability to heap the standard blame upon Israel for all that ails it.

I hope it all works out, but Middle East politics, hatreds and prejudices being what they are, I confess to feeling a lot of hope while simultaneously having very little faith.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Lure of Exurbia

Just came back from our first reunion cookout for the families who went to China in our group last March. It was hosted by one of the families who live in a Dulles-area suburb of DC, about 40 minutes from Capitol Hill.

I have always deplored living in any location that required me to use a car to get a cup of coffee, mail a letter or see a movie. I still, in my heart, feel that way. But I have to tell you: seeing this family's shwank digs out in Reston/Herndon made me want to sell my DC rowhouse TOMORROW for nothing more than the space their kids have to live and play. My house has plenty of space, but it is very definitely vertical in nature. Their house is a mini-McMansion, with a finished basement, fabulous new hardwood floors, an orgasm-inducing kitchen with center island, Subzero fridge, etc. I was in heaven...except for the fact that it was 40 minutes from a Smithsonian, 15 minutes by car from a grocery store, and pretty much the only house within 10 square miles with a Chinese kid domiciled therein.

And yet....

I--even I--felt the lure of exurbia. The newness of everything, unlike my rowhouse built in 1912. The space, unlike my seemingly cramped living quarters. The unbelievable back yard, unlike my 10x10 postage stamp of a garden that requires all of my vegetables to be grown in containers due to the truly shockingly high level of heavy metals in the DC soil, not to mention the truly scary numbers of Asian Tiger Mosquitos (the kind that bite all day, rather than just at dusk) that make playing in said tiny back yard during the summer a complete fantasy. The huge kitchen that encourages people to hang out and chat while you cook (my Perfect Evening With Friends) rather than my tiny one that allows no more than two (2) human adults in its confines at one time.

All of this and more was beckoning me to Wisteria Lane. I decided then and there, before leaving their house, that my child would live in such an abode before the end of 2005.

And then I began the drive back to DC. 40 minutes. Two tolls. Countless Olive Garden restaurants. Numerous Macaroni Grills. Row upon row of prefab housing, "all made of ticky-tacky and all look just the same." And then I came to my senses.

No, my daughter will not have a huge yard. She will not have a huge, expansive, brand new bedroom with all the mod cons (modern conveniences, in Scottish speak). But her back yard will be the National Mall. Her playground will be the Smithsonian Museums. Her worldview will include children who have both more and less than she does. Children who are Christian and Jewish and Muslim and Hindu and Sikh and no religion at all. Her education will be at a quality public school, held to high standards not by the DC school board but by parents like me who will demand them. She will not have a "wired" bedroom. She will not have a built-in intercom system (unless you count me braying up the stairs at her as a "built-in" feature of our home). No, she will have to "make do" with all the house that 1912 could provide, with some basic updates like electricity and plumbing, but minus the wireless, technological and electronic bells and whistles so many kids have come to expect.

I know that some day she will feel like she has missed out by not being in a white bread suburb, far away from the realities that DC forces you to acknowledge. And some part of me will always wonder if I did the right thing in not giving up on this sometimes frustrating adventure we call Living in the District of Columbia Sans Congressional Representation. But in the final analysis, I have to believe that growing up with a realistic view of the world--coupled with the ability to be in it but not OF it--is the best gift any parent can give her child.

Although, if you live in a swank pad in the burbs, we'd gladly visit and use your stuff!

Scientific Proof that Men Have One Track Minds

From Discovery.com:

"When women are speaking at great length, men tend to tune them out."

You think?!

Apparently there is a scientific "reason" that I hesitate to share because it will only encourage these beloved, baffling creatures to continue swearing up and down that "you did NOT tell me that! I do NOT remember you telling me to do that!" But in the interests of science, The Haggis shall provide:

Female voices, a new study finds, are more complex than male voices, making men's brains work harder when listening to them. The shape and size of the female vocal chords and larynx lead women to speak with a greater range of sound frequencies than men. Women also naturally have more melody in their voices. Listening to female voices activates the auditory center of a man's brain, which must analyze the different sounds at the same time he's interpreting the words. Men process other male voices in a different portion of the brain.

Which I guess confirms that a man can focus on only one aspect at a time: either content or tone. Which explains why he can be turned on by a breathy sultry voice reading the phone book OR completely miss the sarcasm when you say "Of course I'm not mad at you." ;)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Smokers' Rights = A Bust of a Night

Thanks to grandparental babysitting, the Haggis actually went on a bona fide date this evening! Besides that being news in and of itself, what occurred on said date was pure blog fodder, bar none.

We went to Bistro Bis here in DC to eat in the bar area rather than the more expensive dining/restaurant area. A couple of people were smoking but I figured I'd suck it up even though I wasn't psyched about eating my food through a carcinogen cloud. As it happened, about 3 additional people decided to light up in the brief 10 minutes we were there. And, as most smokers do, one woman was sitting at the bar, holding her cigarette behind her so as not to put smoke in the eyes of her compatriots. Gee, sure wish *I* was one of her compatriots, because she had no issues whatsoever with the fact that she was holding her cigarette right behind MY chair and getting the smoke on ME.

Just as I was about to get all up in someone's grill about the smoke situation, we looked over and saw a baby (not more than 9 months old) sitting in her stroller near the bar, obviously the child of one of 4 women drinking AND SMOKING at the bar. All of a sudden I was less mad about someone smoking on me, and more intrigued to know what mother would take her BABY to a smoky bar. Furthermore, it was not clear in the ten minutes we were there which of the women was the baby's mother. Isn't that curious? I can't imagine if you saw me and The Bambina in a restaurant or diner or wherever for ten full minutes that you would not see me look at/acknowledge/interact with her at least once during that time.

It was so bizarre and disturbing that it set me off on a rant that ended (of course) with me cursing the Republicans. ;) How do they justify their support for Big Tobacco, small business (ie, banning smoking will kill commerce) and their condemnation of abortion for "killing children," but they can't connect the issues: a mother in a bar smoking around (and potentially harming) her 9-month old baby--with the bar allowing the baby's presence without protest? Why is THAT considered personal choice and individual freedom? It just seems so selective to me.

In the end, at the conclusion of my rant, we ended up letting the waiter know that we were leaving due to the smoke situation, to which he replied, "Sorry about that, but it's DC; what are you gonna do, huh?" And I thought that it was a such an insightful reply. After all, it's the seat of the government of the largest remaining superpower; it's the nation's capital; it has more intelligent people and brain power working in it than potentially anywhere in the world. OF COURSE being in DC is synonymous with futile, hopeless impotence and inaction.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Fun for the Whole Family

You have to check this out. It is an amusement park where dinosaurs "and the Bible meet."

Dinosaur Adventure Land

My favorite line on this CHILDREN'S museum site is the part where it says, "Check out the Sodom and Gomorrah exhibit now open."

Nothing says "fun summer vacation for the kiddies" like "Sodom and Gomorrah." And why not, huh? This year, Dinosaur Adventure Land. Next year, a Nevada whorehouse.

Email and other Fossils

A recent report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that a majority of teens use email only for communication with institutions and "old people," preferring instead to talk to each other with IM (Instant Messaging).

I'm not old, but I do remember my senior year of college when we all got this thing called an "email address," as well as a small amount of information on how to connect to "the information superhighway" thru sites that were not names but numbers, such as 92.11.876.33.

How about that? I'm a relic at 33. I can now tell stories about how, back in the day, we didn't have any of this fancy-shmancey, newfangled nonsense like that crazy IM or those infernal cellphones and certainly not those abominations called blackberries that you pesky ingrate kids have these days.

And I thought I'd have to wait till I was a grandparent to give that rant. Lucky me. Old bird that I am.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

It's a Wiggly Party

Over the past 4-ish months I have written about many of the changes that occur when a person becomes a parent. This weekend I realized that one of the biggest changes that comes with parenthood is the requirement that you learn all of the words to songs by beloved children's characters like Blue's Clues, Elmo, Big Bird and The Wiggles.

It is a risky space in which to reside, friends. You must immerse yourself in the music so you can adequately participate in the spectacle with your child; but you must also ensure that you do not become one of those inexplicable creatures who listens to it even when the child is not present or who starts wearing Elmo T-shirts "because they're cute."

In my particular case, The Bambina has suddenly and without warning decided that she LOVES The Wiggles. She squeals with delight when they come on the TV; she claps and smiles when the CD is played in the car. She simply cannot believe her great good fortune when she visits her cousin's house where there resides a Genuine Wiggles Guitar for her personal thrashing.

I had rationalized her enjoyment by telling myself that The Wiggles are wholesome, non-snide, fun and educational entertainment. If you are not familiar with the phenomenon, these four men (who just beat out Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman for richest Australians) who wear colored shirts and black pants (think Star Trek circa 1971), are a kiddie entertainment tour de force. They tour, they sing, they dance, they have kooky sidekicks like Wags The Dog and Captain Feathersword, and they are beloved by thousands and thousands of children worldwide. There ain't no stoppin' the juggernaut that is The Wiggles. Trust me. {Sample some of their work here: {The Wiggles

Well, after about 4 hours of listening to both It's A Wiggly Party and Yummy Yummy, two of the group's CD's, it became clear that The Wiggles are either the richest and worst songwriters in the history of the world, or subversive and evil malefactors who are laughing at our obliviousness to the smut they peddle to our sweet babies. Both conclusions were reached on a car trip with the Baby Daddy who was aghast that I was singing along to such drivel (but who needed only 10 minutes to be sucked in to the madness himself).

The former conclusion is supported by the fact that all of their songs follow a basic formula that you--and you--and even you--could use to write your own songs for your kids. The formula is as follows:

--Select a musical genre such as 50's doowop, mariachi, polka or nonspecific kids music (ie, the generous use of kazoos, bells, triangles, xylophones)
--Select an animal a kid would like.
--Put the words, "Do the.." or "Dance the..." or "run/roar/howl like the..." in front of that animal, i.e., "Let's do the tiger! Roar!"
--Select a verb signifying an act that a child might engage in, such as dancing, hopping, running or jumping.
--Use that verb to describe what "doing the tiger" means, i.e., "jump in the air; put your hands out there."
--Select a sentence that says, more or less, "we are all having fun! Won't you dance/sing/jump/hop with us too?!"
--Have one segment that details what Jeff, Murray, Greg and Anthony do/think/say about "doing the tiger."

Voila! You have created your very own Wiggles song! Now just get a colored shirt on, fake an Australian accent, and become friends with a pirate, and you are laughing all the way to the bank!

Unfortunately, the only way I have found to get through the 4.3 hours per day that I must be inundated by All Things Wiggle is to settle on Conclusion #2 and find something dirty in every d*mn thing they sing. I know it's juvenile, but I have rationalized it as a quite reasonable thing to do since they seem to sing an awful lot about rather "harmless" and "innocuous" topics like "doing the monkey," "making fruit salad: first you peel your banana, then you bring out your grapes," "shake your hips with Wags the Dog," and various other "clean" lyrics that would make Tipper Gore circa 1988 develop an ulcer.

I know it's so juvenile, but so far it is the only coping mechanism that has worked and it is the only thing holding me back from succumbing to the tempation and turning on Yummy Yummy even while alone in the car on my way to mail an inappropriate fan letter to Anthony (The Cute Wiggle).

Yes, friends. Parenthood: It is indeed A Wiggly, Wiggly Party.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Socialite Commentary

Rather than offering any interesting blog posts this week, I feel like I am simply acting as the purveyor of ludicrous you-can't-make-this-s**t-up material. First, the Pulitzer Prize winners at The Hill, and now Britain's foremost social commentator is provided here for your delectation and delight. Who knew that Joan Collins, in this age of random terror and global unrest, could so accurately capture precisely what is wrong with society today? How could she so accurately tap into the plight of the average citizen? Move over, Dorothy Parker! Get outta the way, Bertrand Russell! Here comes Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter Colby Carrington!

THUS AUG 04, 2005

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within, said the American historian Will Durrant about ancient Rome. This self-destruction of values is exactly what is happening in England today.

Yes, I still call the country of my birth England, in spite of the peculiar political correctness that insists that it be called 'the UK' and that we, its denizens, must be 'Britons'.

Even though the Welsh are proud to call themselves Welsh, as are the Irish and certainly the Scots, woe betide the Briton who calls himself 'English' -- a much-frowned-upon no-no.

I believe that when a country loses so much respect for itself that it can no longer even be identified by its historically correct name, insecurity and lack of respect filter down to its inhabitants.

Recently, I have concluded that London is no longer the 'seat of civilised society' that the world once considered it to be, and is certainly not the safe city I grew up in.

A particular incident demonstrated the lack of respect and manners that is but a small example of the horrible, encroaching decay of the country that I love dearly.

My husband Percy and I were at a ball at the Grosvenor House Hotel -- a black-tie event attended by the socalled 'elite' of the city.

As Percy held the door open to let me through, a 6ft tall, middle-aged, horse-faced male pushed past me, trod on the hem of my dress and rushed outside to climb into the taxi that the doorman had waiting for us.

This was a person who should, or at least looked like he should, have known better. The cause of his behaviour? The awful pervasive disregard that we have for civility today.

Bump accidentally into someone in the street these days and you are soundly cursed. Look at a poor derelict collapsed in a doorway for more than a second and they'll spit at you. Surely everyone has experienced the barely suppressed rage lurking behind the faces of a vast number of car drivers.

We've become the 'Whatcha lookin' at?' culture. Why do young people consider it cool to be arrogant, swaggering and rude? Why do so many people in England seem so cynical and self-centred?

I witnessed young, drunken yobs roaming the streets kicking cars, screaming insults, pushing people and even pushchairs out of their way, attacking each other viciously and then turning on the police when they tried to maintain order.

THE WHOLE scene evoked the image of hordes of inebriated Vikings sacking devastated towns. Even during the day, feral mobs roamed the cities with absolute disregard for anyone else's property or well-being. Traditional virtues of male chivalry and female propriety were very far from view.

After all, a lack of manners and politeness in a society can only be a reflection of what the society thinks of itself.

It's frightful how being told that you are no good makes you hate yourself, and hate others. And it's frightful how quickly a whole country of self-loathers can be bred.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Hill's 50 Most Beautiful People

You have to check this out.

The Hill Top 50

Further evidence that the entire staff of The Hill is still in high school. A) because they think many of these people are hot, B) because they even consented to having this feature be part of their "newspaper," and C) because many of these people, both male and female, remind me of That Guy or That Girl who was considered pretty or hot in high school only because s/he was the best available in your little town and then you went to college and met waaay hotter people and couldn't believe that That Girl and That Guy were the Venus and Adonis of your world, because they are so totally average (or slightly better than average but nowhere near maximum hotness) now that you get to compare them to a wider array of hotties.

It has always been said that DC is show business for ugly people. Now, I'm not saying these people are ugly; I'm just saying that if these are the entire Top Tier from all of Capitol Hill and DC, then we are witnessing Einstein's theory of relativity in action. If you live in DC and work on the Hill, then perhaps these really ARE the 50 most beautiful you've ever worked with. But if you live in DC and work anywhere else in town--even at a Subway or a Starbucks--then your larger perspective--and dare I say--greater capacity for judgement than a Hill worker [average age: 22, primary purpose in working on Hill: ego] might lead you to conclude that while some of these 50 are not heinous-looking and may actually be quite pleasant (although certainly not all...), they are by far NOT the 50 Most Beautiful Anything in DC.

I'm embarrassed that I even read the article and embarrassed I even wrote this rebuttal. But I am just agog that the feature even made it into a paper that has a sliver of hope of being taken seriously. Although, maybe they are playing to their key audience: the Hill staffers who vie desperately to be picked by The Yearbook Committee for one of the Superlative Awards at homecoming. Totally hilarious and totally cringeworthy.

And what of the people who were selected? Did they think they'd escape this without ridicule? "Would you like to be one of The Hill's Most Beautiful People?" should be up there in the annals of Questions That Require An Emphatic No with other doozies like "I have something to tell you, and I have invited you on to Jerry Springer to do so" or "Mom, can I go over to Michael Jackson's ranch for a sleepover?"

Good thing we've ended the war, solved the social security mess, and cured cancer or else this Top 50 article sure would look pretty brainless and embarrassing for that paper, huh?