Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Defaming Horniness


That, my friends, is a link to an article that posits that internet p*rn reduces rape.

I simply do not know where to start. I first wondered whether I was missing some kind of "Colbert Report"-style sarcasm, but alas I'm thinking not. Take a read and tell me what you think. His "data" seems questionable; or rather, his conclusions based on the data seem questionable. That's problematic. What is an outrage, however, is his seemingly clueless notions about what rape actually is. His contention seems to be that horny boys will use internet p0rn instead of date rape for enjoyment, but that would imply that a state of horniness causes rape, rather than a desire (however subconscious) to overpower, control and dehumanize another person.

For god's sake, if male horniness were all it took to cause rape, there wouldn't be a name for rape. It would just...be. I have plenty of male friends. I'm certain they, like most 15-19 year-olds, spent a good part of their young lives (and let's not discuss their current lives!) horny. I'm also certain they would never commit rape. Why? Because the two don't have a simple cause/effect correlation. It's what MAKES you horny that makes the difference. I'm certain that the average guy would not find it at all arousing to have sex with a woman who was not enjoying it, or worse, actively trying to make the sex stop. My guy friends seem quite unanimous on the fact that they will have a good time if the woman is having (and being seen to be having) a good time. For heaven's sake, it's the entire reason faking an orgasm was invented, because the average guy, however horny, doesn't want to have sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex with him. So to say that some 16 year-old horny guy will not rape someone as long as he has access to internet p0rn is a shockingly unfair indictment of 16 year-old boys.

The data I'd like to see is a study of convicted rapists, before and after internet p0rn usage, to determine whether they lost the urge to rape. THAT would be statistics worth seeing. Until then, let's not defame the good name of horniness by attaching it to rape, when we all know that the kind of men who'd use "but I was horny" as an excuse for hurting a woman are doing just that: defending the indefensible.

Monday, October 30, 2006

ManDiggers: Morally Wrong

Peoplewatching has always been a passion. From my youngest days I always loved going to airports and parks and seeing all the varied and wonderful elements of life’s rich pageant traveling by. Belief in serendipity and the meant-to-be-ness of all things has also always been a passion. That’s why I think my seemingly-unfortunate mandatory time at Hopkins has become a part of my life for a larger reason, one ordained by no less than our Creator. That reason, friends, is to engage in both peoplewatching and peoplejudging. Yes, it's true. God told me, via Katherine Harris, Lynne Cheney and James Dobson, that he would smite my bone marrow but anoint my snarkiness; that it was okay to judge others harshly as long as I've got a staff who can revise and extend my remarks after the fact to assure those listening that I really did not say anything remotely offensive or morally judgmental, unless you agree with me and in that case I meant every word I said.

So, with my PR team at the ready, today’s object of concern was a 30-something man who came sauntering into my life in the waiting area. He was wearing a pair of Kevin Federline-worthy long, baggy shorts. You know the offending pantaloons of which I speak: those mid-calf denim long shorts/short jeans worn by young men of a certain fashion sensibility, namely, none whatsoever. The primary reasons these pants should not be worn are threefold:

1. Capri pants for men (and that is precisely what they are, even if you call them "clamdiggers" or "hip hop baggy shorts") is an idea whose time will and should never come. It’s just wrong. Wrong like any woman but Marlene Dietrich wearing a full tuxedo when not on a movie set. Wrong like any man standing over a grate in a flouncy dress just at the moment hot steam blows up. Wrong like…well…a man in capris.

2. There are few among us whose featured asset in a clothing ensemble should be their skinny-a** calves juxtaposed against wide-legged pants and massive sneakers. Much like heavy-legged women should wear neither large clunky shoes nor skinny stilettos for fear of visually enhancing the width of their calves, men with no calf definition should not be wearing outsize capris with massive footwear to highlight the spindly chicken legs they are sporting.

3. Capris on a man simply highlight the stereotypical commitment issues inherent in his character. ;) You see a man in capris and you know he just couldn’t commit to either shorts or pants; he wanted to have it both ways. Don’t have to do the work to have shorts-worthy legs, and don’t have to be a grown-up in actual pants.

So. The moral lesson of wearing "ManDiggers"? You might be able to have free milk and a cow with women, but you cannot have them with fashion. That, and they are the outward manifestation of the moral turpitude of the soul. God said so, and I agree.

Back By Five

Gotta go do some Hopkins stuff today, so posting--such as it is recently--shall resume this evening. In the meantime I am working to get JHU to act like my local coffee shop and offer FREE Wi-Fi. Odds? Slim and none, but it gives me something to do...

Happy Monday, y'all!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What I'm Reading This Month

Okay, it's Open Book Night. Tell me what you're reading these days. Tell me if it's worth
a) a toilet read (ie, you read it only while on the commode, over the course of weeks, in 5 minute increments),
b) a read-through, wherein you read it, sort of, but don't necessarily seek to fully internalize the whole thing, or
c) a literary rogering, wherein you stay up late, get up early, and do (or don't do) a whole litany of important things in order to really devour the book.

This week for me it is The Portable Dorothy Parker, edited by Marion Meade. I'm giving it every spare second I have, which is therefore C: a literary rogering. I cannot put this collection of Dorothy Parker's works down. I was telling someone that if I could write like her, think like her, throw out bon mots (or in her case, bitter mots or sarcastic mots or mal mots) like her, I would be the happiest woman on the planet.

Here's a nugget of her wit and genius that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of her stories and letters, never mind her other poems:
Untitled Birthday Lament, circa 1927
"Time doth flit.
Oh, Shit!"

Who are you reading?

Amy Sedaris is So Damn Cute

I love this woman. She's what your grandparents would call a "spitfire." With the mouth and mind of a trucker.
Village Voice

Friday, October 27, 2006

I'm In Bed Early

I should be so lucky to have this be a ribald blog post.

Unfortunately, I am officially a senior citizen. I am in bed at 10pm, which is an hour later than I was hoping for. Today was a No Nap Day for Bambina. I don't need to tell you what that means if you have kids, know kids, or have been in the presence of kids sans naps. She doesn't get cranky, whiny or mean; she just gets ADHD. She gets really wound up and all I can do is watch her spin till she collapses in a heap...oh wait, I mean, till *I* collapse in a heap.

So the clothes came off, the sunflower headband went on, as did the purple belt. No underwear, no shirt, no socks. Just a very naked little kid jumping up and down yelling, "NAKED!! NAKED!!!NAKED!" Then riding her tricycle. Before renaming all of her stuffed animals with her name as a prefix, ie, Bambina = Mary, Dog = Fido, Dog is now: MaryFido, MaryKitty, MaryMoo, MaryPuppy. Then we sang that 60's tune called Charlie Brown--"He's a clown; that Charlie Brown; he's gonna get caught just you wait and see; why is everybody always pickin on me?" over and over and over. Then demanded over and over that I show her how to dance the "bebop," a word she heard on the Baby Loves Jazz CD, till I asked her to show me what she thought bebop would look like. So she danced and danced. Till she refused to go to the potty or put on a pull-up, and "had an accident" on my closet rug. Which, as it did in college, signalled the end of the evening for me. I learned long ago that whenever someone at your party urinates on your floor, it's time to break up the festivities.

And so she went to bed under protest, and five minutes later she was out like a light.

With any luck, in five minutes I will be too.
Night, night y'all!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Just Call Me Connie

At JHU the nurses come and call you in for treatment, scanning the room for a visual while speaking. Every time I’ve been called I see a look of surprise on the caller’s face that I am the bearer of my name, it being something more likely to be on the Titanic passenger manifest than in knee high boots and a kicky black outfit. Yup. I have one of those “classic” names that often ends up being a junior high schooler’s nightmare double-dog secret middle name. You know what I mean, Ms. Ashley Norma Wilson and Mr. Jake Elmer Brown. Except that I got it as a first name, and ain’t nuthin more character-building as a teen, more stereotype-defying as a young adult, and more humorous as a finally-secure in my not-Julie, not-Melissa thirty-somethingness. So I enjoy those looks of surprise when I see them, but I’m always curious to hear what person on the list the name-caller thought I’d be.

The biggest winner in my life to date by sheer volume of responses is…….Connie. Followed closely behind by Debbie and Kate. Go figure.

Der Fuehrer Doppelganger

Long-time readers of these pages will know that I have struggled in the past with my tendency to go all Basil Fawlty in the presence of someone bearing an unfortunate resemblance to a famous person (you know what I mean: “That couple is German! Don’t mention the war!....’Good Goering!” um, er, I mean Good Morning!’”)

Such was my experience with my old coworker who looked so much like Monica Lewinsky that I sometimes convinced myself that it really was her going incognito to escape the unfairly-earned fellatial reputation. I found myself constantly, inadvertently talking about cigars, special prosecutors, etc, in an attempt to stop myself from blurting, “oh my god, you look exactly like the Portly Pepperpot!” V. smooth, E, very smooth.

The same thing occurred with another, later coworker who looked like Drew Carey…and she was a female. I stared at her so much in wonderment that I’m sure she thought I was secretly Sapphic with a thing for crew cuts.

Fast forward to today at JHU, where I sat for a whole hour next to Adolf Hitler’s spitting image. No kidding. Now, there are any number of people you don’t want to look like: Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Phil, Courtney Love, Shelley Winters; but you can’t beat looking like Hitler for the grand prize-winning Loser Lookalike honors.

As I pondered my predicament, or rather, his predicament, several thoughts came to me:

1. If your facial structure and eyes closely resemble Hitler’s you should more than likely avoid any facial hair in the top lip region.

2. If your moustache is graying you really need to make sure that the still-brown area does not form a small rectangle above the center of your lip. People can’t see the additional whiskers from even two feet away, making you look like you’re actually cultivating the 1930’s bizarre mustachioed look.

3. It is incumbent upon the family and friends of aging mustachioed men to monitor for this most unfortunate occurrence.

4. If you do happen to be working the small moustache, you need to avoid the side parted short hair that completes the look of syphilitic, genocidal madman. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL.

5. Why do people who hew so closely to the teachings of Adolf Hitler not look more like him? Why are Aryans and skinheads not cultivating the whole “small moustache” mystique? Elvis superfans dress up like him; Groupies emulate their rock idols all the time (remember Madonna Wanna-Bes?). Why, Aryan Nation, do you not try to work the Springtime for Hitler look? Just wondering, since as far as I know, Hitler never shaved his head and wore leather. Nor was he blond and blue eyed…

6. If you find yourself sitting next to someone who does indeed look like Der Fuehrer, but he’s really just a rather nice older gentleman very obviously suffering from cancer to the extent that facial hair maintenance and appearance are the least of his concerns, all you can do is be friendly and polite. You know, just like I was. When I wished him a cheery Good Goering.

Underpants Update

On the advice of some solid Haggis readers, I'm going to go ahead and buy the Thomas the Tank Engine underwear for the Bambina, and d*mn the gender nonsense. Thanks go out to, among others, August Personage "B" from the Lone Star State and SupaFlyI in MA.

Next up? Convincing Bambina that she has to sit down to pee in the potty...

Must Be a Union Job!

Even though the war in Iraq is not going so well, we should still vote for the GOP. You know, because they are the party of fiscal discipline and anti-cronyism, the political repo men for waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Or not.
From the NYT:
Overhead costs have consumed more than half the budget of some reconstruction projects in Iraq, according to a government estimate released yesterday, leaving far less money than expected to provide the oil, water and electricity needed to improve the lives of Iraqis. The report provided the first official estimate that, in some cases, more money was being spent on housing and feeding employees, completing paperwork and providing security than on actual construction.

Those overhead costs have ranged from under 20 percent to as much as 55 percent of the budgets, according to the report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. On similar projects in the United States, those costs generally run to a few percent. The highest proportion of overhead was incurred in oil-facility contracts won by KBR Inc., the Halliburton subsidiary formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, which has frequently been challenged by critics in Congress and elsewhere. The actual costs for many projects could be even higher than the estimates, the report said, because the United States has not properly tracked how much such expenses have taken from the $18.4 billion of taxpayer-financed reconstruction approved by Congress two years ago. The report said the prime reason was not the need to provide security, though those costs have clearly risen in the perilous environment, and are a burden that both contractors and American officials routinely blame for such increases. Instead, the inspector general pointed to a simple bureaucratic flaw: the United States ordered the contractors and their equipment to Iraq and then let them sit idle for months at a time.

The joke when you see workers standing around doing nothing is "Must be a union job!" I think we should see that reference for the archaic chestnut it is and replace it with, "Must be a Halliburton job!"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Don't F Wit da Fox (Michael J., that is)

I've always considered Rush Limbaugh to be a complete and utter a**hole, so why his latest comments about Michael J. Fox have enraged me beyond my usual level of antipathy for all things Limbaugh, I don't know. As a Scottish neighbor of mine used to say, "What can you expect from a pig but a snort?"

Short story long, Limbaugh accused Fox of being "off his meds or acting" in a commercial he filmed for a Missouri Senate candidate calling for increased stem cell research. Why? Because the symptoms of his Parkinson's Disease were so pronounced as to be shocking for those who have never known someone with Parkinsons. Oh--and obviously because a guy with a wife, three kids and a long career behind him--must be acting or malingering if he's questioning Our President, right?

I'm not a groupie of Fox's by any standard; I can't name all his films or girlfriends from the 80's, or his kids' ages and birthdates (although I do cop to an outsize crush circa 1987 on Alex P. Keaton). But I can say that he has been an inspiring model for a young person dealing with a disease that traditionally affects those who are older. More importantly, he has been an inspiring model for a young person dealing with a disease that traditionally affects those who are older, by his grace under pressure and his constant dignity in the face of that disease. It's no secret that I feel an affinity for him in this regard, for all the obvious reasons. His quote about Parkinsons: "One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but cannot be taken away unless it is surrendered" has been my mantra through every piece of medical crap I've handled in the past three years. It has been the one thing I've heard myself repeat in my head at times when I was despondently looking around me and thinking, "I'm too f'ing young to be dealing with this sh*t. Someone tell me how I can buy an f'ing break around here." His words reminded me that I always have my dignity, no matter what, as long as I don't surrender it either to idiotic medical staff, well-meaning friends and family, or to the consequences of the disease itself.

So to have MJF so verbally abused by "Mr. Meds" himself is just completely beyond the pale. I therefore stand by my earlier and ongoing opinion: Rush Limbaugh is a complete and utter a**hole. Made worse by this latest piece of evidence that he is a complete and utter a**hole with no decency.

Miss Manners

Bambina is a total star these days with her big girl manners. She is so good about saying please, thank you, excuse me, mostly with a little bit of prompting, ie, "it's not 'Mama! Elmo DVD! Now!' It's "Mama, Elmo DVD please." She's also been somewhat intrigued by the notion of being a big sister, pointing to the empty seat in the back of the car and saying, "Little sister!" She had been getting excited, mostly because she wants to show her little sister next year how to put on her seat belt in the car, I think. However, the reality of a coming sister is beginning to sink in a little bit when I say things like, "that will be your little sister's room," which is met with a look of disgust that some corner of the house will not belong exclusively to her anymore.

So this confluence of developmental milestones gave us the following exchange before bedtime tonight as we read a story that mentioned big and little sisters:

ME: "You'll be a big sister soon too."
Bambina: "Mmm hmmm."
ME: "That's right. You'll have a little sister soon!"
Bambina: "No thank you."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

World Class Educashun

People often wonder how the DC schools can be so bad when more dollars are spent per student than almost any other school district in the nation. Well, I have a theory. When the leadership of a school thinks that this sign is okay to hang, even though it makes zero grammatical, syntactical or logical sense, you start to figure out that some of the problems may originate in places other than the students themselves.

What the h&ll does this sign mean? Did they forget a comma, so it's a "high, intellectual, performing" school? What does that mean? High what? Performing how?

Did they mean "highly intellectual and high-performing"? If this sign made it past their proofreading, then it's obviously none of the above.

Did they mean "high and intellectually performing?" Again, a meaningless statement. High what? Where? What does "intellectually peforming" indicate?

To riff on Ronald Reagan's call for the demolition of an old and broken way of doing things, I have one statement for DC's incoming Mayor: "Mr. Fenty, tear down this sign." Tear down everything that this sign represents: mediocrity, cluelessness, public embarrassment, and the shockingly poor education of our children.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Equal Rights for Toddler Underpants

Big News here at Chez Haggis. Bambina has officially decided that diapers are for babies, that she will only wear "big girl underwear" and that her little kiddie pottie must now serve as a stepstool in her bedroom because no way is she sitting on it to go potty anymore. The very suggestion that she might wish to use it was met with a blank stare, a plaintive "Noooooooooooooooo!" and a look that said, "we're gonna fight if you make me." Okaaaaaay. Back away from the toddler slowly and no one gets hurt...

So we went on a Big Shopping Adventure in search of Big Girl Underwear, as she calls it, but that always kind of makes me think of those "briefs" that are available in large sizes for women, perhaps because I inadvertently bought a set a month or so ago. I saw the package of cotton thong underwear (yes, even sometimes the sassiest women buy the straight-up cotton ones...) and must have thought that the red circle on the package with a big 5 in it was the size. Turns out it was the number of undies in the package, which was a size 11. I laughed so hard, not because size 11 underwear exists (big girls need undies too--and good for them workin' the thongs), but because of my total surprise as I was unfolding the underwear and seeing the fabric just keep on coming.

Anyway, we got to Target and started looking at the selection, and that is when I started feeling my usually dormant "womyn power" agitation bubbling up. Bambina LOVES Thomas the Tank Engine. She loves choo choo trains, she has a Thomas train set, and we often ride the metro (DC subway) rather than drive to a museum or wherever just because she wants to get on the train. So imagine her sadness when the only Thomas underwear available was for boys. The girls selection was this: Hello Kitty, Disney Princesses, and My Pretty Pony or whatever its called. The boys had Thomas, Cars, and something else she liked because it had purple and orange in it. She could not care less about ponies or Hello Kitty, but I wasn't sure if it would be weird to have her walking around with a...what do you call those in America?..the boy pee-pee opening in the front of the underwear. {This is where Scottish and Yiddish come in handily, you see, because Scots do actually have a word for that opening. It's called your ballup, pronounced bal (like "Cal" in Ripken and lup, like a combo of "lup" and 'lip": bal-lip)}.

So here's my question: can I just go ahead and buy her the boy underpants and hope that the babysitter doesn't think I'm giving her gender issues and just tell Bambina if she asks that boys need that opening but she doesn't? Or are we stuck with Disney g0&^%$mn Princesses (a marketing franchise that I wish would die in a fire)? It's just so ridiculous to see the ways in which we tell girls (and boys, for that matter) from the very earliest days what they should be into. "Oh no sweetie, the trains are for boys. Here are your princesses..." Boys might like Hello Kitty, they might like Dora the Explorer; and girls might like train sets and orange cars. Why are we telling them so early on, that they can like those things if they want to, but it means wearing the opposite gender's underwear?

I don't know. Maybe I'm just so mad because I fell for it and, on her big day of potty training victory, I talked my kid out of getting the one pair of underwear she really wanted.

The Kids Are All Right

LONDON, England (AP) -- George Michael praised marijuana and apparently smoked a joint during a recently taped television interview, prompting criticism from anti-drug campaigners Friday. British television network ITV said the singer lit up while being interviewed for the arts program "The South Bank Show." The interview is due to be broadcast October 31.

"This stuff keeps me sane and happy," Michael, 43, told the program.

"I'd say it's a great drug -- but obviously it's not very healthy. You can't afford to smoke it if you've got anything to do." A spokeswoman for "The South Bank Show" said the interview had been conducted in Madrid, Spain, where marijuana consumption is legal. In September, Michael launched his "25 Live" tour -- his first in 15 years -- in Spain. Earlier this month, the former Wham! singer was given a formal warning for possessing marijuana after police found him slumped over the steering wheel of his car in north London. He was also cautioned for possession of the drug in February. Marijuana users can be sentenced to up to two years in jail for possession in Britain, though in practice, most people found with small amounts are given a warning.

Paul Corry, a spokesman for mental health charity Rethink, said Michael's comments were "stupid and naive." William Butler, spokesman for drug treatment charity Addaction, said he was "concerned about the message this can send out to young people." "Cannabis is illegal because it can be harmful, as can all drugs," he said.
Michael's publicist said the singer had no comment.

Okay. So should George be smoking pot on TV? I'm thinking not. But here's where the majority of anti-drug people get it wrong on two fronts. First: it's not who is taking drugs, it's why. People don't take drugs because Jerry Garcia does; they do it for their own reasons on a more micro level. Second: anti-drug programs don't work if the people running them are clueless about those micro-level factors that support and encourage drug use. Mr. Butler ought not to be concerned about the message George Michael's pot smoking will send to young people for the simple reason that "young people" don't know who the hell George Michael is. George is the butt-shakin' icon of MY generation, the Wham! frontman most girlies like myself (and boyies) swooned over in the 80's and 90's. "Young people," I assure Mr. Butler, will not give a rodent's posterior whether some aging, botoxed former pop idol who might as well be Fabian or Dion (or Paul McCartney?) in their minds lights up a little during an interview none of them will see. Besides, if George Michael really is, inexplicably, a reason some "kids" will think its fine to take drugs, they'll see the same photos we do, think "What a mess" and then go back to doing whatever it is that "young people" these days do:

Friday, October 20, 2006

Madden 2007 Backtalk

If you are a sports gamer (or just someone who watches football), you will laugh hysterically at this:

Posted: 10/11/2006 by: Juan Turlington
An image of excellence.
To: John Madden
CC: Electronic Arts Sports
From: Ethan Albright
Re: Being the worst rated player on Madden ‘07

Find the rest of this MADE-UP letter at my new favorite (not for grandmas or rabbis) site: ThePhatPhree

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Can You Hear Me Now?

We all know the Verizon tagline: Can You Hear Me Now? It's right on; they have the best coverage, the best customer service, and some good deals. I use them myself. I'm just bummed my Mom is switching to them. Her old phone still has my Dad's voice on the outgoing message; it's so him, kind of irreverent, quick and funny. We all agreed after he died that my mom shouldn't feel rushed to change the message; after all, we joked, it was nice to hear him every now and again.

Fast forward to tonight where I found myself weeping uncontrollably when my Mom told me that her phone was being turned off in favor of her new plan with Verizon. I know I sounded like a total 9 year-old when I said, "Does that mean we won't have Dad's voice mail anymore?" She paused and said, "E, it's one of those things; it has to go but you'll be okay." I managed to hold it together until we got off the phone, but then I couldn't stop crying, and truth be told, I'm crying as I write this.

When her phone gets turned off tonight, his voice will be gone. That pseudo sarcastic "oh--and a phone number would be nice too" line delivered with just the right "what me?! snarky!?" 'tude and a genuine dose of "glad you called!" It's stupid, I know. But the truth is that I feel like he's slipping away in little tiny pieces, and I can't stop it. I don't want to feel grief for my father forever, but I also don't want him to slip away. He's no less gone than he was on February 21st, but I didn't realize how much I liked hearing his voice on my mom's phone until she told me she was switching companies. This sounds so stupid, but I want him to live forever, if not physically, then at least in our hearts, and for some reason, having his voice erased feels like losing a huge part of him, even though I know academically and rationally that it's not that important.

I know that even 50 years ago, when someone was gone they were just gone, so I keep trying to talk myself out of my grief by saying how lucky I am to have photos and videos of him. But there's something about a voice, isn't there? It captures a person's nature, their playfulness, their eccentricity, their...personhood..that a still photo or a silent movie can't provide, and I just can't bear the thought of the day coming when I no longer remember what his voice sounded like or when I can't put my finger on just the exact inflection he'd have used to say something witty or embarrassing.

I know he's gone. I just don't want him to be GONE. And I know I'm crying about the voice mail but I'm not really crying about the voice mail. If that makes any sense. It's just the really terrible reality of grief: that in order to keep your life moving forward, in order to truly move past the pain of losing someone you love so much, you have to give up the comforting buddyhood of the heartache, the 24-hour vigil of awareness of his presence, and the need to think of him all the time in order to prove that you think of him all the time...

In short, you need to find a way to believe that no matter when you stop hearing his voice in your ears, that you will always hear it in your head and in your heart. So tonight, his voice will be gone, but I cling to the hope that this is just one step in the journey of not needing voice mails to serve as surrogates for his gigantic presence in my life.

Yeah. I can hear you now.

Baltimore: Charm City

I like Baltimore. I am spending more time there than I'd rather, but I'm getting to like it; it has a different feel than DC, less uptight. One thing I find interesting about it is that there seems to be a greater willingness than in DC to hang billboards with more Jerry-Springer-type themes, none of which would make the cut for DC zoning. I wish I had a photo of the two of which I speak, but here goes a description, the first of which made me almost crash my car:

A. AM I THE DADDY? [next to a picture of Rodin's Thinker]
DNA Paternity Testing Within 24 Hours

B. 1-800-FOR-BAIL
Ask for E-Z Payment Plans

Nice. I feel charmed already.

Vaccination Abstention

Quite a contretemps has broken out here in my neighborhood. The moms of the area have a listserv I've probably mentioned to you before, and it has once again reared its ugly head. Only, this time I'm the one loaded for bear.

It seems that a good number of moms in this area have made the decision to not vaccinate their children due to fears of autism and autoimmune disorders. Seriously. No polio vaccine, no MMR vaccine, no chickenpox vaccine, nothing. Not one vaccine. And they don't understand why those of us who do vaccinate our kids are less than psyched at having their kids in the public schools with ours. One mom put it best: vaccinations keep populations safe, so the only reason you are able to not vaccinate your child without risking them getting polio is because the rest of us do. It's called "herd immunity" and it only works when the majority of people are getting the vaccines.

One mom who is on chemo wrote in to say that, for her, it's life-threatening to have kids not vaccinated. Another mom wrote in to say that she and she alone will decide what is right for her child, and "well, if you want to know who we are so you can keep your kids away from mine, then here's my email address."

For god's sake. We're not about to sew a scarlet V on your shirt. But can we just have an honest discussion about the consequences? Do your children have grandparents? Aren't you worried about them giving measles to an 85-year old? What if your child really does transmit chickenpox to someone who is immunosuppressed but looks otherwise normal (who might that be?!), what if that person dies? Is that okay with you because your kid is safe, as you define safety?

Clearly, I'm concerned about myself and making sure I don't die from a disease that is preventable, but my biggest question on a more macro scale concerns the whole concept of civil society and community. Isn't part of living in a community and attending community schools and using community resources, the notion of community responsibility? That there are things we'd love to do (or not do) personally but that we do because it's part of being in a civil society? What I'm seeing missing in this debate is that notion: that there are things we do because we are part of a community in order to make the community liveable. Especially when you consider that these are not uneducated or impoverished women who don't know any better or can't find the resources to ensure their kids get a vaccine. These are highly educated and very affluent women choosing to believe what most of us would consider fringe science and in the process endangering every other mother's child (and mother and grandmother!) in the pursuit of keeping their own children "safe."

I'm still processing the shock that people in 2006 in an affluent urban area do not vaccinate their children, and that they are still allowed to attend public schools. It's unconscionable and perplexing, to say the least. All I can think of by way of explanation is that maybe it has been so long since American kids suffered and died (or suffered and lived difficult lives) due to these terrible diseases (that were eradicated how? Oh! By mass vaccination!), that we have forgotten the real dangers here. It's not autism, it's not mercury poisoning. It's watching your child dying from measles complications or spending their lives in a wheelchair from polio...or worse, knowing that your decision to not vaccinate put someone else in that wheelchair.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

NAMBLA for Ehrlich?!

On my ride to Johns Hopkins today I passed a truck that had a bumper sticker supporting incumbent Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich. I thought it said, "Boy Lovers for Ehrlich." I thought, wow, that guy is pretty out and proud to be advertising his pedophilia! And Ehrlich's campaign must be off their rockers to create an official bumper sticker with that on it! Isn't that illegal? And isn't that what the Republican Party specifically does NOT need right now? Holy crap!

Well, turns out it's Holy CARP. Because it actually said "Bay Lovers" for Ehrlich, but only after you squinted to make out the little tail on the lowercase 'a'.

Unfortunately for me (and you, I suspect), Hopkins has no cure for my diseased mind either...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Welcome to Delaware." Now Suck It.

Every time I drive through Delaware on I-95, I sit in no less than 1 full hour of traffic. Now, if you're from Texas or really any other state save Rhode Island for that matter, 1 hour of traffic will seem laughable to you. But consider this: the entire length of Delaware's I-95 segment into NJ is just 11 miles long. And yet every single #$%^&*@ time I drive there, no matter what hour of the day, there is constant traffic gridlock. And it can't be blamed on traffic alone, because it always immediately speeds up again the moment you hit Maryland's or New Jersey's border.

So here are a few questions for the good people who conceive of, build, and manage our interstate system:

1. Aren't there minimum standards a road has to meet in order to achieve Interstate status?

2. Can a two-lane dual carriageway really credibly be called an interstate, even if it does lead to a really big and modern bridge?

3. For how many years can a state have construction on one 11-mile stretch of road and yet never seem to complete it?

4. Can a road's Interstate status be revoked until it gets its sh*t in order? Can't we give it one of those "black and white shield" route markers instead of the red, white and blue I-95 ones?

5. How can an interstate authority credibly post signs saying, "Expect major delays" without offering alternative routes or any other options? It just has the sign, "Expect Major Delays. Chumps!"

6. Is it too much to even ask for an "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here"?

Cop's Best Friend

Another reason dogs are so cool:

Police Dog Falls 2 Stories, but Gets Man
GILFORD, N.H. (AP) — A Gilford police dog fell from a second-story window while searching for a robbery suspect during the weekend, but still got its man. Police were looking for a man who reportedly robbed a car driver at knifepoint Saturday night. Police say Michael Mount, 30, pulled a knife on the driver of a car in which he was a passenger, forced her off the road and stole her purse. Police called in their dog, Agbar, to track Mount. They say Agbar fell from a second-story window while on the hunt, but was not hurt, and led officers to Mount, who was arrested outside his apartment.

Dare To Dream!

Governor Kinky!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Method to My Madness

I'm dashing around cleaning the house for a friend's visit for brunch today. It's one of those days where I'm doing the most mundane tasks and yet I am feeling simultaneously so thankful for my life as I know it. The Baby Daddy and Bambina are at Chinese class, I have Andrea Bocelli's Sacred Arias playing, it's crisp and sunny outside--the perfect DC Fall day, they'll be back soon and I can smell the coffee brewing as I write this, I am dusting and cleaning, and thinking that I have the most charmed life in the world. Seriously. I love this little, challenging, busy, seemingly normal and seemingly pedestrian life I have. And I haven't even been drinking!

Which leads to this post's commercial sponsor: Method cleaning products.

No chemicals, no harsh toxins. Just surprisingly good cleaning power with some really nice scents (or none, if you like it that way). I LOVE this stuff. Especially since it contains nothing dangerous, although you probably shouldn't ingest it anyway.


Bambina: Project Runway

The secret to surviving the Terrible Twos and Threes, I've found, is to give this wonderful, sweet, and-turn-on-a-dime-tantrumming, seeming-adolescent-in-training as much control over her wee life as is safe and appropriate so that the absolute dealbreakers are minimal. Safety for herself and others, respect for others and respect for me are completely non-negotiable. Other stuff I am learning to select judiciously as Things That Warrant a Fuss. Because as you know if you've had kids at this age, ALL kinds of random things create a fuss beyond all sense of proportion.

One of those things is her clothing. The girl is now absolutely demanding creative control over her image, primarily as it relates to couture and haberdashery. For my approval she has to dress weather- and activity-appropriately, but beyond that, it's her call. However, I'm no dummy; so I give her a couple of things to choose from rather than saying, "What do you want to wear" on the one hand or "Here. Wear This" on the other. That worked for a little while but now she points to her closet and requests particular outfits.

I swear to you, we have left the house with a white and yellow dress over blue jeans, with yellow socks, pink shoes and a pink and white striped bowler hat on. We have also left the house lo these past many weeks in a puppydog costume. Not to mention the pink tutu over red pants with her favorite purple shirt underneath. I often feel compelled to yell to passersby, "She dressed herself! I swear! I know these colors don't match, okay?! I'm a good mother--and a halfway decent dresser! Believe me!" So we have kooky Betsey Johnson-style days most of the time. And then, as if by Project Runway/America's Next Top Model magic, Bambina selects something that's not my first choice but that has people complimenting me on my style, which I have to throw to her.

Yesterday was one such day. I was so proud:

"Future Rafter" baseball hat? Check.
Hand me down Ralph Lauren dress? Check.
Boston Red Sox socks? Double Check!
Ruby slippers? (To which she replied when asked about them: "No! They're MY slippers! No Ruby's slippers!") Check and Check.

I'm so proud that she dressed herself in something that is more Ralph Lauren than Bjork, but I'm most proud of the fact that she was workin' the Red Sox socks. Now THAT'S fashion worth the fuss.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Third World Orphans"

I'm a bit ambivalent about the recent news of Madonna's intended adoption of a boy from Malawi. Mostly because whenever I'm out with the Bambina, people want to talk to me about it, as if I must know what Madonna is feeling.

The truth is, I don't.

I adopted my daughter because I wanted to be a mother. Because I wanted a family. End of story. Nothing more complex than that.

I didn't adopt her because I wanted to make her life "better" or because I'm Mother freakin' Teresa. Or even, for that matter, Madonna "Madge" Ritchie. I didn't feel so bad for "those girls" in China and resolve to fix the situation one girl at a time. I didn't think about where my adoption of a child would do the most good. I didn't see grinding poverty and then decide that international adoption was the way to alleviate some suffering.

I don't want to say that these are not valid reasons for other people adopting internationally. I don't. But they just don't happen to be MY reasons, or those of other adoptive parents with whom I'm close. The single, solitary factor in all of our decisions to adopt internationally is that we wanted to be somebody's mom, and we didn't care if our skin was a different color than our child's.

People want adoption to be so much more than that, forgetting that when they get pregnant and have a family, there is nothing more than "wanting to be parents" in their decision too. Why is adoption perceived so differently? Why is it assumed that I adopted a child because I'm a really nice person or that I am doing something really nice for the world or that I need random public validation of my kindness in doing it? I understand why people think that, but my goal in life, if nothing else beyond being a good mom, is to work people out of that very reductive worldview regarding adoption.

So, no, I don't think it's great what Madonna is doing, Ms. Cashier at the Store. Or, more accurately, I have no opinion on it. Whatever she wants to do is her business. But for me, the very moment I feel pity for a child is the moment I will not adopt her, because that's not my motivation and it's not the relationship I want to have with her.

As a dear friend and fellow adoptive mother and I decided would be our stock answer to any suggestions that we "saved" our kids from something terrible: "Oh goodness, no. SHE saved ME."

GWB to World: "Whatever"

US News & World Report has the following article headline:

Bush Is Said to Have No Plan if GOP Loses

Why are we shocked by this?

The article goes on to discuss the irritation among members of the GOP that the President has no new ideas, had no news to really share or make in his press conference, and that he damned James Baker III (a key figure in his father's administration and still beloved among the GOP) with faint praise, calling him "an elder statesman," as he cochairs a bipartisan commission on the Iraq war.

Why are we surprised that George W. Bush is dimissive of everything going on today? He, you'll recall, said that the Iraq war would be "a comma" in the final history of the people of Iraq. He had no exit strategy for that war. He was dismissive of patriotic people who questioned the wisdom of starting that war. He is dismissive now of anyone who questions him on domestic policy.

George Bush has turned into (if he never was before) that kid you went to college with who was just the biggest a**hole, who was disrespectful, self-absorbed, overbearing in all the wrong ways, who seemed to live in a consequence-free environment made possible simply by not caring about the messes he made and his favorite blow-off/It's-Your-Problem comment of "Whatever."

If Being a Liberal is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right

James Wolcott has posted a great piece discussing how conservatives never take responsibility for their actions; they simply blame the bad results on liberals. You'll love Dinesh D'Souza's assertions that the low-level redneck participants (Lynndie England, et. al.) in Abu Ghraib, although "red state" through and through, were really just acting out their interpretation of blue state values. That's right; when 'conservative' white trash do bad things it's because they're trying to emulate liberals. Conservatives squawk incessantly about liberals being the "Blame America First" crowd. So can we start calling them the "Blame Liberal America First" crowd? Take the Mark Foley scandal. Now it's no longer an issue of GOP leadership covering up illegal behavior to hold onto a congressional seat in Florida. According to some in the party, it's a subversive gay/secretly liberal cabal among Congressional staff who have hoodwinked poor Denny Hastert and all the other well-meaning and completely innoncently unknowing nice Congressmen who wouldn't know "gay" if it came up and introduced itself as Harvey Fierstein. Yeah, right.

Whatever happened to "restoring honor to the White House" and to Congress? I guess that old intention (if it was ever a genuine intention) is as elusive as Iraqi WMD. If conservatives really are about American values, honor, God, country, you'd think they could muster up a simple "we were wrong and it's nobody's fault but ours." But that's not going to happen as long as they can find a way to pin all of society's evils (and their own) on that nameless, faceless, amorphous evil organ known to them only as "Liberals."

Ratfink Raunchfest
Posted by James Wolcott

Josh Marshall cites this latest outburst from a politically besieged Chris Shays as a troubling sign of yet another reasonable moderate cracking under the strain and going nutsy crazy.

Perhaps. But I would note that Shays is not a solitary warbler when it comes to cranking Abu Ghraib through a peepshow viewer. The notion that what transpired at Abu Ghraib was not torture but a road company version of Oh! Calcutta! is one that Dinesh D'Souza entertains at some length in this month's book club selection, The Enemy at Home.

Pages 150-51:

"Although I do not believe that Abu Ghraib reflects America's predatory intentions toward the Muslim world, I can see why Muslims would see it this way. In one crucial respect, however, the Muslim critics of Abu Ghraib were wrong. Contrary to their assertions, Abu Ghraib did not reflect the shared values of America, it reflected the sexual immodesty of liberal America [my italics]. Lynndie England and Charles Graner were two wretched individuals from red America who were trying to acto out the fantasies of Blue America... This was bohemianism, West Virginia-style."

Then D'Souza decides to try his hand at irony, having seen the older kids do it in the playground.

"Of course if Graner and England were professors at an elite liberal arts college, their videotaped orgies might easily have become the envy of academia. If they were artists staging these pictures in a loft in Soho* they could have been hailed as pioneers and encouraged by leftist admirers to apply for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. But being low-life Appalachians, Graner and England inspired none of these elevated thoughts."

Yes, under different circs, Graner and England could have been the backwoods Julian Beck and Judith Malina, the Lunts of lower slobovia. Perhaps when D'Souza stops being clever, he and Chris Shays could enlighten us as to how beating a prisoner with a metal wand, jumping on his wounded leg, and forcing prisoners to eat food out of a toilet bowl fits in with the erotic-circus fun and games.

No matter. The theme of The Enemy at Home, as in so many conservative tracts, is that whatever goes wrong, liberals and liberalism are always the ones at fault. Conservatives may make mistakes, but their mistakes (such as Bush's on WMDs and the welcome we would get in Iraq) are well-intentioned and rooted in idealism, not in the moral rot where liberalism pitches its tent. Indeed, when conservatives--heroes in error, to use Ahmed Chalabi's memorable phrase--go astray, it's often because they're following liberals' lousy example. "In trying to defend the indefensible [at Abu Ghraib], conservatives became cheap apologists for liberal debauchery." To my knowledge, liberals haven't been blamed yet for the recent slaughter-execution of Amish schoolgirls, but I suppose it's only a matter of time before they hang that one on us too.

*I would peg this reference as being about twenty years out of date.

Friday, October 13, 2006


From Hollywoodtuna.com, something that made me laugh out loud:

Ashlee Simpson has warned people not to rush into plastic surgery. The ‘Boyfriend’ singer - who recently had rhinoplasty to straighten her crooked nose - insists it is everybody’s individual right to go under the knife to improve their looks. However, Ashlee thinks people should seriously consider the possibility it could go wrong.

So Ashlee Simpson wants to warn us all of the dangers that come with plastic surgery? Who’s she kidding? Have you seen that new nose of hers? It freaking perfect! That’s like Lance Armstrong warning us that the unwanted side effects of bike riding may include: millions of dollars, 7 Tour de France titles, the power to beat cancer, and an unlimited supply of Sheryl Crow nude photos!

David Lee Roth

Just to put something up here that required no thought and no typing-in-triplicate, I "Google Imaged" David Lee Roth. You never know what you are going to find when you Google Image someone. Try it sometime. Pick a name and google image it. Here are a few photos that came up, for your enjoyment and confusion:

Oh yeah, and this one, because I know you didn't want to keep your breakfast down:

D8mn the Blogger!!

I've been having Blogspot issues with posting, writing entire posts and having them randomly delete. By the second or third time writing them I'm boring myself with the stories and my usual pseudo-jokes. Check back Friday night; by then I'll have the time to retype everything.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Accidental Homewrecker

Last week I got a call from a guy with whom I went to high school. He left his phone number and email address, both of which I lost when I inadvertently deleted his voice mail. He and I palled around a bit in high school, and he was a nice guy, so I didn't want him to think I'd just blown him off by not contacting him. So today I dialed 411 in the belief that his name was not that common (along the lines of Vladimir O'Donnell, ie, not insanely unheard-of, but not super-common either) and certainly not within one area code (the one I remembered him leaving in his message).


I called the number and a woman answered. I thought, "oh good for him! He's married!" I asked for him and gave my name. She said he wasn't home, and I could tell in her voice that she was wondering who the hell I was. So I said by way of explanation that he and I had gone to high school together and I was returning his call from last week.


Talk about an instant tone change. She said, "You went to high school with us? My husband has been calling you? What was your name again? When did he call you?," with the increasing inflection at the end of each sentence that can only mean, at best, that someone is sleeping on the couch tonight and, at worst, that an episode of Jerry Springer is in my future.


Recognizing what I was stepping in I quickly mentioned my family, my daughter, etc, and said, "Oh did you go to XYZ High School too?" in an attempt to universalize the conversation from Woman Calling Another Woman's Man to Former Classmate of Irrelevant Gender Calling Two Former Classmates Who Happen To Be Married.

She immediately lightened and said, "We didn't go to XYZ High School. I think you have the wrong Vladimir O'Donnell."

I started laughing and apologizing, saying, "Oh my god I am so glad to hear that! I am so sorry!" She laughed too and we got off the phone good-naturedly.

Phew! Except:

His name really isn't that common. Ten bucks poor Vlad The Second is getting GRILLED by Mrs. Vlad tonight regardless. Because what are the odds of two people having that name in the same area code, huh? Stranger things have happened to be sure. But if I was Mrs. Vlad the Second, I'd be suspicious all the same.

Good thing I didn't say, "You're his wife! How lovely!...He never mentioned you!"

"Shema, Israel!"*

*("Hear, O, Israel")

At Jewish High Holiday services, someone blows a ram's horn known as a Shofar. It's the ancient way of calling you to account for your misdeeds, to attention, to get you in the spirit to make amends and ask forgiveness. (Its history is more than that, but for the purposes of this post, it's for new year and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. If any sages want to add anything about it, feel free to comment).

The shofar blowing is a big event at most temples because it is a spiritually meaningful part of the service--and also because it's like playing bagpipes with no bag. It's all about the shofar blower just makin' it happen with all the respiratory prowess s/he can bring to bear in honor of the holiest days of the year.

This year we brought Bambina up from the kiddie care room to hear the shofar, to see the person blow the shofar, to experience this rite of passage for every Jewish kid. As always, the room got very quiet before the rabbi called out "Tekiah!," which is the first note the shofar blower must hit. You could hear a pin drop and a heart beat before the call. We had whispered to Bambina that the shofar was coming. And we waited.

And waited.
And waited some more.
It was only about two minutes of waiting while the blower got ready, but it was an eternity for a toddler (not to mention her mother). So I said, "Maybe soon we'll hear it," and "Maybe not long now," and "Maybe in the next 5 seconds it will start" to keep her occupied during the incredible silence of anticipation.

Just at the moment of deepest, most reverential silence, just as all the hearts were lifting themselves to God in anticipation of the shofar, just as I finished whispering, "Maybe soon, sweet girl, maybe soon," Bambina decided it had been quite long enough, thank you, and loudly announced into the holy silence: "Maybe NOT!"

"Hear, O, Israel" indeed.

The Energizer Bambina

Took Bambina to visit her GiGi and BB this weekend, and had a fabulous time. I always tell people that she "just doesn't stop" from 8am till 8pm, but I think the practical veracity of that statement doesn't sink in until they themselves spend those 12 hours in her whirlwind. I keep trying to conjure up or evoke the essence of her activity level and my sometimes-futile attempts to keep up, but I just can't always quite hit the mark of what I'm trying to express rhetorically. Until this weekend. After a particularly busy morning and lunch playing with her Super Fun Aunt outside, investigating all corners of the house inside, dressing up in her puppydog costume, pretending to be a dog on all fours, playing the piano, sitting on every one of GiGi's chairs like a game of musical chairs, singing ABCD like it was going out of style, it was finally nap time.

After getting her in her bed and wishing her a happy nappy, I finally sat down with Super Fun Aunt and blurted, "It's like owning a Jack Russell!"


Monday, October 09, 2006

Costco: Flying the Flag for Feminine Hygiene

GiGi took us on a pilgrimage to Costco today since we don't belong due to not really being able to consume 76 all-beef patties before they become unrecognizable freezer-burned discs of meaty mystery. I do love going to Costco just for the sheer human interest it engenders, however. I look in people's carts and judge them as humans based on the contents of those carts, ie, "Wow. That's a lot of beer; I sure hope that's for a party," or "You didn't seriously just buy 7 2-pound bags of Ruffles potato chips did you? Have you ever heard of the word 'cardiologist'?" It's an old-fashioned, all-American, snap-judgment juggernaut of fun.

What I love the most about Costco is seeing seemingly average people buying absolutely Biblical quantities of food and health&beauty aids that they cannot possibly actually be using. Por ejemplo, dude with a case of Trident White gum. 100 packs of 10 pieces each. One Thousand Pieces of Gum. Dude, you either own one of those street vendor roach coaches and are about to earn a huge markup, or you have some serious issues of confidence regarding halitosis.

Same with socks. Guy with a gross of tube socks with the 1980's colored stripes at the top. On how many appendages are you planning on wearing these socks, sir, if you don't mind me asking? For the love of god! 20 pairs?!

My favorite Costco item of all time, however, is the gi-normous (or should we say "gyn-normous"?) box of tampons. Woman with ONE HUNDRED tampons in a box. Really. 100?! Have you found a way to outwit menopause? Are you running a whorehouse? Or do you just abhor that not-so-fresh feeling of maybe running out of tampons before your granddaughter graduates from college? Or do you split them with a neighbor? But then how do you finesse that? "Hey, I went to Costco. Would you like an extra bottle of olive oil, three heads of lettuce...and 50 tampons?"

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I've written before about the writing genius that is Veiled Conceit, wherein New York Times wedding announcements are deconstructed for those of us who don't rate the breathless coverage of being "fit to print." This is an old one, but I laugh so hard every time I read it that I thought I'd send you along to read it too.
Veiled Conceit

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

This movie was total fun. I can't believe it didn't get more attention when it was in theaters. Wait, actually I can. Because it is SO not a normal movie. Harry (Robert Downey, Jr.) narrates the story directly to the audience to great effect. He and Val Kilmer are absolutely fantastic together. I can't really begin to explain what the story is without needing to essentially give you the entire plot (murder mystery; Harry is an "actor" and Kilmer's Perry is a gay detective), but just rent it and enjoy.

A couple of my favorite lines from the movie:

Perry: Did your dad love you?
Harry: Only when I dressed up like a beer bottle, how about you?
Perry: Well, he used to beat me in morse code, so it's possible, but he never said the words.

Perry: Look up idiot in the dictionary. You know what you'll find?
Harry: A picture of me?
Perry: No! The definition of idiot. Which you f**king are!

Perry: [to the audience] Thanks for coming, please stay for the end credits, if you're wondering who the best boy is, it's somebody's nephew, um, don't forget to validate your parking, and to all you good people in the Midwest, sorry we said f*ck so much.

'Cut and Run' Cuts Both Ways

A great piece on the GOP's constant accusations against "cut and run" Democrats. It outlines the danger in Iraqi insurgents interpreting US withdrawal as weakness, and how the "cut and run" rhetoric is one of the reasons they will have that interpretation:
Having used the term so recklessly to define all gradations of withdrawal, Bush invites opponents to use it just as recklessly to define his decision to start bringing troops home. Insurgents would find comfort in that debate and think they'd won. Jihadists will find any pretext and think they've prevailed even in the moment of their incineration, but the president and others dishing out the accusations of "cut and run" shouldn't be helping them.

Slate: Cut and Run Boomerang

Friday, October 06, 2006

Foley Firestorm, Part Deux

(Or, "Don't Blame it On The 'Mos")

Far be it for me to get in the way of a roiling, broiling, bonafide Republican self-immolation extravaganza, but one thing is bothering me about this whole Foley mess: the rank hypocrisy.

Yeah, it's gross and yeah, it's a breach of trust, and yeah, Hastert should have dealt with it sooner and (pardon the pun) harder. But I'm wondering if we are perhaps all a little wee-wee'd up due to the same-sex factor of the graphic instant messages? I ask this only because I sense a tone in the coverage and in statements from the GOP about the "homosexuality" element of this drama.

Can we be clear? People who like to have sex with people under 18 are legally classified as pedophiles, not homosexuals. Men who like to have sex with MEN are homosexuals, just as men who like to have sex with women are heterosexuals. Men or women who are attracted to children under the age of 18 are pedophiles, whatever their sexual orientation with adults may be.

The hypocrisy factor: Remember Bob Dole doing that commercial with Britney Spears back when she was still the catholic-schoolgirl-icon? Or Natalie Portman getting all that, as she termed it, "creepy" attention from men when she was 13? Or the much-ballyhooed countdown till the Olsen Twins turned 18? Or the poll during one year's Olympics asking men who they'd rather sleep with: 23-year old Rebecca Lobo or 15 year-old Dominique Moceanu, where you can guess who won in a landslide...?

My point is not that what Foley did was okay, or that what anyone does with someone under 18 is okay. It's that we seem to find it less okay if it's a guy with boys, don't we? What if Bob Dole did a sort of jokingly sexual commercial with, say, the adolescent heartthrob at the time Jonathan Taylor Thomas? You know that commercial would never have aired, much less been created.

My point is that we should find the sexualization of minors to be offensive no matter what that minor's gender. Guys in their thirties should not be jacking it to Natalie Portman at 13, no matter how old she looks. And (congress)men in their 40's should not be jacking it to pages at 17, no matter how willing they may seem.

Thank God Someone Studied Science in College

Yesterday was a marathon day-long excursion to JHU for my weekly medical check-in. I'm working with a woman who is doing really cool research into my wee little rare disease. She's awesome. Certainly because she's doing cool things that probably won't help me, but will definitely help others like me in the future; but also because she is SO D*MN SMART.

I was a History and Languages person in college. I have one good friend who is a biochemist. The rest of us were pre-law, humanities types. My poor friend is the one we send those cool science links at Dubious Quality to, with some header like, "You'll understand this better than me! Isn't it cool?!" My whole life I've deferred on the knowledge of math and science, since neither was an area in which I excelled. Only now that I'm exposed to so much molecular/genetic information in my medical adventures do I realize that I actually do have the capacity to understand it, if only on some basic level. Which leads me to wonder why I completely avoided it in school. Which leads me to the answer: because I got better grades in history and languages. Which leads me to a rant (doesn't everything?): If we really want to inspire learning, how can we simultaneously hammer kids with the need to get good grades, maintain their GPAs, get into fantastic colleges and grad schools, all the while passing the 174 federally-required standardized tests to determine if their teachers are teaching them and therefore if their school receives funding? I took Chemistry in high school, and got a B simply because the teacher was a nice man who knew I was working my tail off, even if I still couldn't figure out how to count electrons. I specifically avoided science in college because I knew it would kill my GPA. I took the one required course, got a C, and spent the next three years trying to score A's in every other class so I could still graduate summa or please-god-even-Magna. At every level, I was focused on my grades rather than on learning something cool, expanding my intellectual boundaries, and perhaps allowing myself to fall in love with science, if only on a basic level. I look back with regret.

Fast forward 15 years later, and I'm learning (because now I'm personally motivated) about things I always assumed I wouldn't understand, being a humanities/liberal arts person and all. It was an excuse back then; a way to keep doing what I was good at in order to achieve the seemingly-meaningful goal of a high GPA, while missing out on the opportunity to discover if maybe, perhaps, just possibly something science-related could capture my imagination.

It's a shame. Especially in the context of the current educational climate, where teaching-to-the-test is a federally-mandated necessity, where school is not about opening and inspiring young minds beyond their preconceived boundaries, but rather a means for producing students who meet all the requirements on paper (Look! A 4.0 GPA! Penn will HAVE to take him now! And our school's numbers will go up!) but who have been robbed of the chance to try something they may NOT be good at, to find something interesting and meaningful even if it won't lead to a career and a salary, to explore a field of study they may one day be in a position to fund or support--and will therefore understand its value even if it is not their life's work.

When I see the unbelievable work being done on gene therapy and disease prevention, especially for something that affects my life on a daily basis, I can only be grateful that somewhere in America, a young woman was encouraged to study science.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Not-So-Secret Fetish

When not reading about Iran or the state of our Republic, you can rest assured, friends, that I am trolling these here interwebs to find cool information in order to churn out some marginally-interesting nonsense for your reading pleasure. That is my justification for the internet journey that brought me to the realization that I have a fetish for eyebrows.

Yep. Eyebrows.

You know the kind (don't you?)-- groomed but not girly-groomed. Bushy but not Ernest Borgnine bushy. Masculine but not Brezhnev masculine. Just the right amount of each element to help anchor the other facial features.

I've always kind of joked that I have an eyebrow fetish, but this photo of Josh Hartnett --a man I'm not at all attracted to in real life-- blew me away. I knew I had a problem when I saw it and said, "Man. He's got some really awesome eyebrows..."

Other eyebrow hotties include:

And then this one, which definitely includes eyebrows, but is mostly about the kilt (my totally not-secret fetish):

Confronting My Ignorance of Iran

In my copious free time I'm reading a book called Confronting Iran
by Ali M. Ansari. He's a professor at my old alma mater, St. Andrews University in Scotland. It's subtitled, "The Failure of American Foreign Policy and the Next Great Conflict in the Middle East."

This book rocks. He outlines why our two countries are at odds and how we fix our approach to the current standoff. I simply cannot do this book justice in a single blogarrific review. He takes the reader through the history of our fraught mutual relations from 1911 till today, our mutually failed diplomacy, and the fantastic potential of Iran as an ally of the US. He discusses the geopolitical reality: "[Iran] finds itself sitting astride the two great energy emporiums of the world: the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. It is in many ways the linchpin of the region. Even if Iran had no oil and no gas of its own, this simple geopolitical reality would make it difficult to ignore. Yet this is precisely what a succession of US administrations have sought to do...In the post 9/11 world, this policy of neglect has been replaced by the rhetoric of haste."

One of the most interesting sections discusses the "founding myths" of our two nations and how they affect our approach to each other (ie, myths that underpin our historical identities, held to be true by the majority of citizens even when debated by academics, such as the intentions and lives of the "Founding Fathers," etc.).

His approach is fantastic because it peels away the layers of mutual demonization to get to the real point: that "friendship precedes betrayal," and that today's tension cannot be understood without first understanding the previous intimacy, and that as with all betrayals, "the two parties possess different recollections, suffer from selective amnesia (when the facts are inconvenient), and propose alternate interpretations of their shared experiences."

Buy the book.

The Gift of Lowered Expectations

You may have noticed I did not post anything yesterday, friends. The reason involved two two-year-olds in my house all day. A good friend works at/near/around/for/among the Supreme Court (I'm protecting her identity), and yesterday was the first day back in session. It was also the week that her daycare fell through. So I am watching her two year-old for a couple of days.

Needless to say I was having massive anxiety dreams about managing the exuberance, both positive and negative, of two toddlers over multiple days. I was in that desperate netherworld the night before of absolutely knowing I needed to sleep and be rested, and being unable to stop my mind racing about what in sam hill I was going to do to with two certifiably "high energy" toddlers for two days to keep the train from coming off the tracks.

In the end, I just decided to lower my expectations of myself from "have a great day and have the kids love it while learning Chinese greetings and singing songs in French!" to "live through it; no one gets injured, maimed or killed in traffic."

Man! You want liberty?! Live every day like you just need to be okay, not great. Like you just need to do what you can, not the ultimate-best-most-amazing stuff ever. Like you are not curing cancer (unless of course, you poor dear lab researcher, you are).

It was the most freeing thing in the world. And ironically, my house never looked cleaner and I've never been less stressed. Yes, we had no blogging going on, and I certainly had no real client work going on. But I was a pretty d*mn good mother to two nonstop active girls for 13 hours yesterday...and I think I can do it again.

My little muscle-pulling self-pat on the back last night reminded me of a quote I used to think about in grad school before doing a public speech or in my job before presenting at a conference:

"Perfection is something you should aim for and dismiss at the same time; it robs you of a certain spirit." (Merce Cunningham)

Mommy Perfection. At least where two year olds are concerned, I'm dismissing it. Think about where you can dismiss it too.

Look Up! Pigs Are Flying!

A Republican candidate in the Commonwealth of Virginia is asking voters to vote on issues rather than values. Gee, it must be.......................

The Recently Potentially-Racist and Potentially-Jewish George Allen!

NOW, my friends, we have seen it all.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Unanswered Prayers

This was one of the readings at Yom Kippur services today. It's my new favorite:

Asking God
I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked God for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for--
but everything that I hoped for. . .
Almost, despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all people most richly blessed.

Baby Loves...What?!

Just got a new CD for Bambina entitled Baby Loves Jazz. It features traditional kiddie tunes like ABC, Wheels on the Bus, etc with a New Orleans jazz flair. Lots of trombone and trumpet and scat. We are loving it.

Bambina's Pop was nonchalantly reading aloud the "About the Musicians" section of the CD insert until he got to this part: "Steven Bernstein is the leader of the Downbeat award-winning band Sex Mob..."

Now THAT is New Orleans, y'all.
Baby Loves Jazz

It's Yom Kippur

I'll be back online after sundown.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hastert Has to Go

A far better-written piece than I could have put together, over at Frameshop

I'm sure GOP'ers will now trot out decades-old Ted Kennedy stuff to somehow justify protecting Mark Foley, as if that excuses their inaction in the face of a clear problem. The GOP impeached a President for "lying about" his illicit affair with a young staffer, and raked innumerable others over the legal coals to get to him. Surely the Republican leadership will attack this problem with the same zeal?

NB: And before anyone compares Foley to Clinton as a means of equating their actions, let's be clear on the facts: Clinton was involved in a consensual affair with an adult subordinate. Foley was sending sexual emails to 17 year old boys, none of whom, it seems, consented to the relationship. And let us recall that President Clinton was condemned for his extramarital activities by members of BOTH parties; Mark Foley was protected by the GOP for months. Any attempt to equate the two actions is an attempt to avoid responsibility by engaging in specious argumentation.